London’s Housing Crisis: Please Support the Sweets Way Tenants Facing Eviction in Barnet

28.3.15

Tenants of Sweets Way Estate in Barnet resisting eviction and the demolition of their homes (Photo via Sweets Way Resists).Please sign and share the Sweets Way tenants’ petition calling for their homes to be saved from demolition on Change.org, and see below for their story. Also see the postscript following the court decision on March 30.

London’s housing crisis is something that preoccupies me on a daily basis, although I don’t get to write about it anywhere near as much as I’d like. As a social housing tenant who has lived in London for 30 years, I can say that, since the Tory-led government came to power five years ago, I have never felt as vulnerable or as demeaned, and I have watched aghast as the current housing bubble has driven house prices beyond the reach of most families — and, perhaps more crucially, has also driven rents to levels never seen before.

With rents and mortgages easily reaching £15,000 or £20,000 a year, matching the median income in London, it is understandable why so many hard-working people are now paying out so much for a roof over their heads that they have little left over for their own enjoyment (and crucially, to put into the wider economy), or cannot make ends meet and are obliged to use food banks, or are having to leave London entirely.

In addition, for many social tenants, life is increasingly insecure, as cash-strapped councils claim that they are unable to afford the maintenance on aging estates, and, as a result, sell the land to developers to build new estates, from which existing tenants are priced out, replaced by foreign investors and relatively wealthy British buyers. These developments are supposed to include “affordable” social housing, but more often than not whatever social component exists is actually unaffordable for most workers, because, in September 2013, London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, set affordable rents at 80 percent of market rents.

The Heygate Estate at the Elephant and Castle, in Southwark, which has a Labour council, is a notorious example of an estate sold cheap to developers, with former tenants scattered to the wind, and leaseholders — the ones who bought into the rhetoric of Margaret Thatcher’s council house sell-off — paid well below market rates to move out. Demolished last year, after many years of wrangling over its future, it is now being transformed into a “luxury” estate with no genuinely affordable housing whatsoever for ordinary working Londoners. For the whole sorry story, see the incomparable Southwark Notes website.

Far from learning from its disdain for its own tenants, Southwark Council is now repeating its disgraceful behaviour at the Aylesbury Estate. As Londonist reported on March 6:

Like its now-demolished neighbour, the Heygate Estate, residents at the Aylesbury Estate are losing their homes in a deal between the local authority and Notting Hill Housing (NHH). Southwark call it regeneration, the residents call it social cleansing.

It’s not the first time that Aylesbury residents have fought off an attempt to effectively privatise the estate — in 2001, they voted overwhelmingly against a sale of the estate to a housing association. But in 2005, Southwark came to the decision it wasn’t prepared to stump up the estimated £350m it would cost to upgrade the estate. Instead they decided to rebuild a new estate under the control of NHH, with 50% of the new development being affordable housing. As we’ve pointed out before, the definition of ‘affordable’ varies wildly and isn’t usually that affordable. Recent government-led changes further eroded the obligation on developers to build affordable housing or even pay towards it.

It’s not just council tenants who face eviction; residents who bought their properties under the Right To Buy (RTB) scheme are also getting a raw deal. As the freeholder, Southwark issued Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) to buy back the properties. This is where owning your own council home under RTB might not be such a good idea after all.

Residents say that unlike other developments, Southwark has used an in-house surveyor rather than an independent one to determine how much they will pay for a property. They claim they are being pressured into accepting below market rate and risk being priced out of the area.

On January 31, during the March for Homes protest, an empty block on the Aylesbury Estate was occupied by housing campaigners, and when the block was finally evicted they turned their attentions to another, larger block, prompting a Colditz-style response from the council and the housing trust, who have ringed the blocks in question with a razor wire-topped fence, allowing existing tenants to come and go via one entrance only, patrolled by security guards, creating the impression that they are living in a prison.

Similar, or related problems are taking place across London. In West Hendon, for example, a campaign has been ongoing for a year. As Vice News described the situation in an article in October, “The story unfolding in West Hendon, part of the North London borough of Barnet, is in many ways the same one that’s happening all over London: a council estate being demolished, the land sold off to a property developer and the construction of expensive new, ‘luxury’ flats, with no space on the new development for many of the current, relatively poor residents.” You can sign the petition here (which has over 130,000 supporters), and join the Facebook page.

