Over the years, the Peabody Trust has moved beyond its founding mission as a social provider and into a new corporate role as a major developer. This angers campaigners who point to the huge government and other grants as well as their tax-free charity status, while they engage in multi-million pound land grabs and redevelopment projects.

This is no better demonstrated than in the case of the Lesnes Estate in Thamesmead in south-east London, where in May 2021 the Elizabeth Line opened to the nearby station at Abbey Wood.

With a new fast connection into central London, the area is ripe for profiteers, and around 600 homes on this mid-60s built estate are facing demolition in a deal between Peabody and Lendlease, the hugely controversial Australian company involved in the Heygate and Aylesbury development in Southwark among others.

Over several years, tenants have gradually been forced out of Lesnes, and many homes are now occupied by Guardians (under poor conditions and with no rights), while others are boarded up. Freehold homeowners who have paid off their mortgages over many years say that, without any proper consultation process, they are being offered just £250,000 for their three or four bedroom townhouses. But nearby, newly-developed two or three bedroom apartment are on the market for more than half a million. Peabody are offering below-market rate loans, but even if residents took these on, they would be moving from freehold to leasehold, and facing management fees and service charges on top of new large mortgages.

Housing Rebellion have already been working with residents and last year they staged a three-day occupation out of which a residents’ resistance campaign was born. On Saturday they were back again, occupying an empty home on Hinksey Path and working with a variety of groups to march to the Peabody office (normally open on Saturday, but closed on this occasion!) and hold a residents’ rally and party on the estate. Speakers included a supportive local councillor and Green Party representatives as well as residents and activists.

Their simple demand is for John Lewis, the director of Peabody, to come and meet them and discuss the alternatives – refurbishment, not demolition.

Apart from the social justice aspects, there are huge environmental concerns too about the waste of all the embodied carbon in these buildings and the carbon impact of all the new buildings.

After we filmed on Saturday, there were a series of workshops on Sunday afternoon, with information from Corporate Watch, Architects Climate Action Network, and the Public Interest Law Centre.

Tomorrow there will be another meeting at 7pm at 24 Hinksey Path SE2 9TB to plan a protest to Sadiq Khan ahead of the mayoral election on May 2nd. All are welcome.

The occupation is ongoing and although police have visited they currently have no plans to intervene in what is a peaceful protest calling for a meeting with Peabody.

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