Life on the estate

A council tenant at the soon-to-be-redeveloped Marlowe Road Estate describes her experience

Michelle Edwards

Michelle Edwards has lived on Marlowe Road Estate for more than 20 years

Well, where shall I start? At the very beginning I guess. I’m a resident of the Marlowe Road Estate near Wood Street in Walthamstow and have been since 13th March 1995.

I remember the day I signed my tenancy agreement with some derision. Having been offered the property by Waltham Forest Council, I conducted some research only to discover that this so-called ‘sink-estate’ and surrounding area was rife with crime, prostitution, and racial tension. Despite drawing on that trio of social problems, among others, as grounds for refusal of the accommodation, I lost my appeal.

Nobody seemed to care about sticking a young single female in-between two elderly residents in a cramped ground-floor bedsit, while a notorious East End family and their faithful followers slugged it out on the balcony about who should and shouldn’t be living in ‘the manor’.

Nowadays, this deprived residential area is more akin to a training ground for London’s youth gangs and drug lords. Conversations abound about who’s back on the ‘endz’ after a spell in the slammer as if that’s something to be proud of. Residents look on hopelessly as youngsters engage in showboating and other antics.

Woe betide anybody who plucks up the courage to ask the congregating youths to move away from their front door with their collection of spliffs, junk food and cheap supermarket alcohol. In recent years I have perfected a technique to disperse them, which I won’t reveal here. One, because it works, and two, because I still have to live on this estate.

Through the fortnightly freesheet Waltham Forest News, which is paid for with taxpayers’ pennies and delivered to every household in the borough, the council pushes a mix of propaganda with small variants of what purports to be local news. In it, they bleat on about housing priorities and wanting all their residents to ‘enjoy a good quality of life’.

Incidentally, the council is one of a handful of rebel local authorities singled out in the past by the government for producing a ‘newspaper’ in defiance of rules drawn up by Eric Pickles, the former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Pickles deemed the freesheet to be wasteful, describing it as ‘propaganda on the rates’, and wanted to curb the frequency of its publication.

But I digress. My point is that Marlowe Road residents live in squalor and have to contend with cockroach-ridden, mouse-infested properties, in a state of deterioration and disrepair.

This time last year the council won planning permission for the demolition and phased redevelopment of the Marlowe Road Estate, with 436 ‘residential units’ (contractual legal talk for new homes) set to be built over the next five years in place of the 214 homes currently here. However, the number of social homes on this estate, such as the one I live in, will be reduced from 166 to 150.

I have decided to remain here despite the condition of the estate. Under the terms of a legal notice from 2013, the council promised that “most residents will only need to move once, to a newly built home”. Given my state of medical condition, I see no justifiable reason for a temporary and premature upheaval.

I’m aware of other residents who have fallen foul of the council’s questionable decant procedure, which involves mostly secure tenants bidding for limited properties in or out of the borough to move to, while homeless people take up temporary occupancy of their vacated properties.

It is time to take a much closer look at this development, to ensure the council is held to account. Thus far, the consultation process has been flawed, causing heightened stress and anxiety. Besides residents, the proposed transformation will drive out small established businesses. I want to give them a voice.

I will be writing in the Echo each month as work begins at Marlowe Road. I hope you’ll find my articles interesting, entertaining, and provocative. If you detect a certain degree of skepticism in what is written, I assure you it is fully intended!

,