Achilles Street Stop And Listen Campaign

At a ‘consultation’ on the 21st May 2016- Lewisham Council revealed its plans to redevelop the Achilles Street area. The Council is proposing to demolish all of the homes and local businesses in the Achilles Street area in order to build high rise, high density housing in partnership with private contractors/ developers. Although Lewisham have recently said they plan to do the ‘redevelopment’ themselves they have yet to provide detail of contractor partnerships and viability detail.

The Achilles Street area – is a low density housing estate, which runs along either side of Achilles Street between Clifton Rise and Pagnell Street . It also includes the flats, maisonettes and businesses along the New Cross Road between Clifton Rise and Pagnell Street (excluding the Venue and the old bank building).

* Up until the 31 July 2019, the east side of  Clifton Rise were part of the ‘redevelopment’  proposals.

Red Line Letter, sent to Clifton Rise on the 31 July, 2019

 

Most recent Fact Sheet:          Achilles Fact Sheet December 2019

Notes and sources here:         Notes and sources December 2019

 

 

 

“I want to stay here and die here”

Anita Strasser is a Deptford resident and PhD student at Goldsmiths. Anita is writing a blog called Deptford is Changing   about the ‘regeneration’ of the area . Anita has spoken to some residents and businesses in the Achilles Street area- we are sharing the posts here.

“I want to stay here and die here”

Nancy1

A week before the ballot starts for residents to vote for or against the demolition of the Achilles Street area, me and Jacquie went to see Nancy who lives in one of the maisonettes in the buildings known as 363. These maisonettes are above the shops on New Cross Road, overlooking the estate on Achilles Street at the back. They are part of the redevelopment plans and face demolition. As soon as we walk in, Nancy tells us how distraught she is about the council’s plans to demolish her sanctuary, the only place where she has felt safe during a life that hasn’t always been easy. Almost in tears she shows us her beautiful home, which is filled with family photographs, perfectly arranged ornaments, tastefully chosen wallpaper, lace curtains and tablecloths, and chandeliers. The love for detail is immediately visible. I feel like I have stepped into a cabinet of curiosities, a cabinet of wonder. She points to the Italian-style floor tiles in the lounge, which look new but have been in the flat for 25 years. She also tells us about the wooden floors upstairs which she put down. Nancy and her family took out everything the council had put in and decorated it themselves. The only thing that’s now from the council is the new walk-in shower that Nancy needed after two hip operations. You would never guess this is a council flat simply because of the personal investment that’s been made. “It’s my home!”, Nancy says, visible upset at the prospect of losing it.

Nancy2

Nancy and her whole family (she is the eldest of 10 children) came to the UK from Cyprus in 1968. She was in her early twenties then. They first stayed in Battersea before moving to the borough of Lewisham, where Nancy slept on a mattress on the floor because there wasn’t enough space for such a large family. Nancy was desperate to get her own flat and was told to move into a hostel to speed up the process. When she hadn’t heard back after 3 months in the hostel, she moved back to her mum’s to sleep on the floor again. Then, after another month, she was finally given her own council flat on the Pepys Estate. This was in the late 1970s. Nancy lived in that flat for 7 years, but it wasn’t a good experience as she felt very unsafe on the estate. She remembers frequent fights, drug problems and other troubles. Her worst experiences were getting burgled and having firecrackers put through her letterbox. “I lived in a flat at the end of a horrible corridor that resembled a hospital corridor. I never felt safe there. One day I got burgled. They came through my window after climbing onto the scaffolding. I was at work – I used to work as a seamstress and sew buttonholes in a Deptford factory. All my lovely jewellery got stolen, even my shopping in the fridge was taken. I had no insurance at the time. I lost everything. Another time, somebody put a firecracker through my letterbox. It was around Christmas and teenagers were playing with firecrackers. I wasn’t in at the time. When I came back, the carpet was burnt. Luckily, the fire went out by itself. I was lucky the flat didn’t burn down. This was just after I had got pregnant, so I told the council I can’t live there anymore.”

During that time, Nancy passed the 363 building and noticed that the flat she now occupies was empty. She asked somebody how many bedrooms there were in the flats – she was told 2. She asked the council about the place and was told that it was unfit to live in and that she would have to wait until the flat had been refurbished. Eventually she got the phone call to view the flat. Although the council had only done basic decorating, she immediately liked it and said: “I’ll move in!” Nancy was 8 months pregnant when she moved in.

Her son was born in Guys Hospital in January 1987 and now Nancy has one grandchild. She also used to mind Chris sometimes (interviewed previously) when he was growing up on the estate. Her life in the 363 building has been a happy one. “I’m happy here. I have my GP down the road, Lewisham and Greenwich are nearby, Guys hospital is not far. The flat and the building are really good quality, there is no damp or any other issue here.” Nancy shows me her spacious balcony where she keeps her garden. There’s even space for a little wooden shed. She talks me through all her plants: the plumb tree, which carried lots of fruit last year and whose leaves have turned red during the early autumn start, olive trees, a money tree, a chilli plant with really hot green chillies, a lemon tree, a citronella plant and others. There is dill and mint, and there is a very special rose bush: one year for Mother’s Day, Nancy’s son bought her a rose, which has since grown into a whole bush with lots of flowers. As she tells me about each plant, she gently touches the leaves of each of them and clears away any dead leaves, making it very visible just what the garden means to her. There are also ornaments everywhere, and necklaces with blue evil eyes to prevent bad things from happening. After I tell her that I love dill, she cuts off the whole bush to give to me. She also asks me if I like mint and cuts off a bunch of leaves for me. She says having this outdoor space allows her to stay at home where she feels safe while having the opportunity of being outdoors at the same time. She can’t go out as much these days although she still likes going to Lewisham to do some shopping. She’s had hip operations and looks after a very ill husband. Her garden and the open space outside her front door give her much needed breathing space and allow her to keep in touch with her neighbours.

“I’m so happy here”, she exclaims with her eyes filling up again. “I feel safe! I have never been burgled; nobody ever knocked down my door, never been in any difficulty here. I feel safe here because I know all my neighbours. I’m afraid to move into a new place because I won’t know who lives in the building, I won’t know who the people are and what they’re like. I just don’t understand why the council want to demolish perfectly good flats which have no damp, no issues with the electrics, no problems whatsoever! If I wanted to move, I would have moved a long time ago! Nobody from the 363 flats wants to move. The new buildings are built with low quality – cheap wood, cheap materials – with kitchens in the lounge and no outdoor space.”

