Harrods and the Social Cleansing of London


There was a disproportionately large police presence last Saturday at the United Voices of the World demonstration at Harrods Department Store. The protest was called in support of 450 waiters and chefs demanding they receive 100 per cent of their tips from customers, rather than the 25 per cent they are currently receiving, which reduces the salary of each member of staff by up to £5,000 per year. To put this in context, this theft of up to 75 per cent of staff tips by management comes in a year when Harrods announced that their pre-tax profits for 2015-16 had increased by 19 percent to £168 million, sales had risen by 4 per cent to £1.4 billion, and the owners had just paid themselves a juicy £100.1 million dividend. Architects for Social Housing turned up in support of this protest, as did members of Class War, while the Left – whether in the form of other unions like Unite, the Corbyn support group Momentum, or the various Trotskyist factions such as the Socialist Workers Party – were conspicuously if unsurprisingly absent: the UVW being unaffiliated to the Labour Party and therefore beyond the bounds of its control. Despite this, the protest was well attended and conducted peacefully and in good humour, stopping the traffic several times with the giant blow-up banner, but letting people pass freely along the pavement, and we were generally well received by passers-by, with none of the well-heeled patrons taking excessive umbrage at having to enter the Harrod’s Sale by the side doors.

The only violence – as at every demonstration I have attended over the past few years – came from the Metropolitan Police Force, whose numbers grew rapidly throughout the protest. Large numbers of police vans were parked up and down the Brompton Road and along its side streets; several police camera crews filmed everyone attending from both inside and outside the department store; and eventually even riot police from the Territorial Support Group turned up – completely unnecessarily. The police attempted to bully and intimidate us from the beginning, pushing us around, fencing us in and trying to kettle us in groups. A young lad was arrested right at the beginning for letting off a red smoke flare – although what possible harm that could do to anyone beyond adding a bit of theatre to the proceedings isn’t apparent; and a middle-aged woman was arrested for alleged ‘criminal damage’ – which, when she resisted, was upgraded to ‘assaulting a police constable’ – a charge the MET hands out like confetti these days. I spoke on behalf of ASH in formal support of the UVW protest and immediately became the object of police attention to the extent that I felt I too was about to be arrested, with cameras trained on me as I walked around and much finger-pointing and notebook-scribbling by the blue-shouldered officers. Having been arrested at a demonstration last year on a similarly manufactured charge of Assault PC (a charge dropped when video evidence showed the constable assaulting me), I recognised the signs and judged it best to leave the demonstration a little early if I didn’t want to join my fellow protesters in the local nick.

Because of this, I didn’t see the subsequent arrests as the police moved in at the end of the protest, around 4pm, and arrested a further 6 people, including the General Secretary of the union, Petros Elia. Without any proof being produced, Petros was held for 17 hours in Belgravia Police Station along with 5 other protesters, then released on Sunday without charge. His bail conditions, however, as with the other protesters arrested, include prohibiting him from coming within 50 yards of Harrods, effectively precluding him from taking part in any further demonstrations by the union. Even in the long and shameful history of the UK’s industrial disputes, I can’t recall another instance of the General Secretary of a union being prohibited by the police force from approaching the company with which the union he represents is in industrial dispute. Apart from the police abusing their powers of arrest and bail to influence the course of industrial action, all of this contravenes our rights as citizens to move freely (article 5), our freedom of expression (article 10), and our freedom of assembly (article 11), under the European Convention on Human Rights; but then the police have been abusing these rights as a matter of practice for some time now without the need to change the law, as Theresa May will when she introduces the British Bill of Rights.

In reality, though – which is to say, our present reality in the UK – none of this should be surprising, since the Qatar Investment Authority that owns Harrods owns more of London than the Crown Estate, with around £30 billion worth of investments out of an estimated £275 billion in assets worldwide. A sovereign wealth fund set up to manage the surpluses from Qatar’s oil and natural gas reserves – currently the third largest in the world – in practical terms the QIA is the piggy bank of the Al Thani royal family, with the current CEO (who is also a member of the royal family) having been appointed by the Emir of Qatar. Besides its extensive foreign investments, the QIA also profits from the enslavement of millions of workers from India, Nepal, the Philippines, Egypt, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan in abject living conditions (below) in Qatar’s building industry. The International Trade Union Confederation has predicted that 7,000 construction workers will die on building sites in preparation for the 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar, where 1.8 million migrant workers are kept in conditions of semi-slavery, with pay withheld, with their passports confiscated, living in work camps and labouring in 50 degree heat. In contrast to which, Qatar’s 278,000 citizens have the highest per capita income in the world.


The Qatar Investment Authority bought the Harrods Group for £2 billion in 2010, and since then has invested heavily in London real estate, acquiring the Shard, three 5-star London hotels (Claridge’s, the Berkeley and the Connaught), Burberry’s Department Store, the Olympic Village (for which the Clays Lane Estate in Newham was demolished), the US Embassy (which it plans to turn into another luxury hotel), Chelsea Barracks (which it is redeveloping into luxury housing), 1-3 Cornwall Terrace (which it plans to turn into a royal palace for the Al Thani family), the Shell Centre, One Hyde Park, £1 billion and 279 acres of residential property in Mayfair, Camden Market and the whole of Canary Wharf; and its property development company, Qatari Diar, is expanding its portfolio to manage over 4,000 homes in London. The QIA also has substantial shares in Barclays Bank (with which it has twice been investigated and fined by the Serious Fraud Squad), Sainsbury’s Supermarkets, the International Airlines Group (which owns British Airways), Heathrow Airport and the London Stock Exchange.

It is hard to believe – it would be naïve to do so – that it was not under the instruction of this ruthless and immensely influential financial power with a huge presence in London that the Metropolitan Police Force arrested the General Secretary of United Voices of the World at Saturday’s demonstration. The aggressive and heavy-handed police presence at the demonstration was clearly a crude attempt to stamp out the unionisation of the Harrods workers by the UVW and their just demands for all of their tips; and the arrests of their leadership and other members is equally clearly an attempt to bully, intimidate, harass, dissuade and criminalise further union action. This demonstration was reported in advance in papers around the world, and had huge coverage in the UK leading up to Saturday; yet the following day every paper, including The Guardian, The Mirror, The Mail, The Independent and The Telegraph, as well as the reliably biased BBC, reported gleefully on the first two arrests but failed to mention the arrest of the General Secretary of United Voices of the World (the honourable exception to this censorship was The Morning Star). It’s a genuine question: would the UK, were it to apply for re-entry into the European Union, be rejected on the grounds that our police force, national press and elected government fail the requirements of the Democracy Index by repeatedly demonstrating themselves to be the instruments of corporate interest?

When ASH talks about the social cleansing of London we mean not just the forced eviction of the working class from our council estates and the replacement of their homes with investment opportunities for vehicles like the Qatar Investment Authority; we also mean the replacement of that class with a migrant workforce which, like many of the staff at Harrods, are employed on zero hours contracts, on the minimum wage, without unionisation, and who have to commute to work on long journeys from the outer boroughs of London. What is driving social cleansing is not only the enormous financial profits to be made from redeveloping land in Inner London, but the resulting demographic shift that is driving London further and further towards a Parisian model of the city, with a centre for the international rich surrounded by a suburban ring of service industry workers drawn from a largely migrant population. And we saw in 2016 how that social contract is working out.

It should also not surprise us to learn that several protesters, who were arrested later that evening, were initially detained by Harrods security guards in cells they keep for suspected shoplifters located in the basement of the department store. It seems the Qatar royal family not only regards Harrods as part of its private emirate, but believes that British citizens on its property are subject to the same laws under which they keep 1.8 million workers enslaved in Qatar – and judging by the actions of the MET on Saturday they’re right. The use of our police force to break union action and demonstrations, and the increase in their powers of surveillance and arrest under the cloak of protecting us from terrorism, is part of a vast project of social engineering that is transforming every aspect of our public and private lives in the UK, and of which the demolition of our social housing for foreign investment is only one campaign. It is for this reason that ASH has been publicising, supporting and reporting on this struggle by UVW. ‘The workers united will never be defeated’ – a phrase we used at the demonstration – is not just a nostalgic chant, it’s a political imperative; and if we don’t want to see London socially cleansed and replaced with the working conditions, employment practices and class relations being imported from totalitarian states like Qatar, we’d better take up its call now. Architects for Social Housing stands in solidarity with United Voices of the World in our shared struggle to oppose the forces of our economic, political and legal subjugation in 2017.

Simon Elmer
Architects for Social Housing


Tower, Slab, Superblock: Social Housing Legacies and Futures

‘In 2004, architects Anne Lacaton, Jean-Philippe Vassal, and Frédéric Druot authored a manifesto on the value of renovation over demolition with a powerful opening statement: “Never demolish, never remove or replace, always add, transform and reuse!” Their study, PLUS, came in response to an architectural competition to replace a 1960s high-rise apartment building on the outskirts of Paris, and has become emblematic of a surging interest in refurbishing post-war high-rise and superblock housing.

