5.2 The effects of demolition
Evidence shows that slum clearance in the earlier years and now did break up communities. It forces people to move to areas they did not want to go, leaving the neighbourhood population geographically dispersed. People had few families and friends within with the new neighbourhoods they were forced to. It was responsible then and is now for some of the most the superficial changes in the nature of our time and no doubt the changes will continue. Forcing people out of a community could affect their health especially the elderly as they become lonely and that sense of trust with the community vanishes as they have moved into new areas where sometimes there is hostility from the neighbours already there. The impact of the demolition during the slum clearance was huge.
It affected residents physical and their mental health, which can be said of today’s effects on the residents who have been forced out of their homes.
The impact is on everyone within the household. Children’s friendship and schooling are disrupted, the ability for the elderly to live independently and most importantly financially. For the elderly, the supportive network breaks as people move away which makes it difficult for meetups. Demolition has caused a lot of pain to people who had to suffer this action in their neighbourhoods.
One tenant who lived on the Heygate Estate said – “All I read is that our estate is riddled with crime, no it was not. I was raised on this estate by my Nan and my mother and I loved it”. I moved out because I had children but my Nan bless her soul and my mother continued to live here until they were kicked out in 2008. (Pointing to where her home once was) look over there I used to play there with my friends now it is a stack of posh homes for the rich. Southwark killed my Nan when they moved her out and sent her to Bermondsey. She did not want to go and even begged to be placed nearer to the family but they refused. A couple of years later she dies” Amy Grant (former tenant of the Aylesbury).
Amy went on to add, we were a community and that sense of community has been lost when people have been scattered all over the country. One of my friends has been sent to Dartford, How do we get to her? It is so bad how Southwark has treated us because of money forgetting about our feelings and us as human beings.
I do understand Amy’s point of view because I know someone who was also living on the Aylesbury and has been moved to surrey even though at the time she was working in London. They gave her no alternative; you take the offer or lose the housing so she had to take it.
Other residents (leaseholders) reluctantly are selling or have sold their properties back to the council as they were being pressurised into settling for less the amount.
They felt intimidated most of them elderly and have spent their whole lives in Southwark had to move 15 miles from Southwark into smaller properties.
It can be said that some had to spend their life savings to add to the little amount the council forced them to accept, in order to buy their new homes. The valuations for leasehold properties was no way near to what outside surveyors were advising they were worth but the council had the upper hand to set the price. Having no financial means to fight the council residents accepted what Southwark Council was offering, as the council was not backing down even though they knew what they were offering was the low end.
Demolition has affected health, education and a sense of community in Southwark. Even though some of the residents affected by the demolition were rehoused within Southwark, they say the feeling and communities they live in are not the same.
Tenant Residents Association Representative Julie told me, she did not think the council understood the sense of a community or what it was. She said Southwark Council is carrying out demolitions purely for the financial gain and are overlooking people who have lived in areas all their lives. Looking at the area of the Heygate it is definitely an investment area for private corporations.
Julie said, all residents living in Southwark would be affected by any demolition, especially for tenants. She believes that it will aid increase social housing rents and those who are not able to afford the new rent prices will have to move out of the borough. She said many residents are seeking to move out of London as the rent prices are getting ridiculous.
Southwark’s increased population of older people is leading to there being additional pressure on services for older people. However, Southwark has forgotten to provide suitable homes for them when they have been forced out of the homes due to demolition. Most of the residents who lived on the Heygate and Aylesbury were born there and lived there for more than 6 decades. Southwark is all they know. They had no choices; some of them were moved to high-rise buildings and dumped on the highest floors.
One Ex Heygate resident I spoke to Diana Price a 69-year-old said, many of the former Heygate residents including herself had agreed to be moved into temporary inferior housing with the promise from the council that they would have the given right to return to one of the brand new homes when the building was complete. She said Southwark council deceived them all. When she asked when she would be offered one of the flats, Southwark Council has told her she is not eligible as she is living in a decent home and within the borough. She was furious and said the whole scheme has been an act of deception only to get them out of the area to make way for the rich.
She said she now has health problems since she moved out in 2010 because she always panics as she lives alone and really still knows no one in her new neighborhood. She said the sense of respect and trust is no longer there and she is scared at night because she knows no one is looking out for her. Diana said, “On the Heygate everyone looked out for each other and checked on the elderly from time to time. Now there is none of that. I need to go to a day club to meet up with old friends”. I could see tears in her eyes at this point and I felt her pain.
Another resident of Heygate bought her flat here in 1997 says the council has destroyed the community of many who have lived here there from the beginning of 1974.
People have been scattered if lucky to distant parts of the borough. She said an elderly woman who was forced out still comes back to the area to walk her dog.
