Tag Archives: Heygate

THE DISMAL DECADE – GOODBYE PETER JOHN O.B.E, J.C.B, LEADER OF SOUTHWARK COUNCIL

In September 2020, after a decade as Labour Leader of Southwark Council, Peter John O.B.E has decided to hang up his Council Leader hat. For Southwark Notes, a small collection of local Southwark people who have been actively writing and working against the worst excesses of ‘regeneration’, we have been trotting alongside his ten-year leadership journey. It’s been a long and weary ride and it’s kept us very busy. What follows is a long three-parter. We hope it suffices as a clear summary of everything we’ve been fighting against.

Firstly, we look at the last ten years of Southwark with close reference to planning and what’s been sold off, knocked down and then built up. Secondly, we try to describe Southwark Labour in power during that decade and concentrate on how we feel that their top-down style of governing abstracts or tries to bypass any actual day-to-day actual politics that communities have to engage in to defend themselves. Lastly, we look at their claims that they are ‘municipal socialists’ and what these claims could mean if it was in any way true.

Peter John looking at the material benefits that came to local people when the Heygate Estate was knocked down and replaced by expensive apartments


If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, here’s a summary: We add up numerous well-documented examples from the last decade of Southwark’s planning regime and conclude that this local recipe for a shit sandwich is complete. It’s a pretty damning record. A decade of the creation of literally a new Wild West gold rush for developers in North Southwark with a wasteland of luxury flats and another wasteland of overpriced and poor quality ‘shared ownership’ new builds across The Borough, Bermondsey, Bankside now reaching inwards to The Elephant, Walworth, Peckham and Old Kent Rd. Also, the struggle continues.


A DECADE LASTS A CENTURY WITH SOUTHWARK LABOUR

As the half-decent human beings that we are, we didn’t spend ten years pissing and mewling about Southwark Council just for the sake of it. The Council trumpets its free school meals programme, its new libraries, improvements to Burgess Park, free use of sports centres for residents and Southwark’s commitment to being a Living Wage employer. That all seems good and we support it. Somewhere down the line in about 2015 Southwark also came up with the idea of building 11,000 new council homes over the next twenty years or so. The Council’s demolition projects particularly at Heygate and Aylesbury Estate have already resulted in a net loss of council homes in the 1000s so it’s not a good starting point. Neither is the idea of asking or insisting that existing estates possibly lose facilities like sports courts or  TRA halls or  small open green spaces for infill development. With tons of development going for new richer residents of the Borough, we find it annoying that existing estates have to be the ones to give up their space and get blamed by Southwark as being NIMBY’s (Not In My Back Yard) in whose hands lay the resolving of a housing crisis not of their making. For better or worse, plans to build on top of council blocks are also being discussed. If it’s of any solace, the new-ish Southwark Great Estates Programme (2018) promises on any new estate developments ‘a net increase in social rent homes alongside increased density, to meet the acute need of families on our waiting list and a right to remain for all rehoused tenants and leaseholders, for keeping communities together‘. As ‘Regeneration’ Dept has now been re-named ‘Social Regeneration’ Dept, we are hoping the social now gets privileged over developers profits!

We also have some concerns too about the economic merit of buying newly completed homes off of developers rather than the Council finding ways to build them. So, as we have said before, we support this if it can work but the proof will be in the pudding and Southwark has continuously been baking some unaccountable shit puddings over the last ten years!

Advert from April 2020: Elephant Park one-bed flat for £785,000 built on the demolished Heygate Estate where a one-bed flat would have cost you approx £120 per week in social rent


So, if you’ve been a dedicated reader of this blog over the years then, you will know something of how Peter John’s decade of commitment to urban ‘regeneration’ in the North Southwark area has been a dismal ten years for Southwark. When Peter John took power in May 2010 he inherited the ‘regeneration’ plans for the Elephant & Castle from the LibDems. Wanting to look like he meant immediate business, one of the first things he did was to hastily sign a terrible deal with multinational property development firm Lend Lease to demolish the Heygate Estate. PJ said at the time ‘I’m delighted to be working with our partner, Lend Lease, to develop an area with so much potential, to the benefit of local people and for all Londoners‘. However, the real story of the mass displacement of tenants and residents has been told a million times by now and has gone down in the history books as a public housing scandal. There’s little redeeming in it for Peter John who, in response to high levels of criticism, repeatedly flip-flopped between various positions. First it was all about learning from the mistakes and saying he would never do that kind of Heygate regeneration again. Then it was about saying actually how well they had done getting tenants out of such terrible conditions as if the decant and re-housing of the tenants had been the Council’s priority all along. But if you look at Lend Lease’s expensive Elephant Park development that replaced the Heygate Estate, it’s clear that ‘regeneration’ was simply about moving mostly poor people out of the local area for no other reason than to enable richer folks to have homes on that Zone One land. It would be hard to think of many actual material benefits that the Elephant Park redevelopment scheme brought to the mostly thousands of poorer people who live at The Elephant. There is just no way a Labour council can claim this disaster as motivated by any sort of ‘municipal socialism’ even with its most piss weak ‘our hands are tied by Central government’ justifications. But more on that claim a bit later on. Yes, central government funding for local authorities has fallen by an estimated 50% in the last decade approx with very real knock on effects upon continuing rising levels of poverty, housing and job insecurity, but an increasing reliance on real estate deals to allegedly subsidise ‘benefits’ for locals can never tackle this at root.


Peter John squirms as he is wonderfully grilled out of his arse by Australian ABC TV’s Steve Cannane in October 2016 about the Heygate Estate scandal



Just down the Walworth Rd, a similar Council ‘regeneration’ scheme for the much larger Aylesbury Estate is currently underway. This time the Council made the seemingly better decision to partner up with housing associations. First with L&Q. Then with that ever-expanding and awful mega-housing association Notting Hill Genesis. The first phases have been similarly controversial with the same high levels of decant and displacement for tenants and long battles by leaseholders to not be poorly compensated for their homes. Along the way we’ve seen the same aggressive use of Compulsory Purchase Orders on leaseholders as first pioneered by Southwark on Heygate. We’ve seen endless spin about ‘benefits’ for locals and confusion about any right to return for tenants. We’ve seen ongoing under-investment and increasing shoddy maintenance of the existing housing stock.  We’ve seen the standard terribly shoddy new homes that housing association homes build as their ‘affordable housing’ commitment. We’ve seen that ‘affordable housing’ shared ownership schemes are overpriced and way above the income levels of most Southwark residents. But with the current ‘regeneration’ climate now being very uncertain and new Aylesbury plans seemingly being moved in a more positive direction, the new plan, in part, seems premised on Southwark buying new homes off of Notting Hill Genesis and using these as new council homes. This will probably make Notting Hill Genesis happy as they already have 610 unsold private sale properties across London right now. Would Notting Hill Genesis even go forward with Aylesbury plans without the Council plan to buy their homes? The deal could see Southwark spend £193 million to buy 280 homes for social housing with hopefully a quarter of this stumped up from a grant from the GLA. That would make a total of 581 replacement council homes on the Aylesbury first development site.

News reports from March 2020 also stated that new Council plans could see on Phase Two ‘859 homes in total, with 287 at social rent – and could be increased to around 1,250 with a grant from the Greater London Authority’. Hard to understand any of this in actual detail yet. So, we await further news and guarantees. At the end of the day, there should be no net loss in council housing on Aylebury Estate nor tenants displaced to other parts of the Borough just so expensive homes can be built in Walworth. In the meantime tenants and leaseholders waiting to be decanted and bought out continue to live in increasingly shoddy conditions, with heating and hot water services cutting out on a weekly basis and basic maintenance being neglected.

Up The Elephant Campaign, Latin Elephant and supporters mark the closure of the Elephant Shopping Centre, September 24th 2020


As we slowly write this, we’ve just seen the last day of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre. Once again, despite the promises of ‘regeneration’, we wonder what’s in it for local people when the Centre is demolished and replaced by close to 1000 new homes and a new London College of Communications campus. We’ve written extensively on the human cost of the closure of the Centre on local people here  and here. Although Up The Elephant campaign secured an increase from 33 to 116 social rented homes of the developers, we wonder if these promises will ever come true? We have so little trust in Southwark holding developers to account or that the developers will actually build what they were given planning permission for. These 116 social rent homes aren’t on the cards until Phase 2 of the plans, so that’s donkey’s years ahead. On the vital question of genuine affordable housing in the development plans and the relocation of traders from the Centre to other sites, North Walworth councillors have been dreadful, in the main. After the planning permission was passed by Southwark in July 2018, these councilors did send an open letter to Sadiq Khan criticising the Delancey plan and asking him to ‘insist on changes which can fix these significant moral and policy failings‘ and to ‘to pressure Delancey in delivering a better deal‘. Nothing happened from Khan, of course! We suggest it might have been better to send this letter to their own Council leader Peter John who had cheer-led the whole scheme describing the measly 33 social rent homes plans as ‘on-balance…good enough’. Subsequently, those same councillors, dropped out of sight at Up The Elephant campaign meetings and became either well-meaning but useless or just plain cavalier, unreliable and pompous. To its credit, the Council officers did step up to persistent trader and  campaign demands and opened up a set of garages as the new Elephant Arcade below Perronet House for displaced traders from the Centre. Despite some ongoing tensions over rent levels, lack of storage, small units etc, traders will have to see how it works out. In October this year, the Council responded well to Latin Elephant and 35% Campaign‘s call for new market pitches in The Elephant for the displaced traders who Delancey did not help get new sites. Good luck to all traders starting again in The Elephant at Perronet, the sadly ill-conceived Castle Sq pop-up shops and any new market spaces.



But, as was pointed out in July 2018 by no less than Rebecca Lury, North Walworth Labour Councillor and Deputy Leader of the Council at that time: ‘As municipal socialists we are glad the Council has come forward with a plan to support traders at Perronet House, but find little comfort in the use of public money to rectify the colossal failings of a massive private developer’. Southwark stumped up £200,000 public money to aid trader’s relocation. Again, although this support is much welcomed and came mostly from pressure from the community campaigns, these costs should all fall on Delancey. But then there was always something out of tune with Peter John and Delancey’s love song duet. Again, despite the serious and feisty Up The Elephant campaign piling the pressure on Delancey, the Council preferred to capitulate to the developers instead of using that very public strength of the campaign as leverage to actually secure real benefits for their constituents.

STRANGELY, THEY (PROBABLY) ACTUALLY BELIEVE IN WHAT THEY ARE DOING?

Ok. You’ve made it this far. Well done! Hold on to your hats as we are about to board the rollercoaster of reflection as we look back at some of what we think has made Southwark so awful over the last ten years.

As local people, working alongside the amazing groups like 35% Campaign, Latin Elephant and Up The Elephant, we’ve been digging in together to highlight again and again in detail how Southwark operates – highlighting how ‘consultation’ of local people is entirely bogus and works to deflect from their social concerns or how seemingly participatory ‘co-design’ processes still offer only the illusion of being listened to. A report by Social Life entitled  ‘Understanding Southwark Daily life and the impact of COVID-19 across the borough – First phase of area-based qualitative analysis: Key Findings’ (October 2020) interviewed numerous local Walworth and Elephant people and found that ‘Residents and traders reported low levels of voice and influence in local areas, the reasons for this varied. There is a widespread cynicism around consultation and the impact that local voices have on local decision-making, particularly among people with fewer resources (in time and money) and BAME groups. It was widely noted that opinions about new housing developments polarise feelings in all six areas‘). We’ve all been highlighting how developers use viability assessments to spin why they can only provide low levels of ‘affordable’ housing in their schemes and despite Southwark policies for 35% affordable housing for big developments the Council relentlessly passes non-compliant schemes. We’ve been banging our heads against a wall as Southwark again and again allows planning permissions they have granted to be flouted and social rented homes built and offered as the more expensive ‘affordable rent’. We been watching dozens of councillors and high ranking council officers leave the Council to take up employment with developers or planning consultants. We’re seeing the Council sell off asset after community asset – land, council homes, Town Halls, children’s homes, health and day centres.

 Government statistics show that Southwark has sold off over a thousand council homes  in the five years from 2010 to 2015. Source: 35% Campaign


Interviewed in May 2010, just before taking power in Southwark, PJ commented that ‘the first thing we’d do is not sell off our existing stock‘ yet the Council continues to auction off family-sized homes year after year to this present day. Although this policy was introduced by the previous LibDem/Tory regime in Southwark, the Labour Party in power reduced the previous over £400,000 value threshold for sale to over £300,000 value threshold for sale. Prize historical public assets like Camberwell Town Hall were also sold off in December 2014 to an offshore -based developer; Bermondsey Town Hall was sold off in December 2012 to developers and the make over of the fire-damaged Walworth Town Hall has been contracted out to private developers in 2019 despite two Council consultations were local people clearly stated they wanted the Council to keep the Town Hall as a real public asset.

Summer 2018 – Southwark Council agrees to sell off two plots of its own freehold land close to Old Kent Rd for developments


At the same time, the Council now complains about how land values are too high in the Borough and prevents them from purchasing and ‘re-municipalising’ land along Old Kent Rd for their new council home building programme. Leo Pollak, Council Cabinet Member for Housing writesin the midst of a land speculation frenzy—a Great South London land rush—our job as builder and as planning authority in maintaining the link between real-world housing needs and housing supply in our borough is made unnecessarily difficult…an unregulated market for land creates a ratchet effect that treats planning permissions and site allocations like any other kind of tradeable commodity, dissociated from the council’s imperative of meeting local housing needs, securing sums for social infrastructure and ensuring good growth’ *. This is literally the speculative development and land-banking gold rush landscape Southwark have been laying the ground of in the last ten years. We find it hard to make sense of what Southwark does in this respect. Right now, Southwark is busy buying up lots of parcels of over-valued land along Old Kent Rd and yet only two years ago it sold two large pieces of land it owned at Mandela Way and Devonshire Grove, off Old Kent Rd!

Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth regular meeting


On another tip of local people dogging the Council’s shonky decision making, the excellent group Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL) have done dogged casework for people and securing them council housing against Southwark who were consistently gate-keeping applicants from applying. HASL also do top work on tackling overcrowding, temporary accommodation and Southwark’s terrible way of dealing with actual sentient living feeling humans being in distress. Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations have been great at highlighting how current Southwark plans to re-jig democracy and accountability to tenants are likely to result in less structures to try and have a voice on and say in Council plans.

This all adds up to what then? That the Council’s ideological commitments to ‘regeneration’ and rebalancing the social mix – otherwise know as social cleansing or gentrification – are what has made Peter John’s decade at Southwark the most famous. Whether that’s the terrible deal they made with Lend Lease for the Heygate or the disgusting cheerleading and outright brown nosing of offshore-based, tax-avoiding developer Delancey for the Elephant Shopping Centre scheme or the current disaster-to-be of the Southwark fuelled gold rush for developers along the Old Kent Rd, this is all just more long-term social cleansing in action. We’ve written about this a lot here.  Oh, and don’t even mention the massive Canada Water ‘regeneration’ plans at Surrey Quays!

