The Achilles Street Estate redevelopment inched forward last week after Lewisham’s mayor and cabinet approved sending out initial demolition notices to secure tenants.

A decision was posted on the council’s website after the meeting which said that mayor and cabinet had discussed “viability issues” with the scheme in closed session and approved an extra injection of £200,000.  

But the information was referencing a different development, incorrectly posted because of a “technical issue”, which was corrected today (June 18).

The council is proposing to knock down 87 homes and 15 businesses around Achilles Street in New Cross to build 450 new homes and “up to 150 new council homes”. 

The proposals were backed by 73 per cent of eligible residents in a ballot last November – 92 per cent of people who could vote did.   

Of the 88 eligible people who voted – social tenants and leaseholders – 59 said yes and 22 said no. 

An issue raised in the report was the low response rate from secure tenants since the ballot.

The council launched a consultation with secure tenants after the residents’ ballot, hand-delivering 47 letters on March 17, but only two tenants had responded by the end of the consultation period.  

“This represents a four per cent response rate. A further response was received after the closing.  

“Whilst this is a low response rate, it should be noted that there has been extensive resident consultation on the Achilles Street Estate prior to the estate ballot,” it states.  

According to the report, the three responses received were “considered to be positive”, and praised plans for “much needed homes”. 

A council spokesperson said: “The council and Lewisham Homes are working together on bringing forward the regeneration of the Achilles Street Estate and are working closely with local residents on the next steps which includes the selection of the architects.  

“Whilst there is general economic uncertainty, the council has identified the necessary funding to take the project forward and to deliver the new homes that our residents need.” 

He said the council has been consulting with residents for “many years”, referencing the results of the ballot in November.  

“The latest consultation carried out between March 17, 2020 and April 15, 2020 was a necessary legal consultation of secure tenants only, on the issues that residents had already given their opinion on through the estate ballot which had taken place only five months before and had attracted the very high turnout. 

“As the council’s development partner, Lewisham Homes is leading on the extensive continued engagement with residents.  

“The Achilles Street Resident Steering Group will be working with them on the shortlisting of the architect procurement exercise in July and August and the estate residents are being asked to give comments on the Resident Design Charter for the selection process,” he said. 

Mayor and cabinet approved recommendations from the report during the meeting on June 10, which include the suspension of letting secure tenancies on the estate, suspending Right to Buy applications, and starting full housing assessments for all secure tenants. 

“Right to Buy presents a risk to redevelopment schemes as the council is required to buy back leasehold or freehold interests granted under the Right to Buy in order to proceed with the scheme.  

“An increase in the amount of leaseholders, would increase the cost of the scheme and potentially could make it financially unviable,” according to the report.  

It was agreed that officers can send out initial demolition notices “on all secure tenants to suspend any current or future Right to Buy applications from completing”. 

The initial demolition notice will contain a statement that the landlord wants to demolish the property, the reasons for this, and the period during which the demolition will take place.

Dates for the scheme are not finalised yet, but once the demolition date is known the council can serve a final demolition notice which “renders all existing Right to Buy applications ineffective” and stops anyone from applying.

It was also agreed that any secure tenant who receives an offer of alternative accommodation and moves out in advance of the decant officially starting will receive a “discretionary payment equivalent to the statutory home loss payment and reasonable disbursement costs they would otherwise have been entitled to”.  

Until demolition begins, any homes that become vacant on the estate will be used as temporary accommodation. 

Another approved recommendation was to note “the potential requirement” to give priority to secure tenants and resident leaseholders of the estate when specialist or large properties become available.  

During his presentation to mayor and cabinet, Cllr Paul Bell said demolition work “is not going to commence for quite some time”.  

“I’m delighted that the work has continued despite the challenges of Covid-19,” he said, praising Lewisham Homes for working with residents as “equal partners”.  

When the report was written, the council had bought four of the 33 privately owned flats on the Achilles Street Estate and “terms have been agreed on a further two properties”.  

One business owner’s lease has ended, while the council is in “active negotiations with other commercial owners”.