Regeneration through community and Council collaboration – Lambeth Council

Posted on 19th May, 2014

London Borough of Lambeth is aiming to put local people in charge of regeneration partnerships to make sure they deliver the things local communities really want and need rather than serving the needs of developers. One of the examples of this is Somerleyton Road regeneration, which is being carried out through community and Council collaboration.

London desperately needs to build more homes. It seems strange then, that so many regeneration projects that promise new homes and jobs are so often met with suspicion, hostility, and vocal opposition from local communities in London.  Why?  Because too often new schemes don’t deliver the things that local people need.  If councils are serious about helping to deliver a step-change in the supply of new housing, then we need to give serious thought to changing how we bring forward developments – and we need to give communities more power to shape what they really want.

In Lambeth we are pioneering co-operative approaches to delivering public services, sharing power because we believe that by working with the community we can deliver better outcomes at a lower cost.  Nowhere is this more important than in our co-operative approach to the regeneration that will deliver the jobs and homes that people need.

We have a good example in Brixton – an exciting, vibrant, and diverse town centre with a growing local economy.   Since the new Council administration was formed in 2006, Brixton has benefited from positive changes including better public spaces and improved security from better lighting.  New development here can provide much-needed new housing and more jobs in the next few years – but many local people are concerned that the wrong kind of development could also threaten Brixton’s much-loved character and the unique qualities that make it such a special place.

So how is a co-operative council meeting this challenge? By putting local people in the driving seat of regeneration, with the opportunity to decide what our community really needs, and sharing the power they need to deliver it.  We’ve already worked with local people to decide together the new planning policies that will shape development in Brixton, and now we’re taking the principle of working together even further by sharing power on a real life scheme.

Somerleyton Road is partly vacant site in central Brixton, and has long been earmarked as an area in need of regeneration.  Local people wanted to know how the council would develop it, and set up Brixton Green – a registered mutual society, owned and run by over a thousand local people – to lobby for a greater say in the area’s future.  Lambeth Council’s positive response has led to a unique partnership between the council, Brixton Green, and the Ovalhouse Theatre, a radical theatre and pioneering youth arts organisation.  Instead of the council taking all the decisions on its own, local people will lead the  development of Somerleyton Road every step of the way, delivering 300 new homes, a new theatre, and cultural, commercial, and community space.

Hundreds of local people took part in a community-wide conversation to tell the council clearly what they need: homes they can afford and that won’t be lost to Right To Buy, jobs and training, and a chance to build a street with a community feel.  Lambeth is involving local people in all the decisions that will achieve these things.  Local people have a myriad of ways to get involved through different working groups that are looking at design, the level and type of housing, and how community can retain control of the finished development in the long-term.

By sharing responsibility for Somerleyton Road we’re helping local people understand the realities that shape how developments come forward, including the need to make some compromises to ensure it is affordable. But we’re also tapping into a huge reservoir of knowledge, passion, and professional expertise that exists in our community that would otherwise be overlooked, and that is already resulting in exciting and radical solutions.

To discuss the Somerleyton Road regeneration project, please get in touch with Neil Vokes, Project Manager in Planning, Regeneration and Enterprise, who can be reached at NVokes@lambeth.gov.uk.