Posts Tagged ‘developers’

Housing Act, Student rents & Open Gardens – 2016

Tuesday, June 18th, 2024

Housing Act, Student rents & Open Gardens: On Saturday 18th June 2016 I went to three events all with a connection with housing. First was a protest against the 2016 Housing and Planning Act passed the previous month, after which I briefly visited students celebrating a victory at UCL before going to South London for an Open Gardens event at an estate which Lambeth Council want to demolish.

Axe the Housing Act March – Hyde Park Corner

Housing Act, Student rents & Open Gardens

Protesters marched from Hyde Park Corner to Parliament against the Housing and Planning Act which tenant and housing groups, councils, academics, trade unions and communities say will deepen the current housing crisis, removing security from many tenants and will result in the demolition and selling off of almost all social housing.

Housing Act, Student rents & Open Gardens

The Act extends the ‘Right to Buy’ to housing association tenants and allows councils to sell vacant ‘higher value’ vacant council homes to fund this.

Housing Act, Student rents & Open Gardens

It brings in mandatory rent increases for households in social housing with a combined family income of ore than £40,000 in London and £31,000 elsewhere with their rents increasing over time to market rents. Amendments made this slightly fairer by limiting the income considered to the taxable income of two main household earners and excluding most of those receiving benefits from the calculations.

Housing Act, Student rents & Open Gardens

The Act removes security of tenure for most council tenants. New tenants will only get fixed term tenancies generally from 2-5 years, with some longer tenancies agreed for those with a disability or children living at home until they reach the age of 19 following pressure from the House of Lords.

The Act reflects and emphasises the Tory view that social housing should be a very limited resource only supporting the the very poorest in society, second-class citizens, with the landlords and house builders being able to make profits from the rest of us. But housing campaigners generally see it as by far the most cost-effective way to provide for one of our basic human needs and also argue that it can provide an income for local councils to support other vital services.

The protesters urged councils to refuse to implement the Act and call on people to stand together to boycott the pay-to-stay tax, resist evictions and block regeneration and estate demolitions.

Among the speakers before the march began was Richard Livingstone, a councillor from the London Borough of Southwark, Cabinet Member for Adult Care and Financial Inclusion and formerly responsible for housing in the borough.

Southwark is a borough with an appalling record on housing and estate demolition and many at the protest were appalled at his presence calling Southwark’s demolition of the Heygate and Aylesbury a shameful example of exactly the kind of social cleansing this protest was against.

Many feel that many Labour councillors and officers are now careerists, driven by political or financial advancement rather than caring for the people in their borough. A number have earned themselves highly paid jobs with developers and other companies in the housing sector.

I left as the march moved off towards Parliament and made my way to UCL.

More at Axe the Housing Act March.

UCL Rent Strike Victory

It was good for once to be able to celebrate a victory, after after the Complaints Panel at UCL decided that the residents of Campbell House West will be compensated in full for the final term last year – up to £1,368 per student.

They determined that UCL Management “Not only demonstrated a lack of empathy towards students’ circumstances and an understanding or appreciation of what would be an acceptable student experience, but was disingenuous to the students concerned.”

So the mass protest that had been planned, an Open Day Manifestation, turned into a celebration of their victory, and also to show their determination to continue their campaign to cut student rents.

I left after a brief visit, missing the lively victory march around the West End with flares and the helium-filled balloons I had watched them preparing.

UCL Rent Strike Victory

Central Hill Open Gardens Estates – Upper Norwood

Lambeth’s Central Hill Estate is a popular and well-planned estate of considerable architectural interest in good condition under threat of demolition by Lambeth Council. Like some other estates it has been refused listing probably on political grounds. The properties, completed in 1974, were well built and are generally in good condition though suffering like most council estates from a lack of proper maintenance and in need of relatively minor refurbishment.

This was one of the estates under threat of demolition by Government Housing policies, council regeneration programmes and property developers which were welcoming visitors to open day events as a part of the Open Garden Estates initiative by Architects for Social Housing, ASH.

There was a display of the alternative plans for the estate by ASH showing how the council’s aims of increasing the capacity of the estate could be achieved without any demolition and at a much lower financial and environmental cost.

Lambeth Council had refused to make any serious consideration of these plans, almost certainly because although the cost would be much less, they would not provide the profits to the developers from the high market value sales of new properties and market rents, and the costs of the ASH scheme to the council would be greater.

One of the visitors to the open day was Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood Helen Hayes, who stormed out after being questioned why she was attending when she had given her backing to Labour councillors behind the plans to demolish the estate.

Also at the open day were various food, book and other stalls, a music performance, film show (I watched a film about how Southwark Counci had mistreated the residents of Myatts Fields) and a Marxist puppet show as well as estate tours. I’d visited the estate several times in the past and had photographed parts of it in the 1990s as well as more recently in February 2016 when I wrote more about it and Lambeth’s plans to demolish.

Although New Labour’s ‘Regeneration’ policy possibly had good intentions, its results have often been disastrous, and Labour really needs to rethink its whole approach to council-owned housing.

As I wrote in 2016: “‘Regeneration’ has resulted in huge transfers of public assets into private hands, in a wholesale loss of social housing, and in social cleansing, with people being forced outwards from London, unable to afford either the laughably named ‘affordable’ properties or those at market rates. It has meant the dispersal of functioning communities, in widespread and arguably fraudulent under-compensation of leaseholders, and in a great deal of sub-standard buildings, often to lower specifications of space and worse design than those they replace.

