A day after the local elections, Southwark Council made documents publicly available which detailed their plans for the Options Appraisal process on the four Ledbury Estate tower blocks.
Going against their own Cabinet report and the Terms of Reference for the role of the 'Ledbury Tower's Resident Project Group', Southwark Council attempted to significantly widen the size of the Options Appraisal to include the entire estate, adding the potential to 'refurbish' or add storeys on top of 170 low rise homes which previously were never part of the conversation.
The Resident Project Board, Ledbury Action Group and the Tenants & Residents Association immediately raised serious concerns about this, noting that the low rise residents involved had not even been told by Southwark Council that their homes were on the plan and there were no members representing the low rise blocks on the Resident Project Board. Southwark Council said at the time that the low rise residents had been 'explicitly' notified, because they received this 5 page newsletter about the Ledbury towers.
Despite repeated calls from Ledbury Action Group to immediately involve and consult properly and meaningfully with the low rise residents, Southwark appeared to instead, be wanting to keep them out of the process for as long as possible.
Ledbury Action Group felt no choice but to call their own estate-wide meeting through the Tenants & Residents Association, to inform the low rise residents of what was happening. Only once Southwark learned about the planned meeting did they finally send out the below letter to all low rise residents.
In the letter they do not truthfully admit to residents that their homes are already included in the formal Options Appraisal brief document, nor do they inform them of different ways to get involved. They give no details on how to come together as a community to engage meaningfully with the process or with the council themselves, instead simply directing residents to the Independent Tenant and Leaseholder Advisor's weekly surgery and telling them to expect a questionnaire.
Our estate-wide meeting was held on 30th May, with around 30 low rise households attending. The residents felt very angry and upset that their homes had been included by Southwark Council in the Options Appraisal process without their knowledge or permission and they passed the following motions:
1. The Council meaningfully consult low rise residents by asking whether or not they want the Ledbury low rise blocks to be included in the Option Appraisal process for the Ledbury Estate.
2. The Option Appraisal process does not start on the low rise blocks until low rise residents’ views on whether or not they want to be included are clear.
There were also clear concerns about the 'questionnaires' which Southwark had told low rise residents to expect shortly, and the potential for leading questions given the council's dishonesty on the process to date. So for the purpose of motion 1, residents felt this should be a standalone question, to go out first and foremost, before any questionnaire or information about further or pros or cons.
The residents also felt hurt that the council hadn't bothered to call their own meeting with them to discuss this, and that it was left down to other residents to fill them in on the details. They asked for a meeting with council officers as soon as possible.
Ledbury Action Group reject the reason given by Southwark Council staff to press ahead very quickly to an unprecedented timetable with the Options Appraisal process to 'end the uncertainty on the towers' and suggest that the pausing of the process on the low rise blocks should in fact, cause no delay on the continuing appraisal and decision taken on the tower blocks.
Ledbury Action Group also ask that the council respect and take on-board any views expressed by residents as part of the Options Appraisal process, rather than simply adding residents views as a side note in a report at the end.
Finally, Ledbury Action Group respectfully and publicly ask Southwark Council that at the very least, this Options Appraisal be undertaken in accordance with the Council's own Charter of Principles, as well as the Mayor of London's Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration, elements of both we believe to have already been significantly breached.