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The Siege of The Elephant: Convergence against gentrification of The Elephant Nov 17th 2012

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Tuesday 23 October 2012 6.20pm
I may be missing something, but I don't think Merlin Rouge or anyone else is saying "if you're rich you can't come in" - the point is that (whether by design or unintended consequence) the effect of an influx of wealthier people is that residents of more modest means are thereby unable to remain in the area themselves. That's displacement, regardless of whether you feel positive, negative or indifferent about it.

The question is: can regeneration be achieved that doesn't push people out at the same time as bringing people in?

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Tuesday 23 October 2012 6.27pm
Yet developers will only build condos if they think there is demand for it. You may disagree with me but I think the whole discussion boils down to that: can you really prevent people from moving in?
Tuesday 23 October 2012 7.31pm
Tabularasa, I think you are being disingenuous.

The council has given the entire Heygate Estate, prime zone 1 housing land, but minus the families who lived in the 1200 flats and have been evicted, to a private developer. This deal was done under a commercial agreement that we, the public the council is accountable to, are not allowed to see on the grounds of "commercial confidentiality", but which was almost certainly at zero cost to the developer.

Subsequently the developer has submitted a first application to build, in Phase 1, just 8 replacement social rented flats plus a huge amount of private housing.

The question to me is not "can you prevent people moving it" but is it acceptable for the council to move out, by eviction, people who live here, and are part of their electorate, to allow private developers to build houses that those evicted will not be able to afford?

The problem has no clear answers, and clearly there are massive problems in finding the finance to continue with the status quo.

But I am pleased that a forum for a debate has been raised, as simplistic responses miss impacts on those directly and indirectly affected. These are those who live here now, or used to (as James points out).

And I for one would like my council to be clear on where they intend to house people who are evicted - and this has to be understood at a national scale, otherwise all councils will do what Westminster has recently said - that they will rehouse people "out of boundary" and nobody will take responsibility, whilst those affected are subjected to major upheaval.
Wednesday 24 October 2012 6.54am
The best thing about this group's (Southwark Notes Archive Group) agenda is that it encourages debate, never a bad thing in my opinion. However I don't know a lot about the group themselves and reading between the lines I guess it could be a group of politicized art school graduates probably rebelling from their middle class suburban upbringing and "romanticizing" the Elephant beyond what it deserves. I would be happy to be wrong but their funding and personnel need more identification before I take them seriously.
Wednesday 24 October 2012 7.20am
This whole regeneration has gone off message. Originally we were going to have NEW accommodation for the exisiting residents, since the Heygate flats were problematic - in terms of concrete erosion, safety concerns (too many dead ends and places for disreputables to ply their trades) etc. In fact they were smashing, roomy flats, and the community was a proper "community". Then one thing led to another, the regeneration has been delayed by fifteen years, the evictees, instead of getting their shiny new homes, got temporary places (how temporary is temporary when you're past seventy?) or moved out of the borough or died. This is a sad and shocking story of local politics, credit crunches, and spanner-in-the-works tactics by TFL and the like. I'm sickened and disgusted by the outright disenfranchisement of so many people. HOWEVER this does not mean - never meant - that the Elephant doesnt need titivating. It also cannot be denied that it is a central, zone 1, location, (it's why we all live here), and that it should not be made more attractive to people who previously would have dismissed it at a dump. We need to move forward, not try to reinvent the wheel.
Wednesday 24 October 2012 10.21am
Jerry wrote:
The best thing about this group's (Southwark Notes Archive Group) agenda is that it encourages debate, never a bad thing in my opinion. However I don't know a lot about the group themselves and reading between the lines I guess it could be a group of politicized art school graduates probably rebelling from their middle class suburban upbringing and "romanticizing" the Elephant beyond what it deserves. I would be happy to be wrong but their funding and personnel need more identification before I take them seriously.

Thanks all for you comments on what has turned out to be a provocative event. I think both James Hatts and Luke answers the previous queries with some insightful comments on what The Siege event is trying to look at.

Needless to say poorer people will never displace the less poor poor people. How could they?

The above comment from Jerry made me laugh.

Jerry, you can be happy to be wrong. It's always interesting to see how things are perceived and what stereotypes come to people's minds. I never really read Southwark Notes as romanticising the Elephant. Rather it seems to want to demonstrate that diverse poor communities make up the area and should not be thrown out because developers have discovered it's near the Tube. There is nothing cool about being poor as if it signals some authenticity that middle-class people could never have. That seems more like a strategy developers use in promoting up an coming areas - 'edgy', 'diverse' 'urban' - as if we poor people's cool way of surviving might rub off on some of the new arrivals to the area. Being poor sucks not the least because you die younger!

Maybe you aren't saying this but this is how I read it but I also come across the idea a lot that working class people are unable to articulate interesting and nuanced ideas about politics and culture. If they do then they must really be middle class or worse art students and of course art students in rebellion from mummy/daddy and suburbia.

Like the Elephant Amenity Network, Southwark Notes is an unfunded labour of love paid for out of peoples pockets because they care about their area and what is happening.
Wednesday 24 October 2012 10.55am
“can regeneration be achieved that doesn't push people out at the same time as bringing people in?”

If the said regeneration is managed and mostly funded by a private company (Lend Lease) then the answer is probably no.

