Enough! Local campaigners make their way to the front of the room to show their opposition to the plans.The committee get ready to flee, check out that man with his hands on his hips, he means business.
Yesterday evening Southwark council’s planning committee met to rubber stamp a Detailed Planning Application for ‘phase one’ of the ‘regeneration’ of part of the Heygate estate between Rodney Road and Balfour Street.
The room was packed with local residents showing their opposition to the scheme and the farcical process which has seen residents’ views ignored as Southwark Council push through with the plans to demolish a working class neighbourhood and replace it with yet more yuppie flats.
As was to be expected, the meeting lived up to the farce promised by Southwark Notes Archive Group as developers described a car park which would act as communal amenity space and how a colour palette of ‘flamboyant’ and then more ‘subdued’ brickwork of the proposed buildings would retain the character of the area. On hearing the developer describe the intricacies of the brickwork colour scheme, local residents had MEGA LOLZ.
It also turned out that council officers have been denied access to a viability report – adding another secret document to the 2010 Regeneration Agreement that had been confidential until it was accidentally leaked by Southwark Council online this week. This latter document shows what a real rip-off Southwark council have willingly signed up to getting just £55 million from the 22 acre site when a nearby 1.5 acre site recently sold for £40 million, as well as breaching their own policy of 35% affordable housing in large developments.
Shortly after a female officer was rudely shouted down by the chair, local residents decided we had had enough. 40 of us, wearing red t-shirts with an elephant and the words ‘rip-off’ printed on them, made our way to the front of the room in order to have our voices heard. The planning committee called for the meeting to be adjourned and quickly exited the room, terrified of being confronted by the people they are hoping to displace.
Our group made our way to the foyer where we sat together and held an open discussion on about the situation and what we wanted to do next now that we have fully disengaged from their process. We discussed the draining, individualising, and futile nature of working on their terms; that power lay with us, but also their in that room where we knew that the application would go through; finding pressure points and leverage that we could use; the importance of working in our communities and the hard work and long-term basis of this; not being intimidated by the language and the boring way that they speak in meetings – what they are saying is not complicated to understand; that people do know and understand what is happening when they see that their housing benefit goes no way to cover their rent and that the local corner store has been turned into a chain store, and so the question is where do we go from this; the importance of learning and linking with other campaigns – some discussed and represented were Earl’s Court campaign, community organising in LA, squatting in Spain, Library Street Social Centre and Crossbones graveyard; how our actions are co-opted by the Council and consultation industry, for example if we were to ask residents what they wanted, this information would be sure to be hijacked; the importance of story-telling as a way to share the knowledge we have and to inspire action, particularly using the Heygate experience to organise with the Aylesbury estate. I also wrote down the word ‘love’ in my notes but with no further explanation.