Victory in Tower Hamlets

We are pleased to announce that the Planning Committee have unanimously thrown out a plan for a massive new development after opposition from an effective community campaign.

Not in Hackney, obviously, but in neighbouring Tower Hamlets. Their planning committee voted 8-0 to turn down plans by Genesis Housing Group and CRISIS to build a 23 storey tower block with 270 bedsits for single homeless people in the middle of a council estate off Columbia Road and a stone’s throw from the Haggerston Ward boundary.

If this had been in Hackney, the New Labour bloc vote would have pushed the plans through as they don’t like turning down developers. The difference in Tower Hamlets is that New Labour councillors face 3 other parties actively competing for votes and the very real prospect of losing power – so all parties have to at least pretend to listen to the people.

Opposition to redevelopment of Mildmay Hospital site

Hackney Independent is supporting the lobby of Tower Hamlets Council on Thursday evening (14th Sept) to oppose the plans for a 23 floor tower block next to Dunmore Point off Columbia Road.

The developers plan to build 270 single person bedsits for homeless people, demolish a recently built nursery, block out the light in the already densely built up area and provide no new housing for the existing overcrowded tenants in Tower Hamlets. The building will be managed (and possibly owned) by the homeless charity CRISIS.

Amazingly Hackney Council has opposed the planning permission. Seeing as Hackney New Labour give the green light to virtually any development proposal put to them, is this just because it is in another borough – or was the mistake to build for homeless people not yuppies?!

We give our full support to this community campaign – which has been referred to by the developers as made up of “white middle class nimbys.” Hackney Independent’s Peter Sutton and Carl Taylor met campaign leaders on Sunday 10th and can confirm that they are a very mixed group of individuals determined to oppose these developers imposing on their community.

The fact is that the developers would not dare to try to impose this kind of structure on Hampstead or the affluent parts of Hertfordshire where the CRISIS suporters live themselves.

Lobby on Thursday 14th September
Meet: by Dunmore Point at 5:45 OR by Tower Hamlets Town Hall, Mulberry Place E14 at 6:15.

Campaign leaflet [pdf]
Diagrams of proposed development [pdf]
Summary of objections [pdf]

More information:

Benefit for Spirit – 23rd September

Save the Spirit of Broadway Market

Reggae dance
music by Jah Youth (Roots Ambassador)
& guest sounds

West Indian Food by Jah Spirit

Saturday 23rd September: 8PM – LATE

At Chat’s Palace, 42-44 Brooksby’s Walk, Homerton E9


Proceeds will help to keep Spirit in Broadway Market E8 and to prevent his eviction from the shop & home he built from scratch before Hackney Council sold him out to off-shore developers.

Great Food, Bar – and a good night out in aid of a good cause

More information on Broadway Market and Spirit –

Spotlight on Dalston

Arthur Shuter brings us up to date with the Council’s gentrification plans in Dalston.

At a hearing before the High Court on Monday 18th September, the second injunction achieved by OPEN Dalston against the demolition of the former Dalston Theatre/Four Aces Club and the associated buildings was lifted.

OPEN now has 28 days to decide on the merits of applying for a further injunction.
This outcome was virtually inevitable, as Hackney Planning Sub-Committee had already granted Planning Consents to the London Development Agency to build a row of tower blocks above the new underground station at Dalston Junction and on the Dalston Theatre site.

The Dalston Lane South Planning Application had to go before the Committee twice because the planners had made a number of omissions at the first hearing and several amendments were required, although the Planning Sub-Committee also automatically approved these, despite the mass of genuine and well argued objections.

