The Regeneration of Ham Close Estate. Part 1: What the Green Party has learned from Labour

Screenshot 2019-07-15 19.46.14

‘So much information and analysis here on the issue of social housing, starter homes, right-to-buy sell-offs and estate regeneration.’

– Andree Frieze, freelance journalist and Green Party candidate, Ham, Petersham and Richmond Riverside, on the reblog of ASH’s article Blitzkrieg! Sink Estates and Starter Homes in Action against Apathy (20 January 2016)

ASH Facebook page, 26 May 2019

Does anyone have a contact email or number with residents or campaigners on the Ham Close estate in Richmond? The Liberal Democrat council has continued the plans of their Conservative predecessors and made a formal agreement with the Richmond Housing Partnership (RHP), the freeholder of the estate, to demolish the 192 existing homes and replaced them with around 450, an unspecified number of which will be affordable housing for unspecified rent and shared ownership. In other words, this is another blatant act of social cleansing designed to maximise value uplift on the land and needs to be opposed. If anyone knows how to contact the campaign to oppose this scheme, a petition for which has been signed by 1,165 people, can you put them in touch with ASH at info@architectsforsocialhousing.co.uk? Thanks.

E-mail, 5 June 2019

Dear Andree

I’m following up on your request that ASH contact you regarding the demolition and redevelopment of the Ham Close estate, to which it appears you have given your backing, and of which you asserted the residents are ‘very supportive’.

I recall to your attention that in the statement of Green Party policy on housing as of 2019, it reads:

‘HO406. Demolition will be discouraged, particularly where it would lead to the loss of social or co-operative housing, unless it can be shown to be better than refurbishment and extension. A study covering the social, economic and environmental impacts of demolition and refurbishment should first be undertaken, with reference to the local energy plan and housing standards (see HO410). Wherever possible, the evidence should be co-produced with residents. Landlords should produce a Statement of Community Involvement, and be able to demonstrate how it was followed through. Tenants and residents will be supported to produce their own report on the community engagement undertaken by the landlord. Where demolition is the preferred option of the provider, residents would be given a right to an indicative ballot.’

The questions I have for you, therefore, in your role as a Green Party councillor on Richmond council and ward councillor for Ham and Petersham are as follows: 

  • The figures being quoted by Richmond council at the moment, to demolish the 192 existing homes on Ham Close and replaced them with around 450 units, an unspecified number of which will be affordable housing for unspecified rent and shared ownership, strongly suggest that a lot of the current residents will be moved off and unable to afford to return. Why would residents support that? 
  • What is the actual breakdown in tenure and housing costs of the 450 new-builds on which the viability assessment has been based? 
  • Has the council made the financial viability assessment of the redevelopment scheme available for public scrutiny, as you should since this will determine what gets built in place of the existing estate? 
  • Has the council produced an impact assessment of the social, financial and environmental costs of the demolition and redevelopment of the estate to residents, neighbours who are affected by the scheme and the council
  • Has the council produced a refurbishment and refill option for the consideration of residents that would actually increase the number of homes for social rent rather than reduce them, and in doing so meet the borough’s actual housing needs? 
  • One of the biggest contributions to carbon emissions on London is the demolition and redevelopment of hundreds of housing estates and the concomitant loss of green spaces and trees to new developments. Why do you as a Green Party councillor support demolition and redevelopment rather than the far more ecologically sustainable option for refurbishment? 
  • Sufficient amenities to offset the increased burden on services such as schools, clinics and roads isn’t something that should be deferred to the future attentions of councillors, no matter how conscientious they claim to be, but must be an integral part of the planning requirement of the council you represent. Has the council you produced an impact assessment of this increase and made its amelioration a condition of granting planning permission to the scheme? 
  • And if Richmond council hasn’t done any of these things – as I very much doubt it has – how can residents be said to be ‘very supportive’ of a scheme about which they have none of the information required to make that decision?

As I wrote on your Facebook page, ASH would be happy to come and talk with residents of Ham Close about the costs of demolition and redevelopment, what it will mean for them, and to discuss the options available to them. We would be grateful if you could set up such a forum, ideally on the estate itself or perhaps in on of the nearby schools, and inform residents of its happening.

