How People Power Is Stopping Social Cleansing in Haringey

30.11.17

Stop HDV campaigners in summer 2017.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

The struggle against social cleansing in the UK is a huge struggle, as councils enter into disgraceful deals with private developers, housing estates are destroyed, and tenants and leaseholders dispossessed, and victories often appear elusive.

As a result, what is happening in Haringey, in north London, is inspirational, as local activists have been working to successfully ensure that councillors who support the council’s social cleansing proposals — involving the creation of the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), a £2bn deal with a private developer — are de-selected prior to the council elections next May, and are being replaced with candidates who oppose the plans. See this page on the Stop HDV website for the extraordinary story of how, at the time of writing, there are now 36 Labour candidates who oppose the HDV, and only seven who support it.

The threat in Haringey is more severe than anywhere else in London, as the Labour council’s deal, with Lendlease, the Australian-based international housing developer, would involve all of Haringey’s council housing being transferred to the HDV. Even before an agreement is in place, plans have been announced for estates to be destroyed, and it is not scaremongering to suggest that the destruction and social cleansing, if it is not stopped, will be on a scale that has never been seen before in the UK.

Lendlease is notorious for its role in the destruction of the Heygate Estate in Southwark, in south east London, where, as I described it in an article in September, following a screening of the documentary, ‘Dispossession: The Great Housing Swindle’, in New Cross, “1,034 homes were demolished [and] 2,704 are being built on its replacement, Elephant Park, but only 82 of those will be for social rent.” Social rents are generally set at around 30% of market rents, as opposed to what has been defined as “affordable” in the Tories’ housing legislation, which is set at 80% of market rent, and is, therefore, completely unaffordable for most people.

As I also explained, “Lendlease paid Southwark Council £55m for the Heygate Estate, and £40m for the Oakmayne and Tribeca site, also at the Elephant. The process of evicting and relocating tenants cost the council £65m, while refurbishment of the estate would have cost just £35m. Lendlease, meanwhile, stands to make a profit of £194m, while Southwark will make nothing, although one doesn’t even have to be cynical to notice a revolving door whereby former Southwark council housing employees end up getting jobs with the developers.”

Lendlease’s aggressive policies were recently exposed in a report by Corporate Watch, ‘Lendlease: Development Creeps’, whose introduction explains:

Lendlease is a global property developer and construction company based in Australia, with 12,000 employees working on four continents (Australia, North America, Europe and Asia). Its main speciality is large-scale “urbanisation” developments, often involving “Public Private Partnerships” (PPPs) with city authorities.

In the US, Lendlease is one of Donald Trump’s favourite building partners, responsible for the Trump Tower buildings in New York, Washington and Chicago. It is also well known for having paid up $56 million in “the largest construction fraud settlement in New York City history” in 2012; and for the deaths of two firefighters in the Deutsche Bank Tower fire. In both cases, Lendlease signed “non prosecution agreements” and avoided criminal charges.

In the UK, Lendlease is now in the news as the private partner in the £2 billion Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) partnership with Haringey Council in North London. This follows on from its extremely profitable deal to gentrify the Elephant & Castle area with Southwark Council. For example, in the “One The Elephant” tower, LendLease made a £70 million profit on a site bought from Southwark for just £6.6 million – after councillors it wined and dined agreed to zero affordable housing in the block. Lendlease also built the new Wrexham mega-prison in North Wales – Europe’s second largest.

In Australia, Lendlease is the main developer of the massive Barangaroo site in Sydney – or “Lendlease town”. Community groups and the city’s mayor have protested as Lendlease has won backing from influential politicians to tear up public park plans and nearly double building space, adding three luxury apartment towers and a “six star” casino-hotel skyscraper.

Lendlease also runs Australia’s biggest retirement village empire, where elderly residents allege service cuts and fee hikes. Its subsidiary Capella Capital, meanwhile, leads on private prison projects among other “infrastructure” finance schemes.

To win developments, the company’s official sales pitch is that it can both oversee the building work and raise the finance. It has worked with many major Australian, Asian and global banks, and manages A$26 billion of real estate investment funds for over 150 “global institutional investors”. Lendlease’s shareholders are disguised behind “nominee accounts” run by big banks; the biggest one currently is the massive global investor BlackRock, with just over 5% of the company’s stock.

