Tag Archives: Regeneration

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

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

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

 

WHITEWASHING?

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

Cafe Manor Place Holal

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

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(Customers from the Hej Coffee promo video)

 

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

 

Hej Orignal Photo

ARTWASHING?

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

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

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

 

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

Hej Heygate Text on PhotoHej Text Heygate

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

HEJ FLYER

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

 

AND THEN AS IF BY MAGIC – HEY PRESTO!

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

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

 

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

Hej Heygate Gone

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

 

FINAL HEAVY HEAVY CONTEXT OF OUR OWN

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

 

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

 

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

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

Elephant Crowd 2108

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

 


LOLZ…

Hej Blocked

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

Heygate House Price Aug 2018

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HAGGLE FOR THE HEART OF THE ELEPHANT – ALL SET FOR TUESDAY 30th!!

SHOPPIN CENTRE JAN 30TH 2018.jpg


For once in our lifetime at Southwark Notes, we get to write something we’ve never ever written: The Council rejected a Planning Application that sought more luxury flats in The Elephant.

Savour that news, for now, as we have been savouring it too since Tues January 16th when after an epic 7 hour meeting, Delancey’s plans to knock down The Elephant Shopping Centre were put on hold.

Even more impressive was the remarkable re-grouping of the Elephant community. From the old campaigns who have been dogged in their graft from day one, to the new student and staff activists from London College of Communications (LCC), the formidable traders and their supporters, the media work being done by some to get the campaign’s voices out in print and video, and the folks from other parts of London nervous how any luxury over-development of The Elephant will impact their much-loved communities.

It’s been a joyful ride these last few weeks! In fact, we had tears in our eyes when we marched with you all on Tues 16th; 200 strong, up Borough High St to the gates of Southwark Council’s castle in Tooley St. A certain magic enabled us to all get into the Town Hall and make enough noise for the planning committee to know the community was at the door and not just online!!

 

DEVELOPERS FIGHT BACK. STUDENTS PULL A BLINDER

The last week has seen an amusing counter-PR campaign by the developer Delancey. They set up Twitter accounts to promote all the benefits as they want them to be seen. ‘They’ being an unaccountable offshore-registered, tax-avoiding client fund, so the benefits they see are only ever making ££££ for their investors. There was even a petition set up by the mysterious ‘Zara Hindle’ to encourage locals to support Delancey’s plans. In the end, the PR guff didn’t garner a lot of support. People can see it for what it is, a desperate move by a desperate developer.

The petition accused the campaigns of being an aggressive minority! Well, two things we know for sure are, yes we are aggressive in our assertion of being a community defending itself from the sheer violence of this ‘regeneration’ plan. As for being a minority, this community has organised countless public meetings, gathered online objections to the plan (900+) and pulled together a large and growing band of people determined to defeat this land grab. All this done for love and on a shoestring. There’s certainly no offshore bank accounts paying for any of our hard work.

And we can’t say we’ve seen much love for the plans: at the Planning Meeting on Jan 16th where space is given for someone local to support the plan, not a soul in the room spoke in favour.

In the last weeks too, students at LCC have been doing amazing organising to expose the College’s shameless partnership with Delancey. LCC is brazen in its support of Delancey against the wishes of the local community and have been very heavy-handed in dealing with any internal discussions that staff have tried to have about the LCC’s possible role in the social cleansing of the area.

LCC Occupation – Here

HOLD TIGHT! STAND FIRM! (and apply a pinch of salt…)

But despite all of this amazing campaigning and coming together, the dice is always loaded. We are not being cynical when we say that this is just the start. We face the long haul now and the campaigns have to stay sharp. We are going to be as honest as we can right now and say that the work of some local councillors on this campaign has been great and we’ve even heard a councillor or two say the word ‘gentrification’ here and there. Interesting times. But councillors, as ever, are as accountable to their communities and this round of speaking up remains to be tested over the next years. We are not being spiteful to remind people that not so long ago some of those same councillors sat in the same planning meeting as we all and approved the demolition of the Heygate Estate or the Aylesbury plans. But if there now is a sea change in local Labour party politics coming from pressure from local party members, and the national direction of the party, that’s great. Do your best! Just remember that the trust broken for years cannot be re-established in one night.

