By guest writer Wendy Charlton
The commodification of housing, loss of social housing stock and rising housing waiting lists has seen local authorities selling off public land and/or partnering with property developers. They have used tactics of managed decline and redevelopment methods along with negative media portrayal of social housing tenants.
“The association between post-war estates and deprivation is strong and is reflected by the frequent references politicians and media make to ‘Sink-Estates”
Anna Minton 2017
A climate of social cleansing has been spreading across major cities around the world; a deliberate drive to move the poor out and the rich in.
In 2016, The Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) a joint venture between Haringey Council and corporate property developer Lendlease.
The large-scale housing redevelopment would have involved the demolition during its first phase of Northumberland Park estate in Tottenham, Sky City in Wood Green followed by Broadwater farm estate, Tottenham in the second phase. The HDV was spearheaded at the time, by Haringey Council’s leader Claire Kober along with deputy leader and Head of Regeneration Alan Strickland.
A grassroots campaign Stop HDV launched in 2017. The group began to organise meetings with local residents on the targeted estates to discuss opinions on the HDV and agree how to challenge it.
“Estates all over London, from east to west and south to north, are tipped for demolition in a process that advocates describe as ‘estate regeneration’ and critics condemn as social cleansing”
Anna Minton 2017
It became apparent that although Haringey Council claimed they had completed widespread consultation with residents, they had not revealed the full intentions of the scheme.
The Stop HDV campaign did extensive research into the scheme involving freedom of information requests, reading through heavily bureaucratic council planning documents and delving into the previous activities of Lendlease.
Lendlease had been linked to the ‘Blacklisting’ scandal in which staff involved in trade union activities had been systematically and unlawfully victimised for their activities, even when highlighting dangerous breaches of health and safety violations.
The Heygate Lesson
Jerry Flynn from Southwark Notes campaign had been a major figure in challenging the redevelopment partnership between Southwark Council and Lendlease in Elephant and Castle, the Heygate estate.
Visiting an early Stop HDV community meeting on Northumberland park estate Flynn starkly advised that affected residents must act now as by the time Heygate residents realised what was happening it was too late. Lendlease and Southwark Council made similar promises as with the HDV that they would re-build social housing and re-house residents back into the new development. They then went back on this promise and socially cleansed the area.
We challenged Haringey Council and Lendlease in The Royal Courts of Justice, organised protests, used civil disobedience during council meetings at the civic centre. As time went on, it attracted widespread community resistance.
Ours was a campaign led by local people, but gathered support from housing activists and sympathetic observers across the country.
The campaign also raised its demands politically, challenging the local councillors on their track records during candidate selection processes in the subsequent council elections. A number of local councillors, including Kober and Strickland, were de-selected.
The HDV scheme was abandoned in 2018 by Haringey Council.
The campaign scored a significant victory, not just for local campaigners, but for the whole housing movement. It demonstrated that a multi-pronged approach is capable of delivering victory, even where the odds seem stacked against them.
Art in Action
During the Stop HDV campaign I became involved in housing activism, attending community and local council meetings alongside other housing activists and residents, leafleting estates which were being targeted by the HDV, facilitating a banner-making workshop and participating in protest.
“It enables the artistic activity to become part of a movement towards change rather than standing outside of it.”
Loraine Leeson 2018
An embedded approach such as this provides the artist with an opportunity to observe the situation. At some point it will become apparent where we as artists may be able to offer our services.
31 October 2020