‘Cities worldwide undertook major residential building programs in the mid-Twentieth Century to create much-needed new housing for workers and low-income residents. Usually built with direct state intervention and in clustered developments on superblock sites, mass housing took different forms – from carefully detailed British council estates to aggressively pragmatist high-rises in the United States – but held the common promise of modern, reasonably priced apartments. This built fabric today represents a significant physical asset, yet in many cases suffers from maintenance issues, financial disinvestment, and social stigma.

‘Where once demolition seemed the de facto response to these persistent issues, efforts in a number of cities demonstrate that we can serve current residents, steward resources for the future, and reinvigorate the urban fabric through smart public policy and good design. Redevelopment has gone by different names – regeneration, transformation, revitalisation – but in many of the best cases looks to maintain and improve the existing building stock and surroundings. When we choose to reinvest – in many cases the more financially, socially, and environmentally conscious decision – how do we do so in ways that benefit and protect current residents?

Tower, Slab, Superblock: Social Housing Legacies and Futures will examine the history, current status, and prospects of high-rise and superblock residential development. The conference will confront questions of design and policy. What does it mean to reconsider this building stock as an asset, rather than a liability or failure? How can the building stock be reimagined to better serve current residents and future generations? And what roles can architects, designers and affiliated professionals play in housing crises?’

The Architectural League of New York (10 December, 2016)

Confucius Plaza Apartments (1975)

A limited-equity housing cooperative in Chinatown with 762 apartments, the 44-storey Confucius Plaza building was the first major public-funded housing project built almost exclusively for Chinese Americans. Initiated by a Chinese-American shop owner who organised a development group through word of mouth and the use of Chinese-language newspapers, and funded mainly by the Mitchell-Lama Housing Program, the project became the centre of a significant protest led by Asian-Americans for Equal Employment, which protested the lack of Chinese or Asian-American construction workers. Later joined by a host of other Chinatown organisations, as well as city-wide minority workers’ groups including the Black and Puerto Rican Coalition, the demonstrations led to the hiring of roughly 40 Asian-American workers as well as the addition of community and commercial facilities to the housing complex.

Sugar Hill Development (2014)

A mixed-use development in Harlem, 70 per cent of the Sugar Hill apartments are targeted to extremely low-income (30 per cent Average Median Income, or below $25,750 for a family of four) and very low-income households (50 per cent AMI, or below $42,950 for a family of four), with the remaining 30 per cent rented to households below 80 per cent AMI ($68,700 for a family of four). 25 of the 124 apartments are reserved for homeless families; of the remainder, 50 per cent are reserved for residents of Community District 9. Residents were chosen by lottery and will not pay more than 30 per cent of their gross income in rent. Designed by Adjaye Associates and developed by the not-for-profit Broadway Housing Communities, the 13-storey building also includes, at ground level, a 100-seat pre-school, a children’s art museum and a community room.

– Susanne Schindler, Architecture vs. Housing: The Case of Sugar Hill 

Architects for Social Housing

MODERN TIMES: A Walk in Charlie Chaplin’s Footsteps

Chaplin Poster (crop)

Saturday, 13 February, 2016.

As part of a weekend of action against the Housing and Planning Bill, Architects for Social Housing conducted a guided tour of the Southwark and Lambeth streets of Charlie Chaplin’s childhood.

Chaplin was born in 1889 into a music hall family that rapidly fell into poverty. As with most poor families, Charlie moved from one temporary accommodation to another. At the age of seven he was sent to the workhouse off Kennington Lane. His absent father died of drink when Charlie was twelve, and his mother, under the strain of supporting her family on badly paid jobs, fell into mental illness and was incarcerated when he was sixteen.

Ten years later Charlie Chaplin was one of the highest paid people in the world; but he never forgot where he came from, and his films always represented the poor with sympathy and compassion, without stereotype or judgement. And he always remembered where the cause of their poverty lay. In Easy Street (1917), The Immigrant (1917), A Dog’s Life (1918), The Kid (1921), The Idle Class (1921), Pay Day (1922), City Lights (1931) and Modern Times (1936), the poor are always underpaid, the police are always the enemy, the church is always a racket, the rich are always undeserving, the capitalist is always exploitative, the boss always a bully, and the Tramp always in rebellion against the injustices of Modern Times.

Those times have returned. The inequalities of the Edwardian era in which Chaplin grew up have been surpassed today. Britain has the largest gap between rich and poor of any Western country, with the poorest 40% of our population owning just 14.6% of the national wealth. Our richest 10% own 45% of the country’s private wealth. 13 million of us are living in poverty. 50,000 London households are currently homeless. And rough sleeping in the capital has more than doubled over the past five years. By selling off and demolishing existing council housing and driving hundreds of thousands of people into an unregulated rental market, the Housing and Planning Bill will only widen this gap between rich and poor.

What can we do in response?

One of the Tramp’s most recognisable characteristics was his walk – toes out, hips tilting, skidding sideways around corners. And no matter how many times he was kicked up the arse by bullies, bosses and bobbies, he never changed his gait. It was his walk of resistance. On our own walk around the streets of Chaplin’s childhood, we looked at the conditions under which he acquired that walk, and talked about how we can use it to fight back against the forces of capitalist greed that are destroying our city. We also visited the houses and sites where Chaplin lived and worked as a child, looked at what has happened to them now, and what will happen to the area they are in if the Housing and Planning Bill becomes law.

The Heygate estate has already been demolished and the land handed over to property developers. The Aylesbury estate is following suit and its residents are being socially cleansed from the area. And the Elephant & Castle is being wiped clean not only of its working class population but also of the memory of their history.

Our walk started at 1pm from the corner of East Street Market and Walworth Road, under the Blue Plaque to Charlie Chaplin. Bowler hats, small moustaches, baggy pants, bandy canes and oversized boots were not obligatory but encouraged. The winner of our Best Tramp Walk competition received a free pint in the Charlie Chaplin pub on Elephant & Castle, where our walk finished.


Modern Times map (crop)

1. Corner of East Street and Walworth Road: Charlie Chaplin blue plaque.

2. 1889 April: East Street (Lane), Chaplin born at 91 or 191, Grandfather at 97 in 1893.

191 East Street, SE17. East Street  has 447 houses and flats on it with a average current value of £341,455, compared to an average property value of £450,376 for SE17. There have been 15 property sales on East Street, SE17 over the last 5 years with an average house price paid of £234,036. There are currently 145 properties to buy in SE17 with an average asking price of £586,543, and 126 houses and flats to rent in SE17 with an average asking rent of £427 per week.

3. 1885 March: 57 Brandon Street, Brother Sydney born.

4. 1885 June: 18 Larcom Street, parents marry St. John’s Church.

5. 1890: West Square, Chaplin family home of 3 rooms.

West Square, London SE11. West Square has 62 houses and flats on it with an average current value of £1,671,560, compared to an average property value of £614,931 for SE11. There have been 3 property sales on West Square, SE11 over the last 5 years with an average house price paid of £1,799,833. There are currently 152 houses and flats to buy in SE11 with an average asking price of £732,398 and 119 homes to rent in SE11 with an average asking rent of £453 pw.

1895 June: 164 York Road, Charlie Chaplin lodges with Hodges, mother & brother in workhouse.

6. 1896 May: Renfrew Road, Charlie, Sydney and mother in Lambeth workhouse.

1896 June: Charlie and Sydney sent to Hanwell School for Orphans and Destitute Children.

1896 November: Grays, Essex, Sydney moved to training ship.

7. 1898 January: 10 Farmer’s Road (Kennington Park Gardens)

1898 July: Renfrew Road, family back in Lambeth Workhouse

1898 August: Kennington Park, day’s escape from workhouse, returned to Norwood Schools for the Infant Poor.

1898 September: mother committed to Cane Hill Asylum, Croydon.

8. 1898 September: 289 Kennington Road, Charlie and Sydney sent to live with father on 2 rooms on first floor (plaque mistakenly put on no. 287).

Kennington Road has 616 houses and flats on it with a current average value of £818,555, compared to an average property value of £614,931 for SE11. There have been 69 property sales on Kennington Road over the last 5 years with an average sold house price of £595,016.

1898 November: Kennington Cross, Charlie locked out of home, hears ‘The Honeysuckle and the Bee’ from the White Hart public house.

9. 1898 November-August 1899 and periodically: 39 Methley Street, Charlie and Sydney with mother in 1 room beside Hayward’s pickle factory.

The house is valued at £863,000 freehold, £3,200 cpm rent.

177 Kennington Lane: butcher and slaughterhouse.

10. 1898 December: 267 Kennington Road, home of William Jackson, head of Eight Lancashire Lads, which Charlie joins, ending his schooling.