But it’s not just us banging on about this. In 2016, Southwark Giving released a detailed report called ‘A Tale of Two Southwarks’. It was an independent research report into the needs of local communities in the borough of Southwark. From the title you can see that they were concerned about and highlighted the effects of so much private market housing in the borough. They wrote: ‘The difference between affluent and deprived areas is becoming more prominent in Southwark, with areas on or near the river and in the south becoming increasingly unaffordable whilst the areas in the middle of the borough are becoming more deprived…Redevelopments and new businesses attract higher-salary workers to some areas which lifts the local economy but leaves other areas stagnating. While average earnings in Southwark have risen with the influx of new industries, this has not benefitted all workers. Nearly one third of households in Southwark earn less than 60% of national median income after housing costs; this is the fifth largest proportion of households in inner London boroughs. 4,509 individuals received help from the Southwark Foodbank in 2013/14 (roughly 1.6% of the borough’s total population). Poverty is not the only decider of life chances and opportunities. Other issues can divide Southwark’s residents into ‘two cities’ based on: gender, age, ethnicity, income, housing, health, wellbeing, education, employment, and membership of a minority group’.

This mirrors everything all the local campaigns have been saying and actively fighting against for years – that Southwark’s planning and development policies consistently favour large developers and large developments that lead to further poverty, dispossession and displacement. Once again this is not rocket science. The effects are very clear if you live on the poor side of things as most of us do. You see the effects everyday.

Land value and speculation – how it works: Empty site Blackfriars rd & Stamford St. Land Securities bought most of the site in 2003 for £38 million. Israeli-backed Circleplane buy the site as £90 million in 2007. Malaysian-backed, Jersey-registered company Black Pearl in 2014 for £114 million. Hero Inc. Ltd, Staycity Ltd and BSW Land and Property Ltin 2019 for £235 million.


LUXURY POLITICS WITH EVERY LUXURY FLAT

Our face-to-face experiences of Peter John are thankfully few and far between. The ones we did have were indicative of the full range of his style and panache. Firstly, when we organised a silent visual protest inside the Council planning meeting that would pass the Masterplan for the demolition of the Heygate Estate in January 15th 2013, PJ was outraged by the community members holding up critical posters. Close to the end he snatched a poster out of one of our hands and put it on the floor and got all grumpy faced. Pretty funny.

 




Secondly, we witnessed the literal duet he performed at the Borough, Bankside and Walworth Community Council meeting on 9th January 2018 with Investment Director at Delancey Stafford Lancaster. Both of them sang the praises of the Delancey scheme to the high ceiling of St Peters Church. Stafford took on the verses whilst PJ did the well-worn choruses: ‘People don’t like the fact that a private developer is involved or that private money is going to have to pay for the redevelopment of the Centre and that they are a company with investors and shareholders and they allowed to make profit and that’s their business, that is the reality of their world and our world’.


Peter John croons ‘What Kind of Fool Am I?’ to Delancey’s Stafford Lancaster, 9th January 2018 at the Borough, Bankside and Walworth Community Council meeting.


But only a very chosen few get to join in the sing-song. What’s obvious from the decade of Peter John’s reign is how he always maintained the luxury of not answering any awkward questions from people who desperately needed answers and input into things that affected their lives, their survival. Meanwhile, he was selling Southwark cheap at a property trade fair in sunny Cannes in 2013 and promising as many luxury flats that the borough could cram in. Different shades of luxury, we suppose. No doubt he was telling the story over canapés of how they had decanted all the tenants on the Heygate to make way for such luxurious property development. With Cannes always on our mind, there was always the amusing spectacle of his official Gifts and Hospitalities logged at Southwark’s website. A £50 quid lunch here with Chris Horn, six years as Southwark Council project director of the £2bn Elephant & Castle regeneration before he launched his own ‘affordable’ housing development company Enter Homes. Or a nice dinner there at Pont de la Tour with Bell Pottinger Group. This dinner was handy as the restaurant was 5 minutes away from PJ’s then swanky apartment in posh The Circle development in Shad Thames. It was to be one of nine such meals with Bell Pottinger or Peter Bingle or latterly Terrapin Communications. Who they you might ask? Only the UK’s must dubious PR and Comms firm who were caught in 2011 boasting how it uses ‘dark arts’ to bury bad coverage and influence public opinion. Clients include multiple shady dictatorships, the arms industry, the fracking industry, the gambling industry, the tobacco industry etc. A strange repeat dinner company for a socialist Man of the People, like Peter John O.B.E.

The dinners with developers flowed like fine wine and developers built stuff in Southwark. Sure, as Leader of The Council, you expect a certain amount of meeting property developers but there are meetings and then there are meetings! We always presumed that Peter John actually had an office at Tooley St to meet people in but maybe he was forced to hot-desk at local restaurants. We love to quote the old Workers City line and we’ll do it again here:

‘When developers visited the City, the used to creep in at the side door, now the councillors bring them in the front door, one on each arm’. Not only had it become respectable for councillors to be seen with developers, it soon became imperative to be involved with them. Indeed, it got to the stage where councillors and developers became indistinguishable. The only real way they could be told apart was that the developer was always talking and the councillor was forever nodding his or her head’.
From ‘Glasgow’s Not For Sale’ by Brendan McLaughin (1990).



Peter John, leader of Southwark Council, and Lend Lease EMEA CEO Dan Labbad sign off the destruction of 1000+ Council homes on the Heygate Estate, 23rd July 2010 in Southwark’s Tooley St HQ. Smiles all round!


Of course, the fine dining and the quote points to how much of the Labour party has changed over the last 30 years. Peter John is pretty typical of many other London Labour council’s regimes and we’re thinking of Croydon (currently going bankrupt!), Lambeth, Lewisham – all Blairite-fuelled dynasties of reactionary PJ type-clones. Some of us Southwark Notes lot are former Labour voters and if we weren’t on a more radical tip and disbelieving that party politics will do anything for us all, we would still vote Labour because we were brought up to be Labour. That bringing up instilled in us some class-consciousness and had us believe that Labour was the party of the working person. But Peter John and others should have no illusions about what having a Labour mandate means in a massively solid working class area like Southwark. You could stand a turd with a red rosette stuck in it round here and it would be elected for the rosette and not the turd. Voting for a red rosette though doesn’t mean people then want to see a load of alienated posh people colonise their traditional stomping grounds. But it also doesn’t mean local people don’t want change or even regeneration. Of course, they do, if they’re actually centered at the heart of it.

SOUTHWARK’s SECOND CLASS POLITICS STRICTLY IN THE POST

‘…from this moment forward to think and speak the language of those who govern, no longer the language of those who are governed. They spoke in the name of the government (and as part of it), no longer in the name of the governed (and as part of them). And so of course they adopted a governing point of view on the world, disdainfully dismissing (and doing so with great discursive violence, a violence that was experienced as such by those at whom it was directed) the point of view of those being governed… The most that any of them would deign to do would be to replace the oppressed and dominated of yesterday—along with their struggles—with the “marginalized” of today—who were presumed to be of a passive nature. They could be considered as the silent potential recipients of the benefits of various technocratic measures that were intended to help the “poor” and the “victims” of “precarity” and of “disaffiliation.” All this was nothing other than a hypocritical and underhanded strategy meant to invalidate any approach to these problems that used terms such as oppression and struggle, or reproduction or transformation of social structures, or inertia and dynamism within class antagonisms’.

From ‘Returning to Reims’, Didier Eribon (2009)

It has been a long and ever bumpy ride for those who have been active for any number of years against what is called ‘regeneration’. Decades ago the Tories cut Central government allocations and Councils were forced into local competition with each other for funding. New Labour brought an emphasis on partnerships where developers, councils and local community all appear as ‘stakeholders’. In these so-called partnerships decision making power is weighted heavily on the side of developers first, compliant and desperate councils second and lastly for us locals where community involvement via ‘consultation’ is toothless. What actually takes preference with such a planning regime in force, is that social questions – what do working class communities need? – arrive last place to questions of economic growth and development. This has been summed up well by urban writer Guy Baeten in a 2009 piece about the regeneration of The South Bank in London. He says ‘Regeneration efforts, exclusively conducted through the institutionalised channels of partnerships and governmental grants, create a singular discourse about what regeneration should be about, and reduce any alternative regeneration view, expressed by whomever whenever, to sheer background noise’.

New Labour flagship Tony Blair declares that no-one will be left behind in 1997 but by 2020 the Aylesbury Estate was being demolished by Southwark Labour


Not only did Southwark Council join in the fan club for partnerships, they also dove head first into the mire of New Labour Blairite thinking on what we can term ‘the political’. Although there was a ‘New’ in ‘New Labour’, it also never really escaped the heavy top down mix of old-fashioned Right-wing Labour paternalism –  ‘we know best’. Classic 70s/80s Old Labour in Southwark ran as a kind of semi-benevolent mafia acting in the alleged interests of their working class constituents but always from on high and never asking what people needed or wanted. But the New Labour thinking continued this paternalism but with the class politics removed because they believed that politics as politics was over. New Labour ideas and policies actually remove the political from local government and local community demands. By the political, we simply mean the cut and thrust of community demands to local government to defend what they have – council homes, youth clubs, open spaces, local shops, nurseries, estate repairs, TRA funding and maintaining some kind of power in actual decision making or demanding it through protest and sometimes occupations. For New Labour, that kind of day-in, day-out community-activated fuss, dissent and righteousness became seen as something in the way of them just making decisions that affect people’s lives and survival. No longer were community voices and channels seen by the Council as a part of a wider Labour movement but they became to be seen as something negative and thus could be written off through the disingenuous stroke of saying that these local voices were not representative, responsible or ‘positive’. Community members saying ‘No’ to things were viewed as illegitimate because Southwark wanted to move forward in partnerships with developers and the community should be happy with what was promised from that unholy alliance. What’s worse is that dissenting voices are then portrayed as politically motivated which, of course, they are. Politics is the public moment of fighting for your best communal interests! But for Southwark being ‘invited’ to the table is more about some kind of powerless ‘Community Conversation’, as they termed it at one point. In all reality locals are just being ‘included’ to tick a box of community involvement and not to listen to their actual political beliefs. It’s just an illusion, a bureaucratic acknowledgment of presence but not your arguments. These new leaders in the Labour Party don’t believe in helping to build confidence, self-belief, identity and personal growth in people so that they can be active on their own behalf. All of these things are what parts of the socialist movements have tried to do over time. The anarchist planner and writer Colin Ward wrote in the 70s about ‘a tendency towards bureaucratic paternalism and alienation in public landlordism, which he believed treats tenants like ‘inert objects’ rather than active subjects….housing was done to and for people rather than by them’ (**). Many Southwark council
tenants would know the feeling. We certainly do!


Aylesbury Estate tenants protest at continued breakdown of hot water and heating, February 2019



But despite this attempt in Southwark for the Council to inhabit and operate in what has been called the ‘post-political’, there has been an enormously feisty and determined coalition of people fighting the worst aspects of Peter John’s Labour ‘regeneration’ regime. At Southwark Notes we’ve long recognised and mapped out how such a post-politics might attack at the roots and legitimacy of community organising and campaigning and we didn’t step into that swamp by trying to be nice and cuddly. We long recognise that politics is necessarily antagonistic to power and that you won’t get very far trying to sit at the same table of power. We would rather stand on top of the table and say ‘No!’ or be lurking underneath sawing its damn legs off.

Needless to say, Peter John was always ready to denounce us and others as ‘keyboard warriors’, as people entirely unrepresentative of what local people wanted or as outsiders and so on. For sure, we aren’t deluded enough to think that we stand for what all local people think but in those ten years we’ve certainly found a massive resonance locally for what we say and do. But Peter John is the perfect ‘post-political’ operator. He plays that patronising role of ‘the adult in the room’ perfectly. Nothing radical or experimental or challenging can be allowed in. It’s the politics of pragmatism, of paternalism, of ‘we know best’. Rather than forging a shared politics of resistance to challenge the economic logic that privileges real estate as an alleged driver of people’s well being, he holds tightly on to a ‘politics of the possible’. Yet without some kind of radical vision, what is possible is only to open up Southwark more and more to the violent actions of development under the guise of ‘progress’. For people like us who believe in something a bit more, something maybe a bit more impossible, he relies on the luxury he has to close down any arguments by having a final word then retreating to silence.

For example, despite one of us at the time actually living on Heygate in its final years. Despite us working with 35% Campaign who were organising with Heygate residents and families yet to be decanted and despite us actually originating the now famous Heygate Displacement maps that showed how many tenants and leaseholders had been forced out of the area. Despite all this, Peter John could still publicly assert that when he became Council leader in 2010 ‘there were six families still living on the Heygate. I met each of them and ensured their needs were met’. There is a well-known non-post-political phrase and saying you could apply to this statement– Patently Bollocks. A good time to recall here then his one time awesome rebuff to someone who was questioning PJ. He replied that the reason he knew what he was saying was correct was, quote, ‘Facts!’.


Peter John demolishing all critics in his ‘Facts’ JCB


Or, do you remember when we leaked the secret Southwark and developer Lend Lease regeneration agreement to the press and when this was later featured in a withering rebuttal of all of Southwark’s Heygate spin by respected Guardian journalist Olly Wainwright in June 2015, and Peter John publicly denounced the article as ‘#crap journalism’. End of story for Mr Peter John. Nothing had been done wrong. There was no scandal. It was just ‘crap’. As we have said above, when PJ was publicly called out on a lie by us and others, he hunkered down in his Tooley St bunker and discussion or debate was then taken off the cards. This is the perfect post-political manoeuvre. It attempts to maintain the narrative until the very point the narrative is shredded by campaigners, then to go silent and withdraw from any actual argument because campaigns are just being ‘political’.

Letter to Peter John was was publicly lying about Up The Elephant campaign pretending that the campaign was prventing new affordable homes being built when the Campaign had secured 116 socail rent homes against the Council-approved 33! (January 2019 and we are still waiting for a reply! *-)
 


For years now we have been calling Southwark’s frequent use of this tactic – ‘The Void’. We’ve written about it here at length. From our own perspective and ideas of community politics and organising, The Void makes things very hard for us. Despite years of hard campaigning, the simple fact remains that communities and community groups have just so little power to force change means that we have not been successful in defeating the rapid social cleansing at hand. In the realm of post-politics, where community campaigns are de-legitimated, we spent far too much time actually legitimating politicians and developers and recognising them as equals in some sort of polite liberal conversation where we often expect them to do better or to finally have an epiphany and do the right thing. But this will never happen. Ruling Labour politicians, who neither come from where we do economically and often culturally, are ideologically committed to a capitalist realist approach of there being no alternative to private market-led development.


