Westminster Plans to Sell the Estate

In 1986, with the GLC set for abolition, responsibility for major works as well as daily maintenance passed to Westminster Council. In great secrecy, without any warning to the residents, the Council drew up a scheme to sell the estates to private developers. The developers planned to demolish the Walterton Estate and rebuild at twice the density. About 350 houses, let as about 900 units, would become 1800, while one of the Elgin towers would become an hotel.

The Campaign to Save the Estate

The news of the Council's planned to sell off the estates leaked out and residents responded swiftly by forming the Walterton and Elgin Action Group (WEAG). With just five days notice, more than 200 tenants attended a meeting of the Council Housing Committee in Seymour Hall to demand that the Council withdrew its plans. The Council responded by claiming it wanted to "create a new community" on the estate.

Residents insisted that they were the community, so their needs and wishes should take priority. They drew up their own plan to save the homes for local people in need of rented housing. They collected petitions signed by over 1,100 people in support of their campaign. Every Housing Committee for three years was lobbied by residents, sometimes well over 100 strong. Despite this the Council persisted with ever more complex schemes.

A A A demonstration against the Council plans

The Council accused the Action Group of being politically motivated and yet at the same time the Council itself had a second, hidden agenda - to win the 1990 Borough Council elections by manipulating the electorate. The City would sell the estates to a private developer. He would build for sale and so change the local voting patterns. The new properties would bring in people with enough money to buy, instead of rent, and who would be more likely to vote Conservative. This policy was carried out particularly in marginal wards. The ruling group on the Council never admitted to this policy, talking instead of 'Building Stable Communities'.

 

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Updated January 29, 2011