Political editor WALTER CRONXITE reports on wranglings within Labour in south London over the social cleansing of working class areas
An employee of the Labour Party in Croydon has condemned Labour’s London Mayor Sadiq Khan for having a gentrification agenda in south London.
Speaking up for working class and migrant residents, Jack Buck, the Croydon Labour borough-wide “organiser”, has put the people ahead of party interest.
City Hall has this week given approval for a controversial redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre, as proposed by Delancey. Delancey is the private property development company run by Jamie Ritblat which, with Qatari money, bought up London’s Olympic Village after the 2012 Games and made vast profits from the publicly funded development.
Now, they want to take the down-to-earth working class area and transform it into a money-spinning retail and leisure Nirvana.
According to Buck, the approval of the Mayor of London for the scheme at the Elephant has been granted “without addressing the serious concerns of our working class and migrant community”.
While based in MP Sarah Jones’s constituency office, Buck, as well as his job for the Labour Party in Croydon, also happens to be a councillor in Southwark, for a ward just down the Walworth Road from the Elephant and Castle.
In a serious intervention this week, Labour councillor Buck says that Labour Mayor Khan has gone back on his 2016 election promise to be “a Mayor for all Londoners”.
Buck says that he still opposes Delancey’s scheme for the Elephant and Castle, which involves regenerating the 1960s shopping centre, building what the developers call a “cutting edge” new campus for London College of Communication and incorporates new homes plus student accommodation.
City Hall approved the scheme despite opposition from Historic England and locals, including from many Latin American traders who have a strong presence at the Elephant and Castle. The temporary arrangements offered during construction for displaced traders remain much disputed.
The area south of the Elephant and Castle, between Walworth and New Kent roads, has already been subjected to some ruthless social cleansing, with the Aylesbury and Heygate estates having been cleared of council tenants and leaseholders of ex-council flats, to make way for hugely profitable private redevelopments which provide very little affordable housing.
Southwark Council is Labour-controlled.
What has happened there is a prime example of the skewed economics of 21st century public housing policy: on the Heygate, lease-holders of one-bedroom flats were typically offered less than £100,000 in compensation for their homes. Yet mere “studio apartments” in the new development, called Trafalgar Place, started three times as much. The lease-holders were forced to move out of the area.
The residents and traders who live and work in and around the Elephant fear that they will suffer a similar fate to their erstwhile neighbours, friends and customers.
Southwark council has a policy of 50 per cent social housing or 52 per cent London Living Rent shares of housing units in new developments.
Delancey’s Elephant and Castle scheme has a makeup of just 35 per cent “affordable” and 12 per cent for social rent among the 978 homes that will be built amid all the “new retail and leisure space”. This despite the developers getting £11million of tax-payer money.
And while those ratios meet the Mayor’s policy requirements, they still seem less than satisfactory to Buck and his colleagues in Momentum in Southwark.
If the Mayor’s capitulation before big business developers sounds in any way familiar to Inside Croydon’s loyal reader, then it should.
Under Mayor Khan’s housing policy, at least 35 per cent of all new housing developments should be “affordable”.
Back in January of this year, when Westfield and Hammerson snivelled that their £1.4billion scheme to redevelop Croydon’s Whitgift Centre would not make them big enough profits if they were forced to provide an additional 140 flats at rents below the market rate, the Mayor caved in and agreed that only 20 per cent of the 967 new homes proposed needed to meet his affordability criteria and be available at London Living Rents.
By “affordable”, that means rents of at least £1,157 per month.
Mayor Khan’s decision in Croydon, when his affordable quota policy was fresh out of the box, has threatened to create an unhappy precedent elsewhere in London.
One can only hope that Buck’s willingness to stand up to his own party can inspire some backbone into Croydon’s local Labour councillors, who have so far shown themselves pusillanimous in the face of developers.
- Please support Inside Croydon’s award-winning, news-breaking local journalism. It’s just £4 per month, and you qualify for special discounts and offers. Click here to sign-up as a donor
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon is the borough’s only independent news source. Still here, after eight years, based in the heart of Croydon
- Inside Croydon named Journalist of the Year at 2018 Anna Kennedy Online Autism Heroes Awards
- 1.4 MILLION PAGE VIEWS IN 2017
- ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS 2017: Inside Croydon was source for two award-winning nominations in Private Eye magazine’s annual celebration of civic cock-ups
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or a local event to publicise, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org