The problem of normal ‘politics’, especially as we experience it in 2020, is that it appears totally legitimate even when it beggars belief as to what is going on. We are supposed to believe in politics, in Parliament, in the economy, in fictions of fiscal prudence and austerity and that we will need to tighten our belts some more as skinny as we actually are these days! Labour is complicit in this as much as Tories. We had some time for the Corbyn project even if, at best, it was only a limited social democratic possibility for tackling inequality in society and not any kind of actual socialism that would take on changes at a basic and deeper structural levels and roots. By this we mean dismantling profit, the free market, how we conceive of work AND everything else, that is, actual radical society-wide change. Not easy, of course, because you can see how much The Establishment will destroy anyone who even brings limited challenges to the deep structures of societal power and inequality. Right now, even though that moment is over, they are literally prepared to eternally salt any ground ever walked by Corbyn just in case the rest of ideas get any funny ideas again of changing things even at the most reformist level. In Southwark, that Corbyn moment produced a handful of actually Left councillors and push to take more power but the whole structure is the mess really. Party politics? We would say it’s irredeemable as a vehicle for the deep structural changes we need to make.

NO IRONY MUNICIPAL SOCIALISM

Back to the paternalism of Southwark Labour in power and that despite what we’ve outlined above, they still call themselves ‘socialists’. There’s little irony lost on us about how if you were to look at, for example, the Militant Labour council in Liverpool in the early 80’s, you would see the same top down ‘we know best’ attitude but from a totally different political perspective. In Liverpool, the Militant-led council worked from the position of ‘municipalism’, this being that the Council is what leads the defence and advancement of the city’s working class needs. They built a lot of council homes but they also attacked working-class people’s setting up of actually community-controlled housing co-ops because they saw them as undermining their municipal role as guardians of working class interests. Paternalism always!


Private homes built by big builder Bellway Homes replace 113 council flats demolished on Elmington Estate in Camberwell, 2018, and Government ‘Help To Buy’ scheme inflates the value of the new homes. In total 346 council homes lost in Three Phases of Elmington ‘regeneration’ (2005 – 2018)


In a May 2018 interview with Peter John on the SE1 website, we can read that ‘his party’s programme for the borough is rooted in “old-fashioned municipal socialism”’. We find this a somewhat bizarre claim for many reasons. Given that any high points of the varied UK histories of municipal socialism always involved a politics based squarely in working class interests, there would be very little to recognise in the last ten years of Southwark Labour that resembles what we take socialism to mean – the social ownership of production and distribution, democratic decision-making structures, participatory planning etc. Instead what we get is a bowing down to the free market to provide, purely as a legal concession, tons and tons of ‘affordable housing’ that everyone knows isn’t affordable. Peter John talks a lot about needing to help the ‘squeezed middle’ but can’t grasp that that granting planning permissions time and time again to big home builders doesn’t mean that more homes are available at affordable prices. All it means is that these new homes are just part of the increasing unaffordable and often Government-subsidised home ownership landscape. ‘Affordable housing’ such the ubiquitous ‘shared ownership just keeps house prices artificially high against continued depressed wages. This is not providing much relief to the squeezed middle, in fact, it’s just adding to their continued squeezing as big homebuilders profits go through the shoddily built roof. Peter John’s great statement in January 2018 that ‘in a housing crisis, you need to build houses’ is both naive and absurd. Allowing big developers like Taylor Wimpey, Barratts, Bellway etc to build new homes in great number will never be some magic rebuttal of the building industry’s tight control of what gets built. It’s a fallacy that lots of new homes drive the price of housing down. Peter, show us anywhere in the U.K where this is happening? Supply and demand is a free market myth. In the excellent new book ‘The Property Lobby’, Bob Colenutt nails it clearly when he says that studies ‘have shown that developers routinely drip-feed new housing units onto the market in order to keep up house prices…property investors need the housing crisis to continue in order to ensure the flow of profits into their business. The gulf between the world of property investment and the reality of tackling the housing crisis could not be wider‘.



Ten years of benefits for local poor people and the ‘squeezed middle’ as property prices rise 103% in ten years at The Elephant


For a ‘socialist’, PJ doesn’t understand the basics of capitalism very well! If they actually found some municipal socialist gumption they might actually play and inspire some kind of way forward for local government to contest the situation the Council finds itself forced into by central government. For their paternalistic sins, Left-wing councils like Liverpool and Lambeth and even Southwark did attempt to defy Tory cuts in the mid-80’s. But then current Southwark Labour are toothless fighters with no class position and so they oversee cuts and don’t fight. We aren’t suggesting this is all easy as pie but if you don’t try, you never find out. The Labour municipal socialists running Red Bermondsey in the 1920s unleashed a wild socialist programme based on well-understood needs and demands of locals. To do this they actually asked around in chapels, churches, settlements, parents unions, trade unions and so on what people wanted and acted accordingly. This wasn’t ‘consultation’. It was a dialogue. It was listening. It was building small socialisms in as much as it could. They also had to fight a Labour government who were keen for them not to expand a socialist alternative to landlords, ill health and so on!

1930’s Red Bermondsey when they weren’t afraid of being against capitalism


But instead of going down the road of conflict with the Tories, we get bullshit. Take the example of Southwark’s critical letter to the government about the ConDem government’s introduction of ‘Affordable Rent’, a tenure that allows for ‘affordable housing’ to be rented out at up to 80% of local private market rents. Despite their letter’s concerns, time and time again Southwark gave planning permissions to developments that included a few social rent homes, but when completed, the social rented units were switched at the completion stage by the developers to ‘Affordable Rent’ units. In 2016, the 35% Campaign referred Southwark to the local government Ombudsman about dozens of examples of this switch. The Ombudsman ruled that Council didn’t know how much social housing it was getting from developers.Despite some Council casework on this, it’s clear from the 35% Campaign’s continued work on this that there is still no actual decent system of checking up on what they had actually agreed to in their Section 106 agreements. Just for the lolz, that literal full bottle of clown sauce Councillor Martin Seaton recently remarked how ‘robust’ he will be as current Chair of the Planning Committee yet is still fine to act surprised that this is happening and then asks locals to point out where ‘affordable rent’ is delivered instead of the agreed ‘social rent’. 35% Campaign have been informing the Council of these switches for years! With a housing waiting list of many 1000s there is a desperate need for social rented homes in the borough. Letting developers switch tenure isn’t even defending the tiny gains you make as a planning authoritywhere via Section 106s you try to grab as much social rented housing as you can. Worth pointing out that a vital part of the expansion of municipalism globally has been to develop accountability for local people by opening up oversight of public office. 35% Campaign’s dogged research work does actual citizen’s scrutiny far better than anything Southwark would ever be willing to implement as ‘municipal socialists’.

Southwark Defend Council Housing protest outside the new Notting Hill Genesis Peckham Place development on  31st October 2020 where over-priced flats have not sold


The of the biggest questions we have for the Council is what happens when the Southwark model of ‘affordable housing’ provision, premised upon being financed by a cross-subsidy from developers who you allow to then build massive private home development, fails because the housing market is a mess or because planning is deregulated further by those in power taking away such planning gains? The Government ‘Planning for the Future’ white paper published in August 2020 signal plans for further deregulation, further privileging of developer’s needs, marginalisation of community groups and a call to replace the Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 payments. So what supposed ‘municipal socialism’ are you left with when you are already a part of that privileging developers but less power, less assets, less land and less control of development in your borough. How is this municipalism? In the last decade Southwark has essentially overseen a massive transfer of public assets into private hands. Literally expanding private wealth at the cost of the public purse and the effects of these polices impacting most heavily on the most marginalised and dispossessed people in Southwark – women and Afro-Caribbean, African and Asian community members. The Council literally have zero understanding of the most basic ideas of how poverty is reinforced and how displacement occurs.


We have little doubt that Southwark’s ‘municipal socialism’ just sounded good in 2018 when they were bandying it around. Seems to be more a reference to older models rather than any of the new style attempts globally at actual citizen-led movements in local democracy. There has been no attempt by Southwark for the redistribution of power, community wealth building, new forms of democratic municipal and citizen ownership or ‘growing local, socially rich economies, with fair wages, cooperative ownership models, more local enterprise, unionisation, greater worker control, and genuine social value and environmental responsibility’***. That they were saying ‘municipal socialism’ at the same time as the Corbyn moment stinks even more as Peter John was never a fan of what actually might have been possible for the Labour movement (as such) if Corbyn had taken power. Even then we would still be facing both a hoovering up of social movements to bolster a Left-ish Labour party in power plus the fact that the Corbyn project would have had very little room to move to actually bring about any real structural change. Parliament might legislate but the power remains with the boss class. The rich and powerful don’t just give their money and power away. You have to take it off of them. Will party politicians ever lead that fight? You already know the answer.

 

WE MAY BE STUPID BUT WE ARE NOT THAT…ETC ETC

So, really, it would be silly of us to expect any radical socialist challenge to actual structural inequalities in Southwark’s new found liking for municipalism. Seems more likely to be more glibly inspired by the recent comeback of the term in the last few years even if places like Barcelona or Preston are actually, if messily, putting it into practice some slightly radical actions contesting the excesses of contemporary capitalism. The city governments in an informal global network that produced the ideas and policies in Fearless Cities model are worth examining and, for sure, we have been doing this quite closely. Once again though, we would take some time to look closely at these examples and warn, as many other social movements have, that if these Councils really do ground themselves in what they have learnt from actual grassroots street and city campaigns and movements, there is always the danger that these bottom up movements are then either politically de-clawed by participation with local government or are professionalised into weedy but salaried NGO-style bureaucrats. There are hints right now that Southwark wants to woo local groups and campaigns into supporting weedy petitions to ask the Tories to be nicer to local government and be nicer about excessive land values. There is also talk of Southwark establishing a Council-run Renters Union even though HASL already exist locally and despite the growing London Renters Union! Again, we aren’t critical for the sake of it. We just value the critical and practical autonomy built up in the informal community networks we have been a part of for a decade. For real we would work with any decent local councillors. We’ve just failed to find any, and it needs say loudly, it shouldn’t be like this!


Teach out and assembly, Love The Elephant – Hate Gentrification gathering, April 2019


It’s sad but true that the UK has always lacked the popular movements that we can find in Spain and other countries where local assemblies produce a very local participatory and active way of organising for better housing, against evictions and against rampant speculation in their neighbourhoods. The UK tradition is far more rooted in antiquated organising forms like big unions and local Labour parties. Sure there are good folks in both of these ‘movements’ but the form is always hierarchical and premised on pragmatism and compromise. These forms might have some energy for campaigning but they do not really give space and support for actually autonomously organised movements. We seriously think this is one of the key points all future organising has to look at – that despite long standing labour traditions, the working class have rarely broken with parliamentary party politics or, if they have they’ve then been inevitably stitched up out because the very function of both political parties and big unions is to maintain the social contract between workers and bosses and to keep the peace and let capitalism do its thing. Interestingly, the book Workers City that we quote above has an excellent short article that details a time and a place and a set of ideas where parts of the UK working class did begin to organise from below, against union and party hierarchies and, more critically, against Parliamentary politics and mere representation of their demands and needs.

Radicals have been saying for years that the main problem of municipal socialism is that it always ends up maintaining social peace, forging class conciliation, and thus diverting public attention away from the fundamental questions of the economic system as a whole.We agree with that 100%. Even if we might also prefer a reform or two, here and there, over more violence brought by government onto the head and hearts of working class people and even if we are happy to work with any kind of councilor who you hope might be any good but we’re still in more favour of the creation of groups and federations of working people, coming up with the own ideas and organising practices outside the control of politicians or professional campaigners.

Los Angeles Tenants Union, only five years old and already  built 13 union chapters across LA and still insisting on autonomy from NGO’s and political parties!


Endlessly, we would point people to the amazing principles and success of the Los Angeles Tenants Union since its setting up in 2015. Sadly, inspirations often come too late. We would have loved to have had the energy to set up at The Elephant something along these organising lines to add a spicy take to all the good work being done there by other campaigns. As Southwark Notes, we remain committed to relationship building with others, trying to spread confidence and energy, trying to build mutual support and cooperation, always sharing what we learned, always listening to what others have learned and publicly acknowledging mistakes we made. Of course we are well active against the current government rather than spending all our energies on Labour and letting the Tories off the hook. Imagine if the big unions and Labour were publicly calling workers out and organising nationally and locally en masse against the cuts, against the privitisation of public health, against evictions, redundancies…imagine that?  Sure, there are piecemeal struggles going on but the thinking is never joined up and never mobilised on the basis of our anger.

In passing, we still take inspiration the independent unions United Voices of the World (UVW), the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), the UK’s branches of the Industrial Workers of The World (IWW) and the Cleaners & Allied Independent Workers Union (CAIWU) and all of their direct action rank and file style organising. Exciting too is the current discussions in London Renters Union and ACORN branches about the scale and difficulties of a rent strike tactic over a rent reductions strategy as well as good tensions being explored around how a movement moves rather than functions as a service for members.  These are great dynamics at work and a sign that such politics are fresh and can win victories. We are also supportive of the slowly expanding Mutual Aid groups and Solidarity Funds network in South London (Rotherhithe, East Dulwich, Peckham, Deptford, Herne Hill etc).

 

STUCK IN A LIFT WITH PETER JOHN

Finally! There’s an infamous story Peter John tells about when he and MP Harriet Harman visited the Aylesbury Estate where allegedly they were in a lift and a man was injecting drugs into his penis. PJ says ‘That’s not a sign of a successful community. That’s not the kind of community we want to see’. Rather than understanding that a drug-injecting user is a human being struggling in life, he uses this individual’s story at that moment to denigrate an entire community. Such a lack of understanding betrays his political values – that instead of asking how a person is failed by society, he weaponises individual trauma to justify the Council demolition and ‘regeneration’ of The Aylesbury. How demolishing 2700 council homes remedies any of these common working class social problems, we don’t know!

Such reactionary narratives are well described by the writers Rob Imrie and Mike Raco: ‘Communities, then, are portrayed as a pathological underclass, entities that inculcate individuals with immoral values, but they are at the same time a source of moral good that is being corroded – something that needs to be rectified through regeneration’. PJ sees a moral failing rather than a failing by society, the same society however which he and other pro-regeneration folk are doing alright by.


Even after ten years though, we aren’t interested in blaming Peter John. We also aren’t interested in personalising this so much. He is what he is. Who cares that much who he is? A not particularly privileged individual who worked hard to become a civil law barrister specialising in ‘all aspects of Contentious Probate, Trusts & Property Litigation’. He made it to Southwark Council Leader for 10 years. A tetchy but bland figure, just one of many such figures in a decade of bland politics. But also none of that bland landscape is by accident but exactly because of people like Peter John. What we are concerned with is the legacy Peter John leaves across Southwark and one in which, for now, we presume will continue under the new leadership of Kieron Williams. How will the next decade be? Well that’s, as always, up to all of us.

