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Is Southwark Council moving out Londoners with new luxury housing developments?

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Tuesday 25 March 2014 10.07am
"questions are starting to be asked about conflicts of interest and integrity of those responsible for acting in the councilís best interest"

I took this quote from the above link. Thank you Merlin Rouge for this.

These questions can't come soon enough.

Southwark Council are inflicting total misery on residents in the borough with their selfish, greedy, short sighted behaviour.
Wednesday 26 March 2014 10.33am
I think it probably is just 'careerism', however, it is likely that some of these people were manipulated by some clever people.
Friday 28 March 2014 7.31am
As Leader of the opposition there are many ways in which I challenge and disagree with the Labour run Council (and occasionally some where I agree). But I feel most strongly that where they have completely and totally failed over the last four years is their belief that it is a good thing for the north of the borough to be flooded with luxury flats for foreign investors.

For Labour the north of the borough is quite simply a cash cow. It makes perfect sense to them to take affordable housing money and spend it elsewhere. But the result is that people who have grown up in Bermondsey, Bankside or Borough can no longer afford to live here. It means that local people are excluded from the very regeneration which is meant to benefit them and it means that the mixed communities which make Southwark special (and desirable for development) are destroyed.

The Labour Leader spends lots of time going for posh dinners at places like The Ivy with these developers. But he fails miserably to get any affordable homes in their new developments and, in fact, actively pursues a policy of no on-site affordable homes. He claims it's all ok because it creates jobs. But he fails to understand that the development will happen anyway and elected representatives have the most important public duty to create mixed communities for future generations, not just short term money making schemes.

The Liberal Democrat record on affordable homes and mixed communities in Southwark is strong. Our councillors on the planning committee have worked tirelessly as the only elected representatives to challenge developers on their affordable housing commitments and vote against proposals which create ghettos of empty homes for foreign investors. We are not against development, but I can't see the point of development if local people can't afford to live in any of it.

Things had not gone perfectly with the Elephant regeneration plans when the Lib Dems were running the council. We were running a council when the Labour government made it very difficult to build council homes. The new homes which were due to be ready before people left the Heygate were delayed by the global financial crash in 2008. But the reason the Lib Dems had not agreed the final deal at the Elephant in 2010 was because it was not acceptable on affordable homes. It also did not include the leisure centre arrangements for which Labour later had to sell out more affordable homes and council money.

Labour rushed a deal in 2010 so they could attack us for having been slow. But it was a case of fools rushing in. The result has been 79 homes at social rents to replace 1200 from the Heygate. And a 36 storey tower on top of the new leisure centre which does not include a single affordable home. Lib Dems were always clear that regeneration at the Elephant was to benefit the people who lived there, not to push them out. And the deal which local residents signed up to has been completely betrayed by a Labour party, flattered by developers and desperate for them to build in Southwark - at any cost to local residents.

The Liberal Democrats would also certainly not be spending council tax payers' money on helping the developers keep their affordable housing calculations a secret. The Labour Council is currently helping LendLease to appeal against the Information Commissioner's ruling that the public have a right to see these documents. Councillor Adele Morris (Lib Dem) recently gave evidence at the Heygate viability tribunal on the side of residents and we have always pushed for information about affordable homes to be available for all to see.

The Liberal Democrats' record of regeneration at Bermondsey Spa was an example of how mixed communities can work in the heart of Southwark. A development which had social rents, affordable rents, shared ownership and owner occupied. A genuine community where ambulance drivers who've grown up on the Dickens Estate live alongside people who work in the City. A community where the lights are on - literally - and where people who grown up in Bermondsey have a chance of staying here. This type of development will never happen again under Labour's policy of taking affordable housing money (in-lieu) and spending it elsewhere. Just a couple of weeks ago they voted to take the affordable housing money from the old Bermondsey Town Hall development and spend it three miles away in Dulwich!

The Liberal Democrat manifesto for the council elections is clear. We will fight for one in three homes in every new development to be affordable. We will invest in the planning department to make sure council officers and lawyers are tough enough to battle for homes at rents people can genuinely afford. We will turn planning on its head and work with residents first before developers. It's not just about building houses it's about shaping communities.

We will also stop Labour's council homes sell-off, replace right to buy sales in the areas they've been sold and get empty homes back into use through compulsory purchases if necessary. You can see more at our website www.southwark-libdems.org.uk and never have council elections been so important for the future of Southwark and protecting the diversity which makes it so special.

Sorry to go on for so long but, as you might have gathered, my colleagues and I feel very strongly. The Liberal Democrats are the main opposition in Southwark (we have 25 cllrs to the tories' 3) so the way to vote out Labour and their scandalous policies is to vote Lib Dem!

Best wishes,
Anood

Councillor Anood Al-Samerai
Liberal Democrat Councillor for Riverside Ward
Leader, Southwark Liberal Democrat Council Group
Zoe
Friday 28 March 2014 8.08am
I just want to raise that it's not about whether the people buying the flats are British and I was very uncomfortable to hear Simon Hughes and now Cllr Al-Samerai talk about this.

