Benyon brothers pull out of New Era estate following Russell Brand’s Dickensian protest
- Credit: Tolga Akmen
The Benyon family has decided to pull out of Hoxton’s New Era estate following last week’s protest which saw self-styled revolutionary and comedian Russell Brand lead a bunch of angry tenants to protest outside their office.
Edward Benyon, manager of The Benyon Estate and brother of MP Richard Benyon, sent a letter to New Era tenants yesterday telling them his family firm planned to sell its 10 per cent shareholding in the consortium, and would no longer manage the property.
The estate in Whitmore Road was bought by US investment firm Westbrook Partners in March, and awarded the Benyon Estate the management contract and minority shareholding.
The 93 families living there now fear their rent will quadruple to market rates by 2016, leaving them homeless.
Built in the 1930s New Era has has offered affordable accommodation for decades and some residents have lived there for 70 years.
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Last week Brand – dressed as a street urchin - led them on a “Dickensian” protest around the De Beauvoir neighbourhood, pinning an eviction notice to the Benyon’s office door in Southgate Road as a crowd of 200 blocked off traffic as they shouted “Benyon out”.
They then went around the corner to Northchurch Road where Brand climbed up scaffolding outside Edward Benyon’s home and hung up a poster saying ‘social housing not social cleansing.’
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Brand, who presents his vision for a fairer society in his book Revolution which was published a fortnight ago, told the crowd that Mr Benyon was probably at his stately home outside London rather than inside the property.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Edward Benyon, whose family firm owns about 300 properties in De Beauvoir Town, said: ““New Era residents have made it clear that they do not welcome our involvement in the future of the estate. They made it clear that they wanted us to pull out, and this is what we have reluctantly decided to do.
“With a stake of less than 10 per cent we already had only limited influence over decision making and policy. Our withdrawal means that the future direction of the estate will now be wholly a matter for Westbrook Partners.”
He confirmed the contract with Westbrook does not allow it to sell or transfer the share ownership to a social landlord or housing cooperative.
Lindsay Garrett who has lived on the New Era estate all her life and who helped organise the protest, said New Era tenants are pleased The Benyon Estate has pulled out.
“We didn’t want them to be involved in our estate, or making a profit out of it,” she told The Gazette.
“The bottom line is this is creating a lot of bad publicity for them, it’s effectively making 93 families homeless.”
She added: “They are still only threatening to sell and until that happens we aren’t letting off with the pressure we are putting on them.
“Hopefully we will be able to buy it ourselves, then we will have our own say on what happens to our estate. It’s not something that’s impossible, I think we could get the support to get financial backing to do that, it seems to be achievable.
“I hope we are an inspiration for others, we have had loads of people telling us they know how it feels, they live in London and their rents are going up, it’s something that affects us all, and people have real empathy for it.”