Defiance of 11 leaseholders under threat

The council says it has no alternative to knocking down the sprawling 1929 estate in Pimlico

Monday, 28th March — By Tom Foot

ebury

Flashback to a ‘Save Our Ebury’ protest on the estate in September 2017

A TRENCHANT group of residents on a historic estate earmarked for demolition are set to be forced out of their homes against their will.

Westminster City Council is preparing to follow through with compulsory purchase orders, a legal mechanism used to acquire land, against 11 leaseholders who do not want to leave Ebury Bridge Estate.

The council says it has no alternative to knocking down the sprawling 1929 estate in Pimlico, despite calls from environmentalists for it to be refurbished instead. Unusually for a project this large residents were not balloted about the proposals.

An official told a meeting of the Westminster shareholder committee: “There are a small number of lessees who are reasonably determined not to engage. There is a real danger we won’t be able to settle all of the cases and we end up with a CPO.

“We need to steel ourselves that this will happen. Some of it may be posturing to push for a better deal. But it is more than likely that we will not be able to reach a position with a number of heavily entrenched households.”

The city council owns the freehold of the land but i required to acquire all leaseholds before it can proceed with its long held estate regeneration ambition.

The council sent out letters in January about the CPOs and has received 13 objections to CPOs from 11 households, the meeting heard.

The official said that even a “simple objection to a letter” had “been known to be enough” to trigger the CPO.

The estate originally had 336 homes but as blocks have been demolished or decanted only six blocks with 182 residential homes remain.

The council is spending £108million on the decant and demolition that will be partly recouped through the private homes to be included in the rebuild, which will have 781 homes in total, with 239 set at social rent.

The council approved its own planning application in May last year and the mayor signed off the scheme the following August.

A similar scheme submitted in 2014 was found to be “unviable” and was scrapped.

There were originally 198 tenants living on the estate but now just 49 remain, according to a report.

There are a hairdressers, pharmacy, café and estate agents on the land with two of the businesses said to be also determined to stay.

In a notice to residents, the city council had said: “To achieve the implementation of this regeneration scheme, we made a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) on January 7 that affects a number of properties and businesses across the Ebury Bridge Estate.”

The council broke ground at the first phase of the development site this week in what city hall said was a “significant milestone” of the building of 781 new homes.

In this phase, more than 110 households have been temporarily relocated
and the majority of returning residents will have an opportunity to move into the first two new buildings, the council said.

The scheme will be a largely car-free development, with disabled car parking only and 2,000 cycle spaces.

Council leader Rachael Robathan said: “We want to give people the chance to have an affordable home in Westminster and we are pleased to be doing that right in the centre of the capital at this innovative development.

“Due to the latest technologies, we have been able to make Ebury Bridge an all-electric development and introduce sustainable features.

“This means cheaper living for residents while drastically reducing our carbon footprint.”

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