Saturday, 26 October 2013

Sheltered Housing saved in Streatham

There was some great news yesterday, when residents at The Glebe on Prentis Road received letters from Lambeth Council telling them that plans had been scrapped to knock down the sheltered housing where they live.

I took over a bottle of champagne, and we celebrated together (picture to the left). Some were quite tearful with joy. All were hugely relieved.

The decision followed a nine-month campaign. The residents came to us after they received our literature through their doors asking if there was anything we could help them with, and local councillors had failed to do anything to help.

We made posters for them which went into local shops, we helped them collect over 1,600 signatures on a petition, raised the issue with the Mayor of London (thanks to London Assembly member Darren Johnson), spoke at public meetings and took residents to meet Lambeth Council leader Lib Peck. There was also some good, constant press and media coverage of the campaign. (You can see some of the details here)

Lambeth announced plans at the beginning of the year to 'reorganise' its sheltered housing right across the borough, after what it admits has been years of under investment. Several schemes are to be sold off to make money. Other schemes are to be demolished and rebuilt as "extra care" housing, which many older people (such as those in The Glebe who have made trips to visit it at other locations) feel will increase their dependency and institutionalise them. It will certainly destroy the community that they have created.

The Glebe is actually in very good condition, being only 35 years old. The decision seemed to have been made on the basis that Lambeth Council decided that it wanted "extra care" housing in Streatham, and the Glebe was considered the right size. Despite the condition of the building, the unanimous opposition from residents wishes it would be flattened and rebuilt.

The situation was made worse for the residents when there was an explosion and fire next door in July. This broke windows along one side of The Glebe, and destroyed the guttering at the top. Lambeth Council promised to fix this quickly. But in the end residents were left by the Council for weeks with boarded up windows in the stifling heat, and water pouring down the side of the building when it rained. It looked as if Lambeth really didn't care about the existing buildings or the residents.

However, yesterday we learned that Lambeth Council has agreed instead to consult about finding a different site in Streatham to build their extra care scheme (one location could for example be the derelict site near Streatham Common opposite the new hub development). Glebe residents will instead be given new kitchens, windows and bathrooms. Some of the flats may also be made more accessible, as we suggested during the consultation.

Things like this should be possible right across the borough, as we have shown that Lambeth has received over £100m available to improve its sheltered housing. But the Council intends instead to push ahead with its plans elsewhere in the borough. Sites will still be sold off are Leigham Court Road, Queenswood Court, Westcott House and McCall House. Denby Court, Elderberry Grove and Fitch Court will still be demolished and rebuilt as extra care schemes. This is because, as the Council's new report states, it wants to spend this money elsewhere and instead raise an additional £10m, with older people paying the price.

There will be a demonstration by Glebe residents and others outside the Town Hall on Monday 4th November from 6,00pm, when the Cabinet meets to formally approve the new plans. All are very welcome to join in.

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