Posts Tagged ‘Sweets Way’

Barnet Bans Photography

Thursday, May 13th, 2021

Barnet Council tried to stop me photographing the petition handover

I photographed several protests on Wednesday 13th May 2015 before making my way to Barnet Town Hall where campaigners from Sweets Way and West Hendon estates had come to question councillors at a Town Hall meeting and hand over petitions with over 200,000 signatures to council leader Richard Cornelius.

Local residents protest through an open window at the Town Hall

They held a loud protest outside the hall before a small group went inside to hand over the petition, and security on the door let me go in with them when I showed my press card, and I began to take pictures, along with another photographer. But the council press officer intervened, looked at my press card and firmly told me “No Photographs” and called on security to escort me and the other press photographer out of the building.

And people come over to block my view of the protest

I protested but went with the security team who led me towards the door. They couldn’t take me out as the large crowd outside was trying hard to push its way inside to attend the meeting. From the lobby I could see that some were trying to climb in through a window with council staff blocking them and I took a few pictures – through a glass partition – until another council employee moved to block my view, holding up a coat in front of my lens.

After being thrown out I photographed it from the outside

I wasn’t too upset, as in both cases I had managed to take pictures before I was stopped, but did feel that the council were acting in an unreasonable manner in trying to stop reporting of events in which there was a clear public interest about a public authority taking place in a public building. The security men who were following the order to escort me out were behaving reasonably and I think were unhappy at being asked to take me outside – which eventually they did. They and the police on duty had earlier let me inside when I showed my press card.

A councillor coming to the meeting tells me I can’t take his picture

Then I was able to photograph the crowd outside trying to make their way in. Eventually things calmed down after some of them were told they would be admitted, but I was firmly told I could not come in as I had taken photographs earlier. I was actually pleased to leave as I was getting tired and hungry after a rather long day.

Local government here in the UK has become far less transparent, with decisions being taken by small cabals under ‘cabinet’ systems which even leave many councillors unaware of what is going on. Local newspapers have largely disappeared, their place taken by ‘local editions’ of nation-wide organisations which have few if any local staff – and who seldom attend or report on council meetings, relying instead on PR handouts.

Some wore masks showing Barnet Council Leader Cllr Richard Cornelius

Local authorities have a long history of corruption, with various projects and deals which benefit the particular business interests of councillors and officers rather than simply the people they are supposed to serve. Of course what is good for the town should also be good for businesses in the town, and many councillors have been local businessmen – though of course council decisions should not give special favours to their businesses, as so often happened.

The petitions: 64,848 signatures for Sweets Way, 132,939 for West Hendon

But decisions like those to demolish the West Hendon estate involve major property developers and seem to be being taken not about the local residents whose homes are being demolished but about huge profits for developers and some financial advantage for the councils, often with significant personal inducements for those councillors and officers concerned with making the decisions. The West Hendon council estate is being demolished because it is on an attractive site overlooking the Welsh Harp reservoir and new flats will be highly marketable – council and developers see social housing there as a wasted business opportunity.

My treatment at Barnet was in itself of no real importance, but a symptom of the lack of transparency and a culture of secrecy that now pervades local government. If we are to have confidence in our councils we need a much greater openness.

Sweets Way & West Hendon at Barnet Council


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.


Property Vultures Self Awards

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

Outside the Housing Awards event at Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane

We suffer from a housing benefits system that actually benefits landlords rather than tenants and a housing policy that is led by the advice of estate agents and developers.

Combined with governments dedicated to austerity and cuts this has led to a record level of evictions, doubling of rough sleeping in London and the worst shortage of truly affordable housing in history, while property developers cash in by building luxury flats for largely overseas investors who have made profits from rapidly rising market prices for flats which are often left empty for all or most of the year.

Protesters pay a brief visit to Foxtons on Park Lane

The attack on social housing was largely begun by Margaret Thatcher, who forced councils to sell off housing stock under her ‘right to buy’ scheme, and stopped councils from using the funds to replace them. Many or most of these properties were later sold to private landlords and became ‘buy to let’ properties at high market rents.

Housing Action Trusts, set up under the 1988 Housing Act took many council estates out of council control, eventually handing them on to housing associations, many of which have become hard to distinguish from commercial landlords.

