Tag Archives: walworth


The Siege of The Elephant:
A One-day Convergence
Saturday 17th November 2012

Saturday 17th November 11am – 5pm
Pembroke House
80 Tatum Street
London SE17 1QR


Southwark Notes Archive Group* are currently inviting folks to contribute to The Siege of the Elephant, a one-day convergence against the gentrification of Elephant and Castle (and the surrounding area). The event aims to bring together local communities, activists, campaign and amenity group members and traders, as well as academics, students, researchers and members of campaign groups involved in similar regeneration/gentrification struggles in other areas of London.

There are two ways to contribute:

1) by participating to the event itself, which will take place on  Saturday 17th November  in Walworth, South London

2) and/or by submitting material to be displayed on the day and to be added to our Gentrification Archive. Submissions to the archive will also be accepted on a rolling basis from the Siege onwards.

The Siege of the Elephant
The aim of the day is to share evidence and discuss alternatives in
relation to the gentrification of North Southwark and Elephant and
Castle. The day will be divided in two parts and each will consist of
three parallel workshops followed by plenary discussions. We ask invited
contributors like you to introduce themselves and make a 5 minute
presentation on relevant evidence, work and/or experiences, which can
then be opened up for response to those at the table.

How does gentrification work and what are its causes and effects in
Elephant and Castle?
The focus in these sessions will be on sharing evidence of:
1 – DISPLACEMENT: the displacement of existing communities (residential and commercial) and loss of public resources and amenities
2 – THE ROLE OF CONSULTATION: flaws with regeneration plans and the consultation processes (broken promises of re-housing, problems with top-down planning)
3 – THE SPIN OF REGENERATION: the role of PR and mass media narratives that support the Council’s and the developers own narratives around regeneration.

How can we resist or alter dynamics of gentrification?
Discussing and exploring knowledge and practical ways and means that propose alternatives to regeneration as gentrification and the accompanying Local Authorities / developers’ consultations:
1 – COUNTERING DISPLACEMENT: countering the displacement of existing communities and the loss of public resources (the discontents of ‘affordable’ housing)
2 – POLITICISING CONSULTATION: resistance to empty consultation and enacting forms of local decision-making
3 – PROPOSING ALTERNATIVES: countering existing narratives of ‘failure and progress’ and promoting
alternative visions

Lunch and tea will be provided, and there may well also be time for walking
around the Heygate Estate and the Better Elephant permanent exhibition.
A finalised programme will be distributed closer to the date.

Facilitation on the day
Time is precious, so we are asking people to be selective with their contributions. Each workshop will be facilitated towards keeping the debate accessible to all and to allow time for all to contribute. Those interested in presenting evidence are asked to liaise with the organizers beforehand.

Participation In The Event:
There is no formal registration process for this event. All you need to do is write to us at:

and we will contact you to confirm your participation and what you may be able to bring to this event – evidence, materials, facilitation skills etc.

Travel costs
We are unable to cover travel costs for all participants, but if you are
interested in coming from far and wide, do get in touch and we will
strive to contribute something from our small budget.

Contributions to Southwark Notes Gentrification Archive
We also want to use the event to expand Southwark Notes Gentrification Archive. This open-access archive attempts to hold a record of anti-gentrification struggle for the past 15 years in the North Southwark area. We are archiving books, newspaper cuttings, council brochures and academic publications on the local area as well as the local and global gentrification struggles. Let us know if you can provide us with copies of relevant work or material or if you have suggestions for work we should obtain for the archive. Material can be submitted in any format. If in digital format, we will try to print a hard copy on the day.

After the event
The evidence and discussions of the day will be compiled and a concise summary will be published and distributed for free as a small Southwark Notes pamphlet as well as online, and will include a thematic bibliography of recent research and publications.


*Southwark Notes Archive Group run this popular anti-gentrification blog Southwark Notes that offers news, analysis and little stabs at the
gentrification of the area: https://southwarknotes.wordpress.com We have also been organising regular anti-gentrification walks, printing postcards, posters, maps and comics, and keeping active on within various groups and campaigns in the ongoing struggle whilst keeping an eye on the history (the mistakes and successes) and the big picture (globalisation, financialisation and all that!). We also maintain all this stuff and news and history in an archive within 56a Infoshop, the local Walworth self-managed community space.