Nancy takes me upstairs to show me the rest of the flat. Every corner is decorated with love and attention to detail. The neat array of family photographs, ornaments and lace cloths continues in every room. Every time I take a picture, she double-checks nothing is lying around and that there are no creases anywhere. In the end, she says: “Money is not important. Most important is being happy and the place where you live is so important for happiness. What are you doing in life if you aren’t happy? My home, this home, is where my happiness is. Here is where I feel safe, where I feel happy. I want to stay here and die here.”

Nancy7

In the end, Nancy shows me a photograph of herself in Cyprus in 1967. She was going to a friend’s wedding. It was the year before her family moved to the UK. 51 years on, she is still that same good-looking woman as in the photograph. Forcing her to move out of her home at this age will destroy her.

Nancy8.jpg

PHOTOS AND TEXT BY ANITA STRASSER

Independent New Cross businesses to be excluded from demolition ballot that will decide their future- Press Release

15/10/19 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Independent New Cross businesses to be excluded from demolition ballot that will decide their future

17 New Cross businesses and shops facing demolition by the council won’t get a vote in the ballot that will decide their fate and weren’t even told it was happening.

The ballot on the 18 October will ask residents of the area whether they are in favour of Lewisham Council’s plans to demolish the existing 87 homes and 17 businesses to make way for a new housing development in the Achilles Street area.

The 17 independent businesses, one of which has been open for 50 years, are all located along the New Cross road.

Despite the council announcing its plans in May 2016, businesses and shops say they’ve had little or no communication from the council about the proposed development. Instead, they’ve have received updates about the council’s plans from other affeceted residents.

Angelo, Director of the New Cross Launderette, said: “I’ve heard nothing from the council since 2016. We’re the oldest business in the area. I feel I must have the right to vote in the redevelopment plans.”

Another business owner says he wasn’t even informed about the development even when he purchased a seven year lease from Lewisham Council 18 months ago.

Ali Akpinar, owner of Mez Mangal restaurant says: “I’ve put £200,000 into my business and I’ve still got five and a half years left on my lease. I’ve heard nothing from the council and it has put me under lots of stress. If this goes ahead I could be at risk of homelessness.”

Martin Williams, affected resident and campaigner, said: “The local businesses and shops are a big part of this area and community. They’ve been kept in the dark from the outset. Lewisham Council are playing fast and loose with peoples jobs, livelihoods and homes.”

This comes after FOI requests have revealed that the council have spent thousands of pounds of public money trying to convince residents to vote for demolition.

Martin added: “By the way the businesses have been treated it’s clear that if you don’t have a vote you don’t matter to the council.”

Notes to editors

  • On 18 October residents will be asked to vote on the Achilles Street Landlord Offer for an Estate Regeneration Ballot.
  • The FOI request mentioned relates to the £52,000 Lewisham Council spent on on the refurbishment of a tenant hall for the purpose of “resident engagement”. The hall had previously been closed for 14 years. It also refers to the near £31,000 spent on the services of the PR and branding company Studio Raw. The company used the refurbished tenant hall from mid-June to speak to residents, along with council officers, about what they’d like to see in a landlord offer. FOI can be found here.
  • The Achilles Street area – is a low density housing estate, which runs along either side of Achilles Street between Clifton Rise and Pagnell Street . It also includes the flats and the flats, maisonettes and businesses along the New Cross Road between Clifton Rise and Pagnell Street (excluding the Venue and the old bank building)
  • The Achilles Street Stop and Listen Campaign is a group of residents who are opposed to the development and have repeatedly called for alternative options to improve the area to be put forward.  More info on the campaign here: website and twitter
  • Another related press release: ‘Serious concerns raised by residents over Lewisham Council demolition ballot’ can be found here.
  • For further information please call Jacquie Utley on 07906206166 or email jacquieutley@gmail.com / davidutleyw@hotmail.co.uk
  • Images are available upon request.

 

The majority of homes in the Achilles development will be private

As the chart shows, the majority of homes in the development are private – either for sale or rent. Both of which are unaffordable to people on low incomes. The second largest tenure after private sale or rent is London affordable rent. This is a distinct tenure and is not social rent. As Table 1 demonstrates, households could spend £3,000 a year more on London Affordable rent than social rent.

Only 11% of homes in the new development are for social rent and these are only going to existing social tenants. This means there is no net increase in social rent housing. Social rent is the only truly affordable tenure to people on low incomes.

10% of the homes in the proposed development are so-called ‘affordable homes’. This includes both Shared Ownership and London Living Rent. As Shelter argues, ‘at least half of households under 40 in England wouldn’t be able to afford to buy a shared ownership property in 2020’. This is not an affordable tenure to people on low incomes. Neither is London Living Rent. A recent IPPR report suggests that London Living rent ‘is an intermediate housing designed to support those on average incomes into home ownership’.

4% of homes are an unknown tenure. These are for current leaseholders on the Achilles estate. This means that there is no clear offer to existing leaseholds and these 20 homes could end up being private homes for sale or rent.

image002

Figure 1 Tenure breakdown of the proposed Achilles redevelopment. Source: Lewisham Council (2019) Achilles Street Landlord Offer

Weekly social rent in Lewisham (17/18) Annual social rent in Lewisham (17/18) Weekly London Affordable Rent (17/18) Annual London Affordable Rent (17/18) Annual disparity
One bedroom £84 £4,368 £144 £7,488 £3,120
Two bedroom £95 £4,940 £153 £7,956 £3,016
Three bedroom £111 £5,772 £161 £8,372 £2,600

Table 1 The difference between social rent and London Affordable Rent. Source: MHCLG, Local authority housing statistics data returns, England 2017-18, Section H – Local authority Rents and Rent Arrears and GLA (2016) Homes for Londoners, Affordable Homes Programme 2016-21 Funding Guidance, Mayor of London

No vote for business owners regarding the demolition of their businesses on New Cross Road

Anita Strasser is a Deptford resident and PhD student at Goldsmiths. Anita is writing a blog called Deptford is Changing   about the ‘regeneration’ of the area . Anita has spoken to some residents and businesses in the Achilles Street area- we are sharing the posts here.

No vote for business owners regarding the demolition of their businesses on New Cross Road

The ballot regarding the demolition of the Achilles Street area opens today. It’s a YES or NO to demolition vote; refurbishment and infill is not an option. The demolition plans include the businesses on the parade on New Cross Road, but business owners aren’t allowed a vote. They have no say in the decision regarding the future of their businesses. A while ago, I interviewed Angelo and his nephew Marco – owners of the Launderette on 369 New Cross Road. I met Angelo in 2017, when he was still the owner (he handed it over to Marco in spring 2019). He told me about the Launderette.

