The origin story of SGRA: How a Residents’ Association on Southfields Grid came about due to Council’s housing crisis.
Many of you may be wondering how the SGRA came into existence. This page will shed some light on it, but if you know any more please do not hesitate to get in touch via this website. To begin with, a former SGRA Chairman was Mrs Tina Thompson. She wrote the following several years ago about how a residents’ association on Southfields Grid came about:
“I lived in Clonmore Street with my family. It was a great house, number 151. One day one of the houses opposite got boarded up. It was horrid, it was the second house in Clonmore to suffer this fate, and there were several more on the Grid. This was around 1973, and in nearby Sutherland Grove many homes had also been boarded up. People were having problems trying to sell their homes, as rumours abounded.
The only people buying were the Council. It was they who had bought and boarded up the houses. Apparently, they had the capital funds to buy the homes, but they then decided that they were not fit to live in, and they had no revenue to do the improvements necessary. They therefore boarded them up while people languished on the waiting list for a home.’d had enough. This was my home, and I felt it was under attack. So, I had a couple of thousand leaflets printed, and my friends and I delivered them round the Grid. The old weekly paper, the Wandsworth Borough News, ran an article, and I got a free let of the hall at Southfields School. I was amazed at the number of people who came to the meeting. People volunteered to join a committee, and we agreed a constitution at the meeting. The aim was “To preserve, maintain and enhance the community known as the Grid” and we defined the area it would cover”.
The political background at that time was that many of the owner-occupied houses on the Grid which were at that time about 60 years old were occupied by people who were coming up to retirement age, and who wanted to retire outside London. As soon as a house went up for sale Wandsworth Council moved in, bought the house, boarded it up and just left it. Although many of the houses on the Grid were allegedly in reasonable condition, the council declared that they were not up to the Parker-Morris standard, the minimum standard for council houses at that time, therefore they couldn’t be let to people on the council’s very lengthy waiting list without major work. It was alleged at the time the council were buying up so many houses that their own direct works organisation did not have the resources to bring the houses up to the council house standard.
The situation got so bad that the few ‘house agents’ (then not called estate agents) in the area were allegedly not offering property on the open market, but only to the Council. The result was that property prices were artificially deflated, so the Council got more property at under market value. There were many who felt that the hidden agenda was that the council wanted to knock down what were alleged by them to be sub-standard properties, and to replace Southfields Grid with tower blocks. Thank goodness that never happened!
It was against this background that Tina Thompson motivated the people of the Grid into creating their own residents’ association, as she writes above, to counter the council. The rest is history, the SGRA was born. As to what happened to Tina Thompson, she went on to represent Southfields on Wandsworth Council for 16 years, and was the Mayor of Wandsworth from 1997 to 1998.