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‘A legacy for community action’: Custom House neighbours welcome landlord offer as step in right direction

PUBLISHED: 07:00 11 August 2020

Custom House has been due for regeneration since 2004. Picture: Google Satellite

Custom House has been due for regeneration since 2004. Picture: Google Satellite

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A “gold standard” approach has been offered tenants ahead of a neighbourhood’s regeneration.

Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz described the town hall's approach as 'gold standard'. Picture: Marianne Chua PhotographyNewham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz described the town hall's approach as 'gold standard'. Picture: Marianne Chua Photography

The Mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz has unveiled proposals which, if passed by the local authority’s cabinet chiefs ,would guarantee tenants’ right to return to regenerated homes in Custom House.

The town hall dubbed the deal “the most resident-focused landlord offer” made by a local authority in the capital.

After approval by cabinet chiefs, the offer would be voted on by neighbours who decide if the regeneration goes ahead.

Alongside secure, or lifetime, tenants it is proposed private rented sector tenants will benefit from the right to return to a council home or social home owned by a housing association once the rebuilding work is done.

Temporary tenants group The Mears Cats, part of community group People's Empowerment Alliance for Custom House (PEACH), protested outside Newham Council's Dockside HQ. Picture: Andrew Brookes.Temporary tenants group The Mears Cats, part of community group People's Empowerment Alliance for Custom House (PEACH), protested outside Newham Council's Dockside HQ. Picture: Andrew Brookes.

The offer applies to private rented sector tenants – including those living in properties transferred to outsourcing giant Mears – who have lived in the Custom House regeneration area for five years or more on the date the landlord offer is published.

Tenants must have been placed in the area by Newham.

Mears took over 250 homes in the area in 2011 in what was supposed to be a temporary measure. Newham Council and the neighbour-led People’s Empowerment Alliance for Custom House (Peach) have been battling to wrest back control from the company.

By December last year, Mears had handed back 37 homes and told the Recorder it “shared the frustration” of people waiting for works to start. Tenants complained of feeling left in limbo and waiting for real change.

PEACH members with Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz. Picture: Andrew Brookes.PEACH members with Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz. Picture: Andrew Brookes.

Ms Fiaz said: “This is an unprecedented offer and reflective of the radical housing delivery ambitions we have for Newham.

“We propose to replicate this gold standard approach across all our proposed Newham regeneration programmes, including in Canning Town and the Carpenters Estate redevelopment.”

In its role as master developer, the council could deliver 3,500 homes on its land in Canning Town and Custom House over the next 15 years.

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Peach member and Mears tenant, Mabel Amponsah, said: “When Mayor Fiaz announced that we will be included in the regeneration at our recent Peach Assembly, we felt positive and uplifted that our People’s Guarantees were being listened to in the landlord offer.

“A social rent home will mean security for our families, financial stability and that we can live in peace without fear of eviction.

“This is a huge step in the right direction and a legacy for community action and partnership with our council.”

Ms Amponsah added: “However, there are many hurdles ahead. A right to return is very different from a right to stay and we are worried about being moved out of the area with no idea when we will move back.

“There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but how far is that light?”

Ms Amponsah pointed out that Peach has always said households should be able to move once into a new home.

“At present there are no detailed time scales published and so we look forward to working together on a clear plan that causes minimum disruption to our community,” she said.

If the ballot is successful the council will submit a planning application early in 2021.

Ms Fiaz said: “I pledged when I stepped into office back in May 2018, to initiate a sea-change in the way we work and collaborate with our residents, putting them at the heart of everything we do.

“The regeneration programme in Custom House is a testament to that promise.”

Residents are involved every step of the way of our development plans for the area, and are helping us shape the restoration of their neighbourhoods for the benefit of the whole community.”

She added the approach announced is another example of that commitment and part of the “most significant and substantial” offer by any local authority in London.

Custom House is part of a plan with Canning Town for about 10,000 homes and a new town centre. About 3,500 homes have been built so far.


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