The 34 Estates Approved for Destruction By Sadiq Khan Despite Promising No More Demolitions Without Residents’ Ballots

23.4.18

The destruction of Robin Hood Gardens estate in Poplar, March 13, 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.





 

Anyone paying any attention to the sordid story of council estate demolitions in London will know how hard it is to take politicians seriously — and especially Labour politicians — when it comes to telling the truth about their actions and their intentions.

Perfectly sound estates are deliberately run down, so that councils can then claim that it’s too expensive to refurbish them, and that the only option is to knock them down and build new ones — with their developer friends who are conveniently waiting in the wings.

In addition, a collection of further lies are also disseminated, which divert attention from the fundamental injustice of the alleged justification for demolitions — false claims that the new housing will be “affordable”, when it isn’t; that part-ownership deals are worthwhile, when they are not; and that building new properties with private developers will reduce council waiting lists, when it won’t.

The biggest lie of this whole “regeneration” racket, therefore, is that structurally sound estates must be knocked down, while, on a day to day basis, the second biggest lie permeates all discussion with the success of Goebbels-style propaganda — the lie that “affordable” housing is affordable. Boris Johnson, in his crushingly dire eight years as London’s Mayor, decided that “affordable” meant 80% of market rents, but that is clearly not affordable, as market rents are so dizzyingly overblown — and completely unfettered by any form of legislation — that people are often paying well over half their incomes in rent, when what was long regarded as fair was a third (similarly, buying a home is now unaffordable for most people, as prices have spiralled out of reach, with a huge deposit needed for a property that costs ten times a buyer’s annual salary, when the fair model of the past used to be that it should cost no more than three and a half times one’s annual income).

Genuinely affordable rents are social rents, paid by council tenants and housing association tenants, which are generally a third of market rents, but it is these rents that central government, councils and, most recently, large housing associations, are trying to get rid of entirely. Behind it all is the stranglehold of Tory austerity, cynically implemented to destroy all public services, but few of those responsible for social housing are fighting back, and many — including many Labour councils — are actually gleefully engaged in social cleansing their boroughs of those they regard as an impediment to gentrification and wealthier incomers.

But here the extent of the delusion ought to become clear. These coveted aspirational professional young people do exist, but they can barely afford to pay the kind of costs associated with a property racket that is only really interested in couples who earn over £70,000 a year, while anyone who earns less — and is regarded as “poor” by bloated public servants who have lost touch with reality — will probably end up being priced out of the future of endless towers of new housing that are largely being bought off-plan by foreign investors, who often leave their investments empty.

Ironically, to keep most workers able to live in London, where, we should note, the mean income is no more than £20,000, compared to the average income, which is around £35,000, the government will end up having to subsidise cynically inflated new build rents, to add to the £26bn housing benefit bill, most of which goes to private landlords, when the only sensible way out of this spiral of greed is to defend social rents, stop knocking estates down, and embark on any number of visionary and large-scale not-for-profit social homebuilding projects to deliver new homes for social rent. City investors will be supportive of such a plan, because guaranteed rents over decades, even at socially rented levels, are actually a good investment, whose rationale has been lost in the forest of greed in which we currently find ourselves that is making life miserable for most renters, or driving them out of the capital altogether.

Over the last few years, the horrors of the housing market have started to become more apparent to more people, with the Heygate development in Southwark as a grim template. There, Southwark Council sold off a Brutalist estate that could easily but mistakenly be portrayed as a sink estate, to Lendlease, rapacious international property developers. The council made no money out of the deal, but Lendlease stands to make £200m from the Heygate’s replacement, Elephant Park, which will contain just 82 units of housing for social rent, when the original estate had over a thousand socially rented flats.

