Private Developers Keep Out

From 1987 the Council tried to interest developers in a "barter deal" on the Walterton and Elgin estates, whereby they received half of the properties to sell on the open market in exchange for doing up the other half for council tenants. They hired consultants to organize the deal. It was costed at £65 million and would have involved forcing everyone to move.

The tenants responded with surprise visits to the offices of the Council and the developers. The Action Group organised coach trips, for which the older people in particular turned out in force. They were joined by short-life residents, local doctors and church leaders. The whole community supported the campaign and it attracted extensive media coverage. People prominent in the housing world also gave WEAG outspoken support.

The Private Developers

Regalian Properties PLC is a development company which spearheaded the 1980s drive towards the privatisation of council estates with its conversion of Wandsworth tower blocks for owner occupation. In 1987 Westminster Council invited Regalian to "express an interest" in a proposed barter deal for the Walterton and Elgin Estates.

Lee Goldstone, who was Managing Director, said:

"The Council hadn't made us aware of any local opposition, so you can imagine our surprise when the Walterton and Elgin Action Group turned up at our offices. We were taken aback to suddenly find 25 or 30 people, guitars, film cameras and all. Having been sung to by this amicable group it was resolved that a meeting would be held.
"Regalian prides itself on its responsibility and knowing when to walk away. We believe that we have to take into account the views of the community when considering an opportunity. Once it was established that the Action Group represented the views of the majority in the area we withdrew publicly and the rest is successful history. I think this experience encouraged us even further towards dialogue with community groups."

By the end of 1988 organised opposition from the residents had reduced the number of developers interested in the PMI 'barter' to one.

"In 1986 the Council tried to sell some Walterton houses to PCHA and another local housing association. We had a meeting with the Action Group and agreed not to get involved without the support of the residents. I remember saying 'Keep in touch'. When the Action Group came back they were definitely the underdog.

"There was great hostility in Westminster Council, but we genuinely felt that people were living in some of the worst housing conditions in the wealthiest part of the country and if there was a chance of fulfilling PCHA's objectives of improving their housing we wanted to be part of it."

 

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Updated January 23, 2011