(Not) Coming Soon! Walworth Rd ‘vibrant arts quarter’!

Southwark Notes Cultural Front is acting as curator for this. Late submissions, pop-up projects and performances still sought for this exciting new arts festival! Theme is: Who is the public? How is a culture made and who is it for?

Mail us for details! Please forward to creative types. Website goes live November 5th.


Culture is never neutral!


Council Is Boring on Heygate Again: Pointless Sealing Up of Walkways

Last week the Council contractors finished a week of totally pointless and presumably expensive activity on the Heygate Estate following their already vindictive and pointless attempts to remove the Heygate Community Gardens mural. A team of welders and sealer-uppers closed off the numerous walkways that people use to walk around, enjoy, have fun on, take pics from and leap off of in this as yet still piece of publicly-owned land. We have taken the pictures above from Alice C Macchi’s blog with thanks to her. As someone who enjoys running and leaping from walls on the estate, she points out in her piece that anyone who seeks to gain entry to estate for the wrong reasons will do so:

If you have a reason to be at the Heygate, putting up a barrier won’t deter you. If you have no reason to be there, it is likely that you will not be there anyway. These barriers are totally pointless. If anything they are more dangerous than safe. Usually a way in is also a way out. These barriers now block most exits and in case of danger or need there is no quick escape route. Why has council put these up before the entire estate is closed off is completely beyond me.

So these new barriers to the land are only really about slowly increasing the keeping out all the people who currently want to walk in sun and snow around the place, see the 450 trees and the mostly empty buildings, visit friends and picnic there, tend their vegetables and so on. All of those people who are never ever asked whether they actually want large welded barriers put in their way, the decision being made in some office entirely unaccountably (again).

We wonder at what level in the Council offices this waste of money and time was sanctioned?  For all the agreement and head nodding it has done over the last two years with local people who have sought to get them to realise how great the open space and old buildings are for temporary community uses, the Council seems intent on actually thwarting all the amazing things people are doing in the estate for themselves as part of the desire to provide amazing things for all.

What is particularly pathetic is that the welding shut of the walkways comes only a fortnight after the highly successful and fun for local kids Release The Wolves event where they went tearing around the Heygate walkways in mad self-souped up customised Go Karts! And this was sanctioned by the Council in the first place! Not only was the event fun fun fun, the old grey pre-cast concrete slabs of Heygate were given a right going over with colourful paintings! Simple question: Would you prefer the Heygate to walled off for years and to stand as a big grey lump or would you prefer to keep it lively and colourful?

Here‘s a link to the new somewhat bonkers paintwork up in Heygate!

UPDATE: 19th Sept
The Council released a statement today on their website stating that the blocking of the walkways is preparation for the demolition and also because of ‘a range of health and safety issues‘ (of course!). Needless to say no demolition can begin until the final leaseholders have moved off, this whole process subject to the recent CPO served and its legal challenges.

Lend Lease Monster Outline Planning Application – Responses and Objections

We try not to duplicate stories and responses to regeneration plans in The Elephant area that are put up on other local websites but it’s very useful to point in their direction.  So, here, we will share some links with you to the fantastic and detailed personal and community objections to the Lend Lease Outline Planning Application which is due to be heard before the Council later in the year. That’s the planning app for the knocking down of the Heygate Site and for the ‘regeneration’ of a massive chunk of the northern end of Walworth Rd across to New Kent Rd. With no real commitment to replacing the now empty 1100 Heygate Estate homes with genuine affordable housing, this Masterplan is seriously rubbish as it seeks to pile on loads of private homes on that essential close-to-the-Tube Zone 1 property developers dream site. Not to mention the unaccounted effects that increasing the local population by thousands will have on on local schools, transport, doctors and so on.

Wally Rd – From independent shops to chains?