At Southwark Notes, we aren’t so much socialists but probably something much worse! Whatever we are, we are working class and hold on to believing that societal change is in our hands if we want it. Class is a relationship and not a thing and, as such, class is continually made and remade over the years by us all. Regardless of our individual tastes and likes as working class people, it is our economic position, our class position, that is the key to deep structural societal change and a change that doesn’t just tinker at the edges. We understand also that our class position and politics can’t just stand alone though and that any class position endlessly intersects with the way we are viewed, categorised and policed by this hierarchical society because of our gender and race, from what part of the world we traveled from and where we put down roots, from what language we speak at home and which we speak outside, and the way our bodies and minds function, from the different cultures we are part of and the different knowledge’s we use and practice and the type of work we have to do and how that’s impacted by institutional conditions, prejudice and stigma. We have been wanting to write something for quite a while on these contemporary complexities of class and community in relation to our organising in Southwark and London and how we need to always understand the definition of working class as including all those different experiences and . We hope we can find the time in the near future.

We wrote to Peter John O.B.E, J.C.B in late December 2018: ‘Peter, as a self-confessed ‘socialist’ you might care to see the Elephant community campaigns for what they are: working class people defending their interests politically. Something like what E P Thompson describes as ‘the working class making itself as much as it is made’. Peter didn’t reply.

E P Thompson describes, in summary, the content of his great book ‘The Making of the English Working Class’ as follows: ‘This book has a clumsy title, but it is one which meets its purpose. Making, because it is a study in an active process, which owes as much to agency as to conditioning. The working class did not rise like the sun at an appointed time. It was present at its own making…Class happens when some people, as a result of common experiences (inherited or shared), feel and articulate the identity of their interests as between themselves, and as against other people whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs’.

Up The Elephant Campaign Public Meeting, 2018



As Southwark Notes, we’ve been proud to be a determined presence of that great collective making over the last ten years. We would also never accept on O.B.E! Just in case you were worrying about that!




REFERENCES:
* Quote from ‘Using land reform to drive a boom in municipal house building’ by Councillor Leo Pollak – Cabinet Member for Social Regeneration, Great Estates and New Council Homes, London Borough of Southwark in ‘Grounds for Change The case for land reform in modern England’. Shelter (June 2019)

** Quote from ‘Reconstructing Public Housing: Liverpool’s Hidden History of Collective Alternatives’ – Matthew Thompson (2020)

*** Taken from ‘New Municipalism in London’ report from Centre for Local Economic Strategies (April 2019)


Sadly none of these achievements are needed to be a useful Councillor!!


 

A Little Elephant Among The Big One: Elephant Road, Railway Arches and ‘Regeneration’ in Focus

Southwark Notes is very happy to publish a fantastic guest posting from Talia Clarick, a writer and researcher who is currently helping along the good, good work of Latin Elephant campaign.


We cannot change the regeneration that comes, and sadly and gracefully these changes that come will bring consequences that our space will disappear. This date, in one year possibly, our site, number 6 and 7 will disappear. These spaces serve the community and have served the community for around 15 years. It is a Colombian and Latin space where you can have a bite to eat and learn to dance salsa as well. It is a culturally dignified space associated with the area it resides in.” – Cesar, Distriandina


DO YOU KNOW THE ELEPHANT RD?

Elephant Road is a small street that connects Walworth Road to New Kent Road. It only spans the length of a single city street but plays an indispensable role in the bustle of the neighborhood. On the East side of the road there is the site of the demolished Heygate Estate and the shiny new Lend Lease development Elephant Park. On the West side is the small entrance to the Elephant and Castle above-ground railway station. All down Elephant Rd, a series of railway arches support the Thameslink train on its daily journeys to and from the railway station. The street is entangled in a thorny knot of ownership, with usual real estate suspects Delancey, Lendlease, Network Rail, and now Arch-Co, the new owners of the railway arches, looming large.

Elephant Rd View

All of the businesses on the street exist under railway arches, and are often overlooked in maps of the area, where the above ground railway takes priority. The activities in the arches give life to the street, which is almost always active, due to the fact that some spaces are open early as cafes, and some take on a more nocturnal identity such as Corsica Studios and Distriandina. The arches of Elephant Road were occupied within the last twenty years and have become home to mostly Latin American businesses although closer to New Kent Rd are TR Autos and Recycling bike shop.

Unsurprisingly, the arches are also key elements of the current ‘regeneration’ as Arches 6 and 7, currently home to Colombian café and nightclub Distriandina, and a small shopping arcade called ‘Elephant Central’ are planned to be cleared by property developer Delancey in the forthcoming changes to the area. Delancey’s excuse? They need to make way for a pathway from the ‘New Town Centre’ to the park across the street, or perhaps a way for wealthy residents of the new high-rises of Elephant Park to leisurely stroll back through the arches into what will inevitably become a landscape of Waitrose? Zara? Starbucks?

DELANCEY New Public Space Arches

CGI image of what the opened-up Arches 6 and 7 looks like – Delancey

 

After Delancey purchased the site of the Shopping Centre in April 2014, its army of architectural renderers created these images of what the empty arches might look like in the coming years after their ‘Town Centre’ has been constructed. In 2016, Southwark Council released some stylized images of what the arches may turn into and people are walking through the new east-west pathways, in a spectacle-induced daze.

Elephant RD Plans Southwark Council.jpg

CGI image of what the opened-up Arches 6 and 7 looks like – Southwark Council
Southwark Council wrote in 2016 that “The routes through the arches will be largely stripped back to their Victorian brickwork and exposed soffit to the platforms above. The stone paving to the street surface will extend from the Town Centre, through the arches, to meet Elephant Road. Paving modules here should respond to the geometry of each arch to further emphasize the two, near parallel viaducts

Delancey’s vision is that the clearance of the arches forms a part of their larger project of creating an “open-air pedestrianised town centre in the heart of Elephant and Castle” which will include “safer pedestrian routes, wider pavements, connections through the railway arches, and a public square.” Their ongoing lack of commentary on how this will actually affect the existing tenants of the arches remains steadfast here. But thankfully, the well-organised campaigners at Latin Elephant, with the help of Petit Elephant, have created an updated map of the current status of the tenants of the Shopping Centre and the railway arches. This mapping work is key to the understanding of ownership in the area as well a functioning as an innovative campaign tool. This largely compensates for the lack of consultation and lack of understanding that the traders have received from the developers themselves.

EC RED LINES-6

Petit Elephant’s Map Below Ground at Elephant Shopping Centre

Arches 6 7 Red Lines Graph Reader

A ‘social enterprise’ called Tree Shepherd, a private consultancy appointed by Southwark Council as an ‘independent’ business advisor has been set up to supposedly consult traders about their potential relocation deals and sites. But Tree Shepherd’s funding comes directly from Delancey, proving that they are dependent on the very developer hoping to kick out the traders. There are currently close to 100 independent businesses in the ‘red line’ for relocation, but the amount of space the traders will receive in their relocated units is difficult to establish because Southwark Council and Delancey have changed the layouts of their relocation facilities. Now, the areas of the future units do not match those publicly available in Southwark Council planning portal. The updated plans are ‘kept secret.’ However, if we draw on the original plans, most of the traders have been offered a unit that is substantially lower than their current business area. An earlier Southwark Notes article reports on Tree Shepherd’s multidimensional ineffectiveness: asking traders deceptive questions about whether they want to relocate, not including the vast majority of traders, scheduling meetings sparsely, and making people fill in forms with no tangible outcomes, which is why the work of Latin Elephant is so important.

 

UNCERTAIN TIMES SINCE TIME IMMEMORIAL

Nowadays, they know that they can put a nice glass door, and then they can rent it to someone big like Nando’s and to some big gym, and then they can pay just 40k-60k a year. So that’s the reason they closed down the whole lot in Brixton, and the same thing will happen here. And they just give us a lease, and they give us six months notice when they are going to need the arch- they are going to need the arch one day, they might ask you one day to go and they find someone else, that’s it.”– Diego, Computer Repair – Arco Central

Speaking to some of the traders in the arches, you get a sense of the continuing uncertainty around the future of these particular spaces. Many traders expressed their reliance on Latin Elephant in informing them on the current status of their possible relocation. The precarious position the traders are in remains as the dates for the potential relocation have become muddled in a relentless cycle of delays. One of the most common complaints from traders over the long years with the regeneration hanging over their head has been the lack of information and the frustration of never knowing what’s going to happen. For some, it’s produced a weary resignation.

Arches 6 and 7, the arches Delancey wants to clear, are fundamentally different in how they operate, as Arch 6 is filled by a single business and Arch 7 is filled with a myriad of small businesses. However, the developers are treating both of these sites as two independent businesses in total: one being Distriandina, the leaseholder for Arch 6, the other being Beset International, the leaseholder for Arch 7. This erases the presence of the other smaller businesses in the Arch 7, as their interests are not recognized immediately in the relocation scheme, and have to depend on the single leaseholder.

As of now, the traders of Arch 7 are looking for relocation in a site nearby. Gathering information from the traders, representatives from Latin Elephant explain that this is the extent of the information that the traders of Arch 7 were given. The rest of the information remains vague, as well as dependent on the results of the Judicial Review, and the amount of money they can get from the relocation fund. Distriandina is a similar case, the critical difference being that Distriandina is a single tenant. Because of how symbolic the place is for the Colombian community who comes from far and wide across London to the arch, they were able to make a case for themselves to the Council and developers, and gain a temporary space in Castle Square across the street. However, this did not come without a challenge, as the space they were allotted is much smaller than the current site. An ‘open dialogue’ with Delancey and Southwark Council appeared to be more of a box-ticking exercise for the developers to claim they were engaging with the traders.

This uncertainty has caused undue stress among people whose livelihoods depend on the arches and nearby Shopping Centre as both means of income and spaces of communal gathering. This constant delay is also caused by Delancey’s refusal to meet the minimum requirements of the Council’s own local plan, something that was recently challenged in the Up The Elephant campaign’s Judicial Review on October 22-23rd at the High Court on The Strand. The Judicial Review results are still pending but the arguments were that Delancey’s ‘regeneration’ scheme is still not providing enough social housing. Up The Elephant is also campaigning hard with traders for a fair relocation for businesses in the Shopping Centre and against unaffordable rents. Worth reading 35% Campaign’s summary here entitled ‘Delays and Delancey’.

 

ARCH-CO: THE UNHOLY ALLIANCE OF REAL ESTATE KINGS

The Elephant Rd arches have also been thrown in the middle of a national narrative as all Network Rail arches have recently and controversially been sold off. The lucky buyer was a joint venture between British private developers Telereal Trillium (it has a property portfolio of more than 12,000 properties in the U.K ) and the infamous Blackstone, a U.S private equity company, who formed a joint venture called The Arch-Co immediately adding another layer to the privatisation of publicly owned land at the local and national scale. This £1.5 billion sell-off of covered the span of 5,261 different properties across England and Wales, with more than half of the portfolio being based in London. This was in response to Network Rail’s £35 billion debt to the Department of Transportation, and funding shortfall in the years 2014-2019, which had left many projects underfunded and risked not being completed. So they decided to sell the arches, their “assets”, in what was termed an “Asset disposal strategy” in 2016 in order to cover the costs.

The selloff is indeed an all-inclusive scrapping of affordable rents, as the arches have historically been cheap spaces to set up shop, as well as offering a generous amount of floor space to people to subdivide and design as they wish. Many of the businesses in the arches are unique to the space allotted to them, as the arches offer spaces for both industrial and commercial uses. On a single stretch of arches in London and the UK one might find a car repair shop, a brewer, a hair salon, art studio, a fitness gym, and so on. As a part of the sell-off, many of these varied tenants have already faced daunting increases in rents, which could increase by 54% in the next three or four years, if all follows the predictable trajectory of the marketplace.

guardians-of-the-arches_parliament_group-1400x500_c

Throughout the process, there was also a lack of input from existing tenants of the spaces. The audit also states the lack of community consultation was in part because the leases were not directly up for removal by the sell-off. However, the excellent campaign group Guardians of the Arches note the selloff as a threat to the tenants’ agency and demanded a fairer deal from it, including the ability for tenants to purchase parts of the portfolio, more favorable rental terms, security of tenure, and formal recognition as a tenant’s association. Network Rail objected to most of these issues, stating that “stronger tenant protections were unnecessary as the sale agreement ensures existing leases remain in place, and that stronger protections would contravene its requirements to act commercially and could raise the risk of judicial review or State Aid Challenge.”

But what does “acting commercially” mean when these arches are already filled with a wide variety of commercial activities that serve many communities in Britain and Wales? The ability to make a profit, to serve the interests of private developers, same as it ever was…

 

THE U.K’s RAILWAY ARCHES KINDA INTERESTING HISTORY

It is important to understand how these current stretches of arches have evolved to accommodate a wide variety of uses. The historical trajectory of the arch spaces is interesting, as it demonstrates how the underside of infrastructure has been creatively used beyond its original intent as a set of viaducts supporting the above ground rail. Focusing on Elephant Road, the gradual occupation of the arch spaces is a testament to how the community in Elephant and Castle evolved from the ground up, both literally and metaphorically.

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Elephant Rd, circa 1940

 

The railway itself was constructed in the Victorian era, but its arches sat on what appears to be vacant until the turn of the century. Going through the Post Office Directory records, local history archives and other historical records, one finds little information on the former lives of this street, aside from two photographs of it in post-WW2 reconstruction phase, prior to the Heygate Estate’s construction. The street took on an entirely different character as it does today. The particular rail line on Elephant Road, formerly known as the London Chatham and Dover line, was built on viaducts cutting through Southwark, Walworth, and Camberwell. The arches of Elephant Road lie adjacent to the old railway station, also built after the speculative ‘railway manias’ in 1862. Today, the railway station has entrances on Elephant Road as well as entrances within the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre at the height of the platforms above.

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Elephant Rd, circa 1940

In Britain, for decades after the arches’ construction, they had a poor image amongst the general public. They were initially managed and occupied in an ad-hoc way, giving space for trades such as ‘smithies, marine stores, stables, mortar mills, the storage of old tubs, casks and lumber, and other low class trades.’ as Brian Rosa writes in a fascinating Ph.d study of railway arches. They were also associated with poverty because the rail-line was often deliberately built in working class neighborhoods. Throughout late 19th century and through most of the 20th century, the arches maintained a marginal, industrial position within London and the UK. It was only when the management of the arches became embedded in the city’s ‘formal’ economy that their mainstream cultural reception changed. While there are exceptions, the overall de-industrialisation of British economy opened up these spaces for smaller-scale practices. In the 1980’s the British Rail Property Board proposed a large program of arch refurbishment with the intention to improve the arches so that they were competitive with modern buildings, and yielded higher rents.