More people were arriving at the event when I left to go home and I was sorry to have to miss some of the activities planned for later in the day.

The estate is still standing and the fight to save it continues. In March 2024 Lambeth Council set up a contract with consultants to reappraise the plans for estate ‘regeneration’ at Cressingham Gardens, Central Hill and Fenwick. Perhaps it will come up with some more sensible proposals …

More at Central Hill Open Gardens Estates.

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Cressingham Gardens Calls For A Ballot – 2017

Saturday, December 2nd, 2023

Cressingham Gardens Calls For A Ballot – On Saturday 2nd December 2017 residents of Cressingham Gardens in Tulse Hill marched with supporters to a rally at Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton to demand Lambeth Council hold a ballot of residents over the plans to demolish their homes. I went early to take a walk around the estate and take some photographs before the rally and march.

Cressingham Gardens – Tulse Hill, Brixton

Cressingham Gardens Calls For A Ballot

Council estates generally get a bad press, with media attention concentrating on those which were badly planned and have been allowed to deteriorate, often deliberately populated with more than than share of families with problems of various kinds, used as ‘sink estates’ by local councils. Some councils have even employed PR companies to denigrate and demonise those of their estates they want to demolish and sell off to private developers.

Cressingham Gardens Calls For A Ballot
This has always been a popular estate, and has a low crime rate for the area

These developers have also powerfully lobbied our main political parties who have handed over much of their policies over housing to developers and estate agents and other property professionals who stand to make huge profits from turning public property into private estates.

Cressingham Gardens Calls For A Ballot

Yet many council estates are pleasant places to live, often much better planned than private developments of the same era, and providing more space for people than the cramped and expensive flats that are replacing them where redevelopment schemes have gone ahead. Lambeth Council have several such estates, including those at Central Hill and Cressingham Gardens where this would clearly be the case, and residents at both sites have campaigned strongly to keep their homes.

Cressingham Gardens Calls For A Ballot

We seem always to be in a housing crisis in the UK, and some of the solutions that were taken to meet this have not always worked to well, particularly with some system-built high rises which were shoddily erected by private developers for councils.

After I left home in the early 1960s I lived in private rented flats, then in a New Town in a flat from the development agency and then for many years now as an owner occupier. The private rentals were pretty squalid and the publicly owned flat was rather more spacious than the small Victorian house we have lived in since. It would have been good to have been able to move into socially owned housing when we relocated but it wasn’t available.

Until the Thatcher government came into power public housing had regarded as something desirable with even Conservative Councils such as Lambeth was then having a mission to provide quality housing for working class Lambeth residents. They employed some of the best architects in the country, such as Edward Hollamby, the chief architect for Lambeth Council who was responsible for Cressingham Gardens and designed this low rise ‘garden estate’ development built in 1967 to 1979 at low cost and with a high population density, but with the 306 homes each having their own private outdoor space.

As the Twentieth Century Society state “this is one of the most exceptional and progressive post-war social housing estates in the UK” but the application for listing the estate in 2013 was rejected despite Historic England praising the way the design responds to its setting, with skill and sensitivity, “both in the scale and massing of the built elements, as well as through the integration of these elements with informal open spaces which bring a park-like character into the estate”. It appears to have been a decision made in defiance of both the estate’s architectural and historical merit and solely on political grounds.

The estate is on the Twentieth Century Society Buildings at Risk list. Lambeth Council have completed their preparation and brief for its complete demolition and their web site states they “will shortly be starting RIBA Stage 2 (Concept Design).

Cressingham Gardens residents say Ballot Us!

People met up next to the Rotunda in the centre of the estate designed by Hollamby as a children’s nursery, many carrying banners and posters. Residents were joined by other campaigners, including those trying to save Lambeth’s libraries and housing campaigners from north London.

Residents love living on Cressingham – a small well-planned estate with a great community feeling and many know that they will be unable to afford the so-called afford ‘affordable’ homes that the council wants to replace their homes with – a 2 bed flat after regeneration will cost £610 (at 2017 values.)

They want the estate to be refurbished rather than demolished, which the council says would cost £10 million. Many dispute the council’s costings and say that some of the problems the council has identified are a matter of poor maintenance rather than needing expensive building works. But residents in any case point to the council having just spent over £165 million on a new Town Hall and say refurbishment is a cheap option.

It isn’t the cost of refurbishment which makes the council turn it down, but the profits that developers can make from the site – and which the council hopes to be able to get a share. Though such schemes haven’t always worked out well. Although the developers have done very nicely out of demolishing the Heygate site in Southwark and building high density blocks on it, the council made a huge loss, though some individuals involved have ended up in lucrative jobs on the back of it.

Lambeth is a Labour Council, and since the previous Labour Party conference party policy had been that no demolition of council estates should take place without consent, but Lambeth Council seem determined to ignore this and go ahead with their plans for a so-called ‘regeneration’ which would see all 300 homes demolished, without any plans to provide immediate council housing for the roughly 1000 residents who would be made homeless. To the council these residents are simply occupying a site worth several hundred thousand pounds – an asset the council wants to realise. It doesn’t care about communities, about people.