267 Kennington Road, SE11. This 6 bed freehold terraced house has an estimated current value of £1,036,000. The house was last sold in November 2008 for £600,000. Rental price is £3,850 pcm.

1900 April-May: Chaplin lodges with Jacksons.

11. 1901 April 14 Chester Street (Way), Charlie with mother in 2 rooms over Frederick Clarke, barber. Neighbours include Francis Healey greengrocer, at no. 27, and Edward Ash, grocer, at no. 18, and Albert Mummery, undertaker, at no. 34.

1901 April: Sydney joins Union Castle Mail Steamship company.

1901 May: Chaplin’s father dies of alcohol related illness.

7a Chester Way, SE11. This leasehold flat has an estimated current value of £520,000. Chester Way has 112 houses and flats on it with a current average value of £606,760. There have been 16 property sales ion Chester Way over the last 5 years with an average sold house price of £674,632, and this flat was last sold in August 2011 for £341,000.

12. 1901-1903: 3 Pownall Terrace, Kennington Road, Charlie and Sydney with mother in roof garret. Demolished in 1966, it was replaced with the Ethelred Estate:

20 Lollard Street, SE1. Lollard Street has 224 houses and flats on it with a current average value of £425,028. There have been 5 property sales on Lollard Street over the last 5 years with an average sold house price of £292,080. The Ethelred Estate is being regenerated with the Lollard Street development, a Braeburn Estates a joint venture partnership between Canary Wharf and Qatari Diar.

13. 1890-1900: Broad Street (now Black Prince Road), Charlie’s uncle landlord of the Queen’s Head.

49-51 Black Prince Road: Charlie practices tap-dancing on doors to the coal cellar of the Jolly Gardeners.

14. Walcott Mansions (Square), Kennington Road: Chaplin lodges with McCarthy’, old friends of his mother.

1901: 111 Kennington Road, The Tankard public house.

15. 1901 April: Kennington Road, Charlie meets his father for the last time in The Three Stags public house.

1901 September – 1903 March: Sydney works as steward on Atlantic liner.

1903 May: Renfrew Road, mother back in Lambeth workhouse, where she is diagnosed as insane and sent to Cane Hill Asylum.

1903: Munton Road, Charlie plays ‘Billy’ in Sherlock Holmes.

1906-1912: 15 Glenshaw Mansions, Brixton Road, Charlie and Sydney rent flat together.

1908: Kennington Gate, Charlie, employed by Fred Karno, meets and falls in love with Hetty Kelly.

16. 1895: Westminster Bridge Road, mother worships in Christ Church.

1921: Charlie Chaplin’s return visit to London.

17. 1972 February: 26 New Kent Road, Charlie Chaplin Public House, Chaplin visits pub on the Royal premiere of the re-release of Modern Times, forcing royalty to visit the Elephant & Castle.

1977 December: Charlie Chaplin dies age 88.




The London Borough of Southwark was formed in 1965 from the former Metropolitan Boroughs of Southwark, Camberwell and Bermondsey. The Metropolitan Borough of Southwark was a borough in the County of London from 1900 to 1965. The borough was formed from four civil parishes: Christchurch, St. George, St. Saviour and St. Mary Newington. The parish of St. Mary Newington was part of the Brixton hundred of Surrey, which contained the manor of Walworth. It is here that Charlie Chaplin was born in April 1889.

Walworth is now a community council area made up of three council wards: Newington, Farady and East Walworth, each of which elects three councillors. Of the nine current councillors for Walworth, eight are Labour and one, from Newington, is a Liberal Democrat. In August 2014, Labour councilor Martin Seaton, from the ward of East Walworth, and now Chair of Borough, Bankside and Walworth Community Council, gave a speech in support of the demolition of the Heygate Estate and the £1.5 billion Elephant & Castle regeneration scheme, and congratulating property developers Lend Lease.


Jack Jones well and known to everybody

Round about the market, don’t yer see,

I’ve no fault to find with Jack at all

Not when ’e’s as ’e used to be.


But since ’e’s had the bullion left him

E ’as altered for the worst,

For to see the way ’e treats all his old pals

Fills me with nothing but disgust!


Each Sunday morning ’e reads the Telegraph,

Once ’e was contented with the Star.

Since Jack Jones come into a little bit of splosh,

Well, ’e don’t know where ’e are!

– Sung by Charlie Chaplin on his first stage performance, age 5, in 1894, when his mother broke down on stage, as recorded in Charlie Chaplin, My Autobiography (1964)


On Silwood Estate, Bermondsey Spar, Elmington Estate, Wood Dene Estate, Heygate Estate, North Peckham Estate and Aylesbury Estate, a net loss of 4,275 homes for social rent has resulted from Southwark Council regeneration schemes. And the 3168 they have promised to rebuild will more than likely turn into ‘affordable’ rents at up to 80% of market value, bringing the total loss of homes for social rent to 7,442. Moreover, the Greater London Authority has predicted that Southwark will lose an additional 2,051 homes for social rent as a direct result of schemes it is currently proposing.

The Aylesbury Estate, completed in 1977, has around 2700 homes holding 7,500 people. Once demolished, these will be replaced by 3,575 new homes, of which only 1,471 will be for social rent. However, Notting Hill Housing, the council’s development partner, has already substituted affordable rent for social rent on its Bermondsey Spar regeneration. Although capped at 50% market rents rather than 80%, this requires double what the average current Southwark Council tenant earns. In fact, Notting Hill’s contract with Southwark Council contains no reference to social rent, and refers instead to ‘target rent’, which is set by government. Notting Hill Trust’s own planning application admits that there will be a net loss of 934 homes for social rent.

At a 2001 ballot responded to by 76% of the Aylesbury estate residents, 73% voted in favour of refurbishment and against demolition. Yet in 2002 the Council announced it was going ahead with the redevelopment. In 2005 it claimed that the cost of refurbishment was £314.6 million, far beyond their means. At the CPO inquiry held in 2015, Professor Jane Rendell showed that the cost estimate for refurbishment had been inflated by £148.9 million for ‘external improvements’, half the total cost.

The estimated total cost of emptying and demolishing the Aylesbury’s 2,500 homes is £150 million, around £60,000 per home. However, Southwark Council has already spent an incredible £46.8 million on the Aylesbury regeneration scheme – £32.1 million on acquisition and demolition, £14.7 million on management and administration – regenerating just 112 homes. That’s a cost of £417,000 per home. This compares with the £20,261 per home the council has spent bringing 611 homes up to the Decent Homes Standard elsewhere on the estate.

Daniel Garfield, former ward Councillor for the Aylesbury estate and Southwark Labour’s chief whip, is owner of a 2-bedroom new-build apartment on the completed phase 1 of the Aylesbury estate redevelopment scheme, which he bought off-plan, two years before it was completed, from property developer L&Q in March 2009.

– 35% Campaign


Completed 1974 with 1,100 council homes, home to 3,000 people. Council announced demolition in 2002. Demolition cost £15 million. £44m was spent on emptying the estate. A further £21.5 million was spent on planning its redevelopment. A total of £80.5 million. Lend Lease were named developers in 2008. The 22-acre site was sold for £50 million, a loss of £30.5 million. A neighbouring 1.5 acre sold for £40 million in 2011. Owners of a 4-bedroom property were offered £190,000. Residents decanted in 2007. Last resident CPO in 2013. Replaced by 2,535 homes. 25% ‘affordable’, up to 80% market rate. Only 82 for social rent. 12 of Southwark’s 63 councillors work as lobbyists.

Tom Branton was Southwark’s lead officer responsible for the procurement of Lend Lease as regeneration partner, and who authored the report to cabinet recommending the signing of the regeneration agreement in July 2010. Tom subsequently left the Council in 2011 to start work directly for Lend Lease, where he is now Development Manager for the Elephant & Castle project.

Kura Perkins worked for Southwark Council on the Elephant & Castle project as Communications Manager up until 2006. Kura then left the council to work for Lend Lease as its Communications Manager until 2011.

Paul Dimoldenberg was Senior Research Officer at Southwark Council for 8 years. He later became a councillor in the borough of Westminster where is now the Labour Group leader. He also set up public relations company called Quarto PR, which Lend Lease currently instructs to deal with public relations for all its major developments.

Matthew Rees was Elephant & Castle Regeneration Project Manager from 2005 to 2014, when he left to take up the position of Development Manager at Alumno Developments, a company currently developing a block of high-end student flats at Elephant and converting the former Southwark Town Hall into artist studios and luxury student accommodation.

Julie Greer was Southwark’s Design Manager for the Elephant & Castle masterplan. She left the Council in 2007 to work for the Olympic Delivery Authority on the Lend Lease Olympic Village development.

Chris Horn was the lead council officer who advised on Lend Lease’s selection as development partner until his departure from the council in October 2007. Chris now works for Inventa Partner Ltd, a company that advises developers on planning and environmental issues. Among the projects that Inventa have advised on was Lend Lease’s Greenwich Peninsula development, before it sold the project on to Knight Dragon in 2012.

