Decant? No thanks

The view of Michelle Edwards, a council tenant at Marlowe Road Estate, now being demolished and replaced with fewer social homes

A digger at Marlowe Road Estate

A digger at Marlowe Road Estate

Consultation is not something Waltham Forest Council is particularly good at. The fate of the famous Walthamstow Stadium springs to mind, as does Mini Holland.

Historically, the thirst to pander to property developers and the well-heeled has always crushed citizen activism and the ‘little people’. At Marlowe Road, the consultation to close the play areas and car parks on the estate will probably prove as ineffective as those conducted before it.

Thus far, the common complaint among residents is that they don’t receive ‘due notice’ or that they are unable to attend pre-arranged meetings. One was proposed for 2-7pm, eliminating many in full-time employment.

At this juncture, it might be worth explaining the flawed decant procedure for residents on the estate. To obtain vacant possession at the start of each phase of the development, residents are expected to actively bid for properties advertised via the council’s ‘choice homes scheme’.

The bidding number is used in conjunction with your date of birth. My application for temporary accommodation has allegedly been placed in the council’s high-priority ‘additional preference band’.

The priority lasts initially for 12 months from the date of a letter from the allocations team and will expire automatically, or upon accepting an offer of alternative accommodation. Any residents who have not accepted alternative housing within that timeframe may have their level of priority reviewed.

Marlowe Road Estate

Artist’s impression of the redeveloped Marlowe Road Estate

As a result of the decant process, residents receive a ‘disturbance allowance’, a limited sum made available to assist with the moving process (paid following the move, not in advance) and possibly a ‘home loss payment’. But residents are reporting a distinct shortage of available properties, possibly because of the uneven demand/supply ratio. The vacated properties on Marlowe Road Estate are then rented out to other needy folk on a short tenancy.

Are you still with me at the back? Ultimately, if the council fails to move residents via what they term ‘voluntary acquisition’ they will force their hand using a compulsory purchase order (CPO). In other words, get out!

I have exercised my rights under the legal notice issued in 2013, where it states: “We believe that the new properties can be built in a way that will mean that if you wish to remain in the area, most residents will only need to move once, to a newly built home.”

I’m staying put.

When the diggers first moved on to the estate in October, a huge piece of equipment with the single word ‘demolition’ on it was adorned with a purple smiley face sticker. Oh the irony; residents who lost their homes had nothing to smile about.

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