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Founder’s Place "nightmare": tenants "let down" by hospital charity

London SE1 website team

A row has broken out between tenants of Canterbury House and Stangate and their landlords Guy's and St Thomas' Charity over the Founder's Place development.

Stangate and Canterbury House
Stangate (left) and Canterbury House seen from Lambeth Palace Road

Canterbury House and Stangate are due to be demolished if the Founder's Place scheme is approved by Lambeth Council. They stand on the site east of St Thomas' Hospital and north of Archbishop's Park. The major mixed-use development is to include key worker housing and a new Ronald McDonald House for families of patients at the Evelina Children's Hospital. More than 300 private flats will help to fund the scheme.

The existing tenants will be re-housed, but say they feel "cut out" of the process and "let down" by the Guy's and St Thomas' Charity.

Lambeth Council's planning applications commuittee is due to consider the scheme for a third time on Thursday 27 April following two previous deferrals.

"We are not against the redevelopment of the area and accept that change will bring benefits," says Martin McCool, chair of the Tenants' Association. "Nor are we against the hospital providing key worker units and accommodation for families of patients. But we have been continually cut out of the development process, and feel let down by the [Charity], who are our landlord."

These criticisms are rejected by the Guy's and St Thomas' Charity. In a statement the Charity told us that the 36 tenants had been consulted since 2001: "Key decisions have been made as a direct result of tenants' comments. For example, early plans placed the tenants' flats near the railway lines. The tenants asked for the new flats to be placed nearer to the Lambeth Palace Road and this was agreed to meet their wishes."

The tenants' association describes the Founder's Place proposal as "a real-life nightmare". This would be the second compulsory move for many and tenants' representatives say that elderly residents are dreading the prospect of living in a building site for many years to come.

The site seen from the London Eye

The TA says that residents were originally offered 'like-for-like' re-housing. But as the plans evolved, they claim that the planned Canterbury House reprovision has been "shoehorned" in between high rise apartments to the north, and further blocks to the south, at a cost to the tenants' privacy, outlook and natural daylight.

The Charity insists that the new accommodation will be of a "very high standard" and will be equipped to "21st century standards". The statement continued: "The Charity has agreed to provide all existing tenants who currently have direct views over the park with a flat with a park view in the new development.

"In 2003 the Charity appointed Genesis/Sutherland Housing Association to manage the existing flats and to liaise with all tenants about the move to new flats. If any tenant doesn't wish to live in Founder's Place, the Housing Association will help provide alternative accommodation on an individual basis."

The TA has been supported in its objections by Kate Hoey MP, who spoke at the planning applications committee as an objector to the development. The TA is also being advised by Planning Aid for London on the planning and legal issues surrounding the application.

The tenants' complaints aren't the only controversy surrounding Founder's Place: the development will adjoin the northern edge of Archbishop's Park, and the original plans which were due to be considered by the planning applications committee last November involved major pruning of the line of 106-year-old trees which form the boundary of the park.

In response to local residents' concerns and changes in British Standards, the Charity presented revised plans which moved the development three metres further back from the park, but added extra storeys to the new buildings to compensate.

Kate Hoey has also criticised the demolition of the Holy Trinity Centre, the former school building in Carlisle Lane which now houses the Kagyu Samye Dzong Tibetan Buddhist centre. The centre is planning to relocate to the former Manor Baths in Walworth. Lama Zangmo and Ani Paltso are inviting local residents to visit their "peaceful and secluded dwelling" while it is still there.

Guy's and St Thomas' Charity is keen to stress the benefits of the development, including 400 units of key worker accommodation, a 122-place day nursery for the children of staff who work for the hospital, a temporary home for the families of very sick children being treated at the Evelina Children's Hospital, a primary care health facility for local people and overnight accommodation for patients who require outpatient investigations at St Thomas'.

The Charity also points to the £2.3 million Section 106 agreement which it says will offer significant improvements to Archbishop's Park, the railway arches and the neighbourhood.

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