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 developers.

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 businesses on the east side of Clifton Rise 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).

 

 

 

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“We tenants, we are not going to win”

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

“We tenants, we are not going to win”

Bernard is a pensioner who lives on the 2nd floor in Austin House on Achilles Street, which is up for demolition. Until his retirement in September 2017, Bernard was a Drugs and Alcohol Worker, helping young drug users find a way back into normal life. It was not something he had planned; he had done a moulding apprenticeship in a factory in Charlton in the 70s and became a skilled moulder/core maker for making ship propellers. When the Propeller section moved to Birkenhead in the mid 70s, he didn’t know what to do, so he went to Oxford Street to look for work, where he met a blind man from South Africa. Bernard told him about himself and that he didn’t know what to do and the man said: “It sounds like you like working with people. Why don’t you try working with young people?” Bernard was intrigued and then it all fell into place.

Bernard_1

Bernard found voluntary work in north London to help troubled young adults, where he was taught everything from the ground up. And through some coincidences, one of the managers there, Karl, was to play a big part in Bernard’s long-term future. When Bernard took a paid job in a mental support office in Brixton, Karl was Bernard’s manager again, and after Bernard was diagnosed with sickle cell disease after coming out of a 7-week coma after falling ill at a family party, Karl offered him a job in Newham as soon as he was getting better. “Do you want a job working with young Class A drug users?”, he asked Bernard. This is how he became an Alcohol and Drugs Worker.

After being diagnosed, Bernard needed to be rehoused into more suitable accommodation. He was living in Forest Hill at the time and then he was offered this council flat in Austin House. At first, he didn’t realise where Achilles Street was, despite the fact that he grew up in New Cross, but when he arrived in 2005, he immediately went down Memory Lane. “I came to the UK in the early 1960s when I was 9 years old and grew up not far from Achilles Street”, he tells me. “I used to live in Batavia Road, went to Childeric Primary and attended the doctor’s surgery at Clifton Rise where now the new flats stand. What is now Fordham Park used to be all houses and what is now the underpass by New Cross Station and McMillan Park used to a road that would take you all the way from Pagnell Street to the Albany”, Bernard remembers. “It has changed so much; my past is all but a memory now.” Later his family moved to Brockley and Bernard has moved around London a fair bit, but he has always stayed closely connected to New Cross through school, music and friends. Sickle cell disease has brought him back to New Cross for good.

Bernard remembers Moonshot (when it was still in its original location) and Sybil Phoenix, a Caribbean woman who put her heart and soul into looking after the black community, organising youth and community projects that kept young people off the streets. Bernard was one of those kids, and all the events organised at Moonshot kept him out of trouble. “At that time, there were lots of gangs in the area and there was the Lewisham Gang who invited me to become a member. At first I said yes but then I asked them what they do. When they said they steal, rob and break into people’s houses I declined. My parents had brought me up to never steal and always tell the truth, so I said no. Unfortunately, that made me the enemy of the gang. I remember there was a fight one day between my friend George, a local guy who was part of our community, and another gang. There was a lot of territorial rivalry between Jamaicans and this gang was on our turf in the Childeric playground. It got nasty and George stabbed someone in the side; I was holding George’s coat. To this day I can hear the blade going into the guy’s body and it will stay with me forever. The fight stopped – the guys hadn’t expected to be beaten. I just ran home.”

Life in the 70s was tough for a Jamaican living in New Cross, and Bernard was part of the British Black Power Movement. He remembers his first experience of racism. “I was 12 and walking home from School in my school uniform and then three white women walking past said to me: ‘You have dirty black knees!’ I ran home and asked my parents to buy me long pants!” Later, when he was a young adult, he had a friend living close to the Millwall Den and they used to watch the games together but afterwards “I could never walk her home, I had to leave straight after the game because otherwise I wouldn’t have made it home in peace.”  Bernard was nearly killed at Dartford Train Station, when a group of skinheads who’d been drinking in the Railway Tavern, beat him up really badly. He only survived because a white girl shouted: “You’re going to kill him!” and then they stopped. The train guard put him and another badly beaten black guy onto the train. “I have no recollection of that train journey but luckily the other guy also got off at New Cross and somehow I made it home.”

Bernard is clear that racism still exists today and that we need to recognise it’s there; that parents need to make their children aware. “My parents always taught me to do the right thing, so I’m not bitter. But sometimes there is no cohesion within families, the way some kids talk to their parents! There was a difference in my upbringing, in the values I was taught, to always be honest and respectful. And there were other people that looked after me and influenced me a lot – three in particular. The first was the milkman I used to do the milk round with. He was the sweetest man I’ve ever met. He couldn’t care less that I was black; he took me under his wing. Then there was Mr Laws, an English Teacher at Samuel Pepys Primary School, which doesn’t exist anymore. He would teach us black kids how to pronounce difficult words. And there was one of my mentors when I started up my apprenticeship in Charlton – I learnt a lot from him. ‘What people say is a measure of who they are’ – is really what I have learnt. Children are not bad by default – it really depends on what they’re taught and told when they grow up. But I had a choice and I made something of my life, and if I could do it then others can do it too. People can choose to be good people.”

