Northwold Estate: Upper Clapton campaigners score major victory in 18-month battle to save homes from demolition

Campaigners on the Northwold Estate protesting against redevelopment of the estate
Dorinia Harley,Ni

Campaigners on the Northwold Estate protesting against redevelopment of the estate Dorinia Harley,Nicola Collett,Damian Brennan,Emily Jost,Deborah McManamon & Lucia Hernandez - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Housing campaigners look to have won an 18-month battle with their landlord over plans to demolish an Upper Clapton estate.

Campaigners on the Northwold Estate protesting against redevelopment of the estate

Campaigners on the Northwold Estate protesting against redevelopment of the estate - Credit: Nigel Sutton

The Guinness Partnership has written to tenants and leaseholders telling them it is no longer considering flattening the bulk of the Northwold Estate – as it had previously hoped to do.

But leaseholder and Save Northwold lead campaigner Emily Jost told the Gazette Guinness would “have to work hard to win back the trust of residents after everything they’ve put us through”.

The landlord has been accused of failing to stick to timelines, a lack of communication and neglect of the estate since the process began in May 2016.

Although complete demolition of the 580-home estate was taken off the table last year thanks to protesters’ efforts, knocking down a sizeable part of it was still an option, leaving many still fearing for their homes.

Now the housing association has said it plans to build 100 new homes on disused land and leave all but two of the old ones standing.

That proposal is dependant on Hackney Council selling Guinness a plot so Champagne is on ice for now. But should the plans go ahead it would represent a major victory.

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“I would love to be able to say Save Northwold has won,” added a cautious Emily, “but I find it very difficult to trust Guinness won’t come back with yet another set of options, especially if they don’t get the support and land they need from Hackney Council in order to go ahead.

“They have neglected the estate so badly we need guarantees that they would improve the existing estate and that any new homes are well-designed, social homes for those in need.”

Leaseholder Dorinia Harley, who has lived on the estate for 36 years, said: “This past 18 months has had a very bad impact on my health and mental wellbeing.

“I haven’t felt secure in my own home that I worked for all my life for me and for my children.

“I want to be able to get back to making decisions. Everything has been on hold.”

The battle, reported extensively by the Gazette, began when Guinness said the demand for new housing meant it needed to develop the 1930s estate and build more affordable homes. Campaigners disagreed, saying most of the estate was in good condition.

The first consultation was launched with three regeneration options: building on green spaces (or “infill”), partial demolition or full demolition.

Guinness admitted partial demolition was its preferred choice after campaign group Save Northwold found documents from prospective contractors, predating the consultation, detailing work of that nature.

But mounting pressure from the group – and even Hackney mayor Phil Glanville at the end of that year – led Newman Francis, Guinness’s own consultants, to recommend restarting the process and giving people on the estate more say.

In June, a fresh consultation outlining four new options was published, none of which involved demolishing the whole estate.

The plans were meant to be whittled down to two in September but Guinness went silent until the Gazette asked for an update in December, at which point the landlord said opinion on the estate was split between partial demolition and infill.

A Guinness spokeswoman said: “We’ve listened carefully to what our residents told us and it’s clear there isn’t a shared view amongst residents about which option is best.

“So we have put together a new approach that we feel better reflects the feedback we’ve been given.

“This new option would create over 100 extra homes and only two existing homes on the whole estate would be directly affected. No other residents would be asked to move home.

“We will shortly provide residents with further details about the revised proposals.”