- Created: Thursday, 11 June 2015 12:16
- Written by FRFI
(Artwork produced by Andrew Cooper https://andrewcooper-unseen.org)
Southwark Council in south London is meeting fierce resistance as it continues to try to force through plans for the demolition of the Aylesbury estate.
At the beginning of May, both the council and Notting Hill Housing Trust, the housing association masterminding the redevelopment of the estate, found themselves under pressure at the Public Inquiry into the Aylesbury Compulsory Purchase Order. The event was held in the Millwall football grounds, as organisers had feared it would be disrupted by protests if held nearer the estate. Leaseholders – who have been offered derisory sums of between £57,000 and £120,000 for their flats – were joined by tenants, architects, public housing experts, the 35% housing campaign and lawyers as they put the landlords on the spot.
The inquiry has now been adjourned until the autumn to give the judge time to consider issues such as the council’s failure to ballot residents over the proposed demolition of their homes. During the inquiry it was revealed that its ‘public consultation’ was based on just 33 written responses, of which only five supported plans for demolition rather than refurbishment. There are 7,500 residents living on the Aylesbury. The housing association is being challenged over its attempts to get away with building only unaffordable ‘affordable’ housing rather than the social housing units it promised in the original development plans.
As far as campaigners are concerned, all those making fat profits from the proposed redevelopment of council homes into yuppie flats are fair game. So on the evening of 5 May, the RCG was among the supporters who with Aylesbury residents paid a visit to HTA Design in Kentish Town, the lead architects for the so-called ‘regeneration’. With banners reading ‘Fight for the Aylesbury’ and ‘HTA – architects of social cleansing and destroyers of communities’, we disrupted an event showcasing their plans for the Aylesbury and told the audience the truth behind HTA’s glossy photo-imaging and powerpoint presentations. The meeting room was quickly evacuated.
Fred John Towers - Tenants vote for refurbishment plan not ‘regeneration’
In early May, Waltham Forest Trades Council in east London co-ordinated a ballot of the residents of Fred Wigg and John Walsh Towers showing once again their overwhelming rejection of council plans for the estate.
These council blocks are earmarked for a regeneration scheme – ‘Option 3’ – that will see many people lose their secure council homes and be moved out of the area. Option 3 will cost £40m and involve a reduction of council housing from 234 to 160 units. One block will no longer house any council tenants.
Tenants have repeatedly made it clear they want Option 1 – the modernisation of the existing flats, and no relocation of tenants. The residents’ views were ignored at the end of 2014. A ballot was never conducted. The ballot has now been done, with Focus E15 campaigners helping to knock on every door to deliver ballot sheets. 75% of those who responded (over half of the residents) have voted for Option 1. The result gives the lie to the council’s claim that it carried out any real consultation, and that only a very small number oppose the council’s preferred option. This is a victory. Waltham Forest Trades Council is calling on the council to commission an independent ballot as recommended by the Greater London Authority Housing Committee in February. Local Labour MP John Cryer has now climbed down from his claim that only a handful of tenants wanted the refurbishment option, and has pledged to write to the council admitting he was wrong. In the meantime, the real grassroots campaign to prevent the council going ahead with its unpopular ‘regeneration’ continues.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 245 June/July 2015