Friday, December 23, 2005

SUPERMARKET giant Tesco is facing a storm of protest

over its plan for a massive development in Glasgow's west end.
The UK's biggest supermarket firm wants to build a huge store on vacant land together with six blocks of student flats and a leisure centre. If permission is granted it would be the biggest supermarket for miles and the flats would house more than 1300 students.
On Tuesday the Evening Times revealed how the firm wanted to build on land between Beith Street and the railway line close to the bottom of Byres Road.
The giant Tesco store would create 350 jobs, have 600 underground parking spaces, and stock a full range of food, electrical and household goods as well as the firm's Florence and Fred clothing range.
Network Rail and Glasgow Harbour have already protested.
Now residents, the councillor for Partick and the community council are also bitterly opposed to Tesco's masterplan.
Concerns over the scale of the development, the impact on already congested roads and fears for trade in nearby Dumbarton Road have led to objections.
Partick Councillor, Aileen Colleran, said she has been contacted by a string of angry constituents after they were alerted to the plan by the Evening Times.
She said: "I think the site isn't suitable for a major supermarket and the proposal for student housing is completely unacceptable. It would be literally a blot on the landscape. I would urge Tesco to think again."
Resident Samer Bagaeen, who lives close to the site, is one of many objectors.
He said: "The majority of the local community on both sides of the Kelvin have written to the council to object to the original proposal for this mammoth development.
"It not only dwarfs everything around it but also pays no attention nor respect to the site, the river and Partick."
Another local resident, Scott Cameron, of Ferry Road, said: "The layout of the student accommodation will block natural daylight and sunlight.
"Increased congestion would make local roads more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists."
Dr Amera Ammari, also ofFerry Road, added: "The proposed development at seven storeys above the supermarket level is out of scale with everything that surrounds it including existing homes.
"Motorists trying to get into the store car park would increase present congestion levels on Beith Street at peak times."
And Peter Henderson, of Coopers Well Street, said: "The development currently proposed is totally inappropriate for this particular site and for the surrounding area."

Publication date 22/12/05

© Evening Times


Tesco in bid to build new Glasgow west end superstore
by Stewart Paterson

© Evening Times
Originally published: 20.12.2005

SUPERMARKET giant Tesco is planning to build a huge superstore in the west end of Glasgow.

Around 350 full and part-time jobs are expected to be created at the store close to the bottom of Byres Road.

Tesco hopes to attract shoppers from all over the west of the city and will have 600 parking spaces underground.

The store will be one of the biggest in Glasgow, stocking a full range of food, electrical and household goods as well as the firm's Florence and Fred clothing range.

The plans also include a major residential development of 1300 student flats in six blocks, each seven storeys high, and 300 private flats.

Tesco, already the biggest operator in Britain, is looking to increase its profile in Scotland.

The group plans to expand its Scottish operation, adding to its 86 stores which employ 22,500 workers, and has already agreed a deal to move its Pollok store to a new shopping complex being built nearby.

If given the go-head the Partick store will be even bigger than Tesco's huge 24-hour store at St Rollox in Springburn - 7435sq. m compared to St Rollox's 6552sq. m.

The superstore will dwarf other supermarkets in the area and provide strong competition in the fight for customers.

Morrisons has a store at Partick, just a few hundred yards away and Sainsbury and Somerfield also have smaller stores nearby.

Morrisons declined to comment on the possibility of a rival opening a bigger store right on its doorstep.

Exact details of the development and opening hours will not be decided until after full planning permission is granted.

A Tesco spokesman said: "We're meeting the council early next year to discuss the overall development.

"The store, if approved, will offer the full range of products that are available in other major Tesco outlets."

Tesco's Glasgow-based agents, Development Planning Partnership, said bosses were currently talking with university officials about the student flats which would include a leisure centre and union.

The proposal, however, faces opposition from two major organisations.