Those who have become leaseholders of their homes are likely to get even more shoddy treatment. The amount of compensation they are likely to receive is likely to be less than half they would need to buy a comparable property in the area – on or the rebuilt estate.

Cressingham is in a very desirable location, on the edge of a large park and with good transport links a short distance away. Many are likely to have to move miles away on the edge of London or outside to find property they can afford, far from where they now live and work.

The march set off for Brixton Town Hall on the corner of Acre Lane where a small crowd of supporters was waiting for them. The placed a box containing petition signatures in front of the locked doors on the steps and a rally began with shouts calling for a ballot.

Among those who had come to speak along with residents from the estate were Tanya Murat of Southwark Homes for All and Piers Corbyn, a housing campaigner also from neighbouring Southwark.

One of the strikers from the Ritzy cinema opposite told us that none of them could now afford to live in Lambeth now, and it’s clear that we need more social housing not less in the area. A local Green Party member also told us that they were the only party in the area campaigning for more social housing.

Potent Whisper performed his take on Regeneration, ‘Estate of War’, from this Rhyming Guide to Housing. The video of this was recorded in Cressingham Gardens.

Others who had come along included people from Class War and the e RCG (Revolutionary Communist Group) who have been very active in supporting social housing campaigns as well as Roger Lewis of DPAC who told us how council cuts affect the disabled disproportunately.

More on My London Diary:
Cressingham residents say Ballot Us!
Cressingham Gardens

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless – 2016

Saturday, April 15th, 2023

Streets Kitchen is a UK & Ireland grassroots group working to help the homeless community, providing daily outreaches with food, clothing and information. In London they are active in Camden, Hackney, Kilburn, Clapham, Haringey and elsewhere – and new volunteers and donations are welcome. You can see a short video about their work made by Liberty on YouTube.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

On Friday 15th April 2016 Streets Kitchen oranised a rally and march around central London in solidarity with London’s growing homeless community. A giant banner called for ‘No More Deaths On Our Streets’. They brought tents, sleeping bags and food intending to join the Kill the Housing Bill sleepout in Southwark and collected donations.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

I met them at a rally on the pavement opposite Downing Street, with speakers who described the effects of government policies on increasing homelessness but also pointed out the role of London Labour Councils including Southwark and Newham who have turned people out of council estates in order to ‘regenerate’ them largely for the benefit of private tenants paying much higher rents, as well working with private developers to enable them to evade their responsibilities to build social housing.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

They move on to Whitehall, blocking the traffic and then marching to Trafalgar Square where they held a brief protest before marching up Charing Cross Road to Oxford Street.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

The march continued along Oxford St to Oxford Circus, where they set off flares and blocked the junction for a few minutes.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

Their next stop was at the BBC, where a line of police blocked the entrance, and they then moved off up Portland Place. They were still marching further away from the final destination, Southwark Council’s offices on Tooley St, south of the river close to Tower Bridge, and it was getting rather dark to take pictures.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

I decided I’d had enough and left them for my journey to a warm and comfortable home. We don’t live in luxury but too many in our society don’t have a home to go to, a shameful situation in one of the richest countries in the world – and a country where there are more empty homes than homeless people. Housing is a human right, and one which too many are denied.

Streets Kitchen March with Homeless

More at Streets Kitchen March with Homeless.

Canada Water, Southwark Homes & Cody Dock

Saturday, March 25th, 2023

Canada Water, Southwark Homes & Cody Dock: Events and pictures from Saturday 25th March 2017

Canada Water, Southwark.

Canada Water, Southwark Homes & Cody Dock

The Surrey Commercial Docks were the largest area of London’s Docklands and the only large docks on the south bank of the River Thames, built on a large marshy area at Rotherhithe, a little closer to London than the Royal Navy dockyard at Deptford.

Canada Water, Southwark Homes & Cody Dock

The first dock here was dug out in 1696 and was the largest dock of that age, and could take 120 sailing ships. Later the dock became Greenland Dock, a base for the Arctic whaling trade, but in the 19th century there was a huge increase in trade with Scandanavia and the Baltic, and other docks were dug, as well as huge timber ponds which soon became its major trade.

Canada Water, Southwark Homes & Cody Dock
Deal Porters sculpture by Philip Bews

Surrey Docks was in full swing the in the Victorian age, with nine docks, six timber ponds and the Grand Surrey Canal. Badly damaged by bombing in the Second World War, the docks never fully recovered and were then hit by containerisation. The docks were too small to handle container ships and closed in 1970. Most of the docks were filled in and the whole area was redeveloped.

Canada Water, Southwark Homes & Cody Dock

By the time the London Docklands Development Corporation was set up by the Tories in 1980 the redevelopment initially led by Southwark Council was well under way and the area was set to have a rather different character from the redevelopments on the north bank.

But the LDDC appeared as the principal objector, to the council’s statutory development plan and was backed by the Department of the Environment. Southwarks plan for the whole of the south riverside from London Bridge to Deptford was rejected for showing ‘unrealistic commitment to public housing‘ and for its ‘opposition to office and other private development’. The LDDC went ahead with selling land and buildings for speculative development.

The LDDC rubbed its hands in glee at the thought of selling riverside sites which Southwark had planned for low cost rented housing to developers of large blocks of luxury flats, and rushed to clear aging council estates and replace them with privately owned properties, policies which were strongly opposed by Southwark Council.

