Estate regeneration

MQT on 2017-06-22
Session date: 
June 22, 2017
Question By: 
Sian Berry
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


How will your updated guidance ensure that estate regeneration only takes place when resident support has been established?


Answer for Estate regeneration

Answer for Estate regeneration

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you very much for your question which is very relevant, for obvious reasons.  We know when done well estate regeneration can improve lives, homes and local areas.  In most cases councils and housing associations work closely with their residents and offer them the guarantees they deserve.  Unfortunately, we know this is not always the case.  That is why, as Mayor, I decided to get involved and use the power of my office to make sure residents are at the heart of any regeneration plans.  No previous Mayor has done this.  This is the first time City Hall has decided proactively to lay down some expectations around estate regeneration in our city.  This is despite the fact, as you know, there are limits on how far I can insist on the principles in my good practice guide being followed.  I can use my funding powers, regulation, investment and planning powers where they apply.  However, beyond these formal powers I also want to see residents empowered by sending out guarantees I believe should be offered.  I want my guide to underpin conversations between councils, housing associations and their residents whenever regeneration is being considered. 


It is worth me saying, in light of the fire at Grenfell Tower last week, there are also many issues around fire safety on estates that are covered by national regulations rather than any powers my office holds.  It is crucial that these are looked at in the upcoming public inquiry and the Government acts on them without delay. 


In my draft guide I set out some key expectations I have around the protection of existing social housing and guarantees that tenants and leaseholders will be treated fairly.  I also set out my initial expectations around how residents should be involved from the very start in discussions around plans for estate regeneration.


I have a longer answer, Chair, but I want to give the Member a chance to ask me questions so I will write.


Sian Berry AM:  Thanks very much, Mr Mayor, you will be very short of time.  I did table this question before the disaster, although it does bring into focus some of the issues.  Can I ask whether your final guidance on estates will be delayed now until the preliminary report of the public inquiry comes forward as it may have recommendations relating to public engagement and empowerment?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  A good question.  I do not want to delay them, for obvious reasons, because the sooner they come in the sooner they can be used.  You will be aware the guidance is in relation to estate regeneration and there may be lessons learnt from the public inquiry.  I am not sure if even the interim report will deal with that part.


Sian Berry AM:  I am hoping that it will.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  We will all be hoping but will have to wait and see what the Chair decides.  The conundrum for me is whether to get on with publishing the guidance and, if need be, revisit it later on or delay it.  That is a conversation I am happy to have with you and other colleagues, Chair.


Sian Berry AM:  OK, as long as it bears in mind the results.  I am talking primarily about resident empowerment here.  On Tuesday I visited JMB Leathermarket and saw the resident‑led infill project on the Kipling Estate.  It is very heartening to see that it has good local support precisely because residents were fully in control of that process, not simply engaged in but running it.  Obviously we have seen, in huge contrast, the treatment of the residents of Grenfell Tower.  They were treated very badly.  They had very little practical support, even when they asked for funding for independent professional advice. 


Your draft guidance says that local authorities are encouraged to consider independent capacity building and advocacy support for residents.  Will the draft guidance go further and make this more than just encouragement so residents do get the professional help and legal advice they need when there are changes being made to their estates?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Can I say, Chair, one of the reasons that I did not answer all of the question was to respect the lack of time.  Some of this was in the answer I was going to give you.  We have to recognise there is a reason why no mayor has done this before.  It is because the mayor has no locus.  The levers I have are in relation to planning and in relation to funding. 


Sian Berry AM:  When planning permission is required, though, you can make requirements?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Sure.  On issues around planning and funding obviously I have more locus and more levers to pull and I will be doing that.  You have been involved in the consultation process.  What we can do, though, is nudge councils, housing associations and others to behave responsibly.  One of the things that Grenfell Tower has shown to everyone else who does not know this area as well as yourself, Assembly Member Copley and others, is that when it comes to the involvement of tenants and residents generally there are failings all across London.


Sian Berry AM:  I only have a few more seconds but I would be really happy to have a meeting with you to discuss some of this in more detail if you would be willing.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Sure.


Sian Berry AM:  I want to talk also about what you said in The Observer on Sunday. I am concerned and I have had lots of residents in towers getting in touch with me really concerned that you seem to be calling for their towers to be pulled down. You said something about them being the “worst mistakes of the 1960s and 1970s”. I know that my own council is focused entirely on blocks that they have re‑clad in the 21st century and it is not helpful to jump straight to talking about more demolition.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  You will be aware because you never mislead that I said, “If it is the case”. If it is the case that tower blocks are shown to be a death trap, we have to make sure they are not a death trap. If that means pulling them down, we have to pull them down. The good news is ‑ obviously the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is working on this with our help ‑ it looks like the concerns are in relation to those properties refurbished, the cladding and how that was done, rather than a design fault in older tower blocks.


Sian Berry AM:  Precisely.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The public inquiry will obviously be useful in finding out what is safe and what is not.


Sian Berry AM:  OK. Thank you. I am really sorry we have to stop but I will want to talk to you more about this in the future.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  Thank you. Assembly Member Hall, you have a question?


Susan Hall AM:  Yes, I do, a brief one. Despite making much of listening to residents’ requests and desires, in March you approved a 17‑storey building in Harrow and a 21‑storey building in Haringey against the express wishes of the local councils and of course the residents. Local residents are now extremely concerned about the safety of these towers following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower. Will you therefore urgently review these decisions to ensure that they are still fit for purpose and will not pose a fire safety risk either now or in the future?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I congratulate you on being a new Assembly Member and I am surprised by your question because you should know, as an experienced councillor, that new blocks are different from old blocks and from refurbishments, and you will know, as an experienced councillor ‑ that is why I am surprised by your question ‑ that the requirements for the new blocks are different to old blocks.


Susan Hall AM:  Yes, I accept that.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you.


Susan Hall AM:  This was a quick question for you to answer. There is certainly evidence in the information that Haringey is going to have sprinklers but not so, in any of the documents that we can find, in Harrow. You should not be surprised by that question because this is going against what the local residents want. In fact Assembly Member [Navin] Shah voted against this, or rather expressed a desire not to have this. You should not be surprised by these questions because if you say you are listening, Mayor, then you need to listen to what the local residents want. They certainly did not want this in Harrow and I do not think they wanted it in Haringey. I will leave it there.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I listen to Londoners and I am sorry you do not realise this but Londoners want affordable housing. London’s population is growing. Unless we meet London’s needs ‑‑


Susan Hall AM:  Yes, I know.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Unless we meet London’s need to provide genuinely affordable homes, Londoners are going to struggle. The biggest issue for Londoners is housing. Because I listen to Londoners, I am providing affordable housing. The fact is that that enquiry was had, we looked at all the evidence and decided to approve the plans, affordable housing for local residents and regeneration of that area, taking on board some of the concerns. I am surprised you do not realise that new buildings are much safer than the old ones and ones that were refurbished.