UCL proposed new campus at Stratford, replacing the Carpenters Estate

 Yesterday saw UCL students union hosting a public debate on this proposal, with speakers from the local residents groups, GamesMonitor, UCL academics (me and Prof Murray Fraser) and active students. UCL management was represented by Andrew Grainger, head of Estates, and two other men whom I don’t know. Minutes will appear, I guess, and the BBC was filming so it may figure in a broadcast sometime. Earlier in the day there had been a routine staff meeting of our UCL department ( the Bartlett School of Planning ) for which I had prepared a briefing paper.

This post is just my texts for these two events + some links. The debates are unfolding fast so there are bound to be changes and updates. The post ends with links to the online resources I’m aware of. I hope someone else will take over the job of maintaining this aggregation. Let me know if you are doing it and I’ll link to you and stop bothering.

5-minute talk to the student union meeting

Universities are by no means the self-governing communities of scholars we might imagine. In my 43 years on the staff here UCL has become less and less like one, though it’s a great place to work in other ways. It’s run by a management group on which most of us have very little impact. We are trusted to get on with our research and teaching and that’s what we do – rather well, I think – so the College runs largely on automatic. Then suddenly we hear that things are happening in the management and last November we learned that UCL was in discussions with Newham Council about a possible new campus there. Like the residents of Carpenters, we learned it from the Evening Standard.

You wouldn’t know from the UCL proposals that this College contains many experts on planning and urban ‘regeneration’. It must be 15 years since I worked with Professor Sir Peter Hall, Bartlett Professor of Planning and Regeneration, to develop a Masters programme on the subject and we have been teaching this subject ever since (now under the direction of Dr Nikos Karadimitriou). So far as I know, none of us was asked to contribute to the formulation of UCL’s plans. [more detail on this in the second chunk of this post below]

In my view, having worked on London planning and “regeneration” for many years, a university campus could be a good and emancipatory element in Stratford, especially with UEL increasingly concentrating its activities in the Royal Docks campus.  But I do consider that UCL should NOT be part of the process – all too common across London – in which social rented housing and thriving communities are erased to make room for other activities and richer social strata.  Thus I’m totally opposed to UCL’s current scheme which I have tried, without success, to influence. Since they examined possible sites all over London, why on earth did they choose one which contained a settled community?

At the Examination in Public (EiP) of Boris Johnson’s London Plan we did a lot of work on this erosion of social rented housing and UCL students supported community and tenants groups from across London in compiling evidence which persuaded the expert panel at the public inquiry to recommend that regeneration schemes should ensure that there was no net loss of affordable housing. (This was a very good collaboration and were very glad of support for it from UCL’s Public Engagement Unit.).  The EiP expert panel said in their report:

Recommendation 2.9: Add at the end of Policy 2.14B “These plans should seek to achieve no net loss of affordable housing in individual regeneration areas.

Though the mayor resisted and instead the final version of the Plan says

These plans should resist loss of housing, including affordable housing, in individual regeneration areas unless it is replaced by better quality accommodation, providing at least an equivalent floorspace.

Since then (2010) the housing crisis has got much worse, more social housing estates are threatened with erasure like the Gibbs Green/West Kensington Estate which Hammersmith and Fulham want to sell to  Capital and Counties Properties for their Earls Court development. Output of social rented housing has fallen way below targets – especially in Newham.

Carpenters formerly had around 700 dwellings, I believe, and it should be possible to accommodate that much social rented housing plus some space for leaseholders and freeholders on the site alongside university activity.  It would have to be quite dense but we know how to do that – as for example in the Iroko housing at Coin Street where there are ground floor maisonettes with private gardens and then flats above them.  It’s also perfectly possible to plan a redevelopment so that residents move within the site if they wish to stay, rather than being “decanted” elsewhere and then permitted to move back. The UCL Plan (“Proposition”) is written in the archaic units of square feet, but I reckon that this reinstatement of housing would take up about a quarter of their proposed floorspace – about 56,000 m2 out of a total 230,000 m2.

When I was a student at UCL in 1964-6 I was privileged to be taught by the great sociologist Ruth Glass, the originator of urban sociology in Britain, who coined the term “gentrification” to describe the disposession she found in Barnsbury.  For me, this heritage intensifies the imperative that we avoid being party to intensified gentrification at Stratford.

I am delighted that UCL management now says that they are open for a wide and thorough consultation and debate and I hope we can between us make this a really exemplary project.

Briefing to monthly Planning Staff meeting

Dear Colleagues

I hope there may be time for a brief discussion on this on Wednesday. [There wasn't time and we are having a separate special meeting. ]  Here is some background.

Back in November 2011 we learned from the press that UCL management had entered discussions with Newham Council about possibly building a new UCL campus on the site of the Carpenters Estate at Stratford. Knowing this to be an inhabited site, not an empty one, some of us immediately raised the alarm.  I talked to Malcolm Grant [UCL Provost] who said talk to Alan Penn [Bartlett Dean] who is on the academic stakeholders group. The UCL Urban Lab also sought to get involved so that UCL’s research and practice knowledge could feed in to the process.

