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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Why is Cameron targeting England's 'sink estates'?

On first reading the pledge by the UK Conservative Government to put £140m into redeveloping nearly a hundred of the 'UK’s worst sink estates' seems like a laudable plan. And indeed, if Cameron is true to his word and is seeking to occupy the political middle ground through a blitz on poverty then it is worth backing the project.

However, the devil is in the detail and my first reaction was that £140m was not enough money to achieve the Government's aims, not unless they are planning to use it to lever in private money by redeveloping what could be prime real estate Westminster Council style.

And it is worth recalling at this time the regime of Lady Porter in the 1980s, when social tenants were relocated so that estates in marginal wards could be gentrified or redeveloped allegedly so as to change their political allegiance.

The Guardian says that the prime minister has pledged that “brutal high-rise towers” and “bleak” housing will be torn down in an effort to tackle drug abuse and gang culture.  He will set out the details tomorrow however, his intent is clear:

Promising to transform the worst estates, Cameron added: “For some, this will simply mean knocking them down and starting again. For others, it might mean changes to layout, upgrading facilities and improving local road and transport links.”

The government will inject £140m to rehouse occupants and tear up planning rules to speed up the process. Tenants and homeowners will be given binding guarantees that their right to a home is protected.

Cameron said three out of four rioters in 2011 came from sink estates. “The riots of 2011 didn’t emerge from within terraced streets or low-rise apartment buildings. The rioters came overwhelmingly from these post-war estates. That’s not a coincidence,” he wrote.

The housing developments being targeted reportedly include the Winstanley estate in Wandsworth, south London. Others could include the Lower Falinge estate in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, and Broadwater Farm in Tottenham, north London.

The question that families need to ask is whether the guarantee they will get of a right to a home is on the transformed estate or not?  Will the redeveloped estate include housing available at social rents? If not where will families who cannot pay market or intermediate rents be rehoused?  And what consultation will take place with these families? Will they be involved in redesigning their own estates?

I may be cynical but I have seen these schemes before. These estates desperately need investment and the anti-social elements need to be weeded out, but let's ensure that in doing it we protect the right of the decent majority to stay in the community they grew up in if they wish and not sacrifice them on the altar of big money and political expediency.
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