As the area underwent de-industrialisation in the 1980’s, the private sector had a greater influence on the makeup of the railway arches. The changing perception of these spaces gave way to large-scale cultural shifts and the focus on reclaiming urban space for leisure, entertainment, and lifestyle, as they became friendlier to a wide variety of entrepreneurial pursuits. This also changed the way the spaces themselves were configured, as they became more flexibly designed. The spaces offered opportunities to expand from a single railway arch into multiple, as is the case with Corsica Studios in Arches 4 and 5. It also allowed single arches to evolve into more expansive networks of many arches. The “parallel renting market” that was established offered cheap prices for people to set up shops in the arches, and was less affected by normal commercial price pressures, and local competition for the land. This model has allowed for certain groups of arches to grow into clusters of socially linked businesses, like the Latin American businesses on Elephant Road who came to the area in the last 20 years.

 

WELCOME TO LATIN ELEPHANT: MIGRATION AND SETTLEMENT

During the 1970’s and 1980’s, many Latin American migrants came to the UK because it was easy to get a work contract from abroad. People migrated to the UK following the passage of the Immigration Act of 1971, a piece of legislation that put more restrictions on migrants coming from countries with colonial ties to Britain. Many migrants came with the idea of working for a few years, saving money, and returning to their home countries. Some have stayed, as a returning to the home country adds a risk of never being able to return to Britain. Patria Roman, from Latin Elephant, has well described this history and process in her 1999 book ‘The Making of Latin London’.

In the following decade, the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre was experiencing the effects of the UK recession, which opened up the area to Latin American migrants looking for affordable spaces to set up shop. The Shopping Centre began to lease the spaces for cheap, and entrepreneurs began to repair the shops that had not been occupied for decades and began to transform them. In 1991, there were hardly any shops open on the first floor of the Centre, but a year later, Latin Americans began opening shops there. La Fogata opened in June of 1992, followed by Inara Travels. By 1994, there were ten shops owned by Latin Americans. This growing Latin American presence began to define what is a large contingent of Elephant and Castle’s demographic, and Latin Americans began to relocate businesses to the area, which includes Elephant Road. You can see a great pictorial summary of the early Latin businesses in The Elephant here.

Talking to Latin American traders about their early days in the railway arches, many of them point to the turn of the century as the beginning of the making of this particular facet of Latin London. Distriandina moved from North London to South London in this period, but originally functioned as a food distributor. The business moved to the South because of the growing presence of Latin American consumers in the area, as well as the space of the railway arch itself offering an accommodating place to sell and ship mostly Colombian products in and out.

In the early 2000’s, the nature of the shops on the street was more accommodating to businesses involving large-scale shipping, and more ‘heavy-weight’ products. The street was not yet a place to visit for a cup of coffee or bunuelo. The two mini-arcades on this block Arco Central and Elephant Central respectively were home to a carpet shop and shipping company called Beset, whose office still exists in the arch, alongside a series of other small stalls. The traders who were there during this period describe the street’s life as hectic, and ‘higgledy piggledy’ and filled with the coming and going of trucks, carpets, bedding, and musical equipment.

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Local campaign to save the Open Space on Elephant Rd in 2013 gathering outside Distriandina

Many of the traders refer to the Heygate Estate’s demolition as a part of their workday observations during this time. The residents of the Heygate Estate were large users of these former businesses of the arches, as well as the Shopping Centre. Traders note this demolition as one of the major turning points in the street’s character, as what sat directly on the Elephant Park site before was a publicly owned lot with children’s playgrounds, a pitch for football matches, an actively social space where there is now an underused, bleak square with the visible presence of CCTV cameras and a security guard.

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Half of Corsica Studios at Arch 5 and Distriandina at Arch 6

During the early 2000’s, Corsica Studios moved onto the street, also from North London. Corsica Studios, which only operated in a single arch at the time as a practice space for music, and art studio. Next to Corsica Studios to the South was a music equipment business (now a second arch-space for Corsica Studios), which Corsica Studios frequently used for its parties.

As the Latin American community expanded in Elephant and Castle, and the market for carpets, and bedding dwindled, the formation of Arco Central and Elephant Central sprung up at similar times. In Arco Central and Elephant Central, the spaces were subdivided into stalls, and mezzanine levels were constructed to fit an even greater number of small-scale operations. Throughout the years, the stalls have changed uses many times, but their scale, and short-term leases allow them to become favorable spaces for people to establish their own businesses in the area. Within Arco Central there is currently a clothing store, a computer repair shop, a tailor, a money transfer, an immigration consultancy. In Elephant Central, there is a Colombian products store, two shipping companies, a Café, and a hair salon.

Traders mention how the subdivided spaces act as micro-communities, and point to both the design of the spaces, as well as the multiplicity of functions when they describe how they are used day-to-day. They allow people to transfer money, ship a package, grab a coffee, and purchase an accessory in one go. They also point to the transnational identity of their users, as they offer vital places for people to speak Spanish, pass time, and communicate with other people in the area. Traders often shift around these spaces, expanding their stalls, moving around the arch, progressing their particular businesses.

This also allows for spontaneity and creativity, not a ready-made agenda from the top-down. A trader in Arco Central mentioned that he used to hold martial arts classes in one of the unoccupied stalls because the space allowed him to do so, as he has been practicing Tae Kwon Doe since coming to London and has now moved on to a larger studio in Stockwell. A trader in the clothing stall in this arch mentions expanding from one stall to another upon the growing success of his business, and points to the design of the space as allowing him to easily expand. Another trader mentions working in a food products store at the bottom of the arch, and establishing his own office for legal advising on the top floor of the same arch years later.

Throughout the 2000’s, Distriandina also evolved from a Colombian food distributor to a restaurant and venue for salsa. As the nature of the street began to shift, the owner of the space decided to make it more of a gathering space for the community. The design of the interior of the space transformed to accommodate the changing character of the street and neighborhood. A mezzanine was constructed for the kitchen upstairs, a bar was added downstairs, as well as bathrooms, and areas to dance and gather. Distriandina is also used for salsa classes on certain days, and features salsa nights Friday-Sunday. Distriandina has also shown great love and support for the Up The Elephant campaign to save the Shopping Centre!

Corsica Funding 2018

It’s been a bit divisive down on Elephant Rd in that although Corsica is recognised by the Greater London Authority as an ‘existing cultural’ space, Distriandina is not and despite its popularity on the weekend is reported to be only a coffee bar. With this dubious fudge, Corsica will receive £125,000 of funding to soundproof their club space presumably to spare them the wrath of those new wealthier neighbours while Distriandina will be thrown out of their arch all together. None of this is to point the finger at Corsica who have supported the area for over 20 years but more so at the sketchy and appalling way Black and Brown communities get treated under the regime of ‘regeneration’. With this in our minds, we also give a big shout out to our friends at Save Latin Village in Tottenham who are facing the same long battle as Latin traders at The Elephant!

 

COMMUNITY CAN PLAN ITS OWN FUTURE!

This is simple: if you do a treat the public well and delicately, good word will spread. It is like working in a restaurant. If you make bad food no one will come to your restaurant. If you do well, if you make good food, people will come and spread the good word.” –Alexander, Arco Central

Distriandina and the other businesses along Elephant Road played a large role in Latin Elephant’s envisioning of a Latin Quarter, a document envisioning an official recognition of the Latin American Community in the neighborhood, published in 2016. It highlighted key parts of Elephant and Castle as especially important to the Latin American community, and offered small but significant updates in the designs of these sites to amplify the importance of the already existing businesses. In this plan, there are drawings that display small facelifts to the railway arches and the surrounding street, and offer improvements in the layout of the roads, safer crosswalks for pedestrians, and clear signage and entryways into this cultural quarter. Although this vision was never executed, it allowed for imaginative renderings of what one could, yes, safely call ‘regeneration’ by the people who are most familiar with the area.

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Elephant Road is no Bond Street. It is not the most glamorous road to walk along. The arches along the North side of the road are covered in graffiti, and the pavement is poorly maintained. This makes it easy for it to get overlooked by passerby and developer alike, and allows people to associate the street with dereliction. It gives a greater case to developers like Delancey for their regenerating the area, and city councilors to welcome this. This gives developers the opportunity to run rampant with proposals that cleanse the area of highly complex social enterprises that have taken years to cultivate, and have infinite potential to grow even further, as seen in the Latin Quarter proposal. Just from talking to traders, there was an overwhelming antagonism to the regeneration, though some traders remained neutral to it.

The Elephant Never Forgets – The Struggle Continues:

“They are planning to give to the traders a really small place but there is just like 30 or 40 places for people. But we are more than what they offered him, so I don’t know how they are going to do it. Also, someone told me that there is a place where they are supposed to put the traders, but they are refusing the applications. They are telling to the traders that they cannot get those places.”

“I think this it is the identity that we have here. We are here in England. This is a different culture for us, a different language. Anyway it’s London, it’s very multicultural but it’s not our country. In this place we find a little piece of where we are, it’s like our identity, our culture, where we are from. For example I came here five years ago, I live by myself. I don’t like to cook, but I like the food from my country so here I can find this. I think that we are more than a building, we are more than a space in here. We are more than a commercial transaction. They are selling the space to the other people to make more money. This place is more than that. I think that they are not saying from that side, they are saying from another side. It’s sad, but I think it’s the reality. I don’t know if there is something that we can change. I don’t know, we just have to wait…”-
Both from Lisette, Arch 7

Hearing these local points of view makes you see that the situation at the Elephant and Castle railway arches reflects the complex, multifaceted and critical aspect of the regeneration of the area. It also points to a more national conversation on affordability and the survival of small local businesses. Existing within the Network Rail selloff, the struggle for affordable rents on Elephant Road reflects both local and national campaigns, fighting for the stability and livelihoods of small businesses and their surrounding communities. The use of terminology like “asset disposal” really begs the question “who needs to be disposed of… who needs to get in the bin?”. Despite the Council’s support during the long campaign for the area to be officially recognized as a Latin Quarter, it seems that there are few actual planning protections for the current Latin traders. The first feisty battle is ongoing at the Shopping Centre but latterly those in the Elephant Rd arches with the new owners of the Arches being in part a predatory ‘vulture fund’ and Delancey’s plans to knock through two arches, will face the sharp end of commercial displacement that ‘regeneration’ schemes usually bring. The struggle continues…as always! See you there!

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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:
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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Heygate Pyramid re-animated: Public Art Fights Back

Southwark Notes attention has been drawn by our international circle of art-loving friends to an article in Art Monthly, October 2014, entitled ‘Public Art Attack’ by writer and curator Andrew Hunt (here). The article writes in depth about the cancelled Pyramid for Heygate public artwork that we opposed and wrote about at length at the time. The article, amidst a heap of other artworks and references, makes a case that the dumping of the Pyramid through Council jitters from local hostility was a bad thing because the Pyramid as a symbol of top down ‘brutality’ would have been a perfect opportunity for ‘dialogue’ around processes of social cleansing.

The article also claims that local activists misread the artwork as ‘siding with gentrification and displacement’ thus enabling the council to cancel the project, ‘effectively gaggle local activists arguments’ and push the criticism onto ‘scapegoats’ Artangel and Nelson away from the Council. This is frankly pony and ill-informed as opposition was squarely aimed at the Council for colluding in the project and Artangel for its lack of sensitivity. In fact we didn’t ‘scapegoat’ Artangel, we directly blamed them for producing something on Heygate that would be used by the Council explicitly to sell and market the regeneration ‘opportunity area’, licking their lips at the massive cultural cred Nelson and Artangel would bring and their excitement to have this on Heygate site. Our early letter to Artangel from October 2013 makes a long point on this that Artangel sidelined in their eventual dismal reply: Artangel & Southwark Notes Emails

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As for ‘gagging’ ourselves – local campaigns existed well before the proposed Pyramid and they still exist after. They did not need the blessing or supposed intervention from the art world to make their arguments public and accessible. In fact the protests around the Pyramid and its cancellation was part and parcel of the continuing making known of what was happening around Heygate Estate and North Southwark and found many sympathetic ears in others local campaigns.

Mike Nelson was never attacked directly because without access to Mike Nelson as the writer seems to have had, it was always impossible to judge the artists intentions at the time. When the Pyramid was going through the motions of being prepared for the Heygate site, there were no public statements from Mike Nelson on his intentions such as those now retrospectively revealed by this article. It is also somewhat hard to trust these revelations of a pointedly critical work against Southwark Council’s treatment of Heygate residents, when Artangel and Nelson had been looking for a site for such a demolition and re-construction since 2009. This in some ways undercuts the argument then made around Heygate being chosen as an artistic target.

It is somewhat fanciful to imagine that Nelson was trying to pull the wool over Southwark’s misty eyes with his assertion that ‘an artwork was needed that represented the same form of brutality’. Artangel might produce monumental artworks by artists but it does not seem to have a long history of going in for projects that would be such an attack (on Southwark Council in this instance) as the one Nelson desires. Anyhow we would be interested to know where this Nelson quote comes from and when. There is no source for the quote in the article.

The Art Monthly article attempts then a somewhat revisionist version of what local opponents were saying at the time in a way that attempts (once again) to re-establish the primacy of art as a neutral space for ‘dialogue’. For us, as vocal and public critics of the intended public artwork, we still think that focusing now on the artists intentions are missing the point. We were clear at the time that our criticisms were more levelled at both Artangel and The Council and much less at Mike Nelson precisely because we were unable to judge what he had in mind with this Pyramid. Also worth saying we appreciated that the piece was not a ‘socially engaged work’ (as modern descriptions have it of creative projects done with usually disadvantaged communities or folks and all the ‘orrible discontents liable to surface in such artistic engagements). The Pyramid remains committed to the older form of The artist makes Artwork and the rest is up to us. Either way, we find both forms inherently problematic and full of unpleasant contradictions that ‘Art’ is unable to either resolve or improve.

pyramid container
Maybe we can simply restate again our arguments and the feelings of some local residents including some of those who were displaced by the Heygate regeneration.

– Like the Council’s own imposition on Heygate residents of the regeneration scheme and it’s non-accountable resultant loss of 1000 public housing homes in favour of 1000’s of new private homes, the Artangel Pyramid also seemed a done deal foisted upon the remaining community. There was little attempt to ask local people and those who had been displaced what they thought about the art project. At Southwark Notes we offered numerous times to put Artangel in touch with local people and campaign groups so they could sound out local feeling. They ignored these offers in favour of later asking us for community contacts for engagement around the Pyramid only after it was built.

heygate art no road sign
Artangel also entered into contracts for demolition, had access to the Heygate site and spent much time figuring out how the Pyramid would be built and so on even before their planning application has been up for decision. This seems to point to us that the Council had already reassured them that all would be fine. Our initial letter to Artangel makes our point clearly that this kind of behaviour is made on the basis of the power of privilege that exists for middle class art curators but not for Heygate residents to decide (once again) what happens to where you live and your community. Some of those who had been ‘decanted’ just did not want this art to be allowed to arrive at the site and all the insensitivity this implied.