Bernard went to school with Jah Shaka (or Nev Powell as he was called before), the well-known DJ whose sound system, the Shaka Sound, became well-known across the country for promoting roots music and a spiritually charged atmosphere*. Before Shaka became famous, he used to DJ in Moonshot using the sound system Freddie Cloudburst. Bernard has always loved music and was part of that scene at the time and it was through a strange coincidence that he became a DJ himself. “Shaka was the DJ that night but was not known by that name at that time. We were in Sybil’s house before with Shaka getting ready. We were in different rooms and Shaka asked me to put a record on to check that the equipment was working. I was so nervous my hands were shaking. I’d never put on a record before. My hand was shaking so hard I dropped the needle onto the record. I looked up and then the strangest thing happened. All the people in the room were looking at me and I became aware how much I loved the attention I was getting. It was magic. It was then that I decided to become a DJ.”

Music became Bernard’s No 1 love. Bernard used to DJ in a club on Peckham High Street called Bouncing Ball (later Mr Bees) but he also recalls a night where he was DJ-ing in Ram Jam in Brixton. “You have to understand that people who used to go to Ram Jam knew their music; resident artists there were mostly Jamaicans and so expectations were high. If you didn’t hit the mark with the music, people would not move. There was no-one on the dance floor at first when I started but I remember that after I started playing music the dance floor filled up. It was this power of music that was greater than I. Music was the love of my life”, he says, “music, liquor and weed, this was the life. It was rough and at times dangerous, but life was good!”

His DJ career ended when the smoking of weed became so much that he lost focus. “There are times when your senses are heightened or slowed down and if you’re not mindful, the music will draw you in and distract you from focus. It was a very competitive scene so there was someone ready straight away to take over from me.” But Bernard has no regrets. This love for music is now gone and has been replaced by the love for God; Bernard became a born-again Christian. He first had doubts, but it was God that told him he would blind him to music, and this is what happened. Bernard stopped DJ-ing. But music has taken on another role in Bernard’s life: he’s learning to play the guitar. Now that he is retired, he’s bought himself a guitar and is taking lessons at home.

Bernard_2

Bernard likes living in Austin House because he’s back where he grew up. Living on the 2nd floor is convenient because of his illness. As Bernard can fall ill any time, the ambulance need to be able to get to him quickly so he can’t live higher than on the 2nd floor. Bernard also knows some neighbours who are there for him if he needs them. “There’s Bill obviously – he’s been living here for a long time. He also helped me out once when I locked myself out. Since then I always have a set of keys in my pocket. And there are some other people I know, but the community here has changed a heck of a lot. Many of our former neighbours have moved on or died. Goldsmiths has enlarged its territory and students aren’t mixing very well. They’re here for a bit and then go off again. You can talk to the older folks but the younger ones aren’t interested.”

Bernard would rather he didn’t have to move and he’s not happy about the demolition plans. “I first got wind of the demolition plans was when the council came round telling me they are making provisions for the homeless. I’m not saying no to that, of course we need to house the homeless, but it’s the way the council goes about it. They just steamroll over people’s views, and will the flats really be for the homeless? The council need to put more thought into this and think about how it will affect us. I’ve seen the full implications for our community in the past and now we’re going through the same again. All the community spirit of people living here, and the effort people have put into it over the years, that’s all going to be lost again. There’s one woman who used to live here but her rent went up so much (it’s a privately-rented flat), she’s had to move to Catford. But I can still phone her up and tell her I’m sick or without money and she’ll be here to help. Such relationships take years to build up. But everything has already changed so much. I grew up with certain things in my mind, buildings and places in the area, and they are only distant memories now. Some people call it progress; I don’t think it’s progress if all community centres and council homes are being knocked down. And if you don’t know what was there before, you won’t understand. At least my memories can’t be erased, when I walk through the area, through Fordham Park, I walk through people’s houses because that was there when I grew up. But when I’m gone, my memories will go with me and my history will be erased. But the way the whole area is changing, the local communities will also be erased.”

Bernard is a council tenant and has been promised to be rehoused. He has informed the council that he cannot live higher up than the 2nd floor but hasn’t heard back. According to him, it is only a matter of waiting now. “We tenants, we are not going to win but please treat us right, treat us fairly! We need better regeneration and think about all people. They want to build a car park on Clifton Rise and have Achilles Street free from parked cars. But I am registered as disabled; sometimes I cannot walk as far as Clifton Rise, especially on days when I’m not too well. I need close access to my car and need to be able to get home quickly. At the same time, I need to keep fit and do exercise to manage my illness but on days when I feel dizzy or weak, I cannot walk to Wavelengths to do exercise, I need somewhere closer and cheap to use a gym. I’m a pensioner now and I know what it means to live on a state pension. I used to go on holiday once a year and never worry about money, but now that I’m retired, things have changed a lot. So, I’m limited, physically and financially. I can take sick at any time and I’m very aware of that; the first sign of back pain and I need to stop everything right away and go home. So, it’s good to have people around me that I know and can trust, but I don’t know where these people are going to be housed after that. I hope I’ll be fine.”

*Reference: Anim-Addo, J. (1995) Longest Journey: A History of Black Lewisham. Deptford Forum Publishing

Photos and Text by Anita Strasser

https://deptfordischanging.wordpress.com/2019/07/13/we-tenants-we-are-not-going-to-win/

Here is a link to the Deptford is changing blog:  https://deptfordischanging.wordpress.com/

“How can you call this flat uninhabitable and ready for 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 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.

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.

“How can you call this flat uninhabitable and ready for demolition?”

