Tag Archives: Aylesbury Estate

Keys Now for Aylesbury Residents Trapped Behind Regeneration Fences

Hopefully you know by now that the Aylesbury Estate in Walworth is being ‘regenerated’ by Southwark Council. It’s a very big deal because the Aylesbury’s 2700 flats are currently home to an estimated 7500 residents. The plan is to demolish the existing estate and, in partnership with mega-Housing Association Notting Hill Housing (NHH), to build nearly 4000 new homes. In reality (just like Heygate Estateregeneration’ before) the regeneration and demolition of the Estate will result in thousands being displaced not only from their current homes but also from the local area all altogether.

creation trust displacement map 2017

Nearly 400 households were decanted in Phase 2 and only 34% of them were able to find existing council homes in the local area. Aylesbury Estate council tenants have limited rights to return to the area and none will be returning as council tenants to any of the new homes being built. Council stats show that decanted tenants are moving to existing council homes right across the Borough. Some of those people might choose to return to the area to the NHH new homes but under what conditions – higher rents, less secure tenancies? We don’t see that this is a particular beneficial option for 100% of those decanted in the name of ‘regenerating‘ their estate.

A percentage of ‘affordable homes‘ will be built on site, 50% closer to cheap council rents and 50% shared ownership homes. We don’t need to rehearse the arguments about the latter being entirely un-affordable to local people. Whether the social housing units provided by Notting Hill Housing will be close to existing council rents or more likely be the NHH-preferred ‘affordable rent’, well, we aren’t holding our breath. ‘Affordable rent’ means such rents being charged up to 80% of local private rents which, of course as the local area gentrifies faster and faster, means such ‘affordable rents’ are rocketing year by year.

 

FENCED IN – ‘TO MAKE US SAFE OR TO MAKE US INTIMIDATED’?

Unlike the Heygate, the demolition of the Aylesbury has been taking place in phases. L&Q Housing Association in partnership with the Council had already demolished the Wolverton blocks at East St and ‘regenerated’ them – 147 new homes, 49 of them affordable rent at 50% of local private rents. The next phases though are all Notting Hill Housing with the First Development Site (FDS) comprising of four Aylesbury blocks, two high towers and two low rise ones. The Council’s own timeline indicated that demolition would take place in summer 2015 with the first new homes available in autumn 2017. Things have however gone very differently. The Council failed to gain possession of all the flats in the area of the FDS. Leaseholders who own their homes on Aylesbury have been facing a nightmare. Faced with the Compulsory Purchase of their homes, the compensation they have been offered by the Council does not enable them to buy anything equivalent locally. And so our tale begins.

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One Aylesbury Estate resident has lived in her home for 27 years and loves it. She is maintaining an amazingly strong and dignified fight to receive adequate compensation to stay local to the area she also loves. But of course it’s not easy to stand firm and the fight comes with tons of stress and aggravation.

In November 2014, Leaseholders in the FDS had a meeting with the Council to discuss security issues around the emptied out blocks and how they might deal with safety and anti-social issues. In January 2015 housing campaigners occupied the empty Chartridge low-rise and maintained a successful protest against the social cleansing of this regeneration programme for a couple of months. This was the Council’s worse nightmare as it brought a ton of publicity to the many arguments for refurbishing and saving the Aylesbury.

It was during this occupation and definitely in response to it, that the Council suddenly began fencing in the blocks in the First Development Site. Southwark claimed that the fencing in was needed for the ‘safety of residents’ because of the protests. The resident told us in February 2015 as we looked down from her flat: ‘As you can see downstairs, they are boarding us up. They are boarding up the circumference of the building. I don’t know whether that is to make us safe or to make us feel intimidated. Because this really shouldn’t be taking place until after they have sought possession”.

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By March 2015, the fencing in of the site was completed at a cost of £140,000. On March 11th the Council wrote to remaining residents now living behind the fence telling them that in two days time:

‘Access to these blocks will be via the pedestrian and vehicular gate in Westmoreland Rd. The entrance is for use by all residents, visitors, deliveries etc and once operational your only means of entrance to your home will be via these gates. This entrance will have 24 hour security personnel presence in position to ensure that your access to the estate is not impeded’.