These are flats built for rich people, their nationality makes no difference. Ordinary people can't afford the flats, whether the buyer is Russian or from Cornwall we are priced out of this market. I think it's really important to note that London is part of an internarional property market and speculation by the rich is driving up prices, this is why we talk of foreign buyers.

Otherwise, it just looks like we are mad nationalists, which is not the case. People object to a short sighted policy which will empty the North of the borough of all but the super rich. We can't see how this is a good policy for Southwark residents. The nationality of the super rich makes little difference, and seeing the British super rich buying the properties doesn't make me feel any better about it - I might be living in a cardboard box but I take great pleasure that the evil banker who put me here was a lovely English chap and not some jonny foreigner.
Friday 28 March 2014 8.26am
It's not about being nationalist. The problem is that London homes have become a safe place to invest money in global financial markets. They should be homes for people to live in. We did raise this at Lib Dem conference and there has been a bit of progress on taxing non-doms more.
Friday 28 March 2014 8.34am
Zoe wrote:

Otherwise, it just looks like we are mad nationalists,


I have not thought that even for 1 second and I'd be surprised if anyone else had. Most people have mentioned "foreign investors" rather than "foreigners" and one reason I make that distinction is that a consequence of foreign investment is that the investor is less likely to permanently live here. I would find it more acceptable if buyers actually permanently moved into their properties, as that could have a positive knock on effect in terms of infrastructure, regeneration, from which also less affluent people can benefit as opposed to the current property investment, which sometimes seems to turn parts of SE1 into a ghost town, a posh abandoned Heygate.
Friday 28 March 2014 9.40am
Councillor al Samerai writes well and makes a spirited attempt to excuse the truly shocking lack of joined up thinking regarding the total hash made of the Elephant Regeneration by his colleagues. The buck stops at the top. The projects would have been under way BEFORE the credit crunch but for the foot dragging and bad leadership of the Lib Dems. Nick Stanton and Annie Sheperd have never owned up to this debacle which shafted the Heygate Residents and wrecked a community. Nothing can excuse or exonerate them. That Peter John is not showing any signs of being the Messiah is no surprise, but slagging off the Labour council won't disguise the facts.
Friday 28 March 2014 10.36am
jackie rokotnitz wrote:
Councillor al Samerai writes well and makes a spirited attempt to excuse the truly shocking lack of joined up thinking regarding the total hash made of the Elephant Regeneration by his colleagues. The buck stops at the top. The projects would have been under way BEFORE the credit crunch but for the foot dragging and bad leadership of the Lib Dems. Nick Stanton and Annie Sheperd have never owned up to this debacle which shafted the Heygate Residents and wrecked a community. Nothing can excuse or exonerate them. That Peter John is not showing any signs of being the Messiah is no surprise, but slagging off the Labour council won't disguise the facts.

It's campaigning. It's like the coalition constantly referring negatively to the previous government. One of the first managers I worked for nipped that in the bud - he said he wanted solutions from me, not complaints or excuses. Valuable lesson that I now apply to most situations in life.
Friday 28 March 2014 12.16pm
Karen I wrote:
I think it probably is just 'careerism', however, it is likely that some of these people were manipulated by some clever people.

I used to give the benefit of doubt that it was not blatant careerism or just being stupid letting them rip the borough off, but stuff like the video News reports show a very strong narrow determination and the swimming pool £20M has come at a cost in losing housing on the site and open spaces in the wider area. Vids like Fiona on ITN News or You Tube Video

Stuff like this Viability Assessment from Salford [pdf file] helps me to see how viability might be worked out: and again I see 20% profit worked in for developers. 20% profit margin keeps popping up. And that's huge money. And that's on top of all kinds of expenses too.

At the same time the tenure discrimination that aims to stop residents using their rights under the National Planning Policy Framework carries on. So we struggle to protect Local green and open spaces.

They do this, they discriminate, because they need to infill to build the 11,000 new homes. Packing more people in, while building new investment blocks that will be littered with unoccupied flats.

And all the way, bankers, advisors, architects, builders, designers, QS's, lawyers and so on are all making money.

And it's the influence off all those who are raking in money, or whatever their getting out of it, that means that all Balance is being lost.

It is shaping up as pretty crackers.

And while it may be fair that some of our blocks are not in good repair, it is odd that we can spend 200,000 to 250,000 for one unit of new accommodation designed to last 30 years, but we cannot spend a third of that money doing up an existing unit to last another 30 years.

Not odd from a banker view - doing up our existing blocks does no make anyone 20% profit. More like 6%.

A cruel blow will also be when the Right to Buy discount is withdrawn, and council rents rise towards 80% of market because Southwark will not be able to hold rents down as they are trying to make out. Caps to Housing Benefit, and relentless rent rises will price more and more "local" people out.

Whoever wins in 2014 or 2015, it is going to be grim.
Friday 28 March 2014 6.24pm
Danny Dorling in his book All that is Solid writes "If people hoarded food on the basis that its value was sure to go up when others began to starve and would pay anything, we would stop their hoarding. But hoarding is now happening with shelter in the most unequal and affluent parts of the world"

Well, this hoarding is happening right here in Southwark. I look out of my window and see empty "high end" properties that are not lived in, unless the occupants sit in the dark in the evenings.

I will vote for whoever promises Londoners that they will put a stop to this.
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