“The Launderette itself has been here since the early 60s. It used to be a Father & Son operation with launderettes in different areas”, Angelo explains. “In the early 90s, my brother Joe bought this launderette and did a lot of refurbishing work, replacing the old machines with newer versions.” Angelo took over in 2008, and now, it’s in the hands of his nephew Marco. “It’s a contagious disease, I’m not joking”, Angelo laughs, and tells how many of his family and friends have become involved with launderettes. “It all started with my brother dating a girl whose father was of Italian origin and owned a string of launderettes. The relationship didn’t last but my brother thought ‘I’ll try that’.” His brother has since bought a few launderettes, including one on Jamaica Road which is now owned by another one of Angelo’s nephews.

Marco, who runs the New Cross launderette by himself now, wanted to carry on with the family tradition and took over the business in 2019. As soon as he started, he repainted and decorated the inside, but he hasn’t invested too much as he is aware of the development plans for the area. He also got to know his customers very quickly and built up nice relationships with them. He is particularly fond of Bill from Austin House, who comes in every Friday and tells Marco stories about the past. They also talk a lot about football.

new-cross-launderette-copyright-anita-strasser-05_laundrette_1

Taking over the business was a great opportunity for Marco, especially being 21 years old. But being in the Launderette business doesn’t make you rich. As Angelo explained previously, “a launderette business doesn’t grow like other businesses do, and it doesn’t have a high turnover. Most launderettes are surviving because they are on good locations in council properties with a reasonable rent. What kills them is the high market rates, so once the new development is here, with rent prices double if not triple, we won’t be able to return. Even if we are offered funds to relocate, which the council has, and new premises in the new development, the overheads will be too high to run it.” Another issue is, Marco explains, the 2-3 years it will take to redevelop the area, during which the business would be shut. Additionally, the machines wouldn’t be running during this time and might not work anymore afterwards, so he’d have to invest in new machines, which would cost a lot of money. “I don’t have the capital to do that so I doubt I’ll set up again!” Marco still has hope that he might be able to stay but says “we don’t have the power to decide that.”new-cross-launderette-copyright-anita-strasser-01_laundrette_2

As business owners, they say, they are keen to see investment in the area and people with more money coming in but this shouldn’t mean that others with less capital, including themselves, are priced out. They agree that the parade and the area needs investment but they know that this is due to the council not having done a lot for its upkeep. “It’s a nice parade but it’s stuck in the 60s”, Angelo states. Lewisham Council did commission the artist group ARTMONGERS a few years ago to spruce it up a bit. They came into the shops asking people what they’d like to see, and Angelo, together with the artist, designed the shop front we see today. “It really takes an artist to see things from a different perspective. I was just going to suggest some writing to advertise the services but the artists said no, we need something more interesting and then he came up with the design you see today. It really makes a difference”, he says. “But that’s all that’s been done. Lewisham Council doesn’t involve itself much in making the parade look nicer, they are more concerned with housing. The plans I’ve seen for this area – 5-storey blocks across the whole parade starting from The Venue – this is huge! And I’m pretty certain the development plans will go ahead and I’m pretty certain we won’t set up another launderette here.”

new-cross-launderette-copyright-anita-strasser-08_laundrette_3

Many people might think that because of improved living standards there is no need for launderettes anymore. In actual fact, there is still demand, even if most people can afford a washing machine. “The association of launderettes merely with the working-class and people in social housing is outdated – we have customers from all walks of life. The demand today is due to convenience: the machines we have can handle high capacity and the laundry can dry quickly, so the whole laundry can be done in an hour. Drying is a particular issue today. Many people live in small flats with no space or facility to dry clothes so coming to a launderette solves that problem.” In this particular launderette the water is also treated before it’s used and people notice the change in the fabric, another reason, according to Angelo, why this launderette is doing good business. “If the launderette closes, people will have to travel further away for this convenience”, making this convenience less convenient. I immediately think of 90-year old Bill. Where will he have his laundry done?

new-cross-launderette-copyright-anita-strasser-06_laundrette_4

PHOTOS AND TEXT BY ANITA STRASSER

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

10/10/19 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 

Serious concerns raised by residents over Lewisham Council demolition ballot

Residents living in an area of New Cross facing demolition by the council have voiced concerns over lack of consultation and its use of public funds.

The ballot on the 18 October will ask whether residents are in favour of Lewisham Council’s plans to demolish the existing 87 homes and 17 businesses to make way for a new housing development in the Achilles Street area.

A key area of concern is the lack of choice in the ballot. In May 2016 the council announced to residents that it planned to redevelop the area. Since then no alternatives to demolition, such as refurbishment, have been put forward despite repeated requests and appeals.

Christian Codjoe, lifelong resident of the Achilles Street area said: “There is so much focus on ‘regeneration’ but no discussion whatsoever on how the area can be improved for the current residents and shop owners of this community.”

Residents have also pointed to Lewisham Council’s lack of spending on maintenance of homes as deeply troubling. Despite being structurally sound, neglect and poor upkeep of housing in the area have been used to justify demolition.

Christian added: “I’ve seen the progressive neglect of the area first-hand. Cleaning of stairwells has become infrequent and repairs take a very long time to be seen to once reported to the council.”

A council report and Freedom of Information (FOI) requests showed that:

  • Between 2016 and 2018 Lewisham Council spent more than £300,000 on plans for the the new development, including architect fees and surveyors.
  • However, between 2011 and 2017, just £239,000 was spent on repairs and maintenance of existing homes.This is in stark contrast to the £2.6 million generated in income through rent and service charges over the same period.
  • More than £21,000 has been spent on the refurbishment of a tenant hall for the purpose of “resident engagement”. The hall had previously been closed for 14 years.

Martin Williams, affected resident and campaigner against the council’s plan, said:

“What’s clear for all to see is that Lewisham Council has been intent on demolition from the outset. It has spent over £300,000 on developing its plans for demolition and not a penny on any other option. Lewisham failed in its duty as a landlord to maintain and look after the homes in the area.”

Further FOI requests to Lewisham reveal:

  • Almost £31,000 has been spent on the services of the PR and branding company Studio Raw. The company used the refurbished tenant hall from mid-June to speak to residents, along with council officers, about what they’d like to see in a landlord offer. Residents requests for alternative options that didn’t include demolition were ignored.

Martin added: “Rather than just listening to residents the council have spent more public funds pursuing demolition The outcome of this ballot will impact hugely on people’s lives, families and futures. The council have refused to listen to us. We need real alternatives.”

Notes to editors

“I want to live in this flat for the rest of my life”

Anita Strasser is a Deptford resident and PhD student at Goldsmiths. Anita is writing a blog called Deptford is Changing   about the ‘regeneration’ of the area . Anita has spoken to some residents and businesses in the Achilles Street area- we are sharing the posts here.

