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Few answers but plenty of tension at meetings over St Raphael estate's future

PUBLISHED: 17:16 21 December 2018 | UPDATED: 17:33 21 December 2018

Meeting about proposals for St Raph's Estate held at Brent Civic Centre  L-R: Saida Shiqow, Aamina Adan-Hassan, Anab Othman and Brenda Lynton at a meeting about proposals for St Raph's Estate. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

Meeting about proposals for St Raph's Estate held at Brent Civic Centre L-R: Saida Shiqow, Aamina Adan-Hassan, Anab Othman and Brenda Lynton at a meeting about proposals for St Raph's Estate. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

Jonathan Goldberg

Tensions rose at two community meetings held by the council over plans to regenerate or refurbish a vast council estate in Stonebridge.

Mary Rands, who lives on the St Raphael's Estate. Picture: Nathalie RaffrayMary Rands, who lives on the St Raphael's Estate. Picture: Nathalie Raffray

St Raphael’s Estate, which straddles Stonebridge and Neasden with more than 1,000 homes, is the first in the borough where neighbours are being balloted to decide its fate.

A second meeting was held at the Brent Civic Centre on December 16 after the first on December 8, which took place on the estate, ended in a furious “shambles” .

In line with a plan by Sadiq Khan to give more say on estate regeneration to people who actually live there, Brent Council cabinet members agreed in November that those on St Raphael’s Estate should get to vote on what will happen to their homes. But the plan must still be agreed by full council in the spring.

It would make Brent one of the first boroughs to action the mayor of London’s policy.

Counicllors address a meeting about proposals for St Raph's Estate held at Brent Civic Centre. Picture: Jonathan GoldbergCounicllors address a meeting about proposals for St Raph's Estate held at Brent Civic Centre. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

Mr Khan says major estate regeneration schemes must have residents’ backing before they can receive funding from his office.

Tenants and leaseholders have three options. One involves refurbishing their homes and building around them, which would not require a ballot.

A second is to demolish the estate and redevelop it, which would be subject to a vote.

A third option, not requiring a vote, is to “do nothing”.

Mary Rands, a 79-year-old “block champion” on the estate, said: “Many people walked out of the meeting on Sunday. It’s all getting very political. Some people don’t want anything done to the estate.

“If the council are determined to knock down the estate they will. I still think it’s a done deal.” And she claimed: “If we say no in the vote, they’ll let it run down.”

The former civic servant added: “It’s money coming from the mayor for this to be redeveloped.

“In a sense that’s great but, and it’s a big but, if the council are going to knock this down why are they currently putting in new roofs? It doesn’t make sense

“It’s all a bit confusing. I’m not sure what to think until I see the plans, until I get more clarity – I don’t know.”

If the estate is regenerated the housing will be a mixture of council housing and housing association flats, the meeting was told.

She said: “I don’t want to live in a housing association flat. I have a friend who lives in one and it took two years for a leak to be repaired and they are being overcharged on everything.

“ There are no government controls on housing associations the way there is on councils.”

She said her neighbours shouldn’t have walked out of the meeting. “It would have been to their advantage to stay. If they wanted more ammunition they would have got more ammunition.

“I understand the objections but listen to the meeting. It went on for a good hour after they walked out.”

She added that the meeting was an improvement on the first session on December 8, held in the children’s centre on the estate, which was once a larger community hall.

“More than 100 people turned up and it’s only a small hall,” she said. “People were standing outside and they were furious.

“It was a shouting match, screaming match, the council were shouted down, speakers giving their opinions were shouted down.”

Fellow neighbour Jayna Patel, said: “It was disastrously organised.

“A few hundred people from all backgrounds crammed into a tiny community centre, which I think is highly disrespectful to my community to assume that there would be little or no interest.

“It turned out that there were 15 to 20 seats available, which clearly shows the poor management and anticipated turnout of residents by representatives of Brent Council. This still shocks me to this day.”

Cllr Eleanor Southwood, cabinet member for housing and welfare reform at Brent Council, said: “Residents are at the heart of what happens next on St Raphael’s estate and no plans will happen without their say-so.

“We look forward to meeting with more residents in the new year; to hear how the council can help improve life in St Raphael’s and create homes fit for the future.”

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