For us, we want to continue from this new found determination to defeat the social cleansing of the Elephant and beyond. We want local communities setting the agenda of what we want and what we clearly don’t want. And, of course this means support for our neighbours at the Aylesbury Estate where more of the same disaster is being dumped top-down onto tenants and residents. There is ample space now for local ward councillors there to be less pro-regeneration and listen better to the serious concerns of the community campaign on the Aylesbury. The ongoing Public Inquiry to the attempt to Compulsorily Purchase people’s homes on the Aylesbury has more than enough evidence and facts on how bad this ‘regeneration’ scheme is and will be for Walworth for generations to come.

 SHOPPIN CENTRE JAN 30TH 2018

NO SELL-OUT & NO STITCH UP ON TUESDAY 30th!

The community’s campaigning has made all the right and best arguments for the Elephant and we’ve all been backing them up with action. On Tues 30th January, the planning application is back at Southwark’s Planning Meeting. The pressure to pass the plan must be enormous on those sitting on the Planning Committee. It’s not even so clear what is possible at that Planning Meeting. The Council’s planning team has been publicly saying the reasons for refusing the plans are weak. Will there be more back-room wheeler-dealing like we saw at 1AM in the morning on Tues 16th! We hope not.

Once again, the community has called for a large mobilisation at the Town Hall. We say again: for any Londoner who fears for London becoming more and more a place for the rich and the wealthy at an extreme cost to the fabric of our local areas, please come down and support the battle for the heart of the Elephant. We are calling for a COMMUNITY CARNIVAL to demand that the vote is respected and that there is no STITCH UP! And we will be there to make sure this doesn’t happen!

Bring your campaign banners, flags, mobile sound systems, energies and passions! See you all there!

Interview with the LCC Occupation against Social Cleansing of The Elephant

On Tuesday 23rd January a hearty and determined band of students at London College of Communications (LCC) occupied once again a part of the college to highlight and organise around the complicity of LCC in the social cleansing of the area. We asked them questions about how things are and the activities and responses they are getting through the act of occupation. Massive love and respect to the Occupiers!!

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How is the occupation going?

Occupation is going well. We’ve since the start refused to show IDs, give our names or otherwise reveal our identity so for instance whenever any of us have had to pass the barriers to enter the rest of the building we’ve only been using Sahaya’s (campaigns officer at Arts SU) staff card. An arbitrary rule they’ve imposed where only the “original 14” people who took the space on Tuesday evening can occupy the office, compromising our right to free speech and protest (we’re working on changing that). In part due to the “original 14” rule we have around half a dozen or so people at any given point.

The university stepped up security on Friday by starting to do ID and bag searches outside the building (so before the barriers within LCC) however we still managed to sneak more people into the building to occupy the foyer staying overnight however since they weren’t part of the “original 14” they weren’t even allowed access to the toilet. The university is now threatening disciplinary action against Sahaya as the Student Union officer who they know let the new people in through the fire exit, this is very lightly an empty threat but proves they’re upping the intimidation tactics.

lcc occ 1

How do you see the practical role of the occupation in the ongoing battle at the Elephant?

We’re here to put pressure on University of The Arts London (UAL) specifically due to their crucial role in the project’s ability to go ahead. As you know although Southwark Council requires that all housing developments comprise of a minimum of 35% affordable housing, half of which (17.5%) are to be social rents, only 3% of the planned housing in Delancey’s mixed-use development will be at ‘social rent equivalent’. This is a common loophole used in housing developments to avoid building the regulation amount of social housing is to partner up with institutions that are not technically for-profit, allowing the number of affordable homes the developer is required to build to be reduced.

In a meeting on 25th January between University of Arts London and Arts Students’ Union, Management confirmed that the new LCC campus is the lynch pin in the development allowing Delancey to exploit the social housing loophole. UAL has a reputation to maintain and by exposing management as complicit in social cleansing we hope that UAL realises the gravity of the situation and how many people are willing to fight to maintain the community that has been built around Elephant & Castle.

lcc occ 2


What has been LCC’s response to the occupation and what kind of dialogue would you like with LCC?