But perhaps Lendlease’s main superpower, wherever it goes, is its ability to make friends in town halls and state authorities. Planning rules are dropped, laws are amended, criminal charges fade away, and profitable development schemes creep over public space and social housing.

The grassroots Stop HDV campaign began last year, although I didn’t discover it until this year, and I wrote about the campaign in summer, in an article entitled, Tottenham Housing Campaigners Seek a Judicial Review to Save Their Homes from a Rapacious Labour Council and the Predatory Developer Lendlease, when campaigners sought a judicial review regarding the council’s plans, which I wrote about here, a process that has not yet delivered a ruling.

In September, my band The Four Fathers visited Tottenham to show solidarity with the campaigners, playing a benefit gig with other musicians including the powerful spoken word artist Potent Whisper, and since then I’ve watched with increasing admiration as ward after ward of pro-HDV councillors have been replaced by opponents of the proposals.

Now, predictably, the supporters of gentrification, redevelopment and social cleansing are trying to fight back with desperate smear campaigns in the mainstream media and on social media, falsely accusing members of the left-wing, Jeremy Corbyn-supporting Momentum movement of being behind an organised coup, when the truth is that the successful resistance to the proposals has come from a mix of ordinary people from all backgrounds, united by their disgust at the council’s plans, and aghast at the rapaciousness and lack of concern for people’s lives that comes from developers like Lendlease, and the council officials who support them.

The disturbing truth is that, while I expect nothing but contempt from developers, it’s a different matter with council officials, who, whether through class contempt or old-fashioned corruption, have decided that they were elected not to serve the people, or even, in many cases, those who voted for them, but, instead, are seduced by money and/or a sense of class superiority. There is a profound irony in their de-selection that has obviously passed them by, and I can only wonder if they genuinely forgot that their selection — and their election — is a democratic process.

Below, I’m cross-posting an article written for the Independent yesterday by Phil Jackson, one of the Stop HDV campaigners who I met in September, which powerfully explains how the campaign has actually involved “residents from all backgrounds in our mixed, diverse and broad community,” who “have protested this carve-up of our area from day one.” As Phil further explains, “The Stop HDV campaign is supported across the borough – by local community and faith groups from mosques to an elderly vicar, by people of different political parties gathering at meetings of more than 150, and has been active for nearly a year,” and now, “On the estates and in the parks, in our cafes and our pubs, people are talking about politics again and about what we can do together to improve the places we live in.”

Momentum isn’t staging a coup in Haringey, this is about housing not Labour factions
By Phil Jackson, The Independent, November 29, 2017

Labour councillors serving in the previous administration, councillors who have called on Jeremy Corbyn to resign, and even the former council chief whip, have been reselected because they agree with residents that the HDV would be catastrophic

Haringey Council has presented residents with a plan to demolish homes they have lived in all their lives, sign away their land to private developers, and provide barely any genuinely affordable housing for future residents. While there have been dramatised stories about council deselections, this is the real story, and it is about much more than Labour factions.

The Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) is the root of this dispute. The 50:50 partnership between the council and Lendlease involves a massive transfer of land and power to a structure involving a developer motivated by delivering profits to shareholders, not creating a better place to live for residents. The £2bn value of assets involved – our borough’s houses, shops, community venues and shared spaces – represents the biggest transfer of public assets in council history. While elected councillors and the developer would nominally “share power” on the HDV’s board, the governance structure is murky enough to suggest that there is a risk of little accountability. All decisions would be made by a Limited Liability Partnership and its governing Board meetings would not be open to the public or councillors.

We are for investment and renewal, but not on the terms offered. Public consultation on the issue has been minimal, we have had no information about financial risks and the issue was not presented to full council meetings for a vote. It took a scrutiny committee investigation and FOIs to drag details of the deal into the light. A local retired social services chief has even started a bid to challenge the HDV in the High Court. That’s why residents from all backgrounds in our mixed, diverse and broad community have protested this carve-up of our area from day one. The Stop HDV campaign is supported across the borough – by local community and faith groups from mosques to an elderly vicar, by people of different political parties gathering at meetings of more than 150, and has been active for nearly a year.

