We’ll be making a timeline of the history of the Aylesbury, appearing here soon.
In the meantime, here is a little something from 2009, our Submission to Government Inspector on Consultation (lack of it) on the Aylesbury, on the occasion of the Inspector’s scrutiny of the AAAP (Aylesbury Area Action Plan).
6. Please give details of why you consider the Aylesbury AAP is not legally compliant or is unsound.
continued (4) In the AAAP, in recognition of the number of people (43-75%) who prefer Council to Housing Association, they are provided with the option of moving off the Estate with no return (where all existing Council homes will be destroyed, and none built in their place). i.e. if you want a Council home you will be exiled from the Aylesbury footprint.
(There is no monitoring framework for either issue 3 or 4 – 8.6. & 8.7)
(5) There is insufficient evidence to back the soundness of the basic economic model for the whole scheme whereby private sales finance social housing – this has failed on the Heygate. In fact the current economic crisis has arguably been caused by overextending credit to potential homeowners starved of affordable accommodation – this scheme reduces the net number of homes for social renting, at the same time as increasing density by 50% and promoting the risky business of intermediate housing – misleadingly called ‘affordable‘ in the AAAP and associated consultation documents.
National Housing Policy is under review, and Council tenants on the Aylesbury are well placed to appreciate the benefits of their spacious, light and genuinely affordable homes and advise National policy makers of the economic dangers of over-promoting private home ownership and neglecting investment in not just maintaining existing Council Housing stock well but building more.
The result of the 2001 ballot might have been treated as a fundamental guide to opinion on the Estate to be respected and honoured rather than as a side issue to the business of the AAAP – an inconvenience to be managed. If the Aylesbury’s existence is the indicator of greater than average deprivation, the financial ability, or not, of Southwark to honour it Tenants wishes, empowered, or not, by the Government, is an Equalities and Human Rights issue. The issue of demolition and regeneration came about in the context of the Government rules on Housing Finance – which, it seems, are currently under review. There seems to have been the attitude that poor Aylesbury Tenants wishes cannot be honoured – stupid people – lets educate them about the realities of Housing Finance – rather than letting these tenants sound a warning bell that there has been something radically wrong with Housing Policy and provision of social housing over decades. But its not too late.
submission page 2
Our survey focussing on Chiltern reveals that 75% of residents are opposed to demolition.
Background info. on conducting a door-knocking survey on the Aylesbury 2008 -2009
On the NDC survey in 2005 20 people worked 5 hours a day over two working weeks (10 days)
(20 x 5 x 10 = 1000 hours)
They claim that they surveyed 1220 households, that is
1220 = 1.2 interviews per hour, or 6 interviews per 5hour day.
Door knocking IS time consuming, and the Aylesbury is a huge estate. A lot of people do not answer their doors. Some residents may not speak English as their first language. On any one occasion I would estimate one in ten people answer their door.
The collection of 81 signatures on Chiltern is a significant number.
This is 47% of Chiltern residents, ‘untreated’ this number is still a sizeable proportion of people deeply troubled by the inadequacy of Southwark’s consultation.
That ‘untreated’ number would correspond with the 2005 NDC (and Marketlink) survey result for how many people were against demolition.
But, we did not come close to surveying all 172 properties. I am guessing that not much more than 100 people answered their doors.
81/108 = 75%
I think we could fairly say that our survey shows that 75% of residents are troubled by the inadequacy of the NDC/Southwark’s consultation.
Compared to the NDC, we had 4 people who worked voluntarily 2 hours over 4 sessions.
81/32 = 2.5 interviews per hour, or 5 interviews every 2 hours, or 12.5 interviews per 5 hour day
Given the paid staffing resources of the NDC – why did they discontinue their survey after contacting less than half of the estate? Since 2005 they have had plenty of time to complete a thorough door-knocking survey as to opinion on the Estate and engage thoroughly with residents. This they have not done.
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Appendix B – a critical analysis of Southwark’s consultation procedures
Concerns about Consultation on the Aylesbury – is the AAAP legally compliant?
Introduction Southwark Council Officers inform me that Southwark Council is able to satisfy the letter of the law with this ‘consultation’ process. As an ordinary tenant, I have been unable to research whether or not this is true. The Secretary of State for Homes and Communities and the Planning Inspectors will be better able to assess this.
BUT… I would like the Secretary of State for Homes and Communities and the Planning Inspectors to consider what must be the spirit and the purpose of guidelines on consultation, and I am confident that the 1985 Housing Act endorses the principle of Council tenants enjoying security of tenure without disruption.
