Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic crisis and anticipating yet another economic recession, both nationally and globally, we need to focus on the immediate needs of the people and abandon the unsustainable drive for private economic gain. Looking around us and seeing what is being built and how the people live, it is clear: the “housing crisis” is not one of spaces available but one of affordability. We are seeing the growth of a world only a few can comfortably afford to live in, while the majority are expected to put up with it and struggle on. By getting together we can begin to change this.
We are Alton Action – a group started by Alton Estate residents and local activists to foster the creation of a community plan by, and for, the people of the Alton Estate to deliver the improvements that residents need.
For the last fifteen years the Alton Estate regeneration project has been mainly motivated by the need to deal with the dilapidated state of some of the modernist blocks of flats, many of which Wandsworth Council has failed to maintain. The regeneration plans seen so far have focused on maximising developers’ potential profits on a lucrative site on the outskirts of one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Now is the time to allow the people who call the Alton Estate home a say in its future. The Council has said it intends to proceed with all the new building exactly as planned, simply with a different developer. We object to these demolitions, which will replace existing architecture with expensive new-build apartments and relocate many of the current residents. Instead, we want to find options for the renovation and improvement of the estate: renovating the blocks of flats, creating more and better community and business spaces, and improving the transport links. This can only happen in dialogue with local people, businesses and experts, and with commitment to a community-centred and bottom-up approach.
Regeneration should mean an investment in the restoration, rather than the erasure, of existing architecture. The Alton Estate is a site of historical interest and has a diverse mix of housing that is sympathetic to the landscape. Some housing blocks are listed at Grade II, the historic Mount Clare at Grade I, and parkland green areas have been recently listed at Grade II. The “Alton Conservation Area Appraisal & Management Strategy” report recently produced by Wandsworth Council supports our vision: https://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/media/1575/alton_caaandms.pdf. The report advocates restoration sympathetic to the existing architecture and landscape, and speaks of the need to reclaim green spaces for the community.
The People’s Plan developed by the residents of Cressingham Gardens in Lambeth shows that community-led planning works. With technical support from a team of architects, surveyors, sustainability and financial experts, it is a realistic alternative to Lambeth Council’s proposals to demolish the estate, which were likely to result in the community being displaced. The residents made it clear to Lambeth Council that they wanted their estate to be repaired rather than demolished. The council tried to dismiss and ignore residents’ concerns, so the residents brought a Judicial Review and won - forcing the council to review all the options. The Cressingham People's Plan shows there is an alternative, proposing a way forward that respects the residents’ wishes, addresses the council’s financial concerns, provides additional housing and keeps people in the community they love. Learn more here: http://cressinghampeoplesplan.org.uk
We – Alton Action – are a nonpartisan volunteer group working for the restoration of the fabric of the estate and the provision of social housing, access to green spaces and services which benefit the community. We are not associated with any property developers or property investors – our concerns are the current and future housing, social and environmental needs of the residents of the Alton Estate. Our aim is to convince the council that we need a community-focused investment that meets the housing, social and environmental needs of the people who live on the estate while maintaining its architectural and cultural integrity. This will mean letting go of, and leaving behind, the council’s previous plans, which failed to do this. This will mean creating a new People’s Plan for the Alton Estate. Once drafted, the People’s Plan will need further design, costing and the support of the council and Greater London Authority to deliver it.
Alton Action is calling out to all residents, schools, faith groups, volunteer and community organisations, and other public and advisory bodies concerned with housing and social provision to get in touch!