Alternatively, would you give ASH the contact number and e-mail address of the Ham Close Tenants and Resident Association and/or any campaign that exists among residents to resist the demolition of their homes.

Yours sincerely

Simon Elmer
Architects for Social Housing 

E-mail, 7 June 2019

Dear Simon

Thank you for getting in touch and sharing your knowledge with me.

You will find the information about the scheme (from RHP and Richmond council) on the Ham Close Uplift Programme webpage. As you will see, the project has been going on since at least 2013. A link from this website takes you to the current proposal, which states in the consultation document October 2016:

‘The proposed masterplan shows a development that will deliver:

  • 192 replacement existing homes.
  • The existing homes will be replaced like for like and include 49 leasehold and 143 tenanted homes.
  • Of the new, additional 233 homes, at least one third (78) will be affordable housing.
  • The 78 affordable housing units will be spilt. Half will be affordable rent (39) and the other half shared ownership (39). (I clarified this with Adam Tucker, who was the project manager for Ham Close, but has since moved on and he said: “I can confirm that under the current proposals half of the new homes which are affordable (78 number) will be for social rent properties let at rents under the GLA affordable housing rent caps. Rent definitions are somewhat complex (and varied) so I understand people’s confusion.”)
  • 155 new homes will be sold on the open market – the proceeds would be used to help pay for the affordable housing. 
  • Overall there will be a mix of properties including 16 studios, 147 one bed, 172 two bed and 56 three bed flats plus 25 three-bedroom houses and 9 four-bedroom houses.’

FYI this breakdown was for the original proposal of 425 homes, which has now increased to 450. The proposed breakdown for these new homes has not been released. At the moment, RHP is having to go through the tendering process again due to the Faraday case. There is also a delay because the Department of Further Education has not yet given permission for the sale of a strip of land belonging to St. Richard’s school to RHP, which is needed to enable the phased development to take place.

There is no plan to ‘decant’ residents into different homes and then bring them back in. The plan is to build and move residents in phases.

The existing community facilities at Ham Close – the youth centre and Little House – will be resupplied, and the Council is looking into the clinic that already exists next to Ham Close to provide increased medical facilities. The three primary schools in Ham are currently slightly under-subscribed, and the adjacent secondary school will take the new young people and its catchment area will shift yet again. Other nearby options are Teddington School and The Kingston Academy, both of which already take pupils from Ham. RHP had applied for funding to extend the K5 and 371 buses, but due to the delay in the development, were not successful.

Most of the information you require is on the Ham Close website. If not, I can answer more specific questions. I am more than happy to introduce you to the residents associations representatives and set up a forum/meeting where we can discuss different ideas of refurbishment with residents.

Kind regards

Andree Frieze
Green Party Councillor, Ham, Petersham & Richmond Riverside

E-mail, 7 June 2019

Dear Andree

Thank you for getting back to me. Unfortunately, the links on the page you sent me are about the consultation process. What I asked you for, among other things, was the viability assessment that determines the tenure of the units on the new development. ‘Like for like’, which is what existing tenants are being offered, is not a tenure type, and the record of estate regenerations in London is that it means nothing of the sort.

What compensation are the 49 leaseholders being offered for their homes? What is the price of the properties they will be offered in return? And what will the difference do to their status as leaseholders? Shared ownership deals, which is the standard offer to leaseholders compensated a fraction of the cost of the new properties, turns them into assured tenants. So not ‘like for like’.

As for tenanted households, where is the viability assessment showing that their homes for social rent will remain that, and not be replaced by London Affordable Rent, which is what most housing associations are doing in London, and which is considerably higher than social rent?

Affordable rent, as I’m sure you know, is another misnomer, being up to 80 per cent of market rate; and shared ownership properties are unaffordable to most Londoners, so I don’t see how this additional housing benefits anyone except the housing association. And the only justification for building 155 properties for market sale is to refurbish or build homes for social rent. What is the housing need in Ham and Richmond? Is it for homes for social rent or for market sale properties that, I’d guess in Ham, wouldn’t go for much under half a million pounds each? How is this addressing the housing need of the community?

