February 9, 2011
'A classic example of state-sponsored, de-greening gentrification'
This is the characterisation of a development project in central London, near the Elephant & Castle, where social housing is being demolished in the name of regeneration, to be replaced by privately owned accomodation with 25% protected as 'affordable'. The project was initiated by the Liberal Democrat majority on Southwark Council and is now being implemented by the currently Labour controlled council. (Both are parties that have conventionally been understood as being on the left of British politics).
These projects are public-private collaborations, at their simplest, the public authority applies for the permissions (particularly for compulsory purchase of the existing properties) while the developer (here (essentially) the Australian-based Lend Lease) provides the cash. There are clear analogies with the approach upheld in Kelo (although here there is no outrage on legal grounds) and there is little doubt that this development will be built. The 'decanting' of existing socially housed residents is already underway, either by buying them out or by re-housing council tenants 'nearby'.
One reason given for the regeneration is aesthetic, with proponents arguing that brutalist architecture brutalises people. There is certainly wide agreement that Heygate is not an objectively attractive development. Yet residents emphasise the extent of community spirit on the estate.
A further justification for redevelopment has been that this prime piece of real estate provided relatively spacious accommodation with significant green space, which should be developed more intensively with the majority available for private ownership. Indeed, the specification for the re-build is such that the project was selected as one of Bill Clinton's 17 'climate positive' neighbourhood developments.
So it will be a 'climate positive' example of 'state-sponsored, de-greening gentrification'.
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