During the High Court hearing on Monday, Hackney Council generously agreed not to commence the demolition of the Dalston Theatre buildings for the next 28 days.
One of the reasons for this is, of course, because it would be rather dangerous to demolish buildings which still have people in them.
On 20th February 2006, a group of well organised and dedicated occupiers took possession of the Georgian houses at the north-west corner of the site and of Dalston Theatre itself. Later that day, a representative from Hackney Property Services and a number of Hackney Council agents unlawfully entered the Dalston Theatre building and security staff have remained in place ever since, at considerable cost to local taxpayers.
It could be argued that the occupiers of the site have now achieved what they set out to do by delaying the demolition of the buildings months past 2 previous deadlines set by Hackney Council, beyond which they claimed the development would be doomed if the demolition did not go ahead on time.
However, certain points need to be taken into careful consideration:

1. In stating clearly that the new developments would be certain not to go ahead if the site was not completely cleared, first in April 2006 and then by July 2006, Council Officers deliberately lied to the Planning Committee and to the attending members of the public and press.

2. Knowing that their actions were unlawful, Council officers and contractors forced entry to an occupied building to speed up the recovery process, although they were aware that Court documents were necessary and were not in place.

3. Hackney Council has negligently squandered well over £ 100,000 of local funding to secure and protect a building which only they meant any harm to.

4. With the 2012 Olympic Games due to result in the closure of the Hackney Wick bus garage, Transport for London have donated £10 million to the Dalston scheme, in return for which they will be rewarded with a brand new bus station, surrounded by tower blocks and built on top of a 7′ high concrete slab, through which upwards of 100 buses per hour will pass from and into local traffic.

5. The ODPM has also donated a further £10 million of public money into the scheme, although only 16 of the many hundreds of new residential units will be available for social housing. This is an absolute gift to private sector property developers who will be rubbing their greasy palms as they too go cap-in-hand to the ODPM to receive similar treatment, knowing they will certainly win any law suit if the Government tries to say no.

6. Council Officers and members of the Planning Sub-Committee have totally disregarded the substantive arguments put forward against the proposed developments and have put in place no safeguards to protect local amenities or essential services. The cost of doing so will now fall on others!

7. The London Development Agency is subject to various conditions and agreements which are built into the Planning Consents. However, the LDA has an atrocious record for abiding by such conditions or agreements in their past local dealings. Shortly before standing down as a Queensbridge Ward Councillor and as Chair of the Planning Sub-Committee, Bill Hodgson severely criticised the LDA for their short-comings in this respect, yet 2 hours later his Committee approved the first stage of the mammoth building project in Dalston Lane. Once the development goes ahead, the gutless, weak willed local politicians and officials will be powerless to prevent the same from happening all over again.

8. Hackney Council is now to allow the building of a number of tower blocks in Dalston. These will be up to 19 storeys high and will be privately financed and will predominantly be for sale or rent to the private sector. Tower Hamlets Council has just rejected a tower block scheme. But that is for just one block. The applicant in that case is the CRISIS and Genesis Housing Group (best known to us through their subsidiary Pathmeads who have private contracts to manage Hackney Council estates in the North of the Borough) and the units were for homeless and vulnerable people. One of the main objectors to that scheme, on the grounds that it ‘does not fit in’ was Hackney Council. So our Council not only wants to suck up even more to property developers, it has now formed its own policy for local social cleansing.

9. Barratt Homes has now been named as the development partner which will work with the LDA to impose on the people of Hackney a new row of tower blocks for Dalston which will replace those which were spectacularly blown up a short distance away just a few years ago because they were deemed to be socially unacceptable. Maybe Hackney New Labour thinks that tower blocks for poor people are a bad thing, but tower blocks for rich people are a good thing. More likely the demolition was a chance to drive out a part of Hackney’s working class community out, and the new Dalston tower blocks are a chance to bring more trendy rich young New Labour supporters in. This is social cleansing, pure and simple.

Over the past 12 months and longer, we have fought tooth and nail to halt the relentless progress of corrupt, devious and unscrupulous private sector property developers who have, by whatever means they see fit, grabbed every available inch of local land to amass even greater fortunes by building ever higher blocks of rabbit hutches for people with more money than sense.

