Can we stop the demolition of our council homes? Get down to this…please!

We will be there and with our Staying Put: Anti-Gentrification Handbook for Council Estates in London handbook too! See you there.

sgto mtgsgto mtg 2

Open Letter to Southwark Council to not attend MIPIM 2014

Developers eye up London at MIPIM 2013

Dear Peter John,
We were extremely concerned to discover that the London Borough of Southwark will be attending the MIPIM property fair at Olympia, London from 15 to 17 October. As you will know, given your attendance at MIPIM in 2013, which was paid for by Lend Lease, the developers of the Heygate site, MIPIM has been held every year in Cannes in France and is to take place for the first time in Britain this October. Alongside Southwark Council, MIPIM will be attended by developers, lawyers, banks and investors.

Since the MIPIM website says that it is ‘the first UK property trade show gathering all professionals looking to close deals on the UK property market’, we were wondering why Southwark Council would go and what kind of ‘deals’ will the council be seeking to strike and how will these deals benefit tenants and local council residents?

In consideration of the harm the deals struck at MIPIM are likely to do to local residents, Hammersmith and Fulham, the host borough, has, following the defeat of local Conservatives and Labour taking control of the council, pulled out of the fair and is attempting to recoup its stall costs. The Tower Hamlets Council Assembly last week resolved not to attend MIPIM and condemned the profit-driven housing policy that it represents and furthers.

As well as their role in pushing up rents for private tenants and destroying council housing, the attending developers have a shocking record of affordable housing provision, reflected in the workshop title “Affordable Housing: Is it Worth It?”

As members of a number of groups from across the borough and from various housing tenures who are concerned with housing and the effects of ‘regeneration’ which has, to date, failed to provide any benefits whatsoever to residents and areas being ‘regenerated’ we call on you and the London Borough of Southwark to reconsider your attendance at MIPIM and show that you are fully committed to a housing policy in the interest of local people and NOT those of private profits.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours Sincerely,

Southwark Tenants
People’s Republic of Southwark
Southwark Notes
Elephant Amenity Network

UPDATE 21st September: So far the only response has been the following nonsense from the mouth of Peter John:

peter J mipim

Presumably, most of our readers can understand the substance of the Open Letter to the Council and why we are critical of MIPIM and suspicious of the Council’s desire to be there. For Peter John it was not so easy. He thinks that describing it as ‘vague anti-capitalism‘ is enough for the whole matter to be done and dusted by him. Must try harder, we say.

Parroting about their supposed building of ‘11,000 new council homes‘ to any criticism is not really much of an answer as the homes are only a promise and not an ‘inconvenient truth‘ until they are all built and we can count them. Until them they remain a promise and we don’t have much patience for Southwark’s promises after the last 20 years of Heygate regeneration.

Council Wants to Speak to You: From Community Conversation to Community Conversion might not have seen it but Southwark has ‘launched’ a new initiative as part of their own-going Community Conversation. This time they are asking people about how they feel on the plan to build 11,000 new Council homes across the borough. Seems fair enough plan, no? However, the devil will be in the detail. As we already said many times before, the idea of building all these new homes is laudable and we would support it if we actually felt like there was not a predictable hidden agenda behind the plan – further demolition of local council estates in the guise of ‘regenerating them’ as ‘mixed communities’. We spent years writing and campaigning against the results of these ‘regenerations’ – displacement of local people and social cleansing – forgive us we seem doubtful of the Council’s intentions.

With the scandal of the Heygate demolition and displacement of residents still fresh in people’s minds and the ongoing Compulsory Purchase Orders being used against Aylesbury leaseholders as well as the future loss of social housing units that the ‘regeneration’ of the estate means, we remain suspicious of further Council plans for Elephant, Walworth, Camberwell and so on.

Two groups have been looking further into the details of the plans for the 11,000 new homes. It’s worth us putting up two links to the good and proper arguments they are making:

• Peoples Republic of Southwark: Housing Conversations

“Where are all those new homes to go? Where can they go? If you look at the map of Southwark as it is, Dulwich seems the most spacious. Except that a lot of land in Dulwich is privately owned so it’s a no-go area for ‘mixed communities’.

The lovely folk at 35% campaign have recently published an image (taken from the council’s Community Infrastructure Levy documents) which highlighted virtually all of Camberwell, Walworth and Peckham as ‘areas for major redevelopment’, precisely where we now have the largest number of council estates. The only way anyone would be able to build 11,000 or 50,000 new homes would be to knock down an unspecified amount of existing council estates and replace them with two, three times as many homes of all tenures. If this sounds a bit similar to what’s happening at the Elephant, Aylesbury, around Blackfriars Road, etc it’s because it is”.


