Southwark’s Shame

Last June I wrote a post The Scandal of London’s Largest Ghost, accompanying my panoramas of the deserted Heygate estate at the Elephant and Castle, a well-designed 1970s estate with years of useful life remaining – and which a council commissioned survey had concluded was not a ‘failing estate’ but nevertheless they decided to demolish it.  It was a decision based on finance – getting the debt off the council books and making millions for the developers – but the financial crisis has stalled the process. It is shameful that a Labour council should be essentially selling off publicly owned assets for private gain, but even more shameful that when London has its worst housing crisis ever that some 1300 homes in a prime location in the inner city should be left empty since the residents were ‘decanted’ in 2008, four years ago.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Community garden created on the Heygate estate, April 2012

Many of those residents were also shamefully treated. The council had a policy in recent years of using short term contracts for lettings, enabling them to disclaim responsibility for re-housing many of those who lived there; others were given little choice but to move to developments outside the area. Those who had bought the leasehold of their properties were also shabbily treated, often being pressured into accepting a fraction of the true market value of their properties.

In Walking the Rip-Off – Heygate & Aylesbury you can read more about what has happened on the Heygate estate and what is now happening on the nearby and much larger Aylesbury estate with some pictures (including a few panoramas) that I took during a walk around the two estates with some of the very few remaining residents of Heygate and tenants from the Aylesbury estate.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
A garden on the Heygate estate, April 2012

One of great strengths of Heygate is its green spaces, and some of these are now being gardened by remaining residents, former residents and other supporters, and were one of the things I focussed on. It is unfortunate for their cause that a few residents are unhappy about being photographed, although most were  welcoming.

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Taplow on the Aylesbury Estate, April 2012

© 2012, Peter Marshall
Carpenters Estate, April 2012

Of course, Southwark isn’t the only council acting shamefully towards its tenants and those in need of housing. On the Facebook site of CARP! you can read about Newham’s similar treatment of the Carpenters  Estate next to the Olympic site. It’s worth looking at an Open University video which looks at this and the Excalibur Estate in Lewisham which I photographed in the 1990s and in 2010 in Excalibur Estate.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Excalibur Estate, Catford, 2010

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My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated are by Peter Marshall and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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