I’m glad to read that you can answer more specific questions. Could you, then, answer these – as well as the others I asked in my e-mail to you. I repeat these here with numbering:

  1. Has the council made the financial viability assessment of the redevelopment scheme available for public scrutiny, as you should since this will determine what gets built in place of the existing estate?
  2. Has the council produced an impact assessment of the social, financial and environmental costs of the demolition and redevelopment of the estate to residents, neighbours who are affected by the scheme, and the council?
  3. Has the council produced a refurbishment and infill option for the consideration of residents that would actually increase the number of homes for social rent rather than reduce them, and in doing so meet the borough’s actual housing needs?
  4. One of the biggest contributions to carbon emissions on London is the demolition and redevelopment of hundreds of housing estates and the concomitant loss of green spaces and trees to new developments. Why do you as a Green Party councillor support demolition and redevelopment rather than the far more ecologically sustainable option for refurbishment?
  5. Has the council produced an impact assessment of the increase and made its amelioration a condition of granting planning permission to the scheme?
  6. And if Richmond council hasn’t done any of these things, how can residents be said to be ‘very supportive’ of a scheme about which they have none of the information required to make that decision?

I look forward to receiving your replies, and in particular the financial viability assessment for the scheme showing the tenure of the proposed new development, without which everything written on the council website is nothing more than promises that a further viability assessment will render null and void.

When I receive these I’d be happy to talk about the possibilities of refurbishment, though that would depend on how far down the route of demolition and redevelopment the scheme has gone.

Can you tell me what stage the scheme has reached? Since the scheme doesn’t have a development partner yet, I presume residents haven’t had a ballot on the scheme yet. And what are the consequences of that development partner on the privatisation of the new development in terms of ownership and management?

Best wishes

Simon Elmer
Architects for Social Housing

E-mail, 13 June 2019

Dear Simon

This is a holding email just to say I’ve got a very busy and to respond to your email properly will take a while, so I will have to do this next week.

Kind regards,

Andree Frieze
Green Party Councillor, Ham, Petersham & Richmond Riverside

ASH Facebook page, 4 July 2019

‘The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.’

― George Orwell, Animal Farm (1945)

Dear Andree

I received your promise to answer my e-mail three weeks ago, in response to my original e-mail from a month ago. I’m still waiting to hear answers to several fundamental questions about a scheme that not only contradicts Green Party policy but to which you have given your blessing. Without the information I’ve asked for, and which you should have available, you shouldn’t even be thinking of giving your support to this scheme. To remind you once again what Green Party policy on estate regeneration is, this is the only paragraph referring to it in your party’s housing policy document:

‘HO406. Demolition will be discouraged, particularly where it would lead to the loss of social or co-operative housing, unless it can be shown to be better than refurbishment and extension. A study covering the social, economic and environmental impacts of demolition and refurbishment should first be undertaken, with reference to the local energy plan and housing standards (see HO410). Wherever possible, the evidence should be co-produced with residents. Landlords should produce a Statement of Community Involvement, and be able to demonstrate how it was followed through. Tenants and residents will be supported to produce their own report on the community engagement undertaken by the landlord. Where demolition is the preferred option of the provider, residents would be given a right to an indicative ballot.’

Has any of this been done, and if not, why are you supporting and not opposing this scheme?

Yes, Simon, thanks. I will reply to you but I haven’t had time. And if compare me to a pig again I will not respond. Yes I have taken offence.

You can reply to me now, Andree. Is there going to be a loss of homes for social rent? Has an impact assessment of the social, economic and environmental costs of the scheme been produced? Have tenants been given a ballot together with the information required to vote. And don’t you dare pretend to be naive enough to think my epigraph compared you to a pig and use that to avoid answering these questions. As you’re well aware, I’m comparing the behaviour of Green Party councillors such as yourself to that of Labour councillors, so get off your soapbox and answer these questions. You’ve had a month to do so. If you haven’t got the answers, what on earth are you doing supporting this scheme?

Simon, no I can’t, as I don’t know the answers.