It’s also true that once those who can pay £500,000 for a two bed apartment come in droves to the area, then the Starbucks, Pizza Express and Wagamama chains will arrive close behind and push out the local independent cafes and stores as the landlords see they can make a killing on rent increases. Then Walworth Rd will look and feel like any other boring chain-filled high street and not the diverse and fantastic place it has been for donkey’s years.

• Lend Lease Outline Planning Application objections and responses:

Elephant Amenity Network response
Peoples Republic of Southwark response
Richard Lee personal response (PDF)
Adrian Glasspool personal response (PDF)
Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations and Local TRA’s (PDF)
Southwark Living Streets (PDF)

The Outline Planning Application can be seen here. Warning! It’s made up of 191 documents and so is this almost impossible to comment on unless you have loads of time on your hands and an encyclopaedic brain and a big pencil. But I guess that’s the point really.

You can object to it in a much simpler form by visiting the Elephant 35% Campaign site here and using their online objection form. Their summarised objections are as follows:  “…that the development proposes no affordable housing and no renewable energy generation. The council’s planning policy states clearly that the development should contain a minimum of 35% affordable housing and at least 20% on-site renewable energy provision. I also object to the loss of the large number of mature trees on the site, the high number of parking spaces and the failure to provide essential cycle-route and public transport infrastructure. Finally, I object to the privatisation of the public realm on the site and loss of community facilities.”

Demolition-A-Go-Go: Take Your Pick!

We noticed two notices side by side in the window of the Lend Lease / Soundings The Hub on Walworth Rd today. That’s the place where some kind of supposed ‘consultation’ on what local people want happens but in the main it’s a place where the developers tell you what they are going to do. The two notices are as follows:

1) Save Manor Place terrace,  a campaigning leaflet from the Walworth Society seeking to save the 1875 Victorian buildings on Manor Place, Walworth from demolition – ‘some of the last remaining Victorian buildings constructed on the site of the Royal Surrey Gardens‘. Details here and here:

2) Southwark Council notice of Outline Application for the ‘demolition of all existing structures and bridges and redevelopment to provide a mixed-use development comprising of a number of buildings…between 2300 (min) and 2462 (max) residential units... at ‘the Heygate Estate and the surrounding land bound by New Kent Rd, Rodney Place and Rodney Rd,  Wansey St, Walworth  Rd and Elephant Rd“. Details here:

Nice to see Lend Lease and Soundings supporting moves to stop the trashing of the Walworth by developers.

You get me? *-)

Update: July 12th – both Manor Place leaflets now not in the window.

Elephant Leisure Centre Consultation Made Even Simpler

Elephant Leisure Centre Consultation Made Simple

Southwark Notes is always happy to try and simplify matters regarding the long and complex and endless consultations, supplementary planning papers, core strategy reviews, almost final-ish masterplans and so on that make up regeneration comings and goings. So here we present a quick consultation on the current plans for the Elephant & Castle’s Leisure Centre:

1) Do you want a smaller leisure centre with a 36 storey tower block of private flats in front of it with zero affordable housing in it AT THE ELEPHANT?
Answer: Yes / No

The planned new mega-tower block at The Elephant

We’ve devised our easy consultation from weeks of intensive research and asking some people consultants down the pub. This also seems to to be The Question That Was Never Asked during all the LendLease & Soundings consultations even though it’s the most obvious one to start off with. Instead we are asked what kind of architectural details are important in new buildings and what kind of retail do we want and so on. But what about the question above – how many local people would say yes to that?!

Councillor Fiona Colley,  Southwark cabinet member for regeneration, typically says hereFor anyone thinking of moving to Elephant and Castle, or those who already live in this buzzing part of central London, this will be welcome news….It’s easy to see how an enjoyable city lifestyle could be further enhanced by superb leisure facilities, as well as new shopping and recreation opportunities. I’m anticipating lots of interest and welcome people’s feedback on what promises to be an exciting project.”

Apart from committing the cardinal sin of using the adjective ‘buzz’ as if we are all in thrall to such nonsensical regeneration speak, she forgets (because she most know this) that most of us are not enjoying a city lifestyle here nor would we wanna be. What is an ‘enjoyable city lifestyle‘ anyway? Have you got your ‘lifestyle‘ sorted? Answers on a postcard as usual to our Southwark Notes cave!