Whose wishes and opinions should be prioritised?
(In the latest document on consultation on the Aylesbury, the tenants and residents, the ‘stake holders’, are but one in a list of other agencies with whom the Council is in communication.)
Southwark Council is a landlord. It has responsibility to its tenants under the terms of contract of the tenancy agreement – the purpose of the existence of this kind of tenancy agreement is for ordinary people to be able to possess peace of mind that they are enabled to make use of a property as a life-long home. In a twenty-first Century Western democracy it surely would be inconceivable that a Council would proceed with a scheme against the wishes of a majority of its user-clients. Yet this is probably what is happening on the Aylesbury.
Momentum has built around this scheme and its implementation is being pursued without consideration of the consequences for the main stakeholders – the tenants themselves – and it seems that substantive critical analysis has been systematically sidelined and excluded.
Rules and regulations exist on consultation on such a big scheme as this because of the large number of lives that will be affected. Voluntary relocation is disruptive and injurious to health and well-being. Moving people against their will is even more so – and is time-consuming and potentially financially disastrous. So the Council needs to provide evidence that residents are happy for this scheme to proceed and be confident of that their quality of life will be improved, not harmed.
In 2001 the Council balloted all tenants on the estate about a proposal to demolish the Aylesbury and build a new mixed tenure development, the homes for ‘social renting’ to be managed by a Housing Association – no new Council homes were to be built.
76% of tenants responded, and the vote was 73% against demolition and to remain
as Council Tenants. No ‘consultation exercise’ since has been able to rival this ballot for outreach.
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In 2005 the Council reconsidered demolition and refurbishment options, on the basis of the financial viability of both of these, and concluded that demolition was the best practical and economic solution to the problems of the Estate. And tenants were not entitled to a fresh ballot. Rather, it seems, the result of the 2001 ballot was treated as a side issue – an inconvenience to be managed – rather than as a fundamental guide to opinion on the Estate to be respected and honoured…
For a scheme of this scale, however, some form of consultation is legally required, therefore
B.1. In 2005 the Council and the Aylesbury New Deal for Communities commissioned three surveys
B.2. In 2005 the Council and the ANDC set up the Aylesbury Steering Committee, with tenants representatives elected by their T&Ras.
B.3. Since 2005, the Council and the ANDC have conducted a series of ‘preferred options’ exhibitions and events to which the community were invited
This is a presentation of good evidence that all three of these forms of consultation are deeply flawed, distorted by the pro-demolition agenda of the managers of the ANDC, and Council officers, and that in fact opinion on the Estate has changed little since 2001. If the inspectors, the Secretary of State for Homes and Communities, or the Council were genuinely interested in resident opinion, social cohesion and sustaining communities, there would be a fresh ballot – and engagement with the significant number of tenants (open to debate, but certainly between 47% (Market link Survey 2005) and 75% (our Aylesbury Tenants and Leaseholders First Survey 2008 – 2009 (AT&L Survey))) who do not want to move and who do not want a Housing Association landlord.
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B.1. The 2005 ANDC and Marketlink surveys (B.1.a and B.1.b)
The NDC and Marketlink door-knocking surveys share the same fundamental flaws which compromise the findings of either –
a. there were no leaflets publicising that the survey was in progress and
b. there were no post-cards informing residents that someone had called and they had missed out on participating.
Publicising that surveys were taking place would
a. have inclined more residents to answer their doors and participate (many residents have a policy of not answering the door to strangers) – and
b. ensured a stricter protocol for the selection of interviewees, less vulnerable to accusations of manipulation.
B.1.a. The survey with allegedly the largest outreach of 1220 households was conducted by the NDC with 20 employees working 5hours a day, flexitime, to cover daytimes and evenings, paid to go out onto the Estate and conduct doorstep interviews, over two weeks. Interviewees were questioned verbally, following a
written script, and the interviewer wrote down their responses. At this stage, there was no written material available for interviewees to take away and examine and question at leisure, the only way of participating was on the doorstep, there and then, and this interviewee had first hand experience of question leading. Although I had first hand experience of being interviewed, I spoke to many residents in my block and found hardly anyone aware that the survey had taken place – which is why I doubt the figure of 1220 or suspect that this was a not a random selection of residents.
How were interviewers selected? There was no public advertisement of the survey, or that interviewers would be needed. This lack of transparency leaves this survey open to accusations of bias in the selection of interviewers, and leaves interviewers enabled to be selective about who they interviewed, and how. It would be quite understandable and probable that there would be a bias towards interviewees known, familiar and friendly with the interviewer, likely to share the same opinions.
