THE LONDON Borough of Lambeth decided on 23rd March to demolish the Central Hill housing estate in Upper Norwood. The estate houses 2,000 residents in 450 homes built between 1966 and 1974.
Architect Rosemary Stjernstedt designed Central Hill, and the estate is famous for its integration with the natural environment and spectacular views over the city.
The council claims this demolition is for regeneration but the residents about to lose their homes say it is for gentrification and they will not be able to afford to live in the new homes that will be built there.
A battle over the regeneration project has been raging now for two years between the council and the residents, who say they are being forced out of their homes.
This battle came to a head in a public meeting on Thursday 23rd March. The Labour-led council cabinet outlined its final proposals for Central Hill to a packed meeting room in a community centre near Stockwell. There was a heavy police presence and even children had their bags searched by security before being allowed into the meeting.
In heated exchanges, residents accused the council of being “liars” and “social cleansers”. One woman talked of the “anxiety” and “mental torture” that the council’s plans were causing residents.
But Lambeth Council denied all these claims, with its Estate Regeneration Manager claiming that it had gone “above and beyond” its legal obligations.
Residents told The Canary they felt that the councillors’ attitude towards them was “disgraceful” and that, throughout the process of regeneration, the council had never consulted them properly.
But at the end of the meeting, emotions from the residents spilled over. The council took the decision to go ahead with its plans – Central Hill estate will therefore be demolished.
Many residents were angry and many left the meeting in tears. Some called the council meeting “an utter fucking sham”, “shocking”, and said that the panel “couldn’t look us in the eye”.
Some of the residents are seeking a judicial review of the decision, claiming that the decision was made two years ago and the consultation process was a sham.