So to clarify, Andree, you’ve given your support to a scheme whose impact on the residents in your constituency you know nothing about? I won’t ask why. What I will do is offer ASH’s support in arriving at those answers, presenting them to residents, and allowing both them and you to make a judgement about whether this scheme is something they should vote for and you should get behind. If you support us in doing so, we might have some chance of coming up with alternatives to the loss of social homes and environmental costs of demolition. It would also restore some of my lost faith in the Green Party. It’s up to you. But ignoring my questions while continuing to support this scheme is just not acceptable if you want to be regarded as any different from a Labour councillor. That’s not an insult, Andree, it’s an offer.

Green Party councillors in office have been a huge disappointment. For all their protestations of difference from Labour councillors, they’ve been indistinguishable from Jeremy Corbyn’s social cleaners once elected to the council. Your refusal to answer these basic questions about a scheme you are promoting, and especially your attempt to claim ‘offence’ as a reason not to do so, is all too reminiscent of the sort of behaviour we’ve come to associate with Labour councillors. ASH has worked hard to get the policy and procedures of estate regeneration changed, and some of these have been adopted (paragraph 32) by the Lambeth branch of the Green Party. But what is the point of calling this your party ‘policy’ if a Green councillor in a ward undertaking a regeneration scheme can ignore every one of them, and claim ignorance of the most basic facts about a scheme she’s unreservedly promoting? It’s unacceptable. But unfortunately, thousands of council homes are being lost to the ignorance of councillors who are betraying the very people who elected them to represent them.

No refusal to answer your questions, Simon. I have priorities that mean I haven’t had time to get back to you. Additionally, I am waiting on responses from council officers. When I have those I will reply in full. In the meantime do a search on Facebook for the Ham Close Residents Association page. I am getting hold of the best contact to introduce ASH to them.

Thank you for your suggestion, Andree. I have gone onto the Ham Close Residents Association Facebook page, and what I saw was a lot of posts from the admins about community events in the area, activities in the local school, festivals, photos of school children, photos of fairs, etc. In other words, I saw a lot of PR work by the Residents Association about things that have no bearing on the most important and pending issue they face, which is the demolition and redevelopment of residents homes. In my experience, which is unfortunately extensive, this is typical of Resident Associations. What I didn’t see was the viability assessment laying out clearly the tenure type and rent level of the new development. I didn’t see an impact assessment of what the scheme will mean for residents and the local neighbourhood. And I didn’t see advertisements for an exhibition of the infill and refurbishment options.

Finally, though, I came across this post (below) from a resident, expressing the complete lack of information or understanding about what’s going to happen. Again, in my experience this is typical of what happens in estate regeneration schemes right up to the moment the homes are bulldozed. I can understand the frustration and fears of this resident, and she is absolutely right to be frustrated and afraid, because this is how regeneration schemes work. What I don’t understand is how you, their elected representative, are unreservedly supporting and backing – and failing to question or oppose – a scheme that will more than likely lead at best to a loss of homes for social rent and increased housing costs for existing residents, and whose environmental impact on the neighbourhood is likely to be extremely high, and most particularly on the infant and primary school children who study and play immediately adjacent to what will be a considerable site of demolition and construction for the next 5-10 years. That’s about the time it takes a child to go from the first year at Ham Infants all the way through St. Richards and St. Andrews Primary School. If this hasn’t been your ‘priority’, as you say, you must have some pretty important business on your desk.

This is from the consultation document October 2016 that you sent me:

So let’s have a look at these responses. The Proposed Masterplan Board lists the information you sent me, which refers to ‘like for like’ replacements as if that’s a rental type, and says nothing about the sale price of leaseholders’ replacement homes. In any case, this is not a viability assessment, and contains absolutely no guarantees whatsoever of what will be built. So RHP has at best ignored, and more accurately tried to deceive, residents.

