The preferred option for the Winstanley Estate and neighbouring York Road Estate is taking shape
The preferred option for the Winstanley Estate and neighbouring York Road Estate is taking shape

The preferred option exhibition for the Winstanley and York Road estate regeneration starts this weekend at York Gardens Library (taking place this Saturday from noon–3pm, then Monday 5–8pm and Wednesday 10am–1pm).

Throughout the process so far I’ve been surprised at the appetite for change. There was undoubtedly a consensus that improvements were desperately needed, and a significant majority of people recognised that—for whatever reason—the estates don’t ‘work’. I have my own views on why they don’t work, although re-reading them I’m struck that I didn’t explicitly mention the loss of a traditional street pattern which has to be one of the biggest problems (and hardest to address because it means removing buildings).

Despite that appetite, I remain surprised at how strong that appetite for change has been. I perhaps blithely assumed people would plump for the middle option, but when I’ve been there and talking to residents I’ve seen demand for radical change, some even wanting to go further than the council’s options.

Of course, not everyone shares that desire. The fact I’ve met so many people keen on change owes much to chance, because there are those who prefer other options, including the minimal refurbishment, and those who prefer hybrid schemes, taking elements from different options.

The whole process is evolutionary, and while the suggested designs are becoming more detailed, feedback from this stage will be incorporated as the plans and delivery are more fully worked up. So if you are affected it’s worth attending one of the sessions.

More details are on the council’s website.

The first presentation of the options to Winstanley and York Road residents
The first presentation of the options to Winstanley and York Road residents

If there was anything from last week’s launch of the Winstanley and York Road consultation exercise that surprised me it’s that it was generally positive.

To those looking at it from the outside that statement itself might be surprising. Why on earth wouldn’t anyone be positive about the council potentially spending millions improving your neighbourhood? Well, there are lots of reasons.

From the emotional (people develop strong emotional ties to their homes), to the cynical (what is the council’s ulterior motive) to the pessimistic (the idea is nice, but it just isn’t going to happen): there are those who are not happy with any of the proposals. And there is, undoubtedly, a big job for the council to do in addressing all three, whether it’s reassuring people that they won’t lose out because of the plans or persuading them that the council’s motives are honourable.

Generally though, it seemed people were there to find out more and engage positively in the process that will shape the outcome.

Certainly among those residents to whom I spoke I could feel some warming towards the council. They were all in the pessimist camp, they’d seen such things suggested before and they amounted to nothing so why would this time be any different. But talking to them I felt that a change was taking place, not necessarily because of anything I said, but because as the consultation process progresses there is a better mutual understanding between the council and residents, and a growing faith and trust that something is, actually, going to happen.

I mentioned in my last post on the topic that I didn’t think the minimal option would be that well supported, and certainly from the conversations I had and responses I saw on the day (admittedly a very small sample) it seemed fairly clear that there was appetite for some of the wider ranging options, which bring more disruption, but also more benefits. Despite my desire not to prejudge I hope that remains the case. It’s perhaps easy for me to say, since I’m not one of those who is going to be directly affected by the scheme, but I think the benefits of the options which involve various degrees of demolition are worth far more and will last far longer than the disruption and inconvenience they will entail.

The next stage of the process involves more direct consultations, often on a block-by-block basis to ensure as many people as possible have their say. I’m planning on attending a few of these sessions as well, and am looking forward (I think!) to meeting more residents to hear their views so I can better represent them as the Winstanley and York Road steering group chairman.

There will be difficult times ahead. However well supported the final proposals are, there will still be some who oppose them–for whatever reason–and may well oppose them vociferously. Ultimately, the council will have to decide based on the balance of support, benefits and opposition to whatever option or options emerge. For the time being, though, it’s pleasing that the process remains largely positive.

You can find out more from the council’s regeneration pages

The Winstanley Estate, and neighbouring York Road Estate, might be getting a new look
The Winstanley Estate, and neighbouring York Road Estate, might be getting a new look

The consultation on the options for the Winstanley and York Road estate will be formally launched this weekend. It is the first step in a process that will, ultimately, lead to a regenerated neighbourhood in one of Wandsworth’s most deprived wards. Though what that will actually look like depends on the outcome of the consultation; something I don’t want to prejudge.

