Tree Shepherd’s Role In Delancey’s Elephant Shopping Centre social cleansing plans

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It’s been a while that we wanted to write something about ‘social enterprise’ Tree Shepherd and their role in the planned demolition of the Elephant Shopping Centre. We wanted to say something not the least because of the dubious roles so-called ‘social enterprises’ often play when contracted into sites of regeneration and gentrification. With their appointment in June 2017 we were fine to see how they went about helping traders at the Shopping Centre and how useful they could be. One year later and after everything we’ve seen and heard, we just aren’t convinced by them at all.

Tree Shepherd is a private consultancy appointed by Southwark Council as an ‘independent’ business advisor for the traders. But this was yet another trick played by the council and the developer, since Tree Shepherd is paid for by Delancey as a way of showing ‘commitment’ to the traders in the relocation process. But in reality Tree Shepherd works as an undercover agent who barely engages with traders only to pass on useful information to Delancey – How can the advisor remain independent when their funds come from the developer who intends to kick out all traders and demolish the Shopping Centre? As we understand it they are paid about £165,000 by Delancey, so if were cynical we would question how does that help them remain ‘independent’. As an advisor their role is to be help the traders with their relocation and/or compensation but in over a year their work can only be measured by how they have helped… Delancey!

Despite the Council acknowledging some 130 small independent businesses in the so-called ‘red-line’ of the development – including market stalls, kiosks, shop units, arches, etc –, following the appointment in June 2017, Tree Shepherd established a list of only 24 businesses who could ‘benefit’ from their services. 18 months after their appointment –with an increase in funding during 2018-, the situation continues to be same, if not worse… They told us ‘We’re working with 30 traders mainly and keeping an additional 70-80 informed on what’s happening with the planning etc’.

One of the first things Tree Shepherd did when starting their job was to undertake a survey that basically collected useful data for Delancey on traders. They used that data to see what expectations traders had, how much they were selling and, most importantly, if they were willing to stay in the area. Ask an open question like ‘do you want to stay in the area?’ and when some of them answered they wanted to stay but were worried about rent increase in the new places – Tree Shepherd used this information to then claim that not all traders are willing to relocate, and this information was used by Delancey in their ‘relocation update’ to argue that not all traders might need assistance.

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Above: Cafe Nova in the Elephant Shopping Centre – closed after 17 years. Cafe Nova was a social enterprise giving regular work to disadvantaged folks. We asked Tree Shepherd ‘will they be helped to relocate locally?’. No answer to date.

 

Their way of working consists of Tree Shepherd of every now and then scheduling meetings with traders to either inform them of how the process is taking longer than expected and that they should be patient; or make them fill in forms with no valuable outcomes; or taking them on ‘tours’ to see empty garages, building sites or planning drawings of how some potential units (still not delivered nor with planning consent) and at one point actually tweeting out photos of these visits until traders complained; or simply making traders waste their time. What’s the purpose of these meetings? Box ticking exercise: registering the meeting so then the Council and Delancey can brag about how many times they have assisted the traders.

Tree Shepherd Office

Tree Shepherd’s office in one of the units upstairs at the Shopping Centre: Often closed or unclear when it’s open

But things get even worse since Delancey was granted initial planning permission by Southwark (the scheme still needs Greater London Authority approval for a full planning consent) on 3rd July 2018. As traders have raised in more than one opportunity to local Councillors, Planning Officers and GLA authorities, Tree Shepherd has a serious lack of personnel, their staff keep changing, the opening times on the drop-in centre at Unit 231 constantly change, they are not properly advertised and is now down to two days only, as if it were a reflection from Unit 215 by Delancey. None of this adds up in their favour, in our humble opinion.

Research done by the excellent Latin Elephant shows that the main problem is that ‘only 471 square metres have been made available for independent traders by Delancey. Even though traders currently occupy 4,005 square metres of floor space. This equates to the displacement of the majority of those businesses’. There also seems to be a qualifying process for relocation when we think ALL traders should automatically qualify for relocation. You could say Tree Shepherd might be, consciously or not, acting as a gatekeeper on who will get relocated to a new trading place in The Elephant and who won’t and this is some ways will be dictated by Delancey who certainly won’t want most traders in their new posh development. Certainly Tree Shepherd and Delancey are clear that ‘businesses must be suitable for the mix and diversity that the Operator thinks will work’ as they told the traders recently.

Funny then how they describe themselves as ‘Tree Shepherd works with local authorities and developers to help bring the benefits of this regeneration to local people. We work with local people who want to start a new business and with existing small businesses who are faced with the huge challenge and uncertainty caused by relocating their business’. For traders, the huge challenge and uncertainty has been years in the making and many traders are just shutting up shop worn out by the daily stress of their ‘regeneration’.

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How much space the current traders at the Shopping Centre take up

The latest from this awful saga comes in the form of ‘superpowers’ conferred to Tree Shepherd by Delancey –with Southwark’s approval! As part of their ‘relocation’ proposal, Delancey is suggesting the relocation fund (which is still a mere £5,000 per trader) to be administered by Tree Shepherd – isn’t that an open conflict of interest?! On top of that Tree Shepherd will have discretionary powers to veto traders for relocation based on the ‘viability of a business plan’; ‘trader’s ability to perform and progress’, and ‘ability to run a successful business’ – Once again, if the independence of the advisor has been questioned since it was first appointed, how can the traders rest assured they are not being stabbed in the back?

Our helpful summary: Charade of a process conducted by a social enterprise consultant where the outcomes are pre-determined because the developer won’t relocate existing business unless they might be the type of businesses wealthy incomers to area want. Thus when traders participate this gives legitimacy to the whole charade and in addition delivers valuable information to the developer with no meaningful benefit to the participants. In fact, that information further enhances the dual process of displacement and disempowerment. 

It may be that in all the other ‘social enterprise’ work they do with different groups and communities Tree Shepherd have some good stuff to offer but here in The Elephant we can’t see that they aren’t acting in bad faith and with total complicity with the social cleansing plans for the area.

Tree Shephered Regen Sites

Tree Shepherd’s website listing all the sites of dubious ‘regeneration’ they are paid to work on. 

• For Regeneration, Read Social Cleansing!

Interestingly their striking parallels between the Elephant Shopping Centre and Greenwich Councls plans for the ‘regeneration‘ of Spray Street in Woolwich. Tree Shepherd is paid to be a business advisor at both sites where predominantly black and brown-owned business are under threat of being chucked out of the area. This news report has Woolwich traders dishing it out on Tree Shepherd –

‘Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe also said that two firms – Tree Shepherd and GL Hearn – had been appointed to “reach out” to businesses in the area. But one businesswoman – Barareh Berendji, who runs a dental surgery with her family – was scornful of the efforts of Tree Shepherd, which is also involved in the controversial Elephant & Castle shopping centre redevelopment. ‘I’ve been approached by Tree Shepherd, they came to visit our practice to tell us how to run a business,” she said. “I know how to run a business! I don’t need someone to help me to run a business, I need someone to help me keep my business!…One shopkeeper, Mr Patel from a newsagent on Woolwich New Road said: “I’ve been trading on the same spot for 35 years. It’s always been at the heart of the community, we had a thriving Woolwich market which the council has let it run down over the years. We’re all in favour of change… but we’re part of the community and we make it tick. I had a laughable offer from someone from Tree Shepherd – ‘if we relocate you to Abbey Wood, would you be happy with that’? I mean, we want to be part of this, we’ve worked our lives here. We should be allowed to be where we are and be given a place to trade from, instead of just being bought out and moved on. We want to be part of this community.

This is something that the Elephant community campaigns have been very insistent on, that Southwark Council takes seriously it’s public sector equality duties in regard to the detrimental effects on black and brown owned businesses in The Elephant:

‘…in assessing the impacts of the loss of the affordable businesses premises on traders and customers of Black And Minority Ethnic backgrounds [Council Report OR/165-173], the Council’s analysis fails to consider, properly or at all, the collective impact of the loss of the cluster and unique ecosystem of BAME, and Latino businesses in particular, which is of vital importance to the Latino community not just in Elephant and Castle but right across London..the Council failed to have regard to the equalities impacts of the proposals on women and female BAME business owners who are likely to find it harder to relocate their businesses than male counterparts’.

 

• Up The Elephant Community Campaigns still rocking it

Keep an eye out for new Up The Elephant campaign actions and initiative very soon. A legal challenge has been set in motion – read all about it here and do object online, takes about 3 minutes. Objection is on the same link above:

 

 

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Delancey’s planned unimaginative temporary facility for traders. Too small and too restrictive, say traders!

35% Campaign writes: ‘Delancey have to provide a temporary facility for displaced independent traders, as a condition of planning approval for the shopping centre redevelopment…Latin Elephant and the Elephant Traders welcome the concession, but have also objected that the proposed building is too small and would have trading restrictions that would make it an impractical premises for many of the displaced businesses. Delancey’s proposals mention 33 independent traders, while the trader’s own estimate is that there is a need to provide for over 100 traders. There are also many other issues, including the level of rents and service charges, the security of tenacy arrangements, selection criteria and disability access’.

Up The Elephant has pushed Delancey and the Council for significant gains on social housing and we are pushing hard for the traders too. We maintained actions and protest in the streets and we are working too behind these public expressions of support for the Shopping Centre. All welcome. Get involved.

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(Note: This is an expanded version of the text on Tree Shepherd that appears in our long read on The Elephant here)
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Bad Encounter: Who is gutting The Elephant and Castle?

 

The Souq al-Halal was a teacher, and people there learned. Ever since it closed, everything has been like flour scattered to the wind’

Shamran al-Oteibi, in ‘The Trench’

It’s not often you’ll find us start one of our blog posts with something so literary but you have to begin somewhere if you want to maintain good and beneficial horizons. There is a chapter or two in The Trench by Saudi novelist Abdelrahman Munif about the forced removal of the city of Mooran’s Souq. A souq is a popular market and a social place of meeting up. The Trench is a part of Munif’s five book set about what he describes as ‘the Encounter’ between the discovery of oil in 1938 ‘somewhere on the Arabian peninsula’ (it’s Saudi Arabia he’s writing about) and the subsequent rapid over-development of the region. Oil is money, as we all know, and money takes very little time here to expand and distort beyond recognition local cultures and economies that have developed over thousands of years of history. Munif’s books are about the power of (making) money and more so the ability of those with money / power to change environments and social landscapes beyond recognition.

Munif was very specific when he titled his series the ‘Cities of Salt’ to refer ‘cities that offer no sustainable existence. When the waters come in, the first waves will dissolve the salt and reduce these great glass cities to dust. In antiquity, as you know, many cities simply disappeared. It is possible to foresee the downfall of cities that are inhuman. With no means of livelihood they won’t survive’. Sadly we see the same in the endless creation across London of new identikit developments of posh homes and chain stores. Seen one and you’ve seen them all. Put them in water though and they would dissolve they are so flimsy and alienated.

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Up The Elephant! You can Save Your Market! Save Your Souq!!

And so we’ve been quite active in the Up The Elephant campaign (alongside many other awesome local people) to try to save what we think is the network of the vital sparks that make up the local area in relation to the very social and economic function of the Shopping Centre. Simply put these sparks are all the traders in the Centre. Each week we feel sadder as more and more traders leave and places shut down. The more we go there, the more we know how much of a drastic and irreplaceable loss this will be to the kind of community we feel we come from – poor, working class and proud of all those who use the Centre and all those who trade out of it – from the market traders in the Moat to the kiosk businesses on the two floor and all the independent shops.

‘Many businesses highlighted that since the Shopping Centre was earmarked for redevelopment there has been a gradual running down of the centre due to a lack of maintenance. Surveys revealed that although the environment of the Shopping Centre had been run down through limited maintenance, rental rates and services charges remained the same and in some cases increased:

– “I used to make £2000/week and now I am lucky to make £1000 but my rates and rent remain the same.”

– “They broke the glass of my shop while cleaning. They have only put tape on it. No one has come to repair it. People now think their [possessions] are not safe here.”

From ‘Socio-Economic Value at the Elephant & Castle Report’, August 2018 coordinated by Latin Elephant

Elephant Shopping Centre decline

From the moment they bought the Shopping Centre in 2013 Delancey have been running it down. For Delancey, The Elephant has always been about making as much money as possible and bugger the consequences. Whatever they talk up in fancy looking brochures and cynical ‘consultation’ exercises, you only have to look at their neighbouring development Elephant One on Elephant Rd to see just where there priorities lies. Not only have they chucked up three towers of expensive private and student flats that you couldn’t pass a piece paper between they are so close but the quality and look of the buildings are shoddy. The promised Market Square to host displaced traders from the Shopping Centre, that was agreed with the Council in the Section 106 Planning Agreement, has now been un-promised and withdrawn. Same old story! Nothing for us locals and all for the better off.

 

SHOPPING CENTRE Delancey CGI Vision

Delancey’s gorgeous vision for the development of the land the Elephant Shopping Centre and London College of Communications sits on

Developers Don’t Believe In Anything But Profit…

And so back to Abdelrahman Munif. What struck us from The Trench is the tale of how the Souq al-Halal, the market of Mooran, despite its old social function simply becomes in the way of development and the making of big money. There are many great quotes we could choose that have a kind of resonance with what we feel is at stake at The Elephant Shopping Centre. Here is one longish one:

Mooran was reconstituted time and time again….its joys and sorrows and fears began here, as did its thoughts and news…In the market, jokes and stories were told and carried to Mooran, after which short journey they were changed and embroidered…In the market titles and nicknames were given to people which came to be used more than their names; in the market, the people gossiped about one another and spied carefully on everything around them and learnt all the news and even most of the hidden secrets…so the market had been for as long as Mooran existed…if every state and city has its rulers and rich and powerful men, every city also has certain people who epitomise the life of the city, who set it apart from other cities and from other times…All this was a part of Mooran’s history fast vanishing from its people’s memory. And just a few years into Sultan Khazael’s reign Abu Ghoreifa announced, through Juweiber-al-Duweihi, Mooran’s town crier…that beginning from the following Thursday the market would be held in Awali; and that they were to pass it on. Owners of shops in the market found this out from the police, who ordered them to move out.

With only a small work of imagination and some cultural shifts, if you substitute Elephant & Castle for Mooran, the story could be similar. Similar not the least because the destruction of the Elephant Shopping Centre can only be understood as two conflicting interests – the community versus profit. It’s a cliché but so very painful in its truth. But also because of the very human side of the story – not ‘regeneration’ or the inevitability of ‘change’ or even of ‘progress’, or of bricks and concrete, these Cities of Salt but the actual measurable social effect of destroying this community. We have tried again and again on this blog to describe precisely what effect the demolition of the Shopping Centre will have on the area and local people. We’ve tried because we felt like if the Council could for once hear the actual subtlety of the vital social relations that are made locally from this space then they might work a bit harder to support the traders. But, surprise! – this has not been the case despite some initial support for Up The Elephant by local councillors as part of the recent slight Left shift of Southwark Labour. Anyhow, we’ve always said it’s up to the community to fight its own battles and nothing has changed.

In The Trench the characters Shamran al-Oteibi and Saleh al-Rushdan are elderly men who have lived their whole lives in the hustle and bustle of the Souq. They have made the market as much as the market has made them. They saw the men with suits and flashy cars arrive one day at Souq al-Halal and as canny and wise men they knew the future was damned ‘They haven’t spared anyone in the market – it’s all ‘How are you! And How do you do! God knows what is going on’. We feel the same when any property guys in suits turn up at The Elephant. We feel that traders at The Elephant are like these Souq old-timers – Nicole in her kiosk, Emad in his shop, John in his coffee van, Alan in the market, Mohammed in his store and so on – people who have invested so much in the community fabric that is a massive part of life in The Elephant.

 

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Munif is writing the story of Oil as a key driving force of global development. We are telling the same story with oil cash seeking land as the central local struggle between us and the men in suits. Just as Munif uses the idea of ‘The Encounter’, we at the Elephant have long understood what the arrival of the men in suits from Lend Lease, Oakmayne, Delancey means. At the same time the men in suits have no understanding and little interest in who we are and how we live. We see people engaged in living often very hard lives and how these lives are also maintained in a relationship with what’s in The Elephant. The men in suits see only the built forms in which we live those lives. When they look upon a desert oasis ripe with sweet water and fruits, they can only see land ripe for the levelling and building of luxury flats and shopping malls.

…But The Council Believes In What Exactly?

We’ve long been critical of the Council’s Love-In with Delancey, who are more or less a series of offshore-registered shell companies in a global financial romance between the country of Qatar and various financial investment funds. Since 1939 Qatar has also become the richest countries in the world due to its riches in oil and gas. It takes the profits from the sale of those commodities and invests those billions of £££ of profits all over the World in many things but particularly in property development and particularly in London. In Southwark, the famous Shard is 95% owned by the State of Qatar and locally the Elephant One development on Elephant Rd and the Shopping Centre plans are part-financed by the Qatar Investment Authority, the singular financial vehicle of the State of Qatar. That State has been described as ‘an authoritarian state with strict judicial constraints on freedom of expression. Detainees are subject to beatings and cruel treatment while a great many immigrant workers are trapped in conditions of forced labour’. In Qatar and especially in its capital city Doha, migrant workers make up almost 90% of the population and are employed under the Kafala labour system that ties a worker to a labour sponsor whose ‘consent is required to change jobs, leave the country, get a driver’s license, rent a home or open a checking account‘.

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Dormitories for migrant workers under the Kafala labour system in Qatar

If you want a snapshot of things, although of course very welcome, a new law in 2018 allows the millions of migrant workers to leave Qatar without permission from their employers! Before that they weren’t allowed at all! Despite these supposed changes, labour practices in Qatar are still described by Amnesty International as ‘inadequate and continuing to leave migrant workers at the hands of exploitative bosses‘.

As ever then we question the Council’s supporting role as Planning Authority in all this:

Why would a Labour council do an inordinate amount of Delancey’s bidding for them when the very heart of Delancey’s development schemes are based on supporting offshore tax avoiding on a grand scale and a dubious authoritarian regime? We aren’t arguing for the Council to sniff out ethical global property companies as there aren’t any but Delancey and the Qatar Investment Authority? Council bigwigs, those self-described ‘old-fashioned municipal socialists’ are surely having an ethics deficit, we think! Or is ‘municipal socialism’ here still at the expense of migrant workers there?

Why do they like helping along so many towers of overpriced or luxury flats? It’s a mystery! Do they really think that more of these types of predominantly unaffordable homes are ‘solving the housing crisis’ as Council Leader Peter John says? Do they believe in ‘uplifting’ The Elephant because they themselves are exactly the kind of people who like deli’s and artisan bakeries and faddy coffee shops? When they say ‘regeneration is good’ are they just looking in the mirror and planning still on ‘bringing a better class of people’ to The Elephant.

At The Elephant the community campaigns were so strong that the Council could have used this as great leverage against Delancey to get for the community so much more but they didn’t. Despite we having Delancey on the defensive, the Council pissed it up a wall and passed Delancey’s shoddy non-Council policy compliant planning application on July 3rd and so forward to demolition. What a carve up!

Tree Shepherd’s Bought-In Role In Delancey’s Demolition Plans

Back at the Shopping Centre, unlike at the Souq al-Halal, there are no police uprooting the market traders. The uprooting is slower and done differently based on the promises of Delancey that they will be nice and do right by the traders and replant them somewhere else locally. But what guarantees are in place to help these people remain where their life and livelihoods are?

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Tree Shepherd is a private consultancy appointed by Southwark Council as an ‘independent’ business advisor for the traders. But this was yet another trick played by the council and the developer, since Tree Shepherd is paid for by Delancy as a way of showing ‘commitment’ to the traders in the relocation process. But in reality Tree Shepherd works as an undercover agent who barely engages with trades only to pass on useful information to Delancey – How can the advisor remain independent when their funds come from the developer who intends to kick out all traders and demolish the Shopping Centre? As we understand it they are paid about £165,000 by Delancey, so if were cynical we would question how does that help them remain ‘independent’. As an advisor their role is to be help the traders with their relocation and/or compensation but in over a year their work can only be measured by how they have helped… Delancey!

Despite the Council acknowledging some 130 small independent businesses in the so-called ‘red-line’ of the development – including market stalls, kiosks, shop units, arches, etc –, following the appointment in June 2017, Tree Shepherd established a list of only 24 businesses who could ‘benefit’ from their services. 18 months after their appointment –with an increase in funding during 2018-, the situation continues to be same, if not worse… They told us ‘We’re working with 30 traders mainly and keeping an additional 70-80 informed on what’s happening with the planning etc’.

One of the first things Tree Shepherd did when starting their job was to undertake a survey that basically collected useful data for Delancey on traders. They used that data to see what expectations traders had, how much they were selling and, most importantly, if they were willing to stay in the area. Ask an open question like ‘do you want to stay in the area?’ and when some of them answered they wanted to stay but were worried about rent increase in the new places – Tree Shepherd used this information to then claim that not all traders are willing to relocate, and this information was used by Delancey in their ‘relocation update’ to argue that not all traders might need assistance.

 

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Above: Cafe Nova in the Elephant Shopping Centre – closed after 17 years. Cafe Nova was a social enterprise giving regular work to disadvantaged folks. We asked Tree Shepherd ‘will they be helped to relocate locally?’. No answer to date.

Their modus-operandi consists of Tree Shepherd of every now and then scheduling meetings with traders to either inform them of how the process is taking longer than expected and that they should be patient; or make them fill in forms with no valuable outcomes; or taking them on ‘tours’ to see empty garages, building sites or planning drawings of how some potential units (still not delivered nor with planning consent) and at one point actually tweeting out photos of these visits until traders complained; or simply making traders waste their time. What’s the purpose of these meetings? Box ticking exercise: registering the meeting so then the Council and Delancey can brag about how many times they have assisted the traders.

But things get even worse since Delancey was granted initial planning permission by Southwark (the scheme still needs Greater London Authority approval for a full planning consent) on 3rd July. As traders have raised in more than one opportunity to local Councillors, Planning Officers and GLA authorities, Tree Shepherd has a serious lack of personnel, their staff keep changing, the opening times on the drop-in centre at Unit 231 constantly change, they are not properly advertised and is now down to two days only, as if it were a reflection from Unit 215 by Delancey (now open only two days a week as well). None of this adds up in their favour, in our humble opinion.

Research done by the excellent Latin Elephant shows that the main problem is that ‘only 471 square metres have been made available for independent traders by Delancey. Even though traders currently occupy 4,005 square metres of floor space. This equates to the displacement of the majority of those businesses’. There also seems to be a qualifying process for relocation when we think ALL traders should automatically qualify for relocation. You could say Tree Shepherd might be, consciously or not, acting as a gatekeeper on who will get relocated to a new trading place in The Elephant and who won’t and this is some ways will be dictated by Delancey who certainly won’t want most traders in their new posh development. Certainly Tree Shepherd and Delancey are clear that ‘businesses must be suitable for the mix and diversity that the Operator thinks will work’ as they told the traders recently. Funny then how they describe themselves as ‘Tree Shepherd works with local authorities and developers to help bring the benefits of this regeneration to local people. We work with local people who want to start a new business and with existing small businesses who are faced with the huge challenge and uncertainty caused by relocating their business’. For traders, the huge challenge and uncertainty has been years in the making and many traders are just shutting up shop worn out by the daily stress of their ‘regeneration’.

The latest from this awful saga comes in the form of ‘superpowers’ conferred to Tree Shepherd by Delancey –with Southwark’s approval! As part of their ‘relocation’ proposal, Delancey is suggesting the relocation fund (which is still a mere £5,000 per trader) to be administered by Tree Shepherd – isn’t that an open conflict of interest?! On top of that Tree Shepherd will have discretionary powers to veto traders for relocation based on the ‘viability of a business plan’; ‘trader’s ability to perform and progress’, and ‘ability to run a successful business’ – Once again, if the independence of the advisor has been questioned since it was first appointed, how can the traders rest assured they are not being stabbed in the back?


Regeneration Seeks Amnesia (Again)

Like we said a few years back about the siting of Lend Lease’s pop-up container park The Artworks on the old Elephant Park and Heygate site, regeneration doesn’t want to deal with the long histories of how people have made their local area, fought for things they want and don’t want and have also negotiated problem after problem be that from within the local community or from outside. What ‘regeneration’ seeks is for everyone to forget. Change is coming! Forget The Heygate. Forget the Elephant Park. Forget the Shopping Centre. Forget it all and embrace the new! Like Munif says about the Souq al-Halal – All this was a part of Mooran’s history fast vanishing from its people’s memory. Like we also said ‘whose regeneration?’. This wearing down of local traders or the picking of council estates one by one or the more and more luxury developments springing up could be described as a ‘slow violence’, a great and pertinent phrase coined by writer Rob Nixon for his good book ‘Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor’. The social effect and cost of this violence is seemingly invisible but happens grindingly in the everyday lives of us. Not only is such a grind ever present in working class communities, within those neighbourhoods that suffering is also fractured and intensified ‘along fault lines of ethnicity, gender, race, class, region, religion, and generation’.

Rob Nixon says it is ‘a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all…I mean a violence that is neither spectacular nor instantaneous but instead incremental, whose calamitous repercussions are postponed for years or decades or centuries’. We see this as a very apt description of the disastrous legacy that London’s ‘regenerations’ will leave on working class communities. ‘Regeneration’ is the unasked for slow violence of a process of taking what’s ours (council homes, public spaces) and displacement (moving us out of our communities) that “smooths the way for amnesia, as places are rendered irretrievable to those who once inhabited them’.

There is fine passage in Munif ‘s ‘Cities of Salt’ that concerns the arrival of an American ship some time after the discovery of oil at the oasis of Wadi al-Uyoun. The oasis had been rapidly developed into the city of Harran and slowly settlers come and colonise the area. When a massive ship arrives at the coast with 100’s of new and brash settlers, local people suffer a kind of forced amnesia:

This day gave Harran a birth date, recording when and how it was built, for most people have no memory of Harran before that day. Even its own natives, who had lived there since the arrival of the first frightening group of Americans and watched with terror the realignment of the town’s shoreline and hills­ the Harranis, born and bred there, saddened by the destruction of their houses, recalling the old sorrows of lost travelers and the dead-remembered the day the ship came better than any other day, with fear, awe and surprise. It was practically the only date they remembered’.

 

Up The Elephant

We made a poster a long time ago. It read ‘Local people can you help unlock the economic potential of The Elephant & Castle by pissing off please?’. This is what they want but we are staying put. We will not forget ourselves! Up The Elephant!

SN Local piss off

Keep an eye out for new Up The Elephant campaign actions and initiative very soon. A legal challenge has been set in motion – read all about it here and do object online, takes about 3 minutes. Objection is on the same link above:

 

We’ve pushed Delancey and the Council for significant gains on social housing and we are pushing hard for the traders too. We maintained actions and protest in the streets and we are working too behind these public expressions of support for the Shopping Centre. All welcome. Get involved. We can win this!

 

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(Note: The section in the above text on the role of the ‘social enterprise’ Tree Shepherd has been expanded into a fuller version of ours and others many criticisms of Tree Shepherd and is posted here)

 

Christmas is coming – two presents for you:
Slow-Violence-and-the-Environmentalism-of-the-Poor
Cities_of_Salt_-_Book One

The Curious Case of The Heygate Estate, Hej Coffee And A Hey Presto!

As ‘people who sit in the dark typing things by themselves’, we are happy to shine a light on the real and marvelous history of The Curious Case of Hej Coffee and The Heygate Photo.

At the start of August we received our usual public relations updates from multinational property developer, profiteer and demolisher of the Heygate Estate, Lend Lease, with exciting ongoing news about their new development Elephant Park. This time there was an Elephant Park video promoting the new Hej Coffee shop on Rodney Rd. Hej Coffee is part of the new blocks where the old Wingrave blocks of Heygate Estate had been. Ok, but that’s how it works? – Lend Lease promote a new café to advertise their new development and the café promo talks about the new development to promote Lend Lease and their cafe. They are joined at the hip. Ok, that’s not sinister. It’s just business doing its thing. Marketing, selling, profiting or hoping to profit. However…

 

WHITEWASHING?

The video is fronted by Joanna, a black barista working at Hej Coffee (pronounced Hey! as in Hey-gate!). At the time we commented that although we had ‘massive respect to Joanna as a local worker’, it was ‘utterly tragic the actual disconnect between the words and the pictures in the promo video and the actual reality of the social cleansing of The Elephant’. By disconnect we meant that the script of the video talks about the customers being ‘diverse’, ‘variety’, ‘all sorts of people’, ‘everyone’s different’ but actually everyone in the video wasn’t different or diverse but were all white 20-somethings. So it’s a typical whitewashing of a local London area that is a massively mixed and great community. In Heygate’s hey day it even had about 3000 working class people living around where the Hej Cafe stands.

Cafe Manor Place Holal

This isn’t the first time this goes on locally and probably won’t be the last. In fact, this week Notting Hill Housing who are developing the Manor Place depot site put up hoardings with very much more of the same – a barren but stylishly chic café with only white people in it and yet bearing the text ‘Hola!’ and three spicy chillis! You could argue that these regeneration images are just identikit nonsense, badly thought through or you could argue that’s it’s deliberate. We edge towards the latter.

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(Customers from the Hej Coffee promo video)

 

Of course, it’s not our argument that we want a more inclusive gentrification! Gentrification will only ever be exclusive along class and race lines – that’s how it works. Black people rarely get ‘included’ in these ‘indicative CGI’ pictures of forthcoming developments because images of smug white coffee slurpers are used to sell the new-builds to exactly those smug white coffee slurpers. Creating a terrain of whiteness means that these hoardings are like all those other unsubtle codes that racialise everyday life – white people indicate safety, white people indicate networking and getting on, upward mobility, white people indicate taste and style, beauty and desirability. To be honest, it’s sickening. So, this was our first criticism directed at Hej Coffee.

 

Hej Orignal Photo

ARTWASHING?

A few days later we heard that Hej Coffee had put on its wall a large artistic photo of the Heygate Estate as part of the décor. It’s a pretty photo, carefully taken in 2010, a symmetrical presentation of an empty estate. Hej Coffee was very proud of the photo and Tweeted out its installation in the café by the picture’s taker Simon Kennedy, an architectural photographer and lecturer at University College of London’s Bartlett school.

As people who were heavily involved in the last years of the struggles against the demolition of Heygate we wondered what it meant for a new café, an intimate part of the gentrification of the area, to want to display a photo of the Heygate albeit one especially chosen for its abstracted sense of the estate blocks. So we dropped some lines to Hej Coffee about this saying things like ‘don’t think many customers understand the long messy and scandalous history of the demolition of the Heygate. It’s certainly not a good look for the Hej cafe. Bit insensitive given that the Heygate scandal has not gone away for many local people’ and posting up photos we took in 2011 of the old Wingrave blocks.

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(Photos – From Heygate Estate to Hej Coffee 2008 – 2018)

 

Hej Coffee replies were never on the subject of the criticism and only about coming in for a coffee to chat about it. In fact the more we and then other people commented the more they made invites (with cute emojis) – ‘We need more people to come in to drink more coffee and know more things…not to be sitting in the dark typing things by themselves’. Nice one!

Hej Heygate Text on PhotoHej Text Heygate

Eventually they made a move and placed next to the Heygate photo two texts to try and give the photo some context and some rationale. These were a bit rich really and seemed to us as manly guff and wishful thinking – ‘Reverence for history is paramount at Hej, consequently we are open and honest about Heygate’s past. With your co-operation we would like to facilitate discussion and debate to benefit our community’. They also posted out a link to an article ‘Heygate Abstracted’ about Simon Kennedy’s Heygate photos where various ideas are mooted about what Kennedy’s images mean in relation to social housing and the scandal of the demolition – ‘Kennedy’s photographs emphasise the consequences of the painfully protracted if not perpetual contemporary ‘regeneration’ process which has left homes and shops conspicuously vacant for years on end’. Hej Coffee wrote ‘This should help everyone understand the context of the art we proudly display at our roastery’. (Here, we could be pedantic and ask: is the scandal really that those homes and shops were vacant for a long time, or is it rather that the diverse community that lived and worked there for 35 years were forced to vacate them, for no other reason than desire to sell-off the land and encourage privatised profit and a whiter, richer image for the area?)

HEJ FLYER

Anyhow, then it all becomes a bit confusing. Either Hej Coffee or someone else made a leaflet for a discussion night at Hej Coffee on Friday 7th September about Hej and the Heygate. This then caused another round of online back and forth. Hej Coffee said they hadn’t made the flyer but were happy for a discussion to go ahead.

 

AND THEN AS IF BY MAGIC – HEY PRESTO!

For us lot, although Simon Kennedy’s picture shows an empty estate and might therefore represent some kind of symbolic commentary on the political processes around the ‘regeneration’ and demolition of the Heygate buildings and community, we thought that there’s something less than sincere in the representation and in its display in a café that is only situated where it is because of that social cleansing process. Despite its neat portrayal of vacancy, at the time the photo was taken in 2010 there were still many households living on the estate and there was a huge range of people doing stuff in the estate’s public spaces to highlight it. We were there too being a part of the allotments, the film screenings, the public exhibitions on the scandal of the decant, the chicken keeping, hosting visits for school kids and students, leading anti-gentrification walks and supporting all the remaining residents in their struggle for decent rehousing or fair compensation.

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(Activities on Heygate Estate right up to the final eviction of the last resident, 2013)

 

So when Hej wants to contextualise their use of the image as a respectful memory we would question whether such an image devoid of the actual real tenants and residents functions in any such way but more appears as a done and dusted and historical artefact removed from any actual painful and still very real context. One Tweeter described Heygate as ‘still an open wound’ which is something we agree with and continue to do the work we do on this basis. We replied to Hej Coffee – ‘your Heygate photograph describes ‘a process that disassociates these buildings from their contentious histories, and any sense of domestic life’ yet when he took those photos residents were still living there and all sorts of public life was still going on for 3 more years. The community never gave up on the public and social side of the estate until the final eviction and enclosure. In fact that enclosure was resisted til the end. The Heygate photo you proudly display is both an abstraction and aestheticised erasure of that long community struggle. It would make more sense if you were genuinely concerned to remember the social housing of the Heygate by framing these displacement maps of where residents went. Displaced so Lend Lease could demolish their homes, build Elephant Park & you could rent a space for your coffee shop’. We also posted a photographs of their site that show the actual material history of what demolition and displacement looks like and how it’s experienced by many locals. Other critics were also piping up. Our friends at Vile Arrogance wrote ‘When posh coffee shops come to your neighbourhood and wanna debate ‘context’ about poor decisions of displaying an arty photo of the council estate they were built on top of…

Hej Heygate Gone

Any road up, were were umming and arrrghing about whether to go the event or not. We do not relish liberal dialogues in gentrified spaces where any anger or pointed criticism gets washed out by scene and setting. But on the day of the event, Hej Coffee took down the Heygate photo and wrote ‘whilst we never intended any offence or insensitivity by displaying art, we have listened to your comments and have taken the photo down’. It wasn’t any old ‘art’ that was seen as offensive and serving the politics of gentrification, but Hej Coffee could not at this point seem to bear to name it. Whatever! The Heygate photo was gone, decanted to some other unmapped place.

 

FINAL HEAVY HEAVY CONTEXT OF OUR OWN

By way of a small finale, we want to add some things in about gentrification, community and coffee shops. It would be a kind of foolishness to equate expensive coffee shops with some kind of enemy. Hej Coffee, like others appearing in the neighbourhood, are the product of gentrification and not the cause. Although we don’t particularly like the kind of expense, vibe and disposition of such places, it would be stupid to centre our entire political life on opposing them. Campaigns against ‘yuppies’ in the 80’s and against ‘hipsters’ now rarely have any potential for actual community organising and they seemingly don’t have much longevity! In the same weeks that this mini-soap opera was playing out with us, Hej Coffee and others, we were more usefully spending our time being part of the local campaigns against the demolition of the Shopping Centre and of the Aylesbury estate, because opposing these is opposing the much larger forces at play – that’s national and local government-supported gentrification dressed up as ‘regeneration’.

 

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(Latin@s from Boyle Heights protesting the Weird Wave Coffee Shop, 2017)

 

Having said this, there are many communities in the world who are militantly against the arrival of gentrifying businesses as they are part of the signal that it’s okay for developers and speculators to colonise ever greater chunks of our cities for their bloody-minded profit-seeking schemes, while low-income residents get stomped over or cast aside. In Boyle Heights in L.A, a Latin@ neighbourhood with a decades long struggle for public housing and against the social and ethnic cleansing of their area, parts of that community are targeting new business such as cafes or art galleries that are a sign of the violent gentrification of their area. Those struggles are enacted by a community that recognises itself as such – as poor and as Latin@ – and who are fighting from the basis of that self-identification.

We would say that in London the debate and action around these questions has not been so clear. Of course, it’s London and not L.A and each anti-gentrification struggle is different but it would be good to see some discussion here about how to think and link different parts of the ‘regeneration’ process – global development and real estate, investment and construction, demolition and displacement with the ‘uplifting’ of areas, luxury flats and more expensive shops, lifestyle values and displays. But let’s not mistake one for the other. White coffee slurpers have little power over any of this, the same as the rest of us. We need to be clear also that many (but not all) people living in gentrifying areas are likely to be as precarious in their housing situation (low wages and expensive rents), even in new developments like Elephant Park. Then of course, there are the rich folks buying into the area and so what role do they play? So far, locally, they do not really organise as a lobby to boost more ‘regeneration’ although London is seeing a rise of Yes In My Back Yard (YIMBY) groups who are dubious in their support for more and more new gentrifying developments.

Elephant Crowd 2108

In The Elephant, the community campaigns have not been making clear demands to new more upscale businesses partly because this probably reflects it being an unresolved issue within London’s wider anti-gentrification campaigns. Partly, locally, this is out of sheer tiredness with keeping up with everything going on in the area. Maybe it’s because the carrot of a Labour government dulls a bit the fact that we actually want a whole lot more than just percentage peanuts of social rented homes? Partly again there is still over politeness to politicians, be they councilors or The Mayor. There have been attempts to make a Neighbourhood Plan of our area and that would enable us to make decisions about what kind of things we want to keep and what kind of things we want to see invested in around The Elephant. All good stuff but its slow work! One thing for sure though is that without thinking through and being clear on the above and if we aren’t clear about how to take on gentrifying businesses head on in line with our vision for the area, we will wake up in a whitewashed bland-o-rama!

 


LOLZ…

Hej Blocked

more LOLZ…on the old Heygate site…and that is why we keep going on about it!!

Heygate House Price Aug 2018

‘WE’RE WIDE AWAKE, READY & WE’RE GOING TO TAKE YOU DOWN’. Aylesbury Estate leaseholders battling further Compulsory Purchase Orders for ‘regeneration’

 

Aylesbury Leaseholders Action Group (ALAG) absolutely roasted Southwark Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday 24th July with a hot and heartfelt political statement against the ongoing ‘regeneration’ of the estate. The ALAG delegation of Aylesbury leaseholders were from Northchurch House which is the next phase of the so-called ‘regeneration’, a site called Plot 18 off Thurlow St. It’s questionable whether the Council actually needs to CPO this block as it continues to issue contradictory statements about whether it is a vital part of Plot 18 building works or not.

Plot 18 CPO Map

It’s certainly great to see working class people standing up for themselves and spelling out in no uncertain how they experience this dreadful ‘regeneration’ programme and how it’s nothing more than the continued social cleansing of Walworth. The video above shows the whole deputation in all it’s righteousness but here are some choice words from ALAG to the Council:

‘As leaseholders and residents of the Aylesbury estate, and we are making this public statement because Southwark Council, the developers Notting Hill Housing Association, central government and those profiting from the housing crisis would prefer that we didn’t.

For too long, my family and thousands like us have suffered the silent oppression of state endorsed social cleansing. Southwark council has a history of violent social cleansing and it is yet to answer for the brutal displacement of residents on the former Heygate Estate. This oppression happens invisibly, via cabinet meetings, in council offices and coded into email chains that never see the light of day. The oppression is drawn out over years and the uncertainty eats away at the mental health and stability of its victims until they can take it no longer and cave.

Let me state this. We will not cave. My family, our friends and neighbours and fellow activists will not cave. Southwark council has made a fatal error in judgement by deciding to abuse the rights of Judi, Mary & Felix, Grace & Solomon and Deji & Grace and all the others.

My parents have paid for their education in this country, they have worked tirelessly and they have paid their fair share of taxes. They started their own businesses and rain or shine they paid yet more taxes. They saved what they could and chose a well located home of their own, surrounded by their community. They raised respectful, educated, law abiding families in these homes. While the council is happy to collect years of council tax and service charges and major works fees from these families, they are deaf to their cries for justice when deciding to dispossess them of these homes’.

ALAG also requested to cabinet to not approve the CPO for the Northchurch block and the appropriation of land needed to start construction on the First Development Site and on Plot 18. Not surprisingly, cabinet proceeded to pass those resolutions without a single hesitation; the usual vague promises were made to meet with leaseholders to discuss and explain the situation further. We know however that what is needed are not explanations and more empty promises and lies (leaseholders understand perfectly well what’s going on), but actions to stop the demolition of the estate.

 

AYLESBURY Arklow Hse demolished

Aylesbury Estate – Social Cleansing In Action

The struggles on the Aylesbury Estate have been going on for decades with local tenants and residents seeking not to be displaced out of the area or see their council homes transferred to Housing Association.  Right now, the outcome of the recent 2nd Public Inquiry into the Council desire to Compulsory Purchase (CPO) leaseholders from their homes on the First Development site is still unknown. You might have seen this site off Albany Rd where demolition has been in progress in the last few months pulling down the large Bradenham block (as well as the red brick Arklow House). Despite this demolition, one leaseholder there is still battling the CPO as the other blocks come down around her ears!

aylesburyestategraphic

When a Council seeks to Compulsory Purchase your home, it’s because you can’t agree via negotiation with them a reasonable compensation for your home. Compulsory Purchase means that the landowner, in this case the Council, can ‘obtain land or property without the consent of the owner‘ as long as the Government agrees to this. Many Aylesbury leaseholders do not want to sell their homes and would prefer for the estate to be refurbished, but IF they are going to have to give up their homes then they have been demanding a reasonable compensation in return that would enable them to stay in their local area. Earlier phases of the regeneration have seen tenants and leaseholders displaced out of the area. Tenants to other existing council homes in Southwark and leaseholders far and wide as the money they got for their homes was not enough to buy locally. Partly this has been because the valuations made by the Council have been phenomenally low and the gentrification of the area (of which the Aylesbury regeneration is part and parcel) has massively pushed up house prices.Whatever the outcome of the ‘regeneration’ scheme, former Aylesbury tenants will either have to accept rehousing to new and more expensive and less secure Notting Hill Housing homes or face ‘decant’ to other parts of Southwark. For many these homes will be far from their existing social and survival networks – friends, family, schools, doctors, local shops etc. Another disaster from the scheme is an estimated loss of hundreds already existing council homes on the Estate. As always we say ‘whose regeneration?’ Who is really benefiting in this community?

AYLESBURY LEES MAP 2

Aylesbury Estate Leaseholders Displacement Map – Loretta Lees , 2016

Many of the Aylesbury leaseholders are council tenants who bought their homes on the estate under the Right To Buy scheme. Although we do not support the sale of council homes,we understand why working class people decide to buy their flats. We recognise that any housing struggle on any estate has to show solidarity to all those who live there not to be forced out be they tenants, leaseholders, temporary tenants, private renters, unauthorised occupants or squatters. United we win, divided we beg for scraps!

 

 

Aylesbury Estate – Compulsory Purchase Pressures

There have been two CPO Public Inquiries over the First Development Site.  The first one resulted in a partial victory for leaseholders in September 2016, the second one is ongoing and waiting for the Government Inspector to make a recommendation to the Secretary of State who will then make known whether the CPO is confirmed or denied.

Regardless of this amazing struggle by Aylesbury leaseholders, Southwark Council seem determined to throw out CPO’s like confetti even though each CPO process can also see a Public Inquiry that takes months to complete. The Inquiries into the First Development site has held up the demolition for years now. Knowing that their are hundreds of other leaseholders across Aylesbury, we wonder if for a regeneration hungry Council this is the most sensible way of going about things. The Aylesbury Leaseholders Action Group now has a wealth of experience from battling CPO’s. It’s been great then to see them gearing up once more into action over Plot 18 and beyond on other phases – Taplow Phase 3:

‘Aylesbury Leaseholders Action Group is a self-organised organisation of Aylesbury Estate leaseholders who are campaigning to push Southwark Council to:

  1. Refurbish rather than demolish the estate, to save the existing diverse community and to say no to social cleansing.
  2. Offer “like for like” homes to leaseholders whose home are being demolished. ALAG understands “like for like” as being able to stay within SE17 in a home of the same square meterage.
  3. Maintain services and maintenance on the estate and not operate a policy of ‘managed decline’.’

We at Southwark Notes continue to stand 100% behind the Aylesbury Leaseholders Action Group and groups of tenants organising on the Estate!!

Aylesbury Phase One Displacement Map

AYLESBURY Creation Phase 2 displacement map 2017

Two displacement maps made by Aylesbury’s own pro-regeneration body Creation Trust showing where tenants from the state have been ‘decanted’ too.

Also at Southwark Notes we have been stressing that the small Left shift in local Southwark Labour has yet to see any of those Left councillors step up and condemn the Aylesbury ‘regeneration’. As ALAG says, after Labour Councillors support for the demolition of the Heygate Estate a few years ago – ‘Why are Southwark’s Labour councilors continuing to persecute their voters?‘ (on Aylesbury) This is a topic we are now beginning to stress and will return to soon – you can’t be against the social cleansing of The Elephant but remain silent on the violent regeneration of the Aylesbury.

Labour Tweet Shopping Centre July 2018

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We’ve been appealing for local Labour wards to break the silence on Aylesbury but we are still in the tumbleweed zone. We will let you know if we hear anything…

weedy

Why we are protesting LCC (London College of Communication) as ‘Development Partner’ at The Elephant

UP THE ELPEPHANT DEMO JUNE 21st SMALL

It’s been a big fight again at The Elephant but it’s been a fantastic united effort of organising against the disastrous plans for the area. Local people, students, traders and other groups have come together to try and put a stop to the violent social cleansing of the area. As we’ve said before, The Elephant Shopping Centre is the very heart of the area and it’s a place of getting your shopping done whilst making vital social interactions with shop-owners and friends alike.

All of us who have come together under the Up The Elephant campaign recognise what a terrible loss to the Shopping Centre will be. For us, we can’t eat luxury flats and we don’t want to lose the myriad of small businesses to a sterile plaza of Café Nerro, Wagamama or Foxtons! We are demanding for The Elephant genuinely affordable homes, guaranteed protection for small traders and keeping the Bingo. In January 2018 we managed to get the planning permission for the scheme adjourned so that the Council and developers would have to start taking onboard our demands. Seeing as the ‘there is no alternative’ Council has recommended that the scheme by given permission, this was no uncertain victory along the way for what we want for our community!

UPDATE: Video of the demonstration at Elephant on 21st June 2018

Actually Existing Local People!!

On Saturday morning again, we were part of a campaign stall talking to users of the Shopping Centre and precious few of the hundred or so people we talked to were in favour of the development plans for 100’s of unaffordable flats and the loss of what makes the Shopping Centre so great – its soul and its sense of community.

 

But it has only been through the efforts of Up The Elephant that any of the plans have been changed at all. Peter John, Southwark Council leader, has remained silent on how on the question of housing Delancey has been forced by us to include more social rented homes in the plans. Instead of seeing the community in action (and with help from some local councillors) as a leverage and a pressure on the developers for a better deal, his only recent comment has been how he thought that ‘on balance – and it was always an ‘on balance’ view – that the offer was good enough’. That ‘offer’ was originally only 33 social rented homes out of a total of 979 – that would be about 3% homes in any way affordable to the local community! In the same interview he talks about his belief in ‘old-fashioned municipal socialism’. Yes, we support free school meals and free swimming for local residents but municipal socialism was never about demolishing council homes (see Aylesbury Estate!) or not even understanding the basic effects or more and more overpriced developments in poor areas like The Elephant.

 

The London College of Complicity

It is only recently that campaigners have been highlighting the role of local London College of Communication (LCC) in this development plan. LCC, a part of the University of The Arts London (UAL) group of art schools, is a development partner with Delancey, the shadowy offshore and tax-avoiding developer behind the whole Elephant scheme. What UAL/LCC seeks to gain is a new campus on the site of the Shopping Centre once it is demolished.

Now, no-one is saying that nothing should ever change and everything should always stay the same and so the local campaigns are not against a new campus for the LCC but not at such a cost to the local area. But UAL and LCC management have been spectacularly bad at being in any way accountable to the local community they have been part of for over 50 years. Natalie Brett, Head of London College of Communication and Pro Vice-Chancellor of University of the Arts London essentially gave the same ‘woe-is-us’ speech at a Community Council meeting and a meeting organised by the Walworth Society with Delancey. At no point in her speech did she recognise any of the community’s concerns nor did she even make direct reference to those concerns. Instead she warbled on about how shabby the LCC campus is and how they are desperate for a new campus.

In February 2018 in a public relations response forced by all the pressure the campaigns were bringing down on LCC, she wrote: ‘We welcome the agreement from Southwark Council’s planning committee to defer the final planning decision to enable further discussions to take place to address key issues and concerns raised by Councillors and local community stakeholders’. However in another interview published in a recent LCC publication she describes how she is ‘not very happy in the way it turned out because I think there was so much noise going on about the concerns here, that there wasn’t enough opportunity for the benefits of the project to come through’.

Natalie Brett seems happy to remain sceptical about the strength of local opposition and from this point onwards, LCC retreated away again from hosting any actual public engagement with local people who could be invited in for a genuine dialogue with LCC as a long-term part of the local area. All that has happened is that Delancey opened up a shop front in the Shopping Centre where fancy displays and leaflets can only demonstrate to us what we already know – that the scheme still isn’t good enough for us! So far none of the Up The Elephant campaigns have been invited to discuss their concerns directly with LCC management. Maybe we are simply too noisy for Natalie Brett?
The College even has the large LCC Studio space on the First Floor of the Shopping Centre where they could host dynamic conversations about the plans with the campaigns and local people. There have been one or two exhibitions held by LCC there that feature different takes on issues of regeneration but nothing truly reaching out to the local community and asking for their opinions, good or bad!

 

London College of Communication in Consultation Mode

We are aware that there have been formal meetings with staff about redevelopment at LCC. There was a drop-in consultation meeting at LCC for staff in the last months where Delancey did their latest pitch showing how they had improved the social housing offer in response to local pressure. Members of staff could ask Delancey questions at this.  Staff have also been encouraged to go and look at plans in Shopping Centre.

A member of staff told us:
Its been quite strange the way the college management and staff seem to be handling the whole redevelopment thing. I mean the declining Elephant and its estates has been in loads of projects by staff and students over the years – so there’s been interest and they have been critical I think, but now its like there’s a disconnect. I think the union has tried to raise the issue. There was a meeting a while ago last year maybe, there were some people from the Elephant campaigns there who did a talk. But it seemed to go quiet after that. I don’t know what happened. Or maybe its like people think the College doesn’t have responsibility towards social justice at a local level – its just something to say in brochures and student projects!
   I did hear that some staff were being encouraged by the management to sign some developers petition, which seemed really bizarre. And some staff tweeting the petition out I think! I don’t know if that’s true, I didn’t get asked. The view from higher up seems to be that its all down to the Council about the development, the college is just a trying to get a building to do right by its staff and students. That’s what I’ve heard at the big all staff meetings. I think privately and amongst themselves a lot of people don’t think its right. So I wonder if people are a bit scared to be more vocal. One of the union leaders at LCC a few years ago who wouldn’t let management get away with anything, lost his job. People don’t want to be targets and are worried about their jobs. It would be like taking on the management and not just LCC but UAL. There is a lot hanging on the new building, for the head I expect as well. Its a big machine UAL.

We were very grateful to hear an insiders view on goings on at LCC and are always happy to give an anonymous platform for any staff or students at LCC to voice their concerns about the role of the College in these shonky development plans. (elephantnotes@yahoo.co.uk – or by post or hand to: Southwark Notes c/o 56a Infoshop, 56 Crampton St, SE17 3AE)

 

The Students Will Have Their Say

As part of the increasing pressure being put on LCC / UAL, there has been quite a robust campaign from students from the College and from other UAL campuses such as Central St Martins in Kings Cross and Chelsea College. The students initiated their own Stop The Elephant Development campaign back in January with an occupation of the LCC right before the Council’s planning committee meeting on January 30th. Since then they have also made a feisty intervention at the opening night of the LCC large ‘Capital City’ exhibition in April and another one at the opening of LCC degree shows in May: ‘A group of us from Stop the Elephant Development stormed the event, disrupting it for over 2 hours at the peak of the event despite a heavily increased security and bag searches. Occupying the space, a number of us had brilliant conversations with attendees of the event, including students who exhibited and members of the public. Significantly, Jeremy Till Head of Central St Martins chose to tell the ArtsSU Campaigns Officer that as a student union officer she should be ashamed of herself and that the action was “disgusting and pathetic just like the idiot students who partake in this nonsense”, before refusing to answer why UAL continues to ignore the demands of the community and UAL students and workers’.

 

The intervention at the Capital City opening was interesting as the LCC show was about highlighting ‘the relationship between money and property in London and its affects on all lives’. We saw the show and the intervention and it was a perfect companion to students work on display that did bring attention to the LCC role in gentrification amongst other topics and themes. Students from Stop The Elephant Development made some good points in a decent exchange with a LCC lecturer on Twitter: ‘Exhibitions need to be active spaces that create new ways of speaking to each other and organising how we work together – as well as drawing attention to issues and debates…This is a common problem with (often v worthy) university projects when they are conducted without the engagement of communities in knowledge production: the gaze often goes one way; the knowledge produced is abstracted or moralised rather than directly political’.

The accompanying Capital City booklet did contains good pieces from staff and students on how such speculation and development (such as LCC and Delanceys) is making life increasingly harder for many and increasingly desperate for the many marginalised communities in London. It’s a shame that such criticism of the LCC can seemingly only be reserved for exhibitions but no actual feedback or dialogue is invited into management there to hear from staff, students or local campaigns. The student campaign has however been meeting with different Up The Elephant people since January and we’ve had some good critical exchanges.

One student said to us: ‘As a student paying thousands of pounds to study here over the past few years, its been difficult to comprehend that the university management’s attitude and behaviour over the last year has been real and not some surreal waking nightmare. Even looking beyond the heavy-handed security and harassment of staff and students, it’s the sheer arrogance and the contempt with which the university appears to view students, staff and local residents that has been most difficult to comprehend. Claiming to need to remain in Elephant and Castle to support the very community that these plans will inevitably tear apart is a kick in the face. Desperate straw clutching it may well be, but people are afraid to speak out. My involvement in the campaigns has been quietly praised, but on several occasions I’ve been warned with sincerity, “keep a low profile, jeopardise your degree”. It has become an increasingly surreal and aggressive atmosphere and the university’s management can’t bury their heads in the sand forever – students and staff deserve answers and people like Natalie Brett need to be held accountable for their lies and false promises‘.

Other students actions have also been happening at other UAL campuses such as student meetings and banner displays against UAL involvement in social cleansing.

 

 

‘Up The Elephant’ Campaign

Up The Elephant has been gearing up again in recent weeks with the expectation that the Elephant Shopping Centre application will go back to Planning Committee in July. The campaigns have written an Open Letter to Natalie Brett and UAL signed by 20 local community groups, tenants and residents associations and others. In the letter the basic demands are outlined again:

• 35% real affordable housing made up of half social rent and half London Living rent, with secure tenancies. This must include a commitment that the Planning Committee will sign off any new S106 deal and that the affordable housing composition cannot be reduced at a later date.

• A relocation or compensation deal for all traders with a traders panel set up. Affordable units should be provided at 40% of market rates (as per policy) with temporary units available for everyone whilst the development is underway, rent free for 1st year. £100-250k compensation should be provided for any trader forced to relocate. This should include all traders within red line of the plan, from market stalls to shops, kiosks and stands. And commitment for a right to return.

• Bingo and bowling remain. Delancey’s removal of the Palatial Leisure facility disproportionately affect older people and people of colour which we believe to be a breach of the Equality Act 2010. Affordable leisure facilities are essential for a neighbourhood to thrive, as such, any redevelopment must reinstate the facilities at the heart of our community.

Elephant Crowd 2108

Up The Elephant has also called a noise-making community protest to gather our forces for Thursday 21st June where we can stand up for The Elephant. We welcome all and any who don’t want to see the ruin of what we love about our area to come and join the protest. We will be highlighting LCC / UAL’s role in social cleansing by assembling the protest outside their front doors at 6pm! Be there and fight for what you want in your community.

UP THE ELPEPHANT DEMO JUNE 21st SMALL

 

Open Letter To Natalie Brett, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Head of College, London College of Communications

Natalie Brett
Pro Vice-Chancellor and Head of College
University of the Arts London
London College of Communication
Elephant & Castle
London SE1 6SB

13th June 2018

Dear Natalie Brett and UAL management,

Open letter on the redevelopment of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre

This is an open letter from the groups representing the Elephant and Castle local communities asking for your support in achieving a redevelopment plan for the shopping centre that doesn’t push the local community out.

We oppose Delancey’s plan in it’s amended form, which gives with one hand and takes away with another. Within their new housing offer they have hiked the prices of some of the affordable flats to make up for the increase in social housing. Their additions include a temporary boxpark of just under 300sq/m for displaced small independent traders who (according to the Council) currently occupy 4,000sq/m. Moreover there is no commitment on security of tenancy or affordability of rent and still no commitment to a ‘right to return’. The traders, whose families depend on the income from their businesses, cannot make a living with this level of prolonged insecurity. Lastly, despite Delancey intimating that the bingo hall could return, their suggestions has so far proven totally unworkable.

As it stands, the amended redevelopment plan is designed for a local population that Delancey wishes to attract to the area, rather than for the population already here. But It doesn’t have to be this way. There is a redevelopment model that could work for everyone and we ask you, UAL, to support us in making this a reality. This model is modest, and in terms of the housing offer simply compliant with Southwark Council’s own policy intentions. The community groups represented by our campaign have come together to formulate certain demands including :

  1. 35% real affordable housing made up of half social rent and half London Living rent, with secure tenancies. This must include a commitment that the Planning Committee will sign off any new S106 deal and that the affordable housing composition cannot be reduced at a later date.
  2. A relocation or compensation deal for all traders with a traders panel set up. Affordable units should be provided at 40% of market rates (as per policy) with temporary units available for everyone whilst the development is underway, rent free for 1st year. £100-250k compensation should be provided for any trader forced to relocate. This should include all traders within red line of the plan, from market stalls to shops, kiosks and stands. And commitment for a right to return.
  3. Bingo and bowling remain. Delancey’s removal of the Palatial Leisure facility disproportionately affect older people and people of colour which we believe to be a breach of the Equality Act 2010. Affordable leisure facilities are essential for a neighbourhood to thrive, as such, any redevelopment must reinstate the facilities at the heart of our community.

We suggest these improvements to the scheme are paid for out of Delancey’s £153 million projected profit. We are not opposed to development and the improvement of the Elephant and Castle area, in fact we would welcome it. We also appreciate LCC’s need for a new building. Our issue with the current proposal is that it does not bring tangible benefits to local people in terms of housing (or leisure), nor for existing traders and that is why we are asking for your support in putting forward these demands. We are aware that the college has been shortlisted for the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards for students’ work with local businesses. However although this is welcome, it is questionable whether any of these businesses will be able to remain in the area due to the proposed development. We know that UAL, and LCC in particular, are committed to community engagement, equality and social justice. As key partners in the development we are appealing to you to turn these values into genuinely social action.

We invite you to respond directly to our request.

Jerry Flynn
(35% Campaign)

On behalf of the following;

35% Campaign
Elephant Amenity Network
Aylesbury Tenants and Leaseholders First
Fight for the Aylesbury
Latin Elephant
Southwark Defend Council Housing
Alvey Tenants & Residents Association (TRA)
Fight For Revite
Ledbury Action Group
Rockingham Community Association
Southwark Law Centre
Walworth Green Party
People’s Republic of Southwark
Rainbow Collective
Southwark Notes
56a Infoshop
Stop the Elephant Development Campaign
People’s Bureau
Elephant Family Action
Arts SU, UAL Student Union

DISRUPTION AT THE PRIVATE VIEW OF HYPOCRITICAL LCC EXHIBITION “Capital City”

We wanted to highlight once again the amazing solidarity work being done by students and supporters across University of The Arts campuses against the UAL-LCC (London College of Communications) complicity with the social cleansing of The Elephant. By joining forces as a ‘development partner’ with offshore tax-avoiding company Delancey to demolish the Elephant Shopping Centre and build 1000’s of unaffordable homes, LCC is actually sounding the death knell for the local community it is has been part of for years. It’s quite sad and tragic, really.

 

All the local campaigns have been astounded at how LCC has both been unable and unwilling to reach out to local community campaigns to discuss these disastrous plans and also has been putting the heavies onto staff and students who have asked for such meetings. The only public outreach has been to attend two Community Council meetings and make pitiful speeches about how decrepit the LCC blocks are and how they need the new campus Delancey will build them as part of the deal. Sure but how about engaging with local people on the issue of regeneration displacement and the gentrification of the area and all its pressures on local renters and local businesses?

 

With this in mind, it seems that hosting a large exhibition Capital Citythat examines the relationship between money and property in London, and its effects on all our lives‘ is a bit flippin’ rich if you aren’t actually engaging with local people affected by the very same processes you are happy to ‘examine’. We don’t need any more liberal debates about ‘wealth disparity’ or ‘estate regeneration’. We are not a ‘debate’. We are the local community suffering from these processes.

Here is the brilliant text written by the Stop the Elephant Development group describing the protest at Capital City:

‘Tonight LCC held a private view for their new “Capital City” exhibition and series of events. The exhibition is described as ‘examining the relationship between money and property in London, and its effects on all of our lives’ and explicitly references gentrification.

There was no invitation for either our group or any of the rest of the community campaign in the exhibition, though a number of students and teaching staff fought to exhibit work directly referencing UAL’s role in the disastrous Delancey development in Elephant and Castle, some even showcasing our designs and posters.

A group of us from Stop the Elephant Development stormed the event, disrupting it for over 2 hours at the peak of the event despite a heavily increased security and bag searches. Occupying the space, a number of us had brilliant conversations with attendees of the event, including students who exhibited and members of the public.
Significantly, Jeremy Till Head of CSM chose to tell the ArtsSU Campaigns Officer that as a student union officer she should be ashamed of herself and that the action was “disgusting and pathetic just like the idiot students who partake in this nonsense”, before refusing to answer why UAL continues to ignore the demands of the community and UAL students and workers.

A member of Delancey’s management team was also in attendance for the event and looked very awkward.

Overall, the action was well received: answering questions from people who were curious, promoting the campaign to those who asked for leaflets, and having constructive conversations with a number of attendees.

Throughout the disruption, security on the orders of management surrounded the group and restricted the movement of our roaming chants and handing out of leaflets. The entrance to the block where management offices are located was blocked off entirely by a constant wall of security, clearly out of fear another occupation might take place.

We were loud, clear and disruptive with our demands and message that UAL management are complicit in gentrification. Huge respect to the students and artists involved in putting on this event – at the same time, we will not let UAL whitewash themselves with a veneer of radicalism by hosting this, whilst continuously ignoring the voices of the community and those of us fighting in solidarity.

Thank you to the nearly 30 students (from across all 6 UAL colleges!) who came to and made our term 3 planning meeting so productive and energising ! Lots of exciting ideas to keep the pressure up, see you soon UAL management…
NO TO GENTRIFICATION // YES TO SOCIAL HOUSING’