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Residents protest at East End Homes redevelopment plans

Angry tenants and leaseholders of the Holland Estate in London’s Spitalfields are holding a protest on Saturday, 11th April against the proposed demolition and redevelopment of their estate by EastEnd Homes, the registered provider of social housing which owns and manages the estate.

The protest will be between 11am and 3pm on Saturday, 11th April outside the East End Homes office on Commercial Street where East End Homes are holding their second Open Day to “listen to” residents’ views on their demolition proposals. Residents are angry because the previous Open Day on Wednesday, 8th April saw them first attempt to stop residents entering their offices, claiming that they were unable to see so many of us, and then refuse to listen to our questions or views.

In March 2014, East End Homes served an “Initial Demolition Notice” on Brune, Bernard, Carter, Barnett and Wheler Houses. There are over 600 residents on the estate, all of whom will be affected by the outcome of this process. Over the past 12 months East End Homes have carried out a feasibility study, had plans drawn up for a high rise new development and put in a “Pre-Planning Application” with Tower Hamlets Council. This has all been done without any full, independent resident consultation.

Though they have said that “No decision has yet been taken” on whether to demolish, East End Homes argue that demolition and redevelopment is the only viable option for the estate because it would be too expensive to refurbish. But, in 2006 when the estate was transferred from Tower Hamlets Council to East End Homes, they signed a transfer document committing to carry out refurbishment of the blocks. There is also mention of a “works fee” of over £22 million that they would receive for this from Tower Hamlets Council and central government. The signed document is freely available on the Tower Hamlets Council website. The work as agreed has not been carried out. Residents have reached the end of their patience with East End Homes who are now using their own failings to make their argument for demolition.

Residents say their homes are well built and of solid construction, just in need of repairs and refurbishment. They say that their strong and vibrant mixed community cuts across ethnic, cultural, faith, age and class boundaries, with many families having lived on the estate over generations. It is part of the cultural heritage of the East End and it would seem uncaring to destroy it.

To date residents are not aware that EastEnd Homes has been able to offer tenants concrete guarantees that they would be able to return to the estate if demolition and redevelopment goes ahead. They have been offered an “Option to Return” to a new flat on the estate or to join the Tower Hamlets housing register. Leaseholders have been told that they would face bills of up to £90,000 if the blocks were to be refurbished rather than demolished, though they have not been provided with any evidence to justify the figure.

Though EastEnd Homes have repeatedly said that “No decision has been taken on whether to demolish or refurbish the blocks,” Tower Hamlets Council has confirmed to residents in writing that they have already entered pre-planning for their scheme. East End Homes staff denied this at the Open Day.

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