BARNSBURY RESIDENTS GROUP RESPONSE TO BRG LETTER IN ISLINGTON TRIBUNE 1st July 22
15 July 2022
Dear Kane and members of the BRG,
Following our recent conversation, I am writing to you to address concerns raised in the letter sent to the Islington Tribune on behalf of the Barnsbury Residents Group raising a number of issues worrying residents. I hope to be able to clarify some points and reassure residents we are listening.
For ease of reference, I have summarised the key areas of concern raised in your letter and our responses below:
Rehousing overcrowded households
You mention that the problem of overcrowding is one of the key issues of concern. We want to assure you that our priority for the Transformation is to build new homes for existing residents and we have always stated this project is a once in a generation opportunity to solve overcrowding on the estate. For residents currently being decanted, we are assessing their household size and offering them accommodation that meets their housing need. When residents move into their new permanent home we will do this exercise for all households and ensure we offer the correct size of accommodation for the size of household.
As and when properties become vacant on the estate that are not required for the decanting programme we have agreed with Islington Council that we will offer these to either overcrowded households or those on our transfer list due to their medical needs (from both old and new Barnsbury). We have managed to relieve some overcrowding already including rehousing a number of adult children from overcrowded households to help with this issue.
The usual arrangement for the allocation of new homes is that the local council nominates all the households to be housed from their waiting list. At Barnsbury we are in discussion with Islington Council to agree a local lettings policy to allow new homes to be used to relieve over-crowding on Old Barnsbury, so that the Council will be offered a mix of new and old homes for their waiting list applicants.
We have undertaken a housing needs survey to understand the extent of overcrowding across the estate and we are currently updating this for Phase 1b. However if household composition changes we would ask tenants to complete a new Housing Needs Survey. We welcome conversations with any resident who wants to discuss their housing requirements – contact the BEST team who will be able to advise them about their specific needs.
The split of housing across the Estate
Another area of concern you raised is around the tenure split of properties. In the detailed phases of the project we have set out the location of new homes for tenants and leaseholders, which is driven by the need to replace existing homes first and minimise the number of double decants for residents. Tenants and leaseholders are in separate cores (a ‘core’ contains access, lifts and staircase) but will share some communal courtyards, for example, blocks C7,8,9. A key consideration in the location of private and rented accommodation is the need to keep service charges affordable in the rented accommodation and this can be more easily achieved by separating by tenure. In the consultation existing Newlon tenants have been clear they want to keep service charges low and the best way to achieve this is to separate the tenure by core. We can confirm that leaseholders have not been placed in different or lower density buildings. The design brief for all homes for leaseholders and tenants is the same, with the intention that it will not be possible to identify the tenure of any particular block from the external materials or quality of build. All residents will have access public green spaces across the Estate.
Appointment of contractors
Regarding your point on who will be carrying out the works on Old Barnsbury, if we receive planning permission, we will let residents know who will be carrying out the works. We will also ensure that there are channels in place so that residents can directly contact the contractor or us if they have any problems. Appointed contractors will be members of the Considerate Constructors Scheme which sets standards about appearance; respecting the community; protecting the environment; caring for safety and valuing their workforce.
We have appointed the same team of design consultants for both New Barnsbury and Old Barnsbury to ensure a continuity of design and quality.
Energy strategy for Old Barnsbury
With regard to the energy strategy for Old Barnsbury, we are looking to find the best solution for the existing buildings before the application can be submitted to Islington Council. For example, we are looking at how to install estate-wide systems and equipment into blocks that currently rely on individual gas boilers.
To ensure that the wider refurbishment works on Old Barnsbury are not delayed, we submitted an application for the ballot works on Old Barnsbury so that these can proceed. Once we know what can be achieved on Old Barnsbury we will submit a further planning application if required. We will continue to engage with residents as we formulate these plans.
Engagement with residents
We are sorry to hear that you feel residents haven’t been engaged on the proposals. Since the residents’ ballot, we have held a number of workshops to continue working with all residents on the plans for the whole estate. This included two dedicated workshops for Old Barnsbury residents. These were well advertised through letters, flyers and posters. Additionally the project team recently went door-to-door to speak residents directly and ensure that all residents are informed and have the opportunity to provide their feedback.
We have also explained the difference between the two applications and we have written to all residents to explain this. We will be writing to residents again once the Old Barnsbury application is available to view on the Islington Council planning portal. Additionally, the BEST team have continued to respond to all resident enquiries and residents can also talk to independent advisors Source Partnership.
We would be very keen to continue to attend your group if you have specific queries on any aspect of the development and address any further concerns that you may have. If you do have any further questions then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with myself or Alastair Gaisford for our development partner.
Head of Barnsbury Regeneration
Senior Development Manager