David Foreman of the NDC was responsible for organising this survey, and was disinclined to take my report of question-leading seriously. I also asked David Foreman what kind of training interviewers had, or what kind of independent checks there were on following good protocol, and was informed that interviewers reported back to the NDC managers, and that if the managers were not happy with the results employees would not get paid. This, in my opinion, did not answer the question of independent assessment of procedures, as both David Foreman and his boss Steve Pearce are known as vocal proponents of demolition. David Foreman did not seem aware at the time of talking to me that this ‘not happy with the results’ was a potentially fraught issue.
This survey was supplemented by a number of meetings for residents to discuss their concerns. People on the NDC’s mailing list and T&RA chairs were informed by e-mail. All other residents were informed about these meetings only by word of mouth, by survey interviewers, after most of these meetings had already taken place. There
submission page 6
was no other written publicity.
During these meetings verbal promises were made that only residents involved in the first phase of the development would have to move off the Aylesbury footprint, and that thereafter there would be enough space in each new building phase to accommodate the next set of residents whose homes were due for demolition, that is those who want to return. The AAAP now states that 50% of tenants will have to move.
Aside from the issue of potential bias in interviewers, and their managers, the NDC survey- script contained misinformation which compromises the validity of this whole exercise – in fact, even without any interviewer bias, it can be alleged that there is an intrinsic bias within the construction of the survey-script to elicit pro-demolition responses.
NDC Survey misinformation
The survey script stated that the high price of private house sales could finance mixed tenure developments ‘at no cost to the public purse’. This was never true. The financial incentive to the Council was that the Government would cancel the historic debt of the interest still being paid on the bank-loan made when the Estate was first built. It was a false claim then. Now we are in the situation that this whole scheme might be baled out by public money, it is even more so.
The survey script also falsely stated that the demolition option involved ‘knocking down existing flats and replacing them with brand new flats for everyone’.
and the false statement that ‘the same number of rented flats are provided in and around the area as are occupied now’.
The facts now are that this AAAP as it stands will entail a net loss of social housing to rent of about 700 – and this is not being replaced by new build anywhere else in the borough in sufficient number to make an impact on this.
And this was a predictable outcome of the model of financing social housing by depending on the sale of private homes.
As to the estimated costs of refurbishment – we want an independent inquiry, please.
The NDC claim that their 2005 survey reached just over 1200 people (this is 44% of the 2700 households on the Estate, or 16% of 7500 residents) They claim that there was a consistent pattern to results on each day of surveying, justifying not attempting to reach more people, and that this was a small 53% majority in favour of demolition. (53% of 44% is 23%) This figure was (magically) matched by the Marketlink survey.
After this NDC survey, I found out that the person who interviewed me on behalf of the NDC also happened to be an employee of Marketlink. As well as raising doubts as to the professional standard of Marketlink interviewers, this raises worrying
questions as to the interdependence between the NDC and Marketlink.
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B.1.b. Two surveys were conducted by Marketlink, a professional survey company.
There was a quantitative survey of 338 households and a qualitative survey.
As stated before, like the NDC survey, the Marketlink quantitative survey gave out no publicity warning residents that an important consultation survey was about to take place, or ‘you were out when we knocked…’ postcards.
The Marketlink protocol was to conduct an interview at every eighth household. If there was no reply, the interviewer moved to the next property, if no reply there, onto the next. But as no upper limit for the number of interviews in each block was adhered to, this resulted in a systematic and significant bias towards interviews in big concrete blocks at the cost of many interviews in low-rise maisonettes overlooking the park – two blocks of about 30 residents were not surveyed at all.
Also, out of the 338 households surveyed, Marketlink reported that 12%, that is 40 people, were ‘active in their T&RAs’. Unfortunately, this is a grossly disproportionate number compared to the reality of active tenant involvement, and throws suspicion on the effectiveness of the survey protocol in obtaining a fair, random and representative selection of Aylesbury residents. Maybe these tenants are the boldest and most co-operative at answering their doors at survey time. Maybe some residents had a better idea than others that there was a survey taking place – e.g. the 20 tenants employed by the NDC for their survey, and their friends. Maybe people were embarrassed to say that they were not active in their T&RA, but I doubt this
Estimating the real percentage of residents active in T&RAs
In the Marketlink survey 12% of respondents were reportedly active in their T&Ras.
12% of 7,500 residents = 900
12% of 2,700 households = 324
There are four T&RAs on the estate. So, consistent with the Marketlink Survey, attendance at each of the 4 T&RA s would be
900/4=225 or 324/4=81
However, the average size of a committee is between 6 and 12 residents.
