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My journey through regeneration

My estate in Harrow has been through unbelievable change

By Carole Bell  

This article was produced in association with Home Group

Prior to 2002, “Regeneration” was a new word to most of the tenants and residents of the Rayners Lane Estate, a very run down council owned estate, in the London Borough of Harrow.

I had moved to the estate in 1978 into a flat where there was no central heating or double glazing. If the wind blew outside, the curtains inside my flat blew around. It was all downhill from there! Twenty years later, when frankly I felt all hope had gone, came the news that a Housing Association named Home Group were interested in regenerating our estate.

We had to vote on whether we wanted Home Group to take over the running of the estate or not. The majority of us said yes, which meant our old homes would be demolished, and new, affordable homes would be built in their place. It all sounded too good to be true, but the majority of us went along with it. After all, what did we have to lose? The estate was in total disrepair. There were no facilities for adults or children. Play areas for the children had deteriorated to a single bench in an otherwise empty space.

One of the first things Home Group did was to build The Beacon, which would gradually become a fully functional community centre. When first built, all the regeneration staff for the Rayners Lane Project had offices there. No more trying to get through to faceless people on the telephone. Home Group staff were instantly available, and always had time to listen to our queries.

Regeneration would be done in phases. Because we had land space available, Phase one would start with the building of new homes, then the tenants would be moved into their new homes and the old homes would be demolished, making way for Phase two. This would continue until everybody had new homes.

There were however, groups of people who still voiced concerns. Moving is a very stressful event, both physically and emotionally. Families with children worried that schooling would be disrupted if they had to move off the estate while their new home was being built. Home Group assured them that it wouldn’t be the case.

Then the consultations began, and we were consulted about everything. For example, did we want balconies? Yes we did. Did we want high rise buildings? A very emphatic no! Consultants with expertise in all the areas were on hand to explain and listen to our suggestions. At no time were we made to feel that Home Group was just paying lip service to us.

I was in the Phase two group, and as the time grew closer for my new home to be completed, I was taken on a hard hat tour of the building, and I could hardly believe that the spacious flat was going to be mine. We were given choices regarding flooring, colour of kitchens and bathrooms, types of light fittings, shower screens etc. Believe me, the excitement was very real!

I was given a moving date, and then came a few more wonderful things from Home Group.  Remember when I said that moving was stressful? Well, not when Home Group is at the helm! I was given dozens of cardboard boxes in which to pack whatever I was taking, with labels for contents and which room they should be put in at my new home. There were also stickers with “Take” or “Leave” for items of furniture. Home Group would be responsible for disposing of all unwanted items.

On the appointed day, at the appointed time, the men from the removal company arrived, dismantled beds and whatever else needed dismantling, and set them up in my new home. All of this was arranged by, and paid for by Home Group. If I had to sum it up in one word, I would have to say it was painless!

All of this happened 10 years ago for me. I love my home and everything Home Group has done, and continues to do on this estate. Not only have they built an estate we are all proud of, they have trained and created job opportunities for many people, and provided facilities for all age groups. The social model of regeneration as used by Home Group is without doubt the yard stick by which all other regeneration projects should be measured.

Price Pritchett, author and business advisor, said, “Change always comes bearing gifts.” Home Group has brought about unbelievable changes to the Rayners Lane Estate, and continues to bestow gifts in various forms.

Read more: How regeneration should be done

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