Second, where residents have been told to find their future rent levels, on the Ham Close board, they receive nothing more than the information that they will be ‘offered a new home at Ham Close’, so that’s the Right to Return if they can afford to; that ‘rents on the new homes will be calculated on the same basis as current rents’, which, since it doesn’t specify for social rent, means according to the calculations for affordable housing; and that ‘an indication of the possible rents chargeable on the new homes is provided below’. This has a 2-bedroom apartment renting for £109.79 per week. This is more encouraging. However, these are promises on a webpage. They aren’t a viability assessment, and they aren’t planning permission, and it’s these that determine what gets built, not the promises of landlords who can and will remove these web pages when they contradict what they are going to do – as, for example, they were by Lewisham council on the equally dubious Reginald House scheme. Of course, the 49 leaseholders, a quarter of the Ham Close community, are offered nothing more than the usual ‘market value’ for their properties (which on a site about to be demolished is very little) plus some compensation towards what at best will allow them to enter into a shared ownership scheme that will turn them from homeowners into assured tenants.

Screenshot 2019-07-05 09.34.46

Additionally, RHP state that the cost of refurbishment estimated at £8 million is prohibitive. This is typical of the outright dismissal of this option by landlords looking to realise the value uplift on their land, even if it means socially cleansing the current occupants. But where is the feasibility study and viability assessment for this option? If it exists, who carried it out? We know that quantity surveyors working for councils have grossly exaggerated the costs of refurbishment, as they have done for Lambeth council and Newham council. We know is that a refurbishment option for a regeneration scheme was handed by an architectural practice to a recently graduated student who was given a single day to carry it out. And we’ve seen equally fraudulent options produced by TM Architects for the Northwold estate. That said, at £41,500/home this sounds roughly accurate and accord with our own study of the costs of estate regeneration.

The biggest lacunae here, though, is that a refurbishment option hasn’t been considered in tandem with an infill option that could, I would imagine quite easily given the generous layout of the estate, not only pay for more housing and raise the funds to carry out the refurbishment of the existing homes, but make a proportion of those new homes for social rent, not the half million pound properties RHP want to build, since a refurbishment and infill scheme wouldn’t have to cover the considerable costs of demolition and compensation – which RHP hasn’t given here. And, of course, as everybody knows by now, ‘affordable housing’ is not affordable, so the idea that this redevelopment is meeting local housing need is questionable, at least, and – since nothing is said about that need – unanswered. In other words, this scheme, like every other, is fraudulent in its claims and justifications, and its promoters, whether members of RHP or members of Richmond council, are lying to residents about both the possible alternatives and the consequences of this scheme.

Finally, it’s important to recall that the Richmond Housing Partnership are currently in the process of tendering for a joint venture partner to deliver the redevelopment of the Ham Close estate, and this will have further implications for the tenure type, rental costs and house prices of what will actually get built on the ruins of the demolished estate. Until a financial viability assessment for the scheme that takes into account the profit margins of any private sector development partners is produced, the figures in this document about proportions and tenures of the new housing are meaningless as a guide to what such a joint venture will produce. RHP has stated that this assessment will be produced by BNP Paribas, the fifth largest bank in the world, which also did the viability assessment for the Woodberry Down estate scheme, where 600 households, around 1,800 people, formerly on council tenancies will be left without a replacement home on the new development.

E-mail, 8 July 2019

Dear Simon

Thank you for your patience. It has taken me a while to collate the information you requested and I am still waiting for answers to a few items from Council Officers. I have answered your questions (where I can) below.

I have also attached a presentation by a resident of Ham Close (who I can put you in touch with if you want).

I am more than happy to meet with you and discuss this further and see how we can impact the decision-making on the development of Ham Close both with regard to Richmond Housing Partnership (RHP) and residents. Maybe the fact that Council will (hopefully) be declaring a climate emergency tomorrow night will change views over what’s the right way forward for residents.

Kind regards

Andree Frieze
Green Party Councillor, Ham, Petersham & Richmond Riverside

The answers Andree gave to my original e-mail of 5 June – and which therefore ignored the numerous additional questions in my e-mail of 7 June – included ignoring my quotation from the Green Party policy document on housing and my questions about why she wasn’t following it; resending the links to the Ham Close Uplift Programme webpage and the current proposal that she had already sent to me on 7 June; repeating the inadequate and misleading breakdown of tenures from the consultation document October 2016, which she had already sent to me on 7 June; repeating three times (including to my request to have the viability assessment made public) that she is ‘waiting to hear back from council officers on this one’; and asserting that she is ‘not aware of any campaign to stop the demolition’, despite the petition signed by 1,165 people to oppose the redevelopment.

