Posts Tagged ‘Central Hill Estate’

Central Hill, Brian Haw & Al Quds

Saturday, June 18th, 2022

Central Hill, Brian Haw & Al Quds. 18th June 2017 was a Sunday, and though I now prefer to observe Sunday as a day of rest, five years ago it was for me another working day. Since the lockdown I get tired much more quickly and I’m cutting down a bit on work. Today I’ll probably go for a walk with my wife after lunch, stopping off on the way home to sit and eat an ice cream before picking more strawberries from the garden and relaxing a little before dinner.

But back in 2017 I was making good use of a Travelcard, going first to the Central Hill Estate which looks down over London close to Crystal Palace then travelling to Westminster to remember Brian Haw before taking the tube up to Oxford Circus and walking to the BBC to join marchers gathering for the annual Al Quds march.


Ted Knight speaks for Central Hill – Central Hill Estate

Central Hill, Brian Haw & Al Quds
A woman comes to talk to me about living on the estate since it was built

I deliberately arrived very early at Central Hill so I could take a walk around and make more pictures of one of London’s finest council estates, but almost missed the start of the talk I had come to hear opposing Lambeth Council’s plans for its demolition as I spent some time talking with a woman who had seen me taking pictures who was still living in the home she had moved into when the estate was built and had raised her family here. She told me how good it had been living here in a fine home that was still in good condition and had never needed any major repairs.

Central Hill, Brian Haw & Al Quds

Ted Knight, former leader of Lambeth Council, had come to speak in support of the campaign to save the Estate, passed for demolition by the council despite the almost unanimous vote of residents for plans to refurbish rather than demolish and the plans by Architects for Social Housing which would achieve the increase in density desired without demolition.

Central Hill, Brian Haw & Al Quds

Knight as council leader earned the name ‘Red Ted’ from the gutter press for standing up to the Tory Government’s rate-capping 1984 Rent Act which severely limited the spending of local councils – which eventually led to him and 31 other councillors being surcharged and banned from political office for five years in 1986. He remained an active trade unionist and in the Labour Party and when he spoke was Branch Chair of the Gypsy Hill ward which includes Central Hill. Although his politics and mine were not entirely the same, I was sad to hear of his death in 2020.

As Knight said, under borough architect Ted Hollamby the estate was planned by Rosemary Stjernstedt as a living community and had remained remarkably successful, with a number of original residents from the 1970s still living there and wanting to continue to do so. At that time Labour believed that nothing was too good for the working people and the estate was built to high specifications and is still in sound condition. A deliberate process of managed neglect – like that which had resulted in the Grenfell Tower disaster had – had been carried out by Lambeth Council to legitimise its demolition.

Lambeth council now refuse to allow the community to use the resource centre

Although the meeting was poorly attended, surveys of estate residents have shown a very high proportion of residents want to remain on the estate and oppose the demolition. The council quotes very different figures and its response to feedback from estate residents has been to remove the estate representatives from the consultative body.

Faults in the paving are marked but left without repair

Lambeth Council has also ridiculously inflated the estimate for the refurbishment of the estate and rejected without proper consideration a carefully planned alternative scheme for a much cheaper limited infill of the site rather than demolition which would involve far, far less disruption to the families who live here and also result in the retention of much-needed social housing. The only real problem with the alternative scheme proposed by Architects for Social Housing is that it would not generate excessive profits for the developers.

Ted Knight speaks for Central Hill


Brian Haw remembered – Parliament Square

This was the sixth anniversary of the death of peace campaigner Brian Haw who had made a ten-year political stand against war in Parliament Square despite considerable harassment by police urged on by politicians, laws introduced against his and other protests, Westminster Council officials and almost certainly MI5 agents.

Brian Haw began his camp here on 2 June 2001, and remained in place despite many attempts, legal and otherwise to remove him for almost 10 years, leaving only when arrested, for court appearances and to speak at protests at Trafalgar Square and Downing St until 1 January 2011 when he left England to receive treatment for his lung cancer in Berlin. He died in Germany in the early hours of 18 June 2011.His ten years of protest and the frequent and repeated harassment undoubtedly hastened his decline and death.

His protest in Parliament square was continued by Barbara Tucker who had joined him in 2005 and had been imprisoned twice for her role in the protest and arrested 48 times. The level of harassment increased and she went on hunger strike on 31st December 2012. Late in January 2013 she was taken into hospital close to death, and was treated for frostbite and exposure. Her protests continued on-line.

Brian Haw remembered


Al Quds march – BBC to US Embassy

Several thousands came from around the country for the annual Al Quds (Jerusalem) Day march in London. Organised by a Quds committee with the Islamic Human Rights Commission it was supported by various groups including the Stop the War Coalition, Muslim Association of Britain and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods. At the front of the march were a group of Imams and Neturei Karta anti-Zionist Jews.

The march called for ‘Freedom for Palestine’ and for all oppressed peoples across the world. It supports of the BDS campaign for a boycott of Israel Israeli goods, divestment from companies supporting Israel and sanctions against the Israeli state. It demands that Israel ends its breaches of international law and its oppression of the Palestinian people in what is an apartheid system, and ends its siege and attacks on Gaza.

Zionists oppose the march with a protest close to the final rally at the US Embassy, but a small militant group carrying Israeli flags attempted to stop the march on its route, calling those taking part supporters of the banned terrorist group Hezbollah.

