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Infill homes: Three hundred sign petition against Elmington Estate development

Nearly three hundred people have signed a petition pleading with Southwark Council not to build on a patch of greenery in Camberwell’s Elmington Estate.

The padlocked gate

The estate is one of 28 across the borough with proposals for new ‘infill’ homes. Southwark Council aims to build 22 social rent flats on the site, which backs onto a block in Brisbane Street.

Residents previously had the right to access the green space – now walled off and padlocked – as a communal garden. It is also named in the deeds of one leaseholder’s flat.

The new block would be five storeys high and include nine one-bed flats, six two-beds (two of which would be wheelchair accessible) and seven three-beds.

Since being closed off a number of years ago the site has grown trees and become part of what Southwark Nature Action Volunteers, who are against the infill scheme, say is a valuable ‘green corridor’ linking Burgess Park with Camberwell Green. They would like to see it turned into a wildlife garden for residents and the trees protected from felling.

“We support the building of much-needed new council homes, but it has also been proven that living close to trees and green spaces is very important for people’s physical and mental health,” they explain in their online petition.

“And housing in the immediate area will soon increase due to other projects, with two development sites on Lomond Grove for up to 89 new homes, and up to 160 on the now-closed Camberwell magistrates’ court.

“The council should be protecting and enhancing green space to meet the needs of this rising population, not destroying it.

“Take the padlock off the gate, clean it up and maintain it. This woodland should be opened up for local people to enjoy, as it once was.”

Fourteen trees would need to be cut down to make way for the development, but the council has pledged to plant eighteen more in the area ‘immediately surrounding’ the site, including in the wider estate.

Elmington Estate resident and council tenant Catalina is one of the residents calling for a rethink.

“I live with my mum and sister. All three of us are opposed to the plan to build on the woodlands,” she said.

“We all love nature watching and appreciate our local wildlife. We are also first-floor residents and so don’t have access to a personal garden. We dream of having a garden. Because of this, any access to green space around the area is greatly appreciated.”

Southwark Council’s planning application has received 25 public comments on its online planning portal, only one of which is in favour of the redevelopment as it currently stands.

READ MORE: Outrage as Southwark Council goes ahead with infill plans despite residents’ pleas

One objector explained: “This past year has shown how invaluable local green space is, and being able to see tree tops from my window has been a true joy that has helped me to manage the anxiety and frustration of spending so much time at home.

“This development will take away both the views of trees and the utility of a public green space closest to my home… I have heard project representatives say that this area of woodland is not well used and so would not be missed.

“This is not true; as I describe above, they are the thing that made me want to move to my flat and live in this area.

“Furthermore, the area was walled in several years ago and rarely maintained, so of course litter accumulated.

“A better use would be to open it up, combine it with the green space, and create a well managed park, along the lines of the nearby Benhill Road Nature Garden.”

The project is part of Southwark Council’s ‘New Homes Delivery Programme, which aims to build 11,000 social housing units by 2030.

With land prices at a premium and limited supply in Southwark, and the continual loss of right-to-buy homes, the local authority has increasingly looked to creative ways to build more affordable and social rent housing, including adding new homes into existing estates or on top of tower blocks as rooftop extensions, but has met opposition from campaigners who say social housing tenants are losing out on light, green space and will suffer even more from overcrowding.

https://www.change.org/p/southwark-council-stop-the-destruction-of-urban-woodland-at-lomond-grove-camberwell

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