London Social Forum: Divided City

Open Forum on speculation, housing, land and social rights

On Sunday 1st October, Limehouse Town Hall – in the shadow of Canary Wharf – will be host to an event called “Divided City Open Forum” on the effect of financial speculation in the City of London on housing and the community’s right to live.

Through short presentations and a series of workshops, the necessities of residence, democratic deficit and resistance to global corporate finance and evictions will feature heavily, with guests from as far away as Chile and Egypt (Cairo Housing and Land Rights Network). There will also be a session on the impact of the 2012 Olympics on London and the effect of development in the Lea Valley. Workshops include ‘Networking on Housing Rights [and privatisation]’, and ‘A Right to Land’ with campaigners from the travelling community and the Land is Ours land rights campaign.

The final session of the Open Forum will examine solutions to corporate domination and community struggles, including the Local Communities Bill, systems of democratic audit, and the broader context. In terms of the latter, we will explore the concept of democracy and relate the effectiveness of constructing alternative methodologies of accountability within an economic system where human and material exchanges are grounded in enclosures, as in the privatisation of public utilities such as water and health/education/transport systems. We will refer to the underlying neoliberal agenda, which deepens and intensifies the market economy and breeds both prosperity and exclusion, in both urban and rural contexts.

The conference is free to all, but participants will be asked for a donation to help cover costs.

Campaigners are mooting plans for a demonstration at an unspecified location in London on Monday October 2nd, as part of an international day of action on housing and land rights, on what will be World Habitat Day 2006.

Sunday October 1, 2006, 12.30pm-6 pm Limehouse Town Hall, 646 Commercial Road, London E14 7HA

Organised by the London Social Forum

The main session will be the “LONDON CAMPAIGN ROUNDUP – COMMUNITIES IN RESISTANCE” with speakers from the Broadway Market campaign, the campaign to save Queens Market in Newham, people from the Dale farm travellers community, and activists from Dalston. This session will be chaired by Dave Morris from HSG. Start time, around around 4.30.

The Programme:

12.30: Session 1:

Doreen Massey (Open University): London as Financial Hub

Ana Sugranyes (Habitat International Coalition): Social Impacts on Habitat

Sebastian Mueller (Dortmund University): Impacts of privatisation and speculation

Fred Harrison (Land Research Trust): The Property Bubble

+ time for open discussion

14.00 Session 2: Privatisation, Development and Large-Scale Speculation.

Chris Shirley Smith (Independent Water Consultant): Thames Water

Martin Slavin (Journalist): Impact of 2012 Olympics on London

Knut Unger: European global investments

+ time for open discussion

14.45 Workshops

– The Lea Valley, impact of the Olympics, Gentrification and Displacement

– Networking on Housing Rights and Finance

15.45 Workshops

– London Effect on Property Markets

– A Right to Land, with Dale Farm travellers, Grattan Puxon from the Roma Federation, Maggie Smith (Romany Gypsy Council tbc) and Simon Fairlie (The Land is Ours/Chapter-7)

16.45 Open Forum (including):

– Introduction to Urban Watch and Mapping (Citymine(d), NodeL), L-Atlas, Cartograhy of Resistance, Violation Database and Real Estate Corporate Watch.

– London Campaign Roundup

– The Democratic Deficit, including speakers on:

Democratic Audit (Manchester Open City), Sustainable Communities Bill (Steve Shaw), Inclusive dialogue on rural inhabitants, farmers and public lands and Perspectives from the South (Angie Balata) and the North (Simon Fairlie)

18.30 Summing Up and Close

Films and food at Ramparts in the evening.

The Open Forum is free to all, but participants will be asked for a donation to help cover costs. Food and refreshments will be provided, including Zapatista coffee.


Trains: DLR Limehouse or Westferry; c2c from Barking, West Ham and

Fenchurch Street.

Tube: Mile End (Central, Metropolitan, District lines) and then a 277, D6, or D7 bus; or, Aldgate (Circle, Metropolitan) or Aldgate East (Metropolitan, District) and then a 15, or 115 bus.

Buses: 15, 115 (from Paddington station, Aldgate tube, East Ham); 395 (from Surrey Quays tube), D3 (Isle of Dogs, Bethnal Green); 277 (from Highbury and Islington tube via Dalston Junction, Mare Street and Mile End tube), D6 (from Mare Street via Bethnal Green and Mile End tube), D7 (Mile End tube and Poplar).

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.