Peter John, current Labour Council leader, who signed the Elephant & Castle deal with Lend Lease in July 2010, is under investigation for not declaring tickets to the Olympic opening ceremony donated to him and his partner by Lend Lease. He also accepted an all-expenses-paid trip to the MIPIM property fair in Cannes, also paid for by Lend Lease.

– Anna Minton, The Local Lobby and the Failure of Democracy (March 2013)


It was like a game of draughts: the last move was back to the workhouse.

– Charlie Chaplin, My Autobiography (1964)


This workhouse, which was recently opened for the reception of inmates, is situated on a piece of ground at the rear of Kennington Lane, with an approach also from Kennington Road. The several buildings and yards occupy between seven and eight acres of land.

There are three main divisions, viz., the ‘house’ proper, or ‘indoor’ department; the outdoor-relief department; and the official building, in which the parochial poor-law business is transacted. The ‘house’, which is designed for 820 inmates, is arranged on the pavilion system, the administrative block dividing the sexes. There are two blocks for able-bodied and two for aged and infirm, all connected with the central block by a general corridor, 9 ft. wide, lighted on both sides, and having an open corridor above serving as a means of communication for the first floor.

A system of rigid classification has been carried out in this design, and this separation of the several classes has been carried down to all minor offices. Each class has its own and distinct day-rooms, dormitories, staircases, lavatories, water-closets, airing-grounds, and workrooms; the only common-place of meeting being the chapel and dining-room, where conversational intercourse is forbidden. The several classes in each sex are for aged, able-bodied of good character, and two subdivisions of able-bodied of bad character, together with accommodation for a limited number of boys and girls. There is a dining-hall for each sex leading direct from the kitchen, and a large chapel with open-timbered roof.

In the rear of the main blocks are the laundry, engine and boiler house, well, bake-house, corn-mill, and general workshops, the machinery in which is worked by a 30-horse power engine, supplied by T. Robinson & Co. of Rochdale. The outdoor poor department is arranged for 400 men and 200 women, and comprises a large stone-yard, with 150 stalls, oakum and wood picking sheds and yards, and hand corn-mills. The official block comprises a large waiting-hall for out-door poor, and the Boardroom and relief-offices.

The dining-halls and chapels are warmed by Bacon’s high-pressure warming apparatus. All other rooms are warmed by open fireplaces. The ventilation is provided for by perforated zinc panels in the ceiling, connected with vertical flues in the wall, a star gas-burner and iron hood being placed in each panel, to cause an upward current of the vitiated air. Cold fresh air is introduced into the rooms by means of openings in the outer wall, and galvanised hit-and-miss gratings in the floor.

The cost of the ‘house’ proper was £46,000; that of the official and out-door department £7,500; of the engineering works £7,250; and of the fittings £3,500. The architects were Messrs. R. Parris and T. W. Aldwinckle, whose designs were selected in a limited competition.

– Report on the opening of the Lambeth New Workhouse in 1874


In 2016, 592,000 London children, 37 per cent of all the children in the capital, are living in poverty – that is, in a household with an income below 60% of the UK average. 250,000 London households are currently on housing waiting lists. 240,000 households, with 320,000 children, are living in overcrowded accommodation. 50,000 households, with 78,000 children, are homeless and living in temporary accommodation.

Hanwell School

Punishment took place every Friday in the large gymnasium, a gloomy hall about sixty feet by forty with a high roof, and, on the side, climbing ropes running up to girders. On Friday morning two to three hundred boys, ranging in age from seven to fourteen years, marched in and lined up in military fashion, forming three sides of a square. The far end was the fourth side, where, behind a long school desk the length of an Army mess-table, stood the miscreants waiting for trial and punishment. On the right and in front of the desk was an easel with wrist-straps dangling, and from the frame a birch hung ominously.

For minor offences, a boy was laid across the long desk, face downwards, feet strapped and held by a sergeant, then another sergeant pulled the boy’s shirt out of his trousers and over his head, then pulled his trousers tight.

Captain Hindrum, a retired Navy man weighing about two hundred pounds, with one hand behind him, the other holding a cane as thick as a man’s thumb and about four feet long, stood poised, measuring it across the boy’s buttocks. Then slowly and dramatically he would lift it high and with a swish bring it down across the boy’s bottom. The spectacle was terrifying, and invariably a boy would fall out of rank in a faint.

The minimum number of strokes was three and the maximum six. If a culprit received more than three, his cries were appalling. Sometimes he was ominously silent, or had fainted. The strokes were paralyzing, so that the victim had to be carried to one side and laid on a gymnasium mattress, where he was left to writhe and wriggle for at lest ten minutes before the pain subsided, leaving three pink welts as wide as a washerwoman’s finger across his bottom.

The birch was different. After three strokes, the boy was supported by two sergeants and taken to the surgery for treatment.

Boys would advise you not to deny a charge, even if innocent, because, if proved guilty, you would get the maximum. Usually, boys were not articulate enough to declare their innocence.

– Charlie Chaplin, My Autobiography (1964)


Savills, the estate agents that prepared the viability assessment on the Heygate estate that slashed social rent to 82 homes, is the source of David Cameron’s recent announcement that his government intend to ‘Blitz’ 100 sink estates across England. The estates are not easily identified in the Savills report, as they are not named and have been disguised by flipping and rotating their layout plans. But under a photo of the Brandon Estate they write: ‘This type of housing topography is deeply inappropriate for current and coming decades.’

Local Authority Housing Estate land can provide more and better housing and secure affordability:

  • We estimate that approximately 1,750 hectares of London’s 8,500 hectares of Local Authority Housing Estates might be capable of Complete Streets regeneration, with the potential to provide somewhere between 190,000–500,000 homes, depending on the densification achieved. Between 54,000 and 360,000 of these would be additional homes, over and above the existing housing provision.
  • It is recognised that most estates with potential for regeneration will be long-term projects, often involving a development period of over 10 years, sometimes considerably more. The long-term nature of estate regeneration transcends both local and national policy cycles and any solutions need to be well-supported and robust enough to survive 5 year government terms.
  • The total land area of Local Authority (and ex-Local Authority) Housing Estates in London is unknown. Our approximate estimate of the land and property held, or formerly developed, as housing estates by London’s 32 boroughs and City of London is around 8,500. We estimate the average number of households currently accommodated on Local Authority Housing Estates is 78 households per hectare. These Local Authority Housing Estates have the capacity to be densified and to provide additional homes in London.
  • As a global figure, if all Local Authority estates had been originally built to the average density of the Complete Streets presented in this report, then not only would all existing tenants be housed on them (estimated at 660,000 households) but an additional 480,000 households would also have been accommodated.
  • Looking at how many of these estates (now often in disrepair and needing redevelopment) are capable of being regenerated, Savills estimate that approximately 1,750 hectares might be more readily capable of regeneration. These may have the potential to provide an additional 54,000 to 360,000 homes using the Complete Streets

– Savills Research report to the Cabinet Office, Completing London’s Streets: How the regeneration and intensification of housing estates could increase London’s supply of homes and benefit residents (January 2016)


On a summer afternoon,

Where the honeysuckles bloom,

When all nature seemed at rest.

‘Neath a little rustic bower,

Mid the perfume of the flower,

A maiden sat with one she loved the best.

As they sang the songs of love,

From the arbour just above,

Came a bee which lit upon the vine.

As it sipped the honey-dew,

They both vowed they would be true,

Then he whispered to her words she thought divine:


You are my honey, honeysuckle,

I am the bee.

I’d like to sip the honey sweet

From those red lips, you see.

I love you dearly, dearly, 

And I want you to love me.

You are my honey, honeysuckle, 

I am the bee.


So beneath that sky so blue,

These two lovers fond and true, 

With their hearts so filled with bliss.

As they sat there side by side,

He asked her to be his bride,

She answered ‘Yes’ and sealed it with a kiss.


For her heart had yielded soon,

‘Neath the honeysuckle bloom, 

And thro’ life they’d wander day by day.

And he vowed just like the bee,

‘I will build a home for thee,’

And the bee then seemed to answer them and say:


You are my honey, honeysuckle,

I am the bee.

I’d like to sip the honey sweet

From those red lips, you see.

I love you dearly, dearly, 

And I want you to love me.

You are my honey, honeysuckle, 

I am the bee.

– William Penn, The Honeysuckle and the Bee, from the London stage play Bluebell in Fairyland (1901)


Charlie's Patch

1899 was an epoch of whiskers: bewhiskered kings, statesmen, soldiers and cricketers – incredible years of pomp and absurdity, of extreme wealth and poverty, of inane political bigotry of both cartoon and press. But England was to absorb many shocks and indignations.