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And so began the life behind the fence where leaving your house forces you to walk a whole lot further each time to access the one gate and where you don’t know how long it will take to get back in again.

 

ENOUGH MISERY! FENCES MUST GO!

It was with local support and outrage at what people were called the ‘Alcatraz fence’ and the ‘Berlin Wall’ that the new fence became its own infamous image of what everyday violence regeneration happily dumps on people’s heads. It seems so entirely symbolic in the sense of the Council’s urgent desire to get residents off the estate that they could leave through the gates using the door handle but couldn’t get back in without having to ask! You can go and please don’t come back!

 

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The fence became a perfect site for slogans and posters in both chalk and paint against the regeneration of the Aylesbury. There was even a protest on 2nd April where 300 people marched around the fence and parts of the crowd pulled down three large sections of the fence in anger. But, as we wrote at the time, as good as that direct action was, the struggle against social cleansing continues every day in small and minute moments of organising against it. The day after the fence was pulled it was rebuilt and remains almost two and a bit years later both the impediment to normal life that it is for residents and the material reality of how awfully the Council can treat people in the name of the local benefits for all from regeneration.

The Aylesbury resident later reflected on this with us once more:
‘A few weeks later we were still walking throughout the estate with just the fencing up, they hadn’t put any gates in. Then, all of a sudden, one day I saw them putting gates in. Maybe about three weeks after they started to put the fencing up they started putting these gates still thought well, they are putting gates in clearly they are going to be giving us keys to access to come and go cause we live here, this is our home. And then all of a sudden we was told we couldn’t access the building at certain points and after 27 years of coming in the estate whenever I wanted to at whichever point I wanted to, if I came in on Albany road, her, obviously that’s the nearest bus stop to me, with shopping and stuff which makes it easier, more accessible’.

They have many tales of not being able to get into the Estate, waiting for security guards, being stuck outside late at night etc. This has been an entirely unnecessary regime imposed upon the residents. Postal services have been a constant battle to maintain delivery of vital letters as well as general disrepair in the blocks. In March 2016, the main lights in the blocks were broken for four weeks leaving the residents in darkness in the public areas. In December 2016 they were trapped in the lift for an hour when it broke down. The lift has broken down due to a water leak that they had reported a month before to the Council.

 

TWO YEARS LATER: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

The need for a secure fence is not controversial. It’s normal practice for guarding development sites and having one is not the argument we are making. What FDS residents have been asking for for ages now is easier access such as the gate having a lock and key, a numerical keypad and code or a swipe card lock. None of these things are costly or difficult to install and would give residents the autonomy they should have had from day one to come and go on their own terms. In March 2015, Mark Williams, Southwark Cabinet Member for Regeneration told South London Press: ‘We will continue to review these arrangements to make sure they work for the residents and that we respond to any feedback we receive‘. These ‘arrangements‘ have clearly not worked for residents since day one so what’s the point of continuing to make residents suffer in this way?

A Freedom of Information request to Southwark Council about the costs of the fence so far revealed the following:

Q1) What has been the total cost from March 2015 to present day that the Council has paid to
the security company who guards the fence. Information up to the last paid invoice or date is
acceptable?

A1) £705,000 

Q2) Can you send a monetary figure that is a estimation of how much is currently being spent by
the Council per month for the security company. eg over the last six months.

A2) £24,000

Being forced to lived behind the fence because you are unwilling to move out of the area and are demanding proper compensation for you home becomes somewhat spiteful when the Council has spent close to £900,000+ so far on this over the top security.

With the current demolition of the Bradenham, Arklow, Chartridge blocks happening under residents noses within the First Development Site, we are asking of the Council that residents are now given some form of self-managed entry and exit from their homes. The next round of the Public Inquiry into the Compulsory Purchase of leaseholders homes is not until October so it’s time now for the Council to sort this for residents!

We don’t believe the security regime is mostly about security. We believe this disgusting treatment of residents who are putting up a fight for housing justice is entirely because of that fight. We agree with residents – this is just intimidation and an attempted war of attrition. Enough is enough.

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KEYS FOR RESIDENTS – WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Keys for residents and the other residents now:

If you support this demand, please spread this article far and wide via your social networks and social media (#keysforResidents)

Please contact the following Councillors with your respectful demand for keys for Aylesbury FDS residents:

Peter John, Leader of The Council: peter.john@southwark.gov.uk / @peterjohn6

Stephanie Cryan, Cabinet Member for Housing: stephanie.cryan@southwark.gov.uk / @steviecryan

Mark Williams, Cabinet Member for Regeneration: mark.williams@southwark.gov.uk / @markwilliams84

Creation Trust is a ‘charity dedicated to residents on the Aylesbury estate and ensuring they receive the benefits of the regeneration of the area’.

Charlotte Benstead, Chief Executive of Creation Trust: charlotte@creationtrust.org / @creationSE17

Thurlow Lodge Centre, Aylesbury Estate Occupied

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(Pic: Southwark News)

Thurlow Lodge Community Hall on Aylesbury Estate, Walworth is being defended by local users and groups after Southwark Council sought to close the well used space. Locals have began an occupation of the space and a meeting this week issued the following joint statement from Divine Rescue, the Thurlow Lodge occupation committee and Aylesbury new TRA steering group:

Save Divine Rescue and Thurlow Lodge Community Hall
Support the occupation of Thurlow Lodge!

Southwark Council intends to close or privatise Thurlow Lodge Community Hall and it has tried to evict homeless charity and foodbank Divine Rescue from Thurlow Lodge. This is both an attack on the homeless, disabled and poor clients of this charity and an attack on council tenants and residents on the Aylesbury Estate. By demolishing more than 2,000 council homes on the Aylesbury, the Council will create even more homeless people.

Our occupation, determined opposition and the support of trade unions, campaign groups and the wider tenants’ movement has forced the Council to row back on their eviction threats and attempts to close the hall. The Council now claims it never tried to close the hall in the first place! However, it is still considering legal action against Divine Rescue and it has put the prospect of privatisation on the table by saying that the hall will be put out to tender.

This is unacceptable. Tenants and residents on the Aylesbury are in the process of forming a new tenants’ and residents’ association which claims the right to manage this hall in the interests of the community, provide a secure home for Divine Rescue and fight for council housing for all. We are proud to state that the new TRA steering group has been offered the solidarity and assistance of experienced tenant reps in Southwark. We have every confidence that the new TRA will be able to successfully manage the hall and provide a full programme of events and activities. The new TRA is keen to work with the two remaining TRAs on the Aylesbury Estate to provide a genuine democratic voice for Aylesbury tenants and residents.

We demand that the Council recognise the Aylesbury new TRA as soon as it is set up. We demand that the Council lifts all threats of closure and privatisation and accepts that Divine Rescue can remain, on its current rent.   We call on Southwark Council to halt the demolition of the Aylesbury Estate and instead refurbish and properly maintain our council housing.

Signed, Thurlow Lodge occupation committee, Divine Rescue and Aylesbury new TRA

What you can do: Send a message of support, invite us to speak at your meeting:
thurlowlodgeoccupation@gmail.com  southwarkdch@gmail.com

For updates go to facebook southwark dch. 

Sign this petition

Join us in our programme of activities in defence of our TRA hall and Divine Rescue

Thurlow Lodge Community Hall
1 Thurlow Street, London, SE17 2US

Saturday 14th January 3pm – Solidarity Tea Party with music and fun. Bring union and campaign banners. Banner making workshop. All welcome including children.

Sunday 15th January 5:30pm – New TRA inaugural meeting. All Aylesbury tenants and residents welcome Followed by 6:30pm – Occupation meeting

 

Press Coverage:

South London Press
https://www.londonnewsonline.co.uk/14905/bailiffs-attempt-another-eviction-foodbank-time-protestors-ready/

Southwark News
http://www.southwarknews.co.uk/news/homeless-charity-divine-rescue-workers-resisting-eviction-home-aylesbury-estate/

 

 

Letter To Evening Standard re: Aylesbury CPO rejection

‘In Monday’s article (regarding the secretary of state allowing Aylesbury Estate residents the right to remain in their homes in the face of Southwark Council’s and Notting Hill Housing Trust’s socially unjust ‘regeneration’ scheme) important points were missed. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid’s rejection of the compulsory purchase order should shame Southwark. Aylesbury Estate has a large Black and Minority Ethnic population. Javid’s report was clear that the redevelopment scheme will affect these most vulnerable local residents and noted Southwark’s failure to uphold its public sector Equality Duty in this respect.

