A couple of weeks ago I received an interesting request. Could I show two of WCEN’s collaborators, around Roehampton to see the sights and to get a ‘feel’ for the place? So last Tuesday, Beth Rattigan from Citizen’s Advice, and Gareth Jones the new co-ordinator of Talk Wandsworth met up with Ruth and I and we began our walking tour of Roehampton.
Going around by foot is the best way of seeing this extraordinary place. There are five Palladian mansions and forty three tower blocks (all either grade 2 or grade 2* listed buildings). Even the very ground of the Alton West estate is special. It was designed and laid out by Capability Brown in the eighteenth century as part of the old ‘Roehampton Park’.
But the tour wasn’t just a history trip, we looked at the different types of housing in the area, bungalows for the elderly, student accommodation, family housing and homes converted into multi-occupancy units. From the grounds of the seventeenth century manor, Downshire House, we looked across Roehampton Lane to the vast new grouping of flats on the old Queen Mary’s Hospital site.
The very act of walking enabled Beth and Gareth to link the various experiences of Roehampton that they had had into a coherent overall impression of the place. And this was important because both Citizen’s Advice and Talk Wandsworth want to expand their activities more into Roehampton. They were on the lookout for sites from where they could launch their initiatives and help the maximum number of people in Roehampton.
They were also very interested in the new regeneration scheme that is coming to Roehampton. Who were the people who would be moving to Roehampton, where would they be housed, and what would happen to the people in the homes that would be demolished? I explained the care that Wandsworth Borough Council had taken in consulting the residents, and also their assurance that council tenants had been promised new accommodation at their old rents. Freeholders would be given like-for-like homes as would resident leaseholders. The only people, whose futures were in doubt, were the tenants of absentee landlords.
It was a beautiful afternoon, and I certainly learnt a lot about WCEN’s working with Citizens’ Advice and Talk Wandsworth and what they want to make happen in Roehampton.