Today (21 July 2017), the Guardian’s Zoe Williams has published a devastating analysis of the Myatts Field North PFI Regeneration Scheme entitled The Real Cost of Regeneration. Myatts Field North is a council housing estate in Lambeth, South London, built in the 1970s as part of slum clearance. Since 2012 its original 480 homes have been undergoing a so-called ‘regeneration’ process under a 25 year PFI contract involving Regenter, Pinnacle, Higgins, E.ON and the Grenfell refurbishment contractor, Rydon. As the Guardian article makes clear, the PFI scheme has been disastrous for many of the existing residents and for those who have bought or rented in the 503 new flat private development named Oval Quarter. Botched repairs, leaks and floods, shoddy new building work, a failing district heating system, displaced homeowners, evidence that the health and safety of residents has been put at risk by the companies and the council, and the systematic refusal to listen to residents’ concerns and address their complaints. Some of the fire safety problems were recently exposed by an ITV News Investigation (14 July 2017) and have been previously documented in a series of reports sent to Lambeth about failings across the board (refurbishment, health and safety, homeowners, district heating) by residents working with Leeds University academics, Dr Stuart Hodkinson and Chris Essen, and more recently Fuel Poverty Action.
The evident failures in this regeneration scheme mirror many of the issues emerging in the Grenfell Tower disaster and are clearly rooted in the disastrous deregulation of the construction industry and the development process more broadly. But in Myatts Field North, just as with the Camden Chalcots Estate that had to be evacuated after fire safety checks revealed multiple problems, there is another factor at play: the PFI model of self-certification and self-declared performance where the local authority accepts the PFI contractor’s monthly invoices and performance reports as ‘true’ and pays them without checking the facts on the ground. This self-regulatory gospel at the heart of PFI contract governance and risk transfer has failed to ensure that building quality and estate management standards are met, failed to ensure rigorous building and fire safety inspections are carried out, and failed to ensure that problems identified by residents and contractors are properly rectified. It has been far too easy to get paid for failure on this contract, and far too easy to avoid responsibility and accountability for what has gone wrong. This experience is not an isolated one as the Edinburgh Schools PFI fiasco has shown – this why People vs PFI is calling for a National Safety Audit of all PFI buildings.
In the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, we have set up a new section of our website to document all of the historical and ongoing problems with the Myatts Field North PFI scheme to help educate our politicians and policy makers, forewarn residents and ensure those who are responsible can be held to account. Resources include the key project documents such the Outline Business Case approved by central government in 2006, the Final Business Case approved by government in 2011 and the PFI Contract signed in 2012. Some of these documents have been disclosed under Freedom of Information requests and have been heavily redacted by Lambeth on grounds of ‘commercial confidentiality’. We have also made available all of the reports produced by the Myatts Field North Residents Association and PFI Monitoring Board (MFN-RAMB) with Dr Stuart Hodkinson and Chris Essen of Leeds University and Ruth London of Fuel Poverty Action, and where possible the responses by Lambeth and the PFI contractors. There are links to broadcast and print media stories, and to the trailer of Ross Domoney’s award-winning film Uprooted about home loss on Myatts Field North. More revelations and resources will be available in due course, so keep checking.