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Delay to 20-storey tower denies residents ‘chance of a better life’

By Hannah Neary, local democracy reporter

Residents have been left sleeping on their sofas after plans for much-needed affordable housing was delayed, a London council says.

Delays to a 20-storey housing block in Fulham means vulnerable people have been denied a “chance of a better life”, according to councillors.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council approved plans to build 133 flats on the Clement Attlee Estate in October 2020 and the project was also backed by the Mayor of London.

But the scheme, which would be called Edith Summerskill House, was delayed after Fulham MP Greg Hands called for a review of the project in June 2021, arguing it is too big.

Councillors say the delay is resulting in huge costs to the council and has left many people living in urgent need of permanent homes.

Labour councillor Helen Rowbottom said the new block would be a lifeline for residents on the Celement Attlee Estate.

The Fulham Broadway representative said she has visited vulnerable residents living on the estate who need support.

Cllr Rowbottom said this includes a mother who slept on her sofa in the lounge for years while her three children shared a bedroom and adults in their twenties and thirties who still live with their parents.

She said: “The space where the new Edith Summerskill House should be built stands empty and fenced off – a monument to what looks like political game playing and vindictiveness by this government.

“It really is crushing to have to explain this delay and obstruction by the government – this denial of a chance of a better life.”

The labour-led council is calling on the government to drop the review and asked all members to support the campaign during a meeting on Wednesday (October 11).

The council’s cabinet member for the economy Andrew Jones said the delay to the project is having a detrimental impact on the lives of many local residents.

He said: “We have one of the highest levels of over-crowded housing in the country and this project is a significant contribution to addressing this.”

Cllr Jones added that the proposed tower is almost identical in height and design to the one that was previously there.

He added: “This is a bad decision. The council and Peabody Housing have invested a lot of time and money in developing this.”

The council’s cabinet member for housing Lisa Homan said: “This is just typical of the Conservative Party’s attitude towards genuinely affordable housing.

“This is to the detriment of many Hammersmith and Fulham residents who are in housing need.”

Cllr Homan, who represents Askew ward, said 17 per cent of households in the borough are overcrowded and Hammersmith and Fulham has the fourth-highest house prices in the country.

The project could now be delayed for another four years while it is under review, according to a statement by the council’s cabinet members for housing and the economy.

It adds that the delay will cost the council around £175,000 a month as it has to put 105 households in temporary homes.

The council will also have to keep funding security on the site at £8,000 per month while Peabody Housing Association has already spent £1.5 million on the scheme.

Conservative councillor Alex Karmel pointed out that while Labour councillors claimed the proposed new tower is a similar height to the old one, it is actually more than 20 metres taller.

Conservative councillor Matt Thorley said many local residents had previously objected to the plans due to concerns including the height of the building.

Cllr Thorley, also the opposition’s spokesman for planning, said the council is trying to shift the blame onto the government for failing to provide a development on the site for the last seven years.

He said the council should come up with a new scheme backed by locals that delivers high-quality affordable homes and outdoor space.

Labour councillor Sharon Holder, who represents Fulham Broadway, said the decision to call in the project is wrong.

She said the Conservative party abandoned residents when it closed Edith Summerskill House and told them they would only be moving out temporarily.

She added: “Fulham desperately needs housing.” A public enquiry on the project begins in November.

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