Surrey Lane People’s Organisation

13 October 2016

"Before I joined this group I knew about five people on a first-name basis on the whole of the estate – now I know about a hundred."

"A lot of people living on the estate didn’t feel they had the power to change their neighbourhood and, in my experience, when people act alone, usually that’s true. But through our project, we’re working to bring about positive change, influence local democracy and take control of our neighbourhood’s future.

Many people originally got involved because of concerns about the quality of windows on the estate. The council promised to replace them, but work was delayed, so residents were facing a winter of cold homes and high energy bills.

Some residents had been in touch with the council individually, but it was when we contacted them as a collective that we had the biggest impact.

One evening, we talked about how we could tackle the issue and came up with the idea of sending a massive Valentine’s card to the council’s Housing Director that said, ‘Where is the love, where’s our windows?’ and it got a reaction.

Work on replacing the windows started soon afterwards and the council has now started to listen to our concerns and is more responsive.

Residents have also begun to develop friendships with their neighbours, and we’ve started to welcome more and more people on board. We also hold community engagement walks and summer parties so that residents can get to know each other and listen to each other’s concerns.

“When people see something good happening, they start to see a movement and think ‘let’s get involved in this community’" - Geoff

The community engagement walks around the estate are a great opportunity to talk to other people and proactively research local issues. The summer parties help people who might not have heard about our project before to get involved. It’s great to see more people getting involved, but as this happens more opinions are being voiced and, naturally, people sometimes express different priorities.

It’s about relationships and trust. We’re all very different people, but there’s a lot of love and respect. We’ve built that through working together on things like the parties and the windows issue and, because we’ve got the relationships and the trust there, if we have a difference in opinion, we can work it out. Before I joined this group I knew about five people on a first-name basis on the whole of the estate – now I know about a hundred.

For me, living here all my life has been very disconnected, but now it’s different. I certainly know my neighbourhood in a way I didn’t before”

Geoff Hitchens - Project member and resident


Surrey Lane People’s Organisation in Battersea, London, is funded by People's Health Trust through it's Active Communities programme, using money raised by HealthFreedom through The Health Lottery.

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