The most generous interpretation of Tenant activity, might be attendance at an AGM. But neither is either of these figures near the reality of AGM attendance. A generous estimate is between 16 and 30, with the average now on the lower end of that range. So the most generous interpretation of T&Ra activity, attendance at an AGM, would give a figure of 30 x 4, for attendance at the 4 AGMs.
120/2700 = 4% of households 120/7500 = 1.6% of residents
applied to a sample of 338 this would give expected numbers of 13 or 5, not 225 or 81.
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The time has come for consideration of the issue of Tenants and Residents Associations (T&Ras) on the Estate – are they an effective reflection of resident opinion on the Estate? Do they effectively engage with residents? And one could ask the same of the Aylesbury New Deal for Communities – I believe that there might be a survey already commissioned to evaluate the ANDC – what are the results of this? There is evidence that there answer is ‘No’.
And if there is any doubt at all about this question, it warrants investigation.
Significantly, Marketlink reported that 43% preferred refurbishment (in answer to Q5) – i.e. were against demolition. That figure is a significant number that should inform how the Council proceeds – are the needs and wishes of these residents being sufficiently respected? Marketlink also reported (in answer to Q3) that 57% of residents were happy with their homes and did not want to move – there seems to be an inconsistency here with later saying that they wanted their homes demolished.
Were the ANDC and the Aylesbury Steering Committee truly representative, that percentage would be reflected in the make-up of these groups.
B.2. the Council and the ANDC set up the Aylesbury Steering Committee, with tenants representatives elected by their T&RAs.
On first sight it seems that the Aylesbury Steering Group is, in part, a fairly elected democratic body, with tenant members drawn from the four Aylesbury Tenants and Residents’ Associations (T&RAs)
So – are these tenants bodies representative? (And if not, why not?) (Can we, should we, expect proportional representation with this?)
100% of these ‘tenants representatives’ are pro-demoltion. In fact, it seems that this is a pre-condition of membership of the Aylesbury SC (and perhaps too, to a large extent, of the NDC. To join this there is a slightly intimidating multi-page document to sign, one of the clauses of which is to agree not to talk to the press unless briefed by NDC officers, to be consistent with NDC policies).
The last director of the ANDC, Steve Pearce, was aggressively pro-demolition, and seems to have been influential in some T&RA steering group elections, expressing concerns that any pro-Council Housing/anti-demolition resident would disrupt the activity of the Steering Committee. The Aylesbury Steering Committee is, after all, essentially a Committee to help with the implementation of a pro-privatisation/demolition plan, isn’t it? Tenants who defended their Secure Council Tenancies were characterised by Steve Pearce as ‘trouble-makers’.
It is my opinion, however, that to exclude all anti-demolition/pro-Council Housing opinion from this Steering Committee has been harmful to democracy, to social cohesion and to wise decision making. From the outset, the possibility of some kind of compromise and accommodation of pro-Council Housing opinion has been ruled out. In the AAAP, the recognition of the number of people (43-75% ) who prefer
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Council to Housing Association was inevitable, but it came only as providing the option for them of moving off the Estate (where all existing Council homes will be destroyed, and none built in their place). If you want a Council home, you will be exiled from the Aylesbury footprint. And tenants who defended their Secure Council Tenancies and who have networked with the national Defend Council Housing campaign have been demonised – a prelude to not taking into their needs into account.
But not allowing these people onto the important decision making committees,
Southwark Councillors, Council Officers, the NDC and the so-called resident representatives can start to believe their own myth that ‘No-one on the Estate is unhappy about the demolition’. And thus they have been shielded from engaging with people concerned about the fundamental, forgotten issue of Defending Council Housing and the effect of the AAAP on Housing Capacity for ordinary residents.
The result – an AAAP that will mean a net loss of affordable housing to rent by 700.
A substantial number of T&RA and Steering Group members are directly or indirectly financially dependent on the NDC or the council – they are in full or part-time employment by the NDC, or run projects whole or part-funded by the NDC.
These residents themselves may assert that their independence is not compromised by this financial dependence, but it is.
Do T&RAs on the Estate effectively reflect resident opinion on the Estate?
Do they effectively engage with residents?
There are four T&RAs on the Estate – ‘the Aylesbury T&RA’, chaired by Jean Bartlett (for x? years) is just one of these, which is not always clear when Jean is quoted in the press – the others are Thurlow Lodge, Wendover, and BACC 84 (Bradenham, Arklow, Chartridge and Chiltern).
