A Radical Proposal to Save the Old Tidemill Garden and Reginald House in Deptford: Use Besson Street, an Empty Site in New Cross

One of the two beautiful Indian bean trees in the occupied Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, October 11, 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).In Deptford, in south east London, a battle is taking place. On one side are Lewisham Council and the developer Peabody, who intend to destroy the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, a garden that has been used by local children and the wider community for 20 years, and Reginald House, a block of structurally sound council flats next door, for a new housing project centred on the old Tidemill primary school. 

Opposing the council and Peabody — in the manner of that little Gaulish village that held out against Julius Caesar in ‘Asterix the Gaul’ — are representatives of the local community, who have occupied the garden since August 29 to prevent it being boarded up prior to its intended destruction, and also to prevent the demolition of Reginald House, whose tenants are also involved in the campaign.

The Tidemill campaign has, very noticeably, the moral high ground, while the council and Peabody have nothing but spin and deception. The garden is a magical green space and community asset that is also of notable environmental significance, mitigating the horrendous effects of pollution on the traffic-choked roads nearby, and is therefore genuinely priceless. As for Reginald House next door, there can be no rational justification for knocking down structurally sound social housing to build new properties that are also described as “homes for social rent”, unless some subterfuge is involved. Read the rest of this entry »

Shame on Peabody: Calling on the Former Philanthropic Social Housing Provider to Abandon Its Plans to Destroy the Old Tidemill Garden and Social Housing in Deptford

'Shame on Peabody': a banner held by campaigners in the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, which has been occupied since August 29, 2018 to prevent Lewisham Council and Peabody from destroying it - and 16 structurally sound council flats next door - as part of a housing project (Photo: Andy Worthington).Since the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford began, on August 29th, we’ve been so busy focusing on Lewisham Council’s shameful role as the would-be destroyers of a crucially important environmental and community green space, and the wilful destruction of 16 structurally sound council flats next door, in Reginald House, for a new housing development, that we’ve failed to shine a light on their development partners, Peabody.

This is unfair, because, although Lewisham Council owns the land, Peabody are fully implicated in the plans to destroy the garden and almost all of the 74 trees in the garden and on the wider development site, and to demolish the 16 flats of Reginald House and to replace them with a new form of social housing that is not the same as what they’re proposing to destroy.

Of the 16 flats in Reginald House, three are leasehold, meaning that tenants bought them via the ‘Right to Buy’ introduced by Margaret Thatcher, while the other 13 are council flats let at social rents, which in Lewisham, are, on average, £95.54 for a two-bedroom flat. In the proposals for the site, these homes will be replaced with new flats that will be let at ‘London Affordable Rent’, initiated by London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan, which, in Lewisham, are 63% higher at £152.73 a week. That difference, of course, is huge for lower-earning families who are already struggling to make ends meet, and yet the shift to ‘London Affordable Rent’ is fully endorsed by the council and Peabody, leading to the unerring conclusion that both organisations are actually committed to destroying the entire system of social rents, and establishing ‘London Affordable Rent’ as the lowest rents that will be available in future. Read the rest of this entry »

30 Days into the Occupation of Deptford’s Old Tidemill Garden, Campaigners Celebrate Court Ruling Delaying Eviction Until Oct. 24

Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaigners at Bromley County Court on Thursday September 27, 2018.Yesterday marked 30 days since campaigners — myself included — occupied the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, a much-loved community garden in Deptford, and it was a day of celebration, as we secured a court ruling allowing our occupation to last for at least another month.

Campaigners have been occupying the garden since August 29, to prevent Lewisham Council from boarding it up prior to its planned destruction as part of a housing project with the developer Peabody.

Lewisham Council sought to evict the campaigners at Bromley County Court, but although the judge confirmed the council’s right to possession of the garden, he ruled that it cannot take place until seven days after a High Court judge holds an oral hearing at which campaigners will seek permission to proceed to a judicial review of the legality of the council’s plans. This oral hearing will take place on October 17 (and please, if you can, make a donation to our crowdfunder for our legal fees).

Andrea Carey, a member of the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign, said:

This is great news, as it was clearly unacceptable for the council to seek possession of the garden while a legal challenge to the legality of its plans was in progress. We urge the council, and the developers Peabody, to take this opportunity to do what they have persistently failed to do: to go back to the drawing board, and to work with the community to come up with new plans for the old Tidemill school site that spare the garden and the 16 structurally sound council flats next door, in Reginald House, and that deliver new homes at social rent.

Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating 500 Days of My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’

The most recent photos from my photojournalism project 'The State of London', 500 days since the project started.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.




 

Yesterday marked 500 days since I began publishing a photo a day on my Facebook page ‘The State of London’ — photos drawn from the extensive archive of photos that I’ve built up over the last six years on bike rides in all of London’s 120 postcodes (those which begin SE, SW, W, NW, N, E, EC and WC), plus some of the outer boroughs. You can see all the photos to date here.

