Work has been paused on a controversial plan to build new flats on the car park of a Bermondsey estate – because of current residents’ complaints about the state of disrepair of the existing flats.
Southwark Council has long planned to build thirteen flats for social rent on the car park of the Vauban Estate, near Spa Gardens. The estate already has about 100 flats. Several residents spoke out against the plans with concerns about lighting and overcrowding, which are typical objections to Southwark ‘infill’ plans.
But the plans have been put on the back burner because of a report put together by someone who lives on the estate detailing claims of mould, infestation by rats and mice, water damage and other examples of disrepair that allegedly have not been dealt with by the council.
The report surveyed a sample of twelve households, roughly ten per cent of the estate, including nine council tenants and three households that owned their property.
Among a litany of complaints, one tenant said he had been plagued by mould in his bedroom and bathroom for five years, while another family said they had had rising damp for nine years. A third household has allegedly had rats and mice in every room in their flat for three years.
The residents campaigning against the new builds said: “This report shows how inappropriate introducing such an infill to the estate would be. If Southwark Council is not able to deal with the current needs of this estate – and its residents – how can it justify expanding upon it and subjecting new residents to similar woes in the process?”
The report appears to have had the desired effect for the campaigners: a Southwark new homes officer told residents in a letter last month that “ward councillors have requested that the council’s sole focus be on delivering tangible improvements to the repair and maintenance of the existing estate before any further discussion of new homes. New homes consultation activities are therefore paused until further notice.”
It is unclear which “tangible improvements” will be delivered, or when.
Council housing boss Stephanie Cryan said: “We have decided to take more time in our plans to build new homes on the Vauban Estate and prioritise residents’ concerns about the estate at it stands. Our Repairs team is in contact with residents and the Vauban Estate Action Group in order to identify specific homes that require attention. We have arranged to visit properties and continue regular monthly inspections of the communal areas. These will ensure any necessary repairs are raised and resolved by the team as effectively as possible.”
Southwark has more than 16,000 households on its waiting list for new council homes and thousands more in temporary accommodation. Many are living in horrible, overcrowded conditions.
Cllr Cryan has long said that she is prepared to pause and rethink unpopular new homes projects, pointing to Bells Gardens estate in Peckham, where a new homes programme became all social housing after an outcry. A new block on the Dodson and Amigo estate was also paused in late 2021.
But the borough’s council estate umbrella group, the Southwark Group of Tenants’ Organisations (SGTO), claimed last year that new infill projects are often being pushed through without officers listening properly to residents’ objections.