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– We made a concerted effort to criticise the Council and it’s desire for a triumphalist artwork on the Heygate site precisely because they wanted such a cultural capital-rich artwork to be instrumental in heralding the regeneration project. Being unable to ‘decipher’ much about any of the supposed artists intentions, they were happy to go along with it, whatever it was, alongside as it made headlines for them, as ‘Southwark’, for their regeneration project. It was only when local people made a fuss and promised a heated reception to the Pyramid that they then saw what an abyss of negative publicity opening up before their very beautiful regeneration scheme. Despite chummy assurances and helping Artangel prepare the site and scheme, they freaked out on Dec 20th 2013 and pulled the plug leaving Artangel in the lurch and (as we understand it from F.O.I requests) contractually obliged to the demolition company who they had hired to do the preliminary deconstruction work on Cuddington block.

heygate art no road sign
– It is clear to us from occasional conversations we find ourselves involved in that the idea that Pyramid would create a space, as Hunt says, ‘to reflect urgent political decisions and to engage in favourable dialogue with campaigners concerns’ still has some currency despite the campaign against the Pyramid and the very arguments on which it was resisted. Without an agreement or sensitivity to those locally who are the community about whether they want this artwork, bringing thousands of people to come into that community to see the Pyramid is disrespectful and also loaded with fantasies about how that audience will engage in this struggle not to be displaced from our homes. Art lovers or the curious might imagine they are entering into a dialogue or polemic about regeneration but, we suspect, that they are more likely to have an interesting day out at a site of social cleansing that is now only open to them as an artwork. For local campaigns who have spent years having their own public meetings, writing publications and websites, holding protests, anti-gentrification walks around the area and so on, there was little interest in having a Pyramid help them out especially one foisted upon them with zero attempts by the artist or Artangel to contact them beforehand.

For us, we remain committed to believing that such a public spectacle around the construction of a Pyramid out of one of the old Heygate housing blocks is of dubious use for any real actual political fighting against ongoing regeneration and social cleansing. Dubious because numerous art projects made on regenerating council estates up and down the U.K (including 2008’s Artangel-produced Seizure by Roger Hiorns on Harper Rd, another Southwark Council estate) have not resulted in a saving a single council home but have resulted in lots of concerned hot air, liberal hand wringing, pretentious art criticism and endless academic studies. Southwark Notes has met hundreds of people over the last 5 years with our optimistic willingness to explain our point of view to those who ask to meet us. Yet we would say 99% of those we meet will not give back from their art, writing or researches or put anything into the campaigns that they come and take from.

heygate art no road sign
It has been interested to see, after the Pyramid death, other London estates refusing to have art projects foisted upon them (Catherine Yass’s piano dropping art cancelled at the Balfron Tower, Canton St residents saying no to Performance Poplar on their estate). This is one way of assessing the strength and foresight of campaigns around social cleansing when art can be viewed not as a gift to fighting gentrification but suspiciously as a part of the very process of gentrification itself, a topic on which we have written perhaps too much!

Probably worth saying again that what we suggest as a good and strategic way of doing our politics in the struggle against regeneration and displacement demands that if we are to accept Art as a category then we must also demand that it is subject to scrutiny and that this scrutiny is used to understand where Art gives power and to who and thus where it takes power and from who.

 

ADDITION:
We heard today (16th Nov 2014) that the cancelling of the Pyramid via community campaigns described as a massive act of artistic censorship. With so much written by the campaigns about why they didn’t want the Pyramid artwork, you wonder what it takes to come up with that perspective and exactly what the persons stakes and investments in it are?! Once again, the Pyramid saga rolls on and on.

 

 

 

 

 

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

SNAG walk JULY 2014 NEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PUBLIC HOUSING UNDER THREAT FILMS:
56a Infoshop, 56 Crampton St, Walworth SE17 from 7pm

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

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

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

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

See you there on the 19th!

London Wildlife Trust associates itself with Lend Lease at Heygate. Why?

heygate canopy

We just sent the London Wildlife Trust a letter. They are ‘the only charity dedicated solely to protecting the capital’s wildlife and wild spaces, engaging London’s diverse communities through access to our nature reserves, campaigning, volunteering and outdoor learning‘. Yet they seem happy to associate themselves as both a charity and membership organisation with Lend Lease in a somewhat smug and rather ridiculous video promoting the Elephant Park development on the site of the old Heygate Estate. In this video environmentalist Chris Baines and LWT Chief Executive Carlo Laurenzi OBE discuss how great the development will be. Baines, a famous broadcaster and environmental consultant, and ‘is retained by developers Lend Lease to advise on green infrastructure for the redevelopment of the Heygate Estate, Elephant and Castle‘, hence the video. We wonder if the ‘National Parks or the countryside‘ will really be coming to Heygate as part of the Elephant Park ‘regeneration’. We doubt that the new development will offer the same biodiversity let alone the amazing tree canopy that Heygate Estate offered in and around it’s site (see photo above).

 

Seeing as one of their ‘core values‘ is ‘Integrity: Our actions and decisions should be open, transparent and just‘ we asked them the following questions in the spirit of their own transparency:

– Do you think it’s right that your CEO Carlo Laurenzi appears in a video by global property developers Lend Lease promoting their development at the Elephant and Castle?

– Does your membership have any say on this implicit support for a development that is currently felling hundreds of mature trees on Heygate site and also some quite rare trees such as the Black Locust?

– Was Carlo paid for his appearance in this video?

– Was the video scripted?

– Is it acceptable to associate the LWT name, a membership organisation, with a giant property developer?

– How can such a decision to associate the LWT name with Lend Lease be made accountable to your membership?

– If the LWT name is being associated with this development and video, why was the video not posted up on the LWT Twitter timelines where many LWT updates and messages are posted normally?

You can also contact them with questions about this questionable activity here:

http://www.wildlondon.org.uk/contact-us

We will publish any reply we get from them.

(19th April: No acknowledgement or reply to our letter yet. Sent a follow up reminder)

 

Image

Lend Lease and these ‘environmentalists’ seem to have forgotten than it was only the work of local people who produced an independent survey of the trees and their community value that got Lend Lease to finally see them as an asset and not as stumpy green and brown things in the way of building all those eco-homes. Here is a recent picture of the Lend Lease sustainable development in Heygate as hundreds of mature trees get axed to make way for private homes and er..a new park! In the video they ramble on about the mature trees that will be at the heart of the London Park development urban idyll.

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Regeneration Seeks Amnesia (1): The Artworks

SUMMARY: Public park taken away then given back under false pretences in the guise of community use – Southwark Council, The Artworks, Lend Lease.

Tribeca Se Locked
Yes, it’s another long post ahead!

Here at Southwark Notes mansions, we have been following the unbelievable saga of the planned The Artworks ‘arts and creative enterprise community‘ for Walworth with er….disbelief. Long before the large yellow and green ex-shipping containers arrived at the old Shell Garage site in front of Swanbourne block of Heygate Estate, long before before the invention of the Flat White coffee and probably long before even Picasso died. Well it does seem that long to us as Artworks has been rumoured, planned, delivered, amended, delayed and now hoping to move to a new site.

We have a lot of things to say on this proposed Lego-land labyrinth of creative types and market-as-theme park for urban adventuring amongst the, by-now everywhere, ‘Pop-Up’ Street Food places. (A fellow traveler of ours describes these places as ‘Throw-Up shops’!). We are also wondering whether Artworks are renting the land from the Council and on what sort of lease? However, we are gonna set those opinions aside as we prefer to begin our first exploration of what we are calling Regeneration Seeks Amnesia.

heygate allotments 2

ONCE UPON A TIME IN WALWORTH and ELEPHANT RD’s

When the Heygate Estate was almost finally cleared of residents, some local people began muttering about how the site itself should not be just put behind hoardings for years and years. As the land is still publicly owned those trees and garden areas are still considered ours, so the public spaces within and some of the buildings should be use for temporary benefits to continue to offer something to local residents rather than being a walled off non-space that waits on the developers profits.

There was even a day long gathering organised by Elephant Amenity Network of local folks to discuss and plan what sort of interim uses they wanted to push The Council and developers for. A large report of the days wishes and desires was published with an emphasis on people being able to still both enjoy the green spaces of the estate and also to focus on future gardening, food growing, space for community gatherings, space for creative endeavours, space for sports and recreation and even a call to maintain short life housing within the estate if the flats were to be empty for another 2 or three or more years.

Heygate Enclosed

It must be said that despite this engaged and positive forward thinking, the battle with The Council and Lend Lease for temporary uses has not resulted in many real gains. There is the Mobile Gardeners project on Wansey St and there is also the giving over of the old Doctors Surgery on Heygate to Reuben Powell, a local artist.  The battle for continued access to the lovely Rose Garden is still a sore point and the new fencing-off of the estate has meant access to the community pond, poly-tunnel, allotments, occasional Heygate cinema and growing areas has been stopped.

shipping containeradd

HAS THE WORD ‘ART’ IN IT SO MUST BE GOOD FOR YOU
The proposed Artworks container park scheme was the 3rd item of ‘give’ that Lend Lease had finally committed itself too. Between September 2011 and June 2012 various small meetings and consultations were held to generate interest and discussion on the scheme. It was suggested that the soon to be empty site where the old Shell Garage was on Walworth Rd would be a suitable site for what was dubbed the ‘box park’ (after the trendy container ‘pop-up’ mall in Shoreditch). In May 2012 the Council sought tenders for the scheme and by March 2013 Artworks became the ‘preferred partner‘ to run the scheme at the ex-Shell site. In late March Artworks presented their proposals at a Lend Lease-run Community Forum.

Artworks View 1

Although such a project needs planning permission and has to be subject to many and varied considerations and conditions stemming from Southwark Planning policies, strangely enough Artworks were able to deliver 48 containers to the site.

walworth rd desist
You can contrast this un-permitted dumping with the recent flurry of warning notices to named businesses on Walworth Rd who use the pavement for a couple of chairs outside their caff or to display a few wares or two. Bearing in mind the desperate retail crisis facing those traders and the truly independent nature of those small businesses, you’d think the Council would try and support them out rather than getting all heavy and pedantic!

Artworks Shell Site Plan 1Artworks Shell Plan View 2

It was a month later when Artworks applied for permission for the ‘Erection of 48 modular units to accommodate business/workspace, retail, markets, cafe/restaurant, gallery, community, and stay-work uses (Use Classes B1, A1 to A5 inclusive, and D1) together with ancillary structures and the change of use of the existing former petrol filling station kiosk to cafe for a temporary period of 5 years’.

The planning application was very loose and free with many of the requirements for such a large development. Artworks argued that as it would be a temporary development community benefit contributions should not be applicable. They were also light in detail on how the Southwark Plan that requires ‘training, employment, childcare facilities, public realm improvements for those with disabilities‘,  and sustainability would be fulfilled as planning obligations as part of their scheme. Submitting a later Addendum to this Planning App, they attempted to flesh out their original plan based on its numerous oversights, missing fulfillments and vagueness. Restating a desire to have the benefits overlooked as their scheme brought no ‘adverse impacts‘ they wrote:

‘The Development provides a number of key temporary benefits to the local community to off-set the need for any planning obligations’.

“This Development provides an opportunity for the regeneration benefits of the wider Heygate Masterplan scheme to be delivered at an early stage in one of the early, and visible, interim uses on the Site”.

Here it is still not actually clear what ‘benefits‘ they are being to the area with this unexpanded statements. Answers on  postcard once again please!

COMMUNITY IS WHATEVER THEY WANT IT TO MEAN REALLY
Around the time of the dumping of the containers, it was clear that the notion of community interim use was slipping slowly away as rumours of the containers becoming ‘Live / Work’ units with rents of £200 per week were starting to be heard locally. The ‘Live / Work’ units were then mutated into Artworks specially invented ‘Stay / Work’ units when they realised that residential studios would trigger an affordable housing requirement of them. Then the whole ‘live in a box and create art’ schtick began to slowly disappear from their promotions in favour again of non-residential studio, retail and market space.

In April 2013, some very switched-on local artists, journalist Paul Coleman and some of Southwark Notes who happened to be passing by, were able to see the containers close up as the developers were inspecting their investment. Keen to show folks around, both the artists and we lot were hardly impressed that a metal box could be a ‘live / work‘ unit for £200 per week despite it having a ‘kitchenette‘. The whole stacking of the containers created a weird and unappealing dingy inner space that didn’t seem conducive to public hanging out or a sense of retail headspace or an inviting market. Also strange was that the mysterious developers who were unwilling to provide any details of who they were beyond names seemed entirely clueless about artists needs space-wise, about the area itself or the history of the Heygate. (See very below for who they are)

The artists were on that day conducting their own cheerful consultation with tea and cakes on what local people thought about the containers and getting them to fill out the official consultation form. Have to say that overall out of about 100 conversations most passersby thought the scheme was a bit useless and also unworkable both as a site and with those rental rates. Paul Coleman wrote a nice piece about this spontaneous site visit.

Artworks Shonky Ad

FROM COMMUNITY USES TO BUSINESS USES
Months later, in September 2013, with nothing happening at the site and still no planning permission yet granted and with very little fanfare other than a dismal Twitter campaign (“Happy Friday people! What’s everyone got planned for tonight?‘ or ‘Good morning people of twitter! We hope you have a great week!!‘*) and some fading A3 posters in a few of the containers, there was an Artworks Tweet bombshell. The whole thing had suddenly gone interstellar.

Yes, the game was well and truly upped when Artworks announced that due to the fire at Cuming Museum next door to their planned site, they would be moving to a new site at Elephant Rd instead to ‘facilitate repairs to the Town Hall that was seriously damaged in the fire‘. This is a somewhat disingenuous statement. Garland Court TRA in Wansey St although not against the scheme had objected to their planning application on the basis of possible noise and lack of proper consideration of public toilets, impact on local views, parking and litter among other things. Lend Lease had also announced a change of the phasing of the Heygate development that meant that the Shell site and environs would no longer be vacant for 5 years. Any road up, the new project now ups the number of containers to 56.

elephant-rd

WE DON’T FORGET WHAT WE ALREADY LIVED
Anyhow, after this long starter, we get to the main meal of our disgruntlement which is that we live here, we know what’s going on, we haven’t forgotten what’s happened so far and so we won’t be taken in by the Spin.

What is it about regeneration and in particular, ‘regeneration’ at The Elephant, that attempts to erase what is both in front of our very eyes and what is a trusted series of memories in our heads?


elephant_park_2

With this attempted amnesia in mind, we say again that the proposed Artworks site at Elephant Rd was the well-used open space that contained a large expanse of grass, large mature trees and a small kids playground. On Sundays, it hosted football between different local Latin American teams. In February 2011, the well-used site was hastily fenced off by Southwark Council without any consultation to enable Oakmayne, the then developers of this long empty site, to function as a extra site compound for the development. This public land was then unaccountably enclosed to facilitate the future building of a private development (that funnily enough contains no social housing). Particularly galling was then how nothing happened and nothing is happening at that site with the proposed Tribeca Sq development. That space, those trees, that football, that community resource has been denied local people for two and half years now at the whims of a arrogant Council and a non-developing developer. No wonder we continue to question when the benefits for all of this regeneration will see something for us long term locals.

