Council estates get the squeeze
Tenants ignored yet again in New Labour plan to demolish garages for
Plans were unveiled at the South East Area Committee earlier this month for the
redevelopment of fifteen garage sites in Oxford City, including seven areas of
One site, Crowberry Road, was the subject of a dispute at the Area Committee
back in January, after New Labour councillor Val Smith claimed she had consulted
residents there and had been told they wanted to see the garages ‘bulldozed’.
She then proposed that new housing be built on the site.
However, when the IWCA carried out a survey of Crowberry Road residents it
turned out that a majority were against the idea of demolishing the garages to
make way for houses, with most people preferring the garages to be renovated or
at least replaced with parking spaces. None of the residents could recall ever
having been consulted by Val Smith on the matter.
Now it appears that the false claims about consulting residents may have been
intended to help push through already-existing plans for new housing
developments. Any such plans would have been the responsibility of the Housing
portfolio holder, none other than Val Smith herself.
While the IWCA is in favour of new housing being built in the city, especially
social housing, we have concerns over the way in which the Labour administration
is trying to cram new accommodation into every available space on our council
These estates were originally built with a certain density of housing, including
space for garages, for a reason. Does New Labour feel that working class people
no longer need or deserve the same amount of space that they used to?
The IWCA is also concerned about the way in which residents’ views are being
completely ignored by the Labour-run council, as there are no plans to consult
residents about the proposed new developments.
However, due to the poor state of repair of many of the garages, some people may
well be glad to see them demolished. The Executive Board, in its report to the
area committees, states that the garages have become hard to let and
consequently have become uneconomical for the council to maintain and manage.
Yet, this year, under the guise of equalising the rents for both council tenants
and owner occupiers—in itself a reasonable aim—the Executive Board increased
rents for tenants by 17%. This can hardly have encouraged more people overall to
rent garages, although the lower charges for private renters may have provided a
In fact, some residents have even suggested that the garages may have been
deliberately allowed to fall into disrepair in order to make the plans to
demolish them appear more acceptable.
We will, perhaps, never know if there is any truth in this, but what is clear is
that Val Smith and her New Labour Colleagues don’t intend to let the
considerations of Oxford’s working class get in the way of their plans for new
Leys Independent, issue 20, December 2003