Glasgow Harbour and Network Rail object to the proposal for one of the few remaining large undeveloped sites in the west of the city.

The land, between Beith Street and the railway line adjacent to the Clydeside Expressway was occupied for many years by a scrap metal dealer.

Glasgow Harbour has said increased traffic from the supermarket would impact on the road network associated with its development.

Meanwhile, Network Rail is insisting that it owns part of the site, which is close to the railway line.

Read more!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Update on the Occupation of 34 Broadway Market

The meeting saw a level of attendance which pleased the organisers, and which shocked Hackney Council and other attendees.

Read more!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

University to sell off Jordanhill Campus

STRATHCLYDE University has this week confirmed that it is to sell its Jordanhill Campus and move to the city centre.

Bosses at the University have recommended the sale of the 41 acre Jordanhill Campus, which houses the University's teacher training college as well as their science sports, music and social work departments. Part of the land will be sold to property developers.
A new £52million building will be situated at either Rottenrow or the former Albion street car park.

Principal Andrew Hamnett announced that the preferred option instead of rebuilding and refurbishing the building was to sell the site and move.
He said that this was the cheaper option and that it was in the "best academic interests of the staff and students."
Dr Peter West, secretary of the university and chairman of its estates steering group forwarded the recommendation which will be considered on 24 January by the ruling court.Local residents are expected to oppose any large scale housing development over the playing fields.

Recently Anniesland College announced that it was to move from its current location to Jordanhill campus. Local residents were angered by the possibility that this relocation may have included building on top of the local playing fields.
A statement from the college announced: "As a Community College we strive to be a good neighbour, as demonstrated by a very good relationship with our local Community Council, and are very sensitive to the concerns and anxieties that any new dvelopment proposal brings to an area.

"That is why we have taken the time to fully explore the options that are available for building on the Jordanhill site in order to minimise any disruption to the local community.
"We hope to complete this appraisal in the very near future and indicate our preferred location for the new College building on the site."
Graham Roddick, estates director at the University. Said: "The Anniesland College
Jordanhill Campus amounts to 41 acres and we anticipate that 26 acres could potentially be used by a combination of and/or residential.
"There is currently 15 acres of open space and any proposals should maintain that level."

Read more!

Parents light to save Belhaven nursery posts

ANGRY parents are fighting to save the jobs of two qualified teachers at their children's nursery school.

The parents are angry that two teachers from Belhaven Nursery in North Kelvinside are to be re-deployed and replaced at the school by less qualified nursery assistants.
The re-deployment is part of a cost-cutting exer-cise.The council plans to get rid of a total of 37 nursery teachers across the city, in order to cut two per cent from the education budget.
Belhaven cares for 50 children full-time and many more part-time.
At present there are two teachers and a head teacher employed at the nursery. Head teacher Gillian Kulwicki, has been joined by parents in her fight to save her two colleagues.
Under the proposals Shena McDonald - a nursery and early years specialist and Anne O'Grady, who has a qualification in special education, will be replaced by less qualified nursery assistants.
The teachers have around 60 years' experi-
ence between them.
Kevin McLaughlin, whose five-year-old son Joseph attends the nursery is furious.
He said: "my son's autistic, these teachers and their early intervention helped immensely to diagnose and help him.
"You simply can't put a price on their experience; it's been invaluable I can't praise them enough."
Purveen Rasul, from North Kelvinside whose four-year-old son Abdullah-Ali attends the nursery, said her family had been coming to the school for generations.
"Our first languages are
Punjabi and Urdu and the nursery is the first place our kids come across English." She said.
"The teachers here order in specialist material for them, the nursery has been invaluable to our family over the years, I think that moving two teachers on and replacing them with less experienced staff is terrible."
A council spokesman has said: "As part of the budget process a number of proposals are being considered. However, no decision will be taken until the proposals have gone out to public consultation." Source: West End News

Read more!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Battle to save 'community garage'

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Broadway market - two weeks on

Café Francesca in Broadway Market, Hackney has been occupied for two weeks by local people to prevent it's demolition by property developer Dr Roger Wratten and conversion into luxury flats.