Hackney Council has now proven that these private sector developers still have a great deal to learn about how things can be done, just so long as you can get away with it.
Before we all sit back and say to ourselves ‘ah well, the Dalston Lane occupiers put up a good fight but there is not much we can do now, everyone needs to reflect on exactly what has been happening and must decide whether the time has now come to take positive action to seek to halt this decline.
For the demolition of the Theatre buildings to go ahead, there must first be an eviction. I feel sure that the planning for this is well under way already. But it will be no simple task and will require a mass of police manpower.
The final opportunity to support the occupiers now presents itself. This can be achieved by lobbying local Councillors, M.P.s, the police, the Black Police Association, the press and media, local and national activist groups and the local population as a whole to ensure that, no matter what the final outcome may be, those responsible understand that people will not take much more.
Please show your support for the Dalston occupiers in whatever way you can. Time is running out for them and they have done their very best for us all.

"Regeneration", or social engineering?

Hackney Independent has been pleased to see some discussion of regeneration and gentrification in the Hackney Gazette recently.

The saga commenced with a letter from New Labour’s recently elected Haggerston Councillor, Barry Buitekant:

“Last week’s Gazette (June 29) said three new stations are to open on the extension of East London line at Dalston, Haggerston and Shoreditch.

I’m pleased to say that there will be a fourth new station at Hoxton. The opening of the East London line extension will strengthen the regeneration of the area already underway.”

This letter was responded to the next edition by Paul Fitzpatrick:

“In last week’s Gazette Cllr Buitekant wrote, ‘the opening of the East London line extension will strengthen the regeneration of the area already underway’.

Such a dishonest and uncritical view of “regeneration” is what we have to expect from New Labour politicians in Hackney and elsewhere.
Councillor Buitekant has been newly elected to represent the people of Haggerston, the majority of whom have failed to derive any benefit so far whatsoever from the so-called regeneration of the area.
The proliferation of luxury flats along Kingsland Road, together with trendy bars and restaurants, I am sure is very welcome to Councillor Buitekant and his New Labour friends, but hardly represents the needs of the majority of his constituents.
How about “strengthening” instead some regeneration that will benefit the area’s majority, like building truly affordable housing, reopening Haggerston Pool or investing in sustainable youth facilities?
But, of course, while this would directly benefit local working class people, it is of no interest to the kind of rich young settlers who now run Hackney Labour Party.”

The Gazette also provided the following editorial:

“The banks of the borough’s waterways, for years grimy neglected backwaters, have recently become giant construction sites.
All along Hackney’s stretch of the River Lea and Regent’s Canal disused timber wharves and warehouses have been bulldozed. Rising phoenix-like in their place are steel and glass waterside developments. While some include a percentage of “affordable” or shared-ownership homes (otherwise they would never have received planning approval), few, if any, are on the waterfront.
Those desirable prime-site properties are for the wealthy – well beyond the pocket of most folk earning an average wage.
Inevitably such regeneration changes the borough dempgraphic with the so-called yuppie professional classes moving into up-and-coming areas and pushing up property prices. It’s an uncomfortable thought, but isn’t that a form of social engineering by any other name?”

The Shameful Story of Haggerston Swimming Pool

When Haggerston Baths was closed without notice in February 2000, the local Labour Party circulated a leaflet (a rare occurrence outside of an election) reassuring residents that the pool would be reopened in six months. Shortly afterwards Labour took full control of Hackney Council, but the pool remains closed.

The Council’s given reason for shutting the pool was based on health and safety concerns requiring some £300,000 to remedy. Today, estimates for the cost of reopening the pool exceed £20 million.

Other related sums of interest are:

£50 million!

The anticipated costs of reopening Clissold Leisure Centre by Summer 2007, now closed for two and a half years following shoddy building work and contract mismanagement.

£34 million!

The anticipated cost of the Bridge Academy on the now-derelict site of the once popular Laburnum School. This is £8 million in excess of original estimates.

