‘No Social Cleansing in London’: Campaign Launch and Fundraising Gig for the Tidemill Campaign in Deptford at the DIY Space in Peckham, Fri. Oct. 12

8.10.18

An image for the launch of 'No Social Cleansing in London' - and a fundraiser for the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign - on Friday October 12 at the DIY Space for London in Peckham.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

If you’re in London and concerned about the unprecedented scale of London’s housing crisis, I hope you’ll come along this Friday to the launch of ‘No Social Cleansing in London’, a new campaign group that I’m setting up to provide a focal point for struggles against the destruction of social housing, via “regeneration” projects, involving the destruction of council estates, that are designed to socially cleanse poorer residents, and to provide largely unscrutinised profits for builders and developers, and an unfettered private rental market that, for the first time in London’s modern history, is pricing all manner of people out of the capital.

The launch is taking place at the DIY Space for London, a volunteer-run social space at 96-108 Ormside Street, Peckham London SE15 1TF, on an industrial estate just off Ildeston Road, and close to the Old Kent Road, where evangelical churches, traditional industries and young creative types cluster in the shadow of the monstrous Old Kent Road re-development plans of Southwark Council, whose mania for unwanted and unnecessary high-rise housing developments betrays a complete lack of understanding about the nature of employment in 21st century London, and the tens of thousands of workers who can only survive in their businesses on an around the Old Kent Road because they are not exposed to the full greed of the corporate market.

Friday’s event is intended to, in the first instance, provide an opportunity for housing campaigners to come together from across London’s 32 boroughs to meet and mingle and to come up with strategies of resistance. In the weeks to come, I’ll be setting up Facebook and Twitter pages for the campaign — and, hopefully, a website — so if anyone wants to be involved, please do get in touch.

Friday’s event begins with an informal opportunity to socialise from 6pm, with music from 7-11pm, via performers who, in general, have been involved in the ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ gigs I’ve been organising since last November in my home borough — my band the Four Fathers, the Commie Faggots, Ukadelix, accordionist Flaky Jake and Southwark-based rapper Asher Baker. New additions are MeU, a kind of beatnik jazz ensemble led by Patrick Lyons, who I met through being involved in last month’s inspiring Party in the Park community festival in New Cross, and Anne E. Cooper, poet and activist, who is part of the resistance to the planned destruction of Cressingham Gardens Estate in Lambeth.

The event is also, crucially, a fundraiser for the ongoing occupation — marking six weeks on Tuesday — of the Old Tidemill Garden in Deptford, a priceless community space and environmental asset, which Lewisham Council and the developer Peabody want to destroy, along wth Reginald House next door, a block of structurally sound council flats, for a new housing project — a typically unholy mix of properties for private sale and for shared ownership, and, via London’s disappointing Mayor, Sadiq Khan, for rent via ‘London Affordable Rent.’

The introduction of ‘London Affordable Rent’ is, fundamentally, a stealthy effort to eradicate social rents — those enjoyed by council and housing association tenants whose tenancies began before the Tories wiped out social rents for new tenants in 2011. The Tories’ intention was that all new tenancies would no longer be at social rents (typically, 30% of market rents), but at so-called “affordable” rents that were not actually affordable for most people, being, notoriously, set at 80% of market rents by Boris Johnson, during his execrable eight years as the capital’s Mayor.

Figures produced by Lewisham Council showing different rental rates in the borough, and revealing how 'London Affordable Rent', for a 2-bed flat, is 63% higher than social rent (thanks to Sue Lawes for finding this important information).Some social housing providers complied with this new regime, while others implemented “affordable” rents that were less than 80% of market rents; at 50%, 60% or 65%, for example. When Sadiq Khan was elected as London’s Mayor in 2016, he responded to this horrendous mess by introducing new graduated rents that were intended to be fairer, but that have only ended up creating even more of a mess. What purports to be social housing provision now consists of social rents, ‘London Affordable Rent’, which in Lewisham is 63% higher than social rents, ‘London Living Rent’, which in Lewisham is 135% higher than social rents, and are designed for households earning up to £60,000 a year, with the intention that those tenants then save up money to buy the properties outright, and, of course, the shared ownership option, whose many pitfalls have been exposed by housing experts.

In addition, some of the 80% “affordable” rents are still in place, and at the private end of the market tenants continue to be fleeced by landlords charging whatever they can get away with; typically, £400-£500 a week for a couple. In response, it is reassuring that organisations have started up to tackle the chronic injustice of the private rental market, like the recently established London Renters Union, and I hope that private renters will also attend Friday’s event, to work out how we can all collaborate to fulfil the founding demands of ‘No Social Cleansing in London’:

1. The refurbishment rather than the demolition of all existing social housing.

2. A massive social homebuilding programme, cutting out the profiteering of builders and developers (whether private companies or housing associations) and establishing a process whereby new homes can be built on a not-for-profit basis at social rent.

At Tidemill it has become obvious that ‘London Affordable Rent’ is designed to replace social rents, because otherwise it makes no sense to demolish a structurally sound block of council flats at social rent to replace them with new properties at ‘London Affordable Rent.’ However, unless we can create a broad coalition to resist the new system implemented by Sadiq Khan, and the Tory-created funding-strangled nightmare behind it, which has led to the housing association sector becoming a horrendous public/private hybrid that is, essentially, a branch of the government (perhaps the Ministry for So-Called Social Housing would be a good name for it), estates will continue to be knocked down and “regenerated”, to provide significant profits for the builders and developers, while everyone involved hypocritically pretends that they are making a major contribution to solving London’s housing crisis.

* * * * *

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 2017 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. Since August 2018 he has been part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody.

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.

One Response

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, promoting the launch on Friday, at the DIY Space for London in Peckham, of ‘No Social Cleansing in London’, a new campaign I’m setting up to bring together housing activists from across the capital’s 32 boroughs. The evening is also a fundraiser for the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign in Deptford, which I’m part of, and which, tomorrow, celebrates six weeks of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden to prevent its destruction by Lewisham Council and Peabody.
    The evening is an opportunity to socialise and hopefully for new working relationships to be formed, and also features a full programme of live music, including The Four Fathers, the Commie Faggots, Ukadelix, Patrick Lyons’ MeU, Flaky Jake and rapper Asher Baker, as well as poet Anne E. Cooper, from Save Cressingham Gardens in Lambeth.
    I hope to see you there!

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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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