New Labour ratcheted up the crisis with their emphasis on estate regeneration – whether the tenants wanted it or not. Though possibly begun with good intentions it became a tool used by many councils to demolish social housing and replace it by mixed developments in cooperation with private developers or housing associations which often contain only small amounts of genuinely social housing at ‘council rents’ (though with much less security of tenure) along with various shared ownership and so-called ‘affordable’ rent schemes and a large proportion of properties at market prices.

Often the original tenants and leaseholders of such regenerated estates have been ‘socially cleansed’, forced to move out of the area to lower cost fringe areas. Over 50,000 families have been forced to move out of London, where many more properties remain empty, thanks to housing policies that serve greed rather than need.

Protesters held their own award ceremony outside the hotel

I’m not a fan of awards ceremonies, industry events to pat each other on the back and make effusive speeches. Too often the awards go to the wrong people, but in the case of property developers there are perhaps only wrong people involved. But the protesters held their own, with large cardboard cups going for the Placard Making Award, Demonstration of the Year, Occupation of the Year and Young Protester Personalities of the Year.

Those who turned up to protest outside the plush hotel where the awards event was taking place included many who have been affected by the greed of developers and are fighting against the demolition of their estate or their eviction so that property owners can replace them by wealthier occupiers at market rents.

More pictures on My London Diary: Property Awards at Mayfair Hotel

April 2nd 2015

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

April 2nd in 2015 was Maundy Thursday and a rather busy day for me, though only one of the events was related to Holy Week.

My working day started around noon outside the US Embassy, still then in Grosvenor Square, where the monthly protests by the London Guantánamo Campaign were continuing, handing out leaflets and talking with passers by calling for justice and freedom for the remaining 122 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay.

From there is was a short walk to a lunchtime protest by residents from Sweets Way in north London outside the offices of the estates owners who I described as “the tax-dodging equity investor owned company” Annington Homes, calling for an end to evictions and the right to return for all decanted residents.

I’d heard that the previous night activists from the Autonymous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians had entered Admiralty Arch through the roof and were occupying the building and went along to investigate, along with a couple of other journalists. We were offered entry if we brought tobacco or alcohol but felt it wise to refuse and left, having taken a few pictures of the banners and notices on the outside of the building.

I hadn’t wanted to spend too much time at the Admiralty Arch as I was on my way to a protest outside the offices of G4S on Victoria St calling for the release of the 300 Palestinian children then held in G4S secured Israeli jails to be released. In 2014 Israel held 1266 Palestinian children for interrogation; 75% of them were physically tortured and many sexually abused. One of the speakers was a woman who was forced to undress and stand naked in public by Israeli security on a visit to Israel to visit Palestinians in jail.

I left the protest to catch up with Catholic Workers on a Holy Week procession around the “geography of suffering” in London, stopping outside the offices of companies in the arms trade for prayers against the arms trade, war, torture, nuclear weapons, international debt, homelessness, immigration policy and climate change.

Next came a visit to the Meridien and Park Lane Hotels on Piccadilly in Mayfair where the Unite Hotel Workers Branch protested in solidarity with fellow workers for Sheraton hotels in Ethiopia and the Maldives who have been sacked for union organising.

And finally I made the trip to Aldgate East, where Class War were holding the 26th of their series of weekly protests against ‘Poor Doors’, the separate entrance down a side alley for social housing tenants at One Commercial St.

It had been getting increasingly difficult to keep up photographing these protests without taking the same pictures again and again, but this evening the police made my job easier first by putting on a little light entertainment as an officer tackled a smoke flare thrown onto the highway and later, considerably more seriously sending in a squad to snatch and arrest Lisa McKenzie, who was at the time standing as Class War candidate against Iain Duncan Smith in Chingford – see the picture at the top of this post. Fortunately when the case came to court the police had no credible case against her and her barrister was not even required to speak in her defence – or call witnesses (much to my relief as I was one of them) – and the case was dismissed. Clearly the police had been leaned on – perhaps by IDS or his colleague the Home Secretary- to harass Lisa for her impertinent electoral challenge.

More on all of these events:

Chingford candidate arrested at Poor Doors
Shame on Sheraton – Hotel Workers
Stations of the Cross Pilgrimage
Free the Palestinian Children
Admiralty Arch Occupied by A.N.A.L.
Sweets Way at Annington Homes
Shut Guantánamo!


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.