, 15 September 2016, Tags:
This letter was published in 15th September 2016 edition of local Guardian newspapers.
As someone who grew up in Hainault in the late seventies and early eighties, the ongoing case of the Oakfields Playing Fields site is of particular interest to me. Back then, as a resident of Dryden Close, we also had playing fields behind our garden, which were redeveloped and turned into the Wickets Way housing complex, creating a loss of both facilities and open space.
This was done against a backdrop of widespread dereliction in Ilford Town centre. The abandonment of properties there was for complex issues, mostly related to the town’s redevelopment which took almost a decade to get underway. During that time, properties lay empty while the council pontificated, mused and pondered over the precise nature of the redevelopment. Squatters were forcibly evicted, so keen were Redbridge Council to keep long rows of homes remaining empty. Short term rents or similar projects were never properly considered.
I am not trying to draw direct parallels between that period and the present day – I think that many lessons have been learned since. However, it seems clear that the imagination shown by the council in addressing the housing crisis is still not all it could be. To give just one example, there are many empty flats above shops in Ilford, all of which could be brought back into use if the council chose to exercise its full powers. Compulsory purchase orders are within the power of councils where empty properties are concerned, but seldom actually delivered in the Redbridge area – the net result is the somewhat questionable approach of building huge developments on Green Belt land (such as Oakfields) rather than taking a more considered, piecemeal approach over a longer period of time.
I’ve grown up as part of the generation affected by the housing crisis in the South East and London, and know only too well how serious it is on a direct, personal level. However, we need constantly explore our options at all times – not respond in a panic and create a brick desert.
Redbridge resident and Waltham Forest & Redbridge Green Party member