More than 50 new council homes were given the green light on Tuesday this week by Southwark Council, across five schemes in Rotherhithe, Bermondsey, Peckham, Walworth and Gipsy Hill.
Many more projects are in the pipeline, with a controversial new block on Slippers Place in Bermondsey set to come before a planning committee next week, having been delayed more than once.
We have reported on the arguments for and against the ‘infilling’ policy adopted by the council on many occasions. Southwark’s cabinet member for council homes, Stephanie Cryan, considers it her “moral duty” to build more flats and eat into the borough’s lengthy waiting list for social housing – in the face of vehement opposition. There are 16,200 people waiting for a council home in Southwark, and many more in temporary accommodation.
The list appears to be growing, having been exacerbated by Covid-19, Cllr Cryan has said. These people are more than numbers on a list – they are human beings who deserve a good, clean, safe home that is the right size for them and their family, just like anyone else.
On the other hand, several of the schemes presented on Tuesday were dogged by accusations of consultation that did not take into account existing residents’ views.
This is a claim that comes up time and again from people living on estates earmarked for infill. Southwark always maintains that the right consultation has been done and Cllr Cryan told us this week that the council is looking to step up its engagement with residents on proposed new schemes.
Perhaps the true reckoning will come in the local elections in May next year: at least to some extent the vote is likely to serve as a referendum on the council’s house building policy.