My involvement in the Winstanley and York Road master-planning exercise (along with my involvement in the similar exercise taking place in Roehampton) has been one of the most interesting periods of my time on the council, and certainly one of the most exciting, since it is likely that the scale of change will not have been seen in Wandsworth since some of these estates were built.[1]

That creates an interesting paradox. If we are to look at large housing estates, or collections of housing estates (there are actually three distinct council estates and the private Falcons Estate on the island formed by Plough Road, York Road, Falcon Road and Grant Road), and decide that they ‘don’t work’ we must also accept the possibility that anything we do to improve might well face the same accusation ten, twenty or thirty years from now.

The past year has been the first time I’ve wandered around the estate actually looking at what the original architects were seeking to do and not knocking on doors or delivering leaflets. While it’s easy to criticise the design of council estates the country over you cannot avoid the fact that none were designed or built (or at least I hope none were built) by planners, architects or councillors who were seeking to make people miserable or compound deprivation; they were all looking to make life better for the residents.

You can imagine how the original planners must have envisioned the original York Road estate, with roomy flats in big blocks surrounded by green spaces. Or how Pennethorne Square would have been a small town square. Or how the smaller scale of some of the Winstanley estate blocks came closer to replicating the old street pattern.

But it’s also easy to see how the mistakes were made. The big open spaces are uneven because they were used to hide the rubble from demolished houses and where they are flat, games were prohibited, so they were nothing like the gardens the flats lack. Pennethorne Square has no active usage on several sides, meaning there was nothing there to give it vibrancy and life. And community safety issues meant the surviving street pattern in the Winstanley became constrained in a bid to reduce crime.

But these are only my opinions. In all my meandering around the estate I learnt two things: first, I’m always pegged as being ‘from the council’ (this even happened when I was in jeans and a t-shirt wheeling a push-chair around) and second, that everyone there has a different opinion. I once found myself refereeing a friendly argument between two women, one from York Road and one from Winstanley, who both felt that all the good bits of the estates were in their estate, while all the bad design features existed in their friend’s estate.

The consistent feature of all the discussions was a sense of pride in their neighbourhood, even though they could see faults and recognised the estates were not all they could be.

We’re now starting a process that will help the neighbourhoods realise their potential. We hope it will result in improvement, huge improvement, for the residents and the wider Wandsworth community. Lessons have been learnt from decades of estate building, and decades of estate regeneration elsewhere. And consultation is at the heart of the process, because we cannot forget that this is a scheme that will affect people’s homes and lives.

It is still at the beginning of the process, and as the options are discussed and refined and a preferred option emerges, it is clear that won’t find a solution that will please everyone, but I hope in a few months time we are closer to something that has majority support and in which everyone involved can take pride.

  1. Although I said I didn’t want to prejudge the outcome of the consultations, I’m doing just that and assuming there is enough consensus that the minimal option–basically a bit of tarting up–won’t be the one that gathers most favour.  ↩

We’re currently going through our annual process of reassessing our community safety priorities, and as part of that consulting on what they should be and any issues you might have. Rather than re-write, the council’s text, and details of how you can take part, are below:

Each year the Community Safety Partnership (the Council, Police, Fire Service, Probation and Primary Care Trust) reviews the priorities for reducing crime and disorder within Wandsworth.  Following our analysis of crime and disorder within the borough, we now need to consult widely to confirm our understanding of what must be done.  We therefore seek your views by completing a short questionnaire, the results of which will be used to determine our priorities for 2011/12. 
This link will take you to the questionnaire which you can fill in online.  You are invited to circulate the link as widely as possible to any individuals or groups within the borough that you are associated with who may be interested.
If you prefer, a printed copy of the survey can be provided; please telephone 0208 871 6603, stating your address and the number of copies required.  When completed, the printed copy should be returned to:-

Director of Technical Services,
Community Safety Division,
Wandsworth Borough Council,
The Town Hall,
Wandsworth High Street,
London SW18 4BR.

The questionnaire can also be provided in large print if required.

The Metropolitan Police Authority are currently consulting on the policing priorities.

It is always a bit of a motherhood and apple pie exercise, since the results do tend to come out with things like ‘fighting crime’ which, I would contend, is pretty much a given as a police priority.

However, it might be worth having your say. You can read more about it, and find the link to the consultation questions, at

For what it’s worth my priorities (which I have submitted in a personal, rather than council, capacity are):

  1. Reducing police officers’ administrative overhead – so officers are on the beat doing their job, not sat in their station filling out forms about doing their job.
  2. Greater opportunities for public involvement in policing – the SNTs are a good start, but the public, potentially through their local council, should have a greater say to ensure the police match the priorities of the area they serve.
  3. Greater publication of data – the Met’s police maps are not that useful, we should have better information on specific crime, and on how well the police are doing to clear up that crime, so we know when to challenge or congratulate the police on their performance.

