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Final showdown for Upper Street estate facing demolition threat

Homes built in the 1930s could be razed

13 September, 2019 — By Emily Finch

St Mary’s Path estate residents against the demolition 

 

TERRIFIED residents who have been told their homes could be demolished will face a final showdown with housing chiefs on Tuesday.

People living on St Mary’s Path estate, off Upper Street, will plead for their homes to be saved during an Islington and Shoreditch Housing Association (ISHA) board meeting following two years of uncertainty.

Nicholas Welsh, who grew up on the estate built in the 1930s, said: “My mental health has been greatly affected over the past two years having this hanging over us. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. This is a solid block and should not be demolished. I feel safe here and should not have to move.”

He added: “To my knowledge housing associations are for working-class people, but this seems to have been forgotten. These homes are for people who have worked hard or retired.”

Residents said they felt “confused and angry” by mixed messages coming from ISHA over the past two years.

During an initial consultation in 2017, they were told their entire estate could be razed and rebuilt to combat damp.

But Ruth Davison, chief executive of the housing association headquartered in Finsbury Park, then told the Tribune that there was “absolutely no proposal to demolish the estate”.

But just months later, new plans were put before residents which proposed that one block containing 20 flats should be demolished and rebuilt in a move that would provide two extra homes.

Ms Davison said this would allow much-needed three- and four-bedroom flats to be built for families on the estate.

Resident Georgia Hewitt said that “unnecessary demolition would inevitably break up a solid community as well as a sound block”.

She added: “Half of the flats on the estate are already family homes so it doesn’t make sense.

What we need are lifts to make them accessible, not bulldozers.”

Pensioner Maureen Roberts, who has been on the estate for 20 years and lives on the block earmarked for demolition, said: “You don’t need to knock down this block. I just don’t understand why they’ve suggested it. What terrifies me is that I get sent to a new estate and can’t go out at night because I’m too scared.

“The people make the estate special and so does the area. We can lose all of this.”


The block which could be knocked down

The estate behind historic St Mary’s Church is in the shadow of Islington Square, a new development where a penthouse apartment was sold for more than £5million.

“It’s all about shillings and pence in this world,” said Ms Roberts. “We’re very aware that the land our homes is on is very, very valuable. If one block is demolished we think all of the others could be.” Rents for most tenants are 70 per cent below market level.

Residents said they have had less of a say in ISHA in recent years after their residents’ forum was “taken away”. Rule changes meant it was harder to stay on the board or sub-committees, they claim.

Ms Davison said: “We have given our word to our tenants that St Mary’s Path estate will not be demolished wholesale and that we will not reduce the number of social rented homes there.

“We have also promised no increase in rents as a result of investments we make and guarantee that all residents will be able to stay. We hired an independent company to carry out a consultation on three options, with those guarantees reiterated time and time again, precisely because we understand the stress that any discussion about work on people’s homes causes.”

She added: “Our board knows that the views of residents must be taken into account in reaching decisions and have invited residents to address them directly next week before they come to a decision about what investment to make on St Mary’s Path.

“Our aim as a housing association grounded in the community it serves is to preserve the homes we steward for the future and build new ones, but we also want to preserve the strong community at St Mary’s Path.”

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