There are hardly any community facilities where the elderly can meet people and socialise. Southwark claims they look after the elderly but they have in the last 5 years shut down a few centre homes for the elderly where they met during the week. Even the basic service of the elderly and disabled having a panic alarm free discontinued. Now you pay for this once free for all service. Most of the vulnerable people who lived on the estate cannot afford this service.
This is one of the issues brought up and concerns grew for the vulnerable residents on these estates. The lost communities looked out for their elders and made sure they were safe. That is part of history, as the elderly who once lived in these close net communities are no more together. The elderly who once had strong supportive social networks roam the streets feeling lonely.
One resident said Southwark Council acted unethically when it wanted to force the remaining people out of parts of the Heygate. The district heating was turned off permanently leaving them vulnerable to not even the basic needs. This led to people having to surrender and leave. The future of the Aylesbury could face the same fate when the council decides finally to demolish the remaining blocks.
Statement from Southwark Council – “Indeed, Southwark Council’s regeneration of Elephant and Castle actually comes with a promise that local people will benefit from a “dramatically improved physical environment,” have “access to more local jobs and training opportunities” and the chance to buy thousands of newly built homes”(Southwark Council, 2015).
I have been closely monitoring the development of Peckham and the Elephant and Castle areas. These areas have become so attractive to professional and creative people with lots of money. The main reason for this is because of its good transport links says urban ethnographers. Both Peckham and the Elephant and castle areas are within 12 minutes to the East end and there are more transportation links being constructed. Rent prices have rocked pushing the locals out.
The demolition and redevelopment of Peckham have affected independent businesses and the once vibrant community. Fancy restaurants popping up not for the common person who lives in Peckham, What was the aim and reasons of the redevelopment for the Peckham community if they cannot afford to spend and enjoy themselves in their own neighbourhood?
Southwark Council likes to call it regeneration; critics call it gentrification, which has resulted in the displacement of local people. It has divided communities, even creating of gated communities and privatization of public space. Including Southwark, most boroughs in London are becoming like Paris, where only the rich can afford and the poor pushed out to the suburbs.
Having lived in Peckham before and knew it quite well before it had to go through a regeneration process. It is clear that demolition and a regeneration scheme that has transformed the physical and landscape of the area with no sense of community.
Over the years since Southwark announced their vision for redevelopment and some demolitions of their estates, activists and residents have consistently fought against the demolition schemes through their Tenant and Resident Associations but their concerns fall on deaf ears.
Historically dating back to the 1970s’ a growing public opposition to clearance then and they were not listened to. This goes to show that the government and Southwark Council say they are working with the local community but are not. They make their decisions regardless of the consequences.
While the housing of the working classes has always been a question of the greatest social importance, never has it been so important as now. It is not too much to say that the adequate solution of the housing question is the foundation of all social progress …
(Burnett J, A social history of housing 1815-1985 page 219)
Southwark said in a report that 395 of 410 tenants have been rehoused in South London as if this is an achievement when the Council is moving residents out their communities. Figures show that a third of residents affected by the demolitions on Heygate and Aylesbury were re-housed locally.
Some facts that should be known
Indicators adapted from Whitehead and Dahlgren’s wellbeing framework (1991)
Health professionals say the impact of demolitions and renovations of homes on an individual’s health and wellbeing is very complex and needs to be evaluated according to the needs and on a case-to-case basis. People react differently to change; however, they are certain demolition does have negative effects on the older generation more.
In the Guardian Newspaper, Rev Paul Nicolson is the founder of Taxpayers Against Poverty said,“Demolishing the homes of the UK’s most deprived renters does nothing to increase their income and can never improve their health or well-being”. www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2017/apr/18/urban-regeneration-tragedy-health-council-tenants
The physical and emotional costs of moving house cause a lot of harm. It disrupts children’s education and social network, as we know. The poorest are caught in a trap where their income is stagnant but their rent continues to rise rapidly. Reports from the NHS reports at a lot more people are being admitted to hospital with malnutrition, and the Office for National Statistics has revealed an unprecedented rise in mortality in 2015. Most of these people are council tenants who have been through the demolition scheme or have been moved to areas where they are unable to afford the high rent prices.
On the Aylesbury Estate, in an attempt to save the last few remaining blocks from demolition, there are a few activists squatting in some of the blocks that have been decanted. Southwark Council has said these buildings have come to the end of their lifespan so they will definitely not be wasting any money to refurbish them. They advise that when they are ready to start the next phase the squatters will be arrested in order for the developers to carry on with the building works.
The Aylesbury estate was built replace slums and provide affordable rents for the poor, however, the estate that once was homes to the poor has now become a replacement with new homes for sale and high rents locals who once lived there cannot afford.
This research is about the impact demolition has on a community and the local residents. I looked at a number of significant elements. A process of research and analysis into demolition, economic, and social issues crisis will be carried out.
