Video: I Discuss the Tidemill Eviction, the Broken ‘Regeneration’ Industry and Sadiq Khan’s Stealthy Elimination of Social Rents

7.11.18

A screenshot from a video of Andy Worthington discussing the housing crisis outside City Hall on November 3, 2018.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

On Saturday, I was interviewed about the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign, and broader issues relating to the housing ‘regeneration’ industry after a rally at City Hall, ‘No Demolition Without Permission’, that was set up primarily for tenants of council estates facing demolition, who have not been given ballots on the future of their homes, despite it having been official Labour Party policy since last September. One of the 34 estates affected is Reginald House in Deptford, a block of 16 structurally sound council flats, which the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign is determined to save, along with the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden.

The 15-minute video, posted below, was shot by Bob Robertson of Ladywell Labour Party, who I first met earlier this year, when I was on a Saturday stall in Deptford Market with other Tidemill campaigners, spreading the word about the need to preserve the precious and irreplaceable community garden and the 16 structurally sound council flats of Reginald House, next door, and for Lewisham Council and the developer, Peabody, to go back to the drawing board, and to work with the community on new plans for the Tidemill site, which includes the old Tidemill primary school as well as the garden and the flats.

Bob was very supportive, and spoke frankly about efforts within the Labour Party in Lewisham to shift the political focus away from the corporate-focused ‘regeneration’ frenzy that took place under Steve Bullock — and that we are now seeing replicated under the new Mayor Damien Egan, and his Cabinet, including the Member for Housing Paul Bell — but he acknowledged, of course, that it is an uphill struggle to change those in charge, even though the membership of the party is more solidly left-leaning than it has been for some time because of the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader three years ago.

We spent some time discussing an interview, which he wanted to undertake to help Labour Party members in Lewisham understand what is wrong with the council’s housing policy — and, in general, the housing policy of London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan — and this video, posted below, is the result.

In it, I discussed the violent eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden last Monday, and how unacceptable that was under any circumstances, and I also spoke about campaigners’ disappointment with the council for never having engaged with the local community in any meaningful sense regarding alternative plans for the Tidemill site that would spare the garden and Reginald House. The destruction of Reginald House, I can only conclude, is part of a stealthy and unprincipled London-wide effort, backed by Sadiq Khan, to do away with homes at social rents altogether, to replace them with new homes let at ‘London Affordable Rent’, which in Lewisham is 63% higher than social rents. 

I also discussed how, although Lewisham Council is bragging about providing over 50% ‘social housing’ at Tidemill, that’s a lie, because although 104 of the 209 new builds at Tidemill fit some definition of ‘social homes’ — but at ‘London Affordable Rent’ rather than at social rents — Tidemill is twinned with Amersham Vale, where 120 homes are planned, only 20% of which will be ‘social housing’ (again, ‘London Affordable Rent’), with 81 of the 120 homes for private sale, to add to the 51 for private sale at Tidemill. That means that the percentage of ‘social homes’ across both sites is just 39%.

I also discussed the council’s extremely dubious claims, via Cllr. Joe Dromey, that the decanted residents of Reginald House will have ‘like for like’ social rents guaranteed for life, and that they and all the tenants on the new Tidemill development will have guaranteed lifetime tenancies, when no such tenancies have existed since they were abolished by Margaret Thatcher 30 years ago. I also pointed out how there is a howling silence from the council whenever I have mentioned that, if they’re offering ‘like for like’ rents to Reginald House tenants, who don’t want to have their homes destroyed, then the logical position to take is not to bother knocking their homes down in the first place.

I also spoke about the significance of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden on two fronts — as an important community green space, and as a barrier to the horrendous pollution in nearby Deptford Church Street — and why Cllr. Paul Bell’s statement, during a radio interview, that it wasn’t Kew Gardens was so condescending, and in conclusion I also mentioned how outrageous it was that the council evicted the garden so violently while an appeal is ongoing — an appeal that we submitted after a judge turned down our request for a judicial review on October 17.

I hope you have time to watch the interview, and will share it if you find it useful.

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. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was 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. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, the resistance continues.

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.

18 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, promoting a video interview recorded by Bob Robertson, a Labour activist in Lewisham, to provide some necessary information about the violent and unacceptable eviction of the occupied Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford last week, Lewisham Council’s persistent refusal to engage with the local community about alternative plans that would spare the garden and the 16 structurally sound council flats of Reginald House next door, and the distorted nature of the ‘regeneration’ industry of which the Tidemill development is a part.

