269 Leigham Court Road in Streatham is purpose built sheltered housing, with 45 flats that are currently home to 50 residents, all over the age of 60, all on secure tenancies. Despite being designed by architect Kate Macintosh specifically to house elderly people, a duty it has performed since 1975, in January 2013 Lambeth Council suddenly declared the estate ‘unfit for purpose’, told residents that it was too expensive to do the repairs and maintenance they had neglected for years, and declared the site was to be ‘sold as cleared land.’
Lambeth Council wants to break the community up, evict residents and send them to elderly people’s homes across Lambeth. In preparation for which, the onsite sheltered housing officer has been withdrawn, causing one resident we met to have to wait 5 hours for paramedics to turn up following a fall. And the estate gardeners have neglected and sabotaged the gardens, leading to the erosion of the topsoil in places, the needless tearing up of a blackberry bush without consulting residents, and the death of the tree in the central square.
However, following residents’ campaigning, in May 2015 the estate was given Grade II listing by Historic England. In response, Lambeth Council have said they will announce their final plans for the estate in the middle of June 2016, with the target date for its closure set at 2018.
Residents of 269 Leigham Court Road have signed up to Open Garden Estates, and we are planning to invite architects, journalists, gardeners and supporters of their campaign to visit the estate that weekend. As a symbol of what residents hope will be its new beginning, a new tree in the central square is to be planted by Kate Macintosh, and the estate will be renamed Macintosh Court. We’re also hoping to do some guerilla gardening and repair the damage done by Lambeth Council’s vandals. A garage sale of residents’ bric-a-brac is planned to raise funds for the campaign to save the Macintosh Court community, and we’re also planning to run a crowd funding campaign.
There is no talk, even from the lying tongues of Lambeth Council, about building new homes for the existing residents. Whether they work around the listing to gut the old homes and turn them into luxury flats, or whether they demolish them and build new upmarket private homes in their place, this is a land grab, pure and simple, for this much sort-after corner of Lambeth. It reveals not only the ruthlessness of Lambeth Council and what it will do to get its hands on the land our homes are built on, but also the truth behind the so-called regeneration programme it is pursuing on estates across the borough.
We know how vulnerable elderly residents are to the mental and physical stresses of eviction and relocation, not to mention the years of threats and dirty tactics used by councils to terrorise and degrade communities before demolishing their homes. Lambeth Council’s plans for Macintosh Court are nothing less than an attack on the security, dignity, well-being and even the lives of its 50 residents. As they move through the autumn years of their lives surrounded by the trees and wildlife of this beautiful estate, they deserve more than this violent and disgusting treatment by this corrupt council of jackals and social cleansers. We must not let this happen.
Please get involved and fight to save the Macintosh Court community!