I have used a variety of specific methodologies and methods. The data consists of primary and secondary where primary data was collected from surveys and interviews. There has also been a trip to observe on the ongoing developments and demolition of the Aylesbury and Heygate Estates. It was important for me to visit and get a feel of the area and speak to some of the remaining residents on the Aylesbury estate, which is being demolished in phases so there are still a few residents living there. The secondary data had been collected from libraries and the internet. The data consists of books, study journals, magazines and news articles. The relevant data used will be analysed and utilized to ensure an honest and good ethical delivery is achieved. The questions and answers will be justified throughout the dissertation.
Before starting any research, it is important for the researcher to understand the philosophical nature and different theories available. This research has been conducted using a pragmatic approach this has been the influential factor that has determined what methodologies and methods have been applied.
A justification on how the researcher came about and constructed the information used for the study is imperative. It is important to ensure any future use of this information can be understood. This will also help future users of this data understand the direction and thought process of the author (Naoum, S.G. 2007).
Three methods were used for gathering the primary data. The first method was to a questionnaire of five questions for the public community of Southwark. To ensure I was heading down the right route with my dissertation I had to have an idea of what people thought. I gave the questionnaire to groups of people on estates and to people at a residents tenants meeting which I attended. To get a fair response.
Once I was satisfied with the outcome, I started to plan my questions and decided whom I interview. I had two face-to-face interviews and mini conversations with resident service officers and residents.
The second method carried out was like a case study I took a trip to Aylesbury Estate where I met up with one of the resident service officers who showed me around the block and allowed me to speak to some of the residents who currently live there. I observed and experienced what the residents were relating to where demolition and community spirit is concerned. Mini interviews with some of the residents not recorded. This information has been used where relevant throughout the dissertation.
The third method was face-to-face meetings and interviews with Officials from the London Borough of Southwark. The interviews have similar questions and covered a number of details relating to the demolition, the housing crisis and how it is affecting the community and economic issues in London and Southwark. The key topic relating to the effects of demolition are also discussed. However, the contracts manager wishes for his identity to remain anonymous but allowed the interview to be recorded. It was a short interview but I did get some good answers from him. I requested to interview the manager of the Housing Options team; it was declined. No one from his or her department wanted to fill out a questionnaire either. This study will help determine the impact demolition of homes as on people and the community with transparency honesty and reliability from people who have lived through it.
Primary data collected allows data to beproduced with the specific purpose of answering the research aim and objectives. Inthis study, primary data were collected from questionnaires, interviews and some directobservation. The questionnaire was conducted in order to allow general questions to be given to aid in writing up interview questions.
The design and layout of questions and the questionnaire form was given detailed
Attention making it easy and not long-winded consisting of only five effective questions.
To be able to identify the general trends in the answers given, closed questions were used. The opportunity to expand on the answer given was available to keep with a qualitative approach. To probe attitudes and opinions open-ended questions were used. This generated to free responses to the questionnaire allowing it to receive more in-depth answers.
The questionnaire was given residents and appropriate officials who have links to Southwark Council. Some of the questionnaires were sent out electronically to ensure a faster response while others were hand delivered. I sent out 100 questionnaires but got 65 completed questionnaires back. I was hoping for more however, I had to make do with what I had collated. Hand delivered questionnaires were returned on the day and the electronically sent ones were returned within a week.
Interviews as a methodology could possibly be the oldest, as a research tool, Interviews are flexible and powerful. Some of the ways an interview can be carried out are face to face, over the telephone, in a group setting or via the internet. Interviews vary from being just a natural conversation or a structured one. There are semi-structured interviews, which gives the interviewer room to remain flexible throughout the interview allowing some of the questions to change where necessary. I conducted face-to-face interviews and had conversational ones with many of the residents of the Heygate and Aylesbury. I was on a walkabout with one of the resident officers who also had a lot to say when we had a conservation. The interviews, which were face to face, all interviewees, were informed how long interviews will last about an hour, this was to ensure adequate time was available to cover all issues and allow for new issues if appropriate. The interviewees were chosen because of the relevant knowledge and their job titles in order to best answer the questions and meet the objectives of the research.
The Interviews conducted can be found in Appendices II and III. They were recorded and transcribed.
6.1 RESEARCH RESULTS
From the research I conducted, I find that present or past there are similarities. During the walkabout on the estate with Ladi the Resident Service Officer, some of the residents were eager to speak to me. Some of them were leaseholders and still fighting their case to remain on the block or offer the fair price for the flat, which will enable them to find a similar flat in the area. They do not want to move out of the area. All they are asking Southwark Council to do is match the housing asking price for the Walworth area.
Mr. Simon a leaseholder said, “We as leaseholders are lumbered with a bill of £15,000 to pay for repairs and maintenance for the block, a few months later we attend a resident meeting only to find out the blocks are going to be demolished. How terrible is that? I have lived here all my life myself and wife were born on this estate. I worked hard to buy this flat now the council is offering me a fraction of the market price. Where do I go from here, Wales? My life is in London am a Londoner that is all I know I cannot live anywhere else”. (Mr. Simon Leaseholder on Aylesbury Estate)
Residents who lived and still live on the Aylesbury Estate never wanted to leave the area. The Council sold this regeneration scheme with the idea of there being refurbishment and not demolition. However, it turned out differently with the amount of social housing available a fraction of the once that once stood.
When I asked the contract Manager, about what the future holds for the housing stock of Southwark see his response below which I feel is a typical textbook response.
JD: As Southwark is selling off most of its housing stock, what does the future hold for social housing?
CM: “Southwark is not selling most of its stock but has increased from previous years. This is mainly due to the lack of funding from central government and therefore all local authorities have had to find alternative methods to raise funds. However, Southwark is still creating new homes and keeping them affordable. The new homes delivery team are planning to complete around 1500 homes by 2018 and a further 11000 homes by 2043 to meet the need for housing. Also, as house prices are very high now. Southwark is able to sell of its priciest stock and put those funds in building housing elsewhere and maintain affordability”.
Southwark Council has been criticized after details of the deal with a property developer to regenerate the Elephant and Castle area emerged. Critics have said Southwark Council could have handled the project much better.
Southwark Council’s target for new affordable housing was 35% however within the deal with the property developer is 25%, which is lower than the original target. This could be said for other boroughs as well. Most of them are cutting corners and not attaining the goals when it comes to affordable housing. When Southwark Council was asked how the demolishing of homes and not replacing all of them help the housing crisis, they claimed with the housing shortage and in this economic crisis, it is better to get something built than nothing at all.
The Elephant and Castle regeneration have been crawling through its planning phases which includes the demolition and replacement of the Heygate and Aylesbury estates.
Southwark’s Liberal Democrats controlled the council in 2002, argued that the Labour party have rushed into a deal which could have been handled and negotiated better. The deal with the developers Lend Lease was agreed in July 2010 with the Southwark Labour Party.
What is the right approach to improving regenerating an area where there is scope for change? Not the approach Southwark council have taken with their latest regeneration which is seen to be gentrification and social cleansing by the looks of it. When it comes to regeneration what principals should be held sacred? Are there any principals? Southwark Council and its regeneration projects provide a good case study for there to be a reform in how councils carry out these so-called regenerations which involve breaking up communities and building less affordable housing.
Peter John Leader of Southwark council has often expressed that the regeneration project of the Elephant and Castle area is to ensure there are mixed communities which will aid new business to thrive in the area. He claims these estates which are up for demolition have failed to provide a good environment and does not see it as driving residents out of the area for gains. Critics have asked the question, “How possible is it to create mixed communities by planning?” A professor of social policy Anne Power has also said it is impossible to create mixed communities. It seems to me that Southwark Council is digging a hole for themselves with their false promises and comments. They should accept their mistake and learn for this and listen to residents in the future. The harm has already been done.
7 ANALYSIS / DISCUSSION
7.1 The Future of Council Housing
The leader of the Council leader Peter John recently stood up at a Local Government Association conference and claimed that the building of new council housing in Southwark is the answer to the housing crisis. Is it I ask myself? Southwark might be building but are they building for the poor or for the rich? The sums do not even add up. The Council claims they are building 11,000 homes over the next 30 years but it remains unsaid that these homes will fail to replace those who have lost their homes through the right to buy scheme and through the demolishing of estates such as the Heygate and Aylesbury. This figure does not even account for the thousands of other homes lost through other regeneration schemes over the past years.
Southwark disputes this and says they are carrying out some refurbishments and most of the estate (Aylesbury) will be demolished. They claim to be investing over £12m in repairing windows and other general repairs including the roof. When you walk up to the estate today you can still see scaffolding which has been up for God knows how long and no workers on site. Some blocked are occupied others are vacant. With no schedule for the rest of the Aylesbury to be demolished, Southwark is carrying out minimal repairs but insist the blocks will eventually come down. Where is the logic in this Southwark Council? Its either you demolish or refurbish. It makes no sense. On the Aylesbury, no Emergency Officers visit the blocks at night as the council says it is too risky for them to visit these areas at night. The police must be called or contractors from the repair teams will visit without an emergency officer. Even if it is regarding repair issues. They have blown this whole regeneration of Aylesbury out of proportion.
Southwark will be patching up the Aylesbury even as it dismantles it. Such is the strained logic of estate regeneration. Residents say Southwark has decided to let the Aylesbury deteriorate and making it look as horrible as possible then say this estate cannot be saved.
The Aylesbury Estate Leaseholders have won a great victory in defence of their homes, after the Government refused Southwark Council’s application to compulsory purchase their properties. Plans to force leaseholders off the Aylesbury Estate have no materialised.