Sephs flat

When I come up to the third floor of Austin House on Achilles Street, New Cross, where Seph lives, I am enchanted by the beautiful floral display outside her flat. Big ceramic pots align the corridor and flowers are growing in the big window boxes. The display extends to the next flat where a Vietnamese family grow Ginseng which grows to a considerable height in the summer. I enter Seph’s flat and I’m completely overawed by the beauty of her flat. The quirky corners and alcoves, high-ceiling rooms, the light streaming in from all the windows, the wonderful props and ornaments, plants and massive vinyl collection, as well as the colour orange present in every room, makes the flat look incredibly spacious, homely and lived-in.

The first thing Seph shows me is the view from the kitchen window. “I love this open view! You can see Canary Wharf and at night it looks so nice with all the lights, and when the trains go past at night the lights flicker. Sometimes I feel like I live in New York, and the green space below with all the trees makes me think of Central Park.” From her kitchen window you can see all across from London Eye down to Canary Wharf and “at New Year’s Eve I used to have parties and we used to go out on the balcony to see the fireworks”, Seph tells me. She also tells me how horrified she was when she first heard about the redevelopment plans and the big tower they are planning to build on that bit of land. “It would completely obstruct my lovely view.”

seph_2seph_3

Seph has lived in her flat for over 20 years. When she first got the flat, it had been completely flooded out from above and needed driers for some time to make it inhabitable again. She was offered by the council to either have the flat refurbished or to get given the money to do it herself. She opted for the latter and did all the wallpapering herself (and still laughs at the fact she chose cheap Woodchip Wallpaper!).

In 2002, she bought the flat under the Right-To-Buy scheme. “I feel so safe here. Once my door is bolted I feel so at ease. It’s so quiet here and the spacious flat with views of trees and greenery gives you head space too. It makes you feel good.” Seph also mentions a project carried out by local residents to counter the stigma of ‘sink estates’ by looking at the plants around the estate. They invited an eco-botanist who discovered more than 120 species of wildflowers around the blocks, which included some very rare plants only found on former bomb sites.

Seph is offended by the fact that these flats are labelled as rat-infested, damp and unfit to live in. “How can you call this flat uninhabitable and ready for demolition? Yes, we have some mice around the block and some flats have issues with damp but so do other blocks and lovely Victorian Houses.” These issues could be resolved easily with proper maintenance of gutters and drainage pipes in the blocks in my opinion.” Looking around her flat, you can understand why she feels resentful about the demolition plans and you wonder why the council would pull down perfectly sound flats. It also makes you wonder what other people’s flats look like and question the whole rhetoric of crime-ridden ‘sink estates’ the government deploys.

This is not to say that there are no problems in the area. “Living here hasn’t always felt safe”, Seph admits, “and I still sometimes don’t like walking up the stairs at night, but this is mostly to do with what was going on 20 years ago. At that time, there were lots of muggings in the area, but thankfully this has improved a lot. Since better security doors have been installed things have got better too.” There have been rare occasions of people hanging out in the staircase at night, but “they are never from here”, Seph asserts. “I know many of the residents at Austin House and they are generally all decent hard-working people. I have seen lots of kids grow up here and they are have turned into lovely, polite caring young adults. It’s others who think because it’s a council block they can just come here and hang out as no-one will care who generally cause the problems.”

The rhetoric of the ‘sink estate’ and the stigma of living in council housing is very widespread and lack of transparency and consideration for local residents angers her. “The council treat us like they think we’re stupid! They say things we do not believe and we can see straight through them. If everybody was really considered; if residents were given suitable alternative homes; if like-for-like really meant that, i.e. if you demolish someone’s flat you give them another one, not a half share of one; if the elderly were given flats with wheelchair access and not coerced off to old people’s homes; and if residents were treated fairly, listened to and kept in the area if that was their wish, I don’t think I would be so against redevelopment. But this doesn’t happen, we’ve seen this in other developments – all these promises are made and then broken, the reality is a completely different story. It’s the fact that the council and developers are so sneaky in trying to get rid of certain people, which makes me so annoyed.”

Seph also mentions local councillors’ repeatedly stated mission of having to house the poor homeless and all those living in temporary accommodation, intending to make campaigners who fight against the development look unreasonable. “It will be interesting to see how many of these people will actually be housed”, Seph says. “The figures seem skewed and originally, the proposal for Achilles Street included very few extra flats for social rent, possibly as few as one extra was mentioned. And what about private renters in our block who have lived here for years and have children in local schools? Who cares about what happens to them and whether they can afford to live in the area still? The council have no responsibility to help rehouse them at all!”

Seph is unsure of what to do. Shall she jump ship before she’s pushed, before the council decides what to do with her? Shared Ownership is not an option for her, and she doesn’t trust the council to give her what her flat is worth, which would enable her to find another place in the area. The only thing she can afford now is another council property but she’s very aware that “you could move into the same situation further down the line, when it will be even harder to deal with as I’ll be older. It would be the third time in my life I have moved to a generally poor but creative area and then had to leave. I moved to Hackney in the 80s, to Goldsmiths Row, near where Broadway Market is today. I lived next to a massive waste ground and paid £40 a week; then it got trendy… Now New Cross is being developed and has all the new cafés everywhere. I don’t want to move again, but feel I have little choice.”*seph_4

But what will Seph move to? She won’t be able to afford another property in the area, certainly not a new-build. Interestingly, a surveyor who came to her flat advised her not to buy a new-build as they are bad quality, he said. Also, a friend of hers lives in one of those new-builds owned by a housing association. They told Seph that they have sewage problems, that the walls a paper-thin and cannot be adorned, that the door knobs have already fallen off, that the slabs on the garden path have become uneven, leading to a fall, and that the paint on the front door has already bleached out. Seph doesn’t like new-builds anyway. “They might look snazzy but I don’t like them. The kitchen is in your lounge and the rooms feel like box-type things, rabbit hutches; they feel more like hotels. They don’t have all the lovely features I have here.” This reminds me of the 85 flats in Solomon’s Passage in Peckham, owned by Wandle Housing Association, which have to be demolished/refurbished only 6 years after they were built due to using bad quality materials.