You can read our three in-depth articles about how the new reduced Leisure Centre is coming about here:
• Leisure Centre: Why Have More When You Can Have Less

• Southwark Notes asks 1 More Basic Question On A Rip-Off In Progress

• Soundings: Sounding Us Out!

‘Poverty of Process’ – Local People respond to the Elephant Final Masterplan

Just worth putting a quick link to the Better Elephant’s website where they made our task a whole lot easier by listing a lot of the local community’s responses to the exhibition of the Lend Lease Final Masterplan for the Elephant area. You can see for yourself the concerns over lack of affordable housing, green issues, access to once public land, sustainability and on what is being called ‘the poverty of process‘ for the whole LL schemes in our area whereby ‘the exhibition largely restricted itself to colourful bite-size displays and non-specific statements. A huge amount of new material will suddenly emerge with the planning application, which could and should have been covered in the public exhibition. Local residents have had no opportunity to input into these documents, there have been no panels, no cooperative survey work, no sharing of frameworks, let alone a collaborative approach to the production of documents’.

There is a great frustrated point made by local tenant Richard Lee:

I decided there was little point in providing another detailed submission. 90% of the comments I made in July 2011 (exhibition 1) and October 2011 (exhibition 2) have not been responded to at all, let alone realised in terms of any significant changes to the masterplan. My 1st contact with Soundings was to ask whether they thought the principles of neighbourhood planning and the Localism Act were relevant to their work at the Elephant and Castle. I never received an answer.

You can have as many liaison meetings and forums and feedback forms and nicey-nicey community consultants smiling at you through your pain as you like but at the end of the day, none of this is truly impartial or truly sitting down and working with what people are telling you they like and don’t like. When community dislike comes up against the profit margin which one is gonna win?

Read the Comments on the Final Masterplan here.


Top Trumps is a card game. Each card contains a list of numerical data, and the aim of the game is to compare these values in order to try to trump and win an opponent’s card. A wide variety of different packs of Top Trumps have been published. Enjoy our first eight cards. Keep ’em peeled!

* PS We encourage other parts of the world to prepare their own sets of Gentrification Top Trumps. Mail us here if you do!! Nice!


UPDATED: Nov 12th 2011: Regular readers of this website will know that we have a particular loathing for property developer Oakmayne who have been throwing up buildings in the local area for quite a while now (see Appendix below). Even though we have no love for LendLease, at least they try to pretend that it is interested in what local people say and want. Oakmayne’s history in the North Southwark area is really at the other end of the scale – arrogant, crass but omnipotent! Their large site on New Kent Rd and Elephant Rd has been subject to lots of delays over the years but now the plans are out there, the brochures are being emailed out to interested persons and the hype is on. Here we have two towers of flats, one tower of student housing, four restaurants, a Sainsbury, a digital cinema and a small market place outside.

Comprised of 243 student rooms, 146 one-bedroom flats, 190 two-bedroom flats and only 37 three-bedroom flats, the starting price is £299,990 for a one bedroom. There are no socially rented flats in the development. Even the annual service charge on a one-bedroom flat works out at about £57 per week! Simple question: Where you ever asked anything about this development?

1 Bedroom Apartment from £299,900
2 Bedroom Apartment from £375,900
3 Bedroom Penthouse from £860,000

Projected Rental Return:
1 bed £355 – £425 pw
2 bed £435 – £535 pw
3 bed £720 – £950 pw

Estimated South Tower Service Charge
1 bed £2,040 – £3,000 pa
2 bed £2,550 – £3,270 pa
3 bed £3,610 – £4,500 pa


Oakmayne’s dimwitted rebranding of what had been called Oakmayne Plaza as ‘Tribeca Square, New London’ seems stupid on many counts. Tribeca is famous for being a posh district in New York, not London. Why would a part of London need to be called Tribeca? So if it’s New London, why is named after something in New York? If they want to have some of the cachet of Tribeca rub off on The Elephant then they should go and visit Tribeca and see that it is made up of ex-industrial and warehousing buildings from the period 1860 to 1920’s that are historically worthy of saving. But Tribeca Square is made up of three bland new build towers with some retail at the base and a piddly market at the side, all of which will probably be pulled down by the year 2040 and replaced by something equally as demolishable. But if you look at it from Oakmayne’s point of view than you realise that calling the development The New Elephant is not going to attract many buyers. So maybe it’s a crass but shrewd move?


