‘REGENERATION’ PROPOSALS MEAN EVICTION – say Grahame Park tenants

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Children playing on the Grahame Park estate in front of the houses that are due to be demolished
Children playing on the Grahame Park estate in front of the houses that are due to be demolished

Tenants and leaseholders on the Grahame Park housing estate in Colindale, north-west London, are angry over ‘regeneration’ proposals which leave many facing eviction.

‘Choices for Grahame Park’ is part of the Genesis Housing Group which is working with the council to double the amount of houses on the estate over the next 15 years.

Contrary to earlier promises, there are going to be new ten-storey blocks on the estate.

All the new housing is to be private and council tenants are being told that they have to sign new tenancy agreements of which they don’t yet know the details.

Some tenants are being threatened with eviction from the estate, while leaseholders whose houses are up for demolition are not being provided with adequate alternative accommodation.

Compulsory purchase orders were served on leaseholders on 7th November 2007 and the council confirmed them on 1st February this year.

As there is no public finance for the scheme the whole ‘regeneration’ of Grahame Park is to be entirely ‘self-funded’ through the creation of 2,000 new houses to be sold privately and 1,000 so-called ‘social housing’ properties.

They have already demolished the old people’s home, have built ten-storey private blocks on the outskirts of the estate and plan their first phase of major demolition shortly.

The Choices for Grahame Park plans for demolition have been greatly delayed by the opposition from homeownersand leaseholders who are refusing to move unless they are given like-for-like housing in the area and adequate compensation.

Council tenants are also refusing to leave their homes and sign new tenancy agreements which would take away their secure tenancy rights.

Warehouse operative and Transport and General Workers Union member Jamie Williams lives in a house on the estate facing the location of a proposed new major road.

He told News Line: ‘They are trying to build loads more private houses on the estate.

‘It’s totally nonsense. If they knock everything down and build a major road outside my front door it’s going to make a hell of a mess.

‘Already with the cranes all around they are mucking up my TV aerial.’

Aurora Fernandes, who is facing eviction from her home, said: ‘I am really desperate. I’m going to Citizens Advice because I need to know exactly what my rights are.

‘I’ve lived here three years. I was with the housing association in Mill Hill but it was too expensive and they offered me this place.

‘It was in a terrible condition. To start with I refused it because it was so damp. There was blood and urine and faeces on the floor because the lady that had it before was incontinent.

‘First, I refused the house. I said if it’s temporary accommodation I’ll be spending all my time and money putting it into a condition that I can live in with my three daughters.

‘The housing officer came and agreed and promised to clean it up and make it liveable in.

‘So I handed over the key to my old house; but when I got here all they’d done was paint the doors and one of the cupboards. They hadn’t cleaned up at all. All the decorating here I have done.

‘Now they’ve sent me a letter saying they have homeowners on the estate whose houses are being demolished and they need to offer my house to them for sale.

‘They are actually asking me to have my house nice and clean and tidy when they come round and say they will pay me £50 to show people round.

‘A gentleman came here in January to do a survey and he told my neighbour that Barnet Homes is selling my house to a housing association. So I don’t know who they are planning to sell it to.

‘I feel they have used me to make the house nice so they can sell it over my head. That is Barnet Homes for you.

‘In February they renovated the kitchen and bathroom and we had to live on takeaways for three weeks, even though I was still paying the rent.

‘I received a letter saying that on 1st May an advisor would be available to tell me what was happening.

‘So I went to Grahame Park Housing Office, but all she told me was the same as was in the letter, which was that the council will provide me with alternative accommodation, but they don’t know where or when.

‘She said because I work it is more likely it would be with a private landlord because the properties on the estate are only for people on benefits.

‘At this stage all that comes into my mind is that I should stop my career and stop working as the only way to protect my home.

‘I believe the same thing is happening to other people on the estate. It’s very wrong. I want to stay here. It’s my home.’

Aurora’s neighbour Maureen Sillis said: ‘It’s disgusting, they are trying to get rid of nice tenants. The whole block down here is absolutely lovely.

‘Nothing has been said in any newsletters so we don’t know what’s going on.

‘I’m a council tenant and they’ve told us there is a new tenancy agreement coming out that we’ve got to sign, but why should we?

‘I’ve told everybody down the block not to sign. We’ve got our existing tenancy agreement which is adequate.

‘I’ve lived on this estate for 33 years and I’ve never had a worry till now.

‘They’ve said these blocks are staying, but they want private people in them, not council tenants. Council housing has got to be defended.’

Neighbour Stephen Toby, said: ‘I don’t think council tenants should be treated in this way. They deserve a modicum of respect.

‘’Throwing people out without regard for them or their children is just wrong.

‘Labour seems to be on their way out and the reason is because they have lost the trust of a lot of the working class.’

Frankie Kaye, from Lower Strand Residents Group, said: ‘Choices for Grahame Park have chosen to serve compulsory purchase orders on the home owners individually, as opposed to en masse, because if they did it en masse everybody would have got together to bring a joint action.

‘But because they have gone to people individually and planted fear in their minds people have chosen not to object to the CPOs.

‘Choices for Grahame Park claim in all their material that 70 per cent of the Grahame Park residents voted for the regeneration.

‘But 51 per cent voted for and 49 per cent voted against.

‘But most people didn’t vote, so they didn’t vote for the estate to be demolished.

‘The amount of people that voted was in the hundreds, but thousands live on the estate.

‘Most people were disenfranchised.

‘Choices for Grahame Park have signed off this development, six weeks ago.

‘That means it will go ahead.

‘However, planning was achieved in 2004 but since 2004 nothing has happened.

‘We have been fighting this regeneration since 1996 and we will continue to make our protests heard.

‘Choices for Grahame Park has yet to produce a business plan for the public to view.

‘How you can be in business without a plan is beyond me.’