Read more!

Councils And Housing Chiefs Failing Tenants - Deprived areas are not receiving proper environmental services

People living in Scotland's most deprived areas are not receiving the environmental services needed to keep communities clean and tidy. A study by Glasgow University and the Joseph Rowntree foundation said that local authorties were not meeting the street cleaning, and waste collection demands of poorer communities.The study said that deprived neighbourhoods were more difficult to maintian and more prone to environmental problems due to high-rise buildings, large open spaces and higher population density. Run down housing schemes in Scotland are struggling against problems like graffiti, fly-tipping, litter and the poor maintenance of public spaces. The study points out that local authorities are failing these communities by not routinely deploying sufficient resources that are needed to tackle the rising environmental problems of inner city areas.
The research showed that residents in these areas are increasingly becoming resigned to the poor qualiuty of their envrionment, as they watch their communities being systematically run down due to council neglect.
The researchers suggest that local authorities should routinely target enhanced services - such as more frequent street cleaning - towards deprived neighbourhoods as a way of re-energising residents, helping to kick-start further improvements and begin to reverse the cycle of decline.
It's a decline that has been too long ingnored by those in national and local government, as they have let our communities fal in to their current state of disrepair.
This can be seen in cities like Glasgow, where whole schemes have been left to go to ruin by the bodies put in place to maintain them.
As a result of the Scottish Executive's muich heralded Stock Transfer in the city, which was won on the promise of of improving the cities antiquated housing stock, the Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) has left some of its tenants living in deplorable conditions.
GHA claim that iut is improving housing in Glasgow, but that is only if you are oje of the lucky ones.
As part of their regeneration plans they have earmarked whole streets of tenements and high rise blocks for demolition.
However they have not declared when many of these buildings will be coming down.
Instead they have left tenants in these homes without any promise to improve the conditions they are forced to live in.
As tenants move out of these houses they are not being replaced with new ones. GHA are boarding them up and leaving them to rot - it is not unusual to see a tenement building with five out of the six houses in a close lying empty, while tenants are left marooned in the remaining occupied flat.
These houses have become targets for vandalism and arson attacks, as all community spirit in areas becomes buried under the uncut gardens and litter.
The mantra og GHA seems to be, if they're going to be demolished then why worru about the conditions people are forced to live in.
However, it has not stopped them continuing to deman upwards of £220 per month from tenants for the privilege of staying in these condemned properties.

[Scottish Socialist Voice, Issue 241, 11th-17th November]

Read more!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Campaigners attack council consultation

CAMPAIGNERS battling to save several primary schools across the west end have attacked the city council's consultation process. The Save Our Schools (SOS) campaign have claimed that Glasgow City Council have failed to consult local residents and parents with children not old enough to attend schools, who will be affected by the closure of the schools.

SOS spokesperson Andy Harvey said: "The consultation is supposed to be genuine, comprehen-sive and inclusive. However, only parents who presently have children at the concerned schools have received consultation packs, and even some of those parents are still waiting.

Mr Harvey went to say that the plans for the closure of the schools, which will be amalgamated into one "super-sized school", would increase class sizes and "rip the hearts out of local communities." Schools that are set to merge into a proposed single primary and nursery on a gap-site at the corner of Otago Street and Gibson Street, are Dowanhill, Kelvinhaugh, Billhead, Willowbank primary alongside two nurseries.

A spokesperson for Glasgow City Council stated: "we welcome the views expressed of any interested parties." They went on to state that the consultation process for the amalgamation of the schools had been widely publicised through widespread newspaper and media coverage while the phase four ol school merger consultations are also available foi viewing on the council's official website along with a list of public meetings. A bus was also supplied to take any concerned parents to view a newly built school in another area of the city, which was according to the council, "by no means full."

