Violent and Unforgivable: The Destruction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford

The destruction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden on February 27, 2019 (photo by David Aylward).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 is my birthday, and I find myself in a reflective place, looking, at one side, on death and destruction, and, on the other, at life and love and solidarity.

Perhaps this is appropriate at the age of 56, when I am neither young nor truly old — and, believe me, I reflect on aging, and mortality, and what it means, with some regularity, as my restless brain refuses to settle, endlessly asking questions and seeking new perspectives and insights into the human condition. But that is not why I’m in this reflective place today.

Yesterday, in the hallucinatory light and heat of one of the hottest February days in London’s history, I stood on a small triangle of grass by the horrendously polluted Deptford Church Street in south east London, and watched as a small group of tree-killers, SDL Solutions, brought in from Gloucestershire, tore down almost all the trees in a beautiful community garden, the Old Tidemill Garden, whose tree canopy, which would imminently have returned as spring arrives, had, over 20 years, become an increasingly efficient absorber of that horrendous pollution. Read the rest of this entry »

As Lewisham Council Spend £1m Guarding the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden from the People of Deptford, Who Will Be Their Tree-Killers?

'Stunning apartments': a reclaimed sign brought to the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden prior to its violent eviction on October 29, 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.




 

A week last Friday, the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign — which I’m part of, and which is trying to save a community garden and a block of council flats in Deptford, in south east London from the wrecking ball of the cynical ‘regeneration’ industry — received some unwelcome, but not entirely unexpected news.

In the High Court, the court of appeals upheld an earlier decision not to accept a judicial review of the ‘regeneration’ plans, which centred on issues relating to the right to light of tenants in a block of flats next to the proposed building site.

In a statement for the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign, I responded by saying, “This is a disappointment, of course, but it doesn’t affect the campaign against the proposed destruction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden and Reginald House. We continue to insist that the garden is too important as a barrier to pollution, and as a communal green space, to be destroyed, and that there is no acceptable reason for a structurally sound block of council flats to be knocked down for new housing that purports to be ‘social housing’ but will actually be at ‘London Affordable Rent’, which, in Lewisham, is 63% higher than social rents.” Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Tidemill Solidarity Gig: Come and Celebrate the Resistance at the Birds Nest This Sunday, Dec. 9

The poster for the Tidemill Solidarity gig at the Birds Nest in Deptford on Sunday December 9, 2018.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.




 

It’s now five weeks since the violent eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, a wonderful community space and precious environmental asset that was violently evicted by bailiffs from the brutal County Enforcement company, who were hired by Lewisham Council. To show our continued resistance to the council’s plans to destroy the garden — and to celebrate our fighting spirit and our creativity — I’ve organised a gig this Sunday (Facebook page here) at the Birds Nest, the legendary live music pub just across the road, featuring musicians who played at events in the garden, or who were involved in the occupation. 

Three prominent campaigners with the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign — Heather, Harriet and I — are represented by our bands Ukadelix, the Commie Faggots and the Four Fathers, and many other members of these bands were also involved in events in the garden. I remember one wonderful evening around the fire with Michelle and Angie from Ukadelix, Archie from the Commie Faggots and Richard from The Four Fathers, when, with Angie playing some wonderful basslines, we adopted ‘Love Train’ as the occupation’s anthem. Also present that night — and on many other occasions — was Flaky Jake, accordionist and troubadour, who, I hope, will also be able to make it on Sunday.

Also representing the occupation is Roll Rizz, who brought peace and love to the garden from north London, with his anarcho-tribal punk band Flak (or Flak Punks), and two singer-songwriters who have both written songs about Tidemill, which they’ll be performing — Gordon Robertson and Mark Sampson. And the evening will kick off with Brian Wilkes, visiting from Eastbourne, who played his first ever public set at a previous Tidemill benefit gig at the Birds Nest on September 16. 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 »

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 »

The Violent Eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden: Lewisham Councillors Make Sure They Will Never Be Welcome in Deptford Again

A photo taken during the violent eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford on October 29, 2018 (Photo: Harriet Vickers).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.




 

Yesterday was one of the most harrowing days of my life, as the jackboot of authority stamped with shocking violence on the occupiers of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, a beautiful community garden and environmental asset in Deptford, evicting it prior to its intended destruction.

No one from Lewisham Council, which initiated the destruction, showed up yesterday; instead, their hired goons — 130 bailiffs from County, a Bexley-based company — arrived at dawn and sent their shock troops into the garden, wearing masks and screaming at the occupants who had stayed overnight to resist the invasion, and violently evicting them.

I missed the initial text to supporters, and was only alerted at 6.30am when Heather Gilmore, one of the most prominent campaigners, with whom I’ve been working closely since the occupation began two months ago, called and left the following message: “Please come down now. The eviction has started. It’s really nasty. It’s horrible.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Full Horror of the Tideway Super-Sewer Excavations at Deptford Creek and the Clear Need for All Housing Developments, Including Tidemill, to be Stopped

Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaigners photographed wearing gas masks to highlight the environmental costs of the proposed re-development of the old Tidemill school site, including the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.




 

In Deptford, in south east London, the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign that I’m part of is involved in a significant struggle against three aspects of the current housing crisis that are a microcosm of what is happening elsewhere in the capital and across the country, and that cry out for concerted resistance.

The first is the destruction of precious green space for a housing project that could easily be built elsewhere. The second is the destruction of structurally sound council housing, as part of the proposed development, that has no purpose except to do away with genuine social housing, and to replace it with a new form of allegedly affordable social housing that, in fact, is considerably more expensive and offers fewer protections for tenants. The third involves issues of pollution and environmental degradation that are already at crisis pint, and that will only get considerably worse if councils’ and developers’ mania for ‘regeneration’ continues unchecked.

On this third point, the work of campaigners — who have been occupying the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden since August 29, to prevent its destruction — has successfully enabled large numbers of people to understand that the garden (created 20 years ago as a beautiful landscaped garden for the local primary school, and leased to representatives on the local community for the last six years, since the school closed and moved to a new site) is an important bulwark against the horrendous pollution on the nearby A2 and also on Deptford Church Street, a dual carriageway that is one of two main routes to Greenwich and that also provides access to the Rotherhithe Tunnel. 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 »

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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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