Guy Mannes-Abbott is a writer whose work often performs in visual arts contexts, and a former AA School of Architecture lecturer. He has lived on Balfour Street for 27 years, latterly with Sanna, a Swedish architect, and their two boys aged 17 and 5. Guy led what became a community campaign to force the Council and Lendlease to recognise the public welfare or commons value of the 458-tree urban forest on the old Heygate Estate, which produced planning precedents and saved 182 trees. Beyond that Lendlease are some 900 trees into 1600 mandated replacements planted through the neighbourhood. There were and are alternatives to Southwark’s approach to "regeneration", and Guy stood up for objectors to the Heygate Estate demolition at Planning Committee in 2013, in dramatic contrast to two of the sitting councillors who at the time were happy to support a 3% social rent scheme, with 20% car spaces in a car-free regeneration. He is a new school governor at Friars School.
Guy's written work includes his critically acclaimed In Ramallah, Running (London 2012), contributory texts for e-flux journal’s Supercommunity project (Venice Biennale 2015/Verso 2017), End Note(s) (Rotterdam/Hong Kong 2015) and a short story for Drone Fiction (Dubai 2013). He contributed essays toWdW Review Vol.1 (Rotterdam 2017), Future Imperfect (Berlin 2016),The Gulf: High Culture, Hard Labor (New York 2015), collaborated with the Bombay-based CAMP on The Country of the Blind, and Other Stories (Folkestone Triennial 2011), and wrote the introduction to Mourid Barghouti’s Midnight & Other Poems(2008). His cultural criticism has been published widely in The Independent, The Guardian, New Statesman, Bidoun, Third Text, Architectural Review, Camera Austria, Middle East Monitor. He is a core member of the Gulf Labour Coalition, and editorial advisor for Divan (Sydney).
Latest articles by Guy Mannes-Abbott
Southwark Council leader Peter John stated there was “no alternative” to displacing existing communities and building only 3% social rented units throughout the Elephant & Castle Opportunity Area (OA). He was wrong in principle and in fact.
I would counter this regressive OA model with a Green Economic Zone. “We need local economies that put communities first, and provide opportunity, dignity and well-being. Whole rivers of wealth run through local places. We need to capture it, because it already belongs to us,” say progressive economic thinkers CLES.
We all know the answer to “Opportunity for Whom?” Disregard for existing communities has been the keynote of the Elephant & Castle Opportunity Area. The Mayor’s new London Plan has big ambitions, in particular the target of 65,000 new homes a year, delivered mainly through additional Opportunity Areas across the city. But they will fail unless London stops ignoring or actively displacing existing communities in so-called regenerations, and instead puts them first. A formal recognition of Existing Communities would include a Right to Community, with clear definitions of community and a set of subsidiary rights, including to clean air.
This is an opportunity for change: combining big principles, clear entitlements, and a guerilla localism to bring the benefits of development home.
North Walworth has been subjected to years of “regeneration”, resulting in very scarce public benefits but staggering profits for Lendlease. The next phase of “regeneration” at the Shopping Centre only acknowledged the existing traders and community after the offshore developers submitted their planning application. Is there really no alternative?
Writer and North Walworth resident Guy Mannes Abbott writes in The Architecture Review...
Typically, the RIBA’s Stirling Prize shortlist leavens starry spectacles with a socially minded gesture or two. In a thin year for the former, the list still obliged with the flawed spectacularity of Herzog & de Meuron’s Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford. In contrast, the ‘housing crisis’ generated a lot of noise but few homes again, so a ‘flagship’ housing scheme designed by dRMM for the Elephant and Castle’s ‘regeneration’ ticked a misleading box.
[Read full article on The Architecture Review website...]
News featuring Guy Mannes-Abbott
Nearly 20% of Southwark’s 63 councillors work as lobbyists, found 2013 research by journalist Anna Minton.
One of these is East Walworth Labour councillor Rebecca Lury, who works as a managing director for public relations (PR) firm GK Strategy. Her firm has a specialism in advising development corporations seeking contentious planning permission from local councils. Councillor Lury volunteered support for planning permission for Trafalgar Place (Elephant Park phase 1) with social housing quotas slashed in favour of fat profits.
Two former leaders of Southwark Council, Jeremy Fraser (Labour) and Nick Stanton (Lib Dem) went on to similar lobbying/PR careers. Independent local campaign group The 35% Campaign has collated numerous similar examples at 35percent.org/revolving-doors.
Private Eye magazine reported that many companies have wined and dined Peter John, current Labour leader of Southwark Council. Freebies accepted from developers Lend Lease include two £1,600 tickets to the London Olympics opening ceremony, and an expenses-paid trip to Cannes for a property show. Lend Lease are building £2.5m penthouses on the site of the demolished Heygate Estate.
In December, property developers Delancey put in an application to demolish Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre and London College of Communication. Councillors on Southwark Council’s Planning Committee refused to approve the plan, yet accommodated an eleventh-hour promise from Delancey to make an improved offer. This means the committee will hear the proposal again this month.
Meanwhile, the Shopping Centre is being run down, conveniently bolstering the claimed 'need' for demolition. Certain entrances are now being closed during trading hours (right). Empty units are no longer available for re-let, enhancing a 'ghost town' feel. Escalators have been left broken for long periods. Pedestrian access has been unsatisfactory since removal of subways. Yet the building is structurally sound and could be imaginatively refurbished, re-landscaped and re-clad. This would avoid nine years of environmental destruction, intense construction noise, degraded local shopping and leisure facilities, and enormous disruption to nearby residents' home delivery access.
Walworth’s air contains levels of a harmful pollutant which greatly exceed European and World Health Organisation standards, shows new research by Southwark Green Party.
Laboratory analysis of air samples taken by local Green parliamentary candidate John Tyson last autumn found nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels at Bricklayers Arms (where New Kent Road, Old Kent Road and Tower Bridge Road meet) were nearly double the EU limit. Studies have shown that excessive NO2 worsens shortness of breath, coughing and lung inflammation, particularly for people with asthma.