Cllr for Partick, Aileen Colleran said: "One look at a consultation form shows the range of people the council recognises as having an interest - with categories including residents, staff, friends, as well as parents. "Forms are made available, can be downloaded from the web, and officers have said in meetings the forms aren't essential to make views known - an email or letter is fine, just as long as it's in writing." Cllr Colleran went to point out posting a form to every parent and resident in each area was impractical. She also stated that there was no indication that the school sites would be sold off to private housing developers. She added that she felt that the proposals were widely known from the number of members of the public who have shown at the meetings who were not parents.

Hillhead Cllr, Niall Walker stated: "Although there were a number of public meetings I felt that the Education Dept was short on details when it came to the many questions they were asked. "I don't think they have properly thought through the implications for traffic. "They also haven't chosen an ideal site. Gibson St is a very busy street and I don't see how it could deal with more traffic that the school would cause." source: West end news

Read more!

Stars back Kelvingrove bandstand revival

THREE of Scotland's most popular bands are to support the restoration of the old bandstand in Kelvingrove Park. Scottish acts such as Franz Ferdinand, Teenage Fanclub and Belle and Sebastian have agreed to support the restoration plan, thought to be in the region of £500,000 for the Kelvingrove bandstand which has held concerts for the likes of Wet Wet Wet, Hue and Cry and Deacon Blue, in the past.

Costing £3500, the bandstand was built in 1924 and proved to be a popular venue military band concerts. It was closed in 1998 after it was deemed to be structurally unsafe. Of course it should be saved," said Alex Kapranos, of Franz Ferdinand. "What an amazing venue it would be," he said. "It's such a fantastic Glasgow landmark, and it's a great wasted opportunity. It's in such a beautiful setting, and (restoring) it could really enrich the city's cultural scene. To see it crumble would be a waste." Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian remembers seeing bands such as Hue And Cry and Tom Robinson perform at a "crammed" bandstand in the 1980s. He said: "I look upon it as one of the spiritual parts of the west end. I dig the bandstand as much when there's nothing going on, which is all the time now, as when there was stuff going on. It's got a magical atmosphere."

The bands have joined the campaign of Friends of Kelvingrove Park who have prepared a business plan which highlights the potential of the bandstand to be used in such annual Stars hope to attract big crowds back to the bandstand at Kelvingrove in the future events as Shakespeare in the Park, concerts and theatre performances. Ed Gillett, the group's secretary will meet Council officials from the parks department at some point this month to discuss the future of the bandstand.

Kenny Boyle, head of Glasgow's parks, backed the Friends but did not rule out private involvement in the refurbishment if their plan did not come to fruition. He explained: "I want a bandstand that attracts people and is sustainable and doesn't start to fall into disrepair because a number of people spend all their money organising a concert and it gets rained off." source: West end news

Read more!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Successful residents' campaign to save much loved local pub in Tottenham

After 3 months of campaigning by local residents and users of the Fountain Pub in West Green Rd, N15 the Council finally conceded that it can't allow such a well-used local community facility to be demolished or turned into yet another a block of flats. The Fountain Pub has been declared to be 'a valuable community facility',
and hence its loss would be 'contrary to Policy CW3 'Protecting Existing
Community Facilities' [from the Council's revised Unitary Development Plan,
2004 - see at end]. This was the most significant of the four points on
which the proposal was rejected. For example, the loss of the Fountain
would also 'seriously detract from the important character' of the
surrounding conservation area.

This recognition that a pub can be 'a valuable community facility' is
believed to have set a precedent which will save other valued community
pubs around Haringey which have increasingly been threatened by developers.
Many have already been lost, with the Council refusing to acknowledge their
importance as facilities for local communities - eg for social interaction,
venues for live music, pub sports and events, often with meeting rooms,
bak gardens and other key features.