We’ve sent LCC our demands which are:
We demand UAL release a statement on its website by the end of today (Jan 28th) which states that UAL:

commits to only accepting a plan that provides for majority social housing, in not just elephant and castle but any future development plan it’s a part of.

should use its role in any development plan to ensure genuine transparency, accountability and involvement of the community that lives and works where the development is going to take place.

We believe LCC’s response which arrived late on Friday to be totally unsatisfactory. They detailed that ‘the University has been meeting with local councilors and working with Delancey to seek a solution to the concerns about the development they have raised including at the planning hearing and that process is ongoing.” Another aspect of our dialogue is that LCC have tried to pass on responsibility for the decision making process to Southwark Council, saying they ‘expect Southwark Council to ensure adequate levels of social housing…. and we cannot… stipulate how and where the Council will deliver this provision“.

lcc occ 3

 

What are practical ways can people support the occupation? Has it been possible for outside support to come?

People can like and share our posts on Facebook facebook.com/StopTheElephantDevelopment, follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/OccupyElephant and instagram.com/stoptheelephantdevelopment  members of the community and students and staff at UAL can fill out our survey here: goo.gl/forms/29M8IqSSwkPgj0qF2.

As we’ve covered we’re having difficulties getting people into the actual occupation, but if we can get more people join us in the sit-in in the foyer outside the office, we always need more numbers.

We’re also having a campaign meeting and banner making session tomorrow Monday 29th Jan at 6pm at LCC, facebook event here: www.facebook.com/events/277895256073648/ .



What’s the occupation’s message for the Tues 30th Carnival?

We’re obviously doing what we can to mobilise students and have had extensive discussions about what we do on the 30th do we leave to join the protest and if so how?

We’re going to do everything we can to use the Monday and Tuesday to really engage UAL students, build lasting connections which we’ll hopefully be able to turn into a sustainable activist base and on talks, education and placard and banner making for the 30th.

We’re hoping that someone from the local campaigns would be up for coming and speaking again tomorrow at 6pm at campaign meeting we’re having that would be fantastic.
In solidarity,
The Occupation

 

They also did some great mainstream media stories:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/25/students-sit-in-university-social-cleaning-london-stop-elephant-castle

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/university-gentrification-ual-ucl-delancy-lendlease-acceptable-face-a8179816.html

IT’S NOT TOO LATE – The Aylesbury continues to resist. Support the Resisters!

Lots has been happening behind the scenes on the Aylesbury Estate since last time we wrote about it. The Aylesbury Leaseholder Action Group and their supporters have been working tirelessly preparing the objectors’ case to present at the second Public Inquiry on the Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) of a number of flats on the First Development Site (a section of the Aylesbury Estate), which will open next week, on Tuesday 9th January. 

As you might remember, in a landmark ruling the Secretary of State Sajid Javid had not confirmed the Compulsory Purchase Order for the First Development Site after the first public inquiry held in 2015. He wrote that a compelling case for the CPO had not been made by Southwark Council, on the grounds that the compulsory purchase would negatively impact protected groups such as the elderly, children and BME communities, and that the Council had failed on their Public Sector Equality Duty; and on the grounds that Southwark Council had not made enough efforts to negotiate with the leaseholders. Southwark Council contested the decision through, and after some to-ing and fro-ing within and outside the courts, it agreed to drop its judicial review if the Secretary of State held another inquiry, and so it was that a new public inquiry was ordered. It promises to be epic: starting on 9 January, it will run from Tuesday to Friday for three weeks.