If Seph moves, it’ll be out of London, probably to Kent somewhere. It’s a difficult decision and she’s trying to put a positive spin on it. London, particularly south London, has been a creative and exciting place to be on a personal and professional level. She has loved living in the New Cross and Deptford area, the live music on the streets, the dancers on the square, and Deptford market where she has bought many of the curious objects in her flat. I take lots of photos of the flat. I am perhaps the last person to see the flat as it is; I’m beginning to feel emotional myself. I can’t imagine what it must be like having to pack up 20 odd years of memories in a much-loved home.

seph_5

*Since our conversation, Seph has made the difficult decision to move.

Photos and Text by Anita Strasser

https://deptfordischanging.wordpress.com/2019/07/06/how-can-you-call-this-flat-uninhabitable-and-ready-for-demolition/

Here is a link to the Deptford is changing blog:  https://deptfordischanging.wordpress.com/

Updated Fact Sheet, March 2019

Achilles Stop and Listen Campaign

FACT SHEET

Lewisham Council is proposing to redevelop the Achilles Street area, which runs along either side of Achilles Street between Clifton Rise and Pagnell Street; and includes the flats, businesses and community organisations on the east side of Clifton Rise and the flats, maisonettes and businesses along the New Cross Road between Clifton Rise and Pagnell Street (excluding the Venue and the bank). In redeveloping the area Lewisham plans to demolish every home, business and community organisation. Lewisham claims that the redevelopment will address the shortage of council housing in the borough but these are the facts:

 Fact 1 – Lewisham Council wants to demolish decent council homes

The 87 homes in the Achilles Street area are all structurally sound and meet the Council’s ‘Decent Homes’ standard. So why does Lewisham want to demolish them when there is a chronic shortage of council housing in the borough?

Fact 2 – Lewisham isn’t interested in anything other than demolition

At the four token ‘consultation’ events Lewisham have held about the redevelopment, the only option presented to residents, businesses and the local community has been demolition and the building of a high rise, high density housing complex. This is a top-down plan that is being imposed on residents, businesses and the local community by the Council. It is now policy that to receive funds from the Mayor and Greater London Authority that residents on estates undergoing ‘regeneration’ are balloted. Lewisham Council are going to exclude many in our community from the right to vote in a ballot. Private tenants, businesses and community groups, whose homes and livelihoods are under threat of demolition, will have no say in what happens to their local community. Lewisham Council also seems to know what the result of the ballot is going to be, as they are already planning for and committing resources to demolition. At a behind closed doors meeting on 12th December 2018 the Council agreed a budget to begin buying back leasehold and freehold properties in the Achilles Street area. This is before any ballot for the Achilles Street area has even been announced let alone taken place!

Fact 3 – Lewisham won’t consider the option of infill and refurbishment

Whilst Lewisham has spent a lot of time and money working up its plans to demolish the Achilles Street area it hasn’t spent a penny on developing any other options. Infill, refurbishment and landscaping is widely accepted to be a lot less expensive and a more environmentally and socially friendly way to redevelop an area. However, Lewisham isn’t prepared to put infill and refurbishment forward as an option and give residents, businesses and the local community a real choice in how best to improve the area.

Fact 4 – Lewisham Council has failed in its duties as a landlord and managed the decline of the Achilles Street area

Lewisham has failed in its responsibilities as a landlord to maintain and upkeep the buildings (homes and businesses) in the Achilles Street area. When buildings become run down because a landlord has neglected them it is called ‘managed decline’; and this is what Lewisham has done to the Achilles Street area. The Council is now using its own failings as a landlord as an excuse to demolish the decent and structurally sound homes and businesses in the area.

Fact 5 The homes and businesses in the Achilles Street area generate a large amount of income for Lewisham Council

A recent Freedom of Information request by the Campaign revealed that over the past 6 years (2011 – 2017) the rental and service charge income from the homes and businesses in the Achilles Street area was a total of £2,601,009. Over the same 6 year period Lewisham’s total spend on repairs and maintenance for the homes and businesses was only £238,899. This means that for the last 6 years the homes and businesses in the Achilles Street area have generated a total profit of £2,362,110 for the Council. Where has all this money gone? And given these profits, why hasn’t Lewisham invested more in the maintenance and upkeep of the Achilles Street area, instead of managing its decline?

Fact 6 – Redeveloping the Achilles Street area will not address the shortage of council housing in Lewisham

To redevelop the area Lewisham will have to go into partnership with a private property developer. This means the vast majority of the new homes (currently estimated to be between 400 and 450) will be private, for sale and rent at market rates. Private property developers always use ‘viability assessments’ to reduce the percentage of social/‘affordable’ housing in any new development; and this has consistently happened in projects across London. The Lewisham Gateway project, for example, had a target of 20 percent ‘affordable’ housing and through viability assessments property developers managed to get away with building no ‘affordable’ housing at all. This was in spite of the fact that the property developers for Lewisham Gateway were given the land for nothing by the Council and on top of this they received £22 million of public funding (£20 million from the Homes & Communities Agency and the Greater London Authority and £2 million from Lewisham Council). More recently at Besson Street in New Cross Gate, Lewisham Council have gone into joint a venture with Grainger plc one of the biggest private landlord companies in the country. In this new development NONE of the homes will be for social rent, 65% of the homes will be for private rent and the other 35% will be at London living rent (which most people can’t afford – see Fact 7). Besson Street was Council land where 69 council homes once stood, now it is owned by a private property developer and has no council housing. This has been Lewisham’s approach to ‘regeneration’, so their plans to redevelop the Achilles Street area could ultimately end up reducing the number of council homes in the borough.