    The ‘regeneration’ industry, as I explain, is not designed to deliver social housing, as its advocates claim, but is, instead, designed to make profits for developers, building contractors and demolition companies, and to promote gentrification. Moreover, under Sadiq Khan, ‘regeneration’ is also intended to do away with social rents altogether, replacing them with ‘London Affordable Rent’, which in Lewisham is 63% higher. As a result, the Mayor is endorsing the destruction of as many council estates as he and councils think they can get away with.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Anita Deptford wrote:

    Very well explained

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Anita!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Saira Khan wrote:

    It’s all there! On the ball and brilliant interview. Thanks so much Andy, I take courage from your words. Really hope you’re right, that the ‘war zone’ situation at Tidemill may continue for months, and hopefully the trees and garden do not get destroyed!
    The environmental factor is very troubling and stark that there seems to be no such law as ‘the right of urban communities to their green spaces’ and for these precious pockets of green to be therefore protected by law. Am still grieving since the eviction about this (possible) loss we facing, pained beyond words!

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Saira. I’m glad my words give you courage, and I share your grief about the eviction. And yes, it really is ridiculous that money trumps everything – even a precious green space like Tidemill, which the council admitted should have been an environmental asset, but decided to set that aside because of a pre-established plan to use it for housing.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Tony Sleep wrote:

    Damn right.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tony!

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Paul Burnham wrote:

    Thanks for highlighting the dangerous agenda of massive increases in supposedly council, social and affordable rents. This is s huge issue that we can nail the developers and politicians on.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Paul Burnham wrote:

    and to rent rise scams we should add (well THEY do…) Service Charges!

    Love Lane tenants in Haringey, who will be balloting on demolition in March-April next year, have been warned of 7 new or higher service charges after demolition and estate renewal, including ‘repairs’, which has always been a landlord obligation under the tenancy agreement.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Paul. Yes, I’m happy to do whatever I can to expose the ‘London Affordable Rent’ scam. Planning a follow-up to this to aim at the mainstream media to get them to stop being so complicit through their general laziness and unwillingness to investigate what they’re supposed to be reporting.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Katrina Parsey wrote:

    It’s tragic

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    And variations of it are happening everywhere, Katrina. The garden is a unique component in this story, but across London structurally sound council housing is being destroyed, as with the plan for Reginald House, and communities dissolved because of the mania for ‘regeneration’ rather than refurbishment. I’ve just been talking to a friend in Acton, where the entire South Acton Estate of over 2,100 homes is six years into a ‘regeneration’ programme that also, funnily enough, involves social cleansing and the ‘re-imagining’ of a working class area as something much more middle class and ‘aspirational.’

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Annette Townsend wrote:

    Good interview. Do you have any thoughts around why this whole ‘getting rid of social housing’ is happening all over the Western world? At the same time. It’s like we really all do have the same government.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Good question, Annette. In some sense we do all have the same government when it comes to housing because the decision-makers, regardless of which political party they are part of, attend housing conferences around the world where they are wined and dined by bankers and developers, and persuaded to hand over the only thing they have that is of any interest to these sharks – our land, which politicians, of course, regard as their land. I think this needs to be the basis on which we fight back – using direct action, as at Tidemill, because it is our land that those elected to represent us are getting rid of, and it is their refusal to hold onto that land, and to insist on other ways of financing and building new homes that is the key to the problem.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    This is Aditya Chakrabortty’s alarming report from 2014 about MIPIM, the housing conference that takes place in Cannes every year, and has also now spread its tentacles to London, Annette: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/14/yacht-cannes-selling-homes-local-government-officials-mipim
    And here’s an Independent report from 2016: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/mipim-housing-crisis-markets-insiders-what-they-say-london-conference-property-magnates-a7369621.html

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    And there’s also a whole host of predatory sexist sleaze attached to the event and its organisers, Annette, as the FT revealed earlier this year: https://www.ft.com/content/075d679e-0033-11e8-9650-9c0ad2d7c5b5
    DeZeen report here: https://www.dezeen.com/2018/01/31/mipim-property-industry-event-criticised-presidents-club-scandal-news/

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Annette Townsend wrote:

    I’ll be checking those links out. I was suspecting as much. It’s amazing how it can all just fly over our heads.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    We’ve been trained for over 30 years, since Thatcher, Annette, to accept that the private sector runs things “better” than the public sector, and it’s difficult for people to see how all that has actually done is to create massively unaccountable elites who have siphoned off most of the money that should be used to create a better and fairer society, and who are now in a kind of endgame of their own greed, whereby all that’s left in the UK, for example, is to vampirically leech off everyone in the only area of our lives in which most of us are vulnerable – housing.

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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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