As we said, a group of dedicated and determined objectors have been working day and night to put together a killer case against the order. A crowdfunding campaign was launched to pay for legal representation and this has allowed to pay for the help of a barrister to put the case together. It is not too late to contribute, and more funds are still needed: https://www.gofundme. com/aylesbury-the-right-to-a- community-2uefgf2s

gggg
The whole collection of documents put together by the objectors has been made available publicly here (http://ouraylesbury.org/cpo/) . It’s a lot of documents, and many of them are very technical: the Objector’s Statement is a long summary (http://ouraylesbury.org/cpo/ objectorsstatementofcaseNOV201 7.pdf) and David Bailey’s statement is a powerful testimony from a leaseholder and his family that sums up all the issues that the leaseholders are facing (http://ouraylesbury.org/cpo/ dbailey.pdf). The bundle also contains statements from academics and professional people, including that of a surveyor who has developed a refurbishment plan for the site: (http://ouraylesbury.org/cpo/ simonmorrowproof.pdf).

AYLESBURY CPO FIRST pic

The public inquiry is open to the public and anyone can attend. Come along to show your support to the leaseholders – the proceedings can be dry, but the impact of a full public gallery on the inspector will be much greater than rows of empty seats. Let’s show them we are watching them closely!

From Tuesday 9 – 26 January (but not on Mondays), 9:30 – 17:30, Southwark Council Offices in 160 Tooley Street, London Bridge SE1.

What Do We Mean When We Say ‘The Council’?

After many years of writing about Southwark Council and its policies and plans we thought it might be useful to say what we mean when we say ‘the Council’. That’s because with friends of ours working in the Council and with reports that Southwark Notes is often seen in passing on the computer screens of Southwark administrative workers, when we say ‘the Council’ we know that such a body is made up of more than those who lead and direct it’s regeneration policies.

When we say ‘the Council’ we know there are hundreds of Southwark workers who have nothing to do with making decisions to decant the Heygate or who aren’t making deals with housing associations to demolish the Aylesbury. We know there are hundreds of workers who have no say or part in the decision to approve planning applications for more luxury flats in The Elephant or Peckham or Rotherhithe. We know that all those workers are powerless in most ways to prevent the knock on effects of more and more expensive property as local private and business rents shoot ever skyward.

public_goverment_the_project_Southwark_Council

Like any workplace, the majority of people are working hard to enable them to pay the rent, to buy food, to buy stuff and to survive each month. They aren’t super well paid for this daily grind. Working for the Council can be stressful, alienating, total pressure as bureaucrats above, managers above, Cabinet members above seek to put into place Council policy and Council responses to what’s happening across the Borough. Part of this is the inevitable top-down bullshit of any workplace. We know enough Council workers in enough departments to know that decisions get passed down from managers that just seem stupid, ill thought through or arbitrary. That’s not to say there’s not excellent managers in the different Council department and services but to recognise that often for many workers they are simply doing the job they are told to do.

So when we write or say ‘the Council’ in regards to the ‘regeneration’ and gentrification of Southwark, we are not referring to some monolithic machine. We know there are loads of workers there who don’t agree with what’s happening in the realms of regeneration and think it’s ridiculous and wrong to pursue such social cleansing. We know there are loads of workers who actually live in either Council homes that could be affected by demolition and displacement or who live locally in private rented homes where the landlords are increasing the rents almost bi-annually. We know there are loads of Council workers who want their own children to be able to afford to rent or buy locally but who know that such an option is becoming more and more unlikely. We even know a few Council workers who moved out of the Borough as their wages could no longer cover local rents in Southwark!

 

TWEEDLEDUM & TWEEDLEDEE

For us Southwark Notes folks, and for all the other local campaigners against the disasters of this ‘regeneration’ regime, well, we have jobs and commitments too. Some of us have families that we care for, both locally and further afield. For the Council big-wigs, It might seem like we have nothing better to do than scrutinise them and try to hold them accountable for what they are and aren’t doing. Well, we are proud to say that very far from being ‘keyboard warriors’, we are active across many local societies and TRA’s, amenity and service groups, community centres as well as having deep and long term connections to where we live in Southwark. We do what we do, day in and day out because we love where we live and we love all those great people we work with. We say it all the time – we are not against change in Southwark out of some bloody mindedness. Our website has clearly stated from day one: ‘We don’t think it’s wrong to demand that a regeneration scheme enhances the quality of our lives. We don’t think it’s wrong to oppose gentrification. In this way it turns out that our negativity is really only a mask for our positive wish for all of us to live our lives free from those who pretend to act in our interests but are only ever about giving even more of what we’ve got away to those who already have too much!

