Report: Last night’s ITRA Newman Francis meeting

Last night (Thursday 25th September 2015), Newman Francis held another focus group meeting. Rob and Christine have left the company so Howard and Andrew are our new liaison people. This complicates matters for residents who feel they have to start over again, yet again.

Saturday’s regen bus trip has been postponed, so cancel any ideas about joining another journey into the unknown. 30 people out of over 1200 homes across the three estates had voiced an interest. Newman Francis hope to take everyone to an estate managed by Circle, but as you can imagine CHMP residents living on an estate managed by Circle couldn’t see the point of it. They are only too aware already.

NF asked how Circle could improve matters, seeing as there was an obvious chasm in the trust department. Residents responded by saying the company needed root and branch reform, that it was high time they treated residents with respect, that they had enough of being spoken down to by CHMP, that the ethics employed during the regen consultation were not just questionable but deplorable.

“Independent” Survey:
Despite the supposedly independent survey being completed some time ago, CHMP don’t want to release it until they have their board meeting on the 6th October 2015. NF seemed under the impression that the results of this “test of opinion” would decide whether the regen was going ahead or not, but we countered that CHMP had told us otherwise: that their board were the ones who decided behind closed doors. This seemed news to NF, but that’s nothing new.

Residents questioned the independence of the ITRA team considering how they had been used as a buffer by CHMP during this consultation, and how anything that NF published had to be vetted by Circle’s PR team first. It was pointed out that true independence could only come from financial independence. If Circle is Newman Francis’ paymaster, then they will never be truly independent. The ITRA contract is up for review in October 2015 also.

Profits and surpluses:
People said that the entire regen project reeks of profiteering, that this redevelopment seems designed to maximise revenue rather than provide the best solution for Ravensbury. Circle’s plans seem little different to that of any developer. No extra social homes have been promised. No affordable homes are planned. This and the whole PR sham that has been the regen process makes residents believe that CHMP are keen to profit from the Ravensbury location. This is akin to mining a seam, but in this case it involves the destruction of a stable community and a beautiful environment. Circle seem intent on profiteering from their stake in Merton no matter the cost to the people and environment that stand in their way and the leader of Merton Council seems only too keen to assist them in this.

Residents wondered if the Labour cabinet at Merton Council were happy to let Circle go ahead with the redevelopment so that the local housing association could balance the books after the implementation of the 1% decrease in social rents. Something seems terribly fishy about our ward councillor and head of Merton Council not voicing residents concerns over this project. Instead, he has been seen cosying up to the Circle CEO for photo opportunities. This hardly seems like scrutiny & open debate of a critical Merton issue where people’s homes are at stake.


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