Regenerating the E&C area will require a significant amount of cash and the people providing this cash will want to earn a return. Hence, the need to bring in wealthier people who can afford the higher rents. In addition, wealthier people do not like to live in cramped flats. You cannot squeeze them in, so you squeeze the original occupiers out. Of course, you do not tell that to the original occupiers… you simply lie.

The alternative would have been to have a public body spend the cash instead. That said, given a) the state of public finances and b) the ideologies of New Labour and the Tories at the time this was always unlikely to happen.

I do not understand what he original poster was hoping for? He (or she) is basically asking for someone to spend a lot of cash on his behalf re-doing his neighborhood and then give him back his home. What’s in it for this someone, especially if this someone is a private company motivated by profit? Such behaviour would be very altruistic. I also believe it to be very unlikely to happen. Sad but true.

I find debating the pro and cons of the gentrification of the E&C to be a moot question at this stage. It might be mightily great to discuss it in a forum but it will happen regardless of what you say. The stigma of living “South of the River” (gosh!) has disappeared. E&C is relatively well covered in terms of public transport. People from wealthier part of town are moving in, in part to escape even higher rent elsewhere in the city. Developers will build the kind of flats and environment they like.

That said, if you want to stop wealthier people moving in, it’s very simple: keep the E&C grotty and stop the regeneration but are you sure you want that?

All is not bad in the current scheme, however. The council has fought for a minimum amount of social housing (20% from memory but I might be wrong). I think that at this advanced stage, it would be more interesting to debate whether a) what little social housing we get should be built in the original boroughs or b) somewhere else.

Both propositions have pros and cons. Proposition a) allows the community to remain diverse by keeping some of the original occupiers in place. Proposition b) is however a more efficient use of the cash paid by property developers. For one very expensive social flat in the north of the borough you can build multiple flats in the less wealthy part of SE1.

There is also a political back story to this debate which should not be ignored. The wealthier people moving in the North of the borough are less likely to vote Libdem than Tory. Channeling money earned in the north of the borough to the south (which is predominantly held by Labour) is a sure way to boost your local popularity.

My two cents. I know some people will disagree strongly with me but I would kindly ask them to point out to me where I am wrong.
Sunday 28 October 2012 10.14am
Excerpt from latest post on the 35 Percent campaign about The Elephant regeneration:


"Neo Elephant - Social Tenants Not Welcome

There is no affordable housing provision within the proposed scheme.
Planning Application ref 12/AP/2239 Housing Statement Paragraph 7.3

In their first two detailed planning applications for the Elephant regeneration Lend Lease propose building 8 social rented units out of a total of 519 homes (Heygate Phase 1 - 235 units & St. Mary’s Residential - 284 units).

The St. Mary’s residential planning application is due to be considered at the planning committee meeting of 6th November and will have no affordable housing of any kind details here.. Nor will Lend Lease be making any contribution to affordable housing offsite. Instead £3.5m is going towards building the new leisure centre that was dropped from the original Regeneration Agreement. Lend Lease is forcing Southwark to take the contribution towards the new leisure centre in lieu of social housing.

The officer’s report reveals two further reasons for Lend Lease ditching affordable and social rented housing: first, it would bring down the value of the private homes; second, Lend Lease want to keep social rented tenants separate from private owners. This would mean building a separate ‘second core’, which would be required to provide:

“separate access including lifts and circulation areas to social rented accommodation within the development.”
Planning Application ref 12/AP/2239 Officer’s Report

The cost of this social apartheid makes the scheme financially unviable. Unsurprisingly Lend Lease’s solution is not to build any social rented or affordable housing! A more obvious solution would be to have a single access point, a single lift shaft, a single lift for all the tenants and residents of St. Mary’s residential. Tenants and residents mix happily on the Newington estate on the Rockingham estate and on every other estate at the Elephant and we don’t need Lend Lease introducing residential segregation into our community.

We can now begin to see what vision the developers have for the new Elephant and Castle - one that doesn’t include any social tenants. Strata Tower and Tribeca Sq (Oakmayne Plaza) both got planning permission without social rented homes. If they are joined by St Mary’s and Heygate Phase 1 that will be just 8 units out of 1,300."
Sunday 28 October 2012 1.21pm
Merlin Rouge, quoting from 35% campaign wrote:
The officer’s report reveals two further reasons for Lend Lease ditching affordable and social rented housing: first, it would bring down the value of the private homes; second, Lend Lease want to keep social rented tenants separate from private owners. This would mean building a separate ‘second core’, which would be required to provide: “separate access including lifts and circulation areas to social rented accommodation within the development.” Planning Application ref 12/AP/2239 Officer’s Report

This makes me incredibly angry.

The libdems when in charge in the 2000s pushed for regeneration at the E&C to create a "mixed community", which directly led to the eviction of thousands of existing council tenants at the Elephant.

The labour party, now in charge, appears to be sanctioning the development of planning applications that create new segregation - on the grounds that tenants and people with mortgages apparently cannot share lifts or even live in the same area.

Does anyone in charge have the nerve to stand up to the complacent and offensive assumptions that Lend Lease are making about us?
Sunday 28 October 2012 1.40pm
nice to know that you may not have a roof over your head, but you can go swimming and use the gym at the new leisure centre!
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