In February 2000 the Council claimed not to have the £300,000 necessary to undertake Health & Safety repairs, yet there appears to always be plenty of money for doomed and unpopular projects.

Hackney takes a dive…

Hackney currently has only one public swimming pool (Kings Hall recently damaged by fire). Estimates based on Sport England criteria demonstrate that Hackney should have six or seven for its population.

In the run up to the Olympics in 2012 and all the associated hoo-hah it’s a disgrace that over the last two decades Hackney Council has actually been closing pools (six since 1988). The consequences for health and education are obvious. Despite the requirements established in the national curriculum, primary school children in Hackney are unable to learn to swim here.

The future? Don’t trust Labour…

At a People’s Consultation meeting organised by the Haggerston Pool Campaign in January 2006, Labour’s cabinet member for Community Services (Cllr Nargis Khan) promised unequivocally that they were committed to the reopening of Haggerston Pool. However, promises are cheap. And there’s usually a catch.

The council have recently been debating their preferred options for Haggerston Baths. By far the better of the three is for a swimming pool and GP surgery. The remaining options include housing on the site. In February 2006 the cabinet agreed to back Option 1 (with the GP surgery) but added that housing should not be excluded from these plans.

Hackney Independent says housing should definitely be excluded from these plans. The results of our survey work, conducted on local housing estates in the years since the closure of the pool show that the vast majority want the building reopened as a public swimming pool at affordable prices.

There are enough private flats being built in the area already. The redevelopment of the Haggerston West and Kingsland Estates sees increasingly more being planned. If the council can find the money to waste on Clissold and City Academies, it can find the money to reopen Haggerston Baths as a public swimming pool.

A Call to Action

An edited version of this statement by Hackney Independent member Peter Sutton appeared in the Hackney Gazette on 25th May 2006:

How did we get almost exactly the same council following the elections?

We started with 44 Labour councillors, 9 Tories in Lordship, New River and Springfield, 3 Lib Dems in Cazenove and Andrew Boff representing theTories in Queensbridge. We ended up with 44 Labour councillors, the Tories and Lib Dems holding their wards in Stamford Hill and the Greens taking one seat in Clissold.

What is clear to us is that Labour put no real effort into the 4 wards in Stamford Hill that are still represented by the 9 Tory and 3 Lib Dem councillors. We never see these tame twelve taking on New Labour as they have no major political disagreements with them. They all agree with the ALMO, with privatising council services and with the regeneration/gentrification policies of New Labour. Lib Dem Leader Ian Sharer used to be a Labour councillor and probably would be again if they would let him join. Many of the Tories ran the council jointly with Labour during the Labour-Tory pact 6 years ago This was the time that brought us the Clissold Pool fiasco and the joint agreement to close Haggerston Pool.

Instead Labour’s electoral machine turned its fire on what they saw as threats to the status quo – maverick Lib Dem David Phillips in Hoxton, Tory populist Andrew Boff in Queensbridge and Hackney Independent in Haggerston.

The irony here is that we find it hard to tell the difference between the policies of New Labour, David Phillips and Andrew Boff. They all support privatisation. Boff supports the sale off Council-owned shops, he just thinks the Tories could do it more fairly and competently than Labour. However Phillips and Boff are campaigners and get in the Gazette and get out on the estates promoting their own parties, unlike the tame 12 in Stamord Hill. This is what drew Labour’s fire.

If only New Labour ran Hackney anything like as well as they fight elections. Hoxton, Haggerston and Queensbridge saw more of Jules Pipe and the New Labour leadership in the 4 weeks before the election than we did in the past 4 years.

We fear Labour’s hidden agenda for the next 4 years, that wasn’t in their glossy election leaflets, including:
* turning their Hackney Homes project into a housing association and giving it our council estates
* pushing through more privately-sponsored City Academies
* handing over the East of the borough to Olympic developers, who after 2012 will hand it over to big business
* building private flats on green spaces on our estates
* no new council housing but plenty more luxury flats
* more pay rises for councillors
* planning permission granted to property developers against the wishes of local communities
Is the only opposition to be the Green Party that thinks Hackney’s problems are not enough solar panels or missed recycling targets? Hackney Independent members are already in discussion with groups and individuals around the borough to play our part in opposing the New Labour hidden agenda.

