Right on the edge of the Olympic development looms the starkly contrasting architecture of the neglected Carpenters Estate. The council have been gradually emptying the estate of tenants for a few years now.
Robin Wales, the Mayor of Newham, has employed numerous methods to dismantle and destroy the community on the Estate. He started by commissioning an asbestos report on the three tower blocks that was used to justify the removal of families through a Decant Process in 2005.
This Decant was performed without following the recognised due process of first having a Plan for residents (including development brief/partners) in place before decanting residents.
Indeed, Councillor Charlene McLean** has noted that ‘that she sees no reason why the blocks should come down, she also went on to say that she knew of a block older and in worse condition on the Brooks Road Estate in Plaistow, that was refurbished and repopulated’.
After reviewing the council’s documentation pertaining to the viability of these buildings, Planning Aid For London has stated that, per their professional opinion, the buildings were sound and need not be torn down.
Yet instead of providing much needed housing to those on the waiting list (the longest in the country), Mayor Wales has chosen to keep hundreds of flats vacant for over 6 years. Instead, he has chosen to sanction hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money (the exact amount is undisclosed because it is ‘commercially sensitive’), to build luxury media suits on the top five floors of two of the three tower blocks on the estate. These, in turn, will be sublet, via the BBC, to other media companies for undisclosed sums.
Recently, Antony Kinston, LBN’s Head of Strategic Property, indicated that any monies made from the rental of these media suites will go into a special legacy trust fund for the children of Newham. Yet the details of this have not yet been supplied, as promised. Perhaps this too is financially sensitive?
On numerous occasions, tenants from the estate have approached the Mayor in order to have their concerns addressed. Yet, instead of answering questions, he has chosen to fake angry rants. On one such occasion, the Mayor used his body (not hands) to push one of the members out of the room. He then proceeded to castigate the residents that remained in the room. Out of frustration, the tenants present decided to follow the mayor, at a safe distance of several metres, calling on him to answer our questions.
The Mayor has now decided to embellish the facts of this encounter in order to further avoid answering difficult questions about his handling of the regeneration of our estate. He has issued what seems to be an order from his legal department, asking 2 members of the CARP committee not to exercise their democratic right of demanding answers to questions on decisions effecting not just the community, but also the entire borough.
Under what circumstance has the mayor the right to restrict access to him, or any other councillors, without at least conducting a police investigation first? And if he is so certain that he is not lying (and presumably there’ll also be cctv footage and witnesses to collaborate his version of events), why not launch an inquiry or press charges?
What more will the residents of Carpernter’s Estate have to put up with in the fight to save their homes?
** Response from Cllr Charlene McLean
I’m disappointed that you chose to misquote me from a brief conversation we had when I first became a Councillor two years ago.
I am not a building expert and any comment I might have made would have been on the external look of the tower blocks rather than any internal issues.
I am unsure as to whether the Brooks estate is older than the Carpenters estate so would not have said that it was. I merely pointed out that this was an estate that I knew had recently been partly demolished and rebuilt and partly refurbished and reclad. As I said, I am not a building expert so would not know what sort of condition they are in.
There has been some disruption due to the Olympics, but the Games have provided a once in a lifetime chance to transform Stratford and Newham as a whole, and to raise the aspirations of our residents which I fully support.
Cllr Charlene McLean
Stratford and New Town Ward
London Borough of Newham