Mark met Steve Howlett, Chief Executive of the Peabody Trust, and members of his team this morning to visit some of the constituency’s Peabody estates and examine the work the Trust is doing to upgrade homes in the area.
The Peabody Trust (formerly the Peabody Donation Fund) was set up in 1862 by American philanthropist, George Peabody, to build hundreds of good quality homes for poor Londoners. It is now one of the capital’s oldest housing associations and manages 18 500 properties across London, housing around 50 000 people. Mark visited an area which had been one of the worst slums in Westminster before the Trust transformed it in the eighteenth century.
The first call on Mark’s visit was the Abbey Orchard Estate, just off Victoria Street, which has some 300 dwellings. It was constructed in 1882 and designed by Henry Darbishire, an English architect well known for his work on London’s Victoria philanthropic housing. Mark was impressed by the well kept buildings and communal areas but raised concerns about graffiti and people from outside the estate using the grounds.
Moving on, Mark was shown round the Orchard Street Estate where properties have been completely gutted and refurbished to a high standard. The work is due to be completed by the end of the month and fifty six of the sixty eight properties will be allocated to new nominees. Mark expressed his concern at this as he considers it essential that we have balanced communities within our inner city areas which include working people on moderate incomes as well as those who are regarded as ‘high priority’ on the Council’s housing list. He believes we need to be much more imaginative with regard to housing policy and he put to Mr Howlett that a scheme allowing young working professionals to live in Peabody properties on short life tenancies could be adopted.
Unfortunately Peabody is somewhat tied as it must take on people from Westminster City Council’s housing register and adhere to government rules and regulations on social housing but Mark made it clear that he would be happy to push this issue with the relevant government ministers.
The visit finished at the Horseferry Estate, built in 1922 by Victor Wilkins in red brick. The estate was constructed to re-house tenants previously living at the Westminster Estate and its name derives from the estate’s proximity to the site of the horse ferry that operated from the sixteenth century until the nineteenth century. There has been concern about anti-social behaviour in the Horseferry area and Mark raised this matter and discussed what could be done to improve security.
The tour with Mr Howlett marked the second time he and Mark had met this year and both are confident that this strengthened relationship between the office of the local MP and the Trust will be to the benefit of Peabody tenants within the constituency.