The Heygate provided a template for the effective scrutiny of “regeneration”, but Southwark Council, greedy and contemptuous of its own constituents, failed to heeds its lessons, and has now started demolishing the Aylesbury Estate down the road, one of Europe’s largest estates. There has been noticeable resistance in Lambeth, to proposals to destroy two very well-designed estates, Central Hill and Cressingham Gardens, and the false rationale for destruction becomes more transparent when architects and heritage bodies become involved. A powerful example of this is Robin Hood Gardens in Tower Hamlets, a visionary Brutalist estate, shamefully neglected, whose destruction is, however, well under way despite high-level support for its preservation.

Another key battleground has been Haringey, in north London, where campaigners successfully derailed the first phase of proposals by the council to enter into a giant stock transfer programme with Lendlease, and last June the Grenfell Tower disaster brought into sharp relief, how, in the most horrific manner imaginable, the lives of those who live in social housing are regarded as inferior to those with mortgages.

In autumn, Jeremy Corbyn intervened in the debate about social housing, using his conference speech to say that there must be no more estate demolitions without residents’ ballots. It was a high-profile intervention in the debate, and it set a marker for campaigners, and for the Labour left, but it lacks the teeth to stop destructive Labour councils from continuing with their destruction, and Corbyn has persistently failed to follow up on this grand gesture by engaging in ground-level criticism of people like Peter John and Lib Peck, the leaders of Southwark and Lambeth councils respectively.

Corbyn’s promise was picked up on by Sadiq Khan, London’s Mayor since 2016, who also promised that there would be no estate demolitions without ballots, but was then rumbled by hard-working and tenacious Green London Assembly member Sian Berry, who revealed, a month ago, that, as she put it in the headline of a well-read article on her website, ‘Mayor quietly signs off funding for 34 estates, dodging new ballot rules.’

Berry produced a list of the estates, which are listed below, and stated that the information showed Sadiq Khan “signing off at least over 9,000 home demolitions, leaving around 3,000 homes we can count in schemes that will subject to ballots.” She added, “In total, since the consultation closed nearly a year ago (when the Mayor knew he would have no choice but to introduce ballots) he has signed off funding for 34 estates. And 16 of these schemes have been signed off since 1 December when the Mayor and his team were finalising the new policy and gearing up to announce it.”

As she also stated, “This information paints a sorry picture, and is a harsh slap in the face to many residents on estates under threat who – thanks to his actions – will be denied a ballot at the last moment before his new policy comes in. They include the Fenwick, Cressingham Gardens, Knights Walk and other estates in Lambeth (though not Central Hill), Ham Close in Richmond, Cambridge Road in Kingston and the Aylesbury in Southwark.”

She also stated, “I am appalled by this behaviour, and with the delaying tactics involved in trying not to admit he was rushing through major schemes like this”, and added, “It is a betrayal of the residents on these 34 estates, but it will also disappoint the Mayor’s wider electorate, who are just about to vote in local elections in London. I commissioned YouGov to poll Londoners as a whole on this issue and 64 per cent backed ballots for estate residents, with only 13 per cent against, in results revealed this week.”

A spokesman for the Mayor sought to contradict Sian Berry’s claims, telling the Architects’ Journal, “The mayor made a firm public commitment not to sign off any contracts for new estate regeneration schemes during the consultation [on ballots, which ran from February to April]. No contracts for new estate regeneration schemes have been signed since the consultation on ballots opened.”

The Architects’ Journal added, “According to the mayor, the majority of the 34 decisions were made before last summer, and 16 [other] contracts signed after 1 December were for schemes already allocated funding.”

What actually happened, as careful readers will realise, is that Khan was told — by his advisors, and by councils and developers — that deals that were considered to already be underway — even if they weren’t — had to be approved before any inconvenient new hurdles like ballots could even be considered.

As Sian Berry put it, The mayor needs to think again about how the people on the estates he’s rushed through should be treated. Their right to a ballot can’t be brushed off just because he’s decided to restrict his policy only to questions of funding and pushed these deals through. Many of these estates, including Cressingham Gardens, do not yet have planning permission and the mayor could be asking for ballots to be held on these schemes, and using the results as a consideration in his planning decisions.”

