“LEASEHOLDERS HUMAN RIGHTS BREACHED” SAYS PLANNING INSPECTOR – decision could impact on ‘Homes for Lambeth’ and Croydon ‘Brick by Brick’ schemes

“LEASEHOLDERS HUMAN RIGHTS BREACHED” SAYS PLANNING INSPECTOR – decision could impact on ‘Homes for Lambeth’ and Croydon ‘Brick by Brick’ schemes
 
Leaseholders living on a south London council estate earmarked for redevelopment have had their human rights breached, says a planning inspector’s report.
 
The decision could severely impact on Lambeth council’s highly controversial ‘Homes for Lambeth’ plan and, on a completely different note, have significant implications for Croydon’s ‘Brick by Brick’ scheme.

The inspector said she did not consider Southwark council “have taken reasonable steps to acquire leaseholder properties by agreement.”

She also said interference with human rights would not be proportionate having regard to the level of interference and the public benefits that the scheme would bring – and concludes that a compelling case in the public interest has not been proved.

The inspector overturned a compulsory purchase order on the site, which forms part of the Aylesbury estate in Walworth even though, she reports, planning permission has already been granted for the redevelopment of the ‘order lands’. 
 
The inspector’s report says:

  • the scheme would have considerable economic and social dis-benefits in terms of consequences for those leaseholders remaining on the ‘order land’.
  • leaseholders do not have a right to return to the estate. Whilst it is possible for them to bid for some of the new homes within the locality, in practice many are unable to pursue this option for financial reasons;
  • as a consequence those wishing to remain in the area will be reliant on the rehousing options offered by the council.
  • most leaseholders wishing to remain living close to the estate will need to contemplate either shared ownership or shared equity. Both of these options require a financial assessment, which leaseholders find intrusive. In addition, they will be required to put all but £16,000 of their financial assets towards any property purchased under these schemes.
  • the CPO would not fully achieve the social, economic and environmental well-being sought.
  • the acquiring authority have made the CPO as a last resort since its attempts to acquire the properties by agreement have not succeeded in the case of some of the homes, although the majority have already been acquired by agreement and some matters are currently in solicitors’ hands.The report says: “Leaseholders submitted extensive evidence in relation to their discussions with the council in respect of the value of their homes, including the perceived failure on the part of the council to base the market value on two independent valuations.

    “They also suggest that the council did not allocate sufficient funds to purchase their properties at market value.

    The inspector’s report says the acquiring authority is satisfied that the offers made to leaseholders were reasonable in all the circumstances.

    “The council does not dispute that the values offered were based on on-estate values. “It justifies this approach on the basis of two Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) decisions.

    “The council has considered the human rights of the objectors to the CPO and has considered the human rights of all affected parties throughout the regeneration process;

    “It considers that the exercise of its compulsory purchase powers in this case is justified by the reason that it is in the public interest, authorised by law and necessary and proportionate towards meeting the council’s objectives of regeneration.

    “The council has offered a range of rehousing options to leaseholders. “These have been based on their accommodation needs plus one additional bedroom and are assessed on the basis of individual leaseholders’ circumstances. “They are not available to non-resident leaseholders.

    “In summary the options are rehousing as a council tenant or NHHT (Notting Hill Housing Trust) tenant where appropriate, shared ownership or shared equity.

    “The financial information sought is to ensure the eligibility and affordability of the preferred tenure. “The compensation package has implications for the tax payer and therefore it is right that the financial circumstances of leaseholders seeking re-housing are assessed.”

    The objectors would be compensated for their properties. “In addition, the range of housing opportunities put forward by the acquiring authority would enable them to stay within the area.

    “But in order to exercise this option they would need to invest considerable personal resources in addition to any compensation they would receive for their properties.

    “In this regard the CPO would not only deprive them of their dwelling but also their financial security. “If they chose not to pursue this option, they would inevitably need to leave the area and this would have implications for their family life, including the lives of those dependant on them.”

    The inspector says it is not for her or the Secretary of State to form a view on the amount of compensation payable if the CPO is confirmed.

    Lambeth council have told leaseholders on the Cressingham Gardens estate between Brockwell park and Tulse Hill (one of six estates they want to demolish)” ” We will always try to negotiate an agreement with leaseholders without the need to use our legal powers to buy the property from you.

“If we are unable to reach an agreement with you and this could cause delay to the regeneration of Cressingham Gardens, we may apply for a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) to buy your home, but we will only use this power as a last resort. “Even if we do commence a CPO, we would continue to seek to negotiate with you to reach a mutually agreeable solution.”
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