The resident ballot for the demolition of the Carpenters Estate has been announced. Focus E15 encourages residents to vote NO and calls on all housing campaigners to reject the demolition of these council homes!
The ballot for the future of the Carpenters Estate will run from Friday 29 October 2021 to Tuesday 23rd November 2021. Should a ‘yes’ vote be returned, at least 60% of the estate will be demolished over a period of 15-20 years. There will inevitably be a loss of secure council housing.
Focus E15 campaign loudly endorses a ‘No’ vote.
Read the details below for all the background… and join the resistance!
A history of struggle
The Carpenters Estate was built in the 1970s on a 23-acre site in the London Borough of Newham. Consisting of 100% council housing, it provided badly needed low-cost housing in London’s East End.
The estate consists of 710 homes; 434 in three high rise blocks (James Riley Point, Lund Point and Dennison Point), and 276 in low rise blocks and terraced houses. Newham Council is the majority freehold owner of the estate, with part being owned by the Worshipful Company of Carpenters. The estate also has non-residential uses in the form of a primary school, a crafts college, community centre, pub and local shop. The estate was previously managed by a Tenant Management Organisation (TMO), with management transferred back to Newham Council in 2015.
This estate now houses residents who are secure council tenants, temporary accommodation tenants, private tenants as well as some leaseholders and freeholders.
Today this land is seen as prime London real estate, sitting in the shadow of the London Stadium and neighbouring Westfield shopping centre and Stratford International train station. At the same time, it belongs to a borough suffering a catastrophic housing crisis. It has the highest rate of homelessness in the country, one out of every 24 people. It has over 5,500 families with children living in temporary accommodation – more than the entire North of England combined. There is in excess of 27,000 on the waiting list for council housing. The potential of losing council housing due to redevelopment is particularly brutal in this borough. A borough which pre-pandemic had the highest number of children in the country living in poverty (39,638 or 52%), the worst level of air pollution in the whole of Britain, the worst overcrowding, at 25% of dwellings. By June 2020, Newham had the second-worst Covid19 death rate in the country.
The struggle to save the estate has already been a long one. Over the past 20 years, various plans have been laid before residents and later retracted as the community have mobilised, and local council administrations and funding options have changed. 2001 saw regeneration options firstly ‘explored’. 2012 saw a significant unity of students and residents in opposing a UCL campus being built on the estate. In 2014 Focus E15 held an occupation of empty homes which received national attention. A community plan was even submitted by the Greater Carpenters Neighbourhood Forum in May 2019, but was later rejected by the London Legacy Development Corporation, the Planning Authority for the estate.
Yet the decanting of the residents has continued from 2004/2005 until today. A report to the Newham cabinet meeting of 4 December 2018 makes clear why:
“‘4.19 The purpose of continuing the decant programme at this time is to continue to prepare the site for redevelopment as soon as possible”.
In fact, in a report to Cabinet on 18 February 2020, the Council forcast a spend of £700,000 for extra security costs on the estate. Of this spend the report notes:
“‘This is mainly to protect the estate from squatters pending the redevelopment proposals of which discussions are ongoing”
It is clear the intention of Newham Council has barely changed, no matter if Mayor Robin Wales or Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz is in charge.
What are the plans?
Plans include the demolition and rebuild of new homes and buildings at Dennison Point, Gibbins Road, Doran Walk, Jupp Road, Kennard Road, Rosher Close, Warton Road and Wilmer Lea Close, and the refurbishment of existing homes at James Riley Point, Lund Point and the tenanted terrace houses on Biggerstaff Road. 60% of the estate will be demolished. At least 50% of refurbished/new built homes will be private. The others aim to be ‘genuinely affordable’ (more on this below).
Who is involved in the regeneration?
Populo Living is Newham Council’s solely owned housing company, previously called Red Door Ventures (RDV). RDV’s strategic aims were ‘investment value and dividend return’. They were a one stop gentrification shop. Is the re-branded version, Populo Living, any different?
In the The Carpenters newsletter of October 2021, Newham Council claim:
“Vote YES for a plan created in Newham, for Newham, with no outside developers involved and all profits going back into the community.”
Sarah Gaventa previously sat on the board of Populo Living. Gaventa has a history of working for Berkeley Group and Lendlease, two of the most prominent private property developers in the country. In fact, she was also previously on Lendlease’s payroll as the public space champion for their Elephant & Castle regeneration project and had chaired the Community Forum for the Elephant and Castle for the last three years. The nightmarish development of Elephant and Castle which has torn working class families from their homes, and replaced them with luxury towers for the rich has been one of the most heated battlegrounds for any housing campaigner. Can Newham Council really claim there are “no outside developers involved” when Populo has a history of board members who are also working for property developers?
