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ISHA could bulldoze block on St Mary's Path estate to build bigger, warmer flats & more homes for social rent

PUBLISHED: 16:00 14 June 2019 | UPDATED: 11:04 15 June 2019

Residents of St Mary's Path Estate, from left: Patrick Rodwell, Jean Rodwell, Yadilene Vallejo, St Mary's vicar Rev Simon Harvey, Sidney Rodwell, Jackie Hughes and Maureen Roberts. Picture: Polly Hancock

Residents of St Mary's Path Estate, from left: Patrick Rodwell, Jean Rodwell, Yadilene Vallejo, St Mary's vicar Rev Simon Harvey, Sidney Rodwell, Jackie Hughes and Maureen Roberts. Picture: Polly Hancock

Polly Hancock

A block of 20 homes on the St Mary's Path estate could be bulldozed and rebuilt to create bigger flats and more units for social rent, it can be revealed.

Islington and Shoreditch Housing Association (ISHA) will give neighbours two options in a consultation over how best to spend £10million to regenerate the Upper Street estate. But the chair of St Mary's Path Estate Tenants' and Residents' Association (TRA) has blasted the housing association as "disrespectful", claiming it's "broken a promise to rule out demolition as part of the development".

In both scenarios ISHA proposes "estate-wide" refurbishments to tackle damp, improve the electrical, heating and ventilation systems, fit new windows and flooring replaced and redecorate flats.

But the second choice also advocates "knocking down" and rebuilding St Mary's House to create "modern", spacious flats for the families occupying it - and more homes for social rent.

"We gave a commitment not to raze the estate to the ground," ISHA's chief exec Ruth Davison told the Gazette.

"The proposal for a new build St Mary's House is to make sure homes are warmer, deal with systemic issues of damp [and building] family homes to modern space standards. [...]

"For families those units are a long way below modern space standards, so we'd be able to build flats up to modern space and warmth standards - and put more homes for social rent on the estate."

But she said neighbours must choose between "the refurbishment but no remodelling of the flats or the same but with the pulling down of St Mary's House".

She added: "In both options, because works are so extensive, all the tenants will have to move but we will phase works so, if people wish, they can stay on the estate while works are being done.

"We will make clear these are the two options from us but people are encouraged, during consultation, to feedback what they like or don't like and propose alternatives."

There was an outcry from neighbours in October 2017 when ISHA put forward five options for dealing with the historic, damp-riddled estate, which included demolishing it completely. This sparked fears of permanent displacement and mass opposition, leading ISHA to backtrack on its bulldozing proposal in 2018.

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But it maintained regeneration works would still mean removing some three- and four-bed family homes.

ISHA's new boss Ms Davison made five pledges to neighbours in March. She promised: all secure and assured tenants have a right to stay permanently on the estate, with no changes to their rent; that anyone who moves to a different size property in the estate will pay rent based on existing rates; and that people who currently under-occupy can continue doing so by one room. The fifth promise was not to "raise the estate".

TRA chair Nico Christian told the Gazette: "We find it disrespectful that ISHA are publicly announcing the options in the press before residents have had a chance to see them.

"We therefore don't feel it would be appropriate to comment on the options at this stage but it is shocking that ISHA have reneged on their promise to rule out demolition as part of the redevelopment. No demolition on the estate is one of the main things residents have been fighting for over the last two years and ISHA know it perfectly well."

During consultation, people will also be asked their views on how to tackle the damp, with a choice between rendering of partially rendering the buildings, dry-lining them, or "a mixture of both".

ISHA's preference would be to render or partially render to avoid "making small flats smaller", Ms Davison said.

She will feedback finds from the consultation to ISHA's board in September, and has invited the Tenants and Residents Association (TRA) to attend.

ISHA would then need to seek planning permission for either plan from Islington Council.

Islington's housing chief Cllr Diarmaid Ward said: "I really welcome that ISHA have made firm commitments that there will be no loss of social homes on the estate and that all secure and assured tenants have the right to stay on the estate with no change to their rent.

"I also welcome that ISHA are continuing to consult with residents about options for the estate.

"I look forward to seeing more about ISHA's proposals, especially given that on of their ideas includes building more social homes in Islington.

"Residents need to be at the heart of the process and I'm keen to work with both St Mary's Path [neighbours] and ISHA to find the best way forward."

The TRA has been approached for comment.

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