"Regeneration"

Morning starts with IPD/Savills presenting at the German Gymnasium on the property market “performance” of regeneration areas. As we knew, very large amounts of money can be made out of ‘regeneration’, especially with the public sector ‘de-risking’ it. Not much is expected to happen in the near future, therefore. Small projects with short time-scales and no infrastructure / remediation costs may happen, at least in prime regions.

Then to UEL for a seminar on Docklands. Kicked off by Mike Raco, stressing that London Docklands need not have been like that: with  that huge amount of public money, different things could have been done, and the importance of getting alternatives onto the agenda. Good start. He used (¿ coined) the phrase ‘trickle up’.Followed by Sister Christine a tenants’ leader from SPLASH (South Poplar) being very eloquent on the experience of having regeneration done to you. [ This is a scrappy post, done live in real time. It needs editing. Sorry. ] She told this terrible story about Robin Hood Gardens where 4 residents were chosen to go for “empowerment training” on “procurement” so they could represent the community in deliberations about selecting an RSL to manage the redevelopment of their estate. When they finally got to the selection meeting, they were told that they could not ask any questions. And when they asked if they could video the meeting to report back, they were told they could not.

Another story is Mr Chambers, 87, who has a ground floor leasehold in RHG and has been offered £170,000 – supposedly to enable him to buy an equivalent flat – which is an insult because he wants to stay in the area where all his friends are, services etc and the lowest price is more than double that (the numbers need checking).

Then John East from LB Newham, director of development services. Standard city marketing speak – sales pitch for the ‘arc of opportunity’. Deeply depressing. Hostile to more social  housing.  Michael Ward fights back with some good strong points on skills as the crucial issue which is never tackled. I said some stuff about low pay and low productivity – and about the contradiction of seeking “stable communities” while maximising housing tenures other than social renting – since social renting is where the stabiity lies, while it’s private renting which has maximum churn (and owner-occupation somewhere between).

Then Eric Sorensen with his version of the ‘single truth’. Emphasises the importance of a single quango + land ownership + money as crucial in LDDC’s ability to get things done – it would have been stupid if it hadn’t achieved a lot. Michael von Clemm, G Ware Travelstead + O&Y. + constraints on office growth in Central London were the ingredients of CW. It was a very particular configuration. Tragedy of non-communication between LDDC and boroughs in early years. But we have secured much better public transport, estate refurbishment, etc. Being inside LDDC was like cowboys and indians. No-one was assumed to be benign. The accountability systems were simple, results were everything. LDDC did have plans, with different approaches to different areas.

I am concerned by the lack of civicness in the way we do regeneration, he said. Theatres, cinemas, mixes of shops. Governments still don’t prioritise these things, even now. What is the acid test? Social housing? But what is it we are trying to do? Social housing has been residualised as a matter of deliberate public policy. NO, for me it’s getting people into work. (He gives a goodish account of the problems for low-skill people seeking to get into labour market.) But he concludes that the only priority is to get everyone in London equipped to enter this central London economy.

Ines Newman: it was in first Heath govt that Heseltine first saw docklands. But the DJC plan had great and wide support, and everyone was up for it but Thatcher came along and took the land away from the local people. That’s the story.

ES: progress was very slow under the DJC; there was exodus of people and businesses. Peter Shore was trying to inject some energy into the DJC and he couldn’t do it because he couldn’t get more than £15m per year from Treasury. (We had £200m p.a.)  The area teams were important, including the Beckton one and we built up a real trust. I’m sorry, he said (in response to a complaint), that Newham tried to abolish the Beckton one.

Howard Dawber (CW Group). Tells historical story. They have £720m of contracts with ‘local’ firms. After 20 years it is bedding down. 23% of workers in CW are local. 8,500 CW workers from LBTH, largest single workplace of TH residents. Followed (absolute numbers I think) by southwark, greenwich, newham… // another story was how they got a man with a cart to sell coffee at the start of CW, when none of the chains would do it; that grew into the Cafe Brera chain of 6.

Then Bob Colenutt. This is the real version. 70s and 80s community action expressed solidarity (i) as workplace (ii) as communities and (iii) as development land which could be used to provide for people’s needs. It was a class war with parallels all over the UK as deindustrialisation raged. It was against the lie of trickle-down. To oppose what Colin Ward had called the abndonment of the idea of the city as a public good. There were lots of alternatives, some of which were realised – like Cherry Gardens Pier, Mudshute Farm, Coin Street etc… By 1990s we thought that we had won at least the war for community control or at least consultation – but “partnerships” turned out to do nothing to change the balance of power. Private property markets remained dominant. Now the property-market-led system has collapsed and the idea of sustainable communities has been dropped by government. Ends on a positive note about the potentialities of protests, UKuncut, etc. The battles over land and development and control are not over yet. Later: very inspirational on what could have been done and could still be done by alternatives with land value capture. Bob’s talk is here.

CW man says tax coming out of CW and its occupiers exceeds every year the total spending of the LDDC. CW also favours LVT, he says. Then he’s very good on how the housing system is a total failure.

(Thanks to Duncan Bowie for correcting a howler.)

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Author: Ed

staff in the Bartlett School of Planning and cooperating with others in UCL and with the Just Space Network to support London citizens' inpu

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