Fact 7 – Lewisham’s idea of ‘affordable’ housing isn’t affordable

Lewisham Council defines ‘affordable’ housing as the London Living Rent, which is linked to the median wage for an area and assumes that two earners occupy a flat, each paying 35 per cent of their net income on rent. For a two bedroom flat in the New Cross ward the London Living Rent would be £1023 per month. Lewisham also classify the London Affordable Rent as ‘social’ rent. London Affordable Rent is around 63% higher than existing council rents in Lewisham; and tenants on London Affordable Rent pay significantly higher service charges than council tenants.

Fact 8 – Lewisham Council doesn’t care about residents, businesses and local communities

The case of Old Tidemill Garden and Reginald House shows exactly what Lewisham Council thinks of residents and local communities. Recently, as part of their plans to gentrify Deptford and in spite of widespread opposition from residents and the local community, the Council destroyed Old Tidemill Garden – an award winning community garden and one of the few green spaces left in Deptford. Lewisham also plans to do the same to Reginald House (a block of 16 structurally sound council flats) where 80% of the residents have already informed the Council and the GLA that they want their homes refurbished rather than destroyed. This example illustrates how Lewisham have been treating residents and local communities across the borough for over a decade now; in places like New Cross, Deptford, Lewisham and Catford to name but a few. Over the years the Council has been happy to sell off and transfer land to private property developers (land, which belongs to the people of Lewisham). These private property developers have made big profits by building thousands of homes; and selling them at prices the vast majority of Lewisham residents can’t afford. This is what Lewisham wants to do to the Achilles Street area.

 

The Council’s plan to destroy homes, livelihoods and the local community in the Achilles Street area will do nothing to address the shortage of council housing in Lewisham

Achilles Stop and Listen Campaign  FACT SHEET

Notes and Sources

Fact 1 – Lewisham Council wants to demolish decent council homes

  • Letter to Residents dated 4 July 2016
  • Email from Lewisham dated 26 May 2017

Fact 2 – Lewisham isn’t interested in anything other than demolishing the Achilles Street area

Fact 3 – Lewisham won’t consider the option of infill and refurbishment

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/jun/04/is-demolition-ever-the-best-way-to-regenerate

Fact 4 – Lewisham Council has failed in its duties as a landlord and managed the decline of the Achilles Street area

Fact 5 – The homes and businesses in the Achilles Street area generate a large amount of income for Lewisham Council

Fact 6 – Redeveloping the Achilles Street area will not address the shortage of council housing in Lewisham

Fact 7 – Lewisham’s idea of ‘affordable’ housing isn’t affordable

Fact 8 – Lewisham Council doesn’t care about residents, businesses and local communities

and https://en-gb.facebook.com/savetidemill/

  • See also Corporate Watch’s

‘TIDEMILL: FACTSHEET ON THE BATTLE FOR DEPTFORD’ available at: https://corporatewatch.org/tidemill-development-factsheet-on-the-battle-for-deptford/

‘TIDEMILL: THE LEWISHAM COUNCILLORS PUSHING DEMOLITION AND GENTRIFICATION’ available at:

https://corporatewatch.org/tidemill-the-lewisham-councillors-pushing-gentrification-and-demolition/

  • For Lewisham Gateway see Fact 6 above
  • For the Excalibur Estate, Catford see, ‘This is my home, my little castle’, The Guardian, 28 December 2012, available at:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/dec/28/prefab-houses-last-estate-britain

‘Largest postwar prefab estate to be demolished’, The Guardian, 2 January 2011, available at:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2011/jan/02/postwar-prefab-houses-demolition-london

Download pdf factsheet Factsheet March 2019

Lewisham Fails to Communicate, Consult or be Transparent withAchilles Residents, Businesses and Community Groups

Council officers have said that they would inform all residents and businesses about any developments and meetings regarding the Achilles street area – they have consistently failed to do so.  Achilles Street area was on the agenda at Mayor and cabinet on 12 December they failed to let anyone know. We found out a few days before by chance and prepared a response- the response was critical of their communication and consultation process. This resulted in a hand delivered letter to residents a few days later on the 14 December from Cllr Bell saying that they had held the meeting! The second part of the meeting on the 12 December was behind closed doors to agree a budget. We have asked for this budget to be made publicly available but they are refusing as apparently it’s not in the public’s interest. We have put in a FOI.

To pretend the plans were developed through significant engagement with residents, businesses and the local community is disingenuous and simply misleading. Lewisham have only ever presented the option of demolition to residents and to pretend otherwise is misleading. The few residents who attended the first consultation event or who opened their doors to Council officers in February 2016 have had their answers misused by Lewisham to promote the Council’s plans for demolition. Plans which were already well underway before the first consultation and have hardly changed since (see Lewisham Consultation boards for May 2016 and February 2017 below). To suggest they were developed with significant input from the residents is not true.

