Backed by Russell Brand, campaigners may finally see Newham's "ghost estate" reborn

The saga of a London ghost estate — where hundreds of homes have lain empty for almost a decade in a borough with more than 16,000 on the housing waiting list — could be coming to an end.
After a failed attempt to reinvent Carpenters Estate in Stratford as a smart university campus, plus years of delays blamed on the recession, Newham council is this week expected to approve plans to revamp the site, where just 54 households currently live among 700 boarded-up homes.
 
Local residents have campaigned against the delays, supported by activists including comedian Russell Brand.
 
The council has been debating the future of the estate since 2001 and in 2004, it calculated that the cost of renovating three asbestos-clad towers would run to £75 million. It decided demolition would be a better option.
 
The process to rehouse tenants, and buying out those who had used the Right-to-Buy scheme, has been ongoing since 2005.
 
Early regeneration plans were put on ice after the recession hit.
 
Newham has been footing the “significant” bill for security and maintenance of the ghost estate — which was used for the filming of the 2011 science-fiction film Attack the Block — ever since.
 
Nearly five years ago, the council began negotiating with University College London about the possibility of creating a new campus on the site. Those talks collapsed in 2013.
 
Tomorrow, Newham’s cabinet will hopefully kick-start the process of finding a developer to co-fund a joint venture with the council.
 
It hopes to build 2,000 new homes on the site, plus shops, and possibly a new school.
 
“Among many benefits, comprehensive redevelopment would provide three times as many residential units as are currently on the estate,” explains a report, which cabinet members will debate.
 
Joe Alexander, 48, bought a house on the estate 12 years ago and is a member of the Greater Carpenters Neighbourhood Forum.
 
“The situation is disgusting — absolutely terrible — and an embarrassment to the council,” he says. “Being realistic, the residents are not against some degree of refurbishment and regeneration. The council is very entrenched and not prepared to discuss the situation.
 
“My problem with full regeneration is that it will destroy the community we have here.”
 
 

Carpenters Estate was originally built to house Victorian factory workers. It was bombed during the Second World War and rebuilt with three towers and a series of smaller blocks during the Fifties and Sixties.
 
Last year, a group of women and children who had been housed in the mother and baby unit of a homeless hostel nearby occupied some of the boarded-up flats on the estate. Brand, who supported their action, visited them. They were later evicted by Newham council.

According to the Empty Homes Agency, there are 600,000 empty houses in the UK — 22,000 of them in London.
 
A spokeswoman for Newham council said it hoped to find a development partner for the estate next year. She could not say how many new homes would be earmarked for low-income Londoners but said the council was committed to redeveloping Carpenters Estate “for the benefit of existing residents and the rest of the borough”.
 
Newham currently has 16,605 people on its housing waiting list, and is paying for 3,804 to stay in temporary accommodation. The spokeswoman said the council had considered opening up the empty towers on the estate to house these people but the Tenant Management Organisation, which runs the estate, had refused to co-operate. However, 40 homes in low-rise buildings have been given to people “in housing need.”

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