Residents in west London who have been blocked for the past two years from using communal gardens on a multi-million pound development in west London have now been given access after a Guardian investigation.
Last month Guardian Cities reported that disabled children and former Grenfell residents are among social and affordable housing residents who have been denied access to a large garden, main entrances and the onsite car park at Westbourne Place in Maida Vale.
The developers of the site, Redrow, and the housing association Octavia, which run the affordable part of the site, blamed high service charges for the decision to restrict access to the garden. Octavia said at the time access would have involved expensive fees that would be set at the start by Redrow and could potentially increase over the years.
But the Guardian can reveal that residents have now been told that the new access rights will not involve an increase in the service charge, which raises questions about whether the issue was previously dealt with properly.
Ahmed Ali lives in a socially rented home on the site with his wife and two children. His three-year-old son has a life-limiting illness which requires constant hospital visits and Ali has been trying to get access to parking and the garden since he moved in.
He said: “I am disgusted at how we have been treated. We were told it was because of the service charge but now we have been told that access may not require paying anything extra. We requested a breakdown of the charges previously from Octavia and we were never given that information. We even offered to pay for access and nobody responded. We feel let down by Octavia, who are our housing provider and we feel didn’t do enough to investigate this.”
Last year the then chief executive of Octavia wrote to Ali stating that Octavia had made a “conscious decision not to ask for access to the garden … in order to keep service charges on this scheme down”.
Octavia later said that it would have liked everyone to have access but claimed it had never been on offer from Redrow. Two weeks ago Redrow said that it no longer owns the freehold and was therefore not responsible for what was happening on the site. This week Redrow attended a meeting with others, including Octavia and the local Labour MP Karen Buck – who had been helping residents who were trying to obtain access – to resolve the issue.
Buck insisted that the gardens and play areas must not be segregated, whatever the arrangements are for service charges.
“What is pretty well unarguable is that there is a profound cultural sense across the development sector that there are two tiers of residents,” she said. “There are issues when this involves access to facilities like gyms but there has to be a line, where there are gardens and play areas they have to be mixed. There cannot be two tiers of residents sharing a physical space.
“Housing associations are clearly not in a position of power when they … need to be development partners. Maybe there is a reluctance to push this, but that is a structural problem. I know that Octavia are a good housing association.”
Buck added that the recent reporting by the Guardian on the subject of segregated housing had helped to change the atmosphere in which such decisions were made.
“The mood has clearly changed on this over the course of this year, there is no question that the combination of stories about this and the mayor’s public position has changed the context in which these decisions are made.”
Octavia said in response: “This week we have received a commitment that our residents will be given full access to all of the gardens and they can apply for a permit to use the car park if they choose to. This is a good result and we are grateful that all of the parties involved were able to come together to move this issue forward.”
Following the meeting on Thursday, Redrow instructed the managing agents for the private residencies, Pinnacle Properties, to reprogram fobs so that all residents had access and also told them to allow all residents to apply for car parking spaces.
Redrow said that nobody senior was available for comment.
Source: Read Full Article