Knapsdale Estate residents in Forest Hill protest: ‘fix problems before building homes’

BY TOBY PORTER
toby@slpmedia.co.uk

Residents living nearby are fuming that a five-storey development of 17 homes will lead to a green space being concreted over to make way for a car park.

Six existing garages will also be demolished to make way for the scheme, which includes 14 flats in Knapdale Close, Forest Hill.

But families living locally want town hall chiefs to fix their existing supply and damp problems before placing the area under even more strain.

They say the two existing blocks of flats in Knapdale Close, each five-storeys high, do not currently have emergency lighting if people have to flee from a fire – which is required by the building regulations.

Residents’ chairman Rebecca Thurgood said: “More families will be housed there, but with less communal amenity space. “As none of the existing flats in Knapdale Close have private balconies, the communal amenity space is vital as a place for children to play and for hanging out washing.

The blocks at 14-32 and 33-53 Knapdale Close are plagued with mould and mildew problems and so drying clothes indoors only worsens this risk to health.

“We support the programme to build more affordable homes in the borough, however it would be irresponsible to put additional families’ safety at risk by building more flats in Knapdale Close until the problems that mar the lives of existing residents have been fully resolved by Lewisham Homes and Lewisham council.

“Often, Lewisham Homes blame Lewisham council for some of these problems – and vice versa. As an Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) Lewisham Homes was created by Lewisham council to manage the housing stock it still owns.”

The planning application was approved on August 30 by councillors and the residents fear they have no method of blocking it without having to raise many thousands of pounds in cash.

Ms Thurgood said: “LH’s scheme for parking and the construction work should be scrutinised by the planning committee. But now these matters will be dealt with by planning officers behind closed doors.

“Residents do not know if they will have anywhere to park while the development works are under way. There are elderly residents in Knapdale Close who, due to the steep hills, rely on their cars to get about. One elderly resident called his car his ‘lifeline’.

When Lewisham Homes were asked to confirm how many existing residents on the estate had mobility issues, they were unable to answer.

That is the true extent of their resident engagement. “Despite the objections raised by residents about access problems caused by the specific geography of the estate, only one member of the planning committee had even bothered to make a site visit.”

A spokeswoman for Lewisham Homes said: “With so many families struggling on the housing waiting list, we are really pleased these much-needed affordable homes have received planning permission.

“The development at Knapdale Close will provide three three-bed houses and 14 two and three-bed flats, all for social rent, on the site of existing garages and a car parking area.

“The plans also include wider improvements for the estate, including landscaping and play space, as well as additional car parking and cycle storage.

“We have carried out extensive consultation with existing residents, including door-knocking and drop-in events, and listened to their concerns. Replacement parking spaces will be made available before the existing parking spaces are developed.

“Lewisham Homes is creating hundreds of new council homes across the borough in support of Lewisham council’s response to the London-wide housing crisis.

In 2012 the council committed to delivering 500 new council homes, and these 17 homes are part of that commitment. All 500 homes will be under way by the end of this year, and the partners are now developing plans for a further 1,000 social homes by 2022.

“Others works on existing homes, such as improving lighting, are being reviewed as part of our wider planned works programme.”

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