• Southwark Defend Council Housing: Join Our Community Conversation Document

“This document reproduces the questions Southwark is asking in its ‘Community Conversation’ about its plans to build 11,000 new council homes. Southwark Defend Council Housing has included comments to explain why these proposals are so dangerous. The Community Conversation strongly implies that the Council intend to demolish the houses and flats on a large number of estates, in what they are calling the Estate Renewal Zone, which covers most of Peckham, Camberwell and

Although they are committed to building 11,000 new council homes, there may be no additional houses or flats overall for ordinary Southwark residents. We know from experience that the estates will be rebuilt at a much higher density, with most of the additional housing being for sale. It is this element which will finance the new council flats. They say they will complete the job by 2042, with the initial 1800 flats.”

Well worth reading the whole of Defend Council Housing’s considered reply document to Southwark’s Conversation and its 6 pledges to local people: SDCH_Survey_Council_Housing_2014_Final

southwark comm con people

From Community Conversation to Community Conversion

It’s unfortunate that the image Southwark chooses to illustrate it’s Community Conversation with an image of the chattering classes – fresh faced, well scrubbed up and designer clothes. This photo seems to much more likely show the kind of people moving to the new Heygate development and buying flats anywhere up from £350,000. Am sure the Council webteam didn’t spend too long thinking through the inclusion of this stock photograph but it does speak volumes about presenting how out of touch they are with most local people and what that photo might mean to anyone opening up the Community Conversation for the first time. This is what Walworth and Elephant still looks like to us:


After years of being what we call ‘consulted to death’ over more and more regeneration plans, there is a certain cynicism about how these consultations (don’t!) work. Instead of asking and funding local people to engage with their own neighbourhoods, come up with local plans, spend time reaching hard to reach voices in their communities and so on, Council consultations mostly just ask for individual contributions and don’t plan to systematically make sure that the hundreds of local societies, parents groups, schools, campaigns, youth clubs, pensioners clubs and so on prepare a response. Expecting people to come to you to answer questions is always the wrong way around for genuine consultations. You have to go where people are and in that setting involve them. Anything else is both limited (by design) and just a Public Relations exercise. Such ideas on how to consult are not rocket science, just common sense. We wish local people were paid tons an hour as the contracted-in consultation industry professionals are. If that happened there would be a more serious engagement with local people’s feelings and ideas and less of a top-down imposition of false consultations.

In the past and today we still see the ‘facts’ bandied about that ‘80% support the regeneration of The Elephant‘ because at some random Council consultation a tiny fraction of local people individually said they liked the plans. This is a ridiculous and misleading statement and offensive seeing as regeneration will affect thousands more people than those who tick a box saying they liked regeneration at some mysterious time and place in the past. This is not seriously asking what local people want but the repetition of this ‘fact’ serves the Council’s agenda of just getting on with doing what it wants (as we have seen at Heygate despite years of seriously informed opposition by local people). As we said on our Listening To No End writing into the miserable consultation company Soundings (who did Lend Lease’s and the Council bidding) and their miraculous figures on who supports what locally – ‘In no other industry, apart from the newly invented ‘regeneration’ industry, could these statistics be credible!’

Yet, local people are stuck between a rock and a hard place by wanting to have some arena for getting their voice heard and affecting Council decisions but feeling that there is no real point, as historically these Council exercises in ‘listening’ only really serve to give the Council some cred on going ahead to do what it was always going to do.

Here is a link to the Council Survey that is asking for your views. You don;t have to register to fill it in. Look for the second web link right at the bottom – “No thanks, just take me to the form:

In a rare moment of non-cynicism (:-0), we suggest as many people as possible fill it in with serious and tough questions for the Council and follow up after the deadline (Oct 13th) asking for the Council to publish online all replies to the survey.

PS: On the topic of Southwark Council pledges (such as the 6 pledges in the Community Conversation, here is one from March 2o14, just before the May 2014 elections: “our pledge to deliver free swimming and gym use to all Southwark residents’ (Peter John, Council Leader). Compare this pledge to this more recent update on our free swimming and gym use: here. – ‘Southwark’s free swimming could start with Fridays-only deal’.

‘Should Art Be Used to Push London’s Rents Up?’