I began publishing a photo a day on the fifth anniversary of when my project started, when I first began consciously to document the capital in photos, cycling from my home in Brockley, in south east London, down through Deptford to Greenwich, and then, in the weeks that followed, cycling relentlessly around south east London, much of which was unknown to me, and also finding routes I didn’t know to take me to central London and beyond. At the time, London was beginning to be under siege — by central government and the Mayor, Boris Johnson — in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics, with bikes banned on trains across the capital, and to get anywhere I had to cycle, which wasn’t always convenient, but it was certainly a good way of getting to know London’s streets.

The Olympics, of course, showed the Tory government in its full jingoistic, corporate and authoritarian malignancy. A bottomless pit of public money was opened up to pay for the Games, even as Tory-inflicted austerity was beginning to crush the capital’s poor, the River Lea was socially cleansed around the Olympic Park in Stratford, and, although I didn’t quite realise it at the time, the heavily-marketed “sexiness” and “cool” that come with being an Olympic city meant that it would be possible to establish a turbo-charged “property bubble” in the capital, even more giddily out of control than the one that had been cultivated by the New Labour government in the ten years before the crash. Read the rest of this entry »

Check Out My Novara Media Article About the Occupation of the Old Tidemill Garden in Deptford, Plus Updates About the Campaign

A photo of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, which campaigners have occupied to prevent its destruction by Lewisham Council and Peabody, photographed on September 16, 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.




 

Last week I was delighted to get the opportunity to write an article for Novara Media, an online news organisation established in 2011, about the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford to prevent its destruction by Lewisham Council and the housing association Peabody, as part of their plans for the re-development of the old Tidemill school site — plans that also involve the destruction of 16 structurally sound council flats in Reginald House, a block next to the garden.

The article, The Battle for Deptford and Beyond, provides a helpful introduction to the struggle, and I hope that, if you haven’t already been alerted to it via social media, where we’ve been promoting it, you’ll check it out now, share it if you find it useful, and even print off copies to let other people know about the campaign.

I’ve been so busy since its publication that this is my first opportunity to promote it via my website — in part because I’ve been playing some gigs and doing other media (including a Wandsworth Radio show on Saturday night, and a No Social Cleansing in Lewisham gig at the Birds Nest on Sunday night, to raise money for the campaign), but also because of my ongoing involvement in the occupation. Read the rest of this entry »

Party in the Park, New Cross and Deptford 2018: Sun, Solidarity and the Struggle Against Social Cleansing

The arrival of a carnival procession of campaigners from the Old Tidemill Garden in Deptford to Party in the Park, a community festival in New Cross on September 1, 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.




 

Welcome to Party in the Park 2018, in Fordham Park, New Cross. No fences, no huge metal walls, no entrance fee, no security checks — and no trouble. This was the community in solidarity, proving triumphantly that an open festival is infinitely preferable to the securitised fortresses that play such a divisive role in so many of London’s parks these days (see the big money festivals that, behind their soaring metal walls, take over much of London’s parkland every summer, and the debacle of the recent Lambeth Country Show, for example).

This was the fourth Party in the Park, after events in 2013, 2014 and 2016, but it wasn’t just the brilliant sunshine that made it such a great day, or the music from dozens of great performers (and with my band The Four Fathers honoured to take part). It was that thing I mentioned above. Solidarity.

The theme of the festival was housing, and housing is at the heart of the problems we face on all fronts in the never-ending “age of austerity” imposed by the Tories since 2010, with ongoing cuts to all the services that are essential for a civil society to flourish, and with a relentless onslaught of greed on a key essential of life — housing. Read the rest of this entry »

Why We’ve Occupied the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford to Prevent Lewisham Council’s Demolition Plans

Join the Tidemill Occupation: an image I put together featuring a photo from the Old Tidemill Garden in Deptford on August 28, 2018, the evening the garden was occupied to prevent Lewisham Council from taking it back the day after, prior to its intended destruction.On Tuesday evening (August 28), campaigners occupied the Old Tidemill Garden on Reginald Road in Deptford, London SE8 to prevent Lewisham Council from taking it back on the Wednesday morning (August 29), and boarding it up prior to its planned destruction as part of the proposed re-development of the site of the old Tidemill Primary School.

The garden is a much-loved community space, and was developed by teachers, parents and pupils from the school 20 years ago. When the school closed, to be replaced by a new academy, the garden was leased to the local community, but now the council wants it back, to destroy it, and the 16 council flats of Reginald House next door, in order to build new housing with the housing association Peabody, some of which be for private sale, with the rest a mixture of Sadiq Khan’s London Affordable Rent (63% higher than social rents in Lewisham) and the scam that is shared ownership.