Last year, two other campaigns secured a huge amount of coverage — the E15 Mothers in Stratford, mostly single mums evicted from a hostel who occupied empty flats on the Carpenters Estate, and the residents of the New Era Estate in Hoxton, who were threatened by a predatory property development company.

The latest group of people facing predatory developers are the residents of Sweets Way Estate in Barnet, in north London — an estate consisting of 160 homes, which previously belonged to the MOD, and had been provided to some of the borough’s most vulnerable people, including formerly homeless families, through an arrangement between the council and Notting Hill Housing Trust. Now, however, the estate is the focus of redevelopment plans, approved by the council, put forward by Annington Property Ltd. As the Guardian revealed last week, Annington was bought in 2012 by Terra Firma, “a multi-billion-pound investment house” run by Guy Hands, “a tax exile and one of Britain’s top private equity investors.”

Last week, Russell Brand attended a sleepover on the estate, attracting media attention as he did previously in Stratford and Hoxton for the E15 Mothers and the New Era protesters. Of the 160 houses on the estate, just ten were still occupied when, last week, protestors decided to squat some of the empty properties to highlight the plight of the former residents.

As the Guardian explained, “The occupation of Sweets Way began last week, when four of the boarded-up properties were occupied by squatters protesting against the redevelopment. During Tuesday’s sleepover, metal grilles were removed from two more recently evacuated homes, revealing pristine conditions inside. The occupiers invited those who had lost their homes on the estate to ‘move back in.'”

Local resident Rosa de Souza said, “These housing protests are happening all over London. Developers are destroying communities. This is social cleansing. People don’t matter any more, just profit.”

A spokesman for Annington Property Ltd. claimed that the company “very much supports the argument for more homes, both in London and elsewhere, although there is a need for development to achieve this. It is regrettable when homes need to be demolished, but Annington’s decision to redevelop the estate will see an increase in the number of homes by more than 100%, from 142 to 288, and the inclusion of 20% affordable homes will see a minimum of 59 created where there were none before.”

Unfortunately, of course, the “affordable” homes will not be affordable for the former tenants — or for the majority of hard-working Londoners in the borough — rather making a mockery of Annington’s claims.

Below is the petition on Change.org by the Sweets Way Resists tenants’ group, which currently has over 60,000 signatures, and below that is Owen Jones’ Guardian article about the protest, and a video of residents talking about their situation. The Facebook page is here, and on Monday March 30, at 10am, the campaigners and residents are at Barnet County Court, resisting eviction after a one-week stay that was granted by the judge last week. As they say, “Annington have a well-paid team of lawyers who will use every trick in the book to not only evict the Sweets Way social centre, but also to criminalise protest across the whole estate (where families are still living!) This is potentially setting a very dangerous legal precedent for future housing protests and freedom of expression more widely. Come out and make it clear that we won’t stand by as our right to protest is trampled with our right to decent homes!”

Stop the evictions and demolition of the Sweets Way estate
Change.org petition by Sweets Way Resists

Sweets Way Estate used to be a tight-knit community in Barnet, London, with families and children who played and went to school together. Now Sweets Way is the site of protest, where these same families are pleading with the council not to push them from their homes.

We are Sweets Way Resists, a group of residents and ex-residents of the Sweets Way estate who are being evicted so that the estate can be redeveloped and turned into flats for the wealthy.

Before December there were 160 homes on the estate, all but 10 families have now been evicted and rehoused mostly out of the borough — some even out of London. Most of these are families with children who have had their lives uprooted and moved away from their community, their friends and their schools.

The property is being developed by the company Annington — one of the largest property developers in the UK. In December, Barnet Council approved Annington’s application to redevelop Sweets Way – meaning pushing out all current residents and replacing the existing homes with up to 288 new ones. Almost all of these new homes will be for the wealthy.

