Over compensating?

Marlowe Road Estate is in the middle of a large-scale redevelopment programme
Marlowe Road Estate is in the middle of a large-scale redevelopment programme (credit Penny Dampier)

Marlowe Road Estate resident Michelle Edwards has a run-in with a consultancy firm looking to profit from her eviction

Six days before Christmas, I received a letter addressed simply “Dear resident” from an independent firm of chartered surveyors.

Headed with the title “Waltham Forest Compulsory Purchase Order” the letter began: “You may be aware that Waltham Forest Council this week secured the rights to use compulsory purchase powers to purchase your flat. I am sure they will have spoken to you about this and the process that will now happen.”

Well no, actually, they haven’t. Since scrapping the Marlowe Road Steering Group meetings last year to silence dissenting voices, nobody from the council has been in contact with me or anyone I’ve spoken to on the estate. Interestingly, the first Marlowe Road Community Newsletter to appear since June 2017 arrived approximately half-an-hour later. Coincidence? The newsletter followed a familiar pattern; glowing demolition update, telephone numbers of council regeneration staff knowing damn well they wouldn’t be around during the Christmas break, plus cheerful backslapping about how many of us they have kicked out (29 secure council tenants remain).

I contacted the consultancy firm at the beginning of the year, pretending to be interested in their assistance for a claim of compensation. Instead of the 30-minute free telephone consultation on offer, I proposed meeting in Waltham Forest itself.

It was obvious from the outset that the consultant knew nothing about the Marlowe Road Estate development and was relying on me to fill in the blanks. Besides a business card, no other paperwork was handed over. It was left for me to address the ‘elephant in the room’ – cash. How much can you get on my behalf, and what’s your cut? “Each case is done on its own merits,” he said. A ballpark figure? “Anything you can say, as a result of moving, ‘I’m out of pocket because of that’.”

I was interested in the consultant’s assertion that the council would cover his fee under “professional costs”. Apparently I would retain every scrap of compensation he won on my behalf. Rubbish. Every secure tenant is entitled to a ‘home loss payment’ for the distress and inconvenience of having to move and a ‘disturbance allowance’ for expenses in moving. Why would the council agree to pay more on top of their statutory obligations?

The consultant concluded the hour-long meeting promising to do some digging and get back to me. For obvious reasons, I asked him not to name me, but his swift U-turn suggests that either he did or that he couldn’t get the costs he boasted about. He later emailed directing me to a council employee and signed off saying: “I wish you all the very best for your future and hope that you’re able to move smoothly and not be out of pocket.”