Sydney was now fourteen and had left school and got a job at the Strand Post Office as a telegraph boy. With Sydney’s wages and Mother’s earnings at her sewing machine, our economy was almost feasible – although Mother’s contribution was a modest one. She worked for a sweat-shop doing piece-work, sewing blouses for one and sixpence a dozen. Even though the patterns were delivered already cut out, it took twelve hours to make a dozen blouses. Mother’s record was fifty-four blouses in a week, which amounted to six shillings and ninepence.

Often at night I would lie awake in our garret watching her bent over her sewing machine, her head haloed against the light of the oil-lamp, her face in soft shadow, her lips faintly parted with strain as she guided the rapidly running steams through her machine, until the drone of it would send me off the sleep again. When she worked late this way, it was usually to meet a monetary deadline. There was always the problem of instalment payments.

And now a crisis had arisen. Sydney needed a new suit of clothes. He had worn his telegraph uniform every day in the week, including Sundays, until his friends began to joke about it. So for a couple of weekends he stayed home until other was able to buy him a blue serge suit. In some way she managed to scrape together eighteen shillings. This created an insolvency in our economy, so that Mother was obliged to pawn the suit every Monday after Sydney went back to work in his telegraph uniform. She got seven shillings for the suit, redeeming it every Saturday for Sydney to wear over the weekend. This weekly custom became an habitual ceremony for over a year until the suit became threadbare. The came a shock!

Monday morning, as usual, Mother went to the pawnshop. The man hesitated. ‘I’m sorry, Mrs. Chaplin, but we can’t lend you seven shillings any longer.

Mother was astonished. ‘But why?’ she asked

‘It’s too much of a risk; the trousers are threadbare. Look,’ he said, putting his hand in the seat of them, ‘you can see right through them.’

‘But they’ll be redeemed next Saturday,’ said Mother.

The pawnbroker shook his head. ‘The best I can do is three shillings for the coat and waistcoat.’

Mother rarely wept, but it was such a drastic blow that she came home in tears. She depended on that seven shillings to carry us through the week.

– Charlie Chaplin, My Autobiography (1964)


Perceptions of those in poverty are extremely negative; they are stereotyped as lacking warmth and competence. The response to this stereotype is often contempt, harmful behaviours towards this group and belief that poverty results from personal failings. This presents an impediment to policy-makers seeking to tackle poverty.

Social contact with negatively regarded groups can help to combat these views and improve attitudes and relations.

Negative perceptions affect how people see themselves. Those experiencing poverty show significantly lower levels of confidence in their own ability to succeed. This has negative physical and psychological health consequences, along with reduced educational and professional attainment.

Poverty increases the risk of mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and substance addiction. Poverty can act as both a causal factor (e.g. stress resulting from poverty triggering depression) and a consequence of mental illness (e.g. schizophrenic symptoms leading to decreased socio-economic status and prospects).

Poverty during early childhood is associated with genetic adaptation, producing a short-term strategy to cope with the stressful developmental environment. This comes at the expense of long-term health, with increased susceptibility to cardiac disease and certain cancers.

Children raised in environments of low socio-economic status show consistent reductions in cognitive performance across many areas, particularly language function and cognitive control (attention, planning, decision-making).

Resource scarcity induces a ‘scarcity mindset’, characterised by increased focus on immediate goals at the expense of peripheral tasks and long-term planning. This may contribute to perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

– Ben Fell and Miles Hewstone, ‘Psychological Perspectives on Poverty’, Joseph Rowntree Foundation (June 2015)


In the 18th century the name Kennington Road was applied to what is now known as Kennington Park Road. What is now Kennington Road was divided into a number of terraces with subsidiary names until 1868. Nos. 1-9 Pownall Terrace are built in yellow stock brick and are grouped on a line set at an angle to the roadway. They are of basement and three storeys, the basements extending forward to form a raised way. The lower windows and doors are set back slightly in semicircular recesses linked by stone impost bands. Above this level the fronts have been rebuilt in recent times, probably in replica of the original facades, which would appear to have dated from the early 19th century. The first floor windowsills are linked by a stone band and there is a simple cornice to the parapet. These houses can be traced back in the rate books to 1790, but it is improbable that much 18th century work remains.

Survey of London, Vol 23. Lambeth: South Bank and Vauxhall (LCC, 1951)

Pownall Terrace

Although I left Lambeth thirty-five years ago, I shall always remember the top room at 3, Pownall Terrace, where I lived as a boy. I shall always remember climbing up and down those three flights of stairs to empty those troublesome slops.

Yes, and Healey’s the greengrocer’s in Chester Street, where one could purchase fourteen pounds of coal and a pennyworth of pot herbs, and a pound of tuppeny pieces at Waghorn’s the butcher’s, and Ash’s the grocer’s where one bought a pennyworth of mixed stale cake, with all its pleasant and dubious surprises.

Yes, I went back and visited that little top room in Pownall Terrace, where I had to lug the slops and fourteen pounds of coal. It was all there, the same Lambeth I had left, the same squalor and poverty.

Now they tell me Pownall Terrace is in ruins, blasted out of existence by the German blitz.*

I remember the Lambeth streets, the New Cut and the Lambeth Walk, Vauxhall Road. They were hard streets, and one couldn’t say they were paved with gold. Nevertheless the people who lived there are made of pretty good metal.

And all through your days of trial I was thinking of you, your poverty, your unbeatable courage and your humour. That humour and courage saved Lambeth. They helped to save London. They will save the world.

Although you have suffered, the future will be brighter. For out of the ruins of Lambeth will rise a new England, where poverty should be inexcusable, and charity offensive to the dignity of a people who have won the right, by blood and tears, to be profitably employed and to live peaceably.

— Charlie Chaplin, broadcast reported in the Daily Worker (8 March, 1943)

* In fact it was not the German Luftwaffe that destroyed Pownall Terrace but the Greater London Council developers, and not until 1966.


29 pubs are being lost every week across Britain. London and the South East have seen the highest increase in pub closures, up from nine to ten net pub closures per week. The area has also had the largest number of closures overall, with 550 pubs lost between 2014 and 2015.

— The Daily Mirror (19 July 2015)

Before Westminster Bridge was open, Kennington Road was only a bridle path. After 1750, a new road was laid down from the Bridge forming a direct link to Brighton. As a consequence Kennington Road, where I spent most of my boyhood, boasted some fine houses of architectural merit, fronted with iron grill balconies from which occupants could once have seen George IV coaching on his way to Brighton.

By the middle of the Nineteenth Century most of the homes had deteriorated into rooming houses and apartments. Some, however, remained inviolate and were occupied by doctors, successful merchants and vaudeville stars. On Sunday morning, along the Kennington Road one could see a smart pony and trap outside a house, ready to take a vaudevillian for a ten-mile drive as far as Norwood or Merton, stopping on the way back at the various pubs, the White Horse, the Horns Tavern [demolished in the 1960s] and the Tankard in the Kennington Road.

As a boy of twelve, I often stood outside the Tankard watching these illustrious gentlemen alight from their equestrian outfits to enter the lounge bar, where the elite of vaudeville met, as was their custom on a Sunday, to take a final ‘one’ before going home to the midday meal. How glamorous they were, dressed in chequered suits and grey bowlers, flashing their diamond rings and tie pins! At two o’clock on Sunday afternoon, the pub closed and its occupants filed outside and dallied awhile before bidding each other adieu; and I would gaze fascinated and amused, for some of them swaggered with a ridiculous air.

When the last had gone his way, it was as though the sun had gone through a cloud. And I would return to a row of old derelict houses that sat back off the Kennington Road, to 3 Pownall Terrace, and mount the rickety stairs that led to our small garret. The house was depressing and the air was foul with stale slops and old clothes. This particular Sunday, Mother was seated gazing out of the window. The room was stifling, a little over twelve feet square, and seemed smaller and the slanting ceiling seemed lower. The table against the wall was crowded with dirty plates and tea cups; and in the corner, snug against the lower wall, was an old iron bed which Mother had painted white. Between the bed and the window was a small fire-grate, and at the foot of the bed was an old armchair that unfolded and became a single bed upon which my brother slept.

– Charlie Chaplin, My Autobiography (1964)


Anytime you’re Lambeth way,

Any evening, any day,

You’ll find us all doin’ the Lambeth Walk.


Every little Lambeth gal,

With her little Lambeth pal,

You’ll find ’em all doin’ the Lambeth Walk.


Everything’s free and easy,

Do as you damn well pleasey,

Why don’t you make your way there?

Go there, stay there!


Once you get down Lambeth way,

Every evening, every day,

You’ll find yourself doin’ the Lambeth Walk.

