Ravensbury Residents Association received a response from Councillor Oonagh Moulton of the Merton Conservatives this week. Her response is detailed below:
Sent on behalf of Cllr Oonagh Moulton
Dear Mr Holt
Many thanks for copying me into your recent correspondence with Cllr Alambritis regarding proposals for the redevelopment of the Ravensbury estate. As Group leader, I am responding to you on behalf of all Conservative councillors in Merton whom you have contacted on this subject.
Please rest assured that Merton Conservatives share many of the concerns expressed by you and your neighbours about these redevelopment plans. Local Conservative councillors have been questioning the assumptions behind them for some time now. Indeed that was one reason we successfully challenged the Labour council’s decision last year just to nod through Circle Housing’s preliminary proposals and instead insisted they were properly scrutinised by a cross-party panel.
What has become clear is that, from very early on, Merton’s Labour leadership had already accepted the principle that there should be a signficant increase in housing density on the three estates chosen for redevelopment. In fact, Cabinet reports suggest that more than 1,000 new additional homes will be built across the 3 estates concerned. This is a fundamental principle that will shape the entire regeneration programme and yet the views of residents, such as you and your neighbours, are seemingly not being heard.
Prior to the local elections in May, Conservative ward councillors for Abbey spent a lot of time speaking to people living on the High Path estate and found many were unaware of the significant increase in housing density planned for their own neighbourhood. What they did make clear however was their strong preference for homes with private gardens and which are no smaller than what they have currently. Yet, the Labour council’s acceptance of an overriding principle to increase the density is totally at odds with residents’ wishes.
Of course everyone wants to see these areas and communities fully rejuvenated. Merton has a once in a generation chance to improve the lives of thousands of families and it’s therefore crucial the borough gets it right. That means learning from the mistakes of the past by ensuring there continues to be a good mix of housing for the future, including affordable homes. However, unlike Labour, the Conservative vision for Ravensbury and our other housing estates, does not involve building vast new tower blocks.
Local Conservative elected representatives wish to ensure that any development only goes ahead with the full and open involvement of residents. We believe that those most affected must be supportive of the final plans. That’s why it is so worrying that Cllr Alambritis and his Labour colleagues seem to be under the impression that the Ravensbury estate is currently too low rise and needs to be developed more densely.
If regeneration is to go ahead, then we believe that the priority should be on replacing any sub-standard flats and houses with the high quality homes that residents say they want. That alone should be the principle upon which this regeneration programme is built.
As you rightly point out, the way this whole regeneration project has been handled so far unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired. Despite the various concerns expressed by tenants, leaseholders and freeholders of the housing estates concerned, Labour seem happy just to wave the proposals through without proper scrutiny and safeguards. As you may be aware, following the elections on 22nd May this year, Merton now has a majority Labour council. However, my Conservative colleagues and I are continuing to work hard to hold the administration and Circle Housing Merton Priory to account on this important project.
For example, at last month’s Council meeting, Labour councillors – including those purporting to represent Ravensbury ward – were all ready to rubber stamp the latest recommendations, which included the suspension of CHMP’s obligation to maintain properties, just as the Labour Cabinet had done last month. However I am pleased to say that a Conservative amendment will ensure there is now further consultation with residents of the High Path, Eastfields and Ravensbury estates and more in depth public scrutiny of both the redevelopment project itself and Circle Housing’s below par performance on repairs.
Merton’s Conservative Councillors believe the council has a duty of care to everyone living on our housing estates, whether tenants, leaseholders or freeholders. That’s why, rather than simply rolling over and accepting Circle Housing’s widely criticised consultation, we are determined to hold them to account on behalf of local residents, such as yourself.
You will be interested to learn that, following pressure from Conservative councillors, there will now be a special meeting of the Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel held on Monday 29th September. This scrutiny meeting is open to the public and so you may wish to organise for a group of residents from Ravensbury to come along to view the proceedings. Should you or any of your neighbours wish to ask to speak at the meeting, you should contact email@example.com.
I hope you find this response above helpful. If I can be further assistance to you or your neighbours on this or any other matter, please feel free at any time to contact me or the Conservative Housing Spokesman, Cllr Janice Howard, to whom I am also copying this reply.
Cllr Oonagh Moulton
Leader of Merton Conservative Group
Ravensbury Grove Blog