Hackney Independent has been going out across Shoreditch since 1999. In that time we have:
- opposed Council plans to cut, close or sell-off our essential services and facilities
- played a part in some victories like getting rid of ITNET
- supported the parents, kids and staff at Apples and Pears adventure playground who fought off council plans to build flats on their site
We have had some defeats like the closure of Laburnum school. Other campaigns, like to re-open Haggerston Pool are still going on. We have established the Independent Kids Cinema and run benefits and repairs advice surgeries.
And we have marked out as being different from any other political organisation in two important ways.
- we keep going every month of the year and don’t just turn up when there is an election
- we go door to door asking your opinions rather than try to tell you what you should think.
In 2002 we stood for election in Haggerston Ward and got 610 votes – just 90 short of beating Labour. We have built on that in Haggerston with advice surgeries, kids film shows, campaigns for Laburnum School and against privatising estate management. We have support and contacts on every estate in the Ward. While we have some support in Hoxton we are writing this appeal to Hoxton tenants and leaseholders to come forward if you want to help build a stronger independent force in Hoxton.
Should Hoxton rely on the Labour Party? Or should we build an independent force to campaign for repairs to our estates, facilities for our young people and to look at community solutions to the problems of anti-social behaviour? Hoxton, it’s up to you. Get in touch. Hoxton tenants and leaseholders: do you want an independent force in Hoxton? or should we leave it to the Labour Party?
Government report brands Hoxton regeneration a failure
A ‘scuffle’ has broken out between Shoreditch Our Way (ShOW) and the government’s Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS).
A DCMS consultation paper written by London Metropolitan University has branded ‘culturally-led regeneration’ in Hoxton a failure. The report describes the area as ‘one of the most sought after in the city, with upmarket bars, cafes, galleries, clubs….’ It also describes the reality for local people: ‘1000 local jobs a year have been created, but the local unemployment level never seems to change… land values in the area have soared. So locals who get jobs often have to move outside the borough.’
The DCMS report just confirms what Hackney IWCA and local residents have known since the gentrification of Shoreditch began in the 1990’s. ‘The impact of regeneration and economic development generally can be divisive and create resistance/resentment.’
However ShOW’s chief executive Michael Pyner has hit out at the DCMS paper in the pages of the Hackney Gazette [July 8th, 2004], calling it “nonsense” and “unhelpful”. Pyner, who lives in Brighton, is quoted as saying: “It seems ironic that we had John Prescott touring Shoreditch not long ago and telling us what a success the regeneration of the area is and now Tessa Jowell [Culture Secretary] is producing a report saying it’s not working.”
(Incidentally, a few pages further on in this same issue of the Gazette, a group of Hackney artists are to be found bemoaning the high rents which forced them to move out of Hoxton where they had been living and working. More ‘nonsense’, presumably….)
ShOW, described in the Gazette as a ‘property company…run as a charity’, is one of 50 New Deal for Communities (NDCs) around the country set up by Prescott’s Office of the Deputy Prime Minister five years ago to target resources at some of Britain’s poorest areas. Despite criticisms that NDCs have largely failed to make a difference, the government has announced that it plans to extend the scheme to other areas if it wins a third term. No surprise then that Prescott is prepared to overlook reality to defend his ‘baby’.
The fact remains that the £50 million that ShOW was given to spend in Shoreditch over ten years is a drop in the ocean compared to the financial resources wielded by the property developers and business investors currently transforming/gentrifying the area (encouraged by Hackney Council), and doing so at the expense of local people. ShOW’s practice of buying up property — sometimes evicting community users in the process — and selling it to developers, hardly exemplifies a community asserting itself in the face of the City’s greed and indifference, as it (ShOW) sometimes likes to present itself. Pyner is at great lengths to emphasise that ShOW is resident-led, but tenant and resident elected representatives are not in the majority on the board. The criticism often leveled at many other of New Labour’s arms-length government initiatives (usually referred to as QUANGOs under the last Tory government), that they trumpet community ‘involvement’ and ‘empowerment’ but are in reality consultant-led, is also true of the NDCs.
For example this recently appeared in the Guardian [1st July, 2004]:
‘The Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Rev James Jones, has attacked regeneration professionals and the government for failing to give power to the communities they serve. Bishop Jones, the former chairman of a New Deal for Communities scheme in Liverpool, complains[s] of a gulf between ministerial promises of community empowerment and the reality. “There is a chasm between the professionals who have the money and the power and the people who live in communities.” He highlighted the contrast between community leaders who attend hundreds of meetings for free, and consultants who charge large fees. “Professional regenerators are paid thousands to day trip into communities to devise solutions. That cannot be just,” he said.’
Not a situation confined to Liverpool…
Leaving aside the ulterior motives Pyner and Prescott may have for declaring Hoxton’s regeneration a success for local people — in the face of much evidence to the contrary (like the proliferation of yuppie flats amidst neglected council estates) —, the solutions proposed by the DCMS report go nowhere near far enough to giving the residents of Shoreditch a real say in what happens here.
