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WEB GALLERY: Start of Larner Road estate demolition heralds new dawn

PUBLISHED: 17:29 11 April 2013 | UPDATED: 17:29 11 April 2013

The demolition in progress. Pic by Stuart Thomas

The demolition in progress. Pic by Stuart Thomas

Archant

The Larner Road estate in Erith has had a reputation of being downtrodden for years, but last Friday one of the biggest regeneration projects in Europe took another step towards transforming the area.

The demolished of five of the seven tower blocks started as part of a £100 million regeneration project that aims to build about 600 affordable homes for local residents. They will be rubble within six to eight weeks.

Families were invited to enjoy a range of celebratory activities including a performance by acrobat troupe the Black Eagles and live Zulu music from the Majubu Drummers along with T-shirt painting, and a cinema showing short film The Ballad of Larner Road, featuring residents of the estate talking about the past, present and future of the area.

It has been developed by property developers Orbit South and Wates, who have named the development Erith Park. Lawrence Baxter, Wates’ site manager, said: “If things go to plan the first residents will move in early 2015. “It’s an estate with social problems which have been well-publicised so this is a special day for everyone involved.

“It will also bring job and apprenticeship opportunities for local people with Wates so it will benefit the community all round.”

Orbit moved 10 households each month to reach its target of emptying properties by the spring in time for the demolition.

All but one of the tower blocks, Verona House which is included in phase two of the plans, is empty.

A group of 30 residents abseiled down one of the tower blocks, Medina House, last April to show their support for the plans.

Bexleyheath and Crayford MP David Evennett attended the event and said: “This will transform the lives of residents and has been a long time coming.”

Local residents were also glowing in their praise of the project.

Steve Kenworthy, 50, said: “I’ve lived on the estate for 18 years and this is the start of a new era. Low-rise houses rather than high tower blocks should bring a greater sense of community spirit.

“People will come closer together and hopefully more families will move in.

“Former residents don’t automatically get priority but there were more people who wanted to move away than wanted to move back into the new properties so people who want to come back should be able to.”

Rosemary White, 80, said: “Having lived in my flat in Pretoria House for almost half my life it was an emotional day. I took some pictures moments before they knocked it down.

“But you have to move with the times. Buildings get past their sell-by date and it’s an exciting project.

“I don’t think I’ll move into one of the new flats, I’m settled in my new house which is only just around the corner.”

Rita Hanfrey, 65, said: “I’m a bit sad after 18 years. I had my flat just as I liked it and had a lovely, panoramic view of the Thames all the way to the Dartford Crossing.

“It will help the area because it doesn’t have a very good reputation, though I’ve always found the people quite nice.

“The development will help improve that reputation and I like the look of the proposed new site.”

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