Ths great victory was achieved despite Council officers recommending
support in December 2004 for a previous, similar application to build flats
on the site.

Residents mobilised in the following ways to save The Fountain:

1. Clyde Area Residents Association started a petition in the autumn,
getting hundreds of signatures.

2. Around 20 local residents and Fountain users attended an official
'Development Control Forum' . A PR person for the applicants extolled the
virtues of the proposed block of flats, but people present were angry and
made it clear that they were determined to save the pub. At the end of the
meeting a 'Save The Fountain' campaign was hurriedly set up. The campaign
got front page publicity in the local press. As well as local residents
associations, the Board of West Green Learning Neighbourhood, Haringey
Solidarity Group and Tottenham Traders offered support.

3. A public meeting was organised for the end of October. 4000 leaflets
were distributed door to door encouraging people to attend and to write to
the planning dept calling for the pub to be saved (very many people did
that). 40 residents attended the meeting. Someone also attended from Save
The Oakdale Arms, a residents' campaign for another much-loved pub under
threat from developers in South Tottenham. Save The Oakdale had collected
600 protest signatures and got active support from the local HOBA Residents
Association and Haringey Trades Union Council. At the public meeting a
proposal to hold a protest march from one pub to the other was well
supported. It was agreed to wait to see whether the objections made by the
Save The Oakdale people would be successful at the forthcoming Planning
Applications Sub-Cttee, despite Council officers recommending the pub be

4. The Councillors on the Planning Sub-Cttee wavered, and threw out the
application mainly on the grounds of the design of the proposed flats. The
issue was fudged. However, it was clear that the community was winning the
argument that the 2 pubs must be saved as vital local community facilities.

5. Campaigners discussed whether to go ahead with the march before the end
of the year. Woodlands Park Residents Association, West Green RA, Chestnuts
Northside RA and the Haringey Federation of Residents Associations all
agreed to back the march... but this depended on what was happening with
The Fountain application.

6. It was rumoured that Council officers were beginning to waver, and were
going to reject the Fountain application themselves, rather than it go to
the Planning Cttee. But there were concerns they might only reject it on
the details of the design, which would allow the developers (for both pubs)
to keep coming back with revised proposals until they got the go ahead.
Officers and Councillors were lobbied - they were left in no doubt that a
matter of principle was at stake, that people across the borough were
watching and that further protests were planned.

In the end common sense, intelligent and determined lobbying, and people
power triumphed!

However, it is important to remain vigilant and to continue to support
local residents and communities opposing any future applications which
threaten either of the two pubs - or other much-needed community facilities
around the borough.

Dave Morris
- member of Chestnuts Northside Residents Association, N15 and the Save The
Fountain campaign


Haringey Council's emerging Unitary Development Plan [revised 2004]
(p165-6) states:

a. [para 10.1] ' Good community facilities are essential to the fabric of a
successful, healthy and inclusive society.'
b. [para 10.4] The Council's Key Objective is: 'To increase the stock of
good quality community facilities in Haringey, especially in areas of
shortage, and to improve existing facilities'.
c. [para 10.13] ' The change of use or demolition of a community facility
will only be granted planning permission in the following circumstances:
- if the facility is derelict or out of use, and no other community groups
are willing or able to use it
- if the community facility is in use [and] alternative accomodation [for
it] is provided [by the developer].'

Read more!

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Re-Occupation by Anthony Iles & Benedict Seymour

An interesting bunch of links, concerning regeneration in the East End of London, and more importantly how people are fighting back: In protest against evictions, sell offs and corruption in Hackney east London, a group of locals, activists and squatters this week reoccupied a café, successfully preventing its demolition by developers. Anthony Iles reports on this unusual counter-attack against the neoliberal ‘regeneration’ of the city Broadway Market is a victorian street in Hackney, an increasingly fashionable borough in the east end of London. The street runs picturesquely from London Fields down to the Regent’s canal. A short stroll from the trendy bars of Hoxton and Shoreditch, over the last few years it has developed its own rash of middle-class boutiques, delis and gastropubs. While some celebrate the gentrification-fuelled ‘rebirth’ of Broadway Market and the consolidation of its ‘brand identitity’ with the advent of an organic farmer’s market catering to inhabitants of the area’s mushrooming yuppy apartments, less affluent residents have mainly been victims, not beneficiaries, of this striking transformation.

