A Walworth estate is fighting to protect its children’s play area as it is set to be taken over by a council infill development – with a replacement built as part of it.
In the latest in its efforts to tackle the 15,000-strong waiting list for council homes, Southwark Council is proposing to develop eight new social rent homes on existing green space right next to Everett House on the Kingston Estate, Walworth.
Residents are fiercely protesting the proposal with signs and letters to the council, with complaints including that the development will block sunlight for Everett House, and take away the only space where children can easily play within view of their parents.
“Now they want to put our kids out of our sight to make up for the space they’re taking from us.” said Kingston Estate resident Jim Colfer, who has been organising the protests with other resident Peter Gamble. “It’s ridiculous.”
“The existing green space is the only place for the kids of Everett House where they can actually play while within visibility of their parents from home. The new space isn’t visible from most of the house.
“We’ve obviously objected to the development. It’s also going to block sunlight and take away space where people are growing food.
“They promise it’s not going to block sunlight – but that’s surely an absolute whopper. How can you build scaffolding right in front of a house without blocking sunlight?
“I’m sure we’re going to lose, but we’re not going to give up easily.”
Residents of Kingston Estate also feel that the council did not adequately communicate with them about the proposed development.
“They never actually told us what was happening, at first,” said Jim.
“We saw people doing test drills. We then queried it and found out that they were planning to do it, but they hadn’t told us at all. They just blamed COVID, saying there was a lack of staff able to tell us.”
The consultation period ends tomorrow, November 11.
Cabinet member for housing and homelessness Cllr Stephanie Cryan told the News in response to concerns over the play area being relocated: “Space to play is very important and we do understand residents’ concerns but we hope that the proposed, new, natural play area might be something positive for them to consider as we move forward.
“We will continue to listen to their feedback and appreciate their input.”
Jim further highlighted that there are two homes currently lying empty on the Kingston Estate that could be used to help reduce the waiting list. Last month, residents of the Aylesbury Estate in Camberwell took part in a national protest against empty homes, urging local authorities to retrofit existing homes instead of solely developing new ones.
Cllr Cryan came under criticism last month for her statements in an exclusive interview with the News, in which she claimed that out of a housing stock of around 55,000, only 1.5 per cent were vacant at any given time.
This figure excluded empty homes on regeneration sites which form the vast majority of vacant properties, around 980 out of a current total of 1,351.
In a new strategy for tackling empty homes in the private sector published by the council last month, the local authority says it that its overall vacancy rate including regeneration sites is actually 3.9 per cent compared to 5.3 per cent across the borough as a whole.
Cllr Cryan said: “We held a consultation with Kingston Estate residents to gather their views and feedback on the proposals which took place over nine months, starting in October 2020.
“We understand that some residents have raised concerns and so we have committed to carrying out further engagement to ensure that residents’ wishes are reflected in the improvements we will be making to the overall estate. We look forward to continuing to work closely with residents here to provide desperately-needed new homes for our community.”
The council will make a decision on the Kingston Estate on November 16.