Guest post by councillor Wendy Speck
Regeneration to me is about building homes and a good, safe community people are proud to live in.
It is not that long since the riots in Clapham Junction, when the whole community was unsettled and we, as local councillors have worked hard in Latchmere and in the local community to see how we can make things better for our local residents.
We have worked to keep our local library and community hall open (which meant being active on the local Friends of York Gardens Library Committee) and the planning group for the Big Local Lottery funding, which covers some of the area, taking part in meetings and activities of many local groups and so on, so they were encouraged to see their area prosper.
This has held us in good stead during all the many consultation meetings and events on the Winstanley and York Road Estate regeneration.
I am pleased to see how positive the majority of residents have been on the regeneration plans, going for the most ambitious options, which means the demolition of many of their homes, because they want to see the regeneration of their communities.
Many safeguards have been put into place in the plans, to ensure that existing residents do get priority in the new properties. Council tenants will be rehoused locally and leaseholders given options to enable them to stay in the community, but we must ensure that this is cast iron, as many at first did not believe it would happen and that they would be displaced.
We also have some freehold properties to take into account.
A group that may lose out are those tenants of private landlords. They have no guarantees of where they will be living and may end up on our housing lists.
We have spent many hours talking to residents in the area – both at public events and door to door. I had one woman recently from the York Road estate come up and hug me, as I was walking through the Kambala Estate, and thank me for the reassurance that she would still be living within her community and friends after the regeneration. I had spent some time chatting to her previously at one of the consultation events at York Gardens Library.
But there is still some distrust, as I understand previously, when people lived in what is now the Falcons Estate they were told they would come back, but then after refurbishment the blocks were sold off and they were scattered around the borough.
But again we do have optimism in the area, about what could be – and the residents, in the main, are going with the developments. We must not let them down.
Now I go back to what I said in the beginning – the regeneration is not just houses, it is building communities and we must ensure that we do get the right facilities built into the regeneration and the right balance of homes. It is about living in safe communities, with useable outdoor space and good lighting (a pet theme of mine, as I often do walk through at night and it is dark!). We could also possibly have new name for the whole community? Many people still mix up the two estates.
On facilities in the current plans we still have the library and a possible leisure facility, and we must ensure community facilities for local groups to use, a possible University Technical College in one of the areas to encourage our young people to develop various technical skills and new youth facilities to replace those being displaced.
We should also look at the different sizes of accommodation – so we do have a range within the community. This helps to develop intergeneration links and also ensures that if people have to downsize due to the bedroom tax they can stay within their community. We saw in our recent briefing on welfare reforms we are short of one- and two-bed flats.
This whole process is going to take some time and residents will be putting up with disruption and noise, but they now believe it will happen, so we must get on with it and not let our residents down.