Surveying the scene

In her regular column about life on Marlowe Road Estate, Michelle Edwards challenges council spin

Hats off to Waltham Forest Council. They came up with some Grade A bullshit to counter my piece for ITV News London about life on Marlowe Road Estate.

Viewers, don’t pity the plebs! According to the authority, the estate’s ongoing redevelopment was “backed by 80 percent of residents on that estate and will provide hundreds of quality new homes for the borough”.

Seriously? They really thought I was just going to let that slide? In late 2012, as a resident of the estate, I was asked to take part in a “fact-finding exercise”. A letter from the council described as “aspirations” the opportunity “to move home either temporarily, or if people wish, more permanently away from the estate”.

The survey summary was published in May 2013 and produced a few interesting nuggets. It stated that “residents were advised that their answers were not decisions” but – unsurprisingly – damp, plumbing and heating issues, security, and vermin, all ranked highly for residents answering the “reasons for perception of poor condition of home” question. “Perception”? I guess the lawyers threw that one in.

Looking back now at the survey results, I had a real ‘light bulb’ moment. Did the council also use the data to justify the upcoming closure of the Wood Street Library building – as well as already-closed The Soul Project (TSP) youth space? It states that of those surveyed, 51 percent did not use local libraries and 63 percent didn’t use TSP. After the last of four burglaries, TSP, a charity which engages and invests in children and young adults, shut its doors in February this year. Founder Stephen Barnabis said the landlords sold the building they were renting to property developers without their knowledge and that the new owners asked them to vacate to make way for the development of luxury apartments.

The leasehold/freehold transfer of TSP roughly ties in with the release of the Wood Street Area Action Plan (AAP) in July 2013 – the planning document which “guides regeneration” over the next 15 years. According to property website Zoopla, the TSP property sold for £2.2million in 2014, £2.5m in 2016, and a whopping £3.75m in 2018.

I put all of this to the council. Shrugging off suggestions of a link between their (in my opinion, flawed) data collection and decision-making, a spokesperson said: “The survey was carried out solely to inform the council’s ambition to redevelop the run-down Marlowe Road Estate to provide a decent roof over all our residents’ heads.”

Well, I wonder who it was that let the estate become “run-down”?