The locals, however, have not taken the process lying down. Demonstrations and protests accompanied earlier phases of the re-colonisation of Broadway Market, with local people and activists protesting the notoriously corrupt Hackney Council’s attempt to sell off its assets to the lowest (and most corporate) bidder. Although much of the damage has been done, people’s anger toward the council and the private interests they seem to serve has only intensified.

This week the struggle against the top-down ‘regeneration’ of the area took a new turn. On Sunday 27 November a group of locals, housing activists and experienced squatters moved into number 34 Broadway Market, a building which until 4 months ago had been the home of well loved local institution, the Francesca Cafe. The previous tenant and for thirty years proprietor of the cafe, Calogero ‘Tony’ Platia was evicted on 1 July 2005. The grounds for this were dubious to say the least. Tony was well known in the local area, was up to date with his rent and remained a valued part of the neighbourhood. Like other long term, now long gone, businesses in the street, the café had definitely suffered in the previous decades as local manufacturing industry moved out, but the influx of expensive upscale boutiques did at least bring the cafe new customers. Tony had plans for the café and it looked like maybe he just might get something out of the supposed regeneration of the area after all.

However, Tony’s chances of benefitting from the gentrification took a nose dive with the sell off of council properties in the street in 2002. To pay off its £70 million debt Hackney Council auctioned hundreds of its properties in the area including schools, playing fields, nurseries, doctors surgeries and retail units. Along with numbers 2, 4, 6, 30 and 32 and the land to the rear of numbers 26-36 Broadway Market, the Francesca Café became the property of a single developer, Dr Roger Wratten. Tony’s new landlord was even worse than the council and it soon became clear that he was on a mission to oust Tony. The circumstances surrounding Dr Wratten’s purchase of the Café are suspicious and currently under investigation; despite the fact that Tony had first refusal on the property and repeatedly tried to buy it from Hackney Council, he was passed over in favour of a wealthy developer. Wratten continued to press for Tony’s eviction from the premises and, after three attempts during which local people rallied to Tony’s defence, in July 2005 the bailiffs, supported by an army of 50 police, succeeded in throwing him out.

The reoccupation of the café this week under the banner PROTECT BROADWAY MARKET FROM CORRUPT DEVELOPERS! WE WANT OUR CAFE NOT YUPPIE FLATS!’ is already receiving considerable support from local people and has managed to send a clear message to the council that some people are not happy about the way Broadway Market is being regenerated. The new occupiers of the café have successfully halted the demolition (for now at least) and seem to have produced a major shift in the way Hackney Council view Wratten’s purchase of the building and ajoining land. A judicial review of the highly suspect process by which Wratten acquired the property from the council is now going ahead and the council are preparing their responses.

While such a highly organised coalition of locals, activists and squatters in defence of a small neighbourhood business may be unusual, it is clearly about more than just taking back a local asset for the people of Hackney. It can also be seen as a symbolic blow against the wider programme of state-sanctioned looting which currently besets communities across the UK. To understand why the eviction and threatened demolition of this small café provoked such a strong response one has to go back into the rich history of corruption, swindles and sell-offs that have been going on in Hackney since the 1970s.

