Update: LS26, housing developments and housing safety

Save Our Homes LS26

The group at Oulton who have been campaigning against a proposal by their landlord Pemberstone (Oulton Properties) Ltd who wish to obtain planning permission to demolish the homes of 70 families and replace them with 71 new properties for sale at prices way beyond the financial reach of the current tenants, are preparing for the crunch hearing before the council’s planning committee.

The group has gained support from Heritage, conservation and trade unions and have featured in local and national press articles and on local and national TV news programmes. Numerous objections have been lodged against the planning application and meetings have been held with councillors but, as yet, no proposals have been forthcoming which would allow the community to remain in homes that some have occupied for 60 years. The properties of an Airey style construction were once owned by the Coal Board as properties for former miners at the local Rothwell pit before moving in to the hands of Pemberstone – a company with diverse interests in money making who share their office premises and directors with “Housing Partners” who describe themselves as “supporting social landlords to empower tenants”. Clearly the idea of empowering the LS26 group has slipped by the Pemberstone group which clearly has designs on a financial windfall should planning be granted allowing them to build properties for sale at prices in the region of £350,000.

The group envisages the planning committee will deliberate on the 22nd November and a demonstration by the tenants and their supporters is anticipated. Get your banners and placards ready and get final details and up to date information from the website www.saveourhomesLS26.org.uk.

Housing Developments

The Tory party conference delivered the announcement that the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap was to be lifted ASAP (with further details to be confirmed in the budget). The Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government then posted that this action “would give councils the tools they need to deliver a new generation of council housing up to an estimated 10,000 additional homes a year”. With Leeds alone nursing a waiting list of 26,000 families this means that nationally the generous offer will fall a million miles short of solving the housing crisis. Beware the small print behind a Tory announcement. The LS26 group (above) asked if these funds would be available to take over their estate but were informed that despite the threat of 70 families becoming homeless there were others of higher priority for the Tory largesse!

The same Government department announced that from 1st October 2018 new rules would come into force requiring the licensing of Homes in Multiple Occupation. Private landlords must apply to the local council for a licence for any property let to 5 or more people from 2 or more separate households that share facilities. We shall be looking to see if this suddenly improves the quality of the private rented sector. We presume the council has the staff available to deal with the influx of licence applications!??

The Housing and Planning Act 2016 continues to disintegrate as does anyone unfortunate enough to be named as Housing Minister (there have been 4 since the Act was brought in). Councils will no longer have to sell off higher value homes and permanent tenancies will not be replaced by fixed term tenancies, at the moment.

Housing Safety

The Grenfell Inquiry continues to throw up disturbing information regarding the safety of high rise buildings. There has been great focus on the cladding systems fixed to the Grenfell Tower. After the disaster Leeds City Council checked and announced that non of the council tower blocks in the city used the same system as at Grenfell. An argument is developing between the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government as to what constitutes safe cladding. The RIBA is calling for a ban on combustible materials in cladding whereas the MHCL seems to think that an “A2” classification allowing cladding of limited combustibility is acceptable. So the Government is happy that tenants living higher than 18 metres will be ok as long as the cladding is only a little bit combustible! And what classification applies to the high rise cladding in Leeds?

And what of the introduction of sprinkler systems? The council last announced that there was a cost of £32m to cover the retro fitting of sprinkler systems but the authority, having its budget cut so much already, didn’t have the funds available. The government should be funding these safety features but until the tower blocks are made safe the tenants are the ones potentially at risk.

It is also clear that the Grenfell tenants were aware of the standard of refurbishment work carried out and tried to raise issues with the Kensington and Chelsea TMO. We ask if the current system of consultation between the Leeds Council and their tenants is really adequate?

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