How Lewisham Homes is making sure residents remain at the centre of development plans on the Achilles Street estate in New Cross
Lewisham Homes has been consulting with residents on the Achilles Street estate in New Cross on behalf of Lewisham Council to find the best way to build new council-owned homes for social rent. From the beginning, the project has focused on making sure residents are involved in shaping any decisions.
In November 2019, the proposal to completely redevelop the estate was backed by 73% of eligible residents in the first ballot of its kind to take place in the borough. Since then, Lewisham Homes has been working with the community to select an architect to develop designs. We have been providing training to resident representatives so that they can fully participate in the process of procurement, design development, social value monitoring and more.
We first invited residents to put themselves forward as Community Design and Communication Champions. They were given training in procurement, decision making, committee skills and architectural design development by independent consultant specialists. Over the course of two months, with guidance from the Lewisham Homes team, the Champions also drew up terms of reference for the creation of a Resident Streering Group (RSG) to take the plans forward and oversee the project to completion.
Our plans were temporarily thrown into uncertainty by the lockdown and subsequent restrictions, but it was crucial not to lose momentum. The training sessions changed from meeting in a community venue to sessions online, with pre-training information packs sent by post.
The RSG was formed in June 2020 following an application and interview process, advertised in the estate newsletter. The RSG candidates attended an open meeting to state their reasons for wanting to be a member of the RSG, which all Achilles Street residents were invited to attend and vote for their preferred candidates.
The RSG currently has six members, totaling 150 years of living on the estate, and includes tenants, leaseholders and a youth representative. They have given their own time, over several weeks, to attend further online training workshops to develop their understanding of the rules for appointing consultants, council decision making processes, conflict management, inclusive teamwork, and understanding housing jargon. Training on how to read architectural plans was provided by an architect supported by the Stephen Lawrence Trust.
The group has gone on to procure an independent chair, and attended secretary and committee skills training provided by tenant engagement experts TPAS, and arranged online meetings with steering groups from other regeneration estates in London to hear their experiences and lessons learnt.
The purpose is to build capacity to support community cohesion, collaboration and sustainable communities. The RSG will remain a voice and an influence for residents, leaseholders, and local businesses to ensure the regeneration meets the needs and priorities of the community.
A positive side effect of stepping up digital engagement is greater interest from young residents, who are often unheard voices on the estate. This includes an animation project where they were trained by an animator and created a mini film of what is important to them about the development. This will be shown to the architects, community and Young Mayor in a presentation soon.
Lewisham Homes is committed to involving all residents, and the RSG and Champions will continue to play a role in setting up workshops for anyone on the estate to attend, and have already collaborated with Lewisham Homes to develop a feedback and information hub on the Commonplace platform.
Thanking our development department colleagues Chantelle Barker (head of new initiatives) and Alicia Lidbury (community engagement manager), one member of the RSG said: ‘I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the both of you, and you have already done so much for me inspiration wise. I really am looking forward to the next phase.’
For more information, email newinitiatives@lewishamhomes. org.uk
The Achilles Street estate was identified as suitable for regeneration in 2016, with a plan put forward by the council to demolish the current buildings and build new homes on the site.
The proposal was backed by 73% of eligible residents in the first ballot to take place in the borough under rules brought in by the Greater London Authority in 2018 to ensure that residents have a meaningful say in regeneration schemes which require demolition.
The ballot followed an extensive consultation process which included weekly resident engagement meetings. Overall, 92% of eligible residents cast their vote.
The new homes will be built by the council and its housing company, Lewisham Homes, to modern energy efficient and safety standards. The development will also give residents improved access to public and green spaces with communal gardens or balconies.