UCL’s proposal to build a £1bn “university quarter” in Stratford was passed by a Newham council meeting tonight, much to the anger of residents who currently live on the site. The prospect of home demolitions and mass evictions of Carpenters estate residents is now a little bit closer.

Not being able to gain access to the public gallery to observe the meeting themselves, residents of the Carpenters estate held a protest outside the town hall. Their main greivence with the scheme is that they feel they have not been properly consulted or listened to by either UCL or Newham. [Copied from UCL union student magazine The Cheese Grater]

For more video from the protest, visit YouTube.

CARPENTERS RESIDENTS STEERING GROUP
“The official recognized body for consultation on the estate”
Invitation to a Public Meeting on ‘The Future of our Estate, to all our fellow residents on the estate

7pm Monday 24th September 2012
At the Carpenters TMO Community Hall

On 11th September, after nearly 10 months of delay, no real consultation or negotiation with estate residents, UCL finally made a presentation to set out their development intentions to our Residents Steering Group (RSG). The UCL presentation spoke about their own vision but made not one single reference to the needs or aspirations of our community. The UCL proposal involves the complete removal of our Carpenters Estate community, including all the low rise homes. UCL were also unclear how much, if any, affordable social rented housing might possibly be available in any future development on the Carpenters site that residents might be able to return to. Finally, our RSG rejected the UCL proposals as being unfair, contrary to our community’s wishes to reatin our cohesive community and unable to comply with the promises set out in the Residents Charter. We have demanded that UCL withdraw their interest in our Estate and look for another site.

Speakers at the public meeting:
– Warren Lubin (Vice Chair of the RSG) who will explain why the RSG have rejected the UCL proposal and consult you to tell us what you think.
Professor Malcolm Grant (Provost of UCL) will put the case for UCL and answer questions from he residents. (UCL may field a different speaker).
*Update: CARP has found out that the speaker will be Rex Knight, the Vice-Provost of UCL.
– Our independent Housing Advisor Tony Bird of TPAS will be in attendance.

The tour around the estate, one of a number arranged by CARP, starting from Stratford Station, was led by Tawanda Nyabango who lived for many years in one of the tower blocks, with contributions by a number of other residents, prticularly CARP vice-chairman Joe Alexander. After a long tour of the estate and a brief detour to see the Waterworks River along the west of the estate it tried to enter Lund Point, one of the three tour blocks on the estate to visit two of the flats there. BBC security (they are using some of the top five floors for Olympic coverage) and then police stopped us from entering for around an hour and a half, but finally had to admit us since we had an invitation from the residents of the two flats. (source: Shame on Newham Council at Carpenters Estate in London)

This is what happened when Colin Green, who owns a flat in the tower block overlooking the Olympic site, tried to show journalists around his home. … (source: Video Report: Olympic Residents barred from entering home by BBC Security and Report

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With one week to go to the Olympics, residents of an East London housing estate have spoken out against the plans for their homes after the Games.

Carpenters Estate in Newham is home to around 250 people. The council have began a process of regeneration, and have revealed plans to demolish most of the estate.

The Anti-Gentrification Walk by CARP! aims to generate awareness and support for the struggle being waged by residents of Carpenters Estate.

The Unofficial Anti-Gentrification Tour of Newham

12 PM: Meet outside the main entrance of Stratford Tube station for tour.

3 PM: Banner and poster making in the Carpenters Arms with residents and supporters

4PM: Film On The Edge by Site/Fringe, a collective formed by Goldsmiths MA students

ArcelorMittal Orbit

June 18th***

Thank you for inviting us, and your kind words regarding the community. I might not have mentioned it to you, but I am not really a great lover of art. That said, if the Orbit can enrich/enhance the lives of the local community it would definitely get my vote. The difficulty comes in how that enhancing or enrichment is defined Boris said to me that he hopes that it would serve as a magnet for East London, that would indirectly fuel prosperity. This seemed to be the kind of tenuous link other supporters of the Orbit Tower seemed to give me, at your launch party.

I just wonder if the reason why this project had to get almost all the money from Mr Mittal is because no real, tangible or practical benefits could be found to justify money from the public purse. Whilst I was there a lot of people were commenting on the spectacular views, I couldn’t help but notice that something was missing from the picturesque landscape, with prominent landmarks. It was the Council deprived Carpenters Estate, my home for eight years, and home to many others for nearly half a century. It had been cleverly concealed by a massive concave mirror, like the type you’d find at a fair ground.

I imagine Mr Kapoor thought it might spoil the otherwise flawless vistas, or make the spectators in the Orbit wonder why they  paid £15 to go 120 metres up a metal tower to look at three council tower blocks(only metres away) which are considerably taller, and free to ascend.

I look forward to hearing from you, on your ideas of how the ArcelorMittal company will help the local community benefit from the Orbit Tower.

– Joe

 

*** June 19th: Response from AM Media Relations Specialist 

Thanks for your email.

