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Sunday, 20 March 2016

What Should be Scrutinised in South Kilburn?

It is widely suggested that the South Kilburn Regeneration needs more scrutiny, and this should be done in some sense by Brent Council's Scrutiny Committee.  No one seems to quite know how Brent might do this, through one of the two permanent committees recently set up or through an ad hoc body of some sort, but I think it hard to deny that some sort of public process is needed. 

As I pointed out some time ago a review of some sort is under way, but it all appears to be being done by officers behind closed doors.  I really would expect elected members to push themselves forward into this discussion. 

What should such a review cover?
To some extent, I would hope that question would be partly determined by the submissions to the review.  The South Kilburn regeneration feels at the moment a bit like something being done to South Kilburn rather than with South Kilburn.  In other words officers can give the impression that they are driving forward an agenda to redevelop the area at any cost.  I would like to see more of a debate from the people who live in South Kilburn and the Borough's elected representatives.

This should include the whole principle of what the regeneration is for.  The original plans for regeneration in South Kilburn date back many years, long before the housing situation became as grim as it is now.  I remember canvassing in South Kilburn back in 2003, and people even at time were fed up about the endless regeneration discussions that didn't seem to get anywhere.  The original scheme ideas were for a genuine mixed community in the Nye Bevan mould, this is becoming harder and harder to deliver as the present Tory government has redefined affordable housing as something that to many people is completely unaffordable.  As a result communities are being broken up and regeneration is increasingly a process of forcing poorer people out.

One useful function of a scrutiny investigation would be for the Council to investigate what barriers it can put in place to stop this "social cleansing" aspect.  This might include covenants on new housing, ownership structures that prevented the full sway of market forces (for instance, might co-operative forces help?) and a more active Council scrutiny of housing associations now that Housing Associaitions hav been nationalised by the Tory government as "public corporations". 

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