I can only speak from my own experience of my T&RA, Thurlow Lodge, which, provoked by the experience of question-leading in the 2005 NDC survey, I joined informally in the Summer of 2005, formally in April 2006, and since April 2008 I have been Vice-Chair.
My impression is that Jean Bartlett in her role as chair on her T&RA has been consistently conscientious in consulting with her committee members.
This was not true of my experience, however, of the Chair of Thurlow Lodge from 2005 – 2008, Ian Gardner. He was one of the tenants representatives who spoke at the September 2005 Council Meeting in favour of decisive action on the Estate – demolition – without prior discussion of this issue with his Committee. He had many closed meetings with officers from the NDC – I think he was drinking buddies with Steve Pearce – one result of which was the transfer of Thurlow Lodge Community Hall into ownership by the NDC, against the wishes of the Committee, who have since been unable to obtain the relevant paperwork concerning this issue. I have on numerous occasions attempted to join the Aylesbury Steering Committee, and it was Ian who played the major role in blocking this.
submission page 10
Ian Gardner lost his post as Chair in 2008. He is still on the Aylesbury Steering Committee. In the sinecure position of representative of the Creation Trust he represents the Thurlow Lodge area on one of the sub-committees. Communication is sporadic. There is no mechanism whereby he can be voted out of that position.
It is in the T&Ras that we find the handful of adults whose lives have been radically transformed by NDC employment opportunities – but in the main the activities of the NDC have not impacted on employment statistics on the Estate.
A substantial obstacle to increasing employment opportunities has been the fact that
NDC money is not allowed to be spent on physical improvements to the Estate. Employing residents directly to make a difference to their environment – painting, decorating, plumbing, gardening, designing, sculpting, pest-control-educating – making real, noticeable, visible improvements might have been – and still could be – the most effective measure to improve social cohesion.
Instead, diverting all NDC funds away from making physical improvements to the Estate (apart from children’s playgrounds – mostly built by outside contractors -a major missed community involvement and education opportunity), separating the issue of environment from employment and ‘empowerment’ has led to a widespread belief amongst residents that the Estate is being deliberately run-down to bully people into accepting demolition and privatisation as the only means to improve their lives.
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B.3. Since 2005, the Council and the ANDC have conducted a series of ‘preferred options’ exhibitions and events to which the community were invited
Then, at the event, there is the opportunity to comment on the AAAP on questionnaires.
Unlike a ballot delivered to their homes, these leave out any resident who does not attend the event. The largest attendance for an event, I think, was for the July 2007 show-home exhibition, which I found Martin Smith overstating as 1000, when in fact it was just under 700 – reported in the relevant AAAP Consultation Report. Non-attendees probably do not realise that these exhibitions are a part of a continuous consultation, and that their absence could be construed as consent to the Council’s plans. Our experience, talking to neighbours, is that many stay away because of alienation from the consultation process, and from democracy in general – ‘We voted no – what happened?’ ‘What’s the point, they don’t listen to us anyway’ ‘They just do what they want’ are common responses.
Exhibitions are staffed by between 4 – 12 Council or NDC employees, masking low attendance and long quiet periods.
There were 445 attendees at the April/May 2008 Aylesbury Future Roadshow. 305 questionnaires were filled in. Of these, 32% were non-Aylesbury residents, that is, as a sample of opinion on the Estate the outreach was only 207. Remember, there are 2700 dwellings on the Aylesbury, and 7500 residents.
At the October/November event 2008 there were only 54 visitors. 46 filled in questionnaires.
Special effort has been made at times to contact ‘Hard-to-reach’ groups, accompanied by translators. These groups would not have access at the same time to translated Defend Council Housing literature.
The net loss of affordable housing is totally masked in the exhibition presentations – it left to the viewer to work this out from calculations based on tenure mix – and in fact exhibition material is often almost mendacious – for example, in the March 09 Exhibition (closed two hours early, as have been many events, because of low attendance) the first board has the bold statement ‘Reducing the density will mean that we can increase the number of family houses and homes that will have access to private family space.’ This gives the impression that the AAAP reduces density in comparison to what exists on the Estate, when the comparison, left to the reader to infer, is in fact with the previous AAAP. AAAP mark 1 would have increased density on the Aylesbury from 2700 to about 5000. AAAP mark 2 increases density to just 4208. It neglects to mention that actually the AAAP means that the number of family homes for Aylesbury residents for social renting on the Estate will decrease by 250. (see accompanying pdf file -Aylesbury_Revised_Preferred_Options_Breakdown_of_Homes)