– Douglas Furber, Lambeth Walk, from the London musical, Me and My Girl (1937)


The Three Stags in the Kennington Road was not a place my father frequented, yet as I passed it one evening an urge prompted me to peek inside to see if he was there. I opened the saloon door just a few inches, and there he was, sitting in the corner! I was about to leave, but his face lit up and he beckoned me to him. I was surprised at such a welcome, for he was never demonstrative. He looked very ill; his eyes were sunken, and his body had swollen to an enormous size. He rested one hand, Napoleon-like, in his waistcoat as if to ease his difficult breathing. That evening he was most solicitous, inquiring after mother and my brother, and before I left took me in his arms for the first time and kissed me. That was the last time I saw him alive.

– Charlie Chaplin, My Autobiography (1964)


The attitude of wanting to make poverty attractive for the other person is annoying. I have yet to know a poor man who has nostalgia for poverty, or who finds freedom in it. Nor could you convince any poor man that celebrity and extreme wealth mean constraint. I find no constraint in wealth – on the contrary, I find much freedom in it. Such glibness as ‘the streets of South London are the scene of frolic, gaiety and extravagant adventure’ has a tinge of Marie-Antoinette’s airy persiflage.*

I found poverty neither attractive nor edifying. It taught me nothing but a distortion of values, an over-rating of the virtues and graces of the rich and the so-called better classes.

Wealth and celebrity, on the contrary, taught me to view the world in proper perspective, to discover that men of eminence, when I came close to them, were as deficient in their way as the rest of us. Wealth and celebrity also taught me to spurn the insignia of the sword, the walking-stick and the riding whip as something synonymous with snobbery; to know the fallacy of the college accent in estimating the merit and intelligence of a man, and the paralysing influence this myth has wrought on the minds of the English middle classes; to know that intelligence is not necessarily a result of education or a knowledge of the classics.

Like everyone else I am what I am: an individual, unique and different, with a lineal history of ancestral promptings and urgings; a history of dreams, desires, and of special experiences, of all of which I am the sum total.

– Charlie Chaplin, My Autobiography (1964)

* When told the people of Paris were starving, she reportedly said: ‘Let them eat cake!’


‘Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.’

– George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)


The Coronet has announced that it will close its doors for good on 5 January, 2017. The theatre, which was originally built in 1872 and retains many of the Art Deco fittings from its conversion to a cinema in 1932, last year had it’s application for grade-II listed status refused by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Relaunched as a nightclub in 2003, the Coronet is now set to be demolished by Lend Lease, the property developers behind the £3 billion Elephant & Castle regeneration scheme, which recently demolished the 1,100 council homes of the adjacent Heygate Estate.

Despite a petition to save the theatre signed by over 4,000 people, in 2014 the Mayor of London lobbied English Heritage to reject the listing of the Coronet, arguing that to do so would obstruct the Elephant & Castle development scheme and what he called the ‘once in a lifetime opportunity to remove the 1960s eyesore’ of the adjacent shopping centre. The first covered shopping mall in Europe, the centre’s outdoor clothes market, cheap retail shops, penny laundromats, Caribbean, Columbian, Asian and Polish food outlets, bingo hall and bowling alley all cater to the tastes and means of the local working-class community.

The Housing and Planning Bill, currently being debated in the House of Lords, will further extend the power of the London Mayor to overrule opposition by the public and grant planning permission to private contractors for social cleansing schemes such as this.

The painting of Chaplin, who as a child performed in what was then the Elephant & Castle Theatre, is from a mural in the underpass to the Elephant & Castle roundabout. This, too, was recently demolished as part of the redevelopment of the area.


I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an Emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone, if possible – Jew, Gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful. But we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood, for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.

To those who can hear me, I say: Do not despair! The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you, who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder! Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines. You are not cattle. You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate, the unloved and the unnatural!

Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written: ‘The Kingdom of God is within man.’ Not one man or a group of men, but in all men. In you! You, the people, have the power! The power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

Then, in the name of democracy, let us use that power! Let us all unite! Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men and women a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfil that promise. They never will! Dictators free themselves, but they enslave the people!

Now let us fight to fulfil that promise! Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! In the name of democracy, let us all unite!

– Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator (1940)

Blitzkrieg! Sink Estates and Starter Homes

1. Sink Estates

Since its regeneration following the 1985 riots, Broadwater Farm has had one of the lowest crime rates of any urban area in the world. In an independent 2003 survey of all the estate’s residents, only 2% said they considered the area unsafe, the lowest number for any area in London. The estate also has the lowest rent arrears of any part of the borough. With £33 million investment, a community centre, neighbourhood office, children’s nursery and health centre have been built, social projects, sports clubs and youth programs have been funded, concierges introduced, raised walkways removed, murals painted, communal gardens planted, transport links improved, shops and amenities made accessible, a more representative Tenants and Residents Association installed, and an estate isolated out on a flood plain of the River Moselle has been turned around and integrated into the Tottenham community. And yet 30 years later, David Cameron described Broadwater Farm this month as one of the causes of the 2011 riots in Tottenham, and home, apparently, to ‘criminals’, ‘troubled families’ and ‘anti-social behaviour’.

This alone shows out of touch this Conservative government is with the working-class communities they are intent on destroying, and which the Housing and Planning Bill, currently being debated in the House of Lords, is designed to bring about. Rioting is caused by poverty, deliberately run-down housing, social exclusion, and – as was the case with both the 1985 and 2011 riots – aggressive and racist policing. It is not caused by architecture, Brutalist, high-rise or otherwise. But it also shows how long the mud flung by commentators who have never walked, let alone lived, on a council estate sticks to the homes and lives of the people they house. Tar one estate, and in the minds of the public you’ve tarred them all.

This is, of course, precisely the purpose of David Cameron’s statement, which lays the ground for his recently stated plans to demolish a hundred of what he calls ‘the worst sink estates’ in the UK. Broadwater Farm finds itself at the top of this list purely on its proximity to the Tottenham riots. But what the Prime Minister failed to mention is its other proximity, which is to the huge swathe of regeneration projects being pushed through by Haringey Council, who last month granted planning permission on what – once Tottenham Hotspur F.C. relocates – will be a 585 apartment, 35-storey, £600 million development with zero affordable housing. The adjacent Northumberland Park estate and its 1,400 council homes are to be demolished to make way for the new stadium. As are the 300 homes of the Love Lane estate, which unfortunately for the residents stands between the new ground and the train station – an unsightly approach, it seems, for the corporate hospitality users the new ground hopes to attract.

To be clear, David Cameron has only promised to demolish – ‘Blitz’ is the typically bombastic word he used – some of the hundred estates; others, he said, might need investment. But the money he has promised to this task, a ridiculously low £140 million, wouldn’t pay for the bulldozers, let alone re-house the existing council tenants. Representative of the Prime Minister’s slurs against their residents, Broadwater Farm is also indicative of their fate. Like most so-called ‘regeneration’ schemes, the option to refurbish the estate has been found ‘financially unviable’, and in its place a program of demolition and redevelopment has only stalled, for the moment, on the obligation to re-house the 90% of its 3,800 residents who live in secure tenancies. This, and not some causal relation between post-war housing estates and crime, is the real context of the Prime Minister’s statement.

2. Starter Homes

The model for the government’s program of house building is outlined in Part 1, Chapter 1 of the Housing and Planning Bill, under the definition of what they call ‘Starter Homes’. Part of the governments so-called ‘national crusade to transform generation rent into generation buy’, the Bill introduces a new duty to build Starter Homes, which will be available to first-time buyers under the age of 40 for at least 20% off market value. This legislation supplants the existing provision, under Section 106 of the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act, for building homes for social rent at around 50% of market rate.

However, since the provisional price ‘cap’ under which Starter Homes must be sold has been set at a ridiculously high £450,000 in Greater London and £250,000 across the rest of England, these homes will remain far beyond the reach of the vast majority of people.  Buying a £450,000 home requires a salary of £77,000 per annum and a deposit of £97,000, which raises the question of what kind of first-time buyer the government has in mind. According to the homeless charity Shelter, Starter Homes are in fact unaffordable across 98% of the country for people on low incomes, and across 58% of the country for those on middle incomes.

Moreover, like most of the Housing and Planning Bill, the truth about Starter Homes is even worse than how they are being presented to the public. Under section 2 of the legislation on Starter Homes, paragraphs 7 and 8 explicitly state that the Secretary of State may by regulations amend both the definition of ‘first-time buyer’ and the price cap, with different price limits for different areas within and outside of London.

A look at the building figures over the past year strongly suggests that £450,000 in London, and £250,000 across the rest of England, is the least, not the most, that Starter Homes will cost. In 2014-15, over 66,000 affordable homes – that is, homes sold or rented at up to 80% of market rate – were built in England; but less than 10,000 of those were for social rent, the lowest since records began in 1991-92. In London the figures are even worse. Property developers sold 5,300 two-bedroom homes costing between £650,000 and £1 million in the past year, but only 2,000 for around £300,000. To put this in context, a mortgage on a £1 million home requires an annual salary of roughly £200,000. And this was when there was still an obligation under Section 106 to build so-called ‘affordable’ housing. That’s gone now. As is the Community Infrastructure Levy introduced by the 2008 Planning Act, which generated the funds to build other, genuinely affordable forms of housing, as well as schools, hospitals, parks and other community projects. As for the condition of being a first-time buyer, as paragraph 7 shows this too doesn’t exist. It’s put there purely to deceive the public.