Sajid Javid Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has been involved in the long-standing saga about leasehold properties on the Aylesbury estate. This is delaying the major regeneration, which is now at a standstill. He put a block on the compulsory purchase order Southwark Council had in place but for some reason, he has now lifted the block allowing the council to carry on with this act. The compulsory purchase order was blocked last September as he said leaseholders would be unable to afford any of the options offered in the area, as what the council is offering for their flats is not the market value. He has lifted the block because Southwark Council claims they have made better offers, however, one of the leaseholders’s on the block says the offer is still not right. We are still at war with the council and we are not moving until we are given the asking price
The Council says the revised offers are in line with the property market in the area, which was considered affordable and suitable for the residents. The council says the new offers are yet to be made. Campaigners are lobbying and a new compulsory purchase order inquiry to take place in order to determine if these offers are fair. The Aylesbury Leaseholders group previously said it was a bad idea for the regeneration scheme to go ahead because demolishing and rebuilding will not deliver all the social housing needed for the area.
Their Legal representatives and lobby group is the 35% Campaign who say we will win against Southwark. If the first phase should go ahead, it will affect 7 leaseholders.
The Leaseholders said, “Our structurally sound and well-loved spacious homes, sit primely located between Southwark’s largest park and the new Bakerloo line station proposed to be built on the site of the Old Kent Rd Tesco superstore. Instead of incorporating us within the scheme, the Council is booting us out using compulsory purchase powers and offering a pittance in compensation”. https://halag.wordpress.com/
Government inspector Martin Whithead will lead the new public inquiry into Southwark Council’s controversial plans for compulsory purchases to enable regeneration of the Aylesbury estate.
Mark Williams, Southwark Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and new homes, said: “We are looking forward to making our case for this vital project that will build hundreds of new, top quality and genuinely affordable homes for local people, as well extra care housing for some of our most vulnerable residents.”
See the table below, which speaks for its self.
From the table above it is clear to see a loss of 7,639 homes and a net loss of social housing amounting to a staggering 4,424. There was a prediction by the Greater London Authority a few years ago about Southwark losing over 2000 social housing homes due to these regenerations programs but they have ignored the predictions and gone ahead and demolished estates and still are. Even though Southwark has the largest Social housing stock in London, research shows that it is in the bottom 3 for providing affordable housing.
“The Heygate and Aylesbury estates reinforced poverty crime and inequality”
Cllr Peter John (Southwark Council Leader)
You hear arguments from local residents and campaigners, how convenient the location of the Heygate and Aylesbury is, great transport links into central London and tube lines linking to most corners of London. People will pay large sums to rent a property near the Elephant and Castle area. Even though the Heygate will have more properties after the buildings go up, there will be less social housing than it had before. The area will become desirable because once the roads and the main roundabout at the Elephant and Castle are more user-friendly, who would not want to live there? It will be what you can afford that counts.
There is also the argument that why demolish Aylesbury when a similar estate in Finsbury Park North London still stands? It is the Six Acres Estate, instead of the Islington Council demolishing the estate, it took the smart option and refurbished it and it stands today. Built the same time as the Aylesbury Estate, yet Southwark Council takes a robust decision to demolish a perfectly habitable block of flats within an Estate. The Islington Council refurbished and improved the appearance of the Estate between 2004 and 2012.
The council does accept there will be a degree of gentrification and says a community of various types of housing on the same site has advantages. However, they strongly deny that the key factors are social cleansing or class cleansing. Southwark says the blocks, that have been demolished, are difficult to maintain and most have had their fair share of trouble.
Direct quotes from the Leader of the council to justify the demolition of the estates. I personally have heard him speak at council meetings and he has described these estates as a problem within Southwark where crime, anti-social behaviour, and unemployment was high. During an interview with BBC, Cllr John said that Heygate is not a great place to live in the condition it is. He even added that vigilante films were filmed on the estate because it was a failing part of Southwark. Even in his blogs online, he repeats the same criticism and stands by demolition such estates. I say the Council’s lack of investment and maintaining the blocks on the estate has partly lead to the demolition. Former Cabinet member for Regeneration of Southwark Council Fiona Colley once said in an interview that, “council estates are full of people who aren’t working and are on benefits”. Fiona Colley
Speaking to one resident Amy said, the area is not unsafe as the council is making it look. There is the crime in similar areas and I do not hear of any demolition plans. Yes, there are problems sometimes but these problems will be on other estates. The talk of it being unsafe at night is nonsense. We are safe here and we are a community who look out for one another”.
I interviewed one of the contract mangers in Southwark who works with the major works department. He wishes to remain anonymous however was happy for me to use his interview for my dissertation. One of the interview questions and his response below. JD for the interview and CM for the Contract Manager.
JD: Southwark has been accused in the past of bringing in gentrification to get rid of the immigrants. What would you say about this statement?
CM: Southwark has a strong stance with Equal Opportunities and the Equality Act and in support of this housing has a priority system which has nothing to do with race, status etc. however, there are still strict methods carried out regarding immigration status and any illegal immigrants have to be dealt with according to the law. Some areas and houses will cost more to live in if as a result, the less wealthy people have to move out because it is unaffordable then this is unfortunate but not planned. At the same time, we have to provide all types of housing including homes for sale, which includes shared ownership, which is open to all, but as always, regulations do ensure schemes provide a certain amount of social housing to prevent this from happening.
The Contract Manager might have answered the question to the best of his knowledge but I still think Southwark Council could do more to prevent people from losing their homes where necessary.
In the interview with the contract manager, I asked him about affordable housing and who were these properties was offered to. See the below.
JD: When you build your affordable housing quota, do you build affordable
retirement housing or general affordable housing?
CM: Each scheme has a different requirement and planning policy has a strong say on what we can and cannot do. However, many schemes generally provide social housing as a priority. Again, with minimal funding from central government, many local authorities have to use other methods to generate funds so building homes for sale will need to be done in the meantime to run all operation. Yes, we build homes for ex-soldiers, old people and even temporary housing on O’Reilly Street.
JD: On what basis, is it offered?
CM: Based on the housing allocations team who have a priority list etc. check the website for this. I do not deal with that area so cannot comment.
Residents of Aylesbury had the only ballot on the estate in 2001 and 73% of the residents voted against Demolition; however, Southwark has gone ahead with their plan. So why did the voting occur if they were not going to listen to the residents regardless of the outcome? It has been proven that the claims of the Leader of the council and his cabinet are unfounded as the Heygate had one of the lowest crime rates within Southwark. These claims have been made purely for gains. If the local communities within Southwark are to be protected, regeneration does not have to be seen as gentrification with the support of the government and councils, where huge profits are gained. Councils must consider refurbishment and stay with the decent homes standard and stop making excuses about it costing more to refurbish than demolish.
In the interview with the contract manager, see his response below when I asked him about what the future hold for the poor residents after demolition.
JD: What does the future hold for the poor residents of Southwark as they are being pushed out after demolition?
CM: Again, new homes are being built in place where residents have priority to move back in or can live elsewhere. We are working with other local authorities to re-provide housing as the demand for housing is greater than the current stock and rate of new homes being built.
All residents living in the borough will be impacted by any changes to the provision of housing services over the next 30 years (this is especially true for tenants and Leaseholders). In the future of council housing, edited by John English, he states it was encouraged to promote the selling of social housing, which I find disappointing.
Southwark and other councils are ordered by the government to build thousands of homes, with an importance on high-rise blocks developments, as part of the government’s housing strategy. A few of the councils have plans to meet the overwhelming housing demand, instead, are selling off their housing stock to housing associations or private developers.
With the substantial lack of appropriate and affordable housing in the UK, especially in London, how can selling on council land to developers help the problem? These flats built by the developers are expensive, not for rent but to be sold primarily to investors to let out. The rents are then placed at extortion rates and the poor are not able to afford the rent leaving them to leave the community to find other alternatives to cheaper accommodation.
Speaking to Barry Duckett, chair of the Canada Water TRA, he told me the community were concerned about their homes as the council keeps selling of the blocks within the area to private developers. He added that the people are not guaranteed enough of the homes, which are being built, and this is very worrying. He said he does not know what the future holds but hopes Southwark will listen to the locals and stop selling off and start refurbishing. He said it takes years to build a community but Southwark are determined to break it up with no thought at all.
There have been Southwark Council meetings to demolish flats in the Canada Water are which the residents are opposing. Barry said at one of the meetings he attended he had never seen residents so worried about losing their home due to no fault of theirs. The residents are still fighting the council to keep their homes.
The future of Southwark council housing might be bleak but has the council’s cabinet thought about how many people will be affected if they continue to demolish council housing? It will affect the residents first, and then the resident service officers and many more who work for the council.
Residents of the Heygate, Aylesbury and other estates in Southwark, were promised they could move back after the private homes are built. My question is “why should a community move to make way for over a thousand new flats, which they will never move back into due to the high rent?” Now, most of that community once independent have to depend on families and friends for shelter because the council did not rehouse some people.
In the Southwark’s strategy, resident involvement is crucial to Southwark’s long-term housing strategy. However, it seems like Southwark are not keeping their promise.
Residents of the Heygate, in particular, said they did support of the regeneration until it became clear of the real intentions of the Council. The nature of the regeneration was very different from what was said in Tenants meetings. They were told demolishing meant new homes for them within the area unless people chose not to come back to the area. It later became unclear of the real proposal. This was a worrying time for all residents and suffering from stress and the vulnerable ones helpless.
Even though Southwark is the largest provider of social housing in the borough, registered social landlords such as Wandle, Hexagon, and Family Mosaic housing also provides housing for some of the residents. Their housing estates tend to be smaller than the ones Southwark Council owns. It is important to know that RSLs tenants are also facing similar problems as council tenants.
Most recently, Wandle housing association announced that families of four blocks in Peckham Solomon’s Passage would have to find new homes as the place they call home is going to be demolished. These blocks were built about 10 years ago with 85 flats. Over 200 residents are being affected by this demolition.
Wandle says that people do not have to move until the end of this year when they intend to start demolishing. People who live there are heartbroken because they thought they could be there forever. The came as a shock to the residents because there was no warning. Residents saw environmental health inspectors visiting the blocks on more than 3 occasions that is when they suspected something was wrong.
Wandle might not be able to rehouse the entire residents of the blocks being demolished, however, will be paying compensation to those affected. They said there are flats nearby being refurbished, which some people could move into once complete. Wandle is offering to buy back leasehold properties and claim it will be bought at market value. This is exactly what leaseholders on the Heygate and Aylesbury were told but the result turned out different. People are going to be forced to rent privately which most households living in these blocks will not be able to afford.
The regeneration of Canada Water is ongoing with new blocks being built around Canada water. Southwark Council says half of these flats will go to local residents in need of housing and the rest will be privately owned.
Residents are not happy and do not trust that Southwark will stick to the plan. Some are concerned that even if these flats are available to the locals with they be able to afford the rent prices.
The future of council housing is not looking bright as statistics show that the amount of 25s to 35s who rented privately a decade ago as doubled as the waiting lists for a council home is ridiculous and rejection on being able to place yourself on the housing list. Rent is rising and as the residents are able to afford higher rents they will choose to live in better accommodation than council housing. Another factor to consider why council housing is in danger is the right to buy scheme. The scheme gives secure eligible council and housing association tenants the legal right to buy their homes with a large discount of up to £104,900 in some cases. Millions of council properties across the UK have been sold since the launching in 1980.
Scholars in favour of this scheme claim it has given households a valuable asset, home ownership is believed to bring a range of benefits, including financial security and independence. It is also believed that this scheme has helped Local authorities repay loans owed. However, there are many councils still in debt? How is this possible? On the other hand, critics claim this scheme has contributed to the housing shortage and for low-income earners in our nation today. They said it has contributed to the displacement of families and friends leading to social cleansing of traditional communities.
Local councils such as Southwark council are now faced with a stock of older houses, which they claim will cost more to refurbish than demolish. The council is saddled with debt and is selling off these building to private developers to pay off their debts and the locals are missing out. The new builds going up have to be profitable for the owners so rent is rocketed and only the rich can afford to live there.
Governments have help people to attain their aspiration of owning a home although home ownership is not without risk and expense. Investing into the social housing has fallen with no clear vision for the unregulated and insecure private rented sector, leaving room for extortion from private property owners.
“The Government needs to understand more about the demand (and need) for social rented housing for a number of reasons. One is simply to be better able to meet future demand in terms of ensuring that social housing is built in the right locations, and the right mix of house types (flats, houses) and size (number of bedrooms) is provided. Similarly, affordable housing needs to be provided in the appropriate tenure – subsidised rented or low-cost home ownership – and with a level of affordability”. (Fitzpatrick & Stephens the future of social housing 2008 page 133)
Southwark Council argues that Improvements and regeneration have become a priority as they are obligated to bring all their homes up to the decent home standard to ensure no one is deprived of where they live. They claim there have been funds made available to them from the central government for regeneration programmes but they are still struggling to meet the housing crisis. However, since the introduction of transferring management of housing stock to housing associations, (Housing and Planning Act 1986) Southwark council has been known to transfer some of its housing stock. Southwark Council is no longer Landlords for these properties.
In the future of council housing John English talks about the role of council housing saying, “it is now necessary to examine the policies of the main parties towards the public and private sectors. The first thing, which should be said, is that the two sides are not, as it were, fighting on the same terms. The advocate of a residual public sector, who may be broadly identified with the Conservative party, are defending a comparatively coherent position: they are eager to fight for the expansion of owner occupation to the expense of council housing up to the point at which the latter caters only for narrowly defined real needs. Their logical opponents, the straightforward advocates of council housing, are too few significantly to affect the battle. Their actual opponents, who may be identified with the bulk of labour opinion, are unsure of their aims and are fighting something of a phoney war”. (English, J 1982–The future of council housing page 187)
I gave out a questionnaire with a set of five questions to 100 people across Southwark and got back 65 completed Questionnaires, even though this might not be enough to make an argument about demolition completely. It gives you an idea of what few of the people this about schemes which have been implemented through the housing strategy plan of Southwark. See the full questionnaire in Appendix I. Below are the finding.
I interviewed Mrs. Denise Billey of Southwark Council – Repairs Operations Manager who had little time but found time to answer a few questions briefly for me. I asked her the same question I asked the Contract Manager.