The report concludes (in part) that cultural and artistic projects can ‘play a key role in community consultation, animation and empowerment in the fraught development process.’ This is vague, to say the least. And we are justifiably suspect of empty concepts like ‘consultation’ and ‘empowerment’, favourite buzz-words of the middle-class engineers of gentrification and thoroughly discredited in the eyes of working-class communities. However unlikely it is that Hackney Council or John Prescott or Michael Pyner or Tessa Jowell would ever welcome it, what is needed is for residents to have a real say in the process of redevelopment, not just involvement in some ‘cultural projects’ designed to make swallowing the pill easier. There is nothing wrong with art and culture, provided that it supports rather than substitutes itself for genuine democracy.
The old cinema on Pitfield Street, Hoxton is next in line to be redeveloped into exclusive flats. It’s part of the process that has been driving local, working class families out of the area and importing new “yuppie settlers”. The IWCA has long opposed this trend in the borough and elsewhere, arguing that the needs of the working class majority should take precedence over those of the moneyed newcomers. But with more and more of our local resources being sold off and buildings such as Laburnum School, Haggerston Pool and many other schools and nurseries under threat, where will it all end?
Below: flyposter making local peoples’ views clear:
The New Deal schemes are a prime example of this. The government offered Shoreditch £50 million for regeneration, and set up a board partly comprised of local people to ensure it was spent in our interests. Local people said they wanted the money to be spent on refurbishing homes. The government said ‘no’. The money will only be spent if the community agrees to less council homes in the area and more high-rent or private flats. Now Shoreditch Our Way, eager to please the government, is using the money to buy public land to sell for private flats – claiming this is a victory for local people! ShOW have commissioned reports that recommend the demolition of council housing. Even their plans for the reopening of Haggerston Pool include the development of private flats.
Another recent example is the plan to redevelop Kingsland Basin. £116 million is to be ‘invested’ in the area by a private developer to build ‘live-work’ units, ie yuppie flats, but there will be no affordable housing for local people. Even MP Brian Sedgemore – not known for speaking up about the effects of regeneration in his constituency – has spoken out about the yuppie invasion. De Beauvoir estate’s tenants & residents association are right to point to the fact that Kingsland basin will be lost to local people if the development goes ahead.
The director of the company involved, Investland, says “they would rather lift people out of social housing by providing jobs than create more social housing” (Hackney Gazette, 18 July 2002). How stupid do these people think we are?!
More private flats to buy or at high rents means less affordable housing for local families. Sons and daughters are forced to move away as property prices soar and affordable housing vanishes. The new city workers don’t need a lot of the facilities that local people do, so the swimming baths are shut, nurseries and youth facilities are threatened. New shops and bars don’t employ local people and don’t charge prices we can afford.
The Council is not neutral in this process. It encourages the process of regeneration – and the privatisation that goes with it : the council makes it harder for working class people to stay in the area by cutting funding to the nurseries and clubs etc that local people depend on; it collects rent but often does no repairs, deliberately running down some estates so people will welcome new private landlords that will charge higher rents; it sells its land to property developers who build more expensive flats but it does not reinvest the money where it is needed.
Regeneration is a massive con trick being perpetrated by New Labour, the other political parties and their middle class cheer-leaders. Hackney Independent opposes it in its current form because we are sick of being pushed around and pushed out, of being patronised and dictated to, because we should be given a real say in how we run our own lives…
Hackney IWCA (Hackney Independent as of summer 2004) member and Chair of Wenlock Barn tenant association, Tony Butler replies to Housing Minister Lord Falconer’s comments that Shoreditch tenants need to be “realistic” as reported in the Guardian on February 14th.
To respond to Lord Faulkers comments “the community need to be realistic” because we choose to have our homes refurbished rather than knocked down – Reported in your article (Flagship scheme under threat) 14 February.
The opposition in Shoreditch to demolition is based on sound reasoning as we know it is backdoor privatisation. No new build homes in Hackney have been council homes. Redeveloped estates Hackney never have the same amount of social homes as before demolition and tenant returnee rates have been abysmally low.
The fact is there is a homeless crisis in Hackney and London. Temporary decantees from demolition in Shoreditch are unlikely ever to return as the Council’s policy is to house those who are the destitute and most vulnerable as an absolute priority. Holly Street is the classic and typical example. Lauded by the PM and in Re-gen circles. 3000 homes demolished 2000 home new build, 800 RSL’s homes, and the rest open market sales. A report commissioned by London Borough of Hackney acknowledges only 1 in 10 tenants returned.
The change in the economic profile of the new residents in Holly Street has been celebrated as an added bonus. New Build, New people, and hey presto! The Government & Hackney has solved the social problems of poverty, deprivation. Simply by dispersing it. We don’t fancy being replaced with anyone including those middle income KEY WORKERS.
We know that talk of ‘Tenure diversification’ of working class areas is all the rage Re-gen circles. Its funny how they never talk about merits of Tenure diversification in Surbiton, Barnes, Hampstead, Buckinghamshire, the Home Counties or any other up market areas where they live. The bottom line is that gentrification/social cleansing is pushing working people out of inner London through the combination of Government/Local Authority housing polices and good old market forces.
Most people in Shoreditch know that they will never be able to afford, or be eligible for the Shiny new homes on offer after demolition; all we want is for our existing homes to be renewed.
That is being realist Lord Faulkner
Wenlock Tenants and Residents Association