Demolition of trouble-torn Bemerton estate remains an option 11 March, 2011

Demolition of trouble-torn Bemerton estate remains an option

Published: 11 March, 2011 in Islington Tribune by PETER GRUNER

Council planning chiefs insist no decision on estate’s future has been made

 

PLANS for the redevelopment of the trouble-torn Bemerton estate took a step forward this week as residents attended crucial meetings to find out how it will effect them.

Executive member for housing Councillor James Murray emphasised that no decision had been made about demolition and rebuilding, despite claims made in this paper last week by housing campaigner Dr Brian Potter.

Cllr Murray also maintained that in the event of rebuilding there are no plans to move tenants out of the borough, adding: “Any work  would be gradual, with as little upheaval as possible for residents.”

A public consultation offered tenants and leaseholders three options:

  • leave the estate as it is and improve the open spaces;
  • demolish and rebuild selected parts of the estate;
  • or demolish the estate completely, in stages, and rebuild it to a better design.

A small majority 58 per cent were in favour of demolition but the consultation continued on Tuesday and Wednesday with drop in sessions, where council officers explained what each option would entail.

Cllr Murray said: “This is still very early stages in the consultation process. We are not in favour of any option as yet because we are still seeking the opinion of residents.”

Executive member of regeneration councillor Paul Convery, whose Caledonian ward covers the Bemerton estate, said: “We want to make the Bemerton safer for children, remove areas where anti-social behaviour takes place and generally brighten the place up.”

Speculation by Dr Potter that leaseholders might eventually be priced out of the estate were denied by Cllr Convery.

He added: “We don’t want people who have lived here all their lives feeling that they can’t afford to buy back in when the estate is complete.”

In other developments, Islington police have joined forces with Islington Council to ban violent, drug-taking youths congregating on the estate.

The three month dispersal order started at on February 17 and will continue until May 17 – covering Easter, the Royal Wedding and the early May bank holiday.

It follows resident complaints about groups of up to 30 youths – none of whom are believed to live on the Bemerton estate – causing criminal damage to property and vehicles on the estate.

The Caledonian Police Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) requested the dispersal order following overwhelming support from councillors and Safer Neighbourhood Steering Panel.

Police officers visiting the estate were subjected to a barrage of verbal abuse, intimidation and even missiles thrown by masked and hooded youths.

Sergeant Mike Atkinson, from Caledonian SNT said: “The residents of the Bemerton Estate have been suffering from youth disorder and I hope that this power will reduce anti-social behaviour considerably. We will continue to work closely with local residents and Islington Council to reduce this problem.”

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Bemerton estate demolition means leaving the place we love

Published: 18th March, 2011

• ISLINGTON Council’s recent plan to demolish the entire Bemerton estate as part of a complete redevelopment has caused a huge stir among leaseholders (Demolition remains an option, March 11).

Despite 53 per cent of leaseholders voting against the plan, the council seems determined to go ahead with it.

Although the estate is relatively young – some of the buildings are barely 30 years old and everything is in fairly good condition – the leaseholders would be happy to support total redevelopment with the expectation that they can benefit from the new estate.

However, after the latest drop-in session last week, most leaseholders feel they would be forced to take whatever offer the council and the developer put on the table and leave for good the area they have lived in and loved.

That’s why more than half of the leaseholders favour option 1, which is no major work to the estate. If they are forced out of the neighbourhood, no matter how wonderful a benefit the redevelopment can bring it would become irrelevant.

In the last meeting of Bemerton leaseholders in January, one of the main issues raised and supported by most leaseholders was the possibility of like-for-like exchange in the new-built estate for those who wish to remain in the area.

This has been bluntly ruled out recently. The best offer so far is called half-equity, which means the leaseholder owns half of the new flat and pays rent on the other half. This is ridiculous, especially for elderly residents who suddenly become a tenant from being a home-owner, let alone those who still have big mortgages on their property.

It seems leaseholders would have no other choice but to sell to the council. The first problem will be the fairness of the valuation. Some bought a property in 2006-2007 at the height of the market and are highly likely to be worse off, even out of pocket.

Then, as the redevelopment is delivered in phases, the timing of the valuation and the ultimate sale could make a significant difference as the property market could go up or down. The whole thing would become a lottery.

Finally, the meagre 10 per cent compensation currently proposed can hardly cover any loss a leaseholder incurs in the process. It would be even harder to swallow while the developer is making hundreds of millions out of this scheme by forcing us out of our homes.

Other issues raised were the cost of moving, capital gains tax, legal costs and recovering the costs of improvements made by leaseholders to their flats.

Bear in mind that all these issues arise from the sale of property that leaseholders do not wish to leave but have no other choice. Yet none of these questions has been answered.

As a leaseholder, I spent hundreds of thousands of hard-earned cash on my flat so I could live in a decent-sized property in a location I love for its convenient transportation links and close proximity to central London.

I cycle to work and walk to Angel for my shopping. If forced out of the area, I would have to spend much more money and time on commuting as I could not afford to live in similar areas. Others bought property as an investment, as the rental income plus the equity appreciation are immense compared to other areas.

The council insisted that it is still too early for any decision so the residents should not speculate. But for leaseholders, their interests and even livelihoods are at stake. Until the council comes up with a comprehensive package covering leaseholders’ concerns, no one will feel at ease.

The leaseholders of Bemerton are working with Islington Leaseholders Association, an independent organisation representing all leaseholders, to try to get our voice heard.
Kane Zhang
N1

 

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