Dorchester Court, the 1930s former luxury flats on the brow of Herne Hill, have long been a blot on the landscape. Run down and neglected, Lambeth Council consider them to be a blight on the local community, and leaseholders and tenants have spent the last 20 years in despair at their state of disrepair.
Windows are falling out, balconies are falling down and the roofs are leaking, and that’s just the start!
Since 2015, the Court’s freeholder Manaquel has been working on a planning application which was intended to set out their plans to refurbish, but it turns out, their main focus is development.
They want to add eight town houses and 16 penthouses to the Court claiming they need to make money in order to pay for the repairs.
If Lambeth Council accept the plans – and it’s unlikely the application would have been made if they intended to reject them – then residents will face five years of misery so that the landlord can turn a profit.
Property baron Heinrich Feldman, who owns Manaquel and other property companies, is said by the Sunday Times Rich list to be worth £209 million.
He’s not short of cash so could easily find the £6 million needed to repair Dorchester Court. Instead, his plans are likely to increase his wealth.
Dorchester Court residents are not impressed. Ben Archard, treasurer for the Dorchester Court Residents’ Association said:
It’s no exaggeration to say that the estate has been run down over the last two decades. Now we are being told that in order to have it repaired, we will have to endure five years of building works before they even consider mending a balcony.
Even then, they are not guaranteeing any of the repairs will be done.
It turns out that a legally binding contract between Lambeth Council and Manaquel has not been drawn up.
To guarantee repairs Manaquel should have submitted a pre-agreed 106, from the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act, which states exactly what repairs they intend to do at the Court. Instead, they have simply listed the problems and promised the residents membership to a Car Club if they don’t object.
In addition, when they add the penthouses, they plan to evict all the tenants so that they can do the work. Tenants make up 70 per cent of the Court’s population and they will not be inviting them back.
A spokesperson from the Dorchester Court Tenant’s Union which has 80 members, said:
In the application it says they plan to evict us in order to do the work. We definitely won’t be invited back again, and we have no legal right to be rehoused.
It makes us feel really vulnerable and it’s horrible that landlords can let an estate like this get into such disrepair that they can evict everyone in order to repair.
Manaquel have owned the Court since 1959. The number of rental tenants has increased by over 50 per cent in the last 20 years and they receive £1.25 million annual rental revenue.
The spokesperson added: ‘What has happened to all those profits now Dorchester Court is majority rented?’
Objections to the development can be made by anyone, and local groups, including The Twentieth Century Society, a charity who campaigns for the preservation of outstanding buildings, the Herne Hill Society, a charity concerned with preserving buildings of interest in Herne Hill and residents in Dorchester Drive, the road directly behind Dorchester Court, have already pledged to object.
Objections to the planning application should be made by 8th May and can be made here.[Article by Sally Beck]
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