And meanwhile the families of Sweets Way have been forced into homes that are too small, too far from schools (meaning some of the children have had to miss school) and none have been told where or how they will be housed long term. But we don’t want to be rehoused — we want our homes back.

According to Annington’s plans, the ten families left on the estate will be removed by the end of this month.  We won’t let that happen — we’re standing our ground, occupying the empty flats and will stand together until Richard Cornelius, Leader of Barnet Council and Annington meet our demands.

Barnet Homes has repeatedly told us that there are no appropriate homes for us in the borough, but they are wrong — we are living in them! Our homes are well-built and perfectly habitable and the estate offers green spaces and gardens for our kids to play and the community to come together. Annington’s so-called ‘regeneration’ of our estate benefits private developers at the expense of our community.

We demand:

1. No demolition of the homes on Sweets Way estate
2. Repopulation of empty homes, with right to return for all decanted residents
3. Immediate stop to all eviction proceedings against residents

If Annington can’t provide homes at Sweets Way that we can afford, we demand that they sell the estate to Barnet Council at a cost the council can afford.

On Sweets Way the great ignored are finding ways to assert themselves
By Owen Jones, The Guardian, March 24, 2015

“They think we’re a piece of furniture,” Kauthar says, her tone one of defiance and incredulity. “We’re not a sofa or a table, we’re actually human beings.” She oozes determination. Along with the rest of her community, Kauthar faces eviction from Sweets Way estate in Barnet, north London, because a tax exile wants to bulldoze their homes to make way for luxury homes. Oh, and 59 “affordable” homes, an Orwellian attempt to rebrand rents only the comfortably off can pay as something else.

Kauthar is just 13 years old, a year-eight student who is also a resolute, charismatic protester. When her family were booted out of their home, they were relocated to a house with no hot water, leaving them to spend weeks bathing with the help of a kettle. But she isn’t broken: far from it. “We just want them to listen to us,” Kauthar says. “We want them to come and be in our shoes because if they were in our shoes they would hate it. They’re living out a posh life and they’ve got money, but our parents didn’t choose to be in this situation.”

The occupation of Sweets Way estate matters. It’s crucial, of course, for the dignity and security of its inhabitants, who were taken to court on Monday but won an adjournment until next week. It’s important, too, to confront a housing crisis that has left 5 million people languishing on social housing waiting lists, and countless families at the mercy of an unregulated, sometimes extortionate private rental market. But it is significant because it is a striking example of people deprived of any meaningful political voice in modern Britain. Lacking representation at local and national levels, benefiting from few allies in the mainstream media, they are forced to be creative when it comes to forcing the powerful to listen.

Neoliberal society obliterates organised dissent. Ideologically, it breaks down solidarity, encouraging the idea that we all rise or fall as individuals based on our personal effort, or lack thereof. The shift from an industrial to a service-sector working class breaks down other organic forms of solidarity: jobs can be more precarious and short-lived, and communities tend not to be based around supermarkets or call centres as they once were around factories or mines. Trade unions have been weakened by anti-union laws, defeats in seismic industrial disputes, and mass unemployment. Working-class people were deprived of a voice; the notion of collectively organising to improve the conditions of individuals, communities and society as a whole has been eroded.

The proliferation of home ownership was supposed to further inculcate a sense of individualism, and hinder protracted strikes because of the need to pay mortgages. Trade unions and local government gave working-class people political experience and knowhow; their decline, along with the general professionalisation of politics, has ensured the dominance of the professional middle classes in Westminster. The decline of the left, and with it a sense of a coherent alternative vision for how society could be run, saps the will to fight.

It should be so different. A broader labour movement would organise the unemployed and those living a precarious existence. There would be more local councillors hailing from the circumstances of those facing eviction from Sweets Way. Members of parliament would find themselves directly accountable to a thriving movement from below. There would be far more journalists from such communities, instead of a media transformed into a closed shop for the privileged, thanks to unpaid internships and expensive postgraduate qualifications. Democracy would be a far more effective counterweight to corporate interests.

Of course, in such a Britain it is unlikely the residents of Sweets Way estate would find themselves in their current situation in the first place. But deprived of effective representation, they are forced to resort to any means possible to be heard.