Hackney Council Corruption

The following quotes reveal the background to the neoliberal carve up of Hackney in more detail:

'In the mid-1990s Hackney Council assured its client base that the Council had overcome the financial difficulties and corruption which had plagued the borough for many years. The borough's Auditors woke up one day and decided that they had a job to do, so they audited the accounts. When they did so, they found to their surprise that there was an unexplained £17 million black hole in the budget. A closer examination of the books found that the £17 million black hole was a chasm amounting to £72 million and the government were not happy that, having recently gained power, one of their Labour Councils had soured their victory.'
Hackney gets ripped off again,

The message was clear, the government was not going to bail out Hackney Council, instead they advised the council to sell off its properties. Believing, rightly or wrongly, that they had no other choice, the councillors did just that. Whilst this strategy mirrored the standard policy of London councils in auctioning commercial properties off throughout the 1990s, as mentioned above, Hackney also sold off a host of other public facilities and resources: 'school buildings, nurseries, buildings used by voluntary groups, green spaces, garages, public toilets, houses and shops, all have gone under the hammer.'
‘Hackney not for Sale’,

'The estate agents appointed by the council, (Nelson Bakewell tel: 020 7544 2000), have sold £225 million worth of properties for just £70 million, with the majority of these going to wealthy off-shore cartels who have made an absolute killing at the expense of the people of Hackney.'

'A local lawyer has been researching the background to several of the sell-offs in Broadway Market and claims to have found several cases where the council has been involved in doing deals with developers behind the back of shopkeepers who could have bought their leases. He has been taking the council to task but has not managed to get any straight answers from them in response to his allegations.'
Hackney Independent,

Residents Meeting

'[At a recent public meeting] representative from the Dalston area updated people about the recent sell-off of Dalston Lane properties. It seems that these were carried out in the same way as the 2001 Broadway Market sell-off - local shop keepers were sidelined by property developers who were given preferential treatment by the Council's estate agents. The meeting was told that Nelson Bakewell sold an entire parade of shops on Dalston Lane as a job lot for almost half their total combined asking price to an overseas developer that already owns 10 properties in Broadway Market.'
Hackney Independent,

Beyond Broadway

As these quotes suggest, the reoccupation of Tony’s café this week is only one link in a chain of struggles against avaricious developers, corrupt council officials and the various agencies whose chaotic interactions neverthless add up to a sustained and systematic effort to hand over the remains of the welfare state to big capital. There have been marches, protests, meetings, demonstrations outside auction rooms and in the Hackney Town Hall square. The more radical character of this week’s action suggests how tired the community has become of the council’s unresponsive attitude to more conventional protests. The support it has garnered from the many people in the area who have experienced similar treatment in the name of ‘improvement’ and ‘renewal’ suggests the possibility of such actions spreading beyond Broadway Market. Among those supporting the reoccupation of the café are council tenants fed up with seeing local shopkeepers bullied out of their premises but also fighting back against the council and government's stealth privatisation of their own homes through the transfer to 'social landlords' or Arms Length Management Organisations. A more or less intense version of the intimidation experienced by Tony Platia (his cafe was mysteriously firebombed during the period before his eviction...) is familiar to many of those in council estates who do not vote ‘the right way’ when the time comes for them to choose between the continuing dilapidation and privatisation of their homes.

It would seem that the story of the Francesca Cafe is not so much exceptional as characteristic of the way 'renewal' takes place in inner city areas like Hackney. Coercion, corruption, and the direct or indirect manipulation of the existing community by state and private interests is rife. This is not news for the poorer inhabitants of Hackney, of course. On Broadway Market there is a strong awareness of the stitch up the council has been orchestrating. On the other hand, some of the opposition to this process has been rather narrow. At a previous public meeting called by the Broadway Market Traders & Residents Association and led by Tory Councillor Andrew Boff, plans were tabled to protect the 'local community' of residents and traders from further sell-offs and particularly to prevent corporate businesses such as Starbucks moving in. However, the interpretation of the term ‘local community’ offered here seems limited to the middle class customers and owners of Broadway Market's posh cafe's and furniture shops. As Hackney Independent astutely states: 'Ultimately the [new crop of] shopkeepers want to be protected from the excesses of the free-market whilst enjoying its immediate benefits.'