When you read the brochure for Tribeca Square, you see that it is primarily aimed at global investors who are looking for good returns on properties worldwide but especially in the UK where the pound is weak against other currencies. These are the investors who are flicking through the same kind of brochures and attending property launches in swanky hotels for new developments in Sydney, Vancouver, Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro or any city where development is being given a free reign. You can see Tribeca Square being marketed in this way here for investors in Hong Kong.  The article text is copied straight out of the Tribeca Sq brochure. The launch was at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental 5-star hotel from November 4- 6th, £500 pound a night for a single room. It was launched here in Singapore for investors on 28th, 29th & 30th October at The Hilton Hotel. You can see a Chinese newspaper blurb here too. Some pics from Singapore:

Oakmayne doesn’t even try to be candid about the fact that they are building over-expensive housing for investment and profit making rather than for Londoners who need homes . They don’t care who actually buys them, or even if anyone who buys one will actually live in them, as long as they are sold. It’s this openness on display when they write:

‘Recent research by CBRE has shown that above and beyond normal market growth, house prices in regeneration zones have been found to have an annualised 4.9% growth rate over the period of regeneration…Residential prices in central London have risen since March 2009, and residential property in the capital continues to be seen as a safe, stable and lucrative long term investment by investors from around the world. Whilst domestic buyers are happy to purchase a product that may need refurbishment, rental tenants and overseas buyers tend to want a high quality finished product. The lettings market remains buoyant (sic), helped by an influx of tenants from continental Europe…Elephant & Castle, with its Zone 1 location right in the heart of central London, currently remains undervalued in relation to the districts that surround it, an indication that an investment now will have benefits in the future. With its mixture of iconic new buildings, historic Victorian buildings, quiet side streets and local parks, Elephant & Castle has a cosmopolitan and city-centre ambience. The retail and leisure hub of Elephant & Castle is undergoing planned regeneration which, along with planned transport improvements, should help to further lift residential values…Elephant & Castle and the other inner London districts have always demonstrated sustained growth in prices and values over an extended period of several decades. With its high population density forecast to increase, London benefits from demand outstripping housing supply. Pricing should be further protected by restrictive planning procedures…Inner London will continue to remain a hotspot for international investment and the capital continues to lead the UK as the main centre for job creation, financial trading, legal advisory, consultancy businesses, inward investment and corporate expansion. All these factors will help to ensure that the local housing market remains sustainable and for the right high quality product there will continue to be an upward pressure on residential prices…There are many reasons why investors from abroad find the UK property market so attractive, but one of the most important is tax. UK regulations treat overseas landlords generously, and recent changes to the law have made the tax climate even more liberal’

Doesn’t really seem to say much about enjoying your new home but says a lot about global investors property portfolio’s. Recent housing activity in The Elephant area reported that ‘30% of flats in new development at corner of New Kent Road & Harper Road were sold in Singapore‘. Get the global picture yet?

These London property market reports prepared by global property consultancy King Sturge make fascinating reading especially if you like to read from the point of view of the rich and how the rich stay rich: ‘Several key themes are likely to mean that both sales and lettings markets in Prime Central London remain vibrant and active during 2011.The flight to quality, the safe-haven benefits, the immunity from austerity measures and the funding advantages of the rich and super-rich are all likely to mean that demand at the top end of the London residential sales market remains strong this year despite a more dour mood elsewhere in the country’.

Download some of their reports here, here and here! Enjoy, as we say!