To pretend that options for infill and refurbishment have been explored is false. No option for infill, refurbishment and landscaping to improve the Achilles Street area has ever been presented to or discussed with residents, businesses and community groups. To refer to an outdated, dropped infill feasibility study in a couple of lines on a consultation board and pretend to have a presented it as an option is disingenuous. (Board 7: Lewisham Consultation boards February 2017)

What does Lewisham Council have to hide?  Why was the second part of Mayor and Cabinet meeting on the 12th December behind closed doors? Discussing public money and public land behind closed doors is typical of the total lack of transparency we’ve come to expect from Lewisham. Lewisham will be holding a ballot to decide whether or not its plans for the Achilles Street area will go ahead. So why is the Council even thinking of, let alone discussing, wasting taxpayer’s money on buying back from leaseholders and purchasing freehold properties in the Achilles Street area? The Council doesn’t even know what the terms of the ballot are going to be yet let alone the result! Or have Lewisham already decided the result of the Achilles Street Ballot at a Mayor and Cabinet meeting, behind closed doors, that nobody’s been informed of? This is the lack of transparency we’ve come to expect from Lewisham Council. A Council that has consistently failed to keep residents, businesses and the local community informed; a Council that has failed to engage with the people living and working in the Achilles Street area in any sort of meaningful or collaborative way; and a Council that is intent on only one thing, demolition and the destruction of the local community.

 

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Achilles Stop and Listen Campaigns response to the resident’s charter

Many in our community will be excluded from the right to vote in a ballot by Lewisham Council this includes businesses and community groups who are under threat of demolition as part of the councils ‘regeneration proposals’.

This survey is on principles and has no details and without any details it is therefore meaningless. The survey is for the benefit of the council to pursue demolition and to reach their arbitrary targets at whatever the cost – it is not aimed to benefit residents/communities who will lose homes, green and community spaces, shops, and their livelihoods to have a genuine input and choice about what happens in their communities.

Here is Lewisham’s Survey: https://consultation.lewisham.gov.uk/strategic-housing-and-regulatory-services/residentscharter/

Here is Achilles response to the survey: achilles_stop_and_listen_survey_response

Below you can also read Achilles full response to Lewisham’s residents survey on balloting residents on estates:

Overview

 Who is the survey aimed at? It appears that the outcome has already been pre-determined.

The guarantees are not legally binding, which makes them meaningless.

There is no mention of the demolition of homes and the destruction of communities in the overview – it is referred to as ‘improving homes’.

The overview refers to ‘rights to remain’ and ‘genuinely affordable’ this is absolutely meaningless without any detail.

This survey is for the benefit of the council to pursue demolition and to reach their arbitrary targets at whatever the cost – it is not aimed to benefit residents/communities who will lose homes, green and community spaces, shops,   and their livelihoods.

 

Principle1

Before any estate regeneration, a Residents’ Ballot will take place to give you a say in the future of your neighbourhood. To help you make an informed decision, we will make you a formal offer – in writing – which you can then choose to accept or reject in the ballot.

 

Strongly disagree with the above

This isn’t about giving residents a genuine choice about what happens in their communities it’s about pushing demolition. Ballots should only be held when there are a range of different options, accompanied by detailed plans, for people to consider, for example refurbishment and infill with details on costing, time scales and all of the impacts (we want to see independent social, financial, environmental, equalities impact assessments)

Before a ballot there should be funds and resources made available for independent alternative residents/community led proposals, legal help and independent consultations.

All options including refurbishment and infill should be pursued by the council with the same amount of resources and time as the councils preferred choice of demolition so residents have a genuine choice.

 

 

Principle 2

We guarantee to build more homes for social rent. Any proposals for estate regeneration will be driven by our priority to increase genuinely affordable homes.

 

Strongly disagree with the above

This is a trick and meaningless question. Of course people want to see an increase in social housing but they don’t want to see whole areas erased. Perhaps ask – do you think we should use empty sites to build social homes (which clearly Lewisham is failing to do) or ask what residents think about your joint ventures with private companies to build homes for private rent? Or what they think about the demolition of structurally sound homes, small businesses, community organisation/groups and community gardens in areas with high pollution? Or ask do you think we should be investing in our communities instead of erasing them?

 

 
Principle 3

We will regularly communicate with all residents writing to everyone at least once every three months in the run up to a Residents’ Ballot and throughout the design, planning and eventual construction process, presenting transparent information that is accessible to everyone.

 

Strongly disagree with the above

This shouldn’t have to be principle –Lewisham should be communicating with residents regularly but fails to do so. Lewisham council does not have a good track record of communicating with residents in any kind of detail or with any degree of transparency.  Ballots should be held at the latest possible time when there are different, very detailed plans of all the options for example refurbishment, infill and with very detailed information including information on costing, time scales and all impacts including changes in tenancies, rent increases, or type of rent for example from Council rent to London Affordable rent All options including refurbishment and infill should be pursued by the council with the same amount of resources and time as the council’s preferred choice, namely demolition, so that residents have a genuine choice. Before any Ballot can take place funds and resources should be made available for independent alternative residents/community led proposals, legal help and independent consultations.

Transparency of all details involving and relating to developers, housing associations and other stakeholders involved in the estate regeneration should be communicated and independently scrutinised. All businesses and community organisations under threat of demolition including leasehold and freehold properties who are part of regeneration proposals should get a vote. Everyone who may lose their home; livelihood, community space should get a vote.

 

Principle 4

Everyone will have the opportunity to help shape the proposals and all estate residents will be encouraged to participate in the design process and nominate individuals to form a Residents’ Steering Group which will work alongside the Council’s design team to help inform decisions through the design, planning and construction phases.

