Rioting, Legislation and Estate Demolition: A Chronology of Social Cleansing in London, 1999-2019

Architects for Social Housing

Mounted police charge Poll Tax demonstrators in Trafalgar Square, London, 1991

‘We show respect to everyone — to each other, the general public and to the government and police. We engage in no violence, physical or verbal.’

— Extinction Rebellion

1990  Did the UK Poll Tax demonstrations in 1990 mark a watershed in the relations between governments and crowds? Certainly not in the violence used by the former. The troops of baton-wielding police who rode their horses into the packed crowds on Trafalgar Square were the same who charged the picket lines of striking miners at the Orgreave coke plant in 1984. And certainly not in the lies the government used afterwards to justify that violence. What Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher denounced as ‘Marxist agitators and militants’ using the Poll Tax demonstrations for their own political ends echoed her description of the 1981 uprising in Brixton against unemployment, cuts to public spending and police racism as a ‘fiesta of crime, looting and rioting in the guise of social protest’ — with both demonstrations subsequently imprinted on public perception as ‘riots’. Perhaps the difference, then, was that, where the violent suppression of the miners’ strike and the Brixton protests that spread across the UK had little impact on Thatcher’s reign, the Poll Tax demonstrations are credited with bringing down a Prime Minister who had ruled over Britain for 13 years.

What it didn’t end, however, was

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Elephant & Castle shopping centre: the battle at London’s gentrification “ground zero”

Corporate watch

The Elephant and Castle has been called London’s gentrification “ground zero”. In a just a few years the area has been transformed beyond recognition – from a bustling neighbourhood of council estates and street markets, to a spike of high-income glass skyscrapers owned by offshore investors.

The developers’ next target is the shopping centre in the middle of the area. The complex’s architectural beauty is debated – 1960s design icon to some, concrete carbuncle to others. But it’s undeniably a living heart of a diverse working class neighbourhood, with its many Latin American shops and cafes, street stalls, a popular bingo hall, and the nearby Coronet venue.

All this is set to be demolished and “redeveloped” by property investor Delancey (see our profile of the company here). Delancey is also responsible for the Elephant One tower next door: a luxury housing development with zero “affordable homes”, involving massive profiteering through offshore tax havens. In the new shopping centre scheme, too, Delancey has used every possible trick to minimise its commitments to local people.

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CARILLION COLLAPSE – WHAT NEXT?

Students occupy in support of Elephant campaign

Monday, 15 January 2018, From London Anarchist Communists.
Students occupy in support of Elephant campaign
OCCUPATION STATEMENT YES TO SOCIAL HOUSING, NO TO THE ELEPHANT DEVELOPMENT

Students have occupied a section of the London College of Communication (UAL) the night before the Delancey’s plan for redevelopment of the Elephant & Castle shopping centre and London College of Communication campus goes to planning.

Gentrification has ripped through London, pricing students and working class people – particularly BME people – out of their communities.

Elephant & Castle is home to Walworth residents, a large Latin American community, traders and UAL students. This community is under threat from the proposed Delancey development of hundreds of new luxury apartments with only 3% ‘fake’ social housing (by the company’s own, flawed definition) and 10% affordable retail units. And if any more proof was needed that this is about profit and not developing the area for the people who live and work there, it’s the fact Delancey, a gigantic property firm managed offshore that pays no UK taxes, are set to pocket £154 million from the development.

The relocation guarantees currently offered by Delancey to local traders and independent business people operating in the area are totally insufficient, and no adequate offers of compensation have been offered to those that cannot wait for new premises, such as market stalls across the city. In addition, the consequences of closing the Bingo- the heart of a community of hundreds of elderly people – will be cruel and catastrophic. Students will also be amongst the worst affected by the gentrification of Elephant and Castle, as the cost of rent and local commercial outlets will soar.

This is social cleansing, and UAL are complicit – directly benefiting from the development which will give the university permission to build a new LCC building while raising no objections to the consequences of Delancey’s plans, and the consistent lack of transparency and shutting out of residents and traders throughout this process.

This is far from the first time there’ve been plans to demolish the Elephant shopping centre, or far from the first time big businesses have claimed to operate under the guise of progress and improving the lives of people in Southwark. The issue here isn’t our opposition to improving LCC or even to the construction of a new building, but instead about the effects of gentrification on the local community. UAL must come out in opposition to this outrageously offensive proposal, call for planning to be pushed back until proper effort is given to genuine transparency and meaningful involvement from the community and push for 100% real social housing, more affordable rental units and guarantee that the bowling alley and bingo centre will stay.

Let’s make sure LCC remains the London College of Communication and not the London College of Gentrification.