The residents cannot rely on mainstream media that are largely the plaything of a few privileged owners. And so they bypass it with social media, increasingly becoming a great hope for those seeking to democratise the means of dispersing information in modern Britain. They tweet out their situation, argue their case, appeal for solidarity and resources, ask others to build pressure on both their corporate tormentors and local and national politicians. They enlist the support of Russell Brand, who has become an important ally of this grassroots campaign because his social media following and celebrity makes him a highly effective megaphone.

Democracy no longer listens to the likes of Sweets Way residents, let alone caters for their needs. That leaves many Britons in desperate circumstances feeling resigned and hopeless, sensing the odds are too great, lacking faith in collective struggle as a solution. But the likes of Sweets Way – following struggles over housing led by working-class women in Focus E15 and the New Era last year – demonstrate that the apparently voiceless are increasingly finding ways of asserting themselves.

We won’t hear voices like Kauthar’s in the general election campaign. A coup by the privileged in politics and media ensures that they are simply not listened to or taken seriously. But I found a courage and determination in that 13-year-old girl that is infectious. From Brixton cinema workers fighting for the living wage to the New Era tenants, the great ignored are finding ways to win despite a decaying democracy that excludes them. It should give hope to others in similar circumstances.

And if not, Kauthar has a warning. “When we grow older, we might be controlling them. They never know.”

POSTSCRIPT APRIL 6: On March 30, a judge in Barnet County Court approved the eviction of the Sweets Way campaigners, “imposed an injunction preventing anyone from entering the site,” as the local media described it, and “also awarded costs totalling £3,163 against the campaigners.” Representing the defendants, Ella Harris called the injunction “unnecessary, draconian, excessive and disproportionate.”

In response, however, the campaigners occupied a nearby building instead. As an article on their website explained:

Today one of the most long-standing principles of British law was reinforced: that private property rights hold greater importance than human rights. A Barnet County Court judge decided to rule against our protest and social centre occupation on the Sweets Way estate, in favour of social cleansing property firm, Annington, even though agreeing with most of our arguments in the courtroom.

Not only did they grant Annington possession over the 160 or so homes of the Sweets Way estate, they even gave them an injunction against future protests taking place anywhere on the site! This is unprecedented and a worryingly draconian case for all involved in housing justice work. However, as long as private property is deemed more legally important than a range of human rights, this kind of thing will happen.

But what happened after the injunction is truly remarkable!

Upon our return from court, we found that the social centre at 60 Sweets Way had been emptied of all the things that made it beautiful. Meanwhile a new property – a five bedroom at 76 Oakleigh Road North also slated to be demolished as part of the Annington ‘regeneration,’ but just beyond the injunction and possession zones – had been occupied and filled with all the makings of a new social centre!

There’s a Mexican proverb that feels appropriate for us today: ‘They tried to bury us, but they forgot that we were seeds.’

Also see this article about the campaigners’ Easter celebrations.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, the director of “We Stand With Shaker,” calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

35 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Ted Cartselos wrote:

    Andy, you may know that we are battling an attempt by some very rich people who are promoting a bid to host the Olympic Summer Games in Boston. London just went through this. Your tory mayor was in town recently denouncing opponents of the Games as malcontents. I realize this is not your normal beat, but is there anyone you know who covered the London bid story and can speak to the details of what happened and why?
    The Boston Olympics organizers point to the London experience as a success story, but from what I see there were obscene cost overruns and enormous social dislocations.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    I’ll have a look and see if I can find someone here, Ted. I saw something about it the other day and my heart sank. It has been a nightmare for the UK. It cost untold billions, and was not properly audited, there was an increase in idiotic nationalism and jingoism and flag-waving patriotism, exploited by the Tories, it kick-started an insane housing bubble just when the bankers wanted it, and it increased the privatisation of public spaces and contributed to elements of social cleansing. I wouldn’t recommend hosting the Olympics to anyone.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Ted Cartselos wrote:

