In November 2015, residents on the Queens Estate in Southend on Sea, received the first indication that their homes were to be demolished. Although , the term ‘demolished’ was never used, the word used to describe what was planned, was ‘regeneration’.
How could this be happening? The estate at the time was less than 35 years old, and we were Genesis Housing Association tenants.
Genesis, who had taken over the estate from Springboard Housing Association, to the detriment of all tenants, suggested that they were working with the local authority to undertake the ‘regeneration’. This proved to be ‘disingenuous’ at best.
But none the less, the usual ‘consultation’ period was initiated. Consultancies are ‘flashy’ (superficially sparkling – a bit like champagne – lacking substance) affairs, where residents are ‘invited’ along to make their comments and suggestions; …. but in spite of the fact that we are all ‘social housing’ tenants, very few of us were comforted by this insubstantial display of interest, by either Genesis or their consultancy team.
Residents homes are ‘low quality build, poorly insulated, and with significant social problems.’
But we were informed that the homes we inhabited, were a ‘low quality build, poorly insulated, and with significant social problems’ (we suggested that the ‘social problems’ experienced here were similar to those in Kensington and Chelsea).
An interesting aspect of the consultancy and of meetings with Genesis, is that the estate seemed to be divided into ‘quarters’: and the estate residents were never, ever offered the opportunity to meet as one body. (‘Divide and rule,’ comes to mind). We were informed that most residents were in agreement with the ‘regeneration’.
We were told on at least two occasions that a ‘planning application’ was to be submitted to the local authority, but as of September 2018, no such application has been made, and of course in the meantime Genesis, have merged with Notting Hill, and are now known as ‘Notting Hill Genesis’ since April 2018.
Southend residents were not invited to meetings regarding the merger of Notting Hill and Genesis although meeting were held in London and Chelmsford. After several of us raised this as an issue, they did send along one Tanya Lillis, Customer Involvement Manager to talk with us.
In March 2018 Genesis employed FFT (Surveyors) to carry out Stock Condition Surveys.
It was, and I quote:-
‘Very important that this survey takes place. This information will be used to ensure that future spending on maintenance for your property is planned efficiently and housing standards are maintained.
(Although there are a number of words in this sentence that I would not expect to find in either the Genesis or the Notting Hill Genesis lexicon; among them are the words: spending/ maintenance/ planned /efficiently and standards))
Whoa there! They had already indicated that the build was of low quality, and poorly insulated. Which would, surely, have indicated that that ‘maintenance’ and ‘housing standards’ had not preserved/retained.
Moving on………. In August 2018 it was rumoured – and this has still not been confirmed – that the regeneration is now on hold for 4 to 5 years.
Stop! What about all the money spent on the Consultancy? (Twice. we had the consultants on site, all bright young things , who knew nothing about the community in particular and Southend in general)….. and were surprised that we knew about the National Planning Policy Framework. Will Notting Hill Genesis have to carry out more consultancies in 4 to 5 years? Are they hoping that by then we will be in our dotage? …. and will have no recollection of these earlier consultations?
Homes are to be valued to provide security for loans.
But it seems that actually NHG need to do a survey of these same homes to use them as security for more loans to build out-of-reach homes
Fast forward to September 2018……….. residents (some of them) have received letters from another firm of surveyors, this time called JLL. The letter suggests, that the survey is required to, and once again I quote:-
‘Notting Hill Genesis needs to obtain a valuation of various properties which provides security for part of its borrowing.’
‘The inspections are part of a rolling programme of inspections required by our lenders.’
What? Are they suggesting that these ‘low quality’ and ‘poorly insulated’ homes are of such good quality they are an asset to Notting Hill Genesis? So good, that they may be able to secure a loan against them?
It looks to us, as if someone has been ‘telling porkies.’ Of course Notting hill Genesis may be lying now about the reason for the survey…………. or maybe Genesis were lying in the first instance about our homes being of low quality and poorly insulated.
Whatever the truth of this, it doesn’t quite add up.
Although, if our homes are of reasonable quality and Notting Hill Genesis get their loan, they will have to improve the maintenance on the whole estate or they may find themselves in very hot water with the loan company. Unless of course the loan company is hand in hand with Notting Hill Genesis.