Young leaders from Advocacy Academy spreading the word about CLTs at Windrush Square in Brixton, March 2017.
Christchurch Road, Lambeth
Status: Agreement on site
Size: 31 homes (1, 2 and 3-bedrooms)
We are working to create 31 genuinely affordable homes on the corner of Christchurch Road and Brixton Hill in Lambeth. This project is the result of a long campaign by local organisations and an intensive community-led design process, and will also include a community hall and publicly accessible garden for local people.
Find more information about the designs for this project in our latest Annual Report.
We are holding regular community engagement events and working toward submitting a planning application in 2023. Development funding from the Greater London Authority is in place and discussions are ongoing with Transport for London regarding the land transfer.
If you would like to get involved, please get in touch via email: email@example.com.
Young campaigners outside the Christchurch Road site, March 2017.
The campaign for affordable community-led housing started in 2015 by young people from youth organisation The Advocacy Academy. These young leaders met with community organisers from Citizens UK and started working alongside leaders from local churches, schools, a synagogue and a mosque. In 2016, the young advocates and Lambeth Citizens met with Councillor Matthew Bennett, then Cabinet Leader for Housing, and discussed with him how a community land trust in the area would help fulfill the urgent need for permanently and genuinely affordable housing in the borough. In March 2017, Lambeth Citizens invited Councillor Bennett and the then Leader of Lambeth Council Lib Peck to a Housing Assembly. After hearing testimonies about how the lack of decent housing was affecting people’s lives, Councillor Peck agreed to work with Lambeth Citizens to find a community land trust site in the borough. The group also took Lambeth councillors on a tour of St Clements, showing them how London CLT was already improving lives with well-built, affordable homes; and held an engagement event in Brixton to explain CLTs to the public and canvass support.
Left: Young campaigners speaking about the need for affordable housing at a Lambeth Citizens election assembly, March 2017. Right: Community briefing event, November 2018.
The next step was to seek out a suitable site in the area, and the growing team of local campaigners held community walks, looking out for land which might be available. One of the sites we found was a patch of scrubland on Brixton Hill, behind a fence and covered with litter and brambles, but looking promising. Research revealed that it was owned by Transport for London. After the Second World War, it had been the site of pre-fab houses to accommodate people who had lost their homes in the Blitz, but it had lain empty and unused for many years.
In November 2017, we participated in a Housing Assembly with London's Deputy Mayor for Housing James Murray, together with Citizens UK members from across the capital. Alongside demands about rent and about levels of affordable housing on new developments, we asked him to support ‘a presumption in favour of community land trusts on all Greater London Authority and Transport for London owned small sites’ starting with three small Transport for London sites including Brixton Hill the one! James Murray said yes.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced in February 2018 that the site would be put out to tender for community-led housing, as a part of the newly launched 'Small Sites, Small Builders' programme. This was an amazing opportunity to provide homes for over 80 people, as well as opening up much-needed green space for the local community to enjoy.
Campaigners from across the community worked together with London CLT to write a bid for a community land trust on the site and discuss what sort of homes and buildings people would like to see built. On 22 March 2018, we joined with campaigners from Shadwell Citizens to gather at City Hall and hand in both of our bids for community land trust developments.
Success came in June 2018 when our bid was successful, following a recommitment from Lambeth Council Leader Lib Peck to support the campaign at a Lambeth Citizens Assembly in April. Since then we've been working with Transport for London and the Greater London Authority to progress the project.
Then came the difficult task of choosing our architect. The campaign team, which then had become the Christchurch Road Community Steering Group, shortlisted four architects whom we were confident could work with us to design the homes. In March 2019, we held a Choose the Architect event in a church close to the site. Lambeth residents came and spoke to the architects, asked questions, and then voted for which firm to work with. The winner, by a clear margin, was RCKa.
Choose the Architect event, March 2019.
Community-led Design Process
Since 2019, Community Steering Group have worked closely with RCKa and London CLT to design plans for the Christchurch Road site, involving regular community engagement events, workshops and campaigning to ensure continued Council support for the project.
The challenges of the pandemic that started in 2020 compounded the project's struggle to get a viable funding arrangement with the Greater London Authority and to work effectively with Lambeth Council. The initial political support for affordable community-led homes on the site was hampered by tricky planning issues and a lack of support from the council and Transport for London.
But the team has kept the momentum up, holding political actions to collect signatures of support from local people and reach out to more people to get involved in both the political side of the project, as well as the design process.
We held our first community engagement event in January 2022, following a door-knocking campaign, to gather feedback about the proposed plans and understand local people's priorities for the development of the site. More events were organised throughout 2022 to involve different organisations in the area and feed in to the design process as plans evolved.
The Community Steering Group campaigned and worked hard to get to a place where now the project is moving forward, and we are working toward submitting a planning application in 2023.
"Advocating for the needs of the community in our conversations with our architects and landscape architects was our number one priority. It’s important that the design is disarming to passers-by, so as to not have it assumed to be another ‘luxury’ development created for young professionals and investors. Above all, we’ve been clear that we should be challenging Lambeth Council’s standard guidance and push for more 3- and 4-bed homes to cater to the needs of families, whose needs are not being met by many new developments in the area which focus on 1- and 2-bed homes, although there’s also a viability aspect to be considered here... Perhaps the biggest highlight was our community outreach event; it was a gratifying moment and felt like a huge milestone for the campaign. Despite the state of the pandemic pushing the event online, we still got to hear the views of residents who were not in our steering group. Our first post-pandemic in-person steering group social was also a lovely moment of coming together, bringing together both current and former steering group members." - Costa Christou, Christchurch Road Community Steering Group
Community engagement event, December 2022.