One of the most characterful development sites within the the Elephant and Castle Opportunity Area is the Manor Place Baths. The baths provided laundry and bathing facilities to Walworth people for 80 years, until demolition of the surrounding streets and the removal of the local population to the Heygate and Ayelsbury estates sounded its death knell in the 80’s; it was replaced as a swimming pool by the Elephant & Castle leisure centre, the baths were filled in by Southwark Council in 1998 and the buildings were then used by the Council’s Environmental Services department until their relocation in 2012.

Notting Hill Housing Trust (NHHT) purchased the 1.7 hectare site from the Council in Nov 2013 for the reasonable sum of £20m - reasonable compared to the £50m figure it sold the 9.9 Hectare Heygate site for. NHHT is now putting out feelers to local community groups in anticipation of a planning application before the end of the year. The omens do not look good.

First, rather than deal directly with the local community NHTT have engaged M&N Place to do the work for them. M&N Place is eminently qualified – it has an office in Abu Dhabi, provides ‘political intelligence’ about local authorities and is well versed in bending local opinion to the developers will on behalf of London boroughs. M&N Place is also eminently experienced - having successfully bent opinion for Berkeley homes’ deplorable redevelopment of the Ferrier estate in Greenwich.

Undeterred, a concerned local resident attended the first public exhibition for the development. There was no information about affordable housing on display, but after probing NHHT staff it turns out there will be no social housing - we will be getting the dreaded affordable rent instead. They agreed this would be beyond the means of people on low or average incomes. Here is a link to his full report.

NHHT are shy about saying what exactly the rents will be, but below is a screenshot taken from its website which gives us some idea what to expect:

Housing contradictions

Some housing associations have complained about the introduction of affordable rent, but NHHT is a true believer: as reported in Labour’s redbrick blog ‘NHHT chief Kate Davies chaired the ‘Housing and Dependency Working Group’ of Iain Duncan Smith’s think tank the Centre for Social Justice. The name of the group almost says it all, but her conclusion is: ‘social housing is not a desirable destination; private ownership is preferable to state provided solutions’.

NHHT’s hostility to social housing is evident in its conversion policy - social rented homes will be converted to affordable rent as soon as there is a change of tenant.

NHHT will be providing 1,200 of Southwark’s new homes over the next three years in Camberwell, Peckham, Bermondsey & Blackfriars plus the 3,500 new homes on the Aylesbury estate. In a previous blog we raised concerns about exactly what kind of affordable housing the Aylesbury estate would get. As the picture becomes clearer that concern deepens. Up to now Southwark has fought the very idea of introducing affordable rent to the borough, joining with seven other boroughs in taking Boris Johnson to court. Former head of regeneration Cllr Fiona Colley summed up the matter simply: ‘affordable rent will be very difficult for people in housing need to afford’. So why is NHHT - the champion of affordable rent - providing so many of Southwark’s new homes?