‘Syd Gale of local blog Southwark Notes told me, “I would think a better symbol of The Elephant is not one up on its hind legs but one shot in the head and it’s ivory tusks ripped out. The Council shot it and the developers poached the valuables. All day-to-day events in the regeneration safari.

Yes, our great man Syd Gale breaks it down quite easily in answer to this question and the rather odd story of the Sam Keil artwork / not artwork proposed to and supported by the Council bigwigs but now denied by all. Luckily, we saved the PDF that no longer appears in public on Sam Keil’s website: not here!

PDF is here: Sam Keil PDF

LL safari-hunter
Full story here Glad our researches keep gaining some ground wherever they are published. A truly bizarre story made even more bizarre by Hayden Vernon approaches to Sam and the Council. Nice one.

We like the bit in Vernon’s story when ‘I approached Fiona Colley and she told me that Keil’s comments were unwelcome and laughed off the proposal as silly and self-aggrandising‘. Here is a letter from October 2013 by Jon Abbot, Southwark Council’s Elephant and Castle Project Director to Chris Allen of Oakmayne, the former developer of Tribeca Sq, proposed site of Keil’s bronze elephant:

abbot to keil

We can highlight this bit in that letter to break it down further:
“I managed to meet with both Cllr Fiona Colley and Eleanor Kelly and I wanted to inform you they were both very enthusiastic about the proposed Samatha Keil elephant sculpture and are very supportive. They think it would be well received locally and think it’s a strong idea from a place making point of view”.

Syd is available for further comments should the Council need him to explain what they are doing.

Poor Old Shopping Centre again

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Following on from our ‘Poor Old Shopping Centre’ post of earlier in the week, we can now report live from the scene of the developer Delancey’s consultation efforts to divine the local community’s responses and desires around the planned demolition of the Centre. Interesting is how much effort and £££ has been put into having one man standing in front of curved poster with their 5 already answered questions (see here). Is the authentic member of the public being engaged in ‘community consultation’ or is he actually looking to buy a new handbag? Hard to tell from this scene.

But who is that man centre screen? Why it’s no less than Kim Humphreys! Who he, you may well ask? Well, no less than the former Conservative ‘Deputy Leader & Executive Member for Housing at Southwark Council’ who resigned his Council post in 2010 to go into business after failing to secure from 20 attempts a prospective MP place for the Tory party. The business at hand Kim went into was the regeneration industry as a consultant when he set up Carvil Ventures.

Kim Humphreys is a Board Level Executive with an in-depth knowledge of the public and private sectors and a track record at motivating people to transform services in complex environments. After a 20 year dual-track career working in both commercial banking, heading Mizuho Corporate Banks European syndicated loan activities and serving as Deputy Leader & Executive Member for Housing at Southwark Council, London’s largest social landlord, Kim founded Carvil Ventures to build on his experience and expertise in order to offer his clients creative entrepreneurial real estate solutions”. 

Most unusual is that Carvil Venture website features an Elephant! Must be hoping for subliminal effect on clients! Not only that but it also presents a Zebra-Elephant! What can this unique creature signify? Answers on a postcard please!

Anyhow, nice to see the former ‘Deputy Leader & Executive Member for Housing at Southwark Council’ meeting the community for once in his new role as consultant guru. Carvil is an ‘independent real estate consultancy with a focus on strategy and public affairs founded by Kim Humphreys, drawing on his in-depth knowledge of the public and private sectors and providing imaginative and entrepreneurial solutions to complex real estate development issues. Our core strength lies in a thorough and c as well as the creative design process and planning system coming from our years of experience in directly relevant sectors. From our experience we know what methods of communication are required to succeed in taking development concepts from initial advice through the planning process to a success outcome‘.

As Carvil’s ‘core strength’ is a ‘comprehensive understanding of…the community’s needs and wants’, we feel that the whole regeneration of the Shopping Centre is in safe hands with Kim. The lad done well!

As did these other former Southwark employees and councillors!

Poor Old Shopping Centre

shop centre consulta

Here follows our quick replies to the above 5 questions asked by the new owners of the Elephant Shopping Centre as part of their community consultation on the Centre’s future. The new owners are Dutch pension fund APG and UK property developer Delancey. Delancey is also the managers behind the large development behind the Centre that borders New Kent Rd, Elephant Rd and Heygate Estate formerly known as ‘Oakmayne Plaza’, then ‘Tribeca Square’ and now the wonderful ‘Elephant One’ (not to be confused with Lend Lease’s nearby 40+ storey tower of luxury flats called ‘One The Elephant’. At Southwark Notes, we are already phoning up global finance houses to back our new exclusive residential development in the northern roundabout – a 100-storey tower called ‘The One Elephant’.

