Wednesday 10 April 2019

'Don't let the council kick us out!' St Raph's residents come out fighting, insisting they have the final say on the future of the estate

Will the green space become the preserve of private flats as it did in West Hendon?
 This is a report from one of those St Rapahel's residents attending Monday's meeting held independently to discuss Brent Council's proposals for the future of the estate:
There was a good turn out at both meetings held by St Rapahel’s Estate residents on Monday evening  about Brent Council’s proposals to either demolish and rebuild the estate, with some private housing, or refurbish it with some additional floors above the flats and some new housing.

At least 98% of the residents who turned up wanted to stay in their homes and  many signed the petition for refurbishment, the option that  allows them to do so.
Families and the elderly were asking, "What can we do?  What can we do to stop this? We answered. “We must  keep telling the council that they stated. 'You the residents have the final say.’”

Councillor Muhammed Butt was invited to the meetings and attended alongside a senior member of  PPCR Associates, Lorraine Ophelia. The Independent Advisor company  that had been chosen only reluctantly by resident.

Residents questioned  Cllr Butt about the proposals for the estate  but as usual they didn't get any straight forward answers.  He got very agitated and angry at times.

The majority of residents did not want to vote for any of the independent advisors put forward by the council and wanted more time to have the choice of finding their own. They were unhappy that they had not been involved in the procurement process and also wanted it rescheduled due to the small turn out at the Independent Advisor selection meeting.
This is an edited version of the speech given by resident John Wood at the meetings:
I want to thank you for coming along this evening. My Name is John Wood I am a council tenant and have lived happily with my wife and family on St Raphs estate for over 25 years. Along with other concerned residents and stakeholders we have funded and organised this meeting, as the council have ignored our requests to facilitate a meeting of the residents for the residents. We believe they are deliberately trying to prevent us from joining together to oppose their plans for St. Raphs. I know that you will all have your own views and preferences about what should happen, but I hope we are all united by the belief that nothing should happen without the consent and approval of the majority of those affected by those plans.
Can I ask a question if there were no plans for redevelopment or refurbishment how many of you like me would be happy to continue living on St. Raphs? Could I have a show of hands please?
So that would be the majority then...
As you will no doubt be aware the council have made a decision that they are going to build some new homes on the estate. They put forward 2 proposals.
.        1.)  That they build homes on the available land with the possibility of building more floors on top of some the existing flats.
.        2.)  That they will demolish the whole estate and rebuild new homes.
They have said that ultimately it is us the residents who will get to choose which option they will go with. Brent are collecting our views in a very controversial way. No ballot of the residents, no open recorded meetings only closed and secretive drop in meetings at which we’re told not to record anything.
To date they have managed to hold a three public meetings, where there was absolute chaos. After that they held meetings, drop in sessions. We were told that we could not record these meetings and they insisted that we be split into small groups. people could ask questions of the councillors and the officials present with only that group hearing the replies. No record of what was asked or said.
Then there was the election of the Independent advisor. Sadly, only 2 of the original 5 bodies invited to tender made presentation. Reluctantly we voted and there was a clear winner. With a total of 47 votes how can this be right there are over 1100 homes being affected by these proposals.
The council promised that they would put the minutes of the evening onto the info page on the council website to date this has not happened.
Oh yeah, did you get the newsletter issue 2? What a crock, page 2 “you said, we did”.... We wanted clear accessible information. “We are regularly updating the web page.”  January was the most recent update. You said you wanted us to address your concerns publicly and in writing. No one has had the decency to reply to my expressed concerns perhaps they missed me out as they were so busy replying to all of yours.
The drop in sessions were no more than talking shops no one I have spoken to has a clear understanding or was less in the dark than myself, about what is happening. Indeed, confusion reigned it appeared that some had been told one thing and others another. So understanding of what, when, why and how was as clear as mud. At first I thought this was just poor organisation on the part of the council, but have since realised it was the intention of the council not to allow the people to organise, record and reflect on the issues. Keep them in the dark and feed them Sh... crap.