The list of estates, whose destruction was approved after the end of the consultation on the guidance for estate demolition (March 14, 2017) is below, and please follow the links for further information. And what’s particularly interesting, of course, is how only 17 of London’s 32 boroughs are involved, although most of those are Labour-controlled, which is surely something worth reflecting on with London’s local elections taking place next Thursday, May 3.

The 34 estates approved for destruction from March 2017 to January 2018 by Sadiq Khan

SOUTH

Southwark (2)

Aylesbury Estate, SE17 – 3,500 new properties, with Notting Hill Housing Trust, approved October 25, 2017.
Ongoing destruction, particularly resisted by leaseholders facing Compulsory Purchase Orders, who secured a brief but significant success in 2016. Also see ‘The State of London’, and check out the 35 Percent campaign’s detailed account here.

Elmington Estate, SE5 – 632 new properties, with Peabody Trust, approved January 22, 2018.
Ongoing destruction. See ‘The State of London’, and check out the 35 Percent campaign’s detailed account here.

Lambeth (5)

Cressingham Gardens, SW2 – 464 new properties, approved December 1. 2017.
This is a well-designed 1970s low-level estate on the edge of Brockwell Park, with a close-knit community who have mobilised impressive resistance to Lambeth Council’s cynical plans, which clearly involve the attraction to developers of the parkside setting. See ‘The State of London’ for more, and the Save Cressingham Gardens website.

Fenwick Estate, SW9 – 508 new properties, approved December 1. 2017.
Estate near Clapham North tube station, subjected to ‘managed decline’ by council. No tenants’ perspective available online. Do, however, check out Brixton Buzz‘s report from July 2017 about murky goings-on with the proposed development.

Knights Walk, SE11 – 84 new properties, approved September 29, 2017.
Small estate, partly saved in previous resistance involving ASH (Architects for Social Housing).

South Lambeth, SW8 – 363 new properties, approved September 29, 2017.
No tenants’ perspective available online. Lambeth Council’s page is here.

Westbury Estate, SW8 – 334 new properties, approved September 29, 2017.
No tenants’ perspective available online. Lambeth Council’s page is here.

Lewisham (2)

Frankham Street, SE8 (aka Reginald Road) – 209 new properties, with Peabody Trust, approved January 22, 2018.
Long-standing battle to save a block of 16 council flats (Reginald House) and Old Tidemill Garden, a community garden, from destruction as part of the redevelopment of the old Tidemill School. Alternative plans could easily preserve the garden and flats, but the council and Peabody aren’t interested. For the resistance, see here and here.

Heathside & Lethbridge, SE10 – 459 new properties, with Peabody Trust, approved January 22, 2018.
Ongoing destruction of two estates, only one of which, the Brutalist Lethbridge Estate, is still standing. No tenants’ perspective online. See ‘The State of London.’

Greenwich (1)

Connaught, Morris Walk and Maryon, SE18 – 1,500 new properties, approved January 15, 2018.
Planned destruction of three estates. Connaught has already been demolished, and is being replaced by a new development. Morris Walk and Maryon are subjected to serious ‘managed decline.’ No tenants’ perspective online. For Maryon, see ‘The State of London.’

Bexley (1)

Arthur Street, DA8 – 310 new properties, with Orbit Group Limited, approved December 22, 2017.
Proposed development of an estate including three tower blocks in Erith. See Orbit Homes’ plans here, and this Bexley Times article.

Wandsworth (1)

St. John’s Hill, SW11 – 599 properties, with Peabody Trust, approved January 22, 2018.
The continuation of the destruction of a 1930s estates and its replacement with new properties because, as Peabody alleges,”the accommodation does not now fit the needs of residents.” They also note, “Phase 1 of the redevelopment (153 homes) was completed in April 2016 and includes 80 homes for social rent, 6 shared ownership and 67 private sale.” See Peabody’s page here.

