Tidemill: building social housing in Deptford
I wanted to write this in response to a recent article on the Tidemill development in Deptford (you can read it here). There are some who are opposing this development. But I thought people deserved to hear the other side of this story.
The housing crisis (along with politically driven austerity) is the greatest challenge facing London and our community in Lewisham. The Tories don’t really care about the housing crisis. But we do.
We set out a manifesto for the local elections in May, in partnership with hundreds of local Labour Party members, which reflects our national policy. Included in this is a promise to deliver 1,000 social homes for those who are in terrible housing need. That is what drives me. Tonight, 600 households in Lewisham – including hundreds of families with children - will go to sleep in emergency hostels and B&Bs, 2,000 households are homeless, and we have nearly 10,000 households on the housing waiting list. The Tidemill development will make a huge difference to our community, and it will transform the lives of hundreds of our residents. Just over half of the homes will be for social rent. It will provide over 100 new social homes, on lifetime tenancies, for those in need in our community. For a development this size, it is the highest percentage of social housing in our borough in a generation and the highest proportion of social housing on a development of this scale in the whole of London for the last three years.
There is some opposition to the development from people who would prefer us to keep the meanwhile use garden at Old Tidemill. When the school that had occupied the site moved, the Council agreed with a group of local residents that they could use the site as a community garden ahead of the development progressing. They are now refusing to hand back the site - as they had agreed - and they are trying to stop the development that will bring so many much needed social homes. Yes a garden existed before, but there are tough choices to be made in order to give life chances to our residents who currently live without a secure home. The campaign is calling for a ballot of the existing residents. There are currently 16 homes on the site - 13 council homes and 3 leaseholders. I realise that for some residents that this is not what they want. But all of them have been offered a new home for life, on the same rent. None will have to move off site for a single day, and I would never support a development that did not guarantee their right to remain. The manifesto we stood on in June pledges to offer in future schemes. I think that is the right thing to do. But the decision on Tidemill had already been made and we are not prepared to delay housing people by at least an additional 18 months. The human cost is too great. The group campaigning to save the garden have claimed that alternative plans exist that could deliver the same number of homes, and retain the garden and the existing homes. But their plans deliver fewer homes and fewer social homes. And it adds too much delay in housing people and families.
In an ideal world, we would keep the garden, and build the homes that we need. Unfortunately, we are not living in that world. But through building 104 new social homes on this site, we will be able to transform hundreds of lives. We will be able to give families the secure, decent and social housing that they deserve.