Fresh call to repopulate Carpenters Estate in Stratford as Council confirms further details will be published in October
PUBLISHED: 13:00 09 September 2020
Housing campaigners have once again taken to the streets in protest to demand a repopulation of the Carpenters Estate in Stratford.
The group — comprised of activists from Focus E15 and residents of the nearby Brimstone House — walked, as they did in a July action day, between the two tower blocks.
Once on the Carpenters Estate, they gathered outside Dennison Point, one of the three largely-empty blocks that make up the estate.
There they reiterated their demand that more neighbours from Brimstone House, referred to as Victoria Street by the council, be moved to the estate where 400 flats have been empty for more than 13 years.
In July, Newham Council provided a statement in which mayor Rokhsana Fiaz outlined the position as of that date: “All previous assessments that refurbishment wasn’t going to be an option are being looked at again. Final technical reports are being prepared and will be presented to Newham’s cabinet before the end of the year.”
A statement received today (Wednesday September 9) confirmed that “detailed technical work and evaluation of the feasibility of refurbishing the Carpenters tower blocks is ongoing”, with a council spokeswoman adding: “More details will be published in the October cabinet papers.”
The urgency for a resolution to the Carpenters Estate issue is motivated by the presence of long-standing grievances over the conditions at Brimstone House, which houses families — many in temporary accommodation — across 210 self-contained units.
A lack of space (creating problems with overcrowding) was one of the most voiced complaints at last weekend’s protest, as neighbours rued the continued closure of the block’s conservatory area and outside playground.
The latter was a particular source of contention because its equivalent, outside the largely-empty Dennison Point, is open.
When asked about these closures, the council spokeswoman said: “The conservatory area at Victoria St was closed due to the Covid-19 crisis and the public health imperative to ensure social distancing. The closure remains under review and health and safety assessments will be undertaken when circumstances allow.
“However given the government’s most recent decision to restrict social gatherings to six people, as a result of a spike in Covid-19 infections, this is unlikely in the near future.
“The playground outside Victoria Street is under the control and management of L&Q Housing Association; however officers from the council will be in touch to inquire the reason for the closure, and to see if it can be re-opened for residents.”
Neighbours also aired concerns about a lack of space within the flats themselves, with Haddy Dardoe telling protestors that her son simply has “no place” to do his homework.
Haddy — who has lived in the temporary accommodation for a year and ten months with her two children — said this situation is having a detrimental impact on the entire family: “We need new housing.”
Another neighbour, Savannah Daramola, lamented the fact that she can’t buy toys for her daughter “like other kids have” because of space restrictions in her flat.
While the campaign to repopulate the Carpenters Estate has been ongoing for seven years, the heightened risk of overcrowding caused by lockdown has made finding a solution even more vital.
The need to occupy the empty flats is also driven by Newham’s homelessness rate, the highest in the country according to a December 2019 report by Shelter.
Speaking at the protest, Focus E15’s Saskia O’Hara said the current climate hammers home the need for action: “Something needs to be done, especially with people like yourselves (Brimstone House neighbours) in unsuitable accommodation, when a ten minute walk away there’s empty homes. That’s why we’re here today.”
Though the estate remains largely empty, a small number of houses have been refurbished, with former neighbour Egwolo Ekregbesi one of the fortunate few to be moved.
She attended last weekend’s protest in solidarity with those who remain in Brimstone House, and told the Recorder that the move has proven positive.
For further information on the campaign, visit focuse15.org/ or @FocusE15 on twitter.
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