Merton (1)

High Path, SW19, Eastfields, Ravensbury, CR4 – 2,800 properties, with Clarion Housing Group, approved December 21, 2017.
See development information about these estates in South Wimbledon (High Path) and Mitcham (Eastfields, Ravensbury) on the website of Clarion (formed from the merger of Affinity Sutton and Circle Housing in 2016) here. A local news article last May stated, “Clarion estimate there are currently 608 homes in High Path, 465 in Eastfields and 192 in Ravensbury. Including the replacement houses, about 1660 homes will be built in High Path, 800 in Eastfields and up to 180 in Ravensbury. This means that after the replacement homes have been built for the existing tenants, an extra 1,800 homes will be available to rent and buy.” No mention was made of what these new rental costs might be.

Richmond upon Thames (1)

Ham Close, TW10 – 425 properties, with Richmond Housing Partnership Limited, approved November 17, 2017.
See the Ham Close Uplift website for further information.

Kingston (1)

Cambridge Road, KT1 – 2003 properties, approved October 10, 2017.
See the council’s plans here for the redevelopment of the site, which includes four tower blocks. For the residents’ association, see here, and also check out this local news article from 2016. And in particular please also check out Kingston Defend Council Housing, whose site features a very detailed analysis of the council’s social cleansing plans. They got in touch to let me know about their site, and also let me know that “there are currently 830 properties” on the estate, “to show how the density will be increased.”

EAST/NORTH

Tower Hamlets (4)

Aberfeldy Estate (phases 4, 5 & 6), E14 – 206 properties, with Poplar HARCA Ltd, approved October 18, 2017.
Ongoing destruction of an estate in Poplar — a 12-year project involving the creation of over 1,000 new properties. For more information, see the website of architects Levitt Bernstein, and also see Poplar HARCA’s site. Rather pretentiously, I think, the architects claim, “The site’s illustrious past is made visible through art installations including case concrete tea crates and brass cotton reels in the landscape and paisley patterns etched in the paving. Crisp detailing and a limited material palette give the buildings a modern warehouse aesthetic.”

Blackwall Reach, E14 – 1,575 properties, approved March 23, 2017.
This is a much-criticised project that involves the destruction of Robin Hood Gardens, the acclaimed Brutalist masterpiece, which was, indeed, an extraordinary creation, although it was severely neglected by Tower Hamlets Council as part of very deliberate “managed decline.” For more, see ‘The State of London’ here and here.

Chrisp Street Market, E14 – 643 properties, with Poplar HARCA Ltd, approved October 18, 2017.
This contentious project involves the destruction of the first purpose-built pedestrian shopping area in the UK, created for the Festival of Britain in 1951, and associated housing, although it has met with strong local resistance, and was put on hold by the council in February 2018. See a City Metric article here.

Exmouth Estate, E1 – 80 properties, with Swan Housing Association, approved March 23, 2017.
The estate is just off the Commercial Road, but I can’t find any information available online. However, Swan Housing Association came in for serious criticism after the stock transfer from the council in 2006, which Socialist Unity reported in 2009.

Barnet (1)

Grahame Park (phase B, plots 10, 11 & 12), NW9 – 1,083 homes, with Genesis Housing Association Ltd, approved November 24, 2017.
For the council’s plans for this estate in Colindale, see here. They claim that, with Genesis, as “the developer and resident social landlord”, who have now merged with Notting Hill, they will build approximately 3,000 homes by 2032, including around 1,800 new private homes, around 900 new “affordable” homes. In addition, “Approximately 25 per cent (463) of the original homes will be retained and integrated into the new development.” Also see the Notting Hill Genesis page here.

Brent (1)

South Kilburn Estate (various phases), NW6 – 2,400 homes, with Notting Hill Housing Trust, Network Homes Ltd, L&Q and Catalyst Housing Group, approved October 23, 2017.
Ongoing destruction. For the Observer, Rowan Moore was full of praise for the new development in 2016, stating, “Thanks to the enlightened thinking of Brent council and Alison Brooks Architects, a notorious London estate that featured in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth is now the site of some of the best housing in the neighbourhood.” See Brent Council’s page here, and also see a review on the Municipal website here.