If you want to talk to us about how best we can work together to keep Hackney for the people, contact us.

Police investigation into Hackney estates sell-off

Hackney Independent recently received the following email:

“Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the sale of six Hackney council housing estates to Southern Housing Group Limited.

The investigation, spearheaded by Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Yates, will uncover whether disgraced former Secretary of State John Prescott instructed the land registry to go ahead with the sale after a freezing order was served on them by Stamford Hill Estate Tenants’ and Residents’ Association.

Although a freezing order can only be cancelled by a High Court judge the land registry said they had cancelled it. Enquiries are centring on why the cancellation letter dated 9th March, 2000 was not posted till 16th March.

Land Registry has admitted it was held back until Southern Housing had lodged their sale documents – thus making any further freezing order ineffective.

Tenants have complained that, although it was guaranteed that each estate in Hackney’s Estate Regeneration Strategy Group 6 – George Downing, Hillside, Hindle House, Keates, Kennaway and Stamford Hill – would vote separately on privatisation, Southern Homes lumped all the votes together when they announced the results. Lincoln Court’s vote (95% against) was not aggregated and they remain council tenants. Hillside’s similar vote was formally notified to Prescott by the Hillside Estate Tenants’ and Residents’ Association under Schedule 3A, Housing Act 1985 so that he could not legally consent to the transfer.

Southern Housing Group wrote to all tenants saying that estates voting in favour would join a new local housing company with tenant representation on the Board and invited them to pick a name and nominate tenant members.

Southern Homes (Hackney) Limited was chosen and a shadow board set up.

The sale documents were prepared in the name of Samuel Lewis Housing Trust Limited which has no tenant representation.

Tenants also complained that when they were first notified of the transfer proposals the estates were removed from all repair programmes and they were threatened that if they did not vote for privatisation their homes would fall to pieces around them. They went to Court after a pane of glass fell from a second – floor window on Hillside, narrowly missing a small girl, and roof tiles began blowing off Pembury in bad weather.

Stamford Hill Estate Tenants’ and Residents’ Association (SHETRA) invited Southern Homes to a public meeting on the estate to discuss the issues.

They never responded. Following the disappearance of the people who
were running it in 2000 (notably Sue and Roger Kingham and Linda and Chris Woodard) we put three questions to them:

(1) Southern Homes have been collecting the 10p a week tenants’ levy
from all tenants since 6th March, 2000. What have they done with this

(2) The last published accounts (for 1998/99) submitted to the Charity
Commissioners by Mrs Woodard, the then Treasurer, showed an income of £50,000. Where is the money now?

(3) Who told the Charity Commissioners that the Association (registered charity number 107470) had ceased to exist?

No response was received.

The freezing order is still in force, but that has not stopped Southern Homes building a new estate for sale at Hillside, without planning permission, and commencing construction of flats and bungalows for sale at George Downing and Stamford Hill, also without planning permission.

Hackney have confirmed on many occasions that they own the group six estates. At Thames Magistrates’ Court on 7th October 2004, in evidence to District Judge Stephen Dawson, Mr Van den Burgh, a Court Officer for Hackney council, confirmed that they own the estates and Southern Homes are there purely as managing agents. Southern Homes argued in Court that, although they acted fraudulently, their name was on the land register and therefore they own the estates. This is nonsense. Section 114 of the Land Registration Act provides:-

“… any disposition of land or of a charge, which if unregistered would be fraudulent and void, shall, notwithstanding registration, be fraudulent and void in like manner.”

Section 116(1) provides that any person who is involved in any interference iwth the land register is liable to go to jail. Section 116(2) provides:-

“Any entry, erasure, or alteration so made by fraud, shall be void as between all persons who are parties or privy to the fraud.”