“I want to live in this flat for the rest of my life”

 

C_1

In September 2019 I met Christian, a young man in his mid-twenties who works as a project manager for a tech start-up. He lives in the building referred to as 363, which contains maisonettes above the shops on New Cross Parade on New Cross Road. The maisonettes and the shops are under threat of demolition as part of the Achilles Street development. From Christian’s front door you have a fantastic view into Fordham Park and over to the Pepys Estate and other high-rises scattered across Deptford. You also see the green shrubbery that surrounds the Achilles Street buildings. The approaching sunset over the buildings as we approach the door adds another dimension to the view. The first thing I notice is space – green space, space for play, for cars, space to breathe. We go onto the spacious balcony on the other side of the building, overlooking New Cross Road. This is Christian’s favourite place in his home and together with his dad we stand there for a bit and watch the world go by. It’s an interesting new perspective of New Cross for me. Being raised above the usual eye level, I suddenly see writing on top of buildings I have never seen before and I notice the sense of space you get from having the buildings set back from one of the busiest roads in south-east London. I ask them if they experience noise issues being so close to a major artery, but they say that the width of the parade does not allow the noise to come through good windows much. They can’t imagine what it would be like though if the building went right up to the road – like they will if redevelopment takes place.

The thought of having their family home demolished is very upsetting for Christian and his family. “This is our home, where our memories are kept. This is where some of our greatest memories happened, where our community is and where we feel a strong sense of belonging. I want to live in this home for the rest of my life! Having that taken away from us means we have to start building a life from scratch again because we won’t be able to afford a new place in the area”, Christian explains.

C_2

Christian gets his photo album out and together we look through it. It contains mostly family photographs taken in this flat, particularly in the lounge. Some features like the fireplace, the wooden beams and a lamp are still the same. Other things like the photograph of Christian’s late grandmother, who passed away last year, are newer additions. There are photographs of birthday parties and other gatherings, school photographs and family portraits (see below). Somewhere in the flat there is also a VHS of Curtis’ first birthday party.

christian-on-his-third-birthday-with-his-auntie-and-brother-in-the-background

c_4

Christian’s parents came to South-East London from Ghana at different times and didn’t meet until they were both living here in the 1980s. After they’d known each other for a few years, they moved into a flat in Hawke Tower on the Woodpecker Estate in Deptford in 1989. When the mum got pregnant with Christian, they were given this flat in the 363 building in 1993 – the year Christian was born. His brother Curtis was born a year after. When being told about the flat, the councillor at the time said: ‘You are lucky, your flat is in New Cross’ but Christian’s parents didn’t actually know where New Cross was. Now, they can’t imagine living anywhere else. Gradually, the family made the flat their home – they decorated it, had birthday and family parties. One of Christian’s favourite memories is sitting on the floor in front of the hot fireplace in winter, wrapped in a blanket and watching TV.

c_5

Christian and Curtis first went to St Michael’s Nursery on the Woodpecker Estate before they went to Childeric Nursery just around the corner from 363. The two of them were often dressed in matching outfits. “Mum had always wanted twins and since me and Curtis are only one year apart, we practically were twins. I remember walking through Fordham Park to get to nursery. I also learnt to ride a bike in Fordham Park and me and my brother used to cycle around the park. We always stayed in the area. We used the playground on Achilles Street, where we played with local kids from Azalea and Fenton House. The other kids often used to come to our flat”, Christian tells me. The boys then went to St Joseph’s Primary School on Deptford High Street before going to St Michaels Catholic College in Bermondsey. They often played football together on the parade in front of the block and they’ve had many parties and BBQs on the balcony.

c_6

There are other close connections located within the area. Ever since they arrived, the family have been going to the Catholic Church of Our Lady of The Assumption on Deptford High Street. “The boys were baptised there, had communion there and confirmation. Now I’m waiting for holy matrimony”, Christian’s dad laughs. Christian also loves Deptford flea market. Funnily, he didn’t like it too much when he was younger. “Mum always dragged us down to the market to buy second-hand clothes. We were embarrassed because we went to St Joseph’s. Now I love the market, I always get bargains and I know everyone there. Funny how perceptions change but when you’re a kid you don’t always understand things”, Christian says.

After about 8 years living there, his parents managed to buy the flat off the council. It took a lot of hard work. Christian’s mum, for example, worked 2 jobs and studied at the same time. Christian’s dad started studying later. The parents had a plan: to work hard and build up a secure future for their two sons. “In a city like London it is especially important to have a security blanket that protects you from a life of uncertainty and instability”, Christian says.

Having the dream of homeownership fulfilled and the ‘assurance’ of providing their children with a ‘stable and secure’ home, Christian’s parents were slowly preparing to move back to Ghana. Then news broke that the council was planning to demolish 363 along with the shops and the four blocks on Achilles Street. Since then, and particularly with not knowing what is going to happening, their lives have been put on hold. The move back to Ghana has been put off until no-one knows when, and the family feel that the rug is being pulled from beneath their feet. “We’re living in limbo. It is very destructive and hurtful. We’ve worked so hard to have security and provide opportunities for our children and this is now being taken away. Those making the decisions don’t understand what they are doing to us and our neighbours, who have been here so long as well”, Christian’s dad says.

Losing this home would mean losing a kind of structure for Christian: a secure home, a sense of belonging, and the connection to the building through all the memories that have been shared in it. “Living in a flat in a new-build won’t be the same. They lack character, they don’t have the same amount of space and it would be an empty shell. We would have no connection to it, no family memories. It would be a house instead of a home.” But Christian’s family probably won’t be able to afford a new build in the area anyway (except shared ownership which does not provide the same security as full ownership). Although it seems they are being offered the current value of their home plus 10%, it still won’t be enough to buy a 2-bedroom flat in a new development or in the area. In fact, the way things are going, it won’t buy them anything in Zone 1 or 2.

C_7

This isn’t just about losing a safe and secure home, it is also a story about belonging to a place where one grew up and where all one’s memories are stored. Both Christian and Curtis love living in New Cross, with Christian describing his life in the area as “wholesome”. “It’s been home since I was born, it’s where my family are, and my close friends are here on the Woodpecker, in New Cross, Deptford and Greenwich. It’s a great community, it has a very diverse population, good transport links to other areas, and a great mixture of busyness and quietness. It has everything from Jamaican, Indian, Turkish, African food to Pizza for a good price, my dad gets his hair cut in Unique Hair Technique across the road (I used to go there too but now I go to a hairdresser in Deptford) and I love listening to Motown Music on the balcony and people watching. It’s a great place!”

