Housing

Council house campaigner wins landmark High Court case against plan to demolish London estate

Aysen Dennis staged a one-woman protest against the gentrification of her London estate. Now she's beaten the developers in court

Aylesbury estate

Aysen Dennis in her flat. Photo: Andy Parsons

A council house campaigner fighting against a controversial estate regeneration scheme has won a landmark High Court case, claiming it is “back to the drawing board” for developers.

Aysen Dennis was one of the last residents to remain in her block in London’s Aylesbury Estate, staging a one-woman protest against plans to knock it down and replace it with new flats.

Dennis eventually left her home in November 2023, accusing the council of “social cleansing”, but not before taking Southwark Council and developers Notting Hill Genesis to the High Court.

Today (17 January), the Fight4Aylesbury campaign shared news of her victory, and said Southwark Council must “refurbish the estate and keep it as council housing”.

Aysen Dennis challenged the developers and the council on plans to tweak the original planning permission for the project. The redevelopment would have seen the estate demolished and rebuilt.

At one time, the Aylesbury Estate was home to over 2,000 council houses, but the fresh plans would see it contain just 804 socially rented properties. Newly-elected prime minister Tony Blair decided to make his first speech on the estate, pledging to transform the fortunes of residents.

Its redevelopment was originally conceived in 2005, when Southwark Council decided refurbishing the flats would not be worth it.

Demolition began in 2010, with Dennis claiming the scheme amounted to social cleansing.

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In May 2023, The Big Issue visited as Dennis opened up her flat as an exhibition detailing the struggle against the gentrification of the estate. At that point, she estimated just 30 people remained in the 250 flats in her block.

By November, she had moved out of her flat, and into a new flat on the estate, bought back by Southwark Council.

Southwark Council’s cabinet member for new homes and sustainable development said they would be reviewing the High Court’s judgement claiming it rested on a highly technical planning argument that ”previously had no precedence in law”.

”It is disappointing that this decision will mean delays to building new homes for residents, but our plans to replace the original homes that were badly built in the 60s are still in train,” said councillor Helen Dennis.

“We want to reassure Aylesbury residents that we will continue working with them to build new homes for them to move to.

”The current phase on the Aylesbury will deliver over 580 brand new council homes at traditional social rents, as well as a new medical centre, extra care facility and a new library that just opened. This is the largest single council house build project in the country and will enable all residents who need to move due to the redevelopment of the estate to remain on the estate in a high-quality new home.”

A Notting Hill Genesis spokesperson said: “While we are disappointed by the court’s decision to uphold this Judicial Review in relation to the legal technical matter in question, the outline permission for the Aylesbury regeneration remains in place, as does our commitment to delivering the high-quality affordable housing and spaces so needed in this area.  We will consider our options regarding this decision, while continuing to work with Southwark Council to ensure we can best meet the needs of the community as we complete this ambitious project.

“This is bad news for residents as it delays the desperately needed construction of brand new, high-quality homes. We are very pleased that some tenants, including the complainant in this case, have already been able to move into the quality, safe, energy-efficient homes being built here, but it is disappointing that others will now be deprived of that same opportunity for the foreseeable future.

“The existing estate remains in desperate need of regeneration so individuals and families can enjoy homes fit for modern life, and we will carry on our vital work so we can make that happen as quickly as possible and improve the lives of thousands of people on the estate.”

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