Stanley Johnson backs campaign to save Regent's Park homes

LONDON Mayor Boris Johnson's dad Stanley has joined the campaign against the Crown Estate s plans to sell off hundreds of flats in Regent s Park. Angry residents marched on the Crown Estate headquarters in Regent Street on Tuesday to protes

Susanna Wilkey

LONDON Mayor Boris Johnson's dad Stanley has joined the campaign against the Crown Estate's plans to sell off hundreds of flats in Regent's Park.

Angry residents marched on the Crown Estate headquarters in Regent Street on Tuesday to protest against the sale of their homes. A host of speakers addressed the crowd and chants of "our homes are not for sale" echoed off the buildings of New Burlington Street before the march headed to Buckingham Palace to petition the Queen to intervene in the sale.

Mr Johnson, a neighbour of Cumberland Market, said: "These are public sector workers who devote their working lives to helping others and giving something back to the community.

"If these proposals went through, the chances are they would be priced out of the market, as rents increased and flats were sold off to the private sector.

"The unique character of the area would be lost forever."

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Almost 300 affordable and key worker homes on the Cumberland Market estate in Regent's Park look set to be sold by the Crown Estate, which controls land belonging to the Queen, and residents fear it could spell the end for their community.

They were joined at the rally by residents from Westminster, Tower Hamlets and Lewisham, where a further 1,000 homes are under threat as well as cross-party MPs and councillors and trade unions.

The Crown Estate was accused of selling the homes to raise money for commercial interests in Regent Street as well as failing to consult properly.

Frank Dobson MP, who has helped the residents' campaign, said: "They want to raise money because I understand their investments in Regent Street and other places have not done very well.

"I do not think people living in these four estates should have their homes sold off because of some incompetent property speculation by the Crown Estate.

"They are not following the normal consultation process because in a normal situation you would have a ballot but they refuse.

"And they cannot be refusing on the grounds of expense because the Electoral Reform Society says it can do one for �2,500 and the Crown estate has spent at least �54,000 on this consultation."

The rally marked the end of the consultation process by the Crown Estate and residents fear if the sale goes ahead their rents will be pushed up and key workers forced out.

Steve Smith, co-chairman of the Cumberland Market Residents Association, said: "We got 1,200 names on the petition which is fantastic. Tuesday marked the official ending of the consultation period. We want to send a clear message to the Crown Estate - Our homes are not for sale - We say NO,"

And protester Jeanne McGonigle, a key worker who has lived on the Cumberland Market estate for 16 years, said: "It is great to see everyone sticking together. What the Crown Estate is doing is absolutely disgusting."

Mark Field MP also spoke at the event representing the Crown Estate residents in Westminster. He said: "These estates are the crown jewels and it is not a question of pounds, shillings and pence - having a glued together community is priceless."

Camden's housing boss Chris Naylor and RMT London co-ordinator Steve Headley also spoke together with councillors from Lewisham, Tower Hamlets and Westminster.

A spokesman for the Crown Estate said: "The Crown Estate supports the residents' associations' right to air and publicise their views in this way.

"Following the closure of the consultation today, we will produce a 'findings' document, which will be a summary of the all feedback we received during the consultation. This will be circulated to residents for information. The Crown Estate will consider these findings along with other factors when making a decision.