Lewisham Council Narrowly Avoids Defeat of Its Tidemill Plans by the Constituency Labour Party

'Criminal damage': graffiti on the hoarding erected around the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford after its violent eviction on October 29, 2018 (Photo: Ruby Radburn).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.

 

On December 18, Lewisham Council narrowly avoided a humiliating defeat regarding its bitterly contested plans for the Tidemill development site in Deptford, when the Constituency Labour Party General Committee almost passed a powerful motion tabled by member Bill Jefferies. The final vote was 24:24 with the Chair casting the vote that lost it.

Bill Jefferies’ ‘Motion on the Tidemill Gardens Security Operation’ called on Lewisham Council to immediately take four actions in relation to the Tidemill development site:

1) To put a halt on the Tidemill scheme while new plans are developed that meet the needs of residents and people in need of council housing
2) To honour its commitment to ballot council house residents affected by the Tidemill scheme
3) To immediately sever all links with County Enforcement
4) To end the occupation by bailiffs of the Tidemill site now

The Tidemill site consists of the old Tidemill primary school, which closed in 2012, the 16 council flats of Reginald House, which the council wants to destroy, and the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, formerly part of the school, which the council also wants to destroy. Read the rest of this entry »

Lewisham Council’s Self-Inflicted Woes Increase: Chaos Over Tidemill Eviction Costs, and the Sacking of CEO Ian Thomas

Campaigners with the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign outside Lewisham Council's HQ in Catford on November 28, 2018 (Photo: Bridie Witton).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.

 

What a disgrace Lewisham Council are. With Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaigners and numerous local people putting the council under ever-increasing pressure to explain how much money has been squandered on the eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden a month ago, the subsequent cost of maintaining a security presence 24 hours a day (which we believe, on the advice of Corporate Watch, to be around £1m), and why they are still not interested in an alternative plan for the site that will spare the garden and Reginald House and do something to salvage their increasingly tattered credibility, they responded, as a FOI request revealed that £105,188 had been spent on the eviction alone, by using that as an opportunity to blame campaigners for it.

The council issued a press release (helpfully posted here by the Deptford Dame), in which Cllr. Paul Bell, the Cabinet Member for Housing, after complaining about campaigners and members of the Old Tidemill Garden Group occupying the garden, stated, with a cynical use of the Labour Party’s tagline under Jeremy Corbyn (“for the many, not the few”), “Our housebuilding programme is for the many, not the few, and we won’t let the actions of a small number of people stop us providing decent, secure, social housing for those who need it.”

At the same time as issuing the press release, the council also launched a video, ‘No Place Like Home’ (and a page on their website), dealing with homelessness and the council’s alleged dedication to providing new housing, with the tagline, ‘Why Lewisham Council is making social and truly affordable housing a priority.’ Read the rest of this entry »

The Eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden and the Mainstream Media’s Inadequacy in Reporting Stories About “Social Homes” and “Affordable Rents”

The Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden as viewed from the top balcony of Reginald House in Deptford on November 21, 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.

 

Today it’s 25 days since the violent eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, by bailiffs from the brutal Bexley-based firm County Enforcement, employed by Lewisham Council. In the battle for hearts and minds, it seems pretty clear that the council is losing locally — Corporate Watch helped us estimate that the council has been spending at least £35,000 a day guarding the garden from the community since the eviction, meaning that they have now spent close to £750,000, and everything about this hideously costly exercise continues to alienate local people — the presence of weird bailiffs 24 hours a day, as well as the daunting militarised atmosphere around the garden, the permanent barking of dogs, the floodlights at night, the vehicles parked up in the garden and the sporadic destruction of the structures built during its two-month occupation by its defenders.

And the antagonism was ramped up this week by the arrival of tree-killers hired by the council, from Artemis Tree Services, who began enraging campaigners by starting to cut down trees, even though we had had it reported from the council that the trees wouldn’t begin to be cut down until after our legal challenge against the council was concluded. Yes, you read that right. The council evicted the garden while an outstanding legal challenge was underway — our appeal against a decision by a judge to turn down our application of our judicial review of the legality of the council’s plans.

This also, of course, should have been a pretty compelling reason for the council not to evict the garden’s occupiers until after the legal process was complete, but they clearly wanted to make a point about their “ownership” of the garden — one that, to date, has cost them £750,000, and, in addition, has been a disastrous piece of PR. Read the rest of this entry »

Broken Britain: UN Rightly Condemns Eight Years of Tory Austerity, But the Labour Party Is No Saviour; Try Extinction Rebellion Instead

Anti-austerity protesters, and the Extinction Rebellion logo.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.

 

Britain, is, not to put too fine a point on it, screwed — and also deeply divided. Philip Alston, an Australian-born human rights lawyer, and the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, has highlighted both these problems in his newly-issued report on the impact of eight years of savage austerity policies by the Tory government.

Alston pulls no punches. After spending two weeks travelling the length and breadth of the UK, and meeting people at the sharp end of austerity, as well as meeting government ministers, Alston notes how, in “the world’s fifth largest economy”, it “seems patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many people are living in poverty. This is obvious to anyone who opens their eyes to see the immense growth in foodbanks and the queues waiting outside them, the people sleeping rough in the streets, the growth of homelessness, the sense of deep despair that leads even the Government to appoint a Minister for suicide prevention and civil society to report in depth on unheard of levels of loneliness and isolation.”

Alston also explains how, during his visit, “I have talked with people who depend on food banks and charities for their next meal, who are sleeping on friends’ couches because they are homeless and don’t have a safe place for their children to sleep, who have sold sex for money or shelter, children who are growing up in poverty unsure of their future, young people who feel gangs are the only way out of destitution, and people with disabilities who are being told they need to go back to work or lose support, against their doctor’s orders.” Read the rest of this entry »

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

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. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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 »

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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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