Liberal Democrats have condemned comments by the Labour Chair of the Planning Committee that social and private tenants should be segregated on their estates to ‘boost security’.

The extraordinary outburst came during a council meeting last week. Councillor Nick Dolezal, the Labour Chair of the Planning Committee, stated that in new developments private and social housing residents should each have their own communal spaces and ‘just don’t share each other’s spaces - which boosts security.’   

The claims followed a speech from Liberal Democrat councillor Ben Johnson, who raised the plight of residents in The Exchange, part of the Council’s Bermondsey Spa regeneration scheme. Since the development opened, tenants and residents living in shared ownership homes have found that they are prevented from accessing the gym facilities on the estate while leaseholders have full access. 

Far from being an isolated case, the lack of shared access to facilities is becoming the new norm in new Southwark developments. Defending the Council’s decision to deny social tenants access to a communal garden at the One Tower Bridge development recently, Labour leaders stated that this was to protect social tenants from higher service charges. Details have since emerged that the developer and Southwark Council never consulted the social housing provider, the Corporation of London, about the proposal. 

Southwark Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson, Councillor Ben Johnson, said:

“As new housing developments are built across Southwark, it is vital that the Council maintains the community mix that makes our borough such a special place to live. 

“The Chair of the Planning Committee's comments about segregating different groups of residents for "security" is both alarming and offensive.  Is the councillor suggesting that private leaseholders need to be protected from those in affordable housing?  

“It is clear from these comments that Labour councillors in Southwark have no interest in promoting mixed communities or standing up to developers. It cannot be right that residents in affordable housing are banned from accessing gyms and gardens. 

"We desperately need more affordable housing in Southwark, but those on social rents or shared ownership shouldn't feel like second class citizens on their own estates.” 

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