Aylesbury decision could set precedent for stopping gentrification of council estates, says expert

Posted by pt91 at Sep 20, 2016 12:32 PM |
Research by University of Leicester geographer contributed to Public Inquiry on Aylesbury Estate

Photographs of Professor Loretta Lees available to download at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/v2pxkscbi0yf2yn/AACrFZFRBbZMB-g8oLckAznZa?dl=0

A University of Leicester geographer, who is an international expert on gentrification, has been working with local campaigners in London to overturn plans for the demolition and ‘regeneration’ of the Aylesbury Estate, one of Europe’s largest public housing estates.

Last week, it was confirmed that the campaigners were successful in blocking the plans proposed by Southwark Council.

During the campaign, Professor Loretta Lees presented her evidence on gentrification and social cleansing to the Public Inquiry into the plans to issue residents of the Aylesbury Estate with Compulsory Purchase Orders for their homes. Last week, the Secretary of State announced the decision not to confirm the Compulsory Purchase Order.

Professor Lees said that taking part in the Public Inquiry was an intense experience: “We were in security lock-down in a room at Millwall Football Club and it was a David and Goliath scenario – the residents were facing a well-funded team from Southwark Council who had hired one of the UK’s top lawyers.

“But we won - the Planning Inspector overturned the CPOs on leaseholder, equalities and wellbeing issues!”

She added: “I hope this now sets some precedent in terms of the threats to residents in the many council estates across London red-lined for demolition and regeneration – what is really gentrification.”

Often stigmatised as sites of concentrated social dysfunction, council estates are also coveted for their untapped redevelopment potential. Urban scholars like Professor Lees have challenged the idea of estate renewal as “gentrification by stealth”, intended to privatise social housing and socially cleanse the inner city of low-income communities.

Professor Lees said: “Gentrification is not a boost for everyone. The overwhelming evidence from over 50 years of academic and policy research on gentrification is that overall, it’s a negative not a positive thing. The costs outweigh the benefits.

“The gentrification that I think is most critical and most important at the moment is the gentrification of council estates. Council estates are one of the last barriers to the almost complete gentrification of inner London and once they’ve gone, we’ve lost.

“When council estates are redeveloped as mixed income communities, when the middle classes are about to move in, the lower classes are moved out. They’re displaced, so what you get is not social mixing… what you get is gentrification and social segregation.”


Notes to editors:

For more information contact Professor Lees on loretta.lees@le.ac.uk

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