Residents of yet another Southwark estate have spoken up against plans to build next to existing council homes.
Some people living on Slippers Place Estate on Southwark Park Road in Bermondsey are concerned about plans to build eighteen new council homes in an eight-storey block near their properties.
Southwark Council has plans to build 11,000 new council homes by 2043 to help the thousands of people stuck on housing waiting lists, and the many families living in unsuitable, overcrowded accommodation.
But across the borough, estate residents have hit out at plans to build on their car parks and green spaces, often citing a loss of light, mental health concerns and what they see as a lack of proper consultation.
Katie Phillips, who owns her flat in nearby six-storey Matson House, has been running a campaign to inform other residents and to encourage them to comment on the plans. She is worried about the overshadowing effect on her flat and garden. A study submitted as part of the planning application says that “there will… be no adverse impact on neighbouring residents in terms of daylight” and that the plans are “compliant” with sunlight rules.
The council added that they have tried to reduce the impact of the new development on neighbouring properties, including insetting balconies and placing them on the corner of the building furthest away from neighbouring blocks.
But Ms Phillips, who works in a south London hospital, said: “It’s making me ill, it’s going to make my life an absolute misery. I don’t feel supported, and I’ve been working all the way through lockdown as a frontline key worker. It’s an absolute nightmare. There have been nights that I’ve not been able to sleep. It’s had such an impact.”
As of May this year there had been two public consultation events across two and a half years. One of these was an in-person public meeting in August 2018. The second was an online exhibition in February. Council officers also held four meetings with a group of residents and newsletters were sent out to all residents.
But Ms Phillips, who is a member of this group, does not feel the consultations were effective. “People don’t even know it’s going on, people who don’t have internet or don’t use it very often- their voices are totally lost.” The council said they installed a postbox on the estate to help residents without internet access provide feedback.
In several cases, including Slippers Place, the people leading campaigns against infill on their estate have been leaseholders – meaning they could have more to lose from the new building going ahead than neighbours who are council tenants. Ms Phillips and others have insisted their opposition is not linked to the value of their homes possibly going down as a result of the new buildings.
“I never even thought about the impact of the value on my property – it didn’t even cross my mind,” she said. “I understand the need for housing is great, I don’t dispute that whatsoever. I just don’t think it should be to the detriment of existing residents.”
An application for planning permission was submitted in May and the planning committee is expected to make a decision in September.
Ms Phillips linked her opposition to the plans to other groups in Southwark who have protested infill projects on their estates.
“I’m just one of many, many voices. It’s been really positive in a way, going to meetings of these different local groups. I think the council needs to stop everything, review everything across the borough and then decide how to go forward.”
Cllr Stephanie Cryan, cabinet member for council homes and homelessness, said: ““We have over 15,000 households on our waiting list for a home, with half of these families including children. We have 3,200 households in temporary accommodation, often living in severely overcrowded conditions and sometimes entire families in a single room. This is why we are looking at over 70 sites across the borough, including garages, carparks and under-utilised space on council-owned land.
“On Slippers Estate, we’re building 18 much-needed new council homes including one ground-floor flat with a parking space suitable for wheelchair users. Over half the homes are family-sized and our local lettings policy means that at least fifty percent of the new homes here would be offered to tenants in housing need already living in the area.
“Development of the site will include green landscaping and new trees to create an attractive route from neighbouring Southwark Park down Stalham Street through to the estate. New homes also will be connected to the District Heat Network, significantly reducing carbon emissions and lowering local residents’ energy bills.”