- Created: Thursday, 23 April 2015 09:25
- Written by Jasmin Stone
The Revolutionary Communist Group has played a consistent role in supporting the residents of Sweets Way Estate in Barnet, in north London, in their political occupation of one of their homes, No 60.
The occupation follows the forced removal of 151 residents from their homes over the past few months. Some have had to go into privately rented accommodation they cannot afford, others into temporary accommodation with terrible living conditions. Many families have been rehoused so far away that their children are having to get up at 5am to undertake the long journey back to get to school on time. Nine families remain on the estate and are currently facing eviction proceedings.
Sweets Way Estate is owned by Annington Homes, the largest private owner of residential property in England and Wales, having snapped up 57,434 Ministry of Defence homes for £1.67bn. Annington leases back the majority of its properties to the MoD as accommodation for married service personnel. Some refurbished properties are sold or privately rented. Annington Homes has been granted planning permission by Conservative-run Barnet Council to demolish 160 perfect family homes, in order to replace them with 288 luxury apartments no working class person could afford. 11% of the new development will be ‘affordable housing’ – ie with sky-high rents of up to £2,400 a month. It’s another clear example of the gentrification of London, supported both by private housing developers such as Annington Homes and Countryside Properties, L&Q housing association, and corrupt councils like Barnet.
On 8 March one of the empty homes on the estate was occupied as a social centre. Residents have created a family-friendly space, with baking classes and homework clubs for the children, workshops, a free shop and much more. This political occupation has had fantastic support from the Focus E15 campaign, Our West Hendon, the RCG, Barnet Housing Action Group and another local campaign, the Save Our Valley Pre-school. The Sweets Way Resists campaign is led mainly by women, representing an amazingly diverse community. Ex-residents have travelled for up to two hours to stand with the remaining residents at the occupation and demand no demolition of their estate, social housing not social cleansing and to be rehoused back onto the Sweets Way Estate or in the surrounding area in Barnet. It is increasingly clear that under capitalism housing is a commodity and houses are being treated as investments rather than homes regardless of people’s basic needs.
Over 61,000 people have signed the online petition, and the campaign has been supported by Russell Brand, who attended the house for a sleepover on 17 March. More than 150 people took part in the event which featured a bonfire, fireworks and free ice cream. On 23 March the campaign won a legal victory when it contested an application by Annington Homes for an injunction and the repossession of 60 Sweets Way. The court ruled that Annington Homes had issued the possession notice without giving the campaign adequate time to defend its case. The case was adjourned to 30 March. Around 60 people attended court to support the residents and will be returning to the second hearing.
Save Dollis Valley Pre-school!
Just around the corner from Sweets Way, the Dollis Valley estate is also facing a ‘regeneration programme’ aimed at establishing ‘a smart garden suburb’. The estate’s community-run nursery, Valley Pre-school, has been marked for demolition in the coming months, by Countryside Properties and L&Q, which will include 600 luxury unaffordable homes. The developers and Barnet Council are attempting to force the nursery to close by the end of the Easter holidays. We are supporting the campaign to save it.
There is a real movement building in London with hundreds of people learning that resisting is the best and only way of voicing what is happening. In the run-up to the election it’s important that we shame these corrupt councils for the sell-off of London and organise among ourselves to build the movement strong enough to win back our homes. Occupy, agitate, organise.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 244 April/May 2015