C_8

Ever since they have found out about the potential loss of their much-loved home, their lives have been full of uncertainty. Christian says that, at first, he didn’t buy into the idea of ‘social cleansing’ and he thought that the people employed by the council to talk to residents in the newly opened community space at Fenton House really had the community of Achilles Street area at heart. However, having seen what is happening in New Cross and Deptford and noticing how the demographic is changing, and experiencing the threat of displacement himself, he does believe it is social cleansing. “You just need to go to Deptford flea market on a Saturday and then cross over to Deptford Market Yard. You can see a barrier there.” To Christian it feels like the heart of New Cross will be ripped out if the redevelopment plans go ahead.

I ask Christian and his dad whether they’ve made plans in case their home will be demolished. They haven’t. They can’t bear thinking about it; it’s too upsetting. They keep hoping that their home won’t be demolished and that they can finally follow up on their original plans.

c_9

Photos and Text by Anita Strasser and CHRISTIAN IN ST JOSEPH’S PRIMARY SCHOOL. PHOTO: STANLEY BAKER STUDIOS LTD, WITH THE KIND PERMISSION TO REPRODUCE IT HERE

 

We need proper Scrutiny

Last week on Wednesday 18 September Mayor and Cabinet approved the Landlord offer with no choices for residents, vague and empty promises and no detailed information. The decision needs to be called in and put to scrutiny to make sure all residents are given transparent detail and information they need to make an informed choice – below are some of our concerns. Thank you so much to everyone who sent emails last week at such short notice it really does make a difference- please help us to keep up the pressure by emailing the scrutiny committee by Friday 27 September ( they are meeting on Monday 30 September) please feel free to use and adapt the below. Scrutiny committee email addresses at end of the post

Dear Scrutiny Committee Member

We are writing to you to ask you to scrutinise the ‘Achilles Street Landlord Offer for an Estate Regeneration Ballot’ approved by the Mayor and Cabinet on Wednesday 18 September, 2019, Agenda Item 4. The reason for this request is that the decision was ‘rushed’ through and based on a report and appendices, which contained limited and at times misleading information (further details are provided below). This is an important decision which will have a huge and lasting impact on the lives of residents and the wider community in the Achilles Street area. Given the gravity of this decision and its potential consequences it requires diligent, independent and transparent scrutiny.

Reasons to call-in the decision:

  • The Report on which the decision was based was late going up on the Council’s website and didn’t give 5 clear days for public scrutiny. This is in breach of the Council’s own procedures, which are informed by the Local Government Act 1972. Whilst the Act does allow for some matters to be treated with ‘urgency’, thereby requiring less time for public scrutiny, there have to be ‘special circumstances requiring it to be treated as a matter of urgency’. No reasons were given at Mayor and Cabinet on 18 September as to why this decision was being treated as a ‘matter of urgency’ nor was there any indication as to the ‘special circumstances’ that allowed it to be treated as such. Given the importance and potential consequences of the decision for residents and the local community, more time should have been allowed for the public to scrutinise the documents and raise any objections and concerns.

 

  • Further to the point above, residents were informed that the Mayor and Cabinet meeting was taking place via a leaflet drop, at the same time the Report went up on the Council’s website. The leaflets were in English giving residents whose first language isn’t English no time to get the information translated. Other key stakeholders (such as small independent businesses, freeholders and residents in freehold property) whose homes and businesses stand to be demolished were given no information about the meeting at all; and therefore were denied the opportunity to raise any objections and concerns they may have had about the proposals for the area and about being excluded from the forthcoming ballot. Again, given the importance of the decision for residents and the members of the local community, more time should have been given to scrutinise the documents and raise any objections and concerns. 

 

  • The Report and Offer (Appendix A) contains no detailed information about the proposed ‘redevelopment’ but rather a series of vague aspirations and empty promises. For example, the boundaries to the ‘redevelopment’ have recently been changed, which means that there is approximately 25% less land to build on. As the Council is still aiming to squeeze more than 450 housing units into this smaller space it means that housing density is going to increase significantly. No new plans have been put forward to reflect these changes, which means that residents will have no idea of what the ‘redevelopment’ is going to look like. So residents are being asked to vote on something without being given crucial information to base their decision on. Similarly, the Report and Offer to residents doesn’t give any information about the impact of the ‘redevelopment’ on the social infrastructure, schools, GPs, congestion etc. Nor does it give any information about the environmental impact of demolition and the 8 years plus of planned building works. The Council is also refusing to open up financial information (costs, viability modelling etc.) about the ‘redevelopment’  to public scrutiny. How public funds are being spent and on what is an important aspect of political accountability and transparency. For residents to make an informed choice about the future of their homes, their neighbour’s homes and the homes and livelihoods of others in the local community there should be comprehensive, detailed and transparent information. 

 

  • Not only is there a severe lack of information, the Offer also contains no real choices for residents about what happens to their area, just ‘demolition’ or ‘nothing’. For almost 4 years now residents have been asking for a range of options to be considered and presented in terms of improving the area, for example infill or refurbishment. Over this period there have been 4 ‘consultations’ where the only option being presented to residents was demolition. There was a tokenistic attempt to claim that infill had been considered by belatedly referring to a small scale study that had been undertaken long before the Council’s first ‘consultation’! Therefore it is disingenuous of the Council to claim, as it does in the background section of the Report, that the proposals to date have been developed with significant input from residents and the local community. There has been no independent consultation and the only thing the Council has been prepared to ‘discuss’ for almost 4 years now is the demolition of the area. In terms of resources the Council has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on working up plans to demolish the area and not a penny has been spent on developing any type of alternative proposals with residents. The offer should give residents genuine choices about what happens to their homes and local community, at present it doesn’t.

 

  • The Council’s failure to listen to residents and to develop a number of genuine choices with the residents about what happens to their homes and local community continued over this summer. The tenants hall in Fenton House, which had previously been closed for 14 years, was refurbished has been turned into the ‘Fenton Community Space’. This is where the Council has been undertaking what it refers to misleadingly in the Report as ‘resident engagement’. The Council employed Studio Raw a public relations, branding and place making company; and they along with council officers have been holding weekly sessions since mid June to supposedly gather information about what residents would like to see in the Offer. Again, residents have asked for alternative options to be developed so that there are real choices about what happens to their area in the offer; and again they have been ignored. So these weekly sessions, to all intents and purposes, have been a vehicle for promoting the Council’s plans for demolition. The Council has spent a lot of money (the exact amount is currently subject of a Freedom of Information request) on refurbishing a disused tenants hall and employing a public relations / branding/ placemaking company in order to pursue their aim of demolishing the area; and not a penny on providing a genuine choice for the residents in the offer.