Enfield (1)

Alma Estate, EN3 – 993 homes, with Newlon Housing Association and Countryside, approved November 15, 2017.
Ongoing destruction of four big tower blocks in Ponders End. See ‘The State of London.’

Havering (5)

Napier House and New Plymouth House, RM13 – 200 homes, approved January 31, 2018.
See Havering Council’s page for the planned redevelopment of these two tower blocks in Rainham here.  And see this Romford Recorder article from 2016 about the first consultations with tenants. Also see Edinburgh University’s ‘Tower Block’ site, which shows both towers, and describes them, collectively, as Dovers Farm Estate.

Waterloo Estate, RM7 – 994 homes, approved January 31, 2018.
See Havering Council’s page for the planned redevelopment of this estate in Romford here. And see this Romford Recorder article from 2016 about the shock felt by residents when they first received the news.” As the article noted, “Ruth Crabb, who has lived on the Waterloo Estate for 18 years, said she was concerned residents had no idea about the proposed plans to potentially demolish the estate and build an additional 220 homes. ‘The fact that they haven’t even bothered to write to us as tenants and explain what they have planned … we are quite shocked,’ she said.”

Orchard Estate (former Mardyke), RM13 – 55 homes, with Clarion Housing Group, approved December 21, 2017.
The approval for further development at the Orchard Village Estate in Rainham came despite huge problems with earlier development on the site. From February 2017, in the Guardian, see Leaking sewage and rotten floorboards: life on a ‘flagship’ housing estate, Housing association agrees to buy back homes on ‘substandard’ development and Chairman of housing association behind ‘substandard’ development resigns.

Queen Street Sheltered Housing Scheme, RM7 – 6 homes, approved July 17, 2017.
See Havering Council’s page for the redevelopment of this small block of sheltered housing in Romford here.

Solar, Serena, Sunrise Sheltered Housing Scheme, RM12 – 54 homes, approved July 17, 2017.
See Havering Council’s page for the redevelopment of this sheltered housing in Hornchurch here.

Barking & Dagenham (1)

Gascoigne West (Barking Town Centre), IG11 – 850 homes, approved July 27, 2017.
For the outline planning application in September 2017, see this article on the ‘BOLD’ website, dealing with development and regeneration in Barking and Dagenham. The redevelopment of Gascoigne East was approved under Boris Johnson, and began in 2015.

WEST

Kensington & Chelsea (2)

William Sutton Estate, SW3 – 270 homes, with Clarion Housing Group, approved December 21, 2017.
The Sutton Estate in Chelsea was built in 1913 by the philanthropist William Sutton expressly to provide “houses for use and occupation by the poor”, as the Guardian explained in 2016, when their then-owners, Affinity Sutton, a housing association, which has since merged with Circle Housing to become the Clarion Housing Group, planned to bring a century of social housing to an end on the site, proposing to “replace more than 200 affordable homes with luxury apartments for private sale.” That plan was turned down by Kensington & Chelsea Council, but Clarion has appealed the ruling, and a hearing will be held on May 9, 2018. I can only wonder if Sadiq Khan’s premature approval of the redevelopment will affect the decision. For more information, see the Save the Sutton Estate website, and also see Clarion’s position.

Wornington Green, W10 – 1,000 homes, with Catalyst Housing Ltd, approved January 8, 2018.
The estate, as Catalyst explain, “originally comprised 538 flats and houses (accommodating approximately 1,700 residents) which were constructed between 1964 and 1985 in predominantly large deck-blocks, typical of public housing of the period.” Work has already begun on the replacement, with Phase One “includ[ing] the building of 324 new homes, a mix of 174 for affordable rent and 150 homes for private sale.” And here, as usual, that word “affordable” is misleading. Phase Two of the project began in Autumn 2017, but it is difficult to take Catalyst’s claims at face value — that there will be “no loss of social housing”, because “all current tenants will be offered new homes in the development.”

Ealing (4)

Friary Park, W3 – 476 homes, with Catalyst Housing Ltd, approved January 8, 2018.
The estate is in Acton, and as Catalyst explain, “Friary Park was originally built for private sale by Laing Construction. It was purchased by Catalyst (then Ealing Family Housing Association) in 1987. We’ve been considering a range of options to improve the neighbourhood and have decided that the best route is to redevelop the estate – demolishing existing homes and replacing them with new, high-quality, energy-efficient ones.” In 2015, when plans were first proposed, locals expressed concern that the new development would feature a 29-storey tower that would be “West London’s tallest building”, and “would loom over much of Acton including some of the area’s most expensive streets.”

Havelock Estate, UB2 – 922 homes, with Catalyst Housing Ltd, approved January 8, 2018.
The estate is in Southall, and on their website town planning consultants Barton Willmore enthused about how outline permission had been granted “for the demolition of 695 homes to replace with 922 new homes, whilst retaining 154 of the existing homes”, adding, “This includes 367 affordable social rent homes, 121 intermediate tenure homes and 434 new market sales homes. Combined, this will result in 1,076 homes across the site.” As usual, it take serious scrutiny to assess quite how severe is the loss of social rents. For Catalyst’s page, see here.

Green Man Lane, W13 – 770 homes, with A2Dominion Homes and Rydon/FABRICA, approved November 7, 2017.
Conran & Partners are the “masterplanners and project architects” for this development in Ealing, in which an entire 1970s estate of 464 homes will be demolished to make way for 764 new properties, For an 88-year old resident’s memories of the old estate from 2010, see this local news article.

South Acton, W5 – 2,600 homes, with L&Q, approved November 7, 2017.
As Ealing Council explains, “South Acton is the council’s largest estate”, built over 30 years from 1949 with several tower blocks and slab blocks, which “eventually became one of the largest municipal housing estates in West London, with almost 2,100 homes.” In 2008, the council decided to “comprehensively regenerate the area, as this is considered to be the best way to acheive [sic] the transformative effect desired by residents and the council”, and Acton Gardens (a collaboration between L&Q and Countryside) became the council’s chosen development partner in 2010. 

Sian Berry’s document also contained a list of eleven estates whose destruction was approved by Boris Johnson. They are listed below.

Eleven additional estates whose destruction was approved by Boris Johnson

Barking & Dagenham: Gascoigne Estate (Blocks A1, A2, B1, C1, D1), IG11 – 175 homes, with East Thames (now L&Q), approved March 23, 2015.

Camden: Abbey Area (phases 1, 2 & 3), NW6 – 241 homes, approved March 11, 2016. See Camden Council’s page.

Camden: Agar Grove, NW1 – 513 homes, approved March 11, 2016. See Camden Council’s page.

Ealing: Rectory Park, UB5 – 425 homes, with Network Homes Ltd, approved February 2, 2015. See Ealing Council’s page for this development in Northolt.

Ealing: Greenford – Allen Court, UB6 – 89 homes, with Notting Hill Housing Trust, approved December 8, 2014. See this page for information about this development in Greenford.

Enfield: Ladderswood Way Estate, N11 – 517 homes, with One Housing Group Ltd, approved October 17, 2014. See the website here.

Hammersmith & Fulham: Lisgar Terrace (Phase 4), W14 – 36 homes, with Southern Housing Group, approved January 12, 2015. See Southern’s website here.

Lambeth: Loughborough Park, SW9 – 487 homes, with the Guinness partnership, approved October 31, 2014. See ‘The State of London.’

Tower Hamlets: New Union Wharf (Phases 2 and 3), E14 – 75 homes, with East Thames (now L&Q), approved March 25, 2013. See the website here.

Tower Hamlets: Ocean Estate (Site H), E1 – 121 homes, with East Thames (now L&Q), approved March 25, 2013. See Levitt Bernstein’s page here for this development in Stepney.

