Exclusive: Campaign against ‘infilling’ gains momentum as Brenchley Gardens and Bells Gardens Estates protest against plans

Katherine Johnston (14 April, 2021)

More residents groups are lobbying against the plans affecting dozens of Southwark estates

43726Residents campaigning at Brenchley Gardens Estate

The campaign against ‘infilling’ is gathering momentum as more residents’ groups challenge proposals from Southwark Council that will see new council homes wedged into their estate’s communal gardens.

Last month we reported that Southwark Council had pulled out of plans to build on Nunhead’s Priory Court, after a feasibility survey found the proposals could not be justified for the small number of homes that could be squeezed onto the lawn and a community hall.

Although campaigners took this as a clear win, there are still other controversial ‘infill’ projects across Southwark going full steam ahead. In total there are 28 estates across Southwark being considered for new homes, either in new storeys added on top of current blocks, or as new buildings squeezed into green spaces.

The schemes are part of Southwark Council’s ongoing commitment to build 11,000 new homes by 2043.

One of the largest developments in Peckham will see homes built on currently communal land and facilities land in Peckham, affecting Oliver Goldsmith and Linley Estates but, most of all, Bells Gardens.

The proposals, which were first put out for public consultation in 2019, would see Bells Gardens Park and community hall redeveloped. Although the council and architects say they are creating new, redesigned green space, playgrounds and sports facilities, as well as a community building, overall the three acre site will lose green space currently open to hundreds of residents. Existing mature trees will also be retained ‘where possible’ and one building includes plans for a green roof.

The final design will see 97 new housing units built, of which around a third (32 in total) will be for private sale and 62 for social rent.

A residents’ campaign has now been set up to lobby against the build, describing the estate as ‘this year’s Heygate’ due to the large number of private flats being built both within and outside the footprint of the estate.

Infilling is just part of a wider development of more than 2,000 properties slated for the area, many of which already have planning permission, including a nine-story private block and student accommodation.

The Save Bells Gardens campaign said: “Who demolishes or displaces two massive estates to give to private development and then pledges to build 11,000 new council homes by hijacking precious green space from other estates and vulnerable communities to build on? Only Southwark Council of course.”

 

Brenchley Gardens Estate has also been identified by Tooley Street as a site suitable for ‘infilling’. More than 600 people have signed a petition against the designs which outline a block of new flats on communal gardens at the corner of Brockley Way, as well as new ‘rooftop homes’; adding an extra storey onto each of the four existing blocks. There are currently 91 homes in the small estate. The plans would create another 40.

Kasia Sko, who set up the petition, said: “We are all for more social housing but not when we can’t trust the council or at the detriment of green space.”

She said the communal gardens were intrinsic to both the estate’s sense of community and the health of its residents.

“The green space has been a saviour in lock down for those of us with small children, older people who do not feel comfortable walking too far away and generally for our mental health.

“It is well evidenced that access to green space is not only good for our mental health but one of the keys to a thriving community. And that’s what we are at Brenchley Gardens.

“We grow our own fruit and veg, make compost, have BBQs, picnics, look out for one another – we are a community.”

READ MORE: Not in their back yard – Southwark scraps plans for Priory Court ‘infill’ homes

Contribute
Leah Jones says:

Well here we go again. It seems that infill is Southwark Council’s latest good idea. Yes rob the poor of much needed open space in order to squeeze in new housing. Meanwhile the proposed huge tower blocks will go ahead in Peckham and Old Kent Road. And who are they for? Yes you guessed right. The rich. Never mind about how planning permission was granted on the basis of some of it being council affordable rents. We all know how this gets reneged on. And tall towers are a blot on the landscape.

Peckham Pete says:

Who needs more council homes! Pfff. What we need are more comments like Leahs above. Middle class outsiders like Leah know what’s best for us poor people. Up with Leah and down with council housing!

Jane Emery says:

These in-fill proposals are so Southwark – greedy, ill-thought out and unnecessary. Just look at the massive high-rise rubbish they’ have chucked up elsewhere in the Borough.
I know Bells Gardens well. It is a lovely spacious estate and should be left as it is for the current tenants and leaseholders – a peaceful and restful space. Any proposed “in-fill” should be opposed.

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