    The narrative has a way of morphing as it travels over the Atlantic here to the colonies.
    One of the problems we have had in opposing this highway robbery by the rich is that we have no institutional knowledge or experience with the Games. This is the first time Boston will file a bid.
    The history of the Games is such that they have a much easier time when they are hosted by totalitarian regimes. The UK is a democracy, at least on paper. So the story on how the Tories conned the nation into this scheme would have lessons for Boston.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    “A democracy at least on paper” – I like that, Ted. I found this in Red Pepper magazine, which might provide some pointers: http://www.redpepper.org.uk/olympic-struggle/

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    And this from someone whose entire estate was compulsorily purchased to make way for the Olympic stadium: http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2008/jun/02/olympics2012

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Jamal Ajouaou wrote:

    Great work Andy , it Amazing how people on power forget others when it comes to maths and figures , the good thing about the uk ,is that every body have equal opportunity and the sky is the limit when it comes to have a chance for innovation , what would it be for those gifted natural children happen to be from working class who would have that chance Government we pay tax to improve our lives instead they insult us using our contribution like they are doing us a favour .

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Jamal. It’s certainly true that we have more opportunities here in the UK than in many other poorer and more explicitly corrupt countries, but it’s sad to see social mobility on the decline, as the greedy get greedier. These housing stories are indicative of what’s happening, with so many people being economically strangled by banks or landlords, then there’s a lack of good jobs for young people (even those with degrees), despite the cost of a university education (which now involves loans of £9000 a year, up from £3000 before the Tories). And all the time, more and more of what used to be in public hands is privatised …

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    I posted this early today because I’m out this evening. My son is beatboxing at Battersea Arts Centre with other beatboxers, singers and rappers, and there are also short films of the performers made over the last few weeks.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Jamal Ajouaou wrote:

    Andy I wish you an enjoyable peaceful time with your family , I know Batteresea always nice to remember the good old days ,Battersea is closer to my heart it was the first place that gave me home when I came to the uk , Battersea is the place where I lived with my Cool english friends when I first came to London , quite nice and peaceful and very friendly neighbors Robinson street not far from the park town hall and famous powers station picture on the pink Floyd album , after with my mother we live across the bridge Pimlico 89 Gloucester Street ,

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Nice memories, Jamal​. There are, of course, still lots of lovely places in London and lots of lovely people, but greed stalks every borough. The development of Battersea Power Station is one of the more unpleasant examples. The New Statesman here: http://www.newstatesman.com/media-mole/2014/04/try-read-interview-battersea-power-station-redeveloper-and-not-want-vomit
    Glitzy designs for unaffordable flats here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2744107/A-room-iconic-view-Artists-impressions-released-8bn-development-Battersea-Power-Station-look-like.html

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I signed it, Andy.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, George. I’m glad to see the level of support there is and has been for each of these campaigns – in Stratford, Hoxton, West Hendon and now Barnet. I think it shows that people can join the dots and both see the bigger picture and empathise at a local level, and I think that’s a good sign.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    This is my article from last October about the Focus E15 Mothers campaign in Stratford, the one that grabbled the media’s attention in a big way: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2014/10/01/photos-and-essay-the-inspiring-council-house-occupation-in-stratford-that-is-resonating-across-london/

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    And my photo set on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/andyworthington/sets/72157648249567092/
    I passed through the Carpenters Estate recently on my bike, and was glad to see that the flats occupied by the mums, and the block next to it, which was boarded up back in September/October, are back in use. This is clearly a victory for the campaigners, although overall the problem remains – in Stratford as elsewhere – that councils don’t have access to the money required to maintain properties to standards that are legally required, and so are cutting deals with developers, which provide them with some much-needed funds, but which also contributes to an increase in the number of poorer people locally who are deprived of the opportunity to live in social housing.

  16. With the UK’s General Election Ever Closer, Whose Culture are we “Celebrating”?  Dark Politricks says...

    […] too much in search of work, and in doing so have torn up our roots. Now London authorities are relocating people to other places so they can sell off social housing to developers. Thus we lose connections with […]

  17. damo says...