JD: Southwark has been accused in the past of bringing in gentrification to get rid of the immigrants. What would you say about this statement?
DB: I would disagree with this statement. Southwark has one of the most diverse communities within London and celebrates that fact. Gentrification when I say this I mean renewal and modernisation of an area, particularly in London, can bring with it an influx of wealth. Then can they change the existing culture of an area as shops and services move in to service the wealthy. Local poorer people are then left with a smaller and smaller community footprint on which to live/work/play. The decant process itself, moves people on and sometimes outside of the Borough. (Mrs. D Billey Repairs Operation Manager)
After her response, in the same interview, I thought I would throw another question in because this is the point I am trying to make by saying Southwark move people on and break up communities. Therefore, I ask another question and I see she is being very evasive.
JD: What if people don’t want to move outside the borough? Do they have a choice to come back to the area?
DB: Well the council does have the choice to move people on. You are given what is available to you at the time. If you want to stay in the area then you will have to find private renting which you can afford. Southwark rehouses thousands of people every year and will not let people dictate to them in this present climate. I think this question is really for the housing advice team to answer.
At this point, I thought she was shifting the blame onto the housing options advice team so I thought of getting an interview with one on of the mangers of that department. However, all the managers I spoke to declined and gave excuses for having a busy schedule.
I did ask her a few questions but because she was pressed for time, she did not really go into detail. The full interview can be found in Appendix II. However one other question I asked her is:
JD: What does the future hold for the poor residents of Southwark as they are being pushed out after demolition?
DB: Some residents will return to the Borough as part of the decant process or via other means such as private renting or family. Others will settle where they have move. New Towns and Garden cities are developed and designed for mass resettlement such as that caused by demolition.
Changing the dynamics of the local area means enormous pressure on mostly the corner shops and services. The rents certainly go up drastically and property owners look for new higher paying tenants. Small business in the area are likely to shut and there will be no care for the locals. On the Walworth road near the Aylesbury, a 24 hours supermarket (Ali Supermarket) is likely to shut.
Through research, I realised that the argument over demolishing buildings is not a new phenomenon. It happened in Paris clearing out the poor forcing them to move to the suburbs, in Australia in many cities faced clearance, in America Boston, had I huge clear out which has now become a tourist destination and now London is seeing this happen frequently across the city in different boroughs.
As the housing crisis continues to hit the headlines up and down the country, Southwark and other boroughs do have vacant properties. There is speculation that these Victorian houses in the heart of borough an affluent area in Southwark, will be sold to private developers. Southwark Council denies these accusations and says these Victorian houses are waiting for refurbishment and will make excellent homes for families; however, some of them are under consideration to be sold because the cost of repairing will go into tens of thousands due to the age and size of these properties.
Social housing plays a crucial role for nearly four million households in England. It gives many families stability and security in a fundamental part of their lives. The quality of housing it provides is usually significantly higher than tenants with low incomes could afford in the private sector. The existence of social housing has protected affordability for its tenants even while real house prices have doubled in the last decade.
Who Benefits from all the demolition of housing within Southwark?
So considering my findings who wins overall and who loses when demolition of estates especially is carried out. Based on my findings I would argue the main winners would be the Council and the private developers. Private developers benefit in terms of the increase in property values, increasing a return on their investments. Southwark Council claims they pay off some of their debts with the money they receive but they are still in debt so on that note they do benefit.
These communities once native to the ordinary people has now been turned into an area of where the working class cannot afford to live anymore due to the extortionate rents. The communities are the losers and it is sad the spirit of people crushed by the decision of a few members on a board for the Council. Benefitting from the cultural heart and aesthetics of the place are visitors curious to see the area.
The local residents’ voice that the regeneration is social cleansing especially in the Elephant and Castle area home to the Heygate and Aylesbury Estates. Generations less affluent have lived in the neighbourhood for over 40 years now displaced and replaced the more affluent. Protestors say a loss of over 1,900 homes will be lost because of the ongoing regeneration of the Heygate and Aylesbury estates.
Research shows that renovating of homes is beneficial to the health of a community but demolition and the stress of relocation home could have an adverse effect on the community. Factors considered to have added to health and wellbeing was not what the community said had triggered the health issues. One would like to believe that damp issues and no heating would definitely cause health issues, however, the residents and people affected by demolitions said it was social relationships and the support systems within the community they longer had triggered a lot of the older generations health issues.
This is seen to be very important to the communities, which were broken up. Is the demolition of Estates in Southwark especially the Heygate and Aylesbury and in other boroughs a mistaken experiment? Alternatively, should I say, is it regeneration which is leading to gentrification? I will conclude by saying, people need to know that; the ongoing demolition of council estates does not solve the housing crisis within London or Southwark. It rather contributes to the social cleansing of working-class communities and makes affordable housing even more unattainable for the needy who need it.