The winner? The iconic Power Station building in Nine Elms
The winner? The iconic Power Station building in Nine Elms

The council is starting its formal consultation on the Battersea Power Station planning application and, to coincide with this, Treasury Holdings are holding another public exhibition this Thursday (between noon and 8pm), Friday (from 10am to 6pm) and Saturday (from 10am until 5pm).

The Power Station is a key part of the regeneration of Nine Elms. There is no getting away from the number of false starts over the years, but this – hopefully – is the beginning of the formal process that will see the site brought into public use. If you have an interest in how Nine Elms is going to start to develop over the coming years it’ll be well worth going along.

It takes place on the site, which can be accessed from Kirtling Street just off Battersea Park Road.

I’m currently putting the finishing touches to my presentation for tonight’s public meeting on our community safety priorities for the year.

I’m told that, from the acceptances we’ve received so far, the venue is nearing capacity and we may have to open up the public gallery as an overflow!

However, if you are interested in finding out and influencing what the council, police, probation service and other partners have as their priorities for the year then come along tonight, we should be able to squeeze you in!

The annual ‘Face the Public’ meeting is being held in the Council Chamber at the Town Hall on Wandsworth High Street.  It starts at 6pm and should last no longer than 90 minutes.

UPDATE: The venue has now been moved.  The meeting will be in the Civic Suite, still on Wandsworth High Street.  Police Cadets are helping with the organisation and will be able to point you in the right direction.

The latest crime figures show crime continues to fall in Wandsworth, and that it remains the safest inner London borough – there’s been a 6.9% drop in overall crime in the past year.

But what next?

One of the things the council, along with the police and other partners, have been working on recently has been the strategic priorities.  Part of this process is a public meeting, where we present the ‘draft’ priorities and members of the public can let us know what they think and their concerns.

The ‘Face the Public’ meeting is being held at 6pm on Thursday, 19 February, in the council chamber at the Town Hall.  The meeting should last no longer than 90 minutes.

If you are interested in your borough, and what is done to make it safer, come along and talk to us.

Clapham Junction
Clapham Junction

Many may find it odd that this blog doesn’t contain a single mention of the Clapham Junction planning application, often referred to as the ‘twin towers’.  How can a councillor whose ward is right next to the area concerned not say a word about one of the biggest planning applications Wandsworth (and even London) has seen?

The simple answer is that I can’t say a word about it. Nada, nothing, zilch.

However, since I have had several emails about the scheme, I thought it might be worth setting out rules on this, since they don’t just affect me, but affect all councillors.  I must stress that nothing here should be interpreted as offering any opinion, either positive or negative, on the Clapham Junction planning application – nor, indeed, on any other application, past, present or future.

The application process
A common question is ‘how can the council even consider this application?’ The answer is that we have to consider every valid planning application and does not mean it is being viewed favourably or unfavourably.  The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the council has received a valid application.

This applies regardless of the size, so if you wanted to extend your house and made a proper application it has to go through the full consideration process.  If someone wants to build some towers, it has to go through the full consideration process.

A ‘tall buildings’ policy?
The council does not have a blanket tall buildings policy, instead the council considers what is appropriate for each area.  There are some very good reasons for this.

First, appropriate height is going to be different from area to area.  A tall office block might not look out of place on Upper Richmond Road, which already has several office buildings.  It would look downright unsightly in an area of two-storey houses.

Second, setting an arbitrary limit would probably just encourage developers to build to that limit.  If we set a height of 12 storeys I suspect pretty much every application would be 12 storeys as developers strive to maximise profits.

And you can’t say anything because…?
The reason councillors cannot comment on applications is something called ‘pre-determination’.  If I were to express a view, it could be said that I had already made up my mind without regard to the merits or otherwise of an application.  This would leave any decision open to legal challenge.

Instead, councillors have to demonstrate they approached the decision with an open mind and considered the application and representations fairly.  This is especially the case with a major planning application that might end up being discussed at a full council meeting.

Personally, I think the rules on pre-determination are a nonsense, since it effectively bars elected representatives from representing their residents in cases like this.  However, since they do exist I feel my role as a councillor is best served by retaining my right to vote than by commenting before the decision process has fully begun.