‘Good Tory’ joins housing campaigners in buy-out Aylesbury battle

Amelia Burr (22 October, 2015) Housing

The Secretary of State will make a decision on whether the council can compulsory purchase leaseholder properties

6025Toby Eckersley with two Aylesbury leaseholders at the tribunal

A former Tory councillor joined together with Jeremy Corbyn’s brother Piers and housing campaigners to take on Southwark Council in a legal battle last week.

Before Toby Eckersley stepped down from being a veteran Conservative councillor last year, he heard Aylesbury leaseholders put their case to the council about the proposed compulsory purchase orders (CPO) on their homes in order to knock the estate down and rebuild it.

Last week he joined the leaseholders at a public inquiry as they legally objected to the CPOs.

As a homeowner who previously battled all the way to the Court of Appeal to save his own property, Mr Eckersley was happy to lend his experience to the objectors, who were initially “out-gunned” with no legal representation up against the council’s barrister.

“I have to say it’s been interesting sharing a view with Piers Corbyn,” said Mr Eckersley, who has remained a “good Tory” throughout, sticking to his belief in property rights and the protection of home ownership.

The objectors argued at the two and a half day hearing that the estate should be refurbished and that the original decision to demolish was invalid, because councillors in 2005 did not have all the information necessary to compare the two options.

The council’s barrister argued regeneration followed the mandate of the Aylesbury Area Action Plan – the planning blue print for the area – and that previous planning inspectors had found in favour of regeneration over refurbishment.

The 35percent campaign, who blog about new developments meeting Southwark’s quota of social housing, claimed a victory during the hearing as their evidence resulted in a tight definition of what constitutes social rent being written into the legal agreement for the development.

“They achieved something on behalf of the objectors and the wider public,” said Mr Eckersley. “One cannot drive out people on low income from central London, that’s not right and I have some sympathy with that point of view.”

The planning inspector will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State, who will then authorise or block the compulsory purchase orders, with a decision likely in four to five months.

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