Who is funding the development?
In February 2019 Newham Council were awarded £107m as part of the Greater London Authority The Mayor of London’s Building Homes for Londoners scheme. The Carpenters Estate development will receive at least part of this funding. What this means is that the Council is expected to adhere to Greater London Authority and Mayor of London guidelines (and if not the money will be retracted). These include the following:
- The Mayor (of London) believes that for estate regeneration to be a success there must be resident support for proposals, based on full and transparent consultation from the very start of the process, and meaningful ongoing involvement of those affected.
- The Mayor (of London) also wishes to see the level of affordable housing – particularly homes where rents are based on social rent levels – maintained and, wherever possible, increased through estate regeneration schemes. He believes plans must be developed through full and transparent consultation and resident involvement.
- However, when considering the option of demolishing and rebuilding homes, councils, housing associations and should always consider alternative options to demolition first.
- It is also important to positively engage with: elected local councillors and Members of Parliament; residents, businesses and other stakeholders who may not be located within the boundaries of an estate but who will be affected by the process of regeneration’.
Let’s take these in turn.
- What does full and transparent consultation look like?
Source Partnership is the ‘independent’ body appointed by Newham Council to do the consultation. Previous clients include none other than Southwark Council – including work on the Aylesbury regeneration. Like Elephant & Castle, the social cleansing and destruction of the Aylesbury estate is viewed by housing campaigners as a disaster.
Although there have been many newsletters sent, door knocking and even the opening of the Dovetail space on the estate, offering gardening, art and exercise classes, it is highly questionable if the Council and Source Partnership’s interactions have been full and transparent. Take, for example, the October 2021 newsletter sent to residents. It does not use the word demolition once, despite a proposal of 60% demolition. It also includes the following:
>Vote YES for a plan created in Newham, for Newham, with no outside developers involved and all profits going back into the community.
>We’re ready to start building a new future, all we need is the green light from you. The vote is completely independent – not run by the council.
>The future of The Carpenters is up to you – if you want to build a stronger estate, you need to vote YES in the ballot at the end of October.
>What will happen if residents vote “No”? The Council will not be able to proceed with current proposals, will not be able to build new homes, and will have to re-consider how it is able to restore the estate.
So it’s yes…or nothing…?!
Well, not quite. According to a Planning submission report to Cabinet in March 2021  upon a no vote the Council would:
“then consider a programme of refurbishment across the estate to bring units back into use”
This doesn’t seem to have been made clear to residents. This deliberate lack of clarity is continued in door knocking exercises to ‘sell’ the yes vote. In scripts from September 2021 written by Source Partnership and edited by Newham Council, the following is included:
“If most residents vote ‘YES’ we are ready to start building a new future for the estate for generations to come, all we need is the green light from you.”
“Vote ‘YES’ if you agree with the proposals and you want a new home on the new Carpenters Estate.”
“Vote ‘YES’ if you are overcrowded and want a new home which is the right size for your family.”
“The future of The Carpenters is up to you – if you want to build a stronger estate, you need to vote YES in the ballot at the end of October.”
“To support the plan put together by Carpenters residents, who have the neighbourhood’s best interests at heart.”
“Vote YES for fast progress after 15 years of waiting: we’re ready to start work in early 2022.”
“What happens if the ballot is unsuccessful?If you vote NO, this regeneration won’t go ahead. We won’t have the funding to build new homes or refurbish the existing ones. We’ll have to go back to the drawing board and it might take years before a new plan can be agreed. “
The above has been drafted by Source Partnership, the Independent Tenants’ and Residents’ Advisor with the input of Newham Council. It does not include the word demolition once.
This is not full and transparent consultation – this is propaganda to push through a ‘yes’ vote.
2. What types of homes are proposed for the Estate?
The Council says they are “working towards providing 50% genuinely affordable homes”. The wording shows there is no certainty of achieving this. In any case, what is ‘genuinely affordable’ rent compared with traditional council rent?
As per the Mayor of London’s website ‘genuinely affordable homes’ funded by the Mayor (GLA) includes London Living Rent, Social Rent, London Affordable Rent and London Shared ownership.
