Pembury Estate

The Peabody Trust took over the Pembury estate in April. The Gazette headline at the time “clean slate for estate” introduced the new caretaking and management team for the estate.

It has taken only four months for Pembury tenants to find out what Peabody is really about. “The Peabody Trust was oh so interested in us when it wanted our votes for privatisation…” write Gareth Dale and William Brownings in a letter to the Hackney Gazette, “… but now it only shows any concern at all when we make a fuss.”

The week before (August 24th) the Gazette’s front page was headed “Our drug hell” and sub-titled “is this Britain’s worst estate.” The report goes on to list the muggings, drug deals, vandalism and break-ins that are now common on the Pembury as well as a recent shooting.

One tenant is quoted as saying, “we know who the dealers are and where they live. We have told the cops and our landlords, but they won’t do anything until they have half-a-dozen murders on their hands.”

What is happening on Pembury will be very familiar to most people living on estates in South Hackney and Shoreditch. We are fed up of having our lives disrupted by anti-social elements. Loud music, in-your-face drug use, syringes left on the stairs, vandalism and muggings can all make life hell. For most of us, life is hard enough without having to live through this.

Apart from housing benefit problems caused by ITNet, anti-social behaviour on our estates has been the biggest single issue raised with us in the last six months.

Many people have complained repeatedly to the police and the Council (and Pinnacle in Shoreditch) and have been sickened by their lack of response. Can you imagine the police taking no notice if these problems were going on in Hampstead or Chelsea?

The Council have run this area down. They leave the streets filthy. They don’t offer our kids play facilities or enough youth clubs. The Council don’t carry out the basic repairs our homes need, and seem either unwilling or unable to tackle the problems – as long as it stays in working class areas.

We have problems with two sorts of vandals – the young ones who we can see terrorising our estates – and the ones in suits who work for the Council and the housing associations like Peabody.

Maybe the police, the Council and Pinnacle really don’t give a damn about us and the areas we live in. After all very few councillors and senior officers live around here. As they let this area run down – both through doing nothing about the anti-social elements and through not spending our rent money on improving our homes – you have to ask whether this is all part of a deliberate plan. We all know that they want to drive us out and fill this area with yuppies from the City. And you can bet that they won’t turn a blind eye to anti-social behaviour if the rich take over the area!

Lets get this straight. The police, the Council and Peabody have a duty to solve these problems. But they have shown themselves to be unwilling and unable to solve them. And so we need to begin to find our own solutions.

The IWCA has begun discussions with tenants on a number of estates to look at ways of solving this problem. We cannot sit back and let anti-social elements take over our estates. This has always been a strong working class area, and we need working class solutions to the problem of anti-social behaviour.

The Pembury tenants are looking for solutions, not just sitting back and hoping that their problems will be solved for them. Gareth Dale and William Brownings’ report on a meeting on the Pembury showed tenants calling for Peabody to “take on more caretakers and give them a security role.” Others argued for “restoring youth clubs, bringing back football training and car maintenance and building up a community development programme.” Their report closed by asking whether Peabody would take these suggestions seriously, “and if it doesn’t, how can tenants put pressure on it to do so?”

This shows one of the problems of voting for a private landlord. You can’t go back. At least with the council there is some sort of accountability. But Peabody can be forced to take action. By doing what they are doing – calling their own meetings (and not letting Peabody run them) putting their demands and shaming Peabody through the Gazette can all help. Peabody wants to take over more council estates and won’t want he bad publicity. But all of these steps can only help win one thing at a time. We would argue that the Pembury tenants should have a look at standing their own candidates for the new Hackney Central Ward in the council elections in 2002. That would put more pressure on the Peabody Trust and the Town Hall and you would be able to link up with the IWCA candidates who will be standing against the middle class parties who currently represent Shoreditch at the Town Hall.

We would be willing to meet with any tenant or community group that wants to take on the problem of anti-social behaviour on our estates, and will publish any response to this article on our website that comes from a working class perspective. Respond to: