Aylesbury Regeneration Boss Says Social Housing Is ‘Undesirable’

NOTHING HILL HOUSING (DON’T) TRUST

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Notting Hill Housing Trust logo: a maze game to find your way to NHHT social housing!!

Notting Hill Housing Trust (NHHT) is Southwark Council’s development partner for the complete demolition of Aylesbury Estate’s 2700 homes and their replacement with up to 4200 new homes. NHHT is a Housing Association: ‘a private, non-profit making organisations that provides low-cost “social housing” for people in need of a home’. NHHT is one of the biggest Housing Associations in London. Since the 1980’s when local councils stopped building council homes, it has been Housing Associations that have increasingly been the main developers of low-cost social rented homes.

That might all sound fine and dandy but in the last decade the big Housing Associations have started to develop more and more private homes as a way to finance more ‘affordable’ housing. The problem is that such ‘affordable’ housing is now more likely to be either shared-ownership homes where you need a large salary to buy a percentage of a new home or the rent will be what is called ‘affordable rent’. Such ‘affordable’ rents are up to 80% the price of local private rented homes. So in Walworth this can start at £150 – £200 or more per week. It’s been estimated that even at 65% of local Walworth private rents, you would need a salary of £35,000 to afford to rent such a home.

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The Chief of Notting Hill Housing Trust is Kate Davies. In this position she takes home £200,000 a year. She is also a ‘Fellow’ of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ, a Conservative think tank with dubious Christian leanings). The main cheese of the CSJ is Iain Duncan Smith, former Leader of the Conservative Party and now their somewhat Benefits guru as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. He has been responsible for numerous attacks on those who rely on welfare benefits to get by. He has been the ideas man behind financial ‘sanctions’ on claimants who can’t satisfy ever and ever harsher Job Centre conditions. His Centre for Social Justice project pretends to be about ‘empowering’ poor people but there is no real justice on offer. Only pressure and stress. An estimate that is on the very low side talks about 60 suicides as a result of benefit sanctions. The DWP is refusing to release data it has about other suicide cases relating to benefit cuts.

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In 2008 Kate Davies contributed an Introduction to a Centre for Social Justice report on housing called ‘Housing Poverty’. She says ‘council estates are ghettos of needy people’. She says ‘council homes are subsidised by the taxpayer’ yet NHHT (and other Housing Assocations as well as private developers) receive millions of taxpayers money to build so-called ‘affordable’ homes. NHHT has been allocated £77.4m of funding to build 2,250 largely unaffordable homes in London.

She says council tenants ‘often pay little or no rent, and get their home maintained in good order for free’. She also maintains that ‘living on an estate can affect your health, your ability to work, the type of education your children will get and your life chances’ To top it all she adds that ‘social housing is not a desirable destination’ and that ‘private ownership is preferable to state provided solutions’ i.e council homes.
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These are the typical ignorance and lies that feed the demolition of council estates and then the gentrification of these areas.They pretend that council estates are not made up of all sorts of people doing all sorts of jobs. They pretend everyone is unemployed or single mums or alcoholics. It’s the usual stigma to create a picture that council housing is a failure and needs to be replaced by ‘mixed communities‘. But we know this a code word for getting in more wealthy people to live in new private homes. You can read her introduction here:
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You can displace working class people to far and wide and bring in more wealthy folks but poor people remains poor no matter where you pack them off too. ‘Mixed communities’ as an idea seems to conveniently forget this er…easy to grasp fact!

Notting Hill Housing Trust says ‘Centre for Social Justice report ‘is 7yrs old, much has changed inc Gov policy. NHH still committed to finding housing solutions for all needs’. We asked if Kate Davies was still a ‘Fellow’ for them as the CSJ project seems well in line with what they are doing on Aylesbury which will actually see less genuine cheap homes for current residents and future residents than it currently has.

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In Southwark, NHHT are developing thousands of new homes on old council estate sites (Walworth, Camberwell, Peckham etc). In their ‘The Exchange’ development in Bermondsey they promised 44 social rent homes but after planning permission was approved they changed these to the ‘affordable rent’ category, a sleight of hand that was signed off by The Council themselves. With such underhanded tactics, tenants on Aylesbury are concerned that the promised social rent homes in the regeneration will be also whisked away at the last minute, just like the broken promises at Heygate.

Aylesbury residents have a right to be nervous and demand answers and guarantees from NHHT.

The Council has said that Aylesbury will ‘not be another Heygate’ but Kate Davies and NHHT beliefs and policies mean that it’s very likely to be a repeat of the Heygate scandal. NHHT cannot believe that social housing is ‘undesirable’ while at the same being asked to ‘regenerate’ one of Southwark’s largest social housing estates. NHHT can’t be trusted.

— PDF Flyer of this article here: notting hill dont trust flyer

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Interesting stories of ye olden times concerning Kate Davies.

Internet says that back in the day, late 70’s and early 80’s Kate Davies was calling herself Kate Marshall and was a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party. In 1985, as General Secretary of the RCP, she wrote a pamphlet called ‘Moral Panics and Victorian Values‘ detailed the prevailing return under Thatcher’s Tories of the insistence of hard working family life as a cure all to society’s evils such as gays, single mothers and so on. Forward a few decades to 2008 and Kate is now writing for CSJ about ‘aspiration’, ‘home ownership’ whilst the CSJ with it’s strong Christian Tory leadership goes on about the strong role of the nuclear family in keeping society healthy. What a mad tangle she weaves.

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It’s Not Too Late Aylesbury Estate: What happened and what next?

What a week! Three crucial and significant things have happened this week for the ongoing fight against the demolition of the Aylesbury Estate and the social cleansing this entails.

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1) THE OCCUPATION

After two months in residence in three different buildings on the Phase 1 Aylesbury site, the Occupation has decided that it is time to leave. The difficulty in the last few weeks of 24 hour security guards who at times assaulted them, stole their stuff as well as the famous ‘Alcatraz’ fence that made it hard to get back into their chosen home made the Occupation increasingly stressful. The Lapa Security guards, who as minimum wage workers we would usually have some sympathy for, were mostly bullies to both the Occupiers and the residents. Some of them were the same guards used at the Heygate site when the Council fenced in the last three leaseholders. One of them on Aylesbury was even the same guy who assualted a Heygate leaseholder in 2013. Police were informed when that happened, issued a crime number but did not do anything about it despite the guy’s name and employer being known.
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Although at Southwark Notes our family and work commitments meant we were unable to be around the Occupation much, we did get to know some of them and we take our hats off to all of them. They were so well organised and strategic and definitely sussed on the need to keep the Occupation dynamic and not get bogged down on the terms of the Council, the police or the security guards. They always set the agenda. After two amazing months having an exit strategy for leaving is part of that suss.

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The Occupation is proof that sometimes you just got try something and see what happens! That’s definitely the case here. There are many arguments made about who is local and who is not. Who has a right to do what and who doesn’t. The Occupation has thrown up some great lessons into those questions and these will remain pertinent throughout the next few years of anti-regeneration struggles that are happening.

Although no-one from the Occupation was ever a tenant or resident of Aylesbury there were some initial long-term connections to the tenants struggle. In two months, the Occupiers ran themselves ragged making more connections, publicising the Aylesbury campaign all over the estate, organising events for all, working with the campaigns to make it known to Creation Trust, the Council and MP’s that all is not well on Aylesbury. There are a significant number of people there who do no want to be thrown out of the homes they love and who do not trust that they will be able to afford any of the new rented ‘affordable’ homes that get built there. The Occupation and the work of the campaigns has been a huge boost to those people who are consistently shut down and marginalised by the regeneration machine

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The Occupation also shows that not all housing struggle occupations are the same and that has been a very useful lesson. They always insisted that the Occupation was both an act of solidarity with the Aylesbury campaigns and also the taking of homes for themselves as squatters seeking other necessary ways to live against the brutalities of mad private rents and the lack of any chance of a council tenancy. Alongside this, the Occupation maintained itself as a protest against the fairly recent criminalisation of squatting in residential buildings. With so many luxury flats bought as investments and then kept empty by their owners, this new law is vile and punishing. Everyone needs a roof over their head. The Occupation’s insistence on “squatting the lot’ makes sense when you look how at the housing crisis gets worse and worse. With the demolition of public housing (such as Heygate and Aylesbury), where else will people go?

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The Occupiers short leaving leaving statement sums up their defiance and attitude: ‘ We are squatters who are not bound by the borders of the Aylesbury estate. We are residents who still have leases and tenancies. We are everyone who needs a place to stay. We are bound by nothing but this need.


2) THE FENCES
What to say? The Occupation’s leaving present was particularly momentous. When the last 20 or so residents around Bradenham and Chiltern asked the Council to maintain security around their homes they never asked to be fenced in behind locked doors. The residents remain clear on this despite the Council’s public statements that the fences were asked for. We’ve heard stories of residents afraid to leave their homes due to the guards, of residents crying from the stress, of relatives unable to visit,
of residents’ mail being intercepted, of vulnerable people having to walk half a mile more around the estate due to the fences. It was clear from talking to residents that the fences were a humiliation. From talking to local people, it was clear the fences were a disgrace.

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From the publicity that was first made by the residents and then others about the ‘Alcatraz’ fences, a groundswell of anger built slowly over the weeks towards the Council’s indifference to residents suffering. Not only this but how the fencing in of residents and the occupation showed how the regeneration scheme proceeds now on its own logic of success with little attention paid to both its unpopularity and the suffering it is causes. There can no longer be any real truth that the regeneration will benefit the local community. Not now and definitely not in the future.

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It was no real secret that the fences would be pulled down. That was why people came to the demo and that is what was put into practice. 250 people came together to support a necessary direct action against this fence, the symbol of the violence of regeneration. As we said a few times now, regeneration politics never looked this way one year ago. A massive shift has occurred where people no longer have faith in the institutions that supposedly work on their behalf: planning committees, regeneration consultants, councils and so on. People know they need to do things for themselves and defend what they have. Protests, occupations, direct actions have all have upped the ante. We welcome this because this is what was needed and because these tactics work!

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3) AYLESBURY GOING FORWARD

Seeing the fences come down was a great moment and it remains a moment. Just one moment of all the work done so far – street stalls, petitioning, public meetings, researching, writing, publicising, organising, learning together. We don’t mistake the fences for the trees. We are sure the fences are mended and back in place. It’s up to the residents and supporters to still maintain pressure to get them permanently removed. It’s also vital we support the one arrested Aylesbury resident of the night and we will post further details on this when she is ready. 20 people held a party outside Walworth cop shop as they waited for her to get out! It is also vital to keep on supporting the Aylesbury campaigns, both the tenants and the leaseholders.

Significantly, on the same day as the fences came down the venue for the Aylesbury Estate Compulsory Purchase Order Public Inquiry on 28th April and subsequent days was announced: Conference Centre, Millwall FC, The Den, Zampa Rd, London SE16 3LN

These few days are where there will be an open and public examination of whether the regeneration on Aylesbury will be of any benefit to the local community.We invite all who support the Aylesbury residents to attend and listen to the arguments, support those giving evidence and testimony and also if you are in a position to help as a legal bod or some kind of expert in planning, CPO, regeneration, housing policy etc, please get involved.

The leaseholders Statement of Case is worth reading but we also summarised some of it here. It makes the case that the regeneration is only about being a private development scheme that will see most residents displaced to either existing Council homes (like this one) or see leaseholders unable to stay in the local area (like Heygate), We doubt very few tenants or residents will take up residence in the new homes Notting Hill Housing Trust (NHHT) promise to build.

And here’s why:
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Also on the same day the fences were toppled, we had a reply from our question to Notting Hill Housing trust re: the tenure status of their 44 ‘affordable’ homes on their Exchange development in Bermondsey Spa. When planning permission was agreed, the application had NHHT promise 44 homes for ‘social rent’. That means that the rents are set according to income levels as determined by the National Rent Regime regulatory framework. This also means that these 44 homes were more likely to be affordable to local people. After the planning permission was agreed, when a later S106 agreement was signed with the Council, the 44 ‘social rent’ homes had changed unchallenged by the Council to ’44 Affordable Rent’ homes. NHHT clarified to us this week that they mean to rent these flats at 58% of local private rent prices. That could be up to £250 – 300 per week or more!

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The Council very well knows the difference between ‘social rent’ and ‘affordable rent’. “Affordable rent’ was introduced by the Government in 2011. It means that Housing Associations such as NHHT can charge up to 80% of market rent for these supposedly ‘affordable’ homes. The council were part of 4 councils seeking a Judicial Review of ‘affordable rent’ as in the words on then Council Head of Regeneration Fiona Colley: ‘We are very keen to seek a judicial review of this decision. Maybe there are some areas of London where rent levels of 80% of market rent are affordable to most people, but they certainly aren’t in Southwark. The implication of the mayor’s decision is that councils will have little power to make sure new affordable housing is really, genuinely affordable for local people‘.

Not only this but the Council wrote to Boris Johnson in March 2012 outlining in detail how ‘affordable rent’ would be entirely out of reach of most Southwark residents pockets. See Southwark’s own graph above which shows how a council rent in Walworth is roughly £108 per week. Under ‘affordable rent’, the equivalent rent would be (at 2012 prices!) £226 per week. Southwark’s letter is here: Southwark Letter to Boris Affordable Rent

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Whereas before NHHT has guaranteed in its planning application 44 social rent units, through sleight of hand and unopposed by the Council, these 44 homes have been taken away from local people. What concerns us is that as NHHT are the regeneration partner for Aylesbury regeneration will the promised 100’s of social rented homes on that site be magically transformed into ‘affordable rent’ ones? It’s a concern also because the loss of 44 social rent homes at The Exchange also means less homes for decanted tenants from Aylesbury. If 1000’s of Aylesbury tenants will only end up being rehoused in existing council stock outside the Aylesbury area then it makes a mockery of the regeneration benefiting tenants with new homes. With NHHT zealous love of ‘affordable rent’, will they seriously stump up the promised number of new social rented homes at Aylesbury? Increasingly Housing Associations are converting their existing social rent properties to affordable rent. In the past three years, London and Quadrant switched 1,673 tenancies earning an extra £4.2m and Notting Hill Housing Trust switched 853 earning an extra £3.3m. Both L&Q and NHHT are development partners at Aylesbury. Will the social rent homes L&Q built on Phase 1 slowly be switched or re-let to more expensive rents?

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Horrible questions that need answers and these answers only seen to come from paying constant attention and constantly demanding them. For Southwark Council in its dreamworld of regeneration, everything is fine and everything is dandy. Their regeneration proceeds smoothly as social cleansing is either explicit or sneaked in through the back door. But there are many regeneration fences that are ready to be pulled, be they ‘Alcatraz’ ones or taking on the Council, NHHT and anyone else. We haven’t given up yet!

Aylesbury Estate Is Everyone’s Fight

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In the last 12 months, London has finally woken up and smelt the instant coffee about what ‘regeneration’ really means:

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Residents’ property strewn across the Sweets Way estate after eviction preceding ‘regeneration’

Before the decanting, displacement of residents and final demolition of the Heygate Estate, there were other total demolitions of London council estates but it was the Heygate and all the work local people did on publicising what was going on there that made ‘Heygate’ the well-known byword for regeneration, gentrification and social cleansing. The most well known fact about the ‘regeneration’ of the Heygate is that were as once there were 1000+ council rented homes, only 79 new equivalent social rented homes will be built on the new scheme.

Despite Southwark Council’s claims that it has ‘learnt from the mistakes’ and that ‘Aylesbury Estate won’t be another Heygate’, the massive Aylesbury Estate in Walworth is another further testing ground for what can be gotten away with in the name of ‘regeneration’. The only difference is that instead of the Council’s partner developer being an international development corporation (Lend Lease at Heygate), at Aylesbury the choice is mostly the housing association Notting Hill Housing Trust (NHHT).

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Since January 31st there has been the ongoing protest Occupation of different blocks on Aylesbury at different times. This has been both amazing in itself as a principled act of solidarity that has given long-term campaigners on Aylesbury a big boost and also because the Occupiers stress that these squat actions are about direct action to house themselves in the midst of the housing crisis. Between the campaigners and the Occupation, there has been a two month engagement with other locals (through door-knocking, petitioning, street stalls and other events) and there is a strong feeling from many people that they do not want to give up their flats to demolition and an uncertain future.

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In 2001 when 73% of those balloted on the estate said ‘No’ to stock transfer and demolition it was precisely because they ‘didn’t believe the new Housing Association would be able to keep its commitments on rents and service charges”. The Council likes to paint that ‘No’ vote as ancient history and irrelevant now but it was only four years after that ballot in 2005 that they decided, with no new ballot or consultation, against the wishes of the majority of residents and to go ahead with demolition and redevelopment. Overriding people’s wishes and concerns only four years after the ballot remains as relevant today as back then. We will see later on, the fears of higher rents and service charges were well founded.

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Creation Trust, funded by The Council and overseen by Councillors, so not really ‘independent’!

Despite the many publicities and promotions of the pro-regeneration Creation Trust who oversee public engagement and social programmes around the Aylesbury demolition and development, it is in no way certain that the remaining 2000 households desire the destruction of their community. The Occupation and the campaign have been proving this week by week from all the troubled and angry conversations the are having with other Aylesbury residents. Creation Trust would do good to actually begin again and be honest that there is not a done and dusted mandate for demolition on the estate.

REGENERATION IS VIOLENCE AGAIN…

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Without saying it all again in detail, in the last few weeks, the Council has been up to its usual standard operating mode of bullying anyone who disagrees with it. Since it has been twice unable to defeat the Occupation and supporters through the courts, it decided to fund to the tune of £140,000 pounds the construction of a large fence to block off Aylesbury towers Bradenham and occupied Chiltern House and everything in between. When we say ‘in-between’ we actually mean the existing 18 homes of council tenants and leaseholders within that area. That means Council Tax paying, rent paying or mortgage paying residents are having to ask to be let in and out if the area where they live. Despite 7 exits being guarded 24 hours a day by security guards costing the Council £1000’s per week, residents are only allowed to use one exit/entrance. They have also been subject to brutal conditions:

(Being) forced to make a lengthy detour, all the way over to the gate on Westmoreland Road, every time they leave their homes or come back in. If guests want to visit them, the security guards insist that the residents must come all the way to that one gate to fetch them. This had made it impossible for many elderly friends and relatives to visit at all, and has left at least one woman housebound. Whenever asked about the fencing/ security arrangements, the council trot out a line about how they did this because those residents asked them to. From our conversations with the residents, it’s clear that this is a lie. Some of them asked for doors to be fitted to the actual blocks they live in, with an entry-phone system to let their guests in, but they didn’t ask for this. They had no wish to deprive people from walking their dogs, or traveling across this corner of the estate, and hate the fact that they now live in what is effectively a big cage’.

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Ramping up this week has also been the security clampdown on anyone attempting to get to their home at the Occupation, to visit the Occupation and even stopping a prospective MP from canvassing residents inside the fenced in part of the estate. The Occupiers are reporting both the violent frogmarching out of the area of occupiers and supporters and theft by security guards of a laptop.
The Council is once again taking the Occupation to court this Thursday 2nd April. The Occupation is calling for a ‘solidarity with the residents demo‘ on that evening. All welcome!

WHY THE LEASEHOLDERS FIGHT IS FOR EVERYONE

On 28th April, the Aylesbury Estate leaseholders will get to attend and state their case at a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) Public Inquiry at a venue still to be decided. Disputing the very low valuations being offered by the Council for their homes, some leaseholders have been subject to the violence of CPO that means that the Council takes your home by law and gives you what it wants to for it. Low valuations means that leaseholders cannot afford to buy anything comparable locally to what they had on Aylesbury Estate. On Heygate it was the leaseholders who were displaced the furthest – Sidcup, Gravesend and even Slough. If you don’t like it the Council says you can ‘sue’ them. The Council saysThe council will want to avoid using the powers of a compulsory purchase order where possible and only do so as a last resort” yet they used them on Heygate and so far have used them on all phases of Aylesbury regeneration. The are also seeking CPO’s for Elmington Estate Phase 3 and for traders at Peckham Rye Station. On Elmington it’s clear this is no ‘last resort’ as they sayThe council has engaged with leaseholders since August 2011 and it will continue to negotiate to acquire those remaining leasehold interest in parallel with the Compulsory Purchase Order process.’

But the leaseholders fight is not just about gaining adequate compensation for the forced removal from their home but is about challenging the entire Aylesbury Estate regeneration itself. The struggle against CPO affects everyone locally as it seeks to argue that the granting of CPO and thus the green light for the scheme is not in the public interest. Their excellent detailed Statement of Case can be read here but its worth us summarising some of the main arguments just so more light is shone on the details of why the regeneration is another rip-off for local people.

The legal question for CPO asks if there is a ‘compelling case in the public interest’ for regeneration? A CPO needs to be set within a clear strategic framework and in this case the over-arching GLA London Plan would be such a framework. The London Plan states that states that the loss of social housing “should be resisted unless the housing is replaced at existing or higher densities with at least equivalent floorspace.” The planning applications underlying the Order (14/AP/3843 / 14/AP/3844) will see the net loss of at least 1393 social rented homes; and if the Objectors’ concerns about the precise tenure mix are well founded, then this net loss could amount to 2,700 social rented homes. Such loss of social housing is not only in breach of the London Plan policy requirements but also of Southwark’s Aylesbury Area Action Plan (AAAP) on which the regeneration is based. Policy 3.3.1 of the AAAP envisages a total net loss of just 150 social rented units. Furthermore, policy 3.3 states clearly that 50% of all new homes should be affordable and that “of the affordable housing provided, 75% should be social rented”.

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However, it is unclear and yet to be clarified that NHHT will be providing its social rented housing at rents defined by income (as determined by the National Rent Regime regulatory framework) and not as a percentage up to 80% of local private rents as ‘affordable rent’ introduced in 2011. In the Aylesbury estate postcode (SE17), a study shows that in Dec 2014 a 1-bed social rented flat costs on average £97 per week, in contrast to the new ‘affordable rent’ at 80% market rent costing £239 per week. The study shows that the 80% affordable rents would require an annual household income of £41,600, which is well beyond the £14,300 median income of existing Aylesbury estate residents.

The Statement of Case also contains many arguments about how the scheme is premised on breaches in the 1985 Housing Act re: failure to consult residents on the steamrolling through of the 2005 demolition plan and the subsequent failing of those residents re: the Human Rights Act 1998. The regeneration scheme also breaches the Equalities Act 2010 by failing to assess the impact of demolition on 8 protected minority groups and this is a most pertinent question when 67% of the residents come from a minority ethnic group. The Aylesbury New Deal for Communities (ANDC), the precursor to Creation Trust, had acknowledged in a report in 2003 that ‘There are specific Black & Minority Ethnic communities who are not represented and whom ANDC have little contact with. These are the Turkish, Somali, SE Asian, Bangladeshi and Latin communities, all of whom have a significant presence within the ANDC area. There is currently little being done to address the needs of these specific communities’.

Later ANDC  set up a committee dedicated to promoting BME group participation in the regeneration plans, the Aylesbury Black and Minority Ethnic Group (ABMEG). Yet when ABMEG wrote to the Government Office for London in 2003 complaining about the management of the ANDC, the ANDC responded by suspending all ABMEG board members, this move described by ABMEG as ‘an attempt to silence ABMEG’.

Two years later Lord Ousely’s Report on Southwark, black and minority communities and regeneration determined that black traders were being driven out by the Council’s regeneration plans. Equality Impact Assessments on Aylesbury scheme have not been fully undertaken and when partially completed only seek to reassure that black and ethnic minority groups in the area will be okay as new homes will be available to rehouse them. Yet those very groups tend to be the most poor and vulnerable and can in no way be reassured that housing will be there when the questions around how cheap rents in the new flats will be has not been answered.

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It’s been an amazing 2 months on the Aylesbury Estate. Once again local people, just like they were forced to on Heygate, have been setting the record straight over and against the ‘revitalising’ spin that the Council and Creation Trust ceaselessly promotes with a straight face. Lessons have been learned and lessons are continually being learnt by loads of other areas facing regeneration. Tactics, ideas and strategies are being shared (legal, protest wise and also as direct action – occupation, taking the struggle to the Council, developers etc). Certainly nothing will be the same again. ‘We won’t go!’ is the message. Let’s keep hitting that home together.

Southwark Council’s Siege Mentality: Fencing In Aylebury Estate Residents

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In November 2012, we helped put on a gathering against the gentrification of the area in Pembroke House, just off Aylesbury Estate. We called the event ‘The Siege of The Elephant‘ as we felt like we needed a provocative name to sum up how it feels to be regenerated and socially cleansed by Council regeneration programmes via global property corporations and major player Housing Associations. Our crystal ball however was not clear enough to actually help us see that the Council would in 2015 actually put it’s own rent and tax paying residents under actual siege by fencing them in and putting security at the gates. B_YHBhLWQAAy37c.jpg_large

As you may know, the campaign on Aylesbury Estate has been somewhat dynamic once more since the occupation of a number of empty blocks on the estate by supporters of those tenants and residents who feel that the regeneration is only forcing them out of their much-loved homes. The taking up of the term ‘social cleansing’ by many local people reinforces the reality that people are wise to the fact that the replacement homes destined for the Aylesbury site are primarily private homes for the better off. Not only that but replacement homes supposed to be for existing residents are likely to see a significant rise in rent. The occupation has been both a revitalisation of existing campaigns against demolition and displacement on the estate and also a solution for those in occupation’s housing needs. Since the end of January, there has been a mass of activity on and around the estate with street stalls, petitions, fun days on the estate hosted by the occupation, public meetings, protests and much banner making and many posters appearing all over the blocks. B_Sw3nuW8AALbo8.jpg_large

The occupation has always been one step ahead of the Council. It has managed to keep occupying different blocks just as the Council wins legal possession of previously occupied blocks. The Council’s response has been the usual wild behaviour – smashing up blocks to render them uninhabitable or having the police heavy handedly running wild on the estate. At no point does it try to be sensible, take stock of what it happening, ask the occupation what it’s all about or ask residents how they actually feel at this stage about the regeneration plans. It acts as if all is great and good and anyone who disbelieves the ‘benefits for all’ regeneration mantra must be some kind of criminal outsider. With the recent occupation of the old Planning and Regeneration Offices on Chiltern House, the Council has now began to take it out on the remaining residents of Chiltern, Bradenham and Chartridge Houses by literally sealing them off from the outside world. Unable to find any more money for elderly leaseholders whose Council’s low valuations of their homes will force them out of the area, there is however a bottomless pit of money for fences and 24 hour security. The bill must be £1000’s per day. We presume from our acquaintance with Council mentalities that the erection of hoardings and metal fences was meant to both deter any further occupations on Aylesbury and also to piss residents off hoping they would lay the blame at the occupations door.

Needless to say, the occupation has so far proven itself on it’s determination to maintain it’s political occupation, work with the residents and a series of  fences is not going to stop it. Needless to say again, residents are seriously pissed off at the Council for aggressively fencing them in. For many the first they heard of it was when the Council put through their letterboxes a letter telling them how it was going to be. ayles residents fences lettersml

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So now instead of having free roam in and out of the place where they live, they are now directed to one gate which will now be ‘the only means of entrance to your home‘. The letter says this purpose is to ‘restrict entry to unauthorised persons‘. The Council seems to forget that maybe living where you live amongst public land, green spaces with trees and also  a children’s playground, that maybe you would actually like members of the public to enjoy these facilities so that where you live is not devoid of other members of your community. The estate is still public land with public rights of way. It was up until the fencing in, the way and short cuts that loads of Aylesbury and non-Aylesbury residents used to move around where they live. It was a quiet place to sit or walk the dog, meet people and so on. 11026152_827562233963843_3557550357083518640_n

But none of this seems to matter to the Council who have little actual respect for those it has fenced in. As we always say, people subject to the regime of regeneration always ends up being treated like criminals because they are in the way of the plans even if they are just going about their daily lives. On Saturday 14th, after the March for the Aylesbury we witnessed a mother and her two children being refused exit from the estate at one of the Albany Rd gates as she was told she had to use the gates by Westmoreland Rd.

BEFORE: Ways for everyone to pass through the Aylesburylbny rd entrce 4 etmorelnd entrce lbny rd ebntrbce

NOW: Ways for everyone to pass through the Aylesbury blocked off and guarded

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We often wonder if the Council is seriously losing the plot but then we realise once more that this is Standard Operating Procedure for them – insensitive, arrogant and without care to actually ask residents what they need. Not only though do they act aggressively towards those in it’s actual care (if we can put it in this manner), they also seem very forgetful of their own cruel behaviour. Despite pleas by them that the regeneration of the Aylesbury will not be ‘another Heygate‘, the fences are a repeat of the last few months on Heygate when leaseholders were also fenced in and at the whims of security guards.

They also don’t even seem to know that on Feb 5th they carried out an operation on Chartridge House Nos 69-76 where they got contractors in to smash up the flats to prevent the occupation from spreading there. In a recent freedom of information request when asked for ‘financial cost of the work undertaken‘ that night on Aylesbury, the Council had to ask ‘could I please ask you to clarify ‘the work’  that took place in respect of 5th February‘.  When reminded of the works that had been extensively reported, photographed, filmed and criticised all over the place, they replied that ‘the Council is not aware of any work undertaken with the aid of the police on the 5th February 2015 on the Aylesbury Estate – Chartridge‘. Depressingly none of this surprises us, the occupiers or the residents of the Aylesbury estate. We have been reminded over the last two months just how out of touch, hidden away and closeted they are from actual lived realities of those who live on the estates. Now they even want to hide us from public view behind fences.

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Any road up, we hope the fences will be challenged by all concerned over their dubious legality as so far we have not been able to ascertain under which laws, permission or orders the Council is able to turn this part of the estate into an open prison for its residents and a no-go area for the local public.

FENCES MUST GO!! ADDITION: 17th March illim uote

In a response from Mark Williams, Cabinet Member for Regeneration to an article in the Standard, Williams makes the illogical statement that residents asked to be fencing in to stop anti-social behaviour on the estate. The residents are quoted directly before this statement as saying they are all ‘unhappy‘ about being fenced in. Did Williams make up this claim that residents asked for the fence to be erected? It certainly bears no likeness to what we’ve been hearing residents say since Saturday! More fences are currently being put up today at the Bail Hostel entrance by Bradenham to stop the occupiers and their supporters being able to come and go.

Aylesbury Estate Occupation: Solidarity Demo tomorrow

Statement from the Aylesbury Estate Occupation re: court dates & solidaritY

We are calling for as many of our friends and supporters as possible to come along tomorrow (Wednesday 4th March) in the day time.

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We’re starting the day with a solidarity demo outside Camberwell Magistrates Court (15 D’Eynsford Road London SE5 7UP). One of the ‘Aylesbury Six’ – the people arrested during the eviction operation on Tuesday 17th (links to media articles below) – has a plea hearing, and we’ll be outside to support him. He’s a tenant from the estate, and we want to make sure he feels the strength of our solidarity, so would love to have a large presence outside the court.

We’ll be there from 10am – 12 noon, and then we’ll go back to the estate to get ready for any eviction attempt, and work out how to continue our protest. So if you can’t make it along in the morning, come and visit us in the afternoon instead.

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Southwark Council have applied for another Interim Possession Order, and that case is being heard at the same time, at Lambeth County Court. It’s likely that the police are already planning another massive operation to enforce that later this week. We’ll be running some legal workshops on Wednesday pm so that everyone knows their rights.

Please come and join us!

Refuse Resist Repopulate Refurbish”

Fight for the Aylesbury! website here!

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/feb/18/six-arrested-as-police-help-in-evictions-from-london-estate
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-31526037
http://rt.com/uk/233443-social-cleansing-protest-southwark/
http://www.londonlive.co.uk/news/2015-02-18/protesters-say-they-will-not-move-from-aylesbury-estate
http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/six-arrests-during-chaotic-eviction-of-housing-activists-from-one-of-londons-largest-estates-10053161.html
https://vimeo.com/119923934
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Fmkgh1-Sxg

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ayles demo 14 feb

Aylesbury Estate update: Eviction support and demo

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The struggles at Walworth’s Aylesbury Estate continue in the next two weeks. Here are two quick call-outs for support

1) AYLESBURY OCCUPATION OPEN DAY this Sun / EVICTION THREAT

Since moving itself somewhat smartly during last weeks failed police eviction from the old Chartridge block to the new one, the Occupation has been keeping on with getting the message out. This Sunday they are having a Open Day for all to ‘meet the Occupation‘ Get on down and check it out if you haven’t been. Am sure they would also appreciate some good new banners to hang on the block. We are still working on our ‘Peter John – no free lunches here!‘ banner!

On a serious note, the Occupation is back in court on Weds 4th March (next week) and if possession is granted to Southwark Council, a repeat of last week’s police assault on the Occupation is guaranteed. We can’t stress enough how anyone who supports the Occupation should keep abreast of news after Weds to be ready to get down to any subsequent eviction attempt. Maximum support needed. Please spread the word. This is serious frontline anti-regeneration stuff going on (amongst all the other great campaigns and fights) . Be there and get your mates down too. All hands on deck!

Evcition News updates here.
Occupation Twitter feed here. This is going to be where any eviction attempt is posted (as well as other sympathetic twitter accounts. Ours, SL RCG, PRS etc.)

Please circulate the need for eviction support via Twitter, Facebook etc and through your own networks and email lists.

2) AYLESBURY PROTEST MARCH: SAT 14th MARCH

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All welcome. All housing campaigns welcome.! See you there. Make some noise!

Regeneration Is Violence

How is it in London in 2015 that people who reside in public housing can be subject to such extremes of subtle and unsubtle violence? When we use the word violence what do we mean? Well for starters we mean the slow burning, long-term violence done to those who are being forced out of their homes in the name of ‘regeneration’ with it’s routine accompanying upheavals, anxieties, stresses and affects on physical and mental ill health.

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How is it to lose you home? What does it mean to be ‘regenerated’ and be asked to leave your home where there is no alternative presented to you but to lose your home. What does ‘home’ mean to people in this instance – isn’t it a vast collection of memories, events, experiences and also connections to others around you? How do you ‘regenerate’ those very personal aspects of people’s home lives and their community?

What is it like to be live day-in and day-out, not wanting to leave your home as more and more people around you are leaving? What is it like to have to move to Sidcup in Kent as you can’t afford to stay local as gentrification means your leaseholder compensation from the Council is too small to buy you anything where you have lived for much of your life?

What does it feel like to be treated with zero dignity or respect even though your crime is only to live in a home where the Council and it’s partners want the land your home sits on? Do you and your life and your community’s life count in this instance? Or are you just a statistic on the regeneration paperwork? How is it to be issued a Compulsory Purchase Order for your home that you have paid off, receive a low valuation and then be forced to take up a new mortgage for a home miles from where you want to live?

