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Camden New Journal - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published: 27 March 2008

• WE are two of the many tenants across a number of estates in Camden who are currently subject to ‘consultation’ over the council’s plans to ‘regenerate’ our homes.
In our case, the plans, all of which appear to involve privatisation of some sort, have been presented as a way of meeting projected costs for repairs and refurbishment. The repairs are much-needed, but the key problem is that the consultation process itself is unsatisfactory and there are serious doubts over its fairness and transparency. It appears to be designed to produce an end result – privatisation – which tenants don’t want.
Just three options were outlined at a public meeting last July. The first option was that of selling off publicly-owned sites on or near the estate; the second, transfer of the entire estate to a housing association; and the third was transfer to a ‘fully mutual co-operative’. The only mention by councillors of the so-called ‘fourth option’, that of direct government investment in council housing, was disparaging. Despite this, the tenants were overwhelmingly in favour of pursuing this course of action and defending council housing.
The council admitted at the July meeting that selling off adjacent sites would be merely a one-off solution which would probably not raise enough money to cover the repairs needed.
Transferring the estate to a housing association gathered very little support from the tenants and the co-op option was also poorly received. Subsequently, attitudes to both these options at a recent open day in the tenants’ hall were overwhelmingly negative.
Despite what they said back in July, councillors now appear to be placing most of their emphasis on various ideas for selling off sites on or near the estate.
But it is extremely difficult for tenants to pin down which of the specific proposals under this option are serious, and which may be red herrings. For example, the latest proposal is the possibility of developing the former laundries on the estate, which currently host a much-valued learning centre providing, among other things, computing and English lessons to residents. But where have these proposals come from? Certainly not from the people involved in the learning centre, or from tenants who have benefited from its services, both of which groups have opposed the plans.
We are also concerned at some of the council’s more serious proposals. For instance, councillors have raised the possibility of demolishing the council-owned property on Langtry Walk, which consists of a much-used laundrette and other shops, and replacing it with a multi-storey building, likely to contain a majority of private or housing association flats.
But there are problems with this sort of proposal. First, as the council admitted earlier, it would be unlikely to raise the money needed for regeneration. Second, private or housing association developments of this sort will do little to solve the serious housing problems facing working-class families in Camden. Housing association rents are generally higher than those charged by councils. Also, the Langtry Road plot is tiny, and the likely response to this by any property developers will be a high-rise development. The last thing this area wants is more towers full of one-or two-bedroom private flats, when what is needed instead is an imaginative response to housing needs, which encompasses amenities for residents, including green space and room for kids to play. This is what this estate, with all its faults, attempted to do. But the council’s plans for selling off land will eat away at this.
In all of this, the consultation process appears to have been constructed to carve up any opposition to the council’s plans. The various proposals that seem to pop up out of nowhere mean that the serious business of discussing funding for regeneration is subject to councillors’ whims rather than tenants’ wishes. And the council has called separate meetings to discuss each option, meaning that tenants have either had to choose which consultation event to attend, or give up a number of evenings to voice any objections.
By coming up with so many proposals, the councillors seem to be trying to sidestep the fundamental question of the ‘fourth option’ and instead put privatisation back on the agenda. But the billions made available to nationalise Northern Rock show that the money is there for the ‘fourth option’, even if the political will is not. At the latest consultation meeting there was a call for a public meeting on the proposals in full. This would be an important step. Tenants should know what the proposals are in detail, instead of being fobbed off with bland assurances that ‘nothing is being ruled in or out’. A genuine public debate would be a key part of a more transparent consultation process.
Ken Mulkearn
Alexandra and Ainsworth estate, NW8


• AN invisible tax is being levied to tenants by our government through the rents we pay to our council.
The Treasury has siphoned off £8,670 per council tenant between 1997 and 2005 from the Housing Revenue Account.
In the meantime our council is selling off council homes to fatten up developers while there are thousands on the waiting list.
The total owed to council tenants for 1997 to 2005 is £17.34 billion.
To continue this robbery is plain immoral.
For more information please visit and follow the Moonlight Robbery Campaign link, or call free 0800 652 3140.
Camden Federation of Tenants and Residents Associations, NW1

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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