But times have changed, and I had come to Canada Water for a march where local people had come to protest against very similar policies by Southwark’s Labour council, working for and with developers to demolish estates such as the Heygate and Aylesbury, with the replacements including only a very small percentage of social housing. I’d arrived early on purpose to give me time for a short walk around before the protest began.

More at Canada Water.

Southwark march for homes & businesses

Southwark campaigners marched from Canada Water to protest at Thurlow Lodge Community Hall on the Aylesbury Estate, calling on Labour-run Southwark Council to save homes and jobs in the borough.

Marchers and speakers at the rally before the march included those from tenants and residents organisations, local business networks and others. They had come to oppose Southwark Council demolishing council estates for luxury home building, selling off public land to private developers and profit-oriented housing associations and forcing out small businesses through policies they say are solely concerned with realising asset values and trample on the rights and needs of local residents.

On My London Diary there is a long list of some of the groups involved, but there were others too.

One of the bigger battles, still continuing, is over the future of the Aylesbury Estate in Walworth, just south of the Heygate Estate at the Elephant and Castle, where the council lost a great deal of public money in providing a huge site with great transport links to allow a private developer to make huge profits, losing around 2000 social rent homes. Many of the new flats are empty boxes, investments for wealthy foreigner profiting from rapid increases in London property prices.

Piers Corbyn with others sitting down on Albany Road at the end of the march

Much of the Aylesbury estate has now been emptied, and some demolished. The council was found to have acted acting unfairly towards leaseholders who were being offered derisory compensation – usually less than half the market value of comparable properties in the area. Those who took the court case got improved offers, but there is little evidence of it changing its ways and trying to cheat others. Among those involved in fighting to save the Aylesbury on this march was Piers Corbyn, Jeremy’s older brother, in the news more recently over arguably less worthwhile causes, particularly in opposition to Covid restrictions.

The Aylesbury Estate had been at the centre of the Labour Party’s plans for the regeneration of council estates, the site of Tony Blair’s first big press event. But Labour’s policy was more about grabbing headlines than providing the good low-cost housing that a proper social housing policy requires. Councils such as Southwark have used it to demonise and run-down their large estates, spending large sums with PR companies to do so and working with major developers, rather than properly consulting with residents and putting the necessary cash into estate maintenance, running them down on purpose.

It was a long march to the Aylesbury Estate, detouring to pass several housing estates and business areas threatened by the council, and a tiring one on a warm and sunny March Day, and we were all tired by the time it ended outside Thurlow Lodge Community Hall. This had been saved earlier this year by a community occupation after Southwark Council had wanted to evict the occupants, Divine Rescue, a body with a soup kitchen offering support, training and meals to around a hundred homeless people, and runs a a food bank. Southwark wanted to sell or let the community hall to make more money.

The march organisers had planned to end the march here with Divine Rescue providing hot drinks and toilet facilities after the long walk, but Southwark Council had warned Divined Rescue that there lease would again be threatened if they had anything to do with the protest, forcing them to withdraw their offer. The hall was locked and shuttered, guarded by Southwark Council security when we arrived. It seemed a very petty piece of bullying by the council.

The protesters sat down on Albany Road blocking traffic for around 10 minutes in protest at this, then moved to the area in front of the community hall for a final rally.

Many more pictures from the march and the rallies before and afterwards on My London Diary at Southwark march for homes & businesses.

More From Cody Dock

From the Aylesbury Estate I made my way to Cody Dock for the opening of my show there, ‘All Along the Lea‘, black and white photographs from the 1980s and 90s, arriving an hour or two early.

This gave me time to take a few more pictures, but also to have some food and a beer and listen to some live music and just to enjoy being there.

It was a pleasant opening with a decent crowd, with plenty of people coming to look at the pictures and talk, including the local MP. As I said and wrote, “When I took these pictures many people wondered why I was wasting time and film on such scenes, so I’m really pleased to have them appreciated now. “

I hadn’t chosen the title for the show, and it wasn’t accurate fro the pictures that were on the wall, almost all from Bow Creek. But I had photographed ‘All Along the Lea’ and my web site and the book ‘Before the Olympics‘ have pictures from the source at Leagrave to the outlets into the Thames both at Bow Creek, and, via the Limehouse Cut, at Limehouse Dock.

Sex Workers, Gurkhas, Cannabis & Shaker

Sunday, October 9th, 2022

Wednesday 9th October 2013 was another day of varied protests in London.

Police & Developers Evict Soho Working Girls – Greek St, Soho

Sex Workers, Gurkhas, Cannabis & Shaker

Although the immediate cause of this protest was the eviction of sex workers from flats in Romilly Street where they were operating within our laws restricting prostitution, the evictions were not at base about the activities of the women concerned but a result of property developers seeing enormous profits to be made by emptying properties in the area and redeveloping them.

Soho is particularly at risk from hugely profitable development as hotels and luxury flats because of its reputation and unique ambiance, which has largely derived in the past from its association with such risqué activities as strip clubs and models offering personal services as well as its restaurants and shops offering foreign delicacies unknown in the UK outside its boundaries.

Of course times have changed, and much of Soho is now Chinatown, but still its old reputation and some of those old activities remain, though many are fast disappearing. And while the tourists flock in, much of what attracts them is no longer there.

