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Residents on a council estate ‘crying out for help’ as they await regeneration plans

By James Mayer, local democracy reporter

Residents on a council estate near Richmond Park are “crying out” for help as they await regeneration plans.

Alton Estate families in Roehampton support regeneration plans but fear more high rise flats could damage the character of the area.

Right next to the estate is Richmond Park where homes sell for around £2 million, a stark contrast to the council estate next door.

Alton Estate residents said many of the children who live on the estate have never set foot in Richmond Park as they feel “intimidated”.

Plans to regenerate the Alton Estate were approved by Wandsworth Council in October 2020 but work has still not started as approval from the Mayor of London is needed.

Residents on a council estate ‘crying out for help’ as they await regeneration plans
Deacon Kathy Johnson Said ‘People Are Crying Out Got Facilities’ On The Alton Estate

If approved, a number of older buildings will be demolished, including the original entrance to the estate at Allbrook House, and be replaced with towers up to nine storeys high, as well as a new library, health centre, children’s centre and shops.

Dene Lyon, who has lived on the estate for 67 years said: “I got told over 10 years ago that I was going to have to move out of my bungalow and move across the road and the council would revamp my bungalow.”

Dene said that nothing has happened since.

The 76-year-old added: “I don’t support any more high rise flats.

“If you’ve got young children and you live on the top floor, you can’t just say to your child go down and play on the playground because it’s not safe.”

Deacon Kathy Johnson, who has lived on the estate for three years said: “Some days it’s lovely here but some days it’s hell.

“There have been plans coming and going for a long time.

“Each time the consultation came to an end, it got extended a bit further and a bit further.

“The youth club hasn’t been open since before I moved here.”

The 59-year-old Methodist church minister added: “The youth club’s going to be demolished, it’s just sitting there like a boarded up white elephant that nobody knows what to do with it. People are crying out for facilities here.

“The council wants to gentrify the place, but it’s not really providing enough shop space or outside space in its plans.”

Deacon Kathy Johnson said a 10-year-old girl she met “was really intimidated and she’d been on the estate for three years and had never set foot in Richmond Park”.

The 1950s estate which borders Richmond Park could see 1,108 new homes built if plans are approved.

Residents on a council estate ‘crying out for help’ as they await regeneration plans
Dene Lyon, 76, Doesn’ Support Regeneration If High Rise Flats Are Involved

However, onlyaround 261 of the new homes will be affordable – or 24 per cent.

This is below the target level of affordable housing in the London Plan and Core Strategy.

Of these, 201 homes will be at social rent, compared to 158 currently on the application site – resulting in an uplift of 43 social rent homes.

Plans include a new village square and multi-purpose community building to host the new Roehampton Library, a modern health centre, spaces to rehouse the youth club, and a new community hall.

The retail area will include a convenience food store and a range of new and replacement shops.

New workspace accommodation will also be included with rooms set aside as affordable for small businesses and the voluntary sector.

Residents on a council estate ‘crying out for help’ as they await regeneration plans
The Corbusier-inspired “slab” blocks of the Highcliffe neighbourhood in the Alton West estate, Roehampton

A community hub within the Parkland Quarter will host the new Eastwood Nursery School Centre for Children and Families.

A council spokesman said: “We remain fully committed to the regeneration of the Alton Estate. Once we have approval from the Mayor of London that the plans can proceed the process of securing a development partner will commence.

“The council’s commitment to its secure tenants is to offer them new accommodation within the regeneration that meets their needs.

“Some tenants have requested a move to alternative accommodation sooner and the council has accommodated these requests. Making sure our residents’ housing needs are met is a priority.”

The estate was hailed by its first residents in the 1950s as a vast improvement on the crowded slum housing they had been moved from.

It was also praised by one of the 20th Century’s most influential architectural historians Nikolaus Pevsner as ‘brilliant […] aesthetically the best housing estate to date’, and by G.E. Kidder Smith as “probably the finest low-cost housing in the world”. Photos and plans of the Alton were published in journals, which helped to consolidate the London County Council’s reputation as one of the most ambitious and innovative city governments in the post-war world.

But poor maintenance and a massive shift in architectural taste has left it doomed to decay and now demolition.

Council leader Ravi Govindia, said: “Our ambitious regeneration scheme is designed to deliver more than just new homes. It aims to re-energise Roehampton and provide state-of-the-art community facilities to benefit everyone who lives in this part of the borough.

“We are committing to an increased number of affordable homes, across all tenures including additional homes offered for social rent and for low cost shared ownership.”

He added: “Once we have approval from the Mayor of London we can start looking for a development partner to deliver the rest of this transformational regeneration scheme.”

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