In a carefully stage-managed amendment to the Bill, Zac Goldsmith, as part of the government’s campaign to get him elected as the next London Mayor, recently announced that for every council home lost under the new legislation forcing local authorities to sell off ‘high value’ properties, he would build two new ‘affordable’ homes. Where and how councils will afford to build them, and where their current residents will end up living, he didn’t say. But he followed up with the caveat that it would be ‘really difficult’ to build like-for-like replacements in Kensington and Chelsea or Westminster, or, for that matter, in Camden – as though bricks and mortar suddenly cost more when they crossed the borough boundaries.

We’d like to remind the famous environmentalist and hereditary millionaire that although the sale price of a property is determined by the profit margins of the land owner and developer and the commodity market on which it is sold, the material and labour required to build it remain the same. Despite his sound-bite promise of building ‘2-for-1’, it’s quite clear from section 7 of amendment 112, which extends the definition of affordable homes to include Starter Homes, that no homes will be built for anything like £450,000 in Kensington and Chelsea, where properties currently average over £1,900,000, or anywhere else in Central London.

Since the average price of a home in Greater London is currently approaching £600,000, and nearly a million pounds in Central London, there is little incentive for developers to build Starter Homes for less. Investors, however, will still qualify for the 20% discount paid for by the state. But unlike affordable homes, which retain their discount in perpetuity, Starter Homes can be sold at the full market rate five years from the date of their purchase. And their re-sale will accrue not only that subsidy, which is lost from the public purse forever, but also the profit from the increase in house prices – prices which the Housing and Planning Bill, by overseeing the demolition of London’s social housing stock, is designed to drive up.

Under the pretence of moving existing renters onto the property market, the Bill will in effect offer public subsidies for private investors and builders. The government has promised nearly £2.3 billion pounds of public money to build 200,000 of these Starter Homes by 2020. This is an additional incentive to further speculate in the London property market, not a plan to reduce the housing shortage this speculation has created. Property wealth in Britain has increased by almost £400 billion in the past two years, more than twice the GDP of Finland, and now constitutes an economy in itself. Over the same period, the richest 10% of UK households have seen a 21% increase in their wealth from doing little more than watching their properties collectively generate more cash than entire countries.

It is this enormously inflated and lucrative property market, and not a sudden desire to help renters own their own home, that is driving the government’s housing policy. The only thing standing between them, their financial backers, and the greatest jumble sale in London’s housing history, are the people and communities that live on the land they need to build on. Communities like the residents of Broadwater Farm.

3. Blitzkrieg

Because the government has consistently used them to describe what they are not, I’ve been forced to place many of the words they’ve put forward to conceal the truth about their housing policy in inverted commas. ‘Affordable’ homes that no-one but the rich can buy. ‘Starter’ homes that won’t be lived in by their buyers. ‘First-time buyers’ that will be property speculators. ‘High value’ council homes that includes a third of the social housing stock, and anything over £400,000 in London. ‘High income’ families that will be forced to pay market rates on a minimum wage. ‘Regeneration’ schemes that will demolish the estates they are meant to save. ‘Public’ land that is owned by private investment vehicles. ‘Sink’ estates that have been deliberately starved of funds. A housing ‘crisis’ that has been created by the same people that will benefit from the legislation passed to solve it.

The government is lying to us. There’s no surprise in that; but the homes of hundreds of thousands of people will be demolished or forcibly sold on the back of those lies, and the lives of millions of others made significantly harder by the knock-on effects. A flooded and unregulated private rental market and increased property speculation will affect renters and would-be house buyers alike. Last October Deutsche Bank warned its clients not to invest in London property because of the ‘politicisation of the housing issue’. The ratio between house prices and personal disposable income in London is currently at an all-time high, surpassing levels before the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2007, and on schedule to form a bubble of overpriced housing by 2017. Last November the Joseph Rowntree Trust predicted that over the next quarter of a century rents will rise at twice the rate of incomes, and renters will be twice as likely to live in poverty. 1.9 million households are already on housing waiting lists in Britain. 61,000 are living in temporary accommodation. 45,800 London households are currently homeless. And rough sleeping in London has more than doubled over the past five years. The Housing and Planning Bill will only make these figures worse. Yet earlier this month David Cameron told Parliament: ‘People get too hung up on these definitions. The definition of affordable housing is a house that someone can afford to buy or rent.’

So let me end by using words to say what they mean. The Housing and Planning Bill is not designed to address the so-called housing ‘crisis’. On the contrary, it has been designed to exploit that crisis for the political and financial gain of the Conservative Party and its backers. As the Prime Minister’s language of ‘sink estates’ makes clear, the legislation it proposes, which will soon be law, is a program not of house building but of social cleansing.

What the history of Broadwater Farm shows is that we should be investing in England’s council estates and the communities that live there, not demolishing their homes and replacing them with investment opportunities for the rich that few families, let alone those currently living on the estates, will be able to afford. This is architecture as consequence, architecture as punishment, architecture as revenge. Architecture as asset, as investment, as deposit box. Architecture as gentrifier, as bulldozer, as social segregator. Architecture as ghetto, as weapon, as water cannon. Architecture – as David Cameron put it – as Blitzkrieg. Architecture as anything but homes for those who need them.

Simon Elmer

With thanks to Paul Burnham of Haringey Defend Council Housing for information on the Tottenham regeneration scheme, and to Dan Strange for the illustration.


Let All The Children Boogie

A wise old man once wrote: ‘Give me a child till he’s seven, and I’ll give you the man’. David Bowie was born in Brixton, where he lived until the age of six. He was also born into the newly created Welfare State that this Tory government is working to demolish. A key tool of this demolition is the Housing and Planning Bill, which is being voted on in Parliament today.

The genius of Bowie was also the genius of the British working class, and that brief moment in time when it made this country known for something other than the Queen, first-class carriages and running other people’s countries. That’s all over now. Last year, the home where Bowie was born, a four-bedroom terrace house in Brixton, sold for £1 million. Whoever grows up there now, she won’t be the daughter of a waitress and a charity worker. So when hereditary millionaires like David Cameron call Bowie’s death ‘a huge loss’, we should consider what is being lost with him, and who is waging this class war.

The Housing and Planning Bill is long and complex, but these are its main attacks on social housing.

  • Replace the obligation to build homes for social rent with an enforceable duty to build state-subsidised Starter Homes provisionally capped at £450,000 in London and £250,000 across the rest of England.
  • Extend the Right to Buy to housing associations without the obligation to replace them with like for like, further depleting the number of homes for social rent.
  • Compel local authorities to sell what the government decides is ‘high value’ housing, exploiting London’s exaggerated property values either to transfer public housing into private hands or to free up its coveted land for property developers.
  • Force so-called ‘high income’ tenants with a total household income over £30,000 (£40,000 in London) to pay market rents, targeting low-income families.
  • Grant planning permission in principle for housing estates to be demolished and redeveloped as ‘brownfield land’.
  • Phase out secure tenancies and their succession to children and replace them with 2-5 year tenancies.

However, the effects of the Housing and Planning Bill will not be limited to existing residents of social housing, but will have an impact on everyone in England. The hundreds of thousands of families evicted from their homes will drive up an already inflated private rental market. The financial speculation on Starter Homes for the rich will further increase house prices, making it even harder for people to get on the property ladder. And the buy-to-let landlords, property investors and builders will get richer and fatter on state subsidies and enormous profit margins.

Last night, thousands of Londoners came out onto the streets of Brixton to say farewell to the Starman. But I like to think we were also there because there is a growing awareness that unless we do something soon, the Brixton and London we live in will soon be gone. There’s a Starman waiting to be born in every working-class home on every council estate in Britain. They won’t all turn into Bowie, but they all deserve the chance to try. Let all the children boogie.

Simon Elmer

Bowie Brixton

Where Will We Live?

Housing and Planning Bill

I want to begin with what we know about the Housing and Planning Bill.

We know the Bill is designed not to provide affordable housing but to remove the obligation to build it.

We know the Bill is designed not to build homes for the people who need them but to subsidise private investment in housing with public money.

We know the Bill is designed not to help renters onto the property ladder but to lose more homes for social rent under the Right to Buy.

We know the Bill is designed to sell off ‘high value’ council homes to the rich and not replace them for the poor.

We know the Bill is designed not to free up social housing for people who need it but to raise existing rents to market rates for people who can’t afford them.

We know the Bill is designed to demolish existing housing estates under the cloak of regeneration and replace them with starter homes for the rich.

We know the Bill is designed to end secure tenancies not to accommodate social mobility but to free up property for private sale or demolition.