    The London and UK houseing crisis goes from bad to worse its horrifieing out there a return to the days of rackman and Kathy come home if you think you have it bad with houseing associations try the private rented sector unbelievable full of …monsters…shysters ..and the moraly bankrupt ..litteraly Andy thease …people….have a gun to everybody’s head and if your a social tennant …you are in real danger….thank god people are starting to fight back we can only hope and pray the protests gather momentum……though on a great note on the news yesturday that fat torie shitrag..the repugnant buffoon ..Boris…was destroyed buy a little old lady …right there on camera calling him out,a discrace ,corrupt,…we all cheered…dxx

  18. damo says...

    I just read the piece about battersea power station and yes it did make me want to vomit what we need to do is get some sturdy rope and…simpley hang Boris string him up ..I shall be on the houseing march on the 15th with this on a banner.lol

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Great to hear from you, Damo. It’s been while. I wondered if you’d gone away when I hadn’t heard from you in response to this latest article.
    You’re right about Rachman (http://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/she-said/2014/mar/23/the-ghost-of-peter-rachman-still-stalks-the-halls-of-britains-rented-properties) and ‘Cathy Come Home’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8fVnXXMw60) – but where are the champions of the poor and oppressed now as opposed to in the 60s, when Jeremy Sandford wrote ‘Cathy Come Home’, Ken Loach directed it for the BBC and it was hugely influential? Now our discourse is so atomised and so many people have become hard-hearted, having been encouraged to be so by politicians and the media, that there’s no outrage, as there should be. We have become like America – where only money counts – and the fact that so many people are being fleeced by private landlords – and are often living in squalor to boot – is supposed to be irrelevant. Those with money can do what they want; those without don’t get a say, because they are regarded as inferior.
    The biggest problem for social tenants, I think, is that those on estates will continue to have their homes demolished because councils can’t afford to maintain them, and won’t challenge the government or the requirements for maintaining social housing. After all, people would, I think, mostly rather be allowed to live in slightly run-down but affordable homes than be priced out of London altogether.
    I missed Boris being humiliated, although it sounds rather wonderful. Do you have a link? I can’t find anything by random searching.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Damo. Yes, Battersea Power Station is emblematic of how out of control development ow is – although it’s just one of many obscene developments by the river in Battersea. I saw one apartment – not yet built – advertised in an estate agent’s window in Greenwich a few weeks ago. It was a 21st floor two-bedroom flat, with a balcony, of course, but nothing else – and they wanted £985,000 for it! It ought to be unbelievable, really, and yet this is the reality of modern London, seven years after the global crash, despite the gap between the rich and poor growing on an unstoppable basis, and despite much of the middle class seeing their incomes shrink in real terms on an ongoing basis.
    Thanks for the reminder of the housing march on Wednesday. I’ll be there.
    Events around the world (England, Ireland, Scotland, Canada and the US) are here: https://marchforthehomeless2015.wordpress.com/
    And here’s the London page: https://marchforthehomeless2015.wordpress.com/#jp-carousel-170

  21. damo says...

    We will storm the gates Andy lol storm the gates of downing street

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Ha, yes, Damo – but we’d need to get the police onside first. They choose ones who are good at communicating with the public to guard our lard-faced PM, but they’re all armed!

  23. anna seymour says...

    Hello Andy,
    I just dont know what to say,I live on one of seven estates in Milton Keynes which are all currently up for regeneration(read demolition),Lakes estate,Tinkers Bridge,Netherfield,Bean Hill ,Coffee Hall,Fullers Slade,Bradville ,all the older estates built when MK first started,the council is selling off our homes in july.

    The Council are holding monthly meetings telling of all the good things we can expect with regeneration,painting such a rosey picture,the thing is this sheeple me that is, is not brainwashed and I can read what they intend to do,evict us all they have been telling us for years we are undesirables who are sitting on prime building land,all they see when they look at us and the land we occupy is many ££££££££££££££ss signs.

    All I can say is we are determined to stand up to them,but if not for reading about the Sweets Way tenants I would not have been aware of Annington property developers,as in MK the Kuwait gov is buying vast areas of land here,for property development.