Artworks Site Trees In Prison

So it is even more upsetting and rage-inducing when, once again, with no public further consultation (other than a paper one that is statutory for planning applications), Artworks now seeks to open up a public space that was taken away from us to run what is essentially a private business that then pretends to provide or will provide minimal community uses. Planned rental costs will be: £180 per week  for a 320sq ft container workshop / retail space. Electricity not included. £180 per week, including all bills, except electricity.  Or smaller retail units at £80 per week (64 sq ft). There are also ‘hot desks‘ for £35 a week ‘for businesses whether it be a small company starting out or a large corporation on the go‘. Large corporations are probably about as far away from community interim use as we can imagine it. Will Artworks be renting a few hot desks to junior Lend Lease executives?

So these are not cheap units really ‘predicated on affordability and aimed at business start-ups and incubator units‘ as was set out in their planning application. Comparable space in well-established studio buildings made of bricks and with actual large windows costs considerably less. Long term reputable studio companies such as Space or Acme are offering spaces well cheaper than Artworks (£720 approx) with studios for £300 or £400 a month (although it is not easy to get these). Commercial (non-metal) studios are also available for £500 a month for about 300 sq ft.

artworks new elephant

ADDING INSULT TO INJURY QUITE NICELY
The fenced-in box park scheme will provide ‘open space within the Development for use by the general public, other than when it may be used for specific and occasional private events‘ so public access remains provisional to the management’s decisions. However, there is one more insult to add to the utter absurdity of the situation. Contained within the new planning application for Artworks at Elephant Rd is the proposal to use the once-public land now turned into a hollowed out community interim use for the siting of a marketing pavilion for Lend Lease:

“7.19    The Development seeks temporary planning permission for 2 modular units to be used as a ‘pavilion’ to house an information centre and marketing suite (Use Class Sui Generis) for Lend Lease.

7.20    The pavilion will be used by Lend Lease to provide a early presence on the wider Heygate Masterplan development site in Elephant and Castle during the initial demolition and construction phases, and a facility for the public to find out further details of the wider Heygate Regeneration and information on the new residential units that are for sale as part of Lend Lease’s Heygate Masterplan, Trafalgar Place, and One The Elephant developments…

7.22    The information centre and marketing suite will have a separate entrance and opening hours to the rest of the Artworks Development and will be managed by Lend Lease.”

Artworks Shell Pavillion LL

Here Lend Lease gains a nice marketing suite to market their new buildings to the undoubtedly investment-happy Buy To Let landlords and the numerous overseas investors that will be snapping up places in Trafalgar Place and One The Elephant. How do you negotiate that one under the notion of community use?

AN ELEPHANT NEVER FORGETS AND OTHER TALES
Here at Southwark Notes palaces we are endlessly critical of the ‘regeneration‘ that we are suffering at The Elephant but it is tiring to feel like we have to do our best to document these abuses and downright cynical behaviour from The Council and developers.We document it in the hope that at some point The Council and the developers might take seriously the fact that local people have a long and deep knowledge of the history of this shameful regeneration project. We have an acute and critical eye for detail when the hype and lies they spread tries to erase from the public mind the losses of council homes, public space and valued communities.

However, in this instance, we base our argument not solely on slagging off how this regeneration is being run or how it is being sold to us as if we have no memory or anything to say on what is plain to see before our eyes. These rip-offs are so blatant yet the Council just spins it’s vile fairy tales in the press as if nothing was wrong or no-one was saying anything other. We also base our concerns on the roots that are local people who have come together repeatedly and put in their precious time to seek that genuine community benefits come to the area. They have put forward serious considered proposals for creative uses, employment chances, health matters and maintaining public spaces. But most of this has been ignored except where it suits the needs or a developer that can easily use a few small and heavily sanctioned projects to talk up it’s own accountability and working with the locals. Yet the battle of the local community with Lend Lease has been one long hard fight to gain very little. If the very first things you finally see getting built from the Lend Lease Masterplan is One The Elephant (starting price £325,000) and some wonky overpriced pseudo-trendy designer retail outlets in a metal box, you probably are wondering where you fit in to all this regeneration lark.

—————————–

CONTAINER PEOPLE MEETS MARKETS PEOPLE DOWNTOWN: ARTWORKS – WHO THEY ARE
We couldn’t resist a bit off simple detective work to understand this seemingly shonky outfit that can get away with no planning permission for the arrival of 48 containers, cannot update it’s own website to say that the project is no longer on Walworth Rd and is able to make deals with The Council to get a new and much better site in the infamous enclosed Elephant Rd Park. All this from essentially a quite small scale and risky business plan.

As we learnt from our long years doing this, business like this (i.e not Lend Lease or St Modwens) is a fairly boring and everyday affair of people knowing other people who can set you up with something or sort you out, go into partnership with etc. Here at Artworks, the Sam Minionis side is a kind of shipping container enthusiast with business connections to a property developing family who have a vague connection to some Oakymayne property thing from way back. He is a big part of the company My Space Pod that seeks to containerise building developments with a passion for re-using shipping boxes. Charlie Fulford is the markets side of things and also more of a property developer with a father who is both a serious market developer (establishing Camden Lock market in 1971 amongst others) and a Professor of Philosophy. What a carry on!

artworks directors daig

Regeneration Seeks Amnesia Part Two Coming Soon!
Heygate Vacant Possession Secured, Comes With Major Public Art Spectacle

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* Our favourite Tweet from Artworks:
Artworks Kissinger Of Death
We remember how Henry Kissinger signed the orders for the illegal bombing of Cambodia in 1969, a policy that led to an estimated half million civilian deaths. He also had a large hand in the legitimating via US foreign policy of military coups, death squads, disappearances and repression in several Latin American countries. A perfect and creative act and especially sensitive to the Elephant Rd Latin-American community.

HOW THE ELEPHANT WAS SOLD AT TOOLEY ST ONE TUESDAY NIGHT

We seriously haven’t recovered yet from our attendance at last night’s monster six hour pantomime playing at the Tooley St Theatre where the show was all about whether a large unaccountable development company (Lend Lease) could link up with a smaller unaccountable local council (Southwark) and do dastardly business together. The audience were played by local people who think these ugly sisters of business and wannabe politicians are about to re-stage the Kings New Clothes down at The Elephant. Any road up, here is a quick report. We will come back to the details at a later date.

DSCF2977
• 50 members of the public were excluded from a public meeting that affects their area. The Council didn’t have a room big enough at Tooley St offices to hold all those who wanted to sit through the pantomime so it kept a whole bunch of folks outside until half way thorough when enough people had left to accommodate 20 of them. The police and security kept the door between the lobby and the meeting room secure. At one point in the break, they even started off not letting anyone from the hearing going into where the excluded folks were but relented after some argument. Of course, the Council was uninterested in holding the meeting in a place that was actually big enough despite their being over 200 objections received. Of 102 possible seats, many were taken up by Lend Lease, Soundings (Consultation cronies) and council folks. A bigger room is a no brainer if you actually give a toss!

planningcommittee3
• About 30 of the excluded people decided to hold their own fantastic objectors meeting outside in the lobby to discuss why they were there and their own concerns. We thought that was a brilliant idea instead of just giving up and going home.

DSCF2980
• This is what the meeting looked like. A bright and airless room where we sat for 6 hours listening to one hour of brilliant focused, precise and wise objections to the Council’s willful overlooking of a Masterplan that breaches it’s own policies in numerous topics – affordable housing, car parking, sustainability, health and education and over-12 play provision and so on. And then 5 hours more of silence from any Labour Councillors to actually have any single criticism of the Masterplan and sometimes good and sometimes rather tired questioning from the Lib-Dems on the Planning Committee. All the Councillors had received detailed objections from tons of people as emails and papers and these were also all in the large 197 page Planning Committee document that each of them had. Yet they were unable to really get to grips with both the nuances and precise content of those objections. At the start we were informed that the meeting was ‘not party political‘ as if having 4 Labour councillors and 3 Lib-Dems was going to make no difference at all to the final vote.

rip off viable

aff rent not social

comm con not box

crowd signs1
• We also heard over an hour of Lend Lease corporate waffle and nonsense. One example among the many that we are afraid to unleash to those who weren’t there: When asked whether new more chain shops might be seen as a dangerous competition to long established local traders, one Lend Lease word magician replied that he ‘didn’t like to think of it as competition but as more like opportunity‘. Of course destroying local shopping is also contrary to the new 2012 National Planning Policy Framework that seeks for council to ‘ensure the vitality of town centres‘ i.e don’t make everywhere chain retail hell.

During Lend Lease’s questioning by the Council (akin to being ‘savaged by a dead sheep‘ as the saying goes) local people held up signs in silence to highlight key objections to the Masterplan. The Chair for the night Labour Councilor Nick Dolezal, who we found rather showy and cartoonish, freaked out and threatened the protestors with removal even though when security came they were decidedly reluctant to begin grabbing anyone. (Dolezal later publicly described them as ‘our little pixies‘!). Another threat to remove everyone bar the Council, the developers and the objectors who had spoken was also aired was similarly ignored because how can you seriously bar the public from a public meeting.

silent poster thing1
(Nick Dolezal ponders his next move as more posters are hoisted in yet another part of the room)

The silent protest was only meant to highlight the farce in progress anyhow and not to prevent anyone from hearing the rest of what was said. After twenty interesting minutes of Dolezal overreaction, the posters were lowered so that the show could go on. At point, a protestor offered the boyish Leader of the Council Peter John some posters which he took and enthusiastically threw to the floor. ‘Peter, not down there! You’re supposed to hold them up!’, was the poster givers reply. Made us laugh anyhow!

There was a telling moment near the end when the procedure requires ‘one representative for any supporters who live within 100 metres of the developement site‘ to come and testify their support. No one in the room rose to take up that role!

pink ele rip off

To cut a long story short, there was no surprise when the 2 Lib-Dems voted against (because it wasn’t their party in power but they would have done the same as Labour did last night if they were) and 4 Labour votes for the scheme. There was one totally pointless abstention from a most bizarre Lib-Dem councillor (who used to be a Tory councillor) from Dulwich. At telling moment came about 20 minutes before the vote when Dolezal was rushing to finish and in a moment of pushing things along, he said ‘Oh, I’m getting serious now‘ to which we would add: Well, it is probably a serious business, no? You wouldn’t think so given Dolezal’s constant gum-chewing, jokes and lack of impartiality.

To give you a clue as to how The Elephant was sold last night we will highlight the fact that when Lend Lease were questioned on whether they will receive the freehold of the Heygate Estate land, Dolezal ruled that this question had no bearing on the planning permission. It’s a bloody good question though! When you consider that the whole scheme delivers only 71 truly affordable socially rented units to replace the 1100+ council tenancies that made up Heygate and the rest of the ‘guaranteed‘ 25% of affordable homes are of such a tenure type* that they are actually extremely unaffordable for local people and also many Londoners, you might start to wonder how it is that this scheme can be granted approval. When you consider that Lend Lease reckons that the scheme is barely viable at approx 10% affordable housing but are committed to 25%,  and that no-one is allowed to actually look at the figures because they are commercially sensitive, you might wonder if a load of porkies is being told. Would they really commit to something so obviously risky? When you consider all this, the question of whether Southwark will give Lend Lease the freehold to this currently publicly-owned land is a good and pertinent one.

(* In addition to the 71 target rent places (socially-rented) there will be a further 194 ‘Affordable Rent’ places, these rents being set at a rate of 50% of the private market rental rate locally. i.e not affordable to many. And this despite Southwark’s own 2011 objections to the concept of ‘Affordable Rent’ and the 2012 London Plan’s examination criticisms).

Lend Lease的壞公司

Lend Lease的壞公司

Anyhow, we have on tape Lend Lease’s absolute commitment to seeing this project through. So of they ever wangle out of it over the next 16 years, we will find them and subject them to a merciless replaying of this promise.

Oh, by the way, we would really be fools if we actually believed their promises. Like the Council, promises are made to be broken and to be forgotten.It is a rule at these meetings that no photography or sound / video recordings must be made and so with no actual official record of last night’s proceedings being made for public scrutiny, all of Lend Lease’s promises remain words in a room in a particular moment in time. Happily, to keep an important unofficial record, there were camera’s-a-g0-go (as you can see) recording the proceedings and at least two people in the audience taped the whole thing.

There was many a moment like this: When asked about interim uses on the Heygate site before the new houses are built and whether it would get in touch with Celia from Victory Park who had initiated a tree nursery with local school children in the Heygate Rose Garden*. They said ‘Yes, they would‘. It was common for them to nod and solemnly say ‘Yes, they would‘ to remaining open to alleviating many concerns that were raised. But with no minutes or record, who is there to keep them to their easy words?

(* We can add that this lovely example of a local community-led labour of love was not so heart-warming to the Council. They have welded the gates of the Rose Garden shut so neither Celia nor the kids can now get in there)

Poster 101
We will say it again: Southwark has no interest in hearing objections, useful criticism or local wisdom. It has no interest in even pretending (like Lend Lease) that it’s consultation is meaningful to any planning inquiry. It is wholly unaccountable to it’s voters. It is a total joke for anyone who cares passionately ebnough to engage in local politics through this kind of framework. This way of working is flawed. It simply cannot work to the benefit of local people. We spent years in consultation with these people, taking it seriously and giving up our knowledge and passions for free but we have not seen one single thing barring a few saved trees taken seriously or put into the Masterplan. The Masterplan remains a totally blatant and greedy land grab at the expense of local people.

heygate flush
After attending Lend Lease’s One The Elephant luxury flats ‘community preview‘ last week and last night’s farce, we were starting to get resigned to all this, to start to think it’s all over or that there is no alternative to the private investment model of housing and regeneration. It was a tough week.

But there is another way and we need to find it. We will continue doing what we do and we invite you, as always, to join us in that work.

villain
Here follows our shorter review of last night’s show:
PURE PARTY POLITICAL PLANNING PERMISSION PANTOMIME. PAH!

HOW THE ELEPHANT WAS SOLD! Putting Tuesday 15th January 6pm In Your Diary!

DSCF2934
‘I think there’s gonna be a leisure centre or something, behind the tower, somewhere…something like that, a little one and some new shops’*
Rob Deck, Lend Lease’s Elephant and Castle Project Director sells The Elephant at this week’s perfunctory and bizarre ‘community preview‘ of One The Elephant development – 37 storeys of luxury flats mainly to be sold off-plan to foreign investors**

Next Tuesday 15th January 2013 will see Southwark Council’s Planning Committee gather at their Tooley St offices to rubber-stamp Lend Lease’s Masterplan for the Elephant and Castle area. They have already issued a press release about why the Masterplan needs to be approved and all the total unaccountable crud and spin that goes with it – making mixed communities, more money for affordable housing, new parks, new this and new that. There will be some kind of debate amongst the councillors on the committee and 5 minutes in total have been allotted for public objections on the biggest planning application ever received by Southwark.