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How is it that opponents of moving from their homes, of social cleansing, of gentrification, can be ignored by the Council as if these desires, feelings, views and good common sense simply does not exist. How is it to be in your latter years, be removed from your community and support networks? We know from our interviews with ex-Heygate tenants that there is a lot of anxiety, sadness, depression, ill health and in some cases early deaths happening with many of those decanted and displaced from that community.

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How is that a Council would rather smash up it’s decanted homes than let homeless people live in them?

How is that once you could live in London in cheap housing because that was a common sense housing policy but now the policy is to force you out in favour of developers profits, those who use housing as investments, those who already have too much and those who think you are unworthy to live in central London?

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This is what we mean by violence. This is where we see that regeneration is a type of violence.

These social costs of demolition and displacement are huge and yet the Council ignores this in favour of simple economic arguments that pretend ‘regeneration’ is all about benefiting a local community. But Londoners and especially those subject to these awful schemes are winning the argument that such schemes are only really about social cleansing. It seems that the last 6 months of high-visibility campaigns have won that battle. The next stage has been reached and campaigns are no longer simply arguing that regeneration is gentrification but are now moving into practical and shared actions to defend their homes from regeneration and to act against evictions – Focus E15 mums campaign and their re-occupation of Carpenter’s Estate in Stratford, the New Era estate in Hoxton victory of preventing a new private owner of their homes from evicting them, the Guinness Trust occupation in Brixton and the Aylesbury Occupation, are all amazing moments of the last few months.

And then there is a less subtle violence that all concerted actions against this regeneration bollocks will have to face and that is the ultimate use of the police and bailiffs by Council’s to get their way. This week we have seen that violence on Aylesbury Estate:

Aylesbury Occupied

This last fortnight has seen a somewhat incredible local and public denial that regeneration of Southwark’s large council estates is good for local communities. You probably already saw that part of Chartridge block on Aylesbury estate had been re-occupied by protestors who wanted to both draw attention to the social cleansing of poorer parts of Southwark and to give a boost to local housing campaigners on and off the estate. It certainly did that with daily meetings, petitions by residents of residents on the Aylesbury, street stalls on Walworth Rd, public meetings and a lively posting of news and arguments up on the Internet. All of these events and activities were organised by the occupiers, local residents and local groups.

Council’s First Response
Southwark Council’s only response was to repeatedly use the same tired old press statement in any media coverage.  None of the detailed arguments made by Aylesbury residents, leaseholders, the occupiers and people like us were answered in any way. Mark Williams, Cabinet member for Regeneration, instead claimed in the oft repeated statement that ‘In Southwark we are tackling the housing crisis head on and in the last three years we have built more affordable homes than any other London borough. The squatters do not represent the residents of the Aylesbury and are risking the delivery of the very homes they claim to be campaigning for, for the people they claim to be campaigning for. Southwark is working hard to tackle the London-wide housing crisis but others must also play their part to provide the homes Londoners need.’

2 bed shared owner
We would say simply: How do Southwark think they are tackling ‘the housing crisis’ by building these so-called affordable homes (eg. 25% shared ownership in Southwark requires an income of £56k for a 2-bed)? 47% of households in Southwark have incomes of £15,000 or less per annum. The median income for Council tenants was just £9,100 (Southwark key housing data 2012/13). So the numbers just don’t add up as numerous criticisms can be found of ‘affordable’ homes where it’s clear that are not ‘affordable’ unless you are on a very good wage or unless you can move from a cheap council rent to a more expensive Housing Association rent. So decanting tenants out of the Aylesbury, demolishing it, and having Notting Hill Housing Trust build some social rented homes but mostly private or shared ownership homes is not tackling the housing crisis for local people. Decanting tenants off of the Heygate Estate, demolishing it, and having Lend Lease build a tiny amount of social rented homes (79) but mostly private or shared ownership homes (3000) is not tackling the housing crisis.

Both regeneration schemes immediately reduce the numbers of available council homes by demolishing them and not replacing them (Heygate 1100 homes gone, Aylesbury will be 3000+ gone). Not only are council places lost but decanted tenants are re-housed mostly in existing council housing stock further reducing available council homes for those 18,000 people on the waiting lists. The experience of Heygate is that when some new homes were built for decanted tenants locally very few ex-Heygate residents took up the offer as they were either too expensive or they didn’t want to move once more. By the time these homes were built the Heygate community had already been displaced so people felt there was no longer any point in returning to near the Heygate site. It will be the same for the Aylesbury regeneration scheme. In both cases, tenants and residents have long argued that they want to stay in their local area and in their local community. If you have kids, are ill, are elderly, are low waged or unemployed, like large spacious and light flats, like Walworth and its shops and so on, these are some of the many reasons people do not want to move. Council rent means being able to have a decent home and to be able to survive for many many people.

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Removal of council homes means upping the level of those just above, on or below the poverty threshold and Heygate and Aylesbury sites are high on the Index of Multiple Deprivation. Let’s be clear, regeneration schemes do not tackle poverty, they make it worse. Decisions made in offices or at fancy dinners with developers do not arise from actual contact with local people. As was said this week on Twitter re: Aylesbury regeneration – Southwark Council just ‘doesn’t understand Council Housing from the perspective of a tenant’. We think that’s a very useful point. They do not understand and really do not care about the impact of these schemes on local communities. That’s the impact on the very people who vote them in to supposedly look after their community.

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Never Mind The Ballots
The Council’s lack of will to actually enter into argument and debate about it’s regeneration policies comes from the arrogance of those who now control the Council. It’s a very top-down affair of thinking they know what is good for us without ever asking us directly and with a transparency and accountability that is needed. Instead, they use consultation companies to arrange ‘show and tell’ meetings with those facing regeneration where the outcome of those meetings have already been pre-determined to show pro-regeneration support. We have already written much on the consultation con and we won’t repeat here. However, two illustrations might shine a light on the current state of whether the Aylesbury regeneration is supported by a majority of residents :

When the draft Aylesbury Area Action Plan (AAAP) was published in 2009, a series of ‘consultation’ meetings and events happened. The AAAP was the master-planning document was the blueprint for how the demolition and regeneration of the estate would be. On 6th and 7th March 2009 the Action Plan was ‘publicly displayed’ in Thurlow Lodge Community Hall and people invite to comment on it. Over the weekend, ‘133 people recorded their attendence over the two days…of whom 100 filled in questionnaires’. The Council was then able to write that this event ‘clearly showed local support for the Action Plan where 82% of questionnaire respondents supported the vision for the Aylesbury’.

The Aylesbury had approx 6000 or 7000 residents. If we do some maths, we can argue that responses from 100 people out of whom only 82 were supporting the regeneration is not a large very sample to trumpet out local resident support for the scheme. This is especially the case when in 2001 73% of residents voted against their homes being demolished and their tenancies being transferred to a Housing Association. Yet the Council now ignores the ballot and also constantly refers to a ‘vast majority of residents who want to be rehoused’. It also refuses to runs ballots on any further estate that they seek to regenerate as they know people have rumbled the regeneration rip-off.

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The 2014 Statement of Community Involvement summarises the process of public consultation that has taken place on the regeneration of the Aylesbury Estate in preparation for the submission of a detailed and outline planning applications. In the above chart you can see how many actual people attended each consultation or event. At the end of the chart the total attendance is put at 732 people in attendance. But how is it possible to know whether these 732 attendees were all different people and not a more likely mixture of the same people? How is it possible to know what they even said? The report only mentions in passing peoples obvious concerns about displacement. (You can see the hole-ridden 148-page Statement of Community Involvement here).

However, what struck us this week as we went to the occupation, the well-attended public meetings, the petition work or when we just met people passing through the estate was how few of them actually believed regeneration was in their interest. In fact the term ‘social cleansing’ came more out of people’s mouths than ours in these days. People instinctively grasp that what Southwark is doing is moving on poor people on large estates and moving in under the phony guise of ‘mixing the community’ more wealthy people. In one small shop on Westmoreland Rd, the owner was worried how his business would fare when the Aylesbury residents all moved on and more affluent people moved in. There was also a common acceptance of people living in empty buildings if they want too. People said again and again – ‘if they are empty why shouldn’t people live in them’.

Yet none of these concerns and desires not to leave the estate or the area, nor people’s support for the Aylesbury occupation seem to register in the Council’s propaganda machine. This week saw Leader of The Council, Peter John expressed dismay that any of this regeneration stuff could be seen as ‘controversial’. In light of Heygate scandal, the Aylesbury social cleansing with it’s stressful and pressured removal of tenants, the Compulsory Purchase Orders of very elderly residents, the non-affordable new housing, you wonder what there is there that isn’t controversial! Re-iterated again and again through public events about regenerating the Aylesbury  is that local residents see ‘affordability’ of new homes as their major issue and concern and yet the new homes are, as we know, going to be very unaffordable.

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Council’s Second Response: More Violence
Every day, the Occupation held a public meeting at 6.30pm where many people came and discussed both the regeneration and the Occupation and how to proceed. Within the Occupation there was clearly a sussed understanding of how they were occupying to help local people re-energise their opposition to the regeneration.

The Council’s line was that ‘the squatters’ had no support nor we’re they representative of local people’s feelings. They tried to distance any support for the occupation that as we have said was clear by just pretending that a part of the estate has been squatted and this had nothing to do with the regeneration or it’s opponents. At one point, Peter John called the squatters ‘fakes’ because some other squatters who were clearly nothing to do with the occupied Chartridge block held an unwanted noisy party. Police both accepted that this was nothing to do with the protest occupation but also did nothing when some of the occupiers were attacked by the party squatters when they asked them to stop the music which was pissing off local people.

On Tuesday evening, the Council decided it needed a final reckoning, and after securing an Interim Possession Order in court that morning, police arrived on the scene team handed. Although they had been filming the occupation that day, had been stopping and searching people there, had police on site 24 hours a day and had been trying to understand the situation with the occupation, they still basically spent a couple of hours evicting an empty block. The Occupation has simply moved at the start of the police raid into the adjoining block that was not covered by the Possession Order. The defence of this block was made even easier because when the Council had previously smashed up these flats a week before to prevent them being occupied they had also erected sturdy metal fences that now aided the occupiers against further police incursion.

At this moment of impasse, the police then made 6 violent arrests of supporters from the crowd of 100+. It was entirely provocative when the evening had so far been angry but calm even when the police were raiding the empty block with a show of force.

With no eviction then in place, outsmarted and somewhat deflated, the Council then tried to persuade the police that they had evidence of criminal damage committed when the occupiers took over the block. Police then came to the occupied block saying they were going to arrest all who didn’t leave due to ‘criminal damage’. The occupiers and crowd made a great job of arguing that this was a lie and somewhat ironic as the Council had already smashed up the block the week before. In the end, the Chief Inspector on the night with a nervousness that was quite funny to watch declared a dispersal order to clear the area but also didn’t go through with an illegal eviction.
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The Council, until it makes it’s next legal move, has been hiring private security to be a pain in the ass to the occupation, producing more intimidation and violence and its supporters and is also building many fences around the block as if laying it to siege. Potentially very dangerous but then the Council always operates from siege mentality unable to actually talk to local people, treat them nicely, see the actual harm of their regeneration regime and so on. They remain hunkered down in their in posh houses or secure in council chambers.

 

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As we write the occupation continues at 69-76 Chartridge Block, Westmoreland Rd, SE17. Their website is here for news and updates. Last Saturday they held a Family Fun Day for all and this brought more people to the place to see what’s going on and to enable further discussions around local people’s objections to this ‘regeneration’.
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We wonder when Peter John or any high-ranking regeneration officers last visited the Aylesbury for a chat with locals? Any guesses?