Residents of three iconic towers on the border of Woodberry Wetlands have started a petition as they battle council plans to turn the block’s play space into new housing.
People living at Lincoln Court, which is in the midst of contentious re-cladding work, received a letter from the Town Hall in March notifying them that the existing play decks, and the garages beneath them, have been earmarked as a site for 87 new homes.
The council says the garages, which sit between the three buildings, are not fit for modern parking requirements and that the decks are not the best use of space.
The plan to build on them is part of the Housing Supply Programme (HSP), which is aiming to turn under-used sites in the borough into 400 new homes.
Around 70 per cent of HSP homes will be for social rent and shared ownership, funded by putting the remainder up for private sale.
The council expects any new housing at Lincoln Court to be a similar mix.
But Lincoln Court Tenants and Residents Association (LCTRA) is trying to nip the proposal, which the council says is still at a very early stage, in the bud – the group’s has already started a petition, so far signed by 164 people.
Member Daniel Clift said: “Our understanding is that the two thirds of the new housing will be for sale – albeit one third capped at market rate – and the remaining third for rent.”
Clift says campaigners can only work with what they have seen in writing from the council, and that all they have to go on for now are feasibility studies from 2014.
But the council says these studies were carried out solely to determine whether or not Lincoln Court should be included in the HSP, and that it is now approaching the project with a blank slate.
LCTRA chair and architect Jonathan Law told the Citizen: “My opinion is that the council thought it was demolishing the garages, and completely forgot about the play decks above them.”
He added: “We’re not against new housing, and I’ve even suggested to a council officer that they build more storeys on the existing towers – to which the response was ‘Well, we might do that as well’.”
Law says there is already a shortage of play space in the borough, and believes the council is being disingenuous about the garages.
“They are only under-used because the council is not letting people use them,” he said. “They could be repaired to relieve parking stress or put to other uses, such as community growing space.”
Clift, who is also an architect, called the plans a “garden grab”.
He feels residents are being presented with a “fait accompli”, telling the Citizen: “The council is essentially saying that this land is available for development. Our argument is that it is not.
“The Housing Supply Programme materials say residents will be consulted at every stage. But we have had no consultation on the most important decision – and that’s whether or not we’d like to keep the play space.”
He added: “We’re not interested in hypothetical data. What is actually happening is that our play decks are being taken away, and we want to knock the stuffing out of that plan before it goes too far.”
Clift also raised concerns about the impact the plans will have on the block’s fire safety plan, given that emergency services will lose access to the space between the buildings.
Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville responded to a tweet from LCTRA, which urged people to support its efforts and in which he and the council were mentioned, to say: “Campaigning against council housing during a housing crisis.”
One commenter called the Mayor’s tweet “dismissive”.
Clift’s riposte is that LCTRA is “campaigning for council housing – for existing, gritty council housing whose residents are being ignored”.
In a later statement, Glanville said: “With 13,000 families now on our housing waiting list or living in hostels and temporary accommodation, we are committed to doing everything we can to build the genuinely affordable new council homes that Hackney desperately needs, and there is a valuable opportunity at Lincoln Court for the council and the community to work together to develop plans that benefit everyone.
“This project is still at a very early stage and we understand and continue to listen to the concerns of residents.
“Over the summer we’ll begin working with local residents on proposals to make better use of these outdated garages and deck spaces so that not only can they be transformed into desperately needed new Council homes for local people, but offer much improved facilities, including for high quality play, for existing Lincoln Court residents as well.”
The Town Hall is hosting three drop-in events this month for Lincoln Court residents at the estate’s community hall.
These will take place on Wednesday 20 June from 7-9pm, Saturday 23 June from 11am-2pm and Monday 25 June from 7-9pm.
A newsletter sent out by the council states: “What you tell us will help shape how we develop plans for Lincoln Court from the very beginning before we start working with the community and an architect on more detailed proposals.”
LCTRA is hosting a get-together on the estate from 2-8pm this Saturday as they attempt to rally local support for the #SaveOurPlayDecks campaign.
The council is facing a similar backlash against plans for HSP housing on the site of disused garages in Homerton – where residents have built a community garden.
You can find out more about the LCTRA’s efforts at lincolncourtn16.wordpress.com
To sign the Save Our Play Decks petition, please visit the campaign’s Change.org page