Waltham Forest: Marlowe Road Estate, E17 – 436 homes, approved December 14, 2015. See the council’s website here.

NOTE: Coming soon – an analysis of the 17 estates whose destruction Sadiq Khan hasn’t yet approved. Watch this space!

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 see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in 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), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London.

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, The Complete Guantánamo Files, 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.

13 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, looking in detail at the 34 estates that London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan approved for destruction between March 2017 and January 2018 during a consultation process about how there should be no further estate demolitions without the residents being balloted. These stealthy approvals were exposed last month by the tenacious social housing defender and Green GLA member Sian Berry, but it’s taken me until now to find the time to look into the story in detail. Sadly, estates approved for destruction – or ongoing destruction – include the Aylesbury in Southwark, Cressingham Gardens and four other estates in Lambeth, Robin Hood Gardens and three other estates in Tower Hamlets, and, sadly, Reginald House in Lewisham, which I’ve specifically been campaigning to save via the No Social Cleansing in Lewisham that I set up in November: https://www.facebook.com/nosocialcleansinglewisham/
    It’s also interesting that only 17 of London’s 32 boroughs are implicated, but that most of these are Labour boroughs, which is surely something to bear in mind as the local elections approach.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Siân Berry, thanks for all your hard work in defence of social housing – and that goes for the Green Party in general. I know who I’ll be voting for on May 3.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Many thanks to everyone taking an interest in this. I’ve actually added quite considerably to it in the last few hours, as I published it before I’d completed research on a number of the estates. It’s still something of a work in progress, but I hope it’s useful. If any obsessive types out there want to work with me on further research into proposed demolitions and developments, do get in touch!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    When Richard Matz shared this, he wrote:

    A sprinkling of Corbynite fairy-dust won’t make the fork-tongued sophistry of Labour in local government any more palatable. We all owe Siân Berry big-time for her efforts in exposing this charlatan, and for handing campaigners like Top Man Sarf o’ the Water, Andy Worthington here (as well as bit-part players like meself), the ammunition with which to fight back

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for sharing, Richard – and for your comments!

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Luis Diaz wrote:

    It may be a bit peripheral to the more important arguments around loss of homes, the human costs, economic and environmental aspects, but a number of these estates are ones I’ve earmarked to include in my research around the architectural value of these estates. Specifically I’ve been looking at the way certain estates create transitions from the city to the home – there is something about this transition, when done well, that helps establish the identity of place (and places) which I believe can contribute to a sense of belonging. It’s what I see as the ‘social’ in social housing (distinguished from the idea of socialising costs and ownership). So far, I’ve been surprised at how many of these estates fall outside the common conceptions of housing attached to modernist, social or council estates – i.e. the production of anonymous, inhuman, abstract, indistinct spaces and forms. Although the architectural merits of Robin Hood Gardens didn’t prevent it from being demolished I think there is some value in the argument that many of these estates construct positive and valuable spaces in the city in both housing and urban terms.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Luis Diaz wrote:

    The more arguments that can be put forward against the demolition of these estates the better. I would be interested in contributing if this angle is of any use.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Great to hear from you, Luis. Your perspective is something I’ve been thinking about quite a lot lately, as estates can, and often do have a sense of community that has no real parallel in the generally atomised world of owner-occupiers. I’m the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the resistance to estate destruction, in which community solidarity is essential, but I’m also very interested in how the architecture of estates can help to create a sense of community.
    A recent example, I thought, of outsiders’ inability to understand a sense of community came when the V&A decided to preserve a slice of Robin Hood Gardens, for its architectural value as an acclaimed work of Brutalism, but all that did was highlight how they were completely overlooking the fact that it was the combination of the architecture AND the community that lived there that was important.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    What is he [Sadiq Khan] proposing to replace them with?

