Cllr Kim Taylor-Smith speaks in favour of protecting Sutton Estate and Samuel Lewis Estate

At the 20 June 2018 Full Council meeting Deputy Leader, Cllr Kim Taylor-Smith said:

Thank you, Madame Mayor.

I wish to thank Jane Solomon for bringing this petition and for all those that have spoken

This petition and motion is particularly pertinent to me not just because of the implications on my portfolio, but also my ward because I have been fighting alongside residents for the preservation of this grand estate for a very long time now.

I wholeheartedly support this petition to extend the existing conservation area to include Sutton Estate but, I like to go further.

The Samuel Lewis Estate next door, is of equal consideration to be included in the same consultation.

I should say up front, there is a process that we need to go through to do this.  I cannot wave my hand and make this so. A vote in this chamber is not enough to make this change.

But let me say this now, openly and honestly…

I want to see the Sutton and Samuel Lewis estates protected.

I will support any and every process, and investigate any option and work with any partner, that will see this happen.

I want this because these estates are uniquely beautiful and an integral part of our community and should be preserved and improved.

But there is much much more at stake.

The Sutton estate is owned by Clarion Housing Group – the country’s largest Housing Association and housing associations are ‘private, non-profit making organisations that provide low-cost, social housing, for people in need of a home.’

This is not controversial. It is a statement of fact.

At a time when councils struggle to build their own social homes, housing associations are a good thing.

They have stepped in as an alternative and a vital source of new, genuinely affordable homes.

In the most expensive borough in London in one of the most expensive cities in the world, where few but the very richest can now rent, let alone buy a home of their own, the need for housing associations could not be greater. 

Clarion states on its own website that, and I quote:

‘From young families to retired people and those who struggle in the market, everyone deserves a good quality home. That’s why we’re here. A home is the beginning of everything, so providing that home is a role we take seriously.’

Put in simple language: Clarion Homes are meant to build affordable homes – not knock them down.

So it remains a shock to me, my local residents – and I’m sure to all of us – that Clarion wishes to demolish the Sutton estate and not improve it.

They say that refurbishment and improvement of the existing flats is unviable and the only option is to replace the 383 social housing units with 270 new ones and 96 expensive private flats for private sale.

123 socially rented homes will be lost and no doubt many will be bought and rented on, by pension funds, oligarchs and profiteers.

In short Clarion wishes to exile the poor – and move in the rich.

This is an outrage.

Those less privileged deserve to live in the borough they were born in. Without adequate social housing in the borough, we risk residents being priced out and forced to move elsewhere in London and this is completely unacceptable.

This is an issue of our time and not just in the Royal Borough. London does not have enough social housing.

This Borough in particular needs more social and genuinely affordable housing.

I want to build more.

We have committed £100m to building new council homes.

It is not enough.

The housing waiting list is long – way way too long.

Many people on that list, with a genuine and compelling need of a council home, have no hope of ever getting one.

That is the brutal reality.

And so Sutton defies reason…….to knock down housing that already exists – to replace it with more private homes

…it defies logic…

And slaps the face of all that is decent and right…

But Clarion, a social housing provider – I want to emphasise this point – A SOCIAL HOUSING PROVIDER - has appealed our decision against the loss of social housing and taken it to the Secretary of State to seek to overrule us so they can build and sell new, private flats for those on high incomes.

No.

This will not stand.

Not on my watch.

But…. We do not need to prolong this fight and we should work with and support our Housing Associations.

I call on Clarion to abandon redevelopment work with us, in partnership to come up with a scheme that the retains the existing building and provides decent homes for the residents

Let me be clear.

I am a realist, a pragmatist.

We are not asking for something for nothing.

We will help. We will find a way. We will do whatever we can to resolve this issue for Clarion and with Clarion for the people of this Borough.

With determination on both sides It is not beyond the wit of humanity to find a solution. 

So, I support this petition

And I will seek – if you agree – to extend it beyond Sutton to the Samuel Lewis estate.

I also support the motion to preserve the Sutton Estate and in the same vein, would like to extend this approach to all of our Housing Association Estates.

Demolition should be the least favourable option, we need to make demolition harder, making preservation more likely. Preservation is our goal.

And it is why I have offered an amendment to Cllr Henderson’s motion – with which I broadly agree. I amend it as a partner, not as an opponent.

The Council cannot solve all these issues alone. This amendment recognises that there is a place for housing associations, and we want to work with them ALL to preserve ALL social housing stock across ALL of the borough.

But there are wider questions that this motion and amendment poses.

How can local authorities, with scarcer resources, afford to use compulsory purchase order powers to bring social housing under Council ownership when housing associations attempt to sell them off?

I am calling on Government to provide Councils with the funding and the power to purchase properties being used for social housing if housing associations cannot maintain them anymore.

It makes no sense nationally to sell off social housing, only to need to replace them at greater cost later on.

This must be a borough for all. We must build for all. Work for all, welcome all.

If the past 12 months have taught us anything, it is this – that secure, affordable homes are a first and vital step in building a safe,

a prosperous,

a fair borough fit for all.

I know that delivering more truly affordable housing in this City, in this Borough at this time is a tough ask.

But, despite this, we have committed to taking on this task.

In so doing, we cannot destroy what we already have in the name of profit.

These buildings can never be replaced, and nor can the people who live there.

I commend this petition and this amendment to you all.