London social housing campaigner continues to fight after leaving home | Social housing

Bulldozers will soon be on their way to the south London council flat that was Aysen Dennis’ home for 30 years. After waging a bitter battle against the municipality and property developers, claiming that their plans to fill much of her estate with private residences amounted to “social cleansing,” she finally moved out.

Dennis, 65, has been moved to a swanky new flat in a complex bought by Southwark council. She claims she paid £690,000 for her ninth-floor flat with panoramic park views – and is convinced it was an attempt to silence her ahead of a legal challenge.

If it did, it didn’t work.

On Tuesday morning, Dennis will be in the High Court continuing his fight against the council and housing association Notting Hill Genesis, over their attempts to tweak an application for planning permission for the redevelopment of the Aylesbury Estate. As she is still a resident, although in one of the new buildings, her case remains.

“Nothing will stop me until I die,” she said. “Even after this trial, I’m going to take him wherever it takes me.” I will not give up. I won’t stop fighting.

Dennis, who initially refused to leave his home and even opened his apartment for a anti-gentrification exhibitionsees the trial as part of a wider attempt to stop councils and developers making life harder for council tenants in central London.

The second phase of the Aylesbury Estate redevelopment, which the case focuses on, is more controversial, as it proposed a reduction in social rented housing in favor of shared ownership and privatization of at least 50%.

Tuesday’s legal challenge will argue that the council was wrong to grant an application to change the wording of the original planning permission in order to regenerate the estate, which once housed 2,000 social homes. The change in language makes it easier to present new projects that differ from the original master plan.

Lawyers say those who were forced to leave their homes were not consulted on plans different from the initial authorization. Gains made by residents – such as limiting building heights to 20 stories to let light into the area – could be lost with a proposed 25-story, all-private tower.

“It’s a political choice they’re making because they don’t want us to occupy a Zone 1 area next to the park,” Dennis said. “We are not considered human beings. We are just throwaways when it comes to tenants of working class ethnic minority councils. We are disposable objects in their eyes. And that’s what makes me so angry.

The block she currently lives in was bought by Southwark in 2020 for £193 million. “They could have used the money to renovate our estate,” she said. “We weren’t asking for much.”

Among the packing boxes for his new apartment is a red flag bearing the slogan: “Social housing, not social cleansing.”

She hates the trendy new cafes springing up around her and says “thousands” of those who made up the original Aylesbury Estate community have been displaced.

Alexandra Goldenberg, Dennis’ lawyer at the Public Interest Law Centre, said: “We hope this case demonstrates that it is worth seeking justice and accountability against those who seek to develop public land such as housing developments. .

“It’s always powerful when those subject to regeneration, and even the negative side effects of gentrification, have the power to participate in multi-million pound developments. »

Dennis was studying and working in catering when she moved to the Aylesbury estate in 1993. She came to the UK as a young woman from Turkey, where she faced political difficulties as a socialist declared, and settled down after marrying a British man.

Dennis shared the two-bedroom apartment with his sister, who died five years ago and was devastated to leave. “I collected 30 years of memories and lost my sister in that house,” she said.

Her move was two weeks ago and she said it was a wrench. “I cried all day. Packing was the hardest thing to do.

A spokesperson for Notting Hill Genesis said: “As a not-for-profit housing provider, we are committed to providing homes that Londoners can afford, whatever their personal circumstances, and creating places where they can feel at home and communities of which they can feel a part. and engaged with.

“We are very proud of our plans to regenerate Aylesbury Estate. Replacing old, inefficient homes with warm, safe, high-quality housing in a vibrant, thriving community with quality public spaces, top-notch facilities and improved play and sports areas will benefit current residents and future.

Southwark Council said it had completed more than 220 social homes on the Aylesbury estate and had more than 350 in progress. She said it had more new social housing than any other local authority in the country.

Helen Dennis, Southwark Council’s cabinet member for new homes and sustainable development, said: “We are delighted that residents are happy with their new homes on the Aylesbury Estate.

“Every one of them deserves to have a home they can be proud of and which meets the council’s high standards. “That’s why it’s so important to replace homes that were poorly built in the 1960s and 1970s and are reaching the end of their lifespan.”

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