On Saturday 25 March Southwark Greens, together with Tenant and Resident Associations from Rotherhithe, Bermondsey, Peckham and Walworth and many other local groups, took part in a march through the borough organized by Defend Council Housing to fight for an end to social cleansing.
Throughout Southwark, council estates, playgrounds, community centres and local business premises are marked for demolition to make way for private developments. Southwark Council allows developers to go ahead with planning applications that are against the Council’s own rules. The homes built are far out of reach of our current communities and thousands of council homes are being lost without replacement. Private renters do not have any protection from eviction and from predatory pricing, while homeowners cannot afford to move to larger properties as their families grow, leading to overcrowding.
The threats to housing are bringing people from all walks of life together to call for Southwark Council to stand up the developers and to protect council homes and communities.
The Defend Council Housing march assembled at one large regeneration site - Canada Water - and finished in a rally at another - the Aylesbury Estate. Around 150 campaigners marched through Rotherhithe, Ilderton Road, Old Kent Road, Commercial Way, Peckham High Road, back to the Old Kent Road and to Albany Road, where the march ended in a road sit-down protest and rally.
We heard from several inspiring speakers including Lib Dem Councillor Maria Linforth Hall, Mark Brearley representing businesses through the group Vital Old Kent Road, Eileen Conn from Peckham Vision, Barry Duckett, Chair of Rotherhithe Area Housing Forum, Sue Challis, Chair of Mayflower TRA, Truus Jansen from One Housing tenants action group, Cris Claridge of SGTO, Duncan Bowie, senior lecturer in spatial planning at the University of Westminster, Jerry Flynn from the 35% Campaign and Tanya Murat of Defend Council Housing.
In the Old Kent Road area, some 800 local businesses provide an estimated 10,000 jobs - more than the centre of Glasgow - but the Old Kent Road Area Action Plan threatens to sweep them away. The disgraceful Delancey scheme to replace the Elephant and Castle shopping centre proposes no social rented housing and no affordable workspace in an impossibly high and dense (‘over-massed’) development.
But there are signs of change and collective resistance. Local traders at the Elephant have won recognition from the Mayor who says they must get a fair deal. In Rotherhithe and on the Aylesbury Estate campaigners recently won their battles to save their community centres. Aylesbury leaseholders rejected the council’s low valuation of their homes - sums that would have forced them to leave the area. Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has ruled that the compulsory purchase by Southwark on these terms would undermine their human rights. We will continue to work together with other Southwark groups on protecting our homes, businesses, facilities and green spaces.
The Green Party’s view on housing is that it is a human right and should be provided at cost, not for profit. The Green Party supports secure tenancies, rent controls, investment in social housing, and refurbishing & in-fill of estates instead of wasteful demolitions. To bring about the needed changes, we work jointly with such local groups that share the same housing policies.
Below: Green Party members visiting Elephant and Castle businesses run by members of the Latin community: (left to right) Shahrar Ali, Sian Berry, Rashid Nix, Liba Hoskin, Caroline Russell.