The scheme’s treasurer, Clayeon McKenzie, said: “We need communal land to develop the area. Our regeneration scheme is going to be dead in the water if they flog off any more land. All that we’ll be left with is the homes that we live in.”
The community-led project is particularly alarmed at the council’s decision to put a popular adventure playground on its disposal list. It has also been under pressure in the past to demolish council homes to make way for private development, which would force tenants out of the area.
The borough, which has debts of £50m, has already been warned against selling off council assets by the district auditor. The matter is now also being raised by local Labour MP Brian Sedgemore, who said he was “very concerned” about proposed land sales.
Speaking at a visit to Shoreditch yesterday, the regeneration minister, Lord Falconer, ducked the issue of sales. He said: “That is something that needs to be worked through by the new deal partnership and the council. One cannot avoid the financial pressures. One needs to find a solution that delivers a long term community programme for Shoreditch.”
In private discussions with Shoreditch Our Way, Lord Falconer is understood to have offered to forward some of the £22m earmarked for the project to improve housing in the area, so that it could buy off land from the council. The suggestion alarmed Mr McKenzie. He said: “That would be robbing Peter to pay Paul. That money is for improving the housing not bailing out Hackney council, it’s absurd.”
Last summer Lord Falconer withheld the housing cash because he rejected the community’s plans for improving the homes, claiming they were “unsustainable” and did not have the backing of Hackney council. At the time, both Hackney and the government were concerned that the resident-led project refused to consider demolishing some of the 7,000 council homes in the area.
Yesterday Lord Falconer said: “At that time we could not agree on what [the plans] should consist of. Since then there has been a productive relationship between Hackney council and the new deal partnership. “I don’t want to comment on the detail of whether there is too much council housing. I think the issue is what is a sustainable future for the housing problem?”
Lord Falconer reaffirmed that the government was “serious” about new deal projects being community led, but he added that the community needed to be “realistic”. Representatives from Shoreditch Our Way were keen yesterday to stress that they were now working with the council on new plans to improve the homes in the area. No one from the council attended Lord Falconer’s visit to underline that message. A Hackney spokeswoman said that staff were “very thin on the ground”.
HACKNEY COUNCIL have finally made decisions about the funding of groups like Hoxton Hall and they have proposed a cut of £16,065 to our grant for the current year. In a full year it would amount to £32,130.
They have said they will not provide funding for our Lifelong Learning programme – the classes and courses which 500 people a week attend. The Council has serious financial problems, but centres like Hoxton Hall are valuable resources for the borough, providing creative activities and services for all. The Council’s short-term financial solution will cause long term damage. Once lost, centres like Hoxton Hall cannot be replaced. This decision is to be ratified at a Council Regeneration Committee meeting at 7.30pm on Thursday 13th September.
As with many of the new developments in Hackney, they are not designed for the working class majority who are being priced out of the area, but for the trendy rich who can afford such ridiculous prices and are attracted to the “arts and media village” that developers want Hoxton to become.
Their influence has been a property developers’ dream. As the pull of a “happening scene” continues to send prices rocketing, artisans, yuppies, entrepreneurs and now even large establishment organisations…have all been magnetically drawn towards the soi-disant creative heart of the capital.
Gentrification is not inevitable though. Hackney Independent believes that working class tenants can put our own interests first and kick the whole process into touch. Shoreditch New Deal Trust’s glossy magazine is finally starting to reflect what’s been happening on the ground: that the majority of local people want to stay with the council for their housing provision (they don’t reveal that survey results put the majority at 93% !) and that they don’t want their flats demolished.
Burbage Primary School in Hoxton has won a reprieve after facing closure. In early April, Hackney Council u-turned on their plan to close the school which has been on “special measures” for two years and is reportedly two thirds full.
Campaigners greeted the news with delight, but there could still be trouble ahead. Councillor Phillip Pearson of the Lib Dems warned that the decision to keep the school open was “politically motivated” and “the school will be kept open until after the election and then hit with closure”. Is this the same party who have the closure of the Angel school lined up in Islington ? Another example of Lib Dems saying one thing here in Hackney where they are in opposition, and another in Islington where they have control of the council.
The closure of local facilities and the sell-off of public assets is just part of a bigger picture of social cleansing in East London and especially Shoreditch. While campaigners for the school should be congratulated on their success in winning a stay of execution, we await the council’s long-term plans with interest.
The meeting was organised by Hoxton & Haggerston Fightback to enable TRAs to come together and discuss proposals for a public enquiry into the council’s financial incompetence and their insistence that it should be the working class of the borough who once again bail them out.
Fred from Whiston & Goldsmith TRA put the case for a public enquiry, while Noreen from St Mary’s and Anna Maria from Kingsland TRA insisted that tenants had to resist the council’s ‘logic’ that we should all pay more to receive less.
A motion proposing a rent freeze (ie that tenants should withhold the rent increase) was put and agreed in principle. TRAs will discuss the proposals and report back on 12 March to discuss what can be done. Hackney Independent also supports the call for a public enquiry and a rent freeze. If there is widespread agreement for it on our estates we will be involved in the campaign.