The article also gave the impression that the leaseholders involved in this case are the last ones left on the estate. In fact, this recent Public Inquiry only relates to the “First Development Site”, a small part of the 60 acre estate. There are still hundreds of residents in the rest of the Aylesbury, watching this case with great interest because their homes are due to be affected by Phases 2, 3 and 4. The scheme if it goes ahead will result in a minimum net loss of 800 affordable council homes further impacting available housing for locals on the housing waiting list. After Heygate Estate’s demolition and replacement by mostly private sale homes, residents are fearful of Aylesbury becoming another Heygate, campaign groups in Southwark are calling for a moratorium on estate regeneration schemes that are premised on demolition and decanting of residents.

Finally, the statement by Southwark’s head of regeneration states that the regeneration is “supported by the vast majority of residents”. This is not true – the only ballot of residents to date (in 2001) rejected redevelopment with a 73% majority on a 76% turnout. Southwark Council and Notting Hill Housing Trust must now rethink this entire regeneration model and listen to the residents’ needs and desires’.

Aylesbury Tenants and Residents First
35 Percent Campaign
Elephant Amenity Network
Fight For the Aylesbury
People’s Republic of Southwark
Southwark Notes
Saving Southwark
Southwark Green Party
Southwark Defend Council Housing

 


PDF of this letter here for printing and circulation: letter-to-evening-standard-re

Compulsory Purchase Orders for Aylesbury Estate Regeneration Rejected

After an amazing and determined fight, Aylesbury leaseholders and other residents have been vindicated in their long struggle to be adequately compensated for their homes (if they are to be ‘decanted’ aka displaced out of the area). The whole dubious premise of the regeneration process has been critically toasted on this very basis of piss poor treatment of Aylesbury residents alongside many other crucial criticisms of the Council’s disgusting bulldozing through of the regeneration / gentrification scheme.

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The Inspectors report is long and detailed (83 pages) and we are still figuring out what this means. You can read the Inspector’s letter and report here:

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For us this is the opening space once more to pour our arguments into – net loss of affordable Council homes in favour of private homes, displacement of long term local residents and the gentrification of the area, knock on effects of the regeneration would lead to a secondary displacement locals and shops from local rising private and commercial rents.

For background you can read the whole sorry saga here: http://35percent.org/aylesbury-estate/ and here: https://southwarknotes.wordpress.com/aylesbury-estate/

There will be much more to say in the next weeks. For now here is Barrister Chris Jacobs from Landmark Chambers, giving his closing submission on behalf of objectors to the Aylesbury estate CPO Public Inquiry on 14th October 2015.

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.

housing poc cover
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.
Demolition-begins-1

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:
Housing Poverty Kate Davies Introduction

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

nhht davies flyer Version 3
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January 2017: We highly recommend the article written from the inside on NHHT and especially Kate Davies role in their moving away from building social rented homes: Here on Red Brick blog

Externally, Kate was often heavily involved in policy development and lobbying. Amongst other things, she was a key advisor to the extremely influential Localis review (Principles for Social Housing Reform) on which Red Brick has commented many times (for example here). She chaired the ‘Housing and Dependency Working Group’ for Duncan Smith’s (misnamed) Centre for Social Justice producing a report – using NHHT resources – on housing poverty in 2008, where she repeated her call for an end to security of tenure and criticised social housing for providing ‘low cost living for life funded from the public purse’.

—–

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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 Tory think tank Centre for Social Justice 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 and vile 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.

ayles fence cost1SOLIDEMO
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:
nhht aff 58% 1 nhht aff 58% 2

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.