“1) Do you think the transport interchanges need to be improved?”
Are Delancey going to stump up hard cash for any Northern Line rejigging and other works such as the crowded bus stops outside the Shopping Centre? This has always been a bone of expensive contention between Southwark, Transport for London, The Greater London Authority and any developer of the Shopping Centre. The GLA has already agreed to substantially fund the approx £100m cost of remodelling the northern roundabout and rebuilding the Northern line tube station with escalators to replace the current lifts.

2)What do you love most about the E&C Shopping Centre?
Presumably those who use the Centre would answer that it fulfills basic needs via supermarkets and small services and wide range of cheap shops plus socialising spaces like cafes, restaurants and benches. If the shops and services moved into a higher price range then we are guessing that this would move it out of what most people like or ‘love’ about it although this might be what new residents to the area might want. They may not indeed want Greggs, Sundial Cafe, Jenny’s Burgers, H&T Pawnbrokers, 99p Stores or Quicksilver Amusements.

Now and as it has always been, with the regeneration of the area being ongoing for the last 15 years or so, no guarantees have been forthcoming from the Council and owners to protect the existing businesses in the Centre and around it – such as the small shops on New Kent Rd (dentist, newsagents) and The Coronet (who are extremely worried about their future). The provision of affordable retail spaces in new developments included as alternative sites for displaced Elephant traders has been pitiful. There is still an empty unit built with this in mind at the Pavillion building (part of the Strata development). Not much bigger than a shoebox and with zero thought put into delivery, storage, vents and so on, it’s a wasted tokenism.

3) Do you think that the whole of the shopping centre site should be redeveloped than refurbished?
They are answering their own question as this is there already announced intention. So they are only really looking for YES in answer to this question: “The first thing is that we are looking to demolish the centre and redevelop it” said Delancey’s Stafford Lancaster in February 2014.

4) Would you like the development to include homes for people who love and live in London?
This is also their stated intention anyhow as private homes will be where the profits are to be had and less in building a new shopping town centre. It’s a debatable point whether the Council will to act to limit the number of new homes here and hence the problems of density, massing and heights and light, effects of local services, questions of car parking provision, etc. Delancey have already more or less said they want to build up to 1000 homes on site. What actual space will they use to build the shops and what spaces would they use to build the homes? An article from Property Week (‘Delancey and APG buy £80m Elephant & Castle shopping centre‘, Dec 2nd 2013) says that the new joint venture is planning 500,000 sq ft on the shopping centre site. This is an increase from 327,000 sq ft at present. We wonder where all these shops and homes will fit.

And if we are talking about ‘homes’, then we would need to break that down into what kind of homes are they planning? Delancey has already stated that they are planning for 1,000 or more new homes, which will be private flats for rent so they retain ownership and act as overall landlord, give or take the odd contracted in management company. The gradual erosion of any local policy that is enforced on getting some ‘affordable’ housing back out of developer’s profits means we can probably expect a minimal of affordable rent properties (with starting prices already too high for local people). Will there be any social rented properties at rent levels equivalent to council rents – i.e necessary and genuinely affordable.

Would there also be any guarantees that the higher end private flats they build will be rented by people who actually live in them as opposed to those who ‘Buy to Let’? With already so many overseas sales as investments and not actual homes as standard for new developments in Southwark, this is a real key question for any community consultation. Who are these homes meant for?

We are sure that as there are currently almost zero homes currently on site, the argument will be put that local people’s concerns on true affordability can be put aside as no residents are really being displaced. However, if more and more developments go up at the Elephant that contain no real affordable housing then they are creating another wealth ghetto as a supposed solution to breaking up the mythical poverty ghetto at Elephant.

5) Would you prefer the redevelopment to be more like a town centre than a shopping mall?
This is directly related to the above but as Delancey have already stated this is what they want to do, it’s a bit phony to ask the question. Delancey’s Stafford Lancaster again: ‘”The second thing is that we are looking to deliver a new town centre for the area: not a shopping centre or a mini-Westfield [but] a retail centre that’s relevant to this area.”