Sex remains a powerful attraction, and it was noticeable that there was far more media attention to this protest than most. Most of the masked women taking part in the protest were supporters of the ‘working girls’ from groups including the organisers of the event, Women Against Rape and the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) who I knew from other protests.

The police who issued notices to the property owners alleging that the properties were brothels are widely seen as working on behalf of the prospective developers, and owners Soho Estates whose managing director came out to speak at the event also have a financial interest. They could have stood up to the police intimidation and investigated the situation so they could assure the police that the activities in the flats were within the law, but failed to do so.

A speaker from the Soho Society told the protest that the activities of the women were one of the oldest traditions of the area, and were causing no problems with their neighbours and the many other trades of the area. Previous similar evictions have attracted local petitions signed by thousands and the ECP press release stated “Many express fears that gentrification is behind attempts to close these flats and that if sex workers are forced out it will lead the way for other small and unique businesses and bars to be drowned out by major construction, chain stores and corporations.”

More at Police & Developers Evict Soho Working Girls.

Gurkha Veterans Demand Justice – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

Sex Workers, Gurkhas, Cannabis & Shaker

Elderly Gurkha veterans living in the UK did not benefit from earlier campaigns for fair treatment and most living here are in extreme poverty.

This was one of a number of protests every Wednesday and Thursday opposite the Houses of Parliament inviting the government to hold talks with them and if there was no progress by later in October they said they would begin a programme of nonviolent resistance (Satyagraha) with hunger strikes, beginning with a “13 days relay hunger strike in the name of the 13 Ghurka VCs which would then be followed by a fast-unto-death” if there was no progress.

Gurkha Veterans Demand Justice

Vigil for Shaker Aamer – Parliament Square

I paid a short visit to the campaigners from the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign who earlier in the year been holding a lunchtime protest on the pavement in Parliament Square facing the Houses of Parliament, standing out in their orange jumpsuits and black hoods on every day parliament was in session.

Shaker Aamer, a British resident still then held at Guantánamo was one of the first to be sent there after having been handed over the the US authorities for a cash reward. Although there was no evidence against him he had suffered years of torture in which the UK intelligence services had been implicated. Despite being cleared for release in 2007 and again in 2010 he was still being held, probably because his testimony when released would cause severe embarrassment to both US and UK intelligence agencies.

This protest was the start of a new series of regular weekly vigils seeking to draw attention to the failures of both President Obama and David Cameron, as well as demanding a full Parliamentary debate about Shaker’s case.

Vigil for Shaker Aamer

Cannabis Hypocrisy Protest – Westminster

An MS sufferer at the event

Campaigners had come to College Green, close to the Houses of Parliament to call for reform of the laws about cannabis, in particular to allow its medical use for MS sufferers. Legal medical cannabis is mainly available here to MS sufferers who can afford to pay its very high price.

Unsurprisingly it was a rather laid back protest, beginning rather late and not really getting started the whole 90 minutes I was there before giving up and going home as they were still waiting for the megaphone or PA system to arrive.

By the time I left there were quite a few people sitting around on the grass smoking. As I commented in a caption, the photographs don’t show what they were smoking, but the smell was unmistakable, and after I while I began to feel just a little unusual. Perhaps the two police officers who strolled over to take a look had no sense of smell or perhaps they simply felt that there was little point in taking any action.

Years ago I had to give lessons against drug use to 16-18 year olds as a part of a ‘personal and social education’ programme, and was aware that many of them had rather more experience in the area than me. But the materials from the Home Office that I relied on made clear that cannabis was considerably less harmful than alcohol or tobacco. Addiction to anything is a bad thing, but so too is the criminalisation that results from our current drug laws, which also fuel an illegal and highly profitable drug business. Appropriate reform, which would certainly include easier access for medicinal use, is long overdue.

Cannabis Hypocrisy Protest

Housing Crisis & the Carpenters Estate

Thursday, June 9th, 2022

Housing Crisis & the Carpenters Estate: Like many other areas, the 1945 Labour government laid the foundations of a sensible policy on housing which has now been lost. Among other things the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act brought in the need for planning permission and included a charge on developers which was assessed as the difference between the cost of the undeveloped land and its value after it had been developed. It gave local authorities the power to use compulsory purchase and either develop land themselves or lease it for private developers, and provided government grants to authorities for major redevelopment.

Housing Crisis & the Carpenters Estate
Focus E15 Mums protest at empty properties on the Carpenters Estate

Times were hard after the war, and there were shortages of material with so much needing to be done. Even so around 600,000 new council homes were built in the first five years, and built to high standards. One of the election-winning pledges made by the Conservatives for the 1951 election was that they would build 300,000 houses a year – something they managed under Housing Minister Harold Macmillan in 1953, including both private and council houses, but it was achieved in part by reducing the standards of properties.

Housing Crisis & the Carpenters Estate
All pictures in this post come from the Focus E15 Mums protest on 9th June 2014

The Tories made other changes, including removing the development charge and limiting government subsidies, which in 1956 became limited to the building of high rise flats. While Labour had seen council housing as a way to provide good quality housing affordably to all, the Conservatives increasing limited its scope to providing only for the least well off, with private development and private leasing providing good profits for building firms and private landlords at the expense of house buyers and tenants of private rented properties.