What Andree did offer an actual answer to, however, was my question of why, given that one of the biggest contributions to carbon emissions on London is the demolition and redevelopment of hundreds of housing estates and the concomitant loss of green spaces and trees to new developments, as a Green Party councillor she is supporting the demolition and redevelopment, rather than the far more ecologically sustainable option for refurbishment, of Ham Close estate. To this she answered: 

Back in 2015 when I first became aware of redevelopment plans for Ham Close, I was very much of the mind that for climate change reasons, demolition should be avoided. I have done research and I understand the ecological impacts of such a step. However, in 2016 the options for refurbish and build additional new properties (as suggested in the Prince’s Foundation report attached) were removed from offer and residents were left with the choice of do nothing or demolish and rebuild. Given the need for residents’ living conditions to be vastly improved I reluctantly came round to the view as this was the only option that I would have to support it.’

Or in short, since the Richmond Housing Partnership, on the basis of a report they had commissioned, had abandoned residents to a choice between the managed decline of their homes and their demolition, Andree Frieze, their elected ward councillor, felt authorised to do the same. This is an astonishing admission of abnegation of responsibility towards the constituents who elected her to office.

Finally, in response to my question whether Richmond council had produced a refurbishment and infill option for the consideration of residents that would increase the number of homes for social rent rather than reduce them, and in doing so meet the borough’s actual housing needs, Andree wrote:

For context, the Princes Foundation report, which was carried out in 2013 came up with these options. The Tory administration came back with this in 2016 (Ham Close Uplift Regeneration Study).’

ASH Facebook page, 15 July 2019

Vision for the Future of Ham Close is a fascinating document. Published in October 2014 by the Princes Foundation, which describes itself as ‘realising the Prince of Wales vision of creating harmonious communities, it bears the architectural hallmark of Create Streets, one of the ideological think-tanks of estate demolition.

Just to pull out some of the more extraordinary aspects of this document, which is the basis to the decision to demolish the 192 existing homes on the Ham Close estate, of the five key principles on which to base any future vision of Ham, and which include such subjective criteria as ‘retaining a village feel’ and ‘better integrating’ the estate in the surrounding community, none even mention the proposed new housing, let alone the affordability thereof. And all it promises existing residents is that ‘any resident of Ham Close wishing to remain in the community should be able to do so.’ ‘Should’, as in, they ‘should’ have a job that ‘should’ pay them the money they ‘should’ have saved to be able to afford the increased rent and house prices on the new development. This does indeed sound like the vision of someone who, in addition to a £1.1 million annual subsidy from the British taxpayer, has a private income of £19 million from his financial investment portfolio, farming, residential and commercial land and properties in the Duchy of Cornwall. But what about the former council estate residents of Ham Close?

And that’s not all. Of the three options considered – if one can call it that – the first is described as ‘Doing nothing/refurbish’ – which kind of gives away what they think of that as a course of action; the second is ‘Refurbishment and partial redevelopment’; and the third is that old favourite of landlords and developers, ‘Full redevelopment’ (with, of course, full demolition preceding it). Following this are ‘artist’s impressions’ of what these three options will result in.

Screenshot 2019-07-15 16.19.39

‘Doing nothing/refurbish’ is a black and white sketch of the unpopulated wasteland of popular perception of housing estates. Bleak and stuck in the 1970s.

Screenshot 2019-07-15 16.20.02

‘Refurbishment and partial redevelopment’ has at least some colour, a few people and some suddenly mature trees that apparently couldn’t be planted in the refurbishment option. But the carpark is still there.

Screenshot 2019-07-15 16.20.11

While ‘full redevelopment’ has colour and trees and more people, including a tie-wearing businessmen and a cyclist. And, despite a trendy hatchback, those nasty carparks that wasted all the land on the previous options are now occupied by some dinky terraced housing complete with corner cycle shop.

