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Bonkers Blog March 2016

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26 March - South Thamesmead Regeneration

The brief reference on Thursday to my attendance at a Peabody presentation provoked some correspondence which I wasn't really equipped to answer. Housing Associations are not something I regard as being within the remit of Bexley Council is Bonkers, to give the website its full title. As such I know not a lot more than any other resident who lives south of the railway line.

CrossrailToday, in between looking at Network Rail ripping up a mile of track East of Abbey Wood station, I have been doing a little bit of research into Peabody’s plans for the area that stretches from Southmere Lake down to that railway line. I have also listened carefully to the recording I made of Ken Baikie’s presentation on behalf of Peabody. Whilst it was made with the permission of the meeting chairman, it was not made for the purpose of blogging, so what follows comes from various sources and information from Thursday’s presentation is only what is probably widely known already.

Binsey Walk is now empty apart from one tenant and two leaseholders so it will soon be demolished. Residents are currently beginning to be moved out of Coralline Walk too.

Southmere Village - by the lake - will have about 500 new homes and some shops, with Binsey and Coralline Walk it adds up to about 1,500 homes with around 45% being classed as ‘affordable’. Planning permissions are not yet all granted - or even applied for - so building is about a year away.

About 170 homes will be built on the old Gallions HQ site between Sainsbury’s and Thistlebrook. It is unclear whether or not that is included within the 1,500.

Thamesmead SouthThere are 19 tower blocks with nearly 2,600 homes to be given attention either by refurbishment next year (13) or demolition (six). The 13 have been almost untouched for nearly 50 years and still have their original single glazed windows and inadequate insulation. Average fuel bills approach £2,000 per annum. Displaced residents will be given the opportunity to move to one of the new homes.

Problems may arise where occupants have exercised the right to buy properties which can no longer easily be sold due to current mortgage restrictions on concrete homes. Owners will be offered market value plus 10% and moving expenses which may sound generous but will be a psychological shock to those have a small mortgage or are mortgage free and suddenly find themselves with a large debt again or only partly own their new home. Elsewhere in Bexley and London generally, affordable homes have been a misnomer.

However an accountant might look at things differently. The concrete flats will be worth relatively little whilst a new home should appreciate rapidly especially once the Crossrail effect kicks in completely. Owning half of a valuable asset instead of 100% of a virtually unsalable one may be a good deal but I doubt it feels like that to everybody. A home is still one’s personal castle, not to be given up easily. Change is never easy.

Discussions and meetings are still going on to hopefully placate the inevitably worried. I would be too. Peabody, like Crossrail, has the law on its side and whilst their presentation looked impressive to an outsider such as me, just like Bexley Council, they can do what they like.

Note: there are a lot of different figures available on the web about the number of homes to be demolished and the number to built. As most schemes have not yet gone before the Planning Committee the numbers cannot yet be absolute. For the avoidance of doubt, all the numbers given above came from the Director of Thamesmead Regeneration three days ago.


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