Housing Crisis & the Carpenters Estate
The Focus E15 mothers had brought life-size colour portraits of themselves

Although it was Labour who had first proposed the idea of ‘right to buy’ it was of course Thatcher who made it policy and introduced it in a way which was intended to severely reduce the amount of council housing, in particular forbidding the use of the receipts from sales to
build new council homes. Cash-starved local authorities were often unable to keep up proper maintenance of their housing stock and much was allowed to deteriorate.


Labour under Blair and Brown continued the Tory policies, including the transfer of council run properties to housing associations, and amplified their effects with their programme of ‘regeneration’ which led to the wholesale replacement of large council estates – most still in sound condition which could have cheaply been repaired and brought up to current standards. But developers profited hugely from demolition and redevelopment for private sale and councils hoped also to cash in, though in some cases they made a significant loss, as at the Heygate in Southwark, where around 1200 council homes were demolished, the tenants and leaseholders displaced largely outside the area, and the two and a half thousand new properties built included only around 80 at social rents. Other Labour policies, including the disastrous Private Finance Initiative also worsened the housing crisis.

You can read very much more detail on the history of council housing on the website Municipal Dreams and in the book by the site’s author Municipal Dreams: the Rise and Fall of Council Housing published in 2019 which presents a detailed and balanced view.

The young mothers of Focus E15 came up against the the housing crisis when their Labour Council in Newham decided they should be evicted from their hostel. Most were told they had to move into private rented properties with little or no security of tenure miles away from families, friends and facilities in the Stratford area, some in Wales or the north of England. They got together and decided to fight the council, then run by elected Mayor Robin Wales and its policy of removing the poor from the area – social cleansing.

Newham is a borough with one of the worst housing problems in the country, and although there has been a huge building programme, partly around the 2012 Olympic site, this is largely student housing or private development. But one council estate close to the centre of Stratford had been largely empty for around ten years. Newham had ‘decanted’ the residents beginning in 2004 hoping to cash in on what would be a prime development site. The Carpenters Estate was a very popular estate, with low rise housing and three tower blocks overlooking the Olympic Park, a stone’s throw from the excellent transport links of Stratford Station and the town centre.

For some years Newham had hoped to sell off the area as a new campus for University College London, but local opposition and protests by students and academics at UCL led to the college abandoning the plans. In 2020 the council handed over the regeneration project its Housing Company Populo Living.

Jasmin Stone

Focus E15 came to the Carpenters Estate on Monday 9th June 2014 to highlight the scandal of the empty homes, bringing with them life-size or larger colour portraits of the mothers which they pasted on the shuttered windows of a small block of flats at the centre of the estate, along with posters stating ‘We Could be Here’, ‘This home needs a family’, ‘These homes need people’, ‘You could be here’.

Sam Middleton

The protest gained some publicity for their campaign, which had moved on from being simply about the mothers to a much more general ‘Housing For All’ campaign, which still continues, with the group holding a weekly Saturday Morning stall on Stratford Broadway, supporting homeless families in getting proper treatment from the council and preventing evictions in the area.

I returned with Focus E15 to the Carpenters Estate a few months later in September when on the first anniversary of the start of their campaign they occupied this low-rise block of flats on ‘Open House Day, gaining national publicity, staying in occupation for around two weeks, and have photographed various other of their events.

Focus E15 Mums Expose Carpenters Estate

The Elephant, Sewol and Brexiteers

Wednesday, April 13th, 2022

The Elephant, Sewol and Brexiteers
Saturday 13th April 2019 in London, three years ago seems very distant to me now.

Love the Elephant, Elephant & Castle, London

The Elephant, Sewol and Brexiteers

The main event I covered on the day was at the Elephant & Castle shopping centre in south London, where local people and supporters were calling on Southwark Council and developers Delancey to improve the plans for the redevelopment of the area.

The Elephant, Sewol and Brexiteers

The campaigners main banner had the message ‘LOVE THE ELEPHANT – HATE GENTRIFICATION’ and this is an area that epitomises the changes that have been taking place in many of London’s poorer areas for many years now. Traditionally working class South London, this area has been at the centre of major demolitions of large council estates and their replacement largely by expensive high rise blocks at market rents with a nominal amount of so-called ‘affordable’ and miniscule amounts of truly social housing.

The Elephant, Sewol and Brexiteers

Immediately to the east of the shopping centre had been the award-winning Heygate Estate, completed in 1974, once popular for its light and spacious flats, but long subjected to a process of managed decline by Southwark Council who even employed PR consultants to emphasise a negative view of the estate, together putting together what the estate’s architect Tim Tinker described in 2013 as a “farrago of half-truths and lies put together by people who should have known better.” The council deliberately used parts of it in the latter years to house people with mental health and other problems, and as temporary accommodation. I photographed the estate on several occasions, most recently on a tour by residents opposed to the redevelopment of both the Heygate and the neighbouring Aylesbury Esate in 2012, Walking the Rip-Off.

The Heygate estate had a mixture of properties with large blocks of flats on its edges and contained 1,214 homes, all initially social housing, though many were later purchased by residents who became leaseholders. It’s replacement, Elephant Park is far less well planned but according to Wikipedia will “provide 2,704 new homes, of which 82 will be social rented. The demolition cost approximately £15 million, with an additional £44m spent on emptying the estate and a further £21.5 million spent on progressing its redevelopment.” The council sold the estate to the developers at a huge loss for £50m.