Screenshot 2019-07-15 16.25.51

I’ll pass over the photographs of the existing estate taken with the sun setting behind so that all you see is a dark and gloomy outline, and the arguments about why building four-story blocks on the village green to the east and ‘reproviding’ it as a fenced-in and privatised garden (below) is apparently ‘retaining a village feel’, and move onto how this propaganda is understood to constitute a consultation document.

In a 50-page document, half a page on page 43 sheepishly lists the responses to these supposedly agreed principles and option proposals. It’s indicative that, given the proposed options were broken down into refurbishment, partial redevelopment and full redevelopment, these responses don’t correspond to them. But of the 22 responses received from residents of Ham Close estate, 13 were in favour of ‘some form of development’. Unfortunately, since an infill option has not been considered, we don’t know whether this includes the partial demolition option. But only 9 residents were ‘unconditionally in favour of development’. This means that, out of an estate of 192 homes, or around 500 people, 9 have given their unconditional support for some sort of development, we don’t know ether partial or full; and it’s on that basis that the entire estate is going to be demolished. Nothing is said about how many residents, if any, supported the demolition of their homes, but I’d guess none. Interestingly, far more people outside the estate, 47 in total, responded to the consultation, and of these 23 were unequivocally against redevelopment, 16 supported some form of development, and only 6 unequivocally supported development. You can see why these figures have been squeezed into half a page and written in such imprecise terms. If this is the resident consent RHP paid the Prince’s Foundation to manufacture they should ask for their money back.

What is as extraordinary, though, is that the ward councillor, Andree Frieze, has offered this document as a justification for the demolition of an estate of 192 homes and its redevelopment as a mix of market sale and affordable housing. Giving Andree the benefit of the doubt (i.e. that she isn’t just another lying Labour councillor dressed in green and wants to do what’s best by residents), this demonstrates once again that most councillors have little or no understanding of the estate regeneration programme, even though such schemes will easily have the greatest impact on residents, their neighbours and the house prices and housing costs of their entire ward, and be the most important issue they must address as members of their local authority.

As some of you will now, ASH is currently on a residency in Vancouver working on a text called For a Socialist Architecture. It’s primary purpose is to provide a series of questions and checks that residents can ask councils, housing associations and architects in response to documents like this, which are quite blatantly an attempt to deceive them about what the demolition of their estate will mean for them, and to manufacture their consent for that demolition. But it is also for architects and other contractors, such as the charlatans who produced this document, to ask themselves – should they care to – about their professional involvement in convincing residents to agree to their social cleansing from their own homes.

But For a Socialist Architecture is also for councillors such as Andree Frieze who, even if they’ve actually read this ‘Vision for the future of Ham Close’, presumably don’t understand its implications for the residents they’ve been elected to represent on Richmond council. That’s not surprising. In fact it’s typical, as few if any councillors are housing professionals, and those that are, are either lobbyists for the building industry, establishing contacts with planning departments en route to a job in that industry, or consultants working with the council to further its ends. However, assuming that at least some councillors are interested in defending the best interests of their constituents, our book will help to arm them with the questions they should be asking the councils on which they sit, as well as advise them of the steps they should be taking to defend residents from the plans of developers and the deliberate lies and fabrications of documents like this.

This case study continues in The Regeneration of Ham Close Estate. Part 2: For a Socialist Architecture.

Simon Elmer
Architects for Social Housing

Architects for Social Housing is a Community Interest Company (no. 10383452). Although we do occasionally receive minimal fees for our design work, the majority of what we do is unpaid and after more than four years of work we still have no source of public funding. If you would like to support our work financially, please make a donation through PayPal:

3 thoughts on “The Regeneration of Ham Close Estate. Part 1: What the Green Party has learned from Labour

  1. Great article and hopefully with you on board we can start getting some answers as yes a year and a half on I still have not had my post reply to I’m still in the dark and I don’t know what is going on!!

    Very very scary As this is my children’s home and to not know where we will be in the future is extremely unsettling

  2. I live on ham close and have done for over 20 years, i would like a property that is insulated, not black with mould and damp, has a lift because my mobility is bad, more room for a wheel chair and is basically not unfit for purpose. If you are going to poke your nose into our affairs make sure you do it right, we have agreed to stay in situ during building works and a majority of us just want the regeneration to go ahead with out any more hold ups

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