The whole Delancey double whammy development site of both the Shopping Centre and the Elephant One (photo above) behind has been place-named ‘South Village’ by these bright sparks. Such a joined up more upscale development also puts mucho pressure on the existing Latino businesses on Elephant Rd. Some of those businesses may do well from any regeneration here. However, knowing Network Rail’s recent history of turfing out long term local businesses as they uplift their arches, the majority of small Latino businesses face a grim prospect of closure. Worth adding in that 1000’s of square feet of new shops and cafes at The Elephant could destroy the Walworth Rd as an existing town centre. We wonder if any of this is taken into consideration by the Council and whether they will make any argument or opposition to Delancey’s desire for 1000 of homes and tons of new and mostly probably chain stores coming in? The Council has said that it was more interested by 500 new homes but Delancey are sure to cry ‘Viability’ (like Lend Lease) and ‘Can’t afford it without 1000 new homes!’  and get what they want (like Lend Lease again!!)

Question is then, is this ‘redevelopment’ actually going to harm the area more than it benefits it. That depends on who you ask though doesn’t it. Here follows more of them asking us simple people some simple questions:

shop centre consulta2

Should you have other answers to the ones we thought up, don’t bother attempting to put them into the Official Shopping Centre The Future website as you can only answer ‘YES’, ‘NO’ or ‘MAYBE’ to the same questions. About as subtle as the usual consultation game brick to the head.

Regeneration Rip Off @ The Elephant Sat 19th July: Walk, Sound, Films

SNAG walk JULY 2014 NEW

SATURDAY 19th JULY: All day Regeneration Rip-Off at The Elephant

ANTI-GENTRIFICATION WALK: 1pm at 56a Infoshop,
56 Crampton St, Walworth SE17. Leaves 1.30pm

• This will be another one of our local walks round the area looking at different sites, developments and characters around the local ‘regeneration’ of the area. We decided not to go over old ground too much (Strata, Heygate etc) but to focus the walk on the new sites – Shopping Centre, One The Elephant, Artworks Box Park, The Signal Building, Eileen House, Newington Causeway Peabody sites and many many more.

In this walk we will ask ‘who benefits?’. With this in mind, we will talk about that very issue – if the local community is not benefiting as promised, which companies and which individuals are benefiting. We will also be looking at how regeneration attempts to place itself on top of people’s local life and history and pretend it was never there.

Intended as a community conversation rather than just us lot going on about it all, please bring your stories, experiences, knowledge, gossip etc and share as we walk, stop and talk.

‘ELEPHANT ENDANGERED': Outside 56a Infoshop,
56 Crampton St, Walworth SE17 from 4 -6pm

• “Elephant Endangered is a sonic investigation into community and gentrification in the London neighbourhood of Walworth.  The area has been subject to several contentious ‘regeneration’ schemes that have already caused the loss of 1100 socially rented homes of the Heygate Estate.  Elephant Endangered is made up of the many  sounds of the area which are overlaid with conversations had with neighbours, friends, and longstanding residents.  The work is set to continue with new sounds and voices being added through continued dialogues, events, and activities in the community”.

56a Infoshop, 56 Crampton St, Walworth SE17 from 7pm

• We are pleased to be showing locally a stones throw from Heygate site, the excellent new film ‘Concrete Heart Land:
“Concrete Heart Land exposes the social cleansing of the Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle, South London. It marks the moment that the estate was finally lost as social housing to make way for an unjust ‘regeneration’ scheme. Assembled from 12 years of archive materials the film charts the struggles of the local community to keep their homes, stay living in the area, and maintain communal benefits in the face of the advance of this now notorious ‘urban redevelopment programme’. Throughout the film we hear the community engaging in some of the crucial battles with elected officials, planners, and barristers in municipal planning meetings, public enquiries, and interviews”.

We will also be showing the new film about residents struggles to save their homes at Cressingham Gardens, “Homes under the Sledgehammer:
“The film is directed by Sanda Kolar and includes several of the estate’s residents speaking about their experiences of life on the estate. The overwhelming  feeling the film projects is that of community spirit amongst the residents. Nicholas Greaves, Cressingham Gardens Residents’ Chair, said: “It seemed like a jewel in Lambeth’s crown of estates, so it seemed crazy to me that you would want to demolish it.”

Also up is ‘9 Stories In Brixton‘:
“9 Stories in Brixton is a tale about nine residents who live in and around The Guinness Trust estate in heart of Brixton. Earmarked for redevelopment for a number of years, the landlords are now proposing to demolish the estate and rebuild the blocks nine stories high, thereby increasing the capacity of the estate by 30%.  A group of concerned tenants, held meetings to discuss estate issues, and have subsequently endured attempts by the landlords to set up a rival tenants association”.

Plus other short films on housing and other topics that take our fancy. If you have any short films pertinent to the night’s screenings, please bring on USB stick!

See you there on the 19th!