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The local politics we all do is always much more in depth and dynamic than the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of Labour and LibDem arguments. We have probably zero faith in any of these political parties, if we ever did in the first place. For Labour, local campaigns are viewed as a pain in the ass that just won’t bow down to some supposed ‘mandate’ they have from an average of 35% turnout in ward elections. If it wasn’t for the Information Commissioners Office, the GLA or Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, they would happily continue to ignore the numerous scandals, outrages and arrogance that all we Southwark campaigns post online week by week.

For LibDems, we have no idea what they want as they have been a useless opposition to Heygate and Aylesbury estate clearances and local luxury property developments. Seeing as one of the most rapidly understood realities by Londoners in the last few years has been how local Council’s love-ins with private housing market has been a disaster for age-old communities, you would think they would be banging on about this a bit more aggressively. But strangely, no!

 

THERE’S NO JUSTICE BUT LUCKILY THERE IS JUST US

As we always say, it’s really up to us. By this we mean the local campaigns, the TRA’s, the local park supporters, the community centres, the volunteer groups, the pensioners groups, the youth clubs and so on to keep defending what we have and what we don’t want to give away to property developers. It’s up to us and we won’t be stopping anytime soon.

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So when we write or say ‘the Council’, we are saying it’s up to Council workers too to be part of this local opposition in whatever way you can. We reserve our contempt for those Cabinet Members, executive officers and Councillors who are the main engine of regeneration as it plays out locally. You know, the kind of Council representatives who seem all nice and caring in public (on the TV or in the newspapers) but when they come to the community they treat them with a contempt they themselves are mostly unable to see. Just ask Ledbury tenants right now for the difference in behaviour from the night of their delegation to the Town Hall when councilors acted like their saviours and how they are actually being treated by councilors and housing managers day to day.

Any road up, we’ve had a few titbits, rumours and the occasional leak* passed our way from Council workers and that’s been helpful. When this happens we are always grateful. But we mean more than just this. We mean that local Council workers in whatever capacity they can act, can be part of opposing phony regeneration schemes and the disastrous social cleansing policies of ‘the Council’. What this looks like on the ground, in Council offices, in Tooley St, on the street, in the unions or local party branches etc we just don’t know. We’re just hoping to reach out and tell you what we mean when we write or say ‘the Council’.

You can contact us at elephantnotes(at)yahoo.co.uk
Follow us on Twitter @SouthwarkNotes


 

 

Concrete Action is a platform to provide support for architecture and planning professionals and communities fighting for housing in London. They say ‘If you have access to information which you believe is being wrongfully withheld from the public, we are here for you. Whistle-blowing has a proud history of helping to create change! By speeding up the availability of information through direct action it creates pressure on the existing system – we are not against development in principle, but we want development for and with all residents of the city. If you have information the public ought to know, please get in touch. Do not send us information which has been obtained by criminal means, personal information about you or anyone else, or any other information which it would not be in the public interest to publish’.

See here for how.

concrete action

 

LEDBURY ESTATE: Community’s amazing fight for safe homes

Southwark Notes members have been following the rapid-changing news from Ledbury Estate, down on the Old Kent Rd for a while. We were happy to meet some residents back in July after they invited us for a chat. We also attended the residents delegation to the July Council meeting where they put forward their ten demands to Southwark. We wanted to write something about the amazing campaign they all been waging for safe and secure homes but pressing time never allowed us to put pen to paper!

Then, this week, the excellent Radical Housing Network has asked us to host this text about the ongoing  struggle at Ledbury which we are happy to do so. Here at Southwark Notes HQ we don’t have much faith in Labour but appreciate the energies and arguments of all those working with Ledbury residents in their campaign.

This week Ledbury residents demanded that Southwark Council’s Cabinet Member for a Housing and Deputy Leader Stephanie Cryan should resign. You can join that call here!

Support Ledbury residents:
ledburyactiongroup@gmail.com
Ledbury Action Group – @LedburyAction


LEDBURY ESTATE:
Community’s amazing fight for safe homes

Two months after Grenfell, 224 families in Southwark high-rises are preparing to be evacuated. No fire. Just the discovery that their blocks are completely unsafe.