Also this:‘ King Sturge has sold 1500 homes in London to buyers, mostly in Asia, on 28 developments in the year to March worth some £500 million. To put that into context, Knight Frank says the total sales to Asian buyers in the same period was £761 million…Simple arithmetic will tell you that King Sturge’s average sale price of £333,000 won’t buy you a broom cupboard on Bankside. But Tim Wright, who heads the sales teams based in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Singapore, says that the market has always been there for midpriced flats bought unseen and off-plan at roadshows in Asia…These markets, especially where there is a historic link to the UK, can be treated as subsidiary to the home market. London is a leader not only in commerce but also education. The city is seen as a safe haven for overseas buyers to purchase a pied-à-terre — or for their children to use whilst gaining higher education.’


When Oakmayne trumpets New London the New London they are trumpeting is the very same London that has been trundling along with a few people doing alright and a load more people struggling. It’s not hard to see the inequalities of London these days. Everyday it gets more apparent. Southwark Notes noticed a few people camping out in Burgess Park the other day (before the hoardings went up). New York, as well as being similar to London in being a capital of the finance industries and crazed property speculation, has a similar trajectory of the wealthy being enticed back into the inner city once it had been made ‘safe’ with a brutal displacement of local working class communities and a State / Police policy of harassment of the homeless population that was so violent that thousands of the homeless people had no choice but to flee to outside the NYC area.

The history of Tribeca in New York is similar to places such as Hoxton and Spitalfields and Covent Garden in London. Once a ’gritty, light-industrial corner of Manhattan’s lower West Side’ its gentrification began in the 1970’s when the nearby rents in SoHo area went through the roof. The artists who had first opened up SoHo as a new hip quarter of town were soon priced out and moved to Tribeca which then underwent a similar cycle of eviction and displacement, the catchy new moniker TriBeCa (or, Triangle Below Canal Street) only being invented as a good sounding name for estate agents to pitch the area with. Since the 1980s, large scale development and conversion of the area has transformed it into a super-upscale residential area Tribeca now bring one of America’s most fashionable and desirable neighborhoods and known for its celebrity residents and its 10013 zip code being New York City’s most expensive. The unprecedented feeding real estate frenzy in Tribeca in the late 80’s and 90’s has been likened to “truffle pigs” following “the law of the market”. Why we could ask would The Elephant & Castle need something such as this?


Homelessness exists not because the system is not working but because this is the way it works
Peter Marcuse

You could just as well substitute the word ‘poverty’ for ‘homelessness’ and the equation would be just as sharp and precise. If we focus in on Southwark and look at the housing waiting lists we can see that there are 1000’s of people who need housing. These are people who need a place to live and are waiting to be housed in public housing. We can assume that most of these people are either working poor or unemployed and we can presume that many of these people work in low-wage jobs such as retail, security, delivery, cleaning, office work and so on. They will never be eligible for what is laughably known as ‘affordable’ housing or even the new buzzword ‘intermediate‘ housing. An estimated 866,000 households in Britain fall between public housing availability and private rented affordability. What they need is cheap and quality public housing. The question remains: why are houses not being provided for these members of our local society?

It’s simple really. In this present day and age, housing means big money for those in the housing industry from investors to developers to construction firms to insurance companies to estate agents. But housing is a social resource like our parks, libraries, health centres and so on. You could even say that decent cheap housing is a ‘social wealth’. Housing and house-building for all is not something that should be left solely in the hands of the private sector or free-market because money-making will always override the common sense that everyone needs a home and not just those who can afford expensive places outright or those who are fleeced by paying £300,000 for a single bedroom flat in a crappily built new development. The housing free market is never really a pure one anyhow but is heavily subsided with public money from taxpayers pockets and handbags through numerous Single Regeneration Budgets, Homes and Community Agency payments, tax breaks and incentives, regeneration zones, New Deal for Communities etc. All of these helping hand-outs have played a part in the destruction and loss of public homes in The Elephant and Walworth area.


Have you ever thought that regeneration of an area increases the amount of local homelessness? With all those new developments in The Elephant, Bermondsey, The Borough and so on, that has to be good, no? Well, you might see new flats going up but the cost is an increase in homelessness through loss of public housing and public land where new housing could be built for poorer people, loss of local affordable rented flats, loss of vital family housing, loss of local networks of employment and advice and community wisdom all of which are how poorer people house themselves. Not only does displacement from an area displace the immediate folks and families from where they were living, it also has a knock on effect of displacing the future sons and daughters of those people.