Of course it is difficult to predict the impact the Orbit will have in East London and the communities around it, given that it does not open until Spring 2014, but I am confident that the people in charge of it, London Legacy Development Corporation and Balfour Beatty Workplace, will do their best to ensure the impact is positive.

I disagree with your comment about the mirrors being designed to block the views, in fact you get a very clear view of the Estate on the outdoor walkway which everyone will use.

I also think it was very smart of Boris to find private funding for the Orbit. It means that as soon as the Orbit is operational it can start to make profits that will be fed back into the Legacy plans, rather than having to spend years paying off the investment. Essentially East London has gotten a £22 million visitor attraction for £3 million – which is not a bad deal. At the very minimum it means 50 jobs for local residents and I think that is a start in the right direction.

I’ve also spoken to my contacts at the LLDC about your concerns of transparency and they have informed me that LLDC will take over the running of the residential meetings from September. These are currently run by LOCOG/met police and ODA before them. Under the current format they act as quarterly drop-in sessions rather than formal organised meetings. LLDC always attend and have an agenda item. I am not sure if you attend these meetings but the next one takes place on July 5th.

Moving forward, I am told that the LLDC will continue to run quarterly residents meetings and they are currently reviewing how to ensure that they have a sufficient reach and how they can establish a more meaningful 2-way communication flow.

LLDC have also taken over the Olympic Park Engagement Network (OPEN) from LOCOG and they ran their first event in March. This is a group of over 50 invited local residents, businesses and voluntary sector representatives from across the four host boroughs and includes 8 members of the Carpenters Tenant Management Organisation…:

Members of the network will receive information from LLDC at the bi-annual meetings, but also through e-circulars, such as press releases, newsletters, bulletins etc. Members will be invited to use their local knowledge and experience to provide constructive feedback and challenge to LLDC proposals as well as being encouraged to share information through their own networks.

They are in the process of setting the date for the next OPEN event, likely to be early October.

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.

Kind regards

Charlene

Cllr Charlene McLean

Stratford and New Town Ward

London Borough of Newham

The planned eradication of our diverse fully functioning sustainable community was planned way before the Olympics. Antithetically named  ‘The Arc of Opportunity‘, this scheme, along with other Newham master plans, seemed to coalesce over the years to form a ‘Core Strategy’ that was adopted by the London Mayor (Boris Johnson) into his ‘London Plan‘. In January, the Secretary of State signed off Robin Wales’s Core Strategy, a very fluid document that sets out Robin Wales’s aspirations to create a Canary Wharf looking utopia.

This utopia has no room for small unfashionable family businesses or poor people. The trail of destruction and broken lives grows longer each day.

Like The Royal Victoria Dock Watersports Centre, run for many years by Danny Pierce. My kids and I were members, and remember his dedication to the local community. It provided subsidised affordable water sports for schools, and for able and disabled people.

Or the Atherton Sports Centre.  My family were also members of this historic building, with its art decor and legendary sauna/spa. This wasn’t just a sports centre – it was an essential community hub, a shared space to build diverse community ties.

The Queens Market at Upton Park is fighting to keep this traditional community meeting space in existence, led by Friends of Queens Market.

The residential community of Canning Town and Custom House, decimated by blight and the spectre of regeneration, that Betty O’Connell is fighting for to get a fair deal for those remaining.

Then came the Olympics, with its fanfare and promise of East End rejuvenation. But someone forgot to tell the small businesses that occupied the Olympic park grounds – small traders that are being forced out of business in Stratford as a direct result.

The hot dog and flower vendor on the concourse directly outside Stratford Station – Dean, whose family has been running stalls in east London for over forty years.

Then there are the other market traders that used to share his patch, but could not afford to fight a legal battle to retain their former site. So instead, they have settled for locations that are out of sight from potential shoppers to Westfield or visitors to the Olympics; sites that are far less profitable. These market stall traders are being assisted by fellow trader, Dennis Fischer.

Then there’s us at the Carpenters Estate.

After leaving hundreds of fit-for-purpose homes empty for six years – following a Decant Process that started in 2005 – and despite having the highest waiting list in the country, the Newham Mayor has sanctioned god knows how many hundreds of thousands of pounds (they won’t tell us because it’s commercially sensitive) of taxpayers money, via the BBC, to build luxury media suites on the top five floors of two of the three blocks. These in turn will be sublet to other media companies for undisclosed sums.

Rather than using those homes to rehouse people on our waiting list, Mr Wales would rather these former homes go to media companies for undisclosed sums (see image below).

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Over the last few weeks, residents have approached the Mayor at his surgeries in order to exercise our democratic right to ask questions. Yet, the Mayor now maintains that Carpenters Estate is no longer under his charge, and that Boris shall be in control of our future.  Of course, Mr Wales will continue to be involved given that he has a seat on the Board of the Mayoral Development Corporation (MDC). The MDC will have regeneration and planning authority over our estate from October on. And so we wonder whether Boris will help us save our homes from destruction.

– Joe Alexander, C.A.R.P.