For many years, campaigners have been working to urge Lewisham Council to re-draw its plans to re-develop the old school site, which, astonishingly, were first proposed ten years ago. The campaigners have relentlessly pointed out that increasing the density of the development on the old school site will allow the council and Peabody to save the garden and Reginald House, but they’re simply not interested in engaging with the local community, or with the residents of Reginald House. 80% of residents do not want to lose their homes but have not been offered a ballot, despite Jeremy Corbyn’s promise last autumn that all proposed demolitions should involve ballots, a position since endorsed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Read the rest of this entry »

Britain’s Broken Democracy: Tories Become UKIP, Media Ignores Labour Gains, Labour Continues Estate Demolitions

An image of a voter and a polling station sign.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.





 

What a generally dispiriting occasion Thursday’s council elections were. On housing, which is the most pressing issue in the lives of over half the population, there was almost no acknowledgement, from either of the main parties, that we are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis of affordability and of security of tenure. Labour councils, even those that are actively engaged in demolishing council estates and replacing them with new developments with private developers, from which local people will largely be excluded, were largely undamaged at the polls, while the Tory heartlands generally held firm. 

Pundits observed that UKIP were almost wiped out, with establishment commentators suggesting that this was some sort of triumph of common sense in merrie olde England, whereas the truth is that the post-Brexit Conservative Party under Theresa May has actually become UKIP, and, as a result, the truth is considerably more alarming than lazy pundits suggest. As for Labour, the mainstream media furiously tried to portray their modest gains, and their considerable overall majority of councils and councillors, as some sort of sign of failure, which it very obviously isn’t. Some independent analysts suggested, plausibly, that Remain voters sent a powerful message to the Tories, and to Labour under the hazy, instinctively Eurosceptic Jeremy Corbyn, that the EU was significant battleground in the elections, but in general the elections played out as a showdown between the two big dogs of English politics, Labour and the Tories, in which overall, there was little change, because, overall, little change is actually possible. In our wretched, complacent first-past-the-post system, very little is actually to play for, and while the damage this inflicts on a broad platform of viewpoints is always apparent in a general election, local elections somehow get far less scrutiny, even though their outcomes are often even more damaging for democracy.

In Lewisham, where I live, for example, 60% of those who voted cast their votes for the Labour Party, but Labour walked off with 100% of the council seats. 

How is that supposed to be fair? Read the rest of this entry »

A Defence of Social Housing in a Resolutely Hostile Political Environment

The destruction of Robin Hood Gardens Estate, in Poplar, east London, photographed on December 12, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.





 

Tomorrow, Londoners will go to the polls to vote in council elections in the capital’s 32 boroughs,and across the UK there will also be elections in 34 metropolitan boroughs, 67 district and borough councils and 17 unitary authorities.

Voting ought to be a simple matter. The Tories, under Theresa May, are spectacularly useless and, wherever possible, cruel. Engaged in an effort to implement Brexit that seems to be destroying them, they are also gasping from one scandal to another — the latest being the Windrush fiasco, initiated by Theresa May, who is, to be blunt, a racist, and this whole racist disaster demonstrates quite how unpleasant they are.

And yet, if you care about fairness and social justice — in the specific context of housing, the biggest issue facing Londoners today, as well as many, many other people around the country — then voting for the Labour Party is not, in general, to be recommended, leaving a giant hole where participation in the democratic process ought to be. Read the rest of this entry »

No Social Cleansing in Lewisham: Please Join the New Campaign!

No Social Cleansing in Lewisham! The logo for the new campaign, designed by Lilah Francis of the Achilles Street Stop and Listen Campaign.Please visit and like the No Social Cleansing in Lewisham Facebook page!

And, if you can, please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.





 

Back in October, after being hit by a number of pieces of bad news regarding the state of social housing in Lewisham, I rather impetuously came up with a name for a campaign and a rallying cry — No Social Cleansing in Lewisham — and emailed Deptford’s legendary live venue, the Birds Nest, to ask if they would host a night of music, consciousness-raising and and solidarity, to which they said yes.

I had been encouraged to think that a gig in defence of social housing — essentially, not-for-profit rented housing, typically available for no more than a third of what unregulated private rents cost — was possible because, contrary to popular notions that politics has no place in music, which is assiduously promoted by the corporate media, my own band, The Four Fathers, refused the imperative to be bland and non-confrontational, and I had been meeting appropriate performers over the previous year — the acclaimed spoken word artist Potent Whisper, whose work is relentlessly political, the Commie Faggots, who play theatrical singalong political songs, and Asher Baker, a singer-songwriter and rapper from Southwark.

Potent Whisper and I had got to know each other online, and had then both played at a benefit for housing campaigners in Haringey in September, which was a particularly inspirational evening. I’d seen the Commie Faggots play at an open mic event in New Cross, and had then put on an event with them for the Telegraph Hill Festival, and Asher and I had met when we were both on the bill for an evening at the New Cross Inn. I then added people I met recently — the fabulous all-women Ukadelix, and local spoken word artist Agman Gora — and, with the last-minute addition of the Strawberry Thieves Socialist Choir, had a powerful evening of protest music lined up for a great night of conscious partying. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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