Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Something Miraculous

In 1970 cars travelling along the A406 in North London would have been Ford Cortinas Hillman Minxs and Morris Minors. Presumably there were too many of them because it was in that year that the Department of Transport decided the road should be widened. In preparation they bought 600 houses on either side through compulsory purchase orders and blight orders… but then nothing. For almost forty years successive government departments and agencies dithered and prevaricated without managing to make any decisions on what, when, how, and even if road widening should take place. Nevertheless the occupants of the 600 houses were moved out and about 200 of the homes were demolished. The other 400 homes descended into an entirely self-created limbo state of vacancy, squatting, arson and dereliction.

This week something miraculous happened. Transport for London, the current owners of the homes, agreed to hand them over to Notting Hill Housing Trust, and the Homes and Communities Agency agreed to pay for their refurbishment. In three years time when the refurbishment is due to be complete, this absurd, painful, and appalling saga should finally be at an end.

Of course this miraculous event didn’t just drop out of the air. Many people have worked incredibly hard to make it happen. Particular credit should go to The Bowes and Telford Community Action group who have proved that communities really can make thing happen.
These houses have been a Bette Noir of the Empty Homes Agency for as long as we have been in existence. It was early last year that we persuaded the then newly selected candidate for London Mayor Boris Johnson to make a manifesto commitment to tackle this long-standing problem. He did, and he and his housing team should also take credit for the best news on this stretch of road for 39 years.

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