We know the Bill is designed not to alleviate the housing ‘crisis’ but to end social housing in this country, and in doing so drive hundreds of thousands of people into an even further inflated private rental market, temporary accommodation and homelessness.

Knowing all these things, the question then arises – where will we live?

Where will the poor live? Where will those with disabilities live? Where will the elderly and the vulnerable live? Where will those on low incomes live? Where will those on zero-hour contracts live? Where will the key workers live? Where will the nurses and firemen and teachers live? Where will the cleaners and bus-drivers and carers live? Where will the workers live? Where will the double-income families on the minimum wage live? Where will the students and our unemployed young people live? Where will those refused housing benefit live? Where will the single mothers live? Where will the women and children escaping domestic violence live? Where will the unemployed live? Where will those on sickness benefits live? Where will those who depend on the support of their community to survive live? Where will those who need care live? Where will those now in temporary accommodation live? Where will the people evicted from their homes live? Where will the communities whose estates have been demolished live? Where will the homeless live? Where will those who cannot afford private rents live? Where will those who cannot afford a mortgage live? Where will those whose parents can’t put a deposit on a home live? Where will those who weren’t born into privilege and security and wealth live? Where will the working classes live? Where will the people of Britain live?

To answer this question, we should consider the Housing and Planning Bill not in isolation but in relation to the other legislation passed by this government:

To the cuts to housing, unemployment and disability benefits;

To the attacks on the trades unions, workers’ rights and working tax credits;

To the introduction of compulsory labour for the unemployed and the plans to bring back national service in the armed forces;

To the privatisation of our National Health Service, railways, banks, schools, prisons, police force and other publicly owned assets;

To the selling off of our public land, industries and services to private investors;

To the dismantling of the welfare state and its replacement with state sanctioned powers in the service of private corporations;

To the removal of our human rights and civil liberties, and the criminalisation of homelessness.

If we consider this wave of legislation, then the answer to the question of where we will live must also consider the possibility that everything in the Housing and Planning Bill points to the conclusion that we will end up living in the workhouse.

It is the possibility of this answer that we should consider carefully when confronting the consequences of this Bill and what we must do to oppose it.

We can start by being clear about what it is we’re opposing.

The Housing and Planning Bill is not only an attack on social housing, and the 17% of the population that live in its homes. It is an attack on the people of Britain.

A flooded and unregulated private rental market, and increased speculation in the UK property market, will affect renters and would-be house buyers alike.

The ratio between house prices and personal disposable income in London is currently at an all-time high. The difference has surpassed levels before the mortgage crisis of 2007, and is on schedule to form a housing bubble by 2017.

Over the next quarter of a century, rents are predicted to rise at twice the rate of incomes, and renters will be twice as likely to live in poverty.

1.9 million households in Britain are already on housing waiting lists. 61,000 are living in temporary accommodation.

Nearly 46,000 London households are currently homeless. And rough sleeping in London has more than doubled over the past five years to more than 7,500 in a city where ten times that number of homes stand empty.

The Housing and Planning Bill will only make these figures worse.

The Bill has not been designed to address this housing ‘crisis’. It has been designed to exploit that crisis for the political and financial gain of the Conservative Party and its backers.

Property wealth in Britain has increased by almost £400 billion in the past two years, and is now an economy in itself.

The richest 10% of households have seen a 21% increase in their wealth from doing little more than watching their properties collectively generate more than the GDP of entire countries.

It is this hugely inflated and lucrative property market, and not a sudden desire to help renters own their own home, that is driving the Housing and Planning Bill.

The only thing standing between this government, its financial backers, and the greatest jumble sale in London’s housing history, are the people and communities that live on the land they need to build on. Communities like us.

Simon Elmer

Knight’s Walk Redevelopment: Recommendation to Cabinet

After nearly a year of consultation with the residents of Knight’s Walk, Lambeth Council last week announced the redevelopment plan they will be recommending to Cabinet.

Knight’s walk is a collection of mostly bungalows, originally built for the elderly and disabled, that are a part of the Cotton Garden Estate in Kennington. Designed by LCC architect George Finch and built between 1969-1972, the estate is currently being put forward for listing by the Twentieth Century Society.

When Lambeth Council first announced their intentions to the residents of Knight’s Walk, total demolition was the only ‘option’ being proposed. As with so many estates facing so-called ‘regeneration’, this made the ensuing consultation process all but meaningless.

Then this March Architects for Social Housing (ASH) joined the ‘Hands off Knight’s Walk’ campaign. Since then we have attended every meeting with Lambeth Council and Mae Architects, the practice that had been brought in to draw up the plans for demolition and then conduct the sham consultations with residents.

In response to the lack of options on the table, ASH first proposed then drew up alternative plans to demolition (plate 1). Employing the principle that infill and overbuild offer better answers to the housing needs of Londoners than demolishing existing council housing, our proposal not only met the Council’s demands for new homes, but also left the existing homes standing.

Render Aerial 02

In addition to two mid-rise buildings located, respectively, on an existing garage site and on Kennington Lane, we proposed building two additional floors on top of the existing bungalows. Together these generated an additional 80 homes. Moreover, we estimated that not having to rebuild the 33 existing homes that were slated for demolition, or to recompense the 7 freeholders, would save the Council around £10 million. This equates to the construction of 70 new council homes, effectively paying for the entire project. Despite this, our proposal was not adopted.

The redevelopment Lambeth Council has decided to propose to Cabinet is in fact a new partial demolition titled Scenario 2D, a hybrid of several proposals Mae had previously put on the table (plate 2). It consists of the demolition of just over half of the existing homes (18 out of 33), which will be replaced, and the total construction of 82, with a net gain of 64 additional homes (16 less than the ASH proposal). Of these, 25 are proposed at council rent, 39 for private rent. However, these figures are only indicative, and subject to what the council calls ‘further detailed analysis’.

MAE_final proposal

At the meeting last week, ASH asked the Cabinet Member for Housing, Matthew Bennett, the following question: ‘When the new Housing Bill is passed, neither property developers nor councils will any longer be obliged to include homes for social rent within their affordable housing quotas, but can confine themselves to building starter homes for up to £450,000. As a Labour council, will Lambeth do more than what Tory policy obliges them to, and formally commit to building 50% homes for council rent on the Knight’s Walk redevelopment scheme? If not, what percentage will Lambeth Council commit to?’

Councillor Bennett’s answer was: ‘We will build as many council rent homes as possible. A minimum of 40%, hopefully more.’ As the figures for Scenario 2D confirm, this is already 10% less than the proposals the council presented at a public consultation a mere two weeks previously, for both partial and full demolition, in all of which 50% of the new homes were for social rent (plate 3). What will it be by the time they’ve finished?


Given that, at the beginning of the regeneration consultation process (which is neither a regeneration nor a consultation), the total demolition of Knight’s Walk was the only option being proposed by Lambeth, this is a considerable victory for the 9 council tenants and 6 freeholders whose homes will be saved.

However, for those residents whose homes are to be demolished under this scenario, this is not good news.  By forcing Lambeth to consider other options, ASH has helped to save 15 homes; but will the 17 council tenants and 1 freeholder whose homes will be bulldozed under the present scheme be rehoused on Knight’s Walk? None of the promises Lambeth has made are guaranteed in any way, as they are all subject to the same viability assessments as any other project.

In order to borrow the money to build, Lambeth has announced that it will create a Special Purpose Vehicle called ‘Homes for Lambeth’ in order to attract investors. This means that, since only councils are legally allowed to offer secure tenancies, existing tenants with secure council tenancies will only be offered an enhanced form of assured lifetime tenancy when they move into their replacement homes. New council tenants will be offered the same.

Moreover, the new tenancy will exclude the ‘Right to Manage’, which allows tenants to take over the running of their homes, and the ‘Right to Transfer’, used to trigger the transfer of homes to a housing association. Perhaps most worryingly, under such private financial investment, the extent to which the land will remain in public hands remains to be seen.

Since the homes of 6 of the 7 freeholders will be left untouched by the proposal, the £3-4 million saving on not having to buy out freeholders, plus the deterrent of drawn-out legal opposition to Compulsory Purchase Orders, seems to have been the casting vote in the Council settling on Scenario 2D. However, since ASH was set up to defend and build council housing, not knock it down, we will continue to campaign with the residents and tenants of Knight’s Walk to keep Lambeth to their promise.

We must ensure that the 17 council tenants and 1 freeholder whose homes have been sacrificed will be rehoused in the new development, and that their temporary decanting, with the promise of only a single move, is used to build the 25 additional homes for council rent that Lambeth has promised.

ASH will continue to apply pressure on Lambeth to ensure that displaced residents will be rehoused on the new development, and that, as Councillor Bennett has promised, ‘a minimum of 40%’ of the new homes will be for council rent, ‘hopefully more.’ Watch this space to see if Lambeth Council honours its promises.

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