All this went very slowly, with long delays on the management side before there were any meetings (and I still have not met the “Academic Stakeholders Group” or any of its members other than our Dean.)  Ben Campkin, Director of the Urban Lab, secured a meeting with Sally Macdonald, head of Museums (which includes Public Engagement) and a paper resulted, but a paper entirely concerned with the kinds of public engagement which UCL could do after it had become established in Stratford.  Nothing about the planning or the engagement during planning.

Ben Campkin and I (and sometimes others, including Prof Jennifer Robinson of Geography) have had a number of meetings with the (non-academic) project team led by Andrew Grainger, Head of Estates, his community relations officer John Johnson (they had both worked for LDDC earlier) and a consultant Adam Harman of Drivers Jonas Deloitte.  We were mainly trying to persuade them that

(i) This was an opportunity to do a regeneration project in an exemplary way, learning from the expertise in UCL

(ii) There was a major risk of public odium and reputational damage to UCL if it seemed that UCL was party to the displacement of a settled community, part of a massive gentrification etc. UCL does not escape odium by pointing out that Newham had already decided to erase and decant the estate.

(iii) They should not make any agreements with Newham which could constrain UCL’s capacity to retain social housing and established communities on the site, should not agree a (positive or negative) land value for the site and so on.

(iv) They should seriously involve residents of the site and the surrounding borough in their planning, not merely exhibit their plans and collect comments in a tokenistic way.

It must be said that we had no detectable impact beyond securing some statements from UCL management that, after the initial agreement with Newham (now approved by UCL Council in September and by Newham Council’s Cabinet last Thursday 24 October) they would be much more open about public consultation.

Meanwhile the College was being advised by Mr Johnson that the more vociferous objectors on the estate – a group called CARP - was just a handful of disgruntled and unrepresentative individuals and that the main body of residents – organised through the TMO sponsored by the Council were more amenable and ‘sensible’ .  We were sure this was a misleading perspective and it is notable now that, in recent meetings, the TMO people (acting as a Residents’ Steering Group) are now as hostile to UCL and as vociferous as anyone else. Opinion in the area has hardened and the whole situation is now quite polarised. The BBC is making a documentary about it all and there are lots of journalists around.

The UCL Urban Lab and its members have tried hard to be loyal to UCL, making its comments and interventions so far internally and hoping to secure changes in the UCL approach through discreet pressure and though organising a workshop which was invitation-only.  A draft Urban Lab paper has moved backwards and forwards between the Lab and the College and has not (yet) been published.  Now the Urban lab has made a very restrained public statement which is online at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/urbanlab/en2/index.php?page=1.3.0&getlistarticle=185&listrange=current

and we have made it clear that individual academics will from now on speak freely and engage in debate in public.

At no point did we ever see what UCL was doing or any of the documents other than those produced for the general public (see links at the bottom) and we have been at pains to point out to Carpenters residents that UCL’s wider academic community has played no part in developing these proposals.

A number of student groups and staff from various universities are involved in projects in or around Carpenters, none that I know of from the Bartlett School of Planning yet, but some from DPU, others from Birkbeck, QMUL and Goldsmiths.  I have been involved in a number of meetings aimed at coordinating these activities.

UCL has now published (online only so far, I think) the proposals it had been working on  in such secrecy for 8 months.  As I write this I haven’t been able to read the material but I hope to have done so before Wednesday’s staff meeting. http://www.ucl.ac.uk/stratford UCL Stratford project (I did.) There are exhibitions in Stratford and in the UCL Front Lodge.

My own personal view is that, if the London economy is to grow, Higher Education should grow (though I have yet to be told why UCL needs to double in size) and that east London could do with more of it.  If a new UCL campus were associated with measures to protect against displacement and maximise the emancipatory benefits for the population, with genuine public participation, then it could be great. I’m still willing to argue for this but at the same time support the residents in rejecting the present UCL scheme.

I hope that colleagues in Planning will wish to inform themselves about all this, discuss it and try to make effective contributions now and over the coming months.  I hope many of you will support the community struggling to survive in the face of  the wrong sort of “regeneration”.

Michael

Stratford / Carpenters Links

London: London Plan 2011 free download from City Hall London Plan 2011

London: London Plan EiP Panel Report free download Panel Report

London Plan community group representations: joint web site

Newham Council: Newsletter and update for residents September 2012 here

UCL: Official web page with links to documents October 2012 http://www.ucl.ac.uk/stratford UCL Stratford project

UCL Urban Lab statement October 2012 http://www.ucl.ac.uk/urbanlab/en2/index.php?page=1.3.0&getlistarticle=185&listrange=current

 

UCL Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU) position statement 6 November 2012 http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/dpublog/2012/11/06/dpu-statement-on-ucl-expansion-to-stratford/

 

UCL Student Union  https://uclu.org/articles/ucl-stratford-approach-to-academics

Carpenters Estate: TMO Web site appears dormant since 2009
Residents Steering Group – no link yet discovered

Carpenters Estate: Carpenters Against Regeneration Plans CARP

Twitter:  @savecarpenters

 

Newham local blog: http://www.londonolympicparkwatch.com
Gamesmonitor: rich source of research, links and reports on everything to do with the London (and other) Olympic Games. http://gamesmonitor.org.uk

The Imaginary Party, 27 November (±) http://imaginaryparty.tumblr.com/post/36738922262/housing-speculation-student-debt-fees-and

 

Press coverage (very incomplete I’m sure)

Building Design, rather poor story with link to better editorial. http://t.co/sM06MwR5
Letter we then sent to BD 12 November 2012: To the Editor, Building Design

Elizabeth Hopkirk’s article ‘Academic staff claim they were ‘snubbed’ in planning of east London’s Carpenters Estate campus’ is misleading and would have benefited from more in-depth research. To frame the debate that is happening regarding UCL’s proposals to develop a university quarter in Stratford as a ‘war’ between the Bartlett and UCL is nonsense, and an unhelpful polarisation. Rather than feeling ‘snubbed’, what many academics across UCL – not just in the Bartlett – are arguing for is an open debate based on reasoned arguments, and for any scheme to be community-led, and developed through the insights of UCL’s rich heritage of pioneering research on cities, housing, regeneration and gentrification. As you point out, it is not yet clear what social rented or other housing provision is being proposed.

There were formerly 700 dwellings on this site, and so we believe it should be possible to accommodate that much social rented housing plus some space for leaseholders and freeholders on the site alongside university activity. It would have to be quite dense but that is where UCL’s built environment expertise could be drawn upon. It is also perfectly possible to plan a redevelopment so that residents move within the site if they wish to stay, rather than being “decanted” elsewhere and then permitted to move back.

Your article also misrepresents the proposals, suggesting that a scheme has already been ‘designed’, and that whole departments will move to Stratford – a quick look at the UCL Stratford website would have helped you inform your readers with a more accurate picture. That said, we concur with the tone of Amanda Bailliue’s editorial, and we hope that Building Design will continue to follow this debate, albeit with more careful analysis of its complexities.

Ben Campkin (Director, UCL Urban Laboratory) and Michael Edwards (Senior Lecturer, The Bartlett School of Planning)

Building Design again 6 December 2012 http://www.bdonline.co.uk/news/ucl-students-pledge-to-carry-on-stratford-protests/5046736.article

Al Jazeera (English) 3 February 2013 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O083pyW1Wy4&feature=youtu.be

4 Responses to “UCL proposed new campus at Stratford, replacing the Carpenters Estate”

  1. Hi,

    I’m following the UCL Carpenters Road debate on my new (news) website, http://www.londonolympicparkwatch.com. Please feel free to keep me informed about the opposition campaign, as I want readers to be able to see both sides of the argument.

    regards

    Steve McCormack (Editor)

  2. Steve: thanks, and I’ll feel free to contact you. But if you want to keep track of what I write here you should click above on the RSS button. Best wishes, Michael

  3. Michelle Huby says:

    Thank you for taking such an interest on the struggle of the Carpenters Residents to save their homes & community. My mum is 79 & has lived on the estate for 42 years & was born a stones-throw away in Walton Road, adjacent to Carpenters Road which was another community demolished in the late 60′s , early 70′s. In fact many of the original residents of that community were rehoused on the then new Carpenters Estate!
    My mum owns her ex-council home which she bought under the “Right to Buy” scheme & ironically did so to obtain some security !! Now she & all the other residents face an uncertain future, not a nice situation to be in at the age of 79.
    Many of my mum’s childhood friends were REMOVED from their homes on the estate by Newham Council (they were perfectly happy where they were) & have been placed in other, more remote blocks where they know no-one & have further to go to Stratford Shopping Centre which is one of their few pleasures! When mum sees them occasionally she says they “just look lost & sad”. There are lots of VUNERABLE people on the Carpenters Estate & many of them do not have a voice, & Newham Council & UCL are taking full advantage of this. It’s great we have some academics on board to give some of these people a voice. THANK YOU!

  4. Thanks Michelle for some more evidence of how destructive of community this eviction would be. A lot of us are trying to get the UCL management people to think again about this project – which I am quite sure can be re-thought to share space with its residents.
    A second displacement in one lifetime is especially hurtful, I agree.
    Perhaps, though you, or through your mum, we could make some contacts with former residents.
    We aren’t “taking an interest” in a casual or charitable sense: we have got involved because we are not willing to see our university do such unnecessary damage when it should be a force for good.
    Best wishes.

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