The local Labour leadership has argued that the HDV is the only way to deliver new homes under a Conservative Government. But the amount of affordable new homes provided is small and in doubt, and nearby Labour-run Camden has rejected a similar development vehicle. Local MPs David Lammy and Catherine West, neither of them diehard Corbynites, have come out against the HDV on similar grounds to the ones we have raised. Pioneering Labour-run councils from Hackney to Salford are finding different ways to meet the challenge of creating decent new homes in the context of a Conservative Government failing to invest and holding back local government from tackling our housing crisis.

As a resident and a Labour activist I was faced with three choices. I could accept the current situation and have to look my neighbours in the eye when I knocked on their doors and told them to vote for councillors that are planning to knock down their estates. I could refuse to campaign for Labour – in spite of Jeremy Corbyn having committed the party to a policy of balloting local residents on changes made to their homes and communities. Or I could use the party’s existing democratic structures to select councillors who are committed to protecting our homes.

We took the last option. We campaigned in the 2017 election on a platform of bringing wealth and power to people and communities, not handing it to developers. While Momentum members have every right to contest council seats like any other Labour member, this selection contest is about ensuring a pro-social housing majority not a pro-Momentum majority. Labour councillors serving in the previous administration, councillors who have called on Jeremy Corbyn to resign, and even the former council chief whip, have been reselected because they agree with residents that the HDV would be catastrophic.

On the estates and in the parks, in our cafes and our pubs, people are talking about politics again and about what we can do together to improve the places we live in. These conversations have the potential to make real change. For now, these conversations are ensuring that politicians cannot draw up destructive schemes in backrooms and railroad them through with no real process. Londoners have had enough of soaring rents, poor doors, luxury flats replacing social housing, and resident voices being ignored; and now we’re doing something about it.

Note: If this topic is of interest to you, please check out ‘Concrete Soldiers UK‘, a new documentary film, directed by Nikita Woolfe, which I’m narrating (and which is having its world premiere in London on December 8), and also check out my band The Four Fathers, whose new album, ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?‘ also tackles the housing crisis – amongst other topics dealing with human rights and social justice.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Donald Trump No! Please Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2017), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), 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).

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2 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, celebrating the success of campaigners in Haringey, who have successfully de-selected Labour candidates for next year’s council elections, when the existing councillors support the council’s outrageous plan to enter into a £2bn deal with the rapacious international property developer Lendlease. The proposed partnership – the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) – will lead to the destruction of housing estates and, undoubtedly, the loss of homes for local people, many of whom will almost certainly no longer be able to afford to live in the borough. Also cross-posted here is a great article published in the Independent yesterday by Stop HDV campaigner Phil Buyum Jackson.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Here’s a statement by the Stop HDV campaign “in response to inaccurate and defamatory comments about the campaign and its members in the press and on social media”: http://stophdv.com/statement-by-stophdv-about-press-and-media-allegations/#.WiBzCDdpGUk

    The statement reads:

    The StopHDV campaign is a single issue campaign open to anyone who opposes the Haringey Development Vehicle. It has supporters and participants from many parties including the Labour Party, Liberal Democrat Party, Green Party, Socialist Worker’s Party, & Left Unity as well as members of other housing campaigns (Defend Council Housing, Radical Housing Network), members of tenants’ and residents associations (including the Northumberland Park Residents Association) Local societies (including The Highgate Society), recognised trade unions including Unite and Unison, and many people who are in no group or organisation.

    Supporters of StopHDV who are Labour Party members and who qualify under Labour Party rules have understandably exercised their democratic right to attend and vote in their ward shortlisting and selection meetings. But no member of another party has taken any part in the Tottenham or Hornsey and Wood Green Labour Parties’ council candidate selection process.

    We completely refute the allegations that StopHDV is controlled by, or a front for, Momentum, the Socialist Worker’s Party, or any individual political organisation; but we defend the right of our supporters to be members of any organisation whose aims do not conflict with the aims and objectives of StopHDV.

    We feel the attempt to portray the StopHDV campaign in such a dishonest manner is an attempt to deny and derail the democratic process.

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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.
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