It’s taken a long long time to get this far. A really long time. We and countless others have been arguing against this form of regeneration of the local area for a long time too. We urge everyone who feels uncertain or pissed off about this monster rip-off to read the collective response to the Council below from the three brave local folks who will be standing up in the five minutes to give their best shot in making someone in the council see sense and vote NO to this scheme.

We also urge that anyone who feels uncertain or pissed off about this scheme, makes sure they come to Planning Meeting this Tuesday 15th January at 6pm at the Council Offices at 160 Tooley St, SE1 (London Bridge tube)

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Heygate Outline Masterplan application 12-AP-1092
and demolition application 12-AP-3203.

We are representatives of local groups who have objected to the above applications. We propose to speak on behalf of these groups at the planning committee meeting next Tuesday evening, 15th January 2013.

We have the following concerns and objections which cannot be fully aired in 5 minutes.  We have therefore listed them and trust that you, and  your colleagues, will help us ensure that they are fully addressed, by asking questions of us based on these points.

References to the ‘report’ are to the officer’s report for the planning applications that recommends approving the scheme.
Jerry Flynn (Elephant Amenity Network)
Philip Ashford (Garland Ct TRA)
Adrian Glasspool (Heygate Leaseholders Group)
Our concerns and objections are as follows;-

 
Application 12-AP-3203 (Demolition)
 
The Heygate Leaseholders Group are losing their homes to facilitate this application. We are objecting to the Compulsory Purchase Order placed on their homes on the grounds that the public benefits of the scheme have been lost. Heygate Leaseholders were promised a retained equity option in assisting them to purchase homes in the new development, there is no such option in the accompanying scheme application. The Leaseholders Group requests that the provision of such an option is a condition of granting both the demolition application and the development application.
 
Interim Use
  • lack of proposals for interim uses of existing resources of the Heygate estate during the 15 year development period. 
  • lack of public access arrangements to the site, so that the rich potential for interim use can be realised
A possible interim use on the site is Crossway Garden – This walled green space is located towards the north eastern edge of the masterplan, south of Crossway Church. Over the last 2-3 years the garden has cultivated as a nursery bed for fruit trees and bushes. Children from the local Victory Park School have been involved with planting days. Gardening is connected with the nearby Victory Park as part of a neighbourhood gardening initiative and Southwark Green Links.

Application 12-AP-1092
Financial Viability

  • doubts about the financial viability of the scheme
  • how will the ‘viability gap’ in the scheme be bridged?
  • how will we avoid the Heygate becoming yet another stalled development site?

The viability of the scheme is described as ‘problematic’ (para. 151) and refers to a ‘viability gap’ representing ‘very big risk’ on the part of the applicant (para. 153). The Phase one Heygate application states: “The level of affordable housing proposed represents a level that is currently above what is indicated as being viable.”  Non-viability of the scheme is also listed in the council’s risk register as one of the major impediments to the scheme going ahead.

 
How is the viability gap between the viable level of affordable housing at 9.4% and the 25% (para. 150 & 153) offered being bridged while maintaining the financial stability of the scheme?The 360 London (London Park Hotel) and Oakmayne Plaza (Tribeca Square) sites were granted planning permission six years ago; these sites remain undeveloped. There is no reference to the time schedule for the delivery of the detailed planning applications in the report.We propose that a condition be attached to any approval of the application requiring a fixed schedule of applications.


Housing
  • lack of social rented housing
  • phasing of the affordable housing delivery

The scheme will provide only 71 social rented units out of a total 2,300 new homes (para. 159). This is in breach of Southwark Council’s planning policy, which would require approx. 400 social rented units. 198 affordable rent properties are also being provided, but they are not affordable for many residents of the borough. 

 
Affordable rent is also not a type of social rented housing. Both the National Planning Policy Framework and draft revisions to the London Plan have social rent and affordable rent as separate categories of affordable housing (with intermediate housing as a third category). A consortium of 9 boroughs including Southwark supported this position at the London Plan examination in public in November 2012. Therefore affordable rent units cannot be used to meet the social rented proportion of the affordable housing required by policy. The application should therefore be rejected on these grounds.
 
The first two tranches of the six tranches of the scheme only deliver 20% affordable housing (para. 156). This means that the first 1,200 units of the scheme will only provide 20% affordable housing. This should be changed so that 25% minimum is delivered from the beginning of the scheme. 
 
An initial review of the affordable housing delivery is proposed only after two years beyond the first approved application (para. 154). We are also concerned that the conditions for changes in phasing will not be strong enough to ensure that the development is delivered in a timely fashion (para. 35).
 
Garland Court/Wansey Street residents

  •  detrimental impact of Walworth Sq. on Garland Ct and Wansey Street
  •  the impact of density of the development on local residents
  •  the impact proximity of the development on local residents
  •  loss of amenity, particularly privacy, quietness, daylight, residential character
  •  disruption during demolition and construction
 The residents and shopkeepers of Wansey St, Balfour St, Rodney Rd, Henshaw St, Salisbury estate and Peabody trust will all suffer significant degrees of disruption and inconvenience over many years.  There are particular concerns about the impact of the new  public square off the Walworth Rd on the amenity of Garland Court and Wansey Street residents.

Public Realm

  • the reduction in amount of green and open space
  • the private management of the park
  • maintaining real public accessibility of the park
  • Highway Authority concerns about Estate Management Company control

The park will be managed by a private Estate Management Company (EMC). The park should be designated public open space and if not Council managed, a trust should be considered as an alternative, instead of a Parks Advisory Group (paras 326 & 380)

We note the comments made by the Highway Authority that the Estate Management Strategy assumes management of the existing areas adopted by the EMC (Appendix 2 – para. 11). We share the Highway Authority’s concerns and object to the public realm appearing to move into private hands. 

We note the Highway Authority’s comments quoted here and support its proposals for alternative management and enforcement regimes:

“General concern is raised about the proposed number of new private streets (unadopted highways) within the application given the likely impact on the council’s ability to control the network and manage the boroughs streets and spaces for the benefit of residents, businesses and the travelling public.  If this course is pursued then it is strongly recommended that robust alternative management and enforcement regimes are included in any consent.” (Appendix 2 – Para. 11)

Car Parking 

  • contrary to Southwarks car-free policy
  • reduce the number of car-parking spaces

The development is not free of car parking as originally envisioned and set out as policy by Southwark in the E&C SPD. If the scheme is not to be free of car parking, a condition should be created which sets it at a lower rate than the up to 27% of units having car parking (plus motorcycle parking plus car club places) that is currently being demanded.

 

616 car-parking spaces are proposed for the scheme (para 225) despite Council policy requiring it to be car free.  The Elephant has the highest possible public transport accessibility rating (PTAL 6b) so why are so many car-parking spaces needed?

Strata Tower which has been completed has car parking set at 14%, the consented Oakmayne development 11%. Most recently St Mary’s Residential was granted at 16% (8% disabled and 8% private). If parking is to be allowed it should be at a far lower rate.


Ecology

  • inaccuracies in ecology section of the report
  • inaccurate data, un-evidenced claims and lack of consultation
  • no collection of baseline data
  • potential impact of scheme on local biodiversity and lack of mitigation measures                                                             
Victory Community Park and the Elba Place nature garden are close by the Heygate estate. Both are Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) and the Elba Place nature garden is used by the Victory School – both are rich in biodiversity. There are serious factual inaccuracies in the Ecology Implications section of the report. (paras. 312 – 319). We do not believe any assessments have been made of the sites relating to the impact of the proposed development. The data reported in the environmental statement is out of date, incomplete and inaccurate, and does not allow baseline assessment of the potential adverse effects of the development. Southwark’s own plan 12.31 policy 3.28 does not permit damage to SINC’s in order to facilitate development, and requires mitigation and compensation for any damage to biodiversity. This application does not meet those requirements. 
 
Trees
  • concern about caveat on retention of existing trees
  • unnecessary removal of trees
  • Highway Authority recommendation for tree planting
The applicant proposes to remove 283 and retain 123 of the 406 existing trees (para. 336). The retention of the 123 trees is compromised by a caveat deferring to detailed surveys (Root Protection Area – RPA surveys) due to be carried out during later design stages.(Tree Strategy 1 of 8, Page 22, Paragraph 6.4)
 

These RPA surveys should be carried out now and a firm commitment given to retention of trees. A greater number of trees should be considered for retention, especially those on the north side of Heygate St. for which there appears to be no clear grounds for their removal.

 
We note the objection made by the Highways Authority that the proposed streets will be too narrow to give sufficient space between buildings for newly-planted trees to grow adequately. We support the Highway Authority’s recommendation: “It is recommended that the minimum critical distance for streets be increased to 12m in all instances. In the absence of this it is unlikely that street trees and other planting will be accommodated adequately;” (Para. 11 – Appendix 2)


Sustainability

  • lack of sustainable alternatives
  • unrealistic energy centre connection proposals
  • unfeasable biomethane fuel proposals
This scheme was chosen by Bill Clinton as a global example of zero carbon development. The scheme aimed to produce enough on-site renewable energy to supply the entire Elephant & Castle area. This aim has since been abandoned and the application fails to propose any on-site renewable energy whatsoever, contrary to Southwark’s policy which requires 20% minimum.
 

We note that the application considers biomethane gas for its on-site renewable energy requirements. We don’t believe that this an acceptable proposal for reasons that the report itself notes, including:

  1. Biomethane is not classified as an on-site renewable energy source therefore it cannot meet Southwark’s policy requirements (para. 411)
  2. There is currently no supply of biomethane available in the UK (para. 410)
  3. The applicant is not proposing to generate any biomethane gas, and makes no firm commitment to purchase any should it become available in the future
We propose that the 20% on-site renewable energy requirement is met using a combination of the alternatives listed in paragraph 406.

We note the report’s comment that through planning permission additional plant can be installed to accommodate additional capacity (para. 404). We request that a planning condition is applied upon granting the application accordingly: The new Energy Centre should be constructed such that it has sufficient capacity to supply all of the surrounding developments as identified in the Energy Strategy.
 
CYCLING 
  • inadequacies of proposed new routes
  • no proper transport assessment
  • no proper connection to strategic routes
The cycling proposals fail to take sufficient account of the deaths and injuries cyclists have suffered around the Elephant and Castle. It is proposed to widen the northern roundabout, which will increase traffic flow. The new cycle connection suggested between Brandon St and Meadow Row is not more ‘direct’ as the officer’s report claims, and ignores the key connection with the crossing at Falmouth Rd.
A CS6 cycle route through the Heygate site and the needs of commuter cyclists are not being considered in this application.S106

  • potential net loss of 1,500 sq metres of community facilities
  • transport infrastructure spend        
The Heyate comprised a total of 2,500 sq metres of community facilities; the scheme proposes a minimum of just 1,000 sq metres. The minimum should be increased to 2,500 sq metres so that there is not net loss in community facilities.  
 
The transport infrastructure spend is still insufficient to fund improvements to the tube station and northern roundabout.     
 
 
Employment/Retail

  • will the London Living wage be paid for employment on scheme?
  • no long term commitment to affordable retail units for existing small and independent traders who are likely to be displaced
  • no targets for jobs for local residents post construction
There is no information on how many of the affordable retail units will be available for displaced local retail businesses.
Those employed in construction jobs on the scheme should receive at least the London Living wage.
We note the minimum construction jobs target for local residents (para. 376) We would like to see a similar minimum target for local residents post construction (para. 135). A definition of the area of local benefit is also needed.
We note that the legal agreement will secure 10% of affordable retail space which will be prioritised for existing SMEs in the E&C OA. However, it is understood that this may be limited to a term of just 5 years, thereby failing to provide long-term security for small retailers. 
 
Place Making
  • The size of the large retail units at ground floor are too large
  • The scale, height and form of the buildings need to create a positive sense of place
  • Cafes and other amenities need to be affordable

The footprints of the ground floor retail spaces are considerably larger than that of many of the surrounding local businesses. The building form should create a larger number of smaller units. This would increase permeability, enrich the public domain and encourage local businesses to connect with the development.

The area around the base of the Strata tower is an example of how the public realm can become marginalized through the impact of tall buildings. The scale, height and massing of the proposed development should be reconsidered.

The proposed cafes around the green space may not be affordable to all local people, and will therefore fail to create a truly human sense of place and inclusiveness for the neighbourhood. Smaller scale community focused businesses should be integrated within the proposals.

* Not an actual quote from Rob but more of that Southwark Notes sarcasm

** Since this post, we are proud to announce that, after the UK, the country with the second most hits on this site is Singapore! Welcome to all our viewers in The Far East: One The Elephant 價過高 / harga yang terlalu tinggi

OBJECT TO REGENERATION: Please make your objection in one second please

The excellent Elephant 35% Campaign blog puts the current situation with the regeneration in stark contrast about how has power to make decisions on local matters and who is not welcome to unless they can speak very very fast.
masterplan1
MASTERPLAN
The biggest planning application ever submitted to Southwark Council is due to be heard by its planning committee on Tuesday 15th January. This is the Heygate Outline Masterplan (12/AP/1092) that will see the future of the built-up environment around The Elephant change dramatically with the demolition of the Heygate and all the new unaffordable homes put on that site. Not too mention the inevitable knock-on effect of other later developers feeling that with this planning permission being granted now would be the best time to build more and more private homes in the area in any space, building or park they can get away with.
masterplan2
MONSTERPLAN
The Outline Masterplan application is so huge that Southwark has spent 9 months evaluating over 2o0 submitted documents. You can see how big and bonkers it is by clicking the link above or here! You can also get a measure of it from our pictured screenshots of the number of documents listed on the Southwark Planning Register under this application – and that’s just A to D!
There has also been a lot of very detailed and critical opposition to many of the intentions and desires of Lend Lease (the developer) contained within their Masterplan. There have been over 200 objections so far. It’s no joke having to wade through hundreds and hundreds of pages of sometimes dense technical and legal planning speak but over 200 people got stuck in.3min

Anyhow, despite appeals to common sense and using the example of the King’s Cross Masterplan where that massive plan was heard over a number of sessions, objectors have failed so far to get any reasonable amount of time to present their case. The Council is insisting that the normal THREE MINUTES will be allotted for them to hear objections and criticism.
masterplan3
So, if only 50 people were allowed on the night to talk about the Masterplan’s failure to maintain adequate social housing levels, or, as promised, a car free development, or it’s reduction of local green space and the felling of 100’s of trees, or the carbon neutral development that was hyped, those people would have less than 3.5 seconds each to make their case. Even if only 5 people spoke up they would still have less than 40 seconds to make their case!

This is just plain regeneration madness! See you there: Tuesday 15th January 6pmCouncil Offices at 160 Tooley Street, London SE1 2QH
planmeet 15 th jan