Ironically, one of the bodies that managed the sell-off of Hackney Council's properties, Renaisi, recently used a photograph of Tony taken when he was still running his café to lend credibility to their Invest In Hackney website. Despite the brazen conscription as promo fodder of the very people their plan for the area is squeezing out, it is clear that the form of 'investment' Renaisi promote is closer to the military sense of the word than the economic one. Although precious little money goes to revitalising businesses like Tony’s, behind the smiling face of 'urban renewal' presented on the website the commercial equivalent of ethnic cleansing goes on apace:

‘While many locals are pleased to see the street become more active, they also recognise that many of the new shops and initiatives are not for them but for wealthy newcomers to an area that has suddenly become trendy and desirable. Tony’s was a place frequented by a broad cross-section of the community.

What has happened in Broadway Market is part of a general attack on local people in this area. Many are sick of being treated like 2nd class citizens, having their local amenities closed (Haggerston Pool), their estates run down or privatised, their schools demolished and handed over to big business (Laburnum School), and publicly-owned property handed to developers for a pittance.'

[From the occupiers' Press Release]

Resurgence of 'non-owner' occupiers

While in recent years it has been increasingly difficult for squatters to find empty properties or occupy them for any length of time, property prices and the lack of council or housing association housing have driven a great number of people into precarious short term leases or para-legal tenancy. The arrival of occupation manager Camelot in Hackney (who intercede between licensed occupiers and landlords, extracting rent from both bodies) has also closed what for many was the last option for affordable housing in London. So while squatting as a lifestyle dips over the horizon, it is increasingly a neccessity for many and can still be a strategy in the ongoing struggle against the destruction of public space and public property.

In 2001 the group Hackney Not For Sale set up a spoof estate agents to lampoon the sell-offs by Hackney Council. Last week an inspiring historical parallel with this tactic could be found in the recent obituary of housing activist Tony Mahoney. Mahoney had been central to the preservation of Fieldgate mansions, several blocks of Victorian flats earmarked for demolition by Tower Hamlets Council in the 1970's and preserved through mass squatting actions that placed local families in much needed housing. Some of them remain council/housing association tenants to this day.

However, neither this past struggle nor its current corrollaries on Broadway Market and elsewhere should be seen through rose-tinted spectacles. Both must be recognised as going beyond the fight to simply preserve the historic character of an area or particular building stock, to a confrontation with the market-led policies of development-through-looting, the effective confiscation and transfer to big business of former public property. The citizens (if they can still be referred to as such) of London boroughs are doubly shafted by this process, losing both the council properties in which they lived or made their businesses as well as the potential revenue when they are sold. They are then invited to pay unaffordable rents for the very same properties.

If the embattled reprise of squatting as a strategy is to be meaningful it needs to assert itself in the context of a wider struggle to take back the commons – that is, the collectively held and managed resources which sustain life in the city: affordable or free housing, food, transport, and communications. The collective re-possession of these resources is a priority for everyone not included in (or rather, included out by) the plans of official regeneration.


Arthur Shuter's Blog


Hackney Independent reproduction of Hackney Gazette article on Broadway Market Residents Association Meeting

Hackney Not For Sale Campaign

Haringey Solidarity Collective

The London Particular

Story of Occupation on Indymedia


Invest in Hackney

Hackney Council Planning Documents council=1&streetname=Broadway Market

How squatters forced the issue
28/11/05 John Rennie East End Life

Obituary of Tony Mahoney
Amanda Sebestyen
Saturday November 19, 2005
The Guardian Obituaries

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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Sports and Resistance in the United States

What's My Name, Fool?: Sports and Resistance in the United States If you're young and you don't know what this guy represented, if your a "not into sport" lefty, if you wonder what's so -not brilliant - about the Olympic games, if you wonder what all the lassez-faire development in Glasgow is about..You could find this interesting.

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