If we look at the recent removal of Heygate tenants, those tenants did not disappear into thin air! Through the demolition of the estate 1000+ units of public housing were lost. That’s 1000+ less available flats for those on the waiting list. The decant process also means that tenants were taken out from existing council flats and moved into other already existing council flats. That’s a lot of households that needed to be found within the Southwark Council housing stock placing further pressure on availability for those on the waiting list. Worth noting again here that the LendLease plans for regeneration of The Heygate site are talking about only 13.5% of all the new flats being for social rent as opposed to 100% of the original Heygate Estate.

Peter Marcuse, the writer on housing who we quoted above, writes a lot of good stuff about displacement. He has analysed how homelessness is created and broken it down into three inter-related ways:

1) The Profit Structure of Housing which means homes are built for the profits of developers and not to satisfy desperate housing need. In London there is an absolute crisis in housing whereby thousands of people need cheap and secure and good quality homes but their needs are not being taken seriously. Instead the profits of developers or investors (and this includes those who buy Council Homes to let them out to private tenants at inflated prices) are first and foremost what seems important.

2) Income inequality in society. The gap between poor income and rich income has never been greater.

3) Government policies on housing, work, finance etc. Politicians in the U.K (and elsewhere, of course) still believe that an economy run on the back of an unsustainable overpriced housing bubble and massive levels of personal debt is still a good way to run the country despite the crisis from 2007 to the present day in the housing sector.


Let’s take the above three notions and dig into some statistics from Shelter, the housing charity who maintains its own databank that it sources from Government statistics.

PUBLIC HOUSING LOSSES: Locally, from 2000 to 2010, 6115 Council homes were bought through the Right To Buy scheme and removed from the public housing availability. In the same decade approx 1000 households per year joined the Southwark Housing Waiting list, the total number on the list reaching a current high point of almost 11,000. It’s worth pointing out that the figure of 11,000 households does not mean 11,000 people are waiting but means that 11,000 people and in many cases their family and dependents are also waiting for homes. See this article here for the figure of close to 20,000 people on the waiting list: ‘More than 19,000 applicants are on the current list, which has risen by more than 2,000 in 12 months…Southwark is the biggest local authority landlord in London but still has a desperate shortage of homes to let…The rise in the number of people on the list is thought to be due in part to the high cost of homes in the capital and increased rents in the private sector‘.

NEW BUILDS and WEALTH: In the same period 5470 ‘affordable’ homes were built across the Borough although this has not in anyway impacted on or diminished the massive Council waiting list suggesting that ‘affordable’ housing is not an option for most on the list. In the same period again house price to income ratio has nearly doubled in the Borough and the average selling price of a home in Southwark has quadrupled. Again from 2000 to 2010 average incomes on Southwark have rocketed as a result of the new middle class residentials in the area. It’s not that poor people are earning any more money that makes the statistics high, its that the new wealthy people in the area skew the stats upwards.

One final addition worth adding is that the figure for empty homes in Southwark now stands at 3367 dwellings.


We will make the same point again as we have done so many times before on this website – that the term public housing has been subject to spin and demonisation as it presents too close a real picture to what it really is – Housing for all. Instead the term ‘Council Housing’ or ‘Social Housing’ has been used politically to replace the good term ‘Public Housing’. This change has been used to portray council tenancies and council tenants as the bottom of the housing pile. It’s been used as a stigma to undermine the value and sense of public housing for all with council estates being made to see like criminal wastelands that everybody can’t wait to escape from.