    These planners sit in their Ivory towers planning away our lives ,we are mere s**t under their feet and not even considered humans fit to live.
    take care anna

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Anna. Sorry it’s under such difficult circumstances.
    I was shocked to read that the Kuwaiti government is buying up land in Milton Keynes, but I shouldn’t be surprised. Everywhere land and houses are being sold to the highest bidder, and the government obviously doesn’t care about those who are dispossessed.
    I wasn’t aware of the regeneration plans in Milton Keynes, but I had a quick search online and have found out about the plans dating back over a decade, and how extensive they are. This is the council’s regeneration site: http://www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/housing/regenerationmk
    However, I couldn’t find anything anywhere about opposition to the plans. All I found was a lot of regeneration-speak – the usual slef-satisfied jargon, and nothing at all about the people involved. Is there an organisation of tenants opposed to the plans? You should definitely get in touch with Sweets Way, and the E15 Mums, the New Era tenants and the West Hendon tenants.

  25. damo says...

    Reading Anna,s comments It’s like there’s a mass landgrab going on not just hear but all over the world the poor being uprooted and pushed aside everywere from the gentrification of manhattens lowereastsider to farmers being displaced in outer Mongolia, litteraly it seems hear in the UK all our industry and manufacturing has over the last 35 years been destroyed by the monsters of Thatcher and the Tories to the monsters of new labour …this is now a deindustrialised country …so houseing and landgrabbing ..is the industry. and god help help you if you are poor …..but thank god there is a fightback thankgod for that hopefully there will be a big turnout tommorow at the march …..dxx

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I think there is a mass land grab, Damo, as the greedy see profits and nothing else, and don’t care what happens to those who are squeezed out. It’s depressing how little interest there is in it, to be honest. People who bought before the last two booms (under New Labour and now the Tories) are paying tiny mortgages for properties that are now valued at many many times what they paid for them, and yet that’s apparently acceptable, just as it’s also supposed to be acceptable that everyone else must now pay a fortune to buy or rent.
    What we need is for house prices to be significantly devalued, but that’s obviously not going to happen without a major economic crash. It should have happened after the 2008 crash, of course, as in every other recession, but the government and the Bank of England conspired to keep interest rates close to zero, deliberately fuelling the current bubble that is causing so much misery to so many people.
    Maybe the bubble will burst, however. This is from the Wall Street Journal just three weeks ago: http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2015/03/27/cooling-u-k-property-could-shape-boe-policy/

    [T]he fact that London house prices are at unprecedented valuations means that however low mortgage rates might be, people can’t afford them. House prices have soared while wages stagnated. Valuations across London and its commuter belt are broadly ten times average earnings. On price-to-rental and price-to-earnings metrics, U.K. property overall is between a third and a half overvalued. For London the ratio is much higher than that – prices are a third above their peak in 2007 when there was widespread concern the London market was in the midst of a bubble. (emphasis added)

    Wouldn’t it be great if house prices dropped by 50%?

  27. damo says...

    Unfortunatly unless there is a crash house prices and rents won’t drop its just this constant churning my street my house like many London streets and houses now there the constant comeong and going of estate agents landlords lettings agent builders constantly like flys people moveing in and out trancsient …not giveing a chance for communitys to form…just a constant churning some of the older renting tennants are being priced out as the landlord wants to cash in others can’t deal with the constant churning of differant tennants Andy I kid you not 10 differant people over a year ….this is London now though there’s rebelion some of the new yuppie developments are haveing the advertising sighns vandalised one on goldhawk rd of all places …and get this….a collection of exquisit town houses …all starting at nearly 2 million .someone painted …hang yuppies over the sighn lol ..I hope the march is good today.

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I’m seeing more graffiti here in south east London, Damo, on the glossy hoardings selling lies about overpriced high-rise rabbit hutches. It’s a start, but there needs to be much more resistance.
    See you this evening opposite Downing Street, hopefully: https://www.facebook.com/events/1598140660402746/

  29. damo says...

    There just wasent enogh people there

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    I know what you mean, Damo, but I actually thought it was quite a good turnout. Homelessness is a notoriously difficult topic to get people motivated for, unfortunately, but I was pleased to see housing activists there as well – Aylesbury activists from Walworth and West Hendon residents, for example.
    “The housing crisis and homelessness” might have been a better topic, I think, to attract more people, as it’s all connected – homelessness, the destruction of social housing and the unfettered greed of the private market.
    More to the point, I was hoping to see you there, but missed you!