 

Strongly disagree with the above

This another trick question assuming the outcome of a ballot is demolition. All options including refurbishment and infill should be pursued by the council with the same amount of resources and time as the council’s preferred choice of demolition so residents have a genuine choice before any ballot. Funds and resources should be made available for independent alternative residents/community led proposals, legal help and independent consultations so communities can have a genuine say and input into what happens in their communities.

 

Note* Further ballots should also be required when any aspect of the plans change.

 

Principle 5

If you are a Council tenant who wishes to stay, you will be guaranteed a new home at a social rent level, with the same tenancy conditions that you have today and a Housing Needs Assessment will ensure you are provided with a home that matches your requirements.

 

Strongly disagree with the above

Yet another trick question – it is totally meaningless without detail. The ‘guarantees’ referred to are not legally binding and therefore meaningless.

 

Principle 6

If you are a resident leaseholder or freeholder who wishes to stay, you will be guaranteed to remain in home ownership.

 

Strongly disagree with the above

This another trick question – it is meaningless without detail. Guarantees are not legally binding.

 

Principle 7

We will always strive to create and strengthen thriving communities that are inclusive and sustainable for existing and new residents, supporting new jobs, choice of shops, leisure and high quality open space wherever we can.

 

Strongly disagree with the above

This is vague and devoid of any meaning, typical of the rhetoric of regeneration speak.

 

Private Renters

Currently none of the draft principles that might make up the Residents’ Charter relate to private renters who may be living on an estate that could be regenerated to provide more homes. Do you think there should be a principle that relates to private renters in areas that could be developed?

 

Strongly agree

Everyone who is going lose their home should have a vote in a ballot regardless of tenure, how long they have lived there and their vote shouldn’t be dependent on them having been on the waiting list as your guidelines suggest. The right to participate in a ballot should be given to all private tenants, whether they are living in freehold or leasehold properties and irrespective of the length of the tenancy. All businesses and community organisations regardless of tenure that are under threat of demolition due to regeneration proposals should have the right participate in a ballot.

Are there any additional principles you would like to be included in a Residents’ Charter?

 

Ballots should only be held when there are a range of different options, accompanied by detailed plans, for people to consider, for example refurbishment and infill with details on costing, time scales and all of the impacts (we want to see independent social, financial, environmental, equalities impact assessments).

Before a ballot there should be funds and resources made available for independent alternative residents/community led proposals, legal help and independent consultations.

All options including refurbishment and infill should be pursued by the council with the same amount of resources and time as the council’s preferred choice of demolition so residents/communities have a genuine choice.

Ballots response / Fundraising gig / updated Fact Sheet

Fundraiser at the New Cross Inn

This Sunday 13 May, 7-11 pm at the New Cross Inn. Thank you to No Social Cleansing in Lewisham for organising this, a great line up.

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Ballots

Here’s the Achilles response to Mayors consultation on ballots, submitted on 10 April 2018 in response to the consultation: Achilles Street Stop and Listen Campaigns ballots

https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/consultation-on-a-new-funding-condition-requiring-resident-ballots-in-estate-regeneration-schemes.pdf

Updated Fact Sheet

Updated Fact Sheet May 2018   Factsheet May 2018

Notes and sources Fact Sheet May 2018 Factsheet Notes & Sources May 2018

 

 

“Most laundrettes are surviving because they are in council properties and have a reasonable rent”

Anita Strasser is a Deptford resident and PhD student at Goldsmiths. Anita is writing a blog 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.

Here is a link to the blog:  https://deptfordischanging.wordpress.com/

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Angelo is the owner of the Launderette on 369 New Cross Road. He comes in especially to have a chat with me about the demolition plans in New Cross, and together we go to Mughead Coffee where the staff seem to know exactly how he likes his coffee. He chats with Mark for a bit, the business owner – they seem well acquainted – before we sit down to talk about the Launderette. “The Launderette itself has been here since the early 60s and used to be a Father & Son operation with other Launderettes in New Cross and other areas”, Angelo explains. Then, in the early 90s, Angelo’s brother Joe bought the one on New Cross Road, did a lot of refurbishing work to it and replaced the old machines with newer versions, and then, several years later, Angelo took over in 2008. “It’s a contagious disease, I’m not joking”, he 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, including one on Jamaica Road which is now owned by Angelo’s nephew. Even Angelo’s best friend, a former banker who had a midlife career crisis, unsure what to do, took his girlfriend to Nottingham to live above the Launderette he now owns.

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But being in the Launderette business doesn’t make you rich. “There is no growth”, Angelo explains. “A Launderette business doesn’t grow like other businesses do, and it doesn’t have a high turnover. You can’t pay the high rents big restaurants can pay for example, and most Launderettes are surviving because they are on good locations in council properties and have a reasonable rent. About four or five businesses on this parade are still on old tenancies and once the new development is here, the rent price will be double if not triple. Launderettes are viable businesses only because of low overheads. What kills them is the high market rates.” So, even if Angelo was offered new premises in the new development, the overheads would be too high to run it.

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Interestingly for me, there is still demand for Launderettes. “Not everybody’s got a washing machine, but even if people do”, Angelo says, “there’s still a demand which has nothing to do with people’s class position. The association of Launderettes with merely 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 live in small flats with no space or facility to dry clothes so coming to a Launderette solves that problem.” In Angelo’s Launderette the water is also treated before it’s used and people notice the change in the fabric, another reason, according to Angelo, why his Launderette is doing good business. “If the Launderette closes, people will have to travel further for this convenience”, making this convenience less convenient.