I have lobbied the Council and the leader of the Council, Cllr. Muhammed Butt and requested that they provide a meeting room and facilitate a meeting at the children’s centre on the estate, for the residents so that we may discuss in open forum and debate the issues so that we may be able to compose questions and raise our concerns and take this back to the council for answers. To date the only person who has had the courtesy to reply on the 7th March, was Cllr Ezeajughi. Who in his reply said;
“Regarding your request for a meeting at the children’s centre, do discuss that with the officers when they contact you. (No one has ever contacted me.) however you may recall that we had the residents meeting there on 16th December and realised that the venue was not suitable (not large enough) to contain people.”
No alternative being made available, we contacted Father Patrick who kindly agreed to allow us to use the church hall for the purpose of this evening I would like to heartedly thank him for agreeing to allow us to meet here.
Brent have now entered the next phase of the managed consultation process where the independent advisor will liaise with the residents in order that they can understand the will of the residents i.e. do they want option 1 or option 2.
It’s my belief that this again it will not be given over to open debate or any form of ballot. No it will be done as a conversation. Would you like to see more cleaner environment? Would you like to have better facilities? Would you like a more secure environment? And so it will go. Then the independent advisor will report back to Brent. Amazingly they will report a massive majority in favour of improvement we will all be in agreement, after all which of us wouldn’t like to see all the proposed improvements we been waiting years just to minor improvement.
The only problem with all of this is that the best way to accommodate the expressed wishes of us all to see improvement, will of course be to kick us all out of our homes and demolish the estate so that they can have a private developer come in, use the prime river frontage overlooking the park to develop new million pound apartments for private owners and then build some high density boxes in the sky to decamp people like me, the social tenants into.
I urge you to resist allowing Brent to kick us out and use our homes to pay for the new estate. We must unite and speak as one if we are to overcome Brent’s dastardly plan.
I acknowledge that some, may be even the majority, will disagree with my preference to remain in my home. As is your right. For those of you with concerns I urge you to join in asking Brent and the independent advisor to ballot us. This will prove the will of the people and we can move on with whichever is the majority view.
However, I would urge you to look closely at the proposal if you are an owner, freeholder or leaseholder if you decide to accept the council’s offer and sell, will you be advantaged or disadvantaged?  Not only will you have to find a new home but you will have to move all of your possessions, pay stamp duty on your new home, as well as say good bye to all your friends and neighbours on St Raphs. How exasperating and upsetting would it be? When you could just say no to redevelopment and stay in your home.
Some leaseholders have expressed to me that they are concerned that if Refurbishment occurs and the council build new dwellings above their homes, then the council will hit them with the cost of these works. I say to those of you with such fears they can only do this if you stand alone, but if we stand together, we can stop them. If the council want to develop new homes, then the council should fully fund those new homes indeed compensate those affected and inconvenienced by these works after all it is the council / landlord who will profit from the rental income. Not you! so why should you be made to pay!
Some tenants who are living in overcrowded conditions have expressed they want redevelopment as the council have said that when they are rehoused they will be given suitable accommodation. I say if that is the case why have they simply not offered this now! Answer they don’t have anywhere, so I urge you to see past their misinformation. If St. Raphs is redeveloped we will all be moved out to temporary accommodation, don’t worry it will only be for a little while whilst we rebuild (up to five years) Then you can come back to lovely new accommodation suitable for your needs. Brent are of course hoping that some of the more elderly people will have passed on and that some of the younger ones will have reached 18 so no longer need to be housed by the council, but don’t worry they can go and rent one of those new overpriced flats they are  building by the stadium.  There are thousands of them.
Sadiq Khan the London Mayor has said redevelopment or refurbishment must be done in consultation and agreement of the residents. So if we can show that there is a majority in favour of refurbishment then Brent will not be able to push forward and kick us out of our homes.
We have requested that the Independent Advisor hold a postal ballot of the residents, asking do they want refurbishment with infill or demolition and redevelopment.
As well as this we are asking people to sign a petition so that we can evidence the will of the residents to remain in their homes.
After this we would like to propose that we form a formal residents group and have nominations for a chair person so that we can make formal representation to Brent to have our views and concerns dealt with in an open and honest way.

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