In plans, those residents already on secure council tenancies will keep the same rent levels. Those in Temporary Accommodation (who will be given a secure tenancy if the demolition goes ahead) will be on London Affordable Rent. The London Affordable rent benchmark is £161.71 per week for a bedsit or 1-bed flat. Currently, a council tenant in the Carpenters Estate pays just over £92 per week. Therefore all ‘new’ council tenancies on the estate will pay almost 45% increase on traditional council rents. Anyone moved onto the estate from Newham Council’s waiting list will also be on this higher rent rate.
Furthermore, leaseholders and freeholders on the estate report that they will not receive enough money (including added compensation) for the sale of their properties to be able to purchase again on the new development. Their only option would be shared ownership, which is itself widely criticised.
3. Have the council considered all options but demolition first?
The Greater Carpenters Neighbourhood Forum (launched 2015) created a genuine neighbour led plan consisting of refurbishment of existing homes and ‘sensitive infill’. No demolition.
On 27 June 2017, then Director of Regeneration and Planning for NC wrote to Janiz Murray, Secretary of the GCNF: ‘Overall, LBN Planning conclude that while the plan has marshalled a range of ideas, much hangs off its central presumption of retention rather than demolition and redevelopment, which, due to lack of contextual analysis, is somewhat tenuous in itself and in relation to higher tiers of policy.’
At best, Newham Council were unenthusiastic of GCNF’s plans. But this feeling hasn’t changed and the Forum feels that their plans have been pushed aside and not considered by the council as a real option for the estate.
4. Has the Council engaged with other stakeholders outside the boundaries of the estate?
Focus E15 campaign has been named as a ‘community stakeholder’ in a council document regarding the estate, along with Architects for Social Housing (ASH). Yet, we do not believe we have been specifically consulted by the council or their reps about the future of the estate. Any information and discussion we have had with Newham Council on the Carpenters Estate has been a result of lobbying and demonstrating.
We believe everyone in borough has the right to decide if council homes will be demolished!
….And the future?
We have only scratched the surface. We have had reports from those who have a Right-of-Return to the estate not being given ballot information. We have heard concerns about there not being enough school spaces on the estate when new families arrive. We have heard from residents who feel they are not genuinely being listened to, and in fact feel bullied or exhausted into voting ‘Yes’ as they have suffered long term disrepairs.
If nothing else, residents have the right to be made aware that no matter what the Council tells them now, in estate regeneration, ‘the market’ always dictates:
Carpenters Estate: Landlord Offer and proceeding to a Residents Ballot (Report to Newham Cabinet meeting on 20 July 2021)
“In the event of a significant long-term recession or other economic factors impacting on viability then more difficult options might have to be considered, such as looking at the specification of the built environment or, in a worst-case scenario, reducing the proportion of affordable housing.”
Newham Council and their subsidiaries cannot be allowed to control the narrative and future of the Carpenters Estate. We must endorse a genuine community-led plan such as that submitted by the Greater Carpenters Neighbourhood Forum. Homes should be refurbished, opened and rent be set at council level.
We call on all residents to vote NO!
 Newham has the highest rate of homelessness in the country, report reveals, as council ramps up support. https://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/news/council-response-to-shelter-homelessness-report-3243694
 Letter to the Prime Minister from Newham Council – ONS Deprivation data and impact COVID-19 in the London Borough of Newham https://www.newham.gov.uk/downloads/file/1132/letter-to-boris-johnson-from-rokhsana-fiaz-7-may-2020
 LLDC was established in April 2012 under the Localism Act, responsible for delivering the Olympic Legacy promise ‘transforming and integrating one of the most challenged areas in the UK into world-class, sustainable and thriving neighbourhoods’.
 Carpenters Estate Joint Venture Procurement – Update (Report to 4th December 2018 Cabinet meeting)
 Overall Financial Position 2019/20 (section 7 of report to Cabinet meeting on 18 Feb 2020)
 This webpage was updated by Populo Living after our article was published on 23rd Oct 2021. This page showed Sarah Gaventa as still sitting on the board and her history of working with Lendlease. https://www.populoliving.co.uk/about-us/our-board/. Populo Living have subsequently updated this webpage: https://www.populoliving.co.uk/about-us/our-board/
 ‘Better Homes for Local People ‘Mayor’s Good Practice Guide To Estate Regeneration (Feb 2018)’ https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/better-homes-for-local-people-the-mayors-good-practice-guide-to-estate-regeneration.pdf
 The LLDC asked GCNF to amend the plans which were submitted in May 2019