Angelo agrees that the parade needs investment but 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 couple of years ago to spruce up the parade a bit and to paint work along the road. They came into the shops asking people what they’d like to see. Also Angelo was asked and together with the artist they 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”, Angelo says. But that’s all that’s been done it seems, and Angelo thinks that Lewisham council doesn’t involve itself much in making the parade look nicer. “Lewisham Council is more concerned with housing and the plans I’ve seen – 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.” According to Angelo, the council have offered funding to relocate but despite this offer, Angelo doubts he’ll be able to set up again. “First, the business will be closed for a couple of years and then I need funds to re-invest in a new business. Also, will there actually be the chance of getting a unit on the new development and if so, it’ll be at full market rent which will be double or triple to what I pay now. I won’t set up another Launderette”, Angelo concludes.

laundrette_4

After our chat we walk back to the Launderette where we meet Nicola, one of Angelo’s employees who would presumably lose her job if the Launderette were to close. Angelo and Nicola seem to have a very friendly relationship, laughing and joking about being photographed, and together I photograph them in the Launderette.

Photos and Text by Anita Strasser

https://deptfordischanging.wordpress.com/2018/04/01/most-laundrettes-are-surviving-because-they-are-in-council-properties-and-have-a-reasonable-rent/

Update

Lack of communication from Lewisham

We have repeatedly asked Lewisham to send out an update letter about what’s going on to all residents, businesses, freeholders to update us all. We haven’t received anything yet although we were told three months ago we would receive some information at the beginning of January!

Most Saturdays

We are on Deptford Market with a mini stall from 12-2pm with other local housing campaigns.

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Ballots

Sadiq Khan is proposing all estates undergoing regeneration who receive GLA funding should be balloted before demolition. There is currently a consultation on this by the mayor – the Mayors draft guidelines exclude non resident freeholders, businesses, private tenants from a vote, we are challenging this in our response to the consultation as the Achilles street area is made up of a mix of tenures.https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/consultation-on-a-new-funding-condition-requiring-resident-ballots-in-estate-regeneration-schemes.pdf

New Cross and Deptford Free film Festival

Achilles Campaign has joined with Tidemill/Reginald Rd Campaign and Sanford housing Co-op to programme screenings on ‘displacement and regeneration’ as part of the film festival.  Achilles Campaign are hosting screenings at New Cross Learning and Green Onions ( see below)

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“The council has not fulfilled their part of the deal”

Anita Strasser is a Deptford resident and PhD student at Goldsmiths. Anita is writing a blog 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.

Here is a link to the blog:  https://deptfordischanging.wordpress.com/

“The council has not fulfilled their part of the deal”

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Emma Zhang is the owner of YIP Oriental Store on 361 New Cross Road, a shop which will be demolished if the redevelopment plans for this area are going ahead. Emma has had her shop for 7 years during which she has built it up to a thriving business which has a good customer base, particularly with students from Goldsmiths. The shop serves local students but also the Chinese and Japanese student communities, and many of the students signed the petition to stop the demolition of the shop because it would mean that they would lose the store where they buy their products. Emma has built up a very good relationship with all her customers, who, according to her, are very kind people and often come in every day. Some of her customers have become friends over the years as well.

“We don’t want them to knock down the buildings. The council posted a letter and then we had a meeting in Deptford Green School where we told them that we’re not happy about the plans. This is about 2 years ago, and we haven’t had confirmation yet about what’s going to happen. Demolition will be very expensive and really affect our business, and there is no guarantee that we will be able to move back or stay in the New Cross area. We have invested a lot of money in setting this up and if we have to find another location, this will lose us earnings and we’ll have to invest more to set up again. It’s unlikely we would be able to stay in this area, and so we would lose all our customers as well. We would have to start afresh.”

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Emma agrees that the area is and looks run-down and needs refurbishing. She and her colleague also have experience of knife-crime in the area, and the shop has been robbed a few times. Just 3 days before I met with her, somebody tried to break into the shop again. She says the area is dangerous and that there is not enough police presence in the area, not enough CCTV and not enough protection for local residents or businesses. However, Emma does not think that this is a reason to demolish the existing blocks and shops as the run-down character and dangerous feel is due to the council’s neglect of the area.

“We have an agreement, a contract with the council. As tenants we have to look after our property inside, and it’s the council’s responsibility to maintain the outside and the building with the rent we pay. We have paid our rent, and before we opened the shop years ago, we changed the terrible shopfront into a much nicer one so it looks much better now. But the council has not fulfilled their part of the deal which is to look after the outside. Maintenance and regular repairs cost much less than to redevelop everything. If a little money had been invested over the years, the area wouldn’t be in such a state now. You could improve the area a lot by refurbishing and looking after it rather than demolishing everything.”

 

Emma also says that the council needs to consider the local area more: “It’s quite a special area with lots of interesting people who come into the shop. We also have many working-class people who shop in here. If you build more properties, the rents are going to be more expensive. The developers are promising people that they will have the same conditions afterwards and people might think ‘oh great, I’m moving into a nice flat in a new development for the same price’ but they just don’t realise that prices will go up in the near future and that the service charges for shared equity properties are really high. We’ve seen this happening in other areas.”

Photos and Text by Anita Strasser

https://deptfordischanging.wordpress.com/2018/01/20/i-have-stopped-making-plans/