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Camden New Journal - FORUM: Opinion in the CNJ
Published: 13 March 2008
Kate Purcell
Kate Purcell
We don’t want to be privatised, what we want is a fairer Maiden

Controversial proposals aimed at improving the Maiden Lane estate have repercussions for social housing across the borough, argue Kate Purcell and Rachel Zatz

THE Maiden Lane estate is situated north of the King’s Cross railway lands. It is a low-rise, high-density estate comprising 479 flats and houses.
Building started in 1978 when Camden Council, under the leadership of Frank Dobson, bought the land and the estate was completed in 1983. Phase one was designed by Gordon Benson and Alan Forsyth while phase two was designed by other architects in Camden’s Department of Architecture and Surveying
However, the estate has been starved of funds and as a result is in desperate need of repair work. Current problems include external concrete deterioration, leaking roofs and rotting window frames. In places this has accelerated internal deterioration where there are problems with damp, heating and flooring.
Due to the high costs involved in carrying out this repair programme, Camden Council concluded that a PFI (Private Finance Initiative) was the only option. However, this decision was unpopular with residents. Consequently, a ballot of all households on the estate in 2004 rejected the proposal by 81 per cent. Just weeks earlier, a proposal to establish an Almo (arms length management organisation) had been rejected by 77 per cent of Camden tenants.
Now the council is offering a range of proposals for regeneration. However, almost all involve demolition of current homes in varying proportions. Many of us feel that this is part of a wider anti-council housing agenda as Camden tenants have seen privatisation of caretaking services, and some estates, Maiden Lane included, have seen their doorstep recycling schemes withdrawn.
There is a real sense of community on the estate and many pensioners and families have lived there since it was first built. People from different ethnicities and backgrounds mix well together, and, despite what some people and council officers think, many of us love living on the estate.
We have friends and family close by. We have children in the local schools. Some of us, including local architects, admire the unusual design of the estate. The estate does not need demolition, but it does want basic repairs and ongoing maintenance. The estate has improved over recent years even in the so-called “problem” blocks where the introduction of new security doors has meant prostitution and drug-dealing have been eradicated from the stairwells.
The council is claiming that it is having an open consultation over the future of the estate and that there are no proposals on the table.
However, a glossy brochure delivered to all residents offers partial demolition of the estate in almost all of the “options”.
Residents are clearly concerned about this. A group of people on the estate have got together to start a campaign to save all our homes.
We have held two well-attended meetings where residents have been vocal in criticising council plans. The last meeting was attended by 70 residents, local councillor Ben Rawlings and MP Frank Dobson. We all agree that we want well-maintained homes, well-maintained common hallways, vibrant green public spaces, improved heating and double or secondary glazing. But we also want a sustainable and diverse local community. We do not want our community to be broken up.
Tenants are aware that the value of land has gone up due to the King’s Cross development and international rail link and feel that there is an agenda to profit from this at the expense of our homes.
Ben Rawlings, executive member and local councillor, has said he sees no way to improve things unless residents accept some demolition.
While welcoming a dialogue with the council, many residents want an open consultation starting from the point of view that any demolition is unacceptable.
It is difficult to accept that the council is spending £10m on refurbishing Bidborough House and has £50m in reserves but has no funds for Maiden Lane.
The council consultation has been a shambles – leaflets have been delivered at 11am for meetings held the same day at 6pm.
The council is offering an estate vote over the plans, but how will this work? Is the council going to fix the vote by ensuring the part of the estate that gets investment can out-vote the part of the estate that is demolished?
We will not accept salami-slicing of the estate and divide-and-rule tactics. After all, the council may come back in future years and propose more demolitions the next time it claims to be short of funds.
Our concerns are important for all council tenants because the “estate regeneration” schemes being developed at the Town Hall may involve the demolition of council blocks on many estates across Camden.
If other estates are going to experience the kind of consultation we are experiencing, we have no doubt that our Save All Our Homes campaign will not be the only one. 

* Kate Purcell and Rachel Zatz are part of the Save All Our Homes campaign

Send your letters to: The Letters Editor, Camden New Journal, 40 Camden Road, London, NW1 9DR or email to The deadline for letters is midday Tuesday. The editor regrets that anonymous letters cannot be published, although names and addresses can be withheld. Please include a full name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

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