 

  • There is a distinct lack of clarity in the Report and Offer about the number of council homes the ‘redevelopment’ will provide. Council homes, as they are commonly understood, are homes owned and controlled by a council and let out at a rent set by a formula devised by central government i.e. council rent, which is the most affordable type of social rent. The Offer only commits the Council to re-provide homes to the 49 council tenants living in the area at the same level of rent they are currently paying. This means that only approximately 10% of homes in the proposed ‘redevelopment’ will be let out at the most affordable level of social rent; and these homes will only replace the ones that the Council intends to demolish. Council homes at council rent is the most affordable type of social housing and the type of housing most needed in Lewisham and London more generally. The offer and the proposal on which it is based will do nothing to increase the number of households paying most affordable levels of social rent in Lewisham.

 

  • Similarly, there is a distinct lack of clarity about what is being offered to temporary council tenants in the Achilles Street area. This is partly due to repeated or unfinished sentences in this section of the Offer document but also partly due to the terminology being used. According to the Offer document temporary council tenants will be offered ‘a new council owned home for social rent’, where it seems that the term ‘social rent’ refers to London Affordable Rent. At present London Affordable Rent is 77% – 50% higher than Lewisham average council rent (depending on the size of the dwelling). This means that temporary tenants currently living in the Achilles Street area will be re-housed on London Affordable Rent; and will be paying £55 – £65 more per week more than their secure tenant counterparts, who will be re-housed at their current level of rent (Lewisham council rents). The Council’s proposal to differentiate its tenants (secure/temporary) in this way and then use it as a basis to treat them unequally is a matter of serious concern and one that requires scrutiny.

 

  • The Report and Offer tends to avoid the fact that 50% of the homes in the proposed ‘redevelopment’ will be private (for rent or sale), the most expensive type of housing. So in terms of housing provision by far the largest part of it is going to be private; and the people who stand to benefit most from the proposed ‘redevelopment’ are those who can afford to buy property on London’s private housing market –  people in the highest income bracket, the richest 10% of people in the country – these will be the people who first and foremost stand to benefit from the proposal to ‘redevelop’ the Achilles Street area. Why public funds and resources are being committed to increase the provision of private housing, the most expensive type of housing, is highly questionable; and in terms of the proposals for the Achilles Street area the figures speak for themselves:

image1 (6)

  • The Offer and proposed ballot raises some serious ethical concerns, which the Council haven’t even considered. A lot of people in the community who will be directly affected by the result of the ballot will not have the right to vote. This includes temporary council tenants who haven’t been on the housing waiting list for a year, private tenants and small independent businesses, all of whom could have their homes demolished and their livelihoods destroyed without having had any say in the decision. Another problematic ethical scenario would be if one of the blocks of flats in the Achilles Street area voted unanimously against the offer to save their homes from demolition, yet the result of the overall ballot went against them. Why should they be forced to have their homes demolished because of decisions taken by people who don’t even live in their block? These types of questions raise serious ethical concerns that to date have received no consideration and that deserve to be scrutinised.

 

 

We hope you consider the above reasons and call this rushed and ill-thought through decision in for scrutiny.

 

Yours faithfully,

Sources:

  • Lewisham Average Council Rent – Lewisham Homes Area Panel, Housing Revenue Account (HRA) – Rent Setting Report, 31 January 2019, Appendix 3: Leasehold and Tenants Charges 2019/20 Lewisham Homes, available at:

http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/documents/s62239/05%20Rent%20Rise%20Report%202019-20%20-%20310119.pdf

 

  • London Affordable Rent – Homes for Londoners: Affordable Homes Programme 2016-21, London Affordable Rent – weekly rent benchmarks, available at: 

https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/housing-and-land/homes-londoners-affordable-homes-programme-2016-21

     

 

Appendix A   Appendix A – Achilles Street Landlord Offer

Appendix B  Appendix B – EAA Achilles Street Estate Resident Ballot

 

Overview and Scrutiny Business Panel

Councillor Bill Brown cllr_bill.brown@lewisham.gov.uk

Councillor Sakina Sheikh Cllr_Sakina.Sheikh@lewisham.gov.uk

Councillor Peter Bernards cllr_peter.bernards@lewisham.gov.uk

Councillor Juliet Campbell Cllr_Juliet.Campbell@lewisham.gov.uk

Councillor Patrick Codd Cllr_Patrick.Codd@lewisham.gov.uk

Councillor Liam Curran cllr_liam.curran@lewisham.gov.uk

Councillor Jim Mallory cllr_jim.mallory@lewisham.gov.uk

Councillor Joan Millbank cllr_joan.millbank@lewisham.gov.uk

Councillor John Muldoon cllr_john.muldoon@lewisham.gov.uk

Councillor Luke Sorba cllr_luke.sorba@lewisham.gov.uk

Overview and Scrutiny Business Panel email list for copying and pasting 

cllr_bill.brown@lewisham.gov.uk

Cllr_Sakina.Sheikh@lewisham.gov.uk

cllr_peter.bernards@lewisham.gov.uk

Cllr_Juliet.Campbell@lewisham.gov.uk

Cllr_Patrick.Codd@lewisham.gov.uk

cllr_liam.curran@lewisham.gov.uk

cllr_jim.mallory@lewisham.gov.uk

cllr_joan.millbank@lewisham.gov.uk

cllr_john.muldoon@lewisham.gov.uk

cllr_luke.sorba@lewisham.gov.uk

 

 

‘Achilles Street Landlord Offer for an Estate Regeneration Ballot’

Achilles Stop and Listen Campaign

Lewisham Council are going to Mayor and Cabinet this Wednesday 18 September to get approval for the Achilles Street Landlord Offer for an Estate Regeneration Ballot. This is the offer that the Council is going to make to residents in their ballot about whether or not the Achilles Street area should be demolished. Details of the Mayor and Cabinet meeting and a link to the report are as follows:

Date: Wednesday 18 September

Place: Committee Rooms 1 & 2, Civic Suite

Lewisham Town Hall, Catford 

Time: Starts at 6.30pm ( come along and show the council they have to be accountable)

The Achilles Street Landlord Offer is item No 4 on the Agenda and the report and its two appendices can be found at: http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=139&MId=5641

We have asked for permission to respond at the Mayor and Cabinet meeting and are currently waiting to see if that permission has been granted.  

This is an important decision which will have a massive impact on the lives of residents and the wider community. You can raise any objections and concerns you have by emailing or writing to the Mayor and Cabinet and members of the Overview and Scrutiny Business Panel – the committee which monitors Council decisions – contact details can be found at the end of the document.

Below are some objections and concerns that the Campaign has, so please feel free to use these or adapt accordingly: 

Word Doc for Copy and pasting below

 

  • The report was two days late going up on Lewisham’s website, which breaches the Council’s own procedures to allow adequate time for public scrutiny. Given the importance and potential consequences of the decision on residents and the local community, more time should be allowed for the public to scrutinise the documents and raise any objections and concerns.

 

  • Residents shouldn’t be expected to vote on an offer that has no detailed information. At the moment the offer consists of vague aspirations and empty promises. The boundaries to the ‘redevelopment’ have recently been changed, which means that there is approximately 25% less land to build on. As Lewisham are still aiming to squeeze more than 450 housing units into this smaller space it means that housing density is going to increase significantly. No new plans have been put forward to reflect these changes, which means that residents will have no idea of what the ‘redevelopment’ is going to look like. So residents are being asked to vote on something without being given crucial information to base their decision on.

 

  • The report and offer to residents also doesn’t give any information about the impact of the ‘redevelopment’ on the social infrastructure, schools, GPs, congestion etc. Nor does it give any information about the environmental impact of demolition and the 8 years plus years of building works.

 

  • The offer contains no real choices for residents about what happens to their area just ‘demolition’ or ‘nothing’. For almost 4 years now residents have been asking for a range of options to be considered in terms of improving the area. Whilst the Council has been happy to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on working up their plans for demolition not a penny has been spent on developing alternative proposals with residents, for example infill or refurbishment. The offer should give residents genuine choices about what happens to their homes and local community.

 

  • The offer is misleading about the number of council homes the ‘redevelopment’ will provide, the supposed reason it was proposed in the first place. There are currently 49 council tenants in the Achilles Street area; and the offer states that long term council tenants will continue to pay the same level of rent i.e. council rents. This means there will be no gain in council housing (people paying council rents) if the ‘redevelopment’ goes ahead. Council homes at council rent is the most affordable type of social housing and the type of housing most needed in Lewisham. The offer and the proposal on which it is based will do nothing to increase the number of council homes in Lewisham.

 

  • The offer is also misleading about the provision of ‘social‘ housing in the ‘redevelopment’. It is estimated that only 100 out of the 450 new homes being built will be ‘social‘ housing (most of the new homes being built will be private – for sale or rent). However these 100 new so called ‘social’ homes will be at London Affordable Rent – which is 70% – 45% higher than council rent depending on the size of the home. In other words the people on London Affordable Rent will be paying £50-£60 more a week than those on council rent. Lewisham Council should not be accepting London Affordable Rent as a ‘social’ rent; and should be building new homes to be let at council rent levels.

 

  • The offer does not give a lot of people in the community who are directly affected by the ‘redevelopment’ the right to vote. This includes temporary council tenants who haven’t been on the housing waiting list for a year, private tenants and the small independent businesses who stand to lose their homes and livelihoods. 

 You can email any objections or concerns you have to:

Word doc for copy and pasting includes email addresses of Councillors

Mayor  

Damien Egan damien.egan@lewisham.gov.uk

Cabinet 

Councillor Chris Best  cllr_chris.best@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Chris Barnham  cllr_chris.barnham@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Paul Bell cllr_paul.bell@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Kevin Bonavia cllr_kevin.bonavia@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Andre Bourne cllr_andre.bourne@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Joe Dromey cllr_joe.dromey@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Brenda Dacres cllr_brenda.dacres@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Sophie McGeevor Cllr_Sophie.McGeevor@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Amanda De Ryk cllr_jonathan.slater@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Joani Reid cllr_joani.reid@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Jonathan Slater cllr_jonathan.slater@lewisham.gov.uk 

Mayor and Cabinet email list for copying and pasting

 

damien.egan@lewisham.gov.uk

cllr_chris.best@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_chris.barnham@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_paul.bell@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_kevin.bonavia@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_andre.bourne@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_joe.dromey@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_brenda.dacres@lewisham.gov.uk 

Cllr_Sophie.McGeevor@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_jonathan.slater@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_joani.reid@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_jonathan.slater@lewisham.gov.uk 

 

Overview and Scrutiny Business Panel

Councillor Bill Brown cllr_bill.brown@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Sakina Sheikh Cllr_Sakina.Sheikh@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Peter Bernards cllr_peter.bernards@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Juliet Campbell Cllr_Juliet.Campbell@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Patrick Codd Cllr_Patrick.Codd@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Liam Curran cllr_liam.curran@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Jim Mallory cllr_jim.mallory@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Joan Millbank cllr_joan.millbank@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor John Muldoon cllr_john.muldoon@lewisham.gov.uk 

Councillor Luke Sorba cllr_luke.sorba@lewisham.gov.uk 

Overview and Scrutiny Business Panel email list for copying and pasting 

cllr_bill.brown@lewisham.gov.uk 

Cllr_Sakina.Sheikh@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_peter.bernards@lewisham.gov.uk 

Cllr_Juliet.Campbell@lewisham.gov.uk 

Cllr_Patrick.Codd@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_liam.curran@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_jim.mallory@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_joan.millbank@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_john.muldoon@lewisham.gov.uk 

cllr_luke.sorba@lewisham.gov.uk

Or you can write to any of the councilors with any objections or concerns you have:

Postal Address: Lewisham Town, Catford Road, London SE6 4RU

 

 

Achilles Stop and Listen Campaign Update

Achilles Stop and Listen Campaign Update

If anyone is under the illusion that Lewisham Council care about the Achilles Street area and the people who live and work there – all of the residents, shops, cafes, restaurants, small independent businesses and community groups who are under the threat of demolition – don’t be fooled by the tea, cake and cosy designs in the newly refurbished tenants hall and a flurry of long standing repairs getting a bit of attention. This is just a tactic to get us to vote for the demolition of our homes and our neighbour’s homes.

Changing the Boundaries – Clifton Rise & Fordham Park

Clifton Rise – On Wednesday 31 July, Clifton Rise were informed by Lewisham Council that they were no longer included in the Achilles Street area redevelopment plans. Having put the people on the East side of Clifton Rise through three and a half years of worry about their futures – uncertainty about their livelihoods, employees, place of worship – Lewisham Council couldn’t even be bothered to address the letters individually nor acknowledge, let alone apologise for, the stress and anxiety they have caused to peoples’ lives.

Letter sent to Clifton rise

Fordham Park – On the 6th July the Achilles Campaign invited local musician and artist David Aylward to highlight the boundary of the Achilles Street area under threat of demolition. The campaign wanted to highlight the scale of the ‘redevelopment’ and that a big chunk of Fordham Park would be lost. Three weeks later Lewisham announced that they have now changed the boundary to their plans and are no longer including the park in their ‘redevelopment’ proposals.

image1 (3)
New Red line Boundary 

 

What’s the New Plan?