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It was a 12th floor resident, in the wake of Grenfell, who raised the alarm about ‘compartmentation’. She sent pictures of the cracks in her walls direct to the Fire Brigade, sparking a chain of events which overturned the findings of all the council’s previous fire risk assessments and structural surveys. 24-hour fire wardens were put in place until the cracks could be sealed. But residents invited independent experts to continue investigating and this week the council finally confirmed their findings – that gas should never have been installed on the blocks. The independent surveyors also say it’s not possible now to make the structures safe but the council insists it will do so, and have costed this work at 100 million, apparently even before they have their own surveyors final report.

ledbury big cracks

A bombshell letter was delivered to tenants announcing that the blocks were the same as the Ronan Point blocks which collapsed killing 4 people 50 years ago; that the gas was going to be turned off immediately; and everyone moved out within weeks. Residents asked for a meeting with council leaders but they refused. They are on holiday.

For residents who feel angry, betrayed and abandoned it’s not hard to see the similarities with Grenfell. Another estate run down prior to ‘regeneration’. Residents continually reporting problems being fobbed off by contemptuous officials, and cracks literally papered over. Years of poorly managed work by subcontractors. Fire risk assessments that failed to deal with risks. And still the ingrained methods of disrespecting council tenants prevail.

A resident who asks about moving to a hotel is told haughtily that they can apply but they’ shouldn’t expect The Ritz’. Gas workers are instructed to break into people’s homes to cap their gas pipes without giving any notification.

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Council tenants have come to expect being treated badly. From Thatcher’s Right to Buy to the 2016 Housing & Planning Act, governments have attacked the ‘privilege’ of council housing for working class people and tried to force through privatisation, higher rents and less secure tenancies. Global speculators and developers made billions but for the rest of us, in private as well as public, there’s been rising rents, increased insecurity and homelessness, overcrowding and more substandard housing. A process for which Grenfell tower stands as testament.

The Tories have no interest in reversing this process but could this be a turning point for Labour? Southwark have been responding to some of the residents’ demands. They claim they want the estate to stay council and that leaseholders shouldn’t lose out. But they are also trying to manage residents’ expectations rather than defy the government’s spending or borrowing limits. They say they can’t afford to buy more flats immediately and that if they demolish they can’t afford to rebuild it as council housing. So tenants begin to weigh the risk of staying in dangerous blocks as preferable to moving into properties with vastly higher rents and losing their council tenancies, or moving out of their community altogether.

When the council refuses to guarantee tenants will be rehoused locally in good quality council homes it is creating an atmosphere of fear, setting people in competition with each other, and preying on feelings of powerlessness to make people accept anything for fear of losing everything.

 

ledbury mtg grass

So it comes down to the residents who are organizing themselves. On Sunday, after meeting on the green to draw up their demands, tenants marched to an empty new private development which has only 6% social housing. They do not believe the council cannot buy up these flats for council housing. They do not accept that the Government should not foot the bill. The residents are pointing the way and Labour in Southwark now have the opportunity to deliver.

by Grace Perry, Radical Housing Network

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ledbury west grove

Small and Further Heygate: Demolishing ‘Regeneration’ on Elmington Estate

Elmington Est Diagram New.jpg(Full size PDF of this graphic here)

Small and Further Heygate:
Demolishing ‘Regeneration’ on Elmington Estate, SE5           


346 Council Homes demolished

Seeing as the whole sorry tale of Southwark Council’s 20 year ‘regeneration’ of Elmington Estate is very long, we thought we would make it easier by summarising the most dastardly points in the above picture. Diehards can read the full 6000 words in a separate post here or print out it out as a PDF here. It is worth reading our fully illustrated nuts and bolts telling of the story all the way through as it shows, in detail, once again how long-term regeneration projects premised on demolition are really social cleansing schemes. The decant and re-housing processes are unjust and the Compulsory Purchase Order of leaseholders homes are legally punishing where no crime or wrong doing has been committed by those who were living on Elmington.

