In the wake of the Gentrification Project launch, we speak toBecky Weston, a former PILC client and campaigner from Save Brownswell Greenin Barnet who successfully stopped plans of the demolition of her home and loss of community greenspace on her estate. We asked Becky what advice she would give to anyone who is in a similar position.
Becky, when you learned about plans to infill on the green space what action did you take?
I immediately got in touch with my local community. I created leaflets about my concerns with the proposed regeneration, and put them through doors of those who would be affected. I got a lot of feedback – 99% of those I spoke to didn’t know about the regeneration. I quickly set up a WhatsApp group and registered a community interest group via email. A lot of people in the community became involved across all 3 sites which made up the ‘Grange Estate redevelopment.’ We became the ‘Save Brownswell Green‘ campaign.
We collectively researched registering the threatened greenspace as a community asset, and tried to collate other local information we thought was relevant, such as information from council meetings. We attended council meetings, and held campaign meetings in our homes. We started an online petition which got well over 1,000 signatures. We also contacted local media to make them aware of what was happening and put pressure on the council. We also reached out to the Public Interest Law Centre to see if we could launch a legal challenge. This was via a community resident on our collective WhatsApp group.
What propelled you to take this action?
I think everyone was angry – we literally didn’t know anything (about the plans) until I received an email from the housing office saying they were demolishing my home and two others (as well as infilling on the greenspace on the estate).
Myself and the other two residents didn’t want to lose our homes – so we had a slightly different agenda of both keeping our houses and saving the greenspace. But we focused on the greenspace issue, to get as much resident opposition to the plans as possible.
We were also spurred on by the council being deceitful from start to finish. From the amount of floors the proposed buildings would have to the level of engagement and consultation they said they had completed, the council lied.
What was useful about instructing PILC on the case?
They wrote letters to the council, when they were reluctant to reply to residents. They got us information and the council were forced to listen to our arguments. They explained to us clearly what our options and rights were. They talked to us with respect.
They came to the estate and saw the issues with their own eyes, two or three times. I think face-to-face is important as you can only do so much over email and phone. So we appreciated this. They advised us on a lot of things, but did not tell us what to do or overpower us with legal information. If we asked a question, they always tried to find the answer for us.
What would you say to any other residents across London and beyond in a similar situation?
Talk to your community. Don’t be afraid to put a leaflet through the door and put a phone number on it!
Engage with people and don’t think you can fight the battle alone. This is time-consuming and a long-drawn out process. I’d go to bed dreaming about parking spaces!
Get a team together and understand what you’re fighting for. Set-up a WhatsApp group and email. Work together and understand that everybody is fighting for the same thing.
Get in touch with local councillors via email to ask them to fight alongside the community and come to meetings, etc.
Get in touch with a law centre/firm early on. We got in touch with PILC at quite an early stage in our campaign. This was useful as discussions with PILC allowed us to focus on the information we needed to collate and what key issues we should campaign on at an early stage of redevelopment plans.
Public Interest Law Centre 244-254 Cambridge Heath Road