Many of the flats on Elephant Park were sold overseas as investment properties, the continuing increases in London property prices making these a very attractive holding. The new estate will also provide housing for those on high salaries in London, with a railway station and two underground lines providing excellent transport links for professionals working elsewhere in the city. Those who previously lived and owned properties on the Heygate have had to move much further from the centre of the city, some many miles away.

The Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, was opened in 1965 on the site of the 1898 Elephant & Castle Estate which had been badly damaged by wartime bombing, and was the first purpose-built shopping centre in the UK and certainly one of the first in Europe. Many of its 115 shops were then owned by local traders.

A market trader speaks about the poor deal they are getting

The rally and procession by Southwark Notes, Latin Elephant and Up the Elephant at the Elephant & Castle called on Southwark Council and the developers Delancey to develop the Elephant for the existing population and users, rather than as social cleansing to attract new, wealthier residents and shoppers. They would like to see a development that retains the existing character of the area which has become very much a centre for South London’s Latin community many of whom live in the surrounding area. It became the most diverse and cosmopolitan shopping centre in London, with also other amenities such as a bowling alley and bingo hall, serving the population of the area.

Security officers order the campaigners out of the market area

They say the development should include more social housing and call for fairer treatment of the market traders, who should be provided with ‘like for like’ new spaces at affordable rents and be given adequate financial compensation for the disruption in business the development will cause.

A long series of protests in which locals were joined by students from the London College of Communication whose new building forms a part of the redevelopment did lead to some minor improvements to the scheme by the developers, but the shopping centre closed in September 2020 and demolition went ahead and was complete around a year later. The new development will include high-rent shops, almost certainly mainly parts of major chains, expensive restaurants and bars and plenty of luxury flats, along with a small amount of “affordable” housing.

Sewol Ferry Disaster 5 years on – Trafalgar Square

The Elephant, Sewol and Brexiteers

The good transport links that make the Elephant so attractive to developers also took me rapidly into the centre of London as the procession of protest there came to and end, although events there were continuing all afternoon – only four stops taking 6 minutes on the Bakerloo Line to Charing Cross.

I’ve photographed the small monthly vigils by campaigners in remembrance of the victims and in support of their families of the 304 people who died in the Sewol Ferry Disaster of 16 April 2014 on a number of occasions, though its always difficult to find anything new to say, either in words or pictures.

But this was a special event, the fifth anniversary of the disaster, and the 60th 60th monthly vigil. Campaigners continue to call for a full inquiry, the recovery of all bodies of victims, punishment for those responsible and new laws to prevent another similar disaster. They tie cards on lines with the class and name of the 250 high school children who were drowned after being told to ‘stay put below deck’.

Brexiteers march at Westminster – Westminster Bridge

The Elephant, Sewol and Brexiteers

Brexiteers were continuing to march weekly around London holding Union Jacks, St George’s flags and placards and many wearing yellow high-viz jackets because although there had been a small majority in favour of leaving Europe in the 2016 referendum, Parliament had not found a way to get a majority to pass the legislation needed. It was this indecision that led to a resounding victory for Boris Johnson in the 2019 election in December, though unfortunately his ‘oven-ready’ agreement has turned out to be extremely half-baked and most of the things dismissed by Brexiteers as scaremongering have turned out to be true, while the promises made by the Leave campaign have so far largely failed to materialise and most seem unlikely ever to do so.

Johnson’s deal – important parts of which he seems not to have understood, particularly over the Irish border arrangements has left us in the worst of all possible worlds, though it has made some of his wealthy friends – including some cabinet members – considerably wealthier and protected them from the threat of European legislation that would have outlawed some of their tax avoidance. Back in 2019 I commented “We were sold the impossible, and things were made worse by a government that thought it could play poker when what was needed was a serious attempt at finding a solution to the problems that both the UK and Europe face.”

The protesters were also protesting with flags and banners supporting members of the armed forces against their trial for killings in Northern Ireland and for the Islamophobic campaign ‘Our Boys’ which seeks to have a drunk driver of Hindu origin who killed three young men prosecuted as a terrorist.

March Against Housing & Planning Bill

Sunday, January 30th, 2022

The March Against Housing & Planning Bill on January 30th 2016 was organised by activists from South London, particulary from the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark.

These include many who are fighting against the demolition of social housing that is taking place across London, including in Lambeth and Southwark. Council tenants and leaseholders on council estates are fighting to save their homes – and fighting against Lambeth and Southwark councils who together with private developers and estate agent advisers are bent on demolishing the estates and replacing them with new estates which are largely for private rent or sale at London’s inflated market prices.

Southwark Council in particular carried out an expenisive PR exercise to demonise the Heygate Estate at the Elephant & Castle, having failed to carry out necessary maintenance and flooded the estate with people with various social problems over a number of years. The whole disastrous history has been documented in depth on the Southwark 35% site. A prize-winning estate with 1,214 homes built in 1974 to provide social housing for around 3,000 people was deliberately run-down and demolished. It’s replacement, Elephant Park has less than 100 social housing units. Many of its new flats are simply investments for overseas owners.