Well the short answer is that there isn’t one! Whilst it’s good to hear that the park has been cut out of the Council’s plans (Given Lewisham’s long track record of destroying green spaces in the North of the Borough) and that uncertainty over peoples’ futures on Clifton Rise has been removed for the moment. The changes to the boundary of the ‘redevelopment’ means only one thing, the Council will be trying to cram more and more housing into less and less space. The boundary changes mean that Lewisham will have approximately a third less land to build on and they’re still aiming to squeeze more than 450 housing units into this smaller space.

Fenton House Tenants Hall and Studio Raw PR Company

As you will have probably noticed the tenants hall in Fenton House, which Lewisham have left empty and neglected for fourteen years, has been brought back in to use to promote the Council’s plan for demolition. It’s interesting to see that Lewisham can find the money to refurbish and open up the tenants hall, not as a facility for tenants and residents nor as a home for people on the Council’s housing waiting list, but as a headquarters to persuade residents to vote for the demolition of their own homes. Lewisham have also been able to find the money to employ a PR company called Studio Raw to help them achieve their aim of demolition. Studio Raw is a Deptford based PR, branding and place making company who, amongst other things, work for property developers paving the way for gentrification. Studio Raw’s past clients include Lendlease who are the developers who demolished the Heygate Estate at the Elephant and Castle; and Cathedral who have built housing in Deptford High Street with no homes for social rent.

Demolition HQ

Studio Raw, along with Council officers, have been in the tenants hall in Fenton House every Wednesday since mid June, promoting Lewisham’s plan for demolition. They have been gathering information from residents, which will be used to shape the ‘offer’ the Council makes in the ballot this autumn. So, don’t be fooled by the tea, cakes and cosy chats; Studio Raw are employed by the Council and there to do the Council’s bidding, which is to maximise their chances of getting people to vote for demolition. Also, don’t be fooled by the misinformation being presented in the tenants’ hall. An example of this is the timeline they have written on the wall, which states that 81% of residents are supportive of the Council’s proposals, these figures are not true. The facts are that Lewisham knocked on the doors of all 87 residents, with a team of door knockers over two days, 28 residents opened their doors and responded to  some vague questions about the ‘redevelopment proposals’. From this exercise Lewisham managed to get their statistic that ‘81% of residents are supportive of the Council’s proposals’. This is deliberately misleading and raises the question of trust, in a Council and a PR company employed on their behalf, who seem desperate to promote the demolition of our homes and local community.

image1 (4)
Lewisham council and Studio Raw deliberately misleading on public platforms.

Where Do Things Stand Now?

As things stand residents are going to be asked to vote on the demolition of theirs and their neighbour’s homes and the local small businesses, which are going to be replaced by a development that nobody knows what it’s going to look like; and based on ‘offers’ that appear to have no legal guarantees. This is all being run by a Council who has been happy to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on designing and promoting the demolition of our homes and the destruction of our local community; and not a penny on giving residents and the local community a real choice or say in what happens to their homes and local area. Many people directly affected by the proposals are getting denied the right to a vote by Lewisham Council.

New Campaign Video

 

Most Saturdays we will be on the stall on New Cross Road 11.30 am-1.30pm come by and say hello!

“People here don’t want demolition”

Anita Strasser is a Deptford resident and PhD student at Goldsmiths. Anita is writing a blog  https://deptfordischanging.wordpress.com/called Depford is changing about the ‘regeneration’ of the area . Anita has spoken to some residents and businesses in the Achilles Street area- we are sharing the posts here .

“People here don’t want demolition”

Benson Odidi is the proprietor of Divine Cargo on 355 New Cross Road. Divine Cargo is a shipping company that provides a full range of air, sea and road freight services. If you need a parcel over 23 kg shipping anywhere in the world, Divine Cargo is the place to go, and if you need to have a parcel shipped here, Divine Cargo can also be a collection point. On the premises, there are also computers, copy machines and facilities for scanning, project binding and using the Internet. And finally, there is also an array of colour samples of African textiles which can be ordered in bulk and shipped anywhere in the world.

363

I am speaking to Bola, Benson’s wife, who in his absence tells me about their business, the area and the fact that their shop is under threat of demolition. The first thing Bola tells me is the kind of relationships that have formed over the years through the shop, and that this is not just a shop but plays a role in the community as well. She tells me about an elderly gentleman who came in asking for help after suffering an attack on a night bus. “This elderly gentleman, who used to live upstairs, came in asking for help with filling in an insurance form to give to the police because he had been attacked by a group of youths on the night bus. He’d been in before a few times using the computer or asking for help with other paperwork and as I’ve always assisted him, he felt he could come in here asking for help. A few weeks later he died because the punch to his head did some damage. And because I helped him fill in the form, I was able to tell his family what happened. Without this they would not know the reason for this death.”

363_1

When I ask Bola about the demolition plans it becomes clear again, as with the other businesses, that it would mean the end of their business venture. “All the rates will go up – for phone lines, broadband, water and rent. We won’t be able to exist with those rates. We would become jobless. It would also deprive our customers of our services.”

Bola understands that redevelopment has to happen, but that this should happen in areas where there is space or where buildings are in a really bad state. According to her, this does not apply here: “The buildings here are fine, they are not in need of demolition. They need maintenance and they should have been maintained better to stop demolition but since we’ve been here no repair work has ever been done. And there is no space here already. The traffic is always congested and with more people there will be even more traffic. People here don’t want demolition; it’s not the right decision and it will affect a lot of people. The parade is already lively as it is – we are like a family here and demolition will separate many people who have built up lasting friendships. For example, there is an elderly man living upstairs who comes down to the parade every morning. As we are the first shop to open, we often sit down and have a chat. Or sometimes people just come in asking for help with letters to the council.”

dsc_2234.jpg

When I ask Bola what she would like to say to the council she replies with: “Listen to the people, take their experience into consideration. Revisit the decision to demolish – it’s ok the way the area is, it just needs decorating.”

What strikes me most though is what Bola says afterwards. “Children love the parade, they come here every day after school and hang out here – it’s such a nice atmosphere. And they know us and they come in to use the toilet. There is no public toilet in New Cross, the next one is in Deptford Lounge. And it’s not just children that use our toilet, other people too. Some people are diabetic or have other health conditions where they might suddenly need to go urgently, and we let them. I know we as a business don’t have to but we need to look after the less privileged people – there are no more places for them to go and not having a toilet to go to might mean not going out for them. Today it’s all about money, it’s all for the posh and those with money. I know we need business but it doesn’t mean we can’t look after the less privileged.”

In the end, Bola tells me that she has experience working with people with Autism and knows about issues of access for less privileged people and how they are treated at times. And when I listen to her passionate account about the lack of public toilets, the wider implications of this influx of private money and the persistent cutbacks of public facilities become even more apparent, restricting access and participation even further for the less privileged.

Photos and Text by Anita Strasser