‘Social cleansing’ plan for Sutton Estate in Chelsea dealt major blow

© Copyright Danny P Robinson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence BY-SA 2.0
The Sutton Estate. Photograph: Danny P. Robinson (Licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence BY-SA 2.0)

Plans by one of the country’s biggest housing associations to knock down a century-old estate for low income Londoners and redevelop it with more than one hundred luxury private homes have been dealt a major blow as planning officers recommended rejecting the scheme.

Affinity Sutton Homes applied to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) to demolish much of the Sutton Estate, which is located in one of the capital’s most exclusive enclaves.

Opponents have likened Affinity’s plans to “social cleansing” and say the housing association has cynically opted to sell off almost half of the estate for multi-million pound homes which would be likely to net it a profit of more than £200 million.

As was the case with the campaign to protect tenants of the New Era Estate in Hoxton, Hackney, the future of the Sutton Estate’s inhabitants has become something of a cause celebre, with Eddie Izzard, John Simpson, Felicity Kendal and MP Tom Watson among those objecting to the plans.

“What is happening here in Kensington and Chelsea is the tip of the iceberg of a housing crisis in London – where the rich are pushing out the poor, with councils sitting by and doing nothing,” Ian Henderson from the Chelsea Association of Tenants wrote in a petition to Town Hall planning director Graham Stallwood.

Campaign group SOS Save Our Sutton has said the estate should be refurbished rather than rebuilt, adding: “We do not want to lose social housing flats for people who cannot afford private housing, and we need the sheltered housing provided on the estate.”

The homes’ fate will be decided at a planning committee meeting a week today.

Meeting papers on the council’s website reveal hundreds of official objections were lodged during a consultation period that has now ended.

In a report to the planning committee, RBKC officers said their “reasons for refusal” included the net loss of social rented housing, adding that Affinity’s plan “fails to demonstrate that the maximum reasonable amount of affordable housing is being provided”.

They also cited architectural concerns.

If the council does decide to reject Affinity’s plans, the housing association could still potentially appeal the decision.

Affinity has previously said its “core aim” is securing the future of social housing in Chelsea.

The housing association’s spokesperson said today: “We are deeply disappointed that RBKC officers have recommended to the planning committee that it refuses our proposals to redevelop the Sutton Estate, Chelsea, given the  impact on our residents, the collaborative approach we have taken with officers and the length of time involved.

“Our application is based on two key principles – retaining social housing in Chelsea and  providing our residents with good quality homes, and is the culmination of many years of extensive collaboration with council officers.

“If the plans are approved, all our residents will remain on the estate, retain their security of tenure and will continue to pay a social rent for their property. The residents would only be required to move once – straight into their new home.

“We await the outcome of the planning committee next Tuesday and trust that it will halt the uncertainty around our residents’ homes and their future.”

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