After hearing the evidence Judge Dawson decided that Hackney own the estates and recorded this in his written judgment.

There is no prospect of Southern Housing Group getting planning permission for any of their developments. Even if the directors manage to complete them before getting thrown in jail they will never sell them.

One of the questions which prospective purchasers’ solicitors ask is “Has any work been done on the property in contravention of planning regulations?”

The shops in Broadway Market and Dalston Lane are not protected by a freezing order but the situation – attempted gentrification of council property by a developer claiming to own it – is likely to be similar.

Because of the fraud Hackney keeps title.

Chris Bourbour,
Stamford Hill Estate Tenants’ and Residents’ Association.”

Vehicle Theft

Sheriff’s Officers arrived in Broadway Market at approximately 10.45 hours today and removed a Mitsibushi Shogun vehicle – regn: mark H836 FOY.

According to the Sheriff (who evicted the occupiers on 21/12/05 and 23/02/06 from 34 Broadway Market) he was acting on orders from Dr. Wratten who claims that he is still owed £14,000 in Court costs by Calogero Platia, and that he was ‘only doing his job’.
Surely, part of ‘doing his job’ involves ensuring that he is acting lawfully and that should include ensuring – before acting – that any possessions (goods and chattels) being removed actually belong to the person who is the subject of a Court Order.
Had he correctly done his job, he would have found that the vehicle concerned does not belong to Calogero Platia.
Such actions will, of course, damage the reputation of the Sheriff’s Officer, both in terms of his professionalism and his impartiality. This will be taken into account in future.
In the meantime, we would invite all relevant parties to make the necessary inquiries and to ensure that the vehicle in question is returned to the point from which it was taken immediately.


Failing this, formal allegations of theft will be made against the Sheriff’s Officer and against Dr. Wratten, and any other culpable party.

SPECIAL APPEAL – Spirit, Broadway Market

Dear all,

Over the past few months there have been various discussions with Hackney Council, both its Officers and Councillors in seeking to resolve outstanding issues from the property sales fiasco.

I am currently in contact with them regarding the recommendations put forward by the Governance & resources Scrutiny Committee Panel Review to recover the 14 units in Dalston Lane which are currently owned by the same Bahamas based Company which owns Spirit’s shop in Broadway Market. Those discussions are on-going.

But with regard to Spirit (71 Broadway Market) and Tony (34 Broadway Market) there has been no movement on the part of Hackney Council, although they acknowledge that the situation requires sorting out.

As many of you will know, Spirit won his appeal on 12th April 2006, although he still owed some £25,000 in rent arrears. His Landlords have now appealed against the decision of the Court. They will need to get permission to Appeal and a decision on this is expected within the next 7 days or so, although it is quite likely that they will get permission.

They are appealing the decision which, effectively, identified Spirit as an Assured Residential Tenant as they consider that decision to be unfair and flawed.

They are also appealing against the decision not toaward costs against Spirit.

Even so, they have also issued Notice of Seeking Possession of Spirit’s shop and home on the grounds that he is an Assured Tenant with more than 2 months rent outstanding. So they have covered all angles. This was an ideal opportunity for Hackney Council to intervene and to try to resolve the situation. I put this to them and they now advise only that they ‘will await the decision of the Court of Appeal before proceeding further’.

I would invite all supporters to write to Hackney Council or to e-mail them (see below) to protest at their inaction in dealing with the cases of Spirit and Tony and calling upon them to take immediate action to acknowledge past failings and to end the distress which this on-going situation is causing to both Spirit and Tony.

The contact details are as follows:-

Penny Thompson e:mail:-
Chief Executive, London Borough of Hackney, Town Hall, Mare Street, London E8 1EA

Meic Sullivan Gould e:mail:
Law & Democratic Services, Town Hall, Mare Street,London E8 1EA

Many thanks Arthur Shuter e:mail: