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Northwold Estate campaigners fight developers over demolition of housing blocks

PUBLISHED: 12:59 30 November 2016 | UPDATED: 09:44 09 December 2016

Campaigners on the Northwold Estate protesting against redevelopment. Left to right: 
Dorinia Harley, Nicola Collett, Damian Brennan, Emily Jost, Deborah McManamon and Lucia Hernandez. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Campaigners on the Northwold Estate protesting against redevelopment. Left to right: Dorinia Harley, Nicola Collett, Damian Brennan, Emily Jost, Deborah McManamon and Lucia Hernandez. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Blocks on the Northwold Estate could be demolished if The Guinness Partnership gets its way. It says the estate is ripe for the kind of infill needed to ease the housing crisis but neighbours disagree.

"This isn’t anything like the consultation and listening to residents that I hope to see in new guidance from the mayor"

Sian Berry

Developers face a fight with neighbours if they go ahead with plans to tear down more than 100 homes on an Upper Clapton estate.

Tenants and leaseholders on the Northwold Estate feel the community will be destroyed if The Guinness Partnership goes ahead with the proposals, which they believe were set in stone before the ongoing consultation even began.

The landlord is officially still weighing up three options for development: full demolition, partial demolition and infill of the estate, where rapper Professor Green grew up.

The preferred option, partial demolition, would see a number of the blocks bulldozed and people have already been told who will be affected. A campaign group has been set up to tackle the recommendation, with some on the estate believing it’s a case of social cleansing that will see families who have lived there for generations kicked out of their homes.

The 1930s estate is being eyed by landlord The Guinness Partnership for more homes. Picture: Nigel Sutton.The 1930s estate is being eyed by landlord The Guinness Partnership for more homes. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

The 1930s estate has 480 flats, 140 of which are leasehold. Campaigners say there’s nothing wrong with most of them and have accused bosses of making up their minds before the consultation began after finding documents from prospective contractors detailing the potential work.

Guinness says that’s not the case, and has repeatedly said anyone who has to leave their homes will be offered a like-for-like replacement with no rent increase. Bosses also said there would be a net increase in social housing, but the Save Northwold group have little faith.

Campaigners feel Guinness’s communication has been poor and last week they met Green party GLA member Sian Berry.

She told the Gazette: “The estate clearly has some disused spaces that could be used for new homes, but the process of engagement so far seems to show that Guinness have come to this with only one option in mind, which involves demolishing a lot of valued affordable homes in good condition.

The Save Northwold group has started a newsletter, which 100 people have signed up to already. Picture: Nigel SuttonThe Save Northwold group has started a newsletter, which 100 people have signed up to already. Picture: Nigel Sutton

“This isn’t anything like the consultation and listening to residents that I hope to see in new guidance from the mayor, and I hope Guinness will think again and work with their residents to put a better option together.”

Save Northwold campaigner Emily Jost, a leaseholder in an unaffected block, said while out leafleting on Sunday she spoke to people who were “very stressed” about what was happening, while others knew nothing about it.

“It’s incredibly unsettling and people are very stressed about it,” she said. “We’ve got 100 people signed up to receive our newsletter and the bottom line is we don’t want our homes demolished.

“We’re not against change – we know there needs to be refurbishment and improvements because some blocks have been neglected for a really long time.

“But most of the homes are good homes. Knocking them down will disrupt the community and change the estate forever. I think it will signal the end and there’s people who have lived here for 70 years.”

Emily believes the work is laying the foundation for the whole estate to go.

Guinness’s plan is to build two or three new blocks as infill and move 150 social tenants into them before demolishing their homes. The project, which also includes new community gardens, is expected to take between five and 10 years. Leaseholders will be offered a leasehold swap, a leasehold swap with shared equity, or shared ownership.

Emily continued: “In reality the estate will be a building site for 10 years and people will move away.

“Value of homes for leaseholders will go down, and the estate will have them and divide us like the Pembury Estate.”

A spokeswoman for The Guinness Partnership said the housing climate meant it needed to make better use of its estates to provide more affordable housing.

She added: “We will continue to listen to what Northwold residents have to say.

“The consultation process is very much an ongoing one. For instance, a number of residents questioned why Wensdale House has not been earmarked for demolition. We have listened, and are now looking into some of the issues raised and exploring potential solutions for Wensdale House.

“We intend to work with residents to develop a programme of planned improvement works for existing blocks.”

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