Some of us were living on an estate in Walworth Estate in the early 1990’s and we were cheek by jowl with council tenants who ranged from cleaners, doctors, musicians, bank clerks, electricians, therapists, delivery drivers, yoga teachers, unemployed people, gardeners, post men and women and so on. It was only as a result of attacks on the idea of public housing with the introduction of the Right To Buy that this was slowly eroded. Spurred on by the super discount available for long term tenants many people bought their own house and then either sold up at super profit (some of our neighbours bought for £23,000, sold for £169,000 and moved out to a new place) or people got second mortgages on the old place and then bought a new place, leaving the old place as a nice money earning Buy-To-Let (£150 per week!! or more). The old mixed community was then shattered as the Estate became and more about private housing – the TRA was taken over by middle class people whose main concern was their house prices, hence their main concerns were with rubbish, noise, crime, teenagers and getting the Council to enforce penalties on offenders. They weren’t at all interested in the stories or reasons why rubbish, noise, crime or teenagers might be issues or problems or even in how a local community might act to deal with these things themselves.

We have two stories that are becoming a bit like our party stories (you can see how fun we are at parties!) that seem to sum up the changes on this estate which by this time had become over 50% private flats. Our first anecdote concerns the last time we felt like we could attend and stomach a Tenants and Residents Association meeting. It was during the Heygate Estate decant and some new build ‘affordable’ housing was being built near the Estate. At the meeting one of the new private housing TRA people asked with some fear and loathing ‘If people form the Heygate would be offered some of the new HA flats across the road’. Aside from the disgusting ignorance, it is as if it had never struck them that they themselves were living on a council estate despite the fact that they had a leasehold property within it. It was and still is a Council Estate. Our other experience from the same TRA meeting was the hysteria around people putting rubbish out on the wrong days. Things like chairs, tables, lamps, rugs, TV’s and bags of rubbish were appearing on the estate but not on collection days. As long term tenants we knew that this had always been the case and also as folks who enjoyed taking or giving the old piece to the street on the wrong day, we knew that some people’s rubbish is another person’s free table and chairs or free collection of music magazines or free dvd player. We call this a Rubbish Economy although it’s different and better that the more general rubbish economy of the UK (Boom Boom)! Any how, our point is, some things more wealthy people just can’t understand. For them it’s all about the sanctity and value of their house, their investment, their asset, or their other rentable property.

Even though Southwark Notes is highly critical of Southwark Council and it’s dubious role in the disastrous regeneration and gentrification of the local area, we are still proud to be council tenants and know that on the incomes we earn we could never afford a good a place as our council flats. Not only that, we enjoy living on our estate as many people there seem more concerned with estate life as it is, how it works and how people live together and what can be done together. This is not to say that all housing should be public housing but to say that many more options exist to house people than overpriced and badly built new builds. We just seem to have entered an age where people have forgotten why decent homes for all is a worthwhile and common sense approach to housing.

So you could say that there is a certain obscenity to building a one bedroom flat in The Elephant and selling it for £299,000 when the area itself is one of the most deprived in London. That’s £540+ per sq foot for your one bedroom flat! It’s certain not taking seriously the underlying problems of the area. There is no real believable argument that increasing the tax base of the local area will advantage local people in the dim distant end as we know that trickle down economics do not shower the poor with cash and opportunity (especially when they have already been chucked out of the area).

Our favourite line from the Oakmayne Tribeca Square brochure is this one that underlines what we said above: ‘With its high population density forecast to increase, London benefits from demand outstripping housing supply’. Basically you can translate this as loads of people need housing but there isn’t enough so if you own some 1, 2 ,3 or penthouse flats you can charge a fortune. Benefits for the lucky few. What price housing? What price homelessness? The madness continues…

Appendix: Oakmayne developments in Southwark so far:

1993  Leathermarket Court, SE1 (91 housing units)
1997: 32-34 Borough High St, SE1 (10 housing units)
1998: Horseshoe Wharf, Bankside SE1 (?)
2002: Telephone Exchange, Liverpool Grove, SE17  (14 housing units)
2002: Winchester Wharf, Bankside (?)
2003: Victor Wharf, Borough
2004: Tennis Court, Bankside (12 housing units, one office)
2004: Winchester Stables , Bankside (7 housing units, one office)
2005: Disney Place, Borough (14 housing units, 3 offices)
2005: Wireworks, Borough (?)
2005: South Central East Walworth, (93 housing units 7 commercial)
2007: O-Central Walworth 2007  (188 housing units, 14 commercial)