A number of the marchers were holding Hezbollah flags, which carried a message indicating they were supporting Hezbollah as a political organisation – it is one of two main parties representing Shia Muslims, Lebanon’s largest religious group – as a part of national unity governments in the Lebanese parliament.

Police seemed very reluctant to move the Zionists off the road in front of the march which was held up for some time, with marchers simply waiting for the police to clear them. After some time the the marchers held their planned minute of silence for the Grenfell Tower victims before getting up and telling police that unless the police cleared the road they would simply push them aside and march through.

The Al Quds day march is very much a family event but with the numbers involved the march stewards would clearly have been able to do so and the statement did galvanise the police into action, and the march was able to move on slowly.

The event organisers make it very clear that this is not an anti-Semitic event, and I think one or two placards which might have suggested this were rapidly removed by stewards. In 2019 Home Secretary Sajid Javid decided to proscribe Hezbollah’s political wing as well as the military wing which had been proscribed in 2008, so showing any support for Hezbollah would be an offence carrying a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Al Quds march
Zionists protest Al Quds Day March


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Central Hill and more

Friday, June 18th, 2021

One of the original tenants comes to talk with me She tells me she dreads having to move

I began work on Sunday 18th June 2017 on the Central Hill Estate at the south-east tip of Lambeth, built on a hill with splendid views towards central London. Across the road (also Central Hill) at the top is Norwood in LB Croydon, a few yards down from the estate takes you in to the LB of Southwark, while 5 minutes walk east brings you to Crystal Palace in the LB of Bromley.

As Ted Knight, the leader of Lambeth Council from 1978 until disqualified for refusing to cap rates in 1985 and demonised by the press as ‘Red Ted’, told us later in the morning when he came to express his support, the estate was designed and built in 1967-74 when Labour believed that “nothing was too good for the working people” and the estate was built to high specifications and is still in sound condition. Borough Architect Ted Hollamby had earlier brought in Rosemary Stjernstedt from the LCC where she was their first senior woman architect, and she was the team leader, working with structural engineer Ted Happold from Arup & Partners and architect Roger Westman.

The scheme was seen from the start as a living community, and included a burses’s hostel, a day card centre and a doctor’s surgery as well as a small row of shops, a club centre and community hall. It also had a district heating system, though this is no longer in use. The plans made great use of the sloping site and the estate is certainly one of the finest of that era. It has remained a popular estate, with relatively low crime rates, and quite a few of the original residents still live there and wish to stay.

It’s an estate that clearly should be listed, but Historic England decided not to do so in 2016, probably under pressure from politicians, particularly because of the scale of the site and the very attractive possibilities it presents for developers. The Twentieth Century Society were dismayed that their application was dismissed – and you can read their application on-line.

In 2017 Lambeth decided to completely demolish the estate and develop it with an extra 400 homes, roughly doubling the size, most of which will be for private sale. Many residents objected and Architects for Social Housing have developed alternative plans showing how the extra capacity could be achieved at lower cost retaining the existing housing and the main features of the estate.

Nicola Curtis, one of the elected representatives the council refuses to talk with

The council seem to have little concern for the current residents of the estate or their wishes. They have been banned from using the community resource centre on the estate, which was locked. A large mural was painted with council agreement on one of the walls in the estate – but the council then insisted that they remove the name ‘Central Hill’ from it. The council refused to talk with the two representatives of the residents elected to the Resident Engagement Panel. Normal maintenance of the paths and other aspects of the estate appears to have been stopped, and I found examples of very shoddy work by the council on the estate.


I took the train back into central London and to Parliament Square, wherre Veterans for Peace had organised a remembrace of Brian Haw on the 6th anniversary of his death. They held a small banner with the message ‘War is is not the solution to the problems we face in the 21st century’

Brian Haw began his camp here on 2 June 2001, and remained in place despite many attempts, legal and otherwise to remove him for almost 10 years, leaving only when arrested, for court appearances and to speak at protests at Trafalgar Square and Downing St until 1 January 2011 when he left England to receive treatment for his lung cancer in Berlin. He died in Germany in the early hours of 18 June 2011.

His ten years of protest and the frequent and repeated harassment undoubtedly hastened his decline and death. His protest in Parliament square was continued by Barbara Tucker who had joined him in 2005 and had been imprisoned twice for her role in the protest and arrested 48 times. The level of harassment increased and she went on hunger strike on 31st December 2012. Late in January 2013 she was taken into hospital close to death, and was treated for frostbite and exposure. Her protests continued on-line.

It was also the day of the annual Al Quds (Jerusalem) Day march in London, attended by several thousand from all over the country. Led by Imams and Neturei Karta anti-Zionist Jews, it called for ‘Freedom for Palestine’, and for all oppressed people’s across the world, and for a boycott of Israel.

As usual the march met with opposition from a small group of Zionists with Israeli flags and they were better organised than in previous years, with around 20 of them managing to block the route for around a quarter of an hour before police managed to move them on and allow the march to continue, though rather more slowly than usual.

Al Quds Day was inaugurated by Ayatollah Khomeini and some of the groups which support it may still receive support from the Iranian regime. Some of the protesters carried a small flag with both the Palestinian flag and that of Hezbollah and the message ‘Boycott Israel’. Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shia Islamist political party and militant group uses the same flag for both, and the militant wing is a proscribed group in the UK. The flag carried by some on the protest made clear in the small print it was in support of the political party.

Al Quds march
Zionists protest Al Quds Day March
Brian Haw remembered
Ted Knight speaks for Central Hill


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