  31. damo says...

    I’m glad I.went though I just wished there had been more people I just want to see thousands at the next demos and at midday after 6 everyone’s gone home I just wish the public would switch of the iPhones and get behinde the demonstrations becouse it will afect everyone even the superich gobbling up everything they will have to live in fortresses being protected from the masses

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I agree, Damo. People need to mobilise instead of endlessly diverting themselves, as the corporations and politicians want them to. We all need homes, and yet we’re seeing increasing homelessness, working people having to go to food banks, and even the supposedly well-off middle classes, who own their own homes, which have skyrocketed in “value,” not knowing what to do for their kids, who can’t afford to move out. Everyone loses financially except the super-rich, and as you say, they’re locked up in their ivory towers, afraid of the people they’ve impoverished. What a mess.

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    On the Olympics, this is an important article from the Boston Globe: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/04/04/london-games-legacy-came-first/PqBPwBA9Xx2FxFvQj1wMgP/story.html

    This is Neale Coleman, deputy chairman of the London Legacy Development Corporation, “a public agency under London Mayor Boris Johnson that owns the park and is overseeing ongoing development,” talking about the cost of getting the Olympic Stadium into shape for a private company to take it over and make a profit out of it.

    “It’s cost quite a bit of money” — about $300 million in retrofitting — “and most of that is going to be public money,” Coleman said. “But if our reckoning is right, once we’re done the stadium will run at a profit. And it’s part of this huge new quarter of London.”

  34. simone glover says...

    Here’s the response I received today, following a petition email I added my name to on 4th May.

    Thank you for your email.

    Sweets Way has never been and is not owned by Barnet Council. The properties are privately owned, but have been let to Council tenants on a temporary basis whilst plans to redevelop the site have progressed. The alternative would have been for these properties to have been left empty for four years.

    Barnet Homes have been helping those households who are eligible for housing assistance.

    Councillor Richard Cornelius
    Leader of the Council and
    Totteridge Ward Member

    London Borough of Barnet, North London Business Park, Oakleigh Road South, London N11 1NP
    Tel: 020 8359 2059
    Fax: 0870 889 7464
    Barnet Online: http://www.barnet.gov.uk

  35. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Simone. A predictable answer, given that the MoD owned the land. As with many places, however, what we want, what we need to hear from councils is that they’re working harder than they are to take over places like Sweets Way, because of the need for housing in Barnet (as everywhere). Instead, councils are failing to fight for those in housing need, and in far to many cases, when estates need major repairs but they can’t afford it, are selling – or even handing over for no money – the land to private developers, who are then building new flats for profit but essentially with no provision for the former tenants, because they can’t afford it. I think that’s fundamentally wrong, and will carry on campaigning for much more social housing to be built, and to protect existing social housing.

Leave a Reply

Back to the top

Back to home page

Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
Email Andy Worthington

CD: Love and War

Love and War by The Four Fathers

The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

The Battle of the Beanfield book cover

The Battle of the Beanfield

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion book cover

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

Outside The Law DVD cover

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

RSS

Posts & Comments

World Wide Web Consortium

XHTML & CSS

WordPress

Powered by WordPress

Designed by Josh King-Farlow

Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist:

Archives

In Touch

Follow me on Facebook

Become a fan on Facebook

Subscribe to me on YouTubeSubscribe to me on YouTube

Andy's Flickr photos

Campaigns

Categories

Tag Cloud

Afghans in Guantanamo Al-Qaeda Andy Worthington British prisoners Center for Constitutional Rights CIA torture prisons Clive Stafford Smith Close Guantanamo David Cameron Force-feeding Guantanamo Hunger strikes London Military Commission NHS NHS privatisation Periodic Review Boards Photos President Obama Reprieve Shaker Aamer Torture UK austerity UK protest US Congress US courts Video We Stand With Shaker WikiLeaks Yemenis in Guantanamo