Southwark sold the Heygate to developers for one third of its previous valuation, and spent more on the scheme than it received. A study by Global architect firm Gensler concluded that the £35m spent by Southwark in rehousing the estate residents was exactly the same as it would have cost to refurbish the estate up to modern standards – and would have avoided the huge carbon footprint of demolishing and rebuilding.

A well as Heygate, Southwark Council’s main target has been the Aylesbury Estate, where Tony Blair chose to launch the Labour regeneration policy which has enabled corrupt councils to destroy much of what remained of social housing. For many council officers and some councillors it has enabled them to move into highly paid jobs with developers as a reward for their services. Lambeth has also been pursuing similar policies (along with other boroughs in London) and in particular with the Central Hill estate close to Crystal Palace.

An angry heckler – their argument continued after the speech by Livingstone

The protest against the Housing & Planning Bill in 2016 was also attended by people from both Lambeth and Southwark Council, and when Southwark Council Cabinet Member for Housing Richard Livingstone stepped up to the microphone to speak at the rally before the march some trouble was inevitable. Among those loudly heckling him was another of the speakers, Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing.

Class War have also been active in support of social housing in South London in particular and livened up the march by dancing along the street with banners singing the ‘Lambeth Walk’. One banner carried the words of a leading US Anarchist Lucy Parsons (1853-1942), “We must devastate the avenues where the wealthy live” and another had a field of crosses with the message “We have found new homes for the rich“.

Class War supporters rushed across the street for a short impromtu protest in front of a large branch of one of the leading estate agents driving the gentrification of London and advising councils and government on housing policies, but soon rejoined the main march of around 2,000 people heading for Westminster Bridge and Downing St.

At Downing St there was another protest outside the gates. Police had formed a line across Whitehall and directed the march to the opposite side of the street opposite Downing St. The march followed them across but then many simply walked back across the street to mass in front of the gates for a rally led by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! who have been active in supporting the Focus E15 Mothers in their campaign against the housing failures of Newham Council.

More on My London Diary at Housing and Planning Bill March

At the LSE – Sept 29, 2016

Wednesday, September 29th, 2021

I’d gone to the LSE to attend a session in the LSE’s 3-day ‘Resist’ festival organised by Lisa McKenzie, then a research fellow in the Department of Sociology there, though I imagine that this was one of several reasons her contract was not renewed. It’s OK if your work is purely academic, or if it supports the kind of people and companies that fund universities, but anything practical which supports the working classes is definitely infra-dig.

At the end of the session (more about it below) McKenzie called upon Petros Elia, General Secretary of the United Voices of the World trade union to which many of the LSE cleaners now belong. He accused the management of the LSE of failing to protect the interests of cleaners working there who they have outsourced to a cleaning contractor in a cost-cutting exercise without insisting on decent working conditions and conditions of service. He invited all present to a meeting to discuss action by the cleaners which was to be held as a part of the Resist festival later that day. I hadn’t intended to stay for that, but decided to do so.

Covid has made many re-evaluate the contributions of many low-paid workers, and to realise how essential their services are to the running of society. Cleaners are one such group and the meeting organised by the UVW made clear how terribly they were being treated by their employers, Noonan, while the LSE was happy to pocket the few pennies they were saving by outsourcing and look the other way to the injustices taking place under their own roof – while claiming the moral high ground and uncovering and moralising on those in societies around the world.

It was also a meeting which would have shattered any prejudices about low-paid workers being less intelligent, less aware or less articulate than those in higher positions. Many of them were migrant workers and speaking in their second (or third) language, though some through interpreters, but made themselves heard more clearly than the average cabinet minister in a radio or TV interview.

The cleaners’ campaign for parity of treatment with other workers employed directly was supported by students – including those on a new graduate course in Equality – and the students union General Secretary, several post-graduate students and staff. One of those present was LSE Professor of Anthropology David Graeber who so sadly died aged 59 just over a year ago and is much missed.

Students and staff continued to support the cleaners in various actions and the campaign was partly successful. The cleaners were brought in house in June 2017, but are still remained “frustrated and grieved by their continuing treatment as “second-class” workers.” A petition was launched in April 2021 making 14 demands. A major continuing problem is that the LSE does still not recognise or talk with the cleaners’ trade union, the UVW, but talks with Unison which never consults the cleaners and fails to represent many of their needs.

The earlier session of ‘Resist’ was a lengthy and detailed indictment by Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing of a report by a group of LSE academics on Kidbrooke Village, a development by Berkeley Homes and Southern Housing. This replaced the LCC-built Ferrier Estate in SE London, which was deliberately run-down, demonised and emptied by Greenwich Council from 1999 onwards.

Elmer accused the report of lies about the estate regeneration, of basing their report on that of the property developer and passing it off as their own, of placing the cultural legitimacy of an LSE report in the service of Government policy and the profits of Berkeley Homes and of accepting financial backing to validate the desired conclusions of their backers.

Elmer made a convincing case, but none of those responsible came to make any defence of the report, and it was hard to know whether there could have been any – though I suspect it might well have been only a matter of picking a few holes and making minor corrections to his analysis. Clearly universities should not be places where property developers or even governments call the tunes and the LSE would appear to have been caught out kowtowing to capital.

More at:
LSE Cleaners campaign launch
Simon Elmer of ASH indicts LSE

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