A Havering Councillor has this week written an open letter to the director of social housing landlord, Clarion, after revelations have come to light regarding the Sutton Estate in Kensington and Chelsea borough.
The estate has 159 empty flats which were emptied out last year because the company who owns them, Affinty Sutton, part of the Clarion Group, want to demolish the building and partly replace the site with private accommodation.
Cllr Michael Deon Burton has reacted angrily to the news, arguing the flats, located in the same borough as Grenfell Tower, could house survivors but are lying empty because the owners want to replace them with profit -making flats.
Cllr Deon Burton, Deputy Leader of the Independent Residents’ Group, said: “If this multi-million pound property developer, who also happens to be the landlord of Rainham’s notorious Orchard Village, acts like this in the face of those whom lost so much because of the Grenfell inferno, how will they treat my local residents whom look to them for safety and security in the event of an emergency.”
A fire ripped through the 24 storeys of Grenfell Tower on June 14, killing at least 80 and leaving scores of people without a home. Most are still living in hotels or B&Bs and the council says it could take five years to buy enough homes for them all.
In the letter, Cllr Deon Burton asks for a response to the claims that while grieving families from the Grenfell tragedy are left without fixed homes or suitable accommodation, Clarion have mothballed and intend to destroy useable housing.
Their plan included knocking down 383 homes, and replacing them with 237 social rent flats, and more than 100 private flats to be sold at profit.
Although this plan was rejected several months ago by Kensington and Chelsea Council, who said the net loss of social housing, was too great, Cllr Deon
Burton claims that Affinity Sutton had already started moving residents
out in anticipation of the application.
He also said, last year, workmen smashed windows, doors and sinks at the estate, making the flats uninhabitable.
Ian Henderson, who used to live in the estate, says these flats could be refreshed ready for Grenfell residents within a month.
He told LBC: “There are currently 159 empty flats. I think the crying shame was, when they moved all these people out, instead of just leaving the flats as they were they sent workmen in to cut off the electric, cut off the gas, open the water pipes, smash the front door windows smash the toilets, smash the sinks, to allow them to call these properties void, when they’re not void at all.”
Affinity Sutton, also speaking to LBC, said: “The flats were deemed unfit for purpose a few years ago. Sending in workmen is not out of the ordinary in order to stop squatters.”
Affinity Sutton also insists the private flats are necessary to pay for the social properties and has since applied to appeal the decision taken by the council to reject their development plans.
But the number 159 is particularly bitter to Ian and the other residents campaigning to save these blocks, because that is one more than the number of households needing social homes after the Grenfell fire.
Ian added: “They’re living in hotels. We’d like to see these buildings brought back into use, we’d like the people of Grenfell come here, so at least they are all together.
“That would give the council time to find them proper properties, back in the north of the borough, where these people want to live.”
There is now a public inquiry and locals have until 18th August to lodge their complaints or support of the plans.