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Elmington Estate ‘regeneration’ Phase One demolitions of the Tower Blocks, 2005

The telling of this story is also interesting in that it’s told almost 100% from the Council’s own consultation and progress documents. If the Council’s own telling of their regeneration scheme shows how appalling it is, it’s saying a lot, no? Yet in the same documents they also insist that everything is good and dandy for all! What’s clear once more, just like on Heygate and Aylesbury Estate, is that such ‘regenerations’ always result in a net loss of much needed local council housing – here 346 homes! They always result in the chucking out from the immediate area of long-term council tenants even though the ‘regeneration’ is supposed to benefit precisely them.

Time and time again we see that such ‘regenerations’ always have long histories of tenants saying repeatedly in protests and meetings with the Council, ‘we want to stay in the local area as council tenants‘. They always receive promises that this will be the case but these are always broken somewhere down the line by the Council despite mealy mouthed public assurances that ‘regeneration’ will benefit all – local communities and incoming private buyers. This is never the case. We have to start viewing regeneration as premised on lies. Regeneration is a big lie and the schemes are impossible to deliver without lies. This has been our experience every time. This is crucial for any new campaign against ‘regeneration’ to grasp at the very beginning.

Nearly As Good As Sherlock Holmes!

The Elmington story is, as yet, little known which is why we’ve spent a long time piecing it together. It starts all rosy with new Council homes built in Phase 1 but by Phase Two and Three, ‘regeneration’ simply means demolition of council housing and any replacement social housing delivered being unaffordable – shared ownership or ‘affordable rent’. The Council on the hand publicly attacks ‘affordable rent’ (rents up to 80% of local private rents) but on the other hand allows Notting Hill Housing Trust to build ‘affordable rent’ homes as the policy compliant ‘affordable homes’ component of Phase Two. Such demolition then means a displacement of tenants to other parts of the Borough and the displacement of leaseholders through both low valuations and a vicious Compulsory Purchase process.

elmington green twoElmington Estate, the name of the game! Elmington Green, mostly private homes built on top of demolished council flats

In the long years since the ‘regeneration’ started, the fact that hundreds of council homes were demolished is brushed under the carpet as the Council reneges or fails to provide a Right of Return for many of the households who signed up to the ‘regeneration’ on the premise of a new Council Homes on site. Despite the staggering initial loss of 369 council homes, the Council ten years later describes the empty land as a ‘brownfield site‘ and hence ripe for flogging off to developers. Those former homes are now magically absent as if they never existed, those tenants moved off to somewhere and non-existent too.

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Although our long study of the highly dubious Elmington ‘regeneration’ sadly does not read as good as Sherlock Homes, there is something of a whodunnit about it. This is why we love to highlight once again this quote from Richard Livingstone, the (then) Southwark Cabinet Member for Housing in April 2015: ‘It is also worth noting that for every estate regeneration that has started since Labour took back control of the council (so this excludes Aylesbury and Heygate where the process started pre-2010) we have either retained the current stock or plan to increase the number of council homes’. This he said as the Phase Three Elmington demolitions and resulting loss of council homes were just about to start. Whodunnit indeed?

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Elmington Estate ‘regeneration’ Phase Three demolitions of the maisonette blocks, 2016

In an exchange on November 22 2016 with Leader of the Council Peter John about the current demolition of council homes, we were surprised as ever by his claims. After, we pointed out that 144 homes were being demolished on Elmington and that no council homes were part of the scheme to re-house those displaced, his answer was the usual ill-informed one: ‘Council tenants prioritised for re-housing in better accommodation. New social housing delivered at Elmington’. We then pointed out that if less non-council social rented homes were built for rehousing folks then it wasn’t much of a priority. If 113 council homes are demolished and only 62 social rented homes are built, that’s a little bit less than 55% replacement. So where is the right of return to the area they agreed to leave for the other 45% of the community? The discussion went cold when we pointed out these facts and asked where people would go. Peter John said he ‘didn’t know and will look into it’. Five months later, we are still waiting for an answer. Whodunnit Peter? Magnifying glass is in the post to you!