by Ben Johnson on 11 February, 2015
You may have read about the controversial decision to prohibit social housing tenants from using a shared garden at One Tower Bridge. Now it seems that gyms are only for the wealthy too.
I’ve been contacted by residents on The Exchange development in Spa Road, which is part of the Council’s Bermondsey Spa regeneration scheme. The scheme is built and managed by Notting Hill Housing Trust, one of the council’s major partners, who recently celebrated the completion of their 30,000th home on the estate.
Since The Exchange development opened, tenants and residents living in shared ownership properties have discovered though that they have no access to the gym facilities on the estate, while leaseholders have access and pay through their service charge.
Denying them access to the estate gym is unfair and somewhat ironic as it goes against the spirit of the Council’s pledge to allow free access to leisure services. It also means that the potential benefits of exercise in tackling obesity, fitness and mental health are lost to many residents in The Exchange.
I believe that shared ownership is an important form of affordable housing to help first time buyers get on the housing ladder. We now discover that those who buy shared ownership properties in Southwark are treated as second class citizens, with segregated facilities only for those who buy outright. Similar to “poor doors”, this policy sows division and tension amongst our residents and should not be allowed in the mixed and diverse community of Southwark.
If those on shared ownership are wiling to pay for the use of the gym, why should they be banned from keeping fit?
I have written to Notting Hill Housing and the cabinet member for regeneration, letter below, to demand an end to this segregation on all existing and future developments and I look forward to their response.
Dear Cllr Williams / Kate Davies,
I have been contacted by residents on The Exchange development in Spa Road, Bermondsey, complaining that they are unable to access the gym facilities on site. After contacting Notting Hill Housing, it transpired that access is only for leaseholders and not for those who part-rent part-buy through Notting Hill Housing’s shared ownership scheme.
Use of the gym entails a higher service charge, but the shared ownership residents are forbidden from using the gym, even if they are willing and able to pay the higher service charge.
I am sure you agree with me that shared ownership is an important route to home owning for those who struggle to save a large deposit. Those who buy through shared ownership should not be treated as second class citizens on their own estate. I am sure you will also agree that gym use is an important route to health and well being for Southwark residents. Indeed, free gym use is being piloted on a small trial by Southwark Council.
I am writing to ask that Southwark Council and Notting Hill Housing take a lead on this issue and ensure that shared facilities such as gyms are available for all residents to access.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Dr Ben Johnson
Councillor for Grange Ward
Vice-Chair, Housing and Community Safety Scrutiny Committee