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Shiny new estates, David, many of which will be lucky to last 25 years, on which the majority of the housing will be for private sale. Sadiq Khan has set a target of 50% for “affordable” housing, but developers get round that by insisting on only being involved if they reach the profit margin they want, and crucially, in any case, “affordable” doesn’t mean affordable. Boris Johnson set it at 80% of market rents in London, which can easily mean around £400 a week, whereas social rented properties tend to cost around £150 a week – and remember that median incomes, not the misleading average incomes, which are skewed by all the millionaires and billionaires, are around £20,000 a year in London, and £15,000 elsewhere in the country; in London that’s £400 a week in total before tax, 100% of what people are being made to pay in rent – so a couple on median incomes will each be paying 50% of their gross income on rent, but in reality lots of people in London who don’t live in socially rented properties are now paying up to 70% of their income in rent, while others are having to houseshare into their 30s and beyond (and expect the birth rate to plummet as a result, as people give up on being able to afford to have children and any notion of a place of their own). Some councils are charging less for “affordable” rents, but there are always service charges to take into consideration, because all new builds are basically leasehold scams with large service charges added on.
    The biggest scam that’s making up the supposed 50% “affordable” component, however, is shared ownership, whereby, in exchange for paying much more than social rent, tenants of new builds nominally get to own a percentage of it, say 25% of 50% – usually via coughing up in the first place whatever savings they have. The only problem is that the ownership of the share is worthless until they own 100% of it, which is generally extremely unlikely, and if they default at any point on their rent, they lose everything – when they are evicted, their mortgage payment is wiped out.
    Some of the deals being done by councils are not with private developers, but with housing associations, but these are not generally very different. HAs used to be social housing providers, and the small ones still behave that way, but as they, like the councils, have had all central government financial support cut through the Tories’ self-serving miracle of never-ending austerity, they have had to become developers themselves, and many of them have taken to their new role with great enthusiasm, becoming indistinguishable from private developers.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Anne E. Cooper wrote:

    Thanks for doing this Andy, apologies I didn’t make the film {screening at Cressingham Gardens on April 21], tbh was so exhausted I completely forgot and went to bed. I had planned on doing a bookstall and really regret we didn’t meet. On this issue of the numbers of so called affordable homes, on Cressingham we are only being promised 16/464 at council rent this has already dropped from 27 a couple of years ago. There is some promise of other affordable options which is BS, probably the 80% of market rent, goes no where near affordable. Regen never does what is says on the tin imo. I understand from another resident we are looking at new builds coming in at for example £600,000 for a two bed flat. It all totally sucks to be colloquial, it really could mean the destruction of the community as many leaseholders will be forced out which include a fair proportion of elderly working class original residents of the estate that did RTB besides the others who have settled here since and made this place what it is, a great place to live. Leaseholders make up approx 1/3 of the tenures. I don’t even trust them to rehouse on the estate the other 2/3 of residents with council. The 50 odd families in temp accom will be swept to the four winds.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I was looking forward to meeting you too, Anne, but no worries about getting exhausted and going to bed. We all need to remember how to look after ourselves in this long struggle. We will meet soon, I am sure!
    Thanks also for the figures. What a disgrace, but no surprise. Those in charge are determined to do away with social rents completely, and after Boris’s outrageous definition of affordable as 80% of market rents, those who regard themselves as more reasonable are now coming up with all kinds of new definitions of “affordable” that are less bad, but still much less fair than social rents, which is what we want and need much, much more of.
    Cressingham must be saved. It’s clearly a strong community in a lovely, well-designed estate, and Lambeth Council has no argument whatsoever for its proposals.

  13. London: Thirty days into the occupation of the Old Tidemill Garden – Trespass says...

    […] In fact, in March, Siân Berry, the co-leader of the Green Party, who chairs the GLA’s housing committee, revealed that Reginald House was one of 34 estates whose destruction he had stealthily approved by Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan before his advice regarding ballots was issued (which, in turn, followed Jeremy Corbyn’s announcement at last year’s Labour Party Conference that there should be no more estate demolitions without residents being balloted). Please also check out my article, The 34 Estates Approved for Destruction By Sadiq Khan Despite Promising No More Demolitions Without …. […]

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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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