LETTER : Costs for Oliver Close are not just for bricks and mortar

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The Independent Online
YOUR claim that the Waltham Forest Housing Action Trustspent pounds 150,000 on each house in our redevelopment is simplistic ("This is a council estate ...", 7 January). The costs include the demolition of the old homes; the diversion of main services and an underground river; and the construction of a 6m wall as a barrier against sound and pollution from the North Circular Road. I doubt any local authority or housing association has undertaken such a complex and large-scale task in recent history.

On Oliver Close, a five-person, three-bedroom house costs pounds 50,201 to build, a figure comparable with (or slightly below) the allowance for an equivalent housing association dwelling.

We have used only one design consultant for each phase of the building project. Other consultants were involved in projects at the beginning of the redevelopment, such as the removal of concrete podia and the abandoned, crime-ridden car-parks beneath them. These will make life more bearable for residents who have to wait six to eight years for new homes and they are vindicated by falling statistics for crime and fear of crime.

You refer to "all manner of services and entertainments". This trivialises an attempt by other agencies, as well as ourselves, to regenerate some of the most deprived communities in the capital. A new health centre will benefit residents in the surrounding community as well as our tenants. Our arts development programme is trying to create a strong community life, and to involve young people. If it takes "rap music events" (as well as drama, photography and creative writing) to attract youth away from the streets, so be it. We are also working to increase youth club services on the estate. Our careers advice and training schemes have helped 492 tenants into work and a further 462 into training.

Finally, we are not the subject of a National Audit Office "investigation". It is carrying out a routine study to see how well we are meeting our objectives.

Mike Wilson

Chief Executive, Waltham Forest Housing Action Trust