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Will radical Gospel Oak estate plan ‘raise the roof’?
Camden Council accused of ‘acting like tyrants’ as they reveal scheme to add floors to ageing blocks
Published: September 15, 2011
by TOM FOOT
POSH penthouse flats could be craned onto the top of one of Camden’s biggest council estates in a “radical option” unveiled on Thursday.
Camden Council has pitched the idea to tenants in Gospel Oak of adding two floors of pre-fabricated private housing to the top of Waxham and another single floor on Ludham.
Planners think funds raised from the homes could be reinvested into renovating the estate and completing a backlog of repairs – including new electricity cables, leaking roofs and replacing windows.
The new proposals follow the government’s Homes and Communities Agency decision to withdraw £160million to rebuild six estates in Gospel Oak – a move that some say has left Camden Council with no option but to look for radical solutions.
“Housing can be reassembled off site and craned on very quickly,” officials told tenants in a public meeting on the estate on Thursday.
But top council chiefs strenuously insist the PowerPoint slides and glossy presentation documents on display are only early ideas ahead of a long planning and consultation process.
Tenants, who say they are living in terrible conditions with leaking roofs and misfiring electrics, told the New Journal they felt “held to ransom” as the only other options put forward by the council are no repair work at all or total demolition of the estate.
Margaret Maloney, who lives on the top floor of Waxham, said: “Some people are saying they are being held to ransom because repairs won’t be done until the flats are put on. This [the repairs] should have been done years before the cuts.
“Putting private housing on top of the building does feel a bit like an alien invasion. I haven’t spoken to anyone who thinks it is a good idea – most people feel it is ridiculous.”
She added: “When you are living with really awful disrepair, people just lose hope.”
Tenants told the New Journal the council had acted like “total tyrants” in the past and had failed to fix the many problems on the estate like broken lifts, sewage bursting through pipes into flats and lights switching on and off mysteriously.
Other concerns raised were the possibility of a social divide within a single housing block, fears the building couldn’t structurally take the weight of the penthouses and that new glass lift shafts – to be built on the outside of the estate – could be smashed by troublemakers.
Maureen Johnston, who has lived in Ludham for 35 years, said: “I’m happy for it to happen. The new housing will all be private and I think it will make a huge difference.
“I think it will bring the area right up. I think it’s mainly the elderly that will be worried about the disruption.”
The council is also looking at plans to demolish the District Housing office in nearby Bacton and build a new estate there.
Camden Council said tenants could be decanted while their roofs are removed and the new flats are fitted above with a crane.
The proposed changes could see Waxham and Ludham, built in 1974, divided into four sections with new lifts put on the outside of the glass building to create more room on the inside.
Officials said the new estate could be powered by surplus electricity from the Royal Free Hospital and open spaces could be used by tenants for allotments. Walkways would be widened to make space for disability ramps for tenants of Waxham.
Town Hall finance chief and Labour Gospel Oak ward councillor Theo Blackwell said: “Gospel Oak is a priority for the council because it is reaching the end of its natural life. If we are going to do something about it, now is the time to do it.
“This is the ideas stage. It is a future development that would take place in some years’ time. The reality is we have less money from the government and we need to look at radical options.
“It is good to get a sense of what people’s red lines are.”
If you would like to get involved in the consultation on Waxham and Ludham please contact Julia Farr on 020 974 2642 firstname.lastname@example.org.