There are celebrations at Cressingham Gardens today, after a High Court decision that Lambeth Council acted unlawfully when it decided to remove refurbishment options from discussions about the estate's future.
Bit of background: the low rise, low crime, generally well-loved estate has 306 homes — a mix of council tenants and privately owned under right to buy — was built in the 1960s and is now in need of repair. Lambeth Council ran a public consultation that contained five options: the first three covered refurbishing the existing homes and maybe building some new homes; the remainder talked of partial or full demolition.
In March this year, Lambeth took the first three options off the table, saying demolition was the only way it could afford to decently house the existing tenants and build the new council rent homes the borough desperately needs.
Residents were up in arms; they felt they'd been denied the right to a full consultation. Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing DBE agreed, today ruling that Lambeth acted unlawfully in removing the options from the consultation.
This isn't total victory for Cressingham Gardens, however. Lambeth has 35 days to respond, and has the right to appeal. Even if that appeal fails, all that will happen is that the council will have to re-run the consultation and it seems very, very determined on its current course.
Lambeth Councillor Matthew Bennett said in a statement:
We are disappointed at this judgement, but we will fully comply with the judge’s decision. We will take a report on the proposals back to Cabinet as soon as possible, and residents will have their chance to comment on all the options during that process. However, we have said previously that full refurbishment of the estate or a significant proportion of the estate is currently unaffordable within the constraints of the Housing Revenue Account.
Lambeth has already drawn up proposals to address the issues highlighted by Mrs Justice Laing, and give residents and other interested parties the opportunity to express their views on the options for improving Cressingham Gardens. As a result of the judgement, a new report will be taken to Cabinet, covering all five of the options put forward. In the process of preparing that report, residents will be able to give their opinion on each option, including on its affordability.