Saturday, 24 October 2009

Valentines Day on the Heygate, 2009.

Found this on Youtube this morning: 

Valentines Day Ball at the Heygate

Mostly old folks gathered in a community hall - I"m guessing the hall behind what used to be the doctor's office, now the office for the Heygate Tennant's Association. Probably the last time people got together like this on the estate.

It says a lot that in the six or seven months I lived on the Heygate, I was hardly aware that this older, white working class still existed. The faces I saw were mainly those of immigrants - Africans, South Americans, East Euros. This, I"m sure, had a lot to do with the fact I was an immigrant myself, albeit of a different kind. But it does say a lot about the alienating power of the estate, when you can't even get a sense of the people who live around you.

Where are these folks now, I wonder?

Friday, 23 October 2009

Call in Guardian for more council housing . . .

The new elephant. The Strata tower, looking down the tracks to Walworth Road.

From last week in the Guardian (busy week last week, knocked out with a bad cold so haven't had time to update):

High Time for More Council Housing:

Columnist Patrick Collinson bikes by the Hegate Estate every morning. Apparently, the Heygate is 'the best known and least loved' housing estate in Britain. I would have thought the much worse Aylesbury or the since-demolished North Peckham Estate (never mind a few choice estates in Liverpool, Salford, Edinburgh . . . . the list goes on) would qualify. But never mind.

He makes the very valid point that the architectural mistakes of the 50's and 60's have colored Britain's view of council housing, leading to a housing shortage. I certainly experienced this in London - the quality of housing for the non-rich was appallingly bad - which is partly why I moved onto the Heygate.

Of the new housing across the roundabout, he writes:

A grim walkway under a busy roundabout connects the Heygate to the first major new residential development in Elephant & Castle, built on the site of a demolished council block, Castle House. But the evicted residents of the Heygate can only look up in awe. You can find a selection of one-, two- and three-bedroom flats in the 43-storey Strata Tower, now nearing completion. But housing benefit won't quite stretch that far. Upmarket estate agents Savills is marketing a one-bed flat in the new block for £850,000. A three-bedder is in the millions.
   What struck me most about all the talk of 'regeneration' when I lived in the Elephant, was how little attention was being paid to the neighborhood that would result. It seemed pretty much a given that this nice new Elephant, with it's tram lines and boulevards lined with cafes, would no longer be working class. Sure, they'd put in a few low rent flats, but after how many years of development, what community had existed on the estate would be broken up and very unlikely to come together again. Certainly the posters put up around the Oakmayne site ('Believe in Oakmayne!'), showed nice white very middle class people on those boulevards or sitting in the terraces of their nice little flats.

   The Elephant has always been a working class neighborhood. When I first moved there in the 80's, it was Irish working class (or at least my section of it, on the Rockinham Estate, was Irish), in my most recent experience, it was populated primarily by immigrants. Either way, it was inhabited mainly by poor people, and that was it's identity and it's (sort of) charm. T|he Heygate, by dint of it's ugliness, was a kind of rampart against the ocean of gentrfication pouring in across the tracks. Take it away, and the Elephant will be just another boring Zone 1 neighborhood.

   I mean what kind of moron pays 850,000 pounds for a one bedroom flat? Anywhere? And next to one of the world's biggest construction sites at that. Will these people be going down to the East Street Market, I wonder?

View looking south from Ashedon House.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Latest Developments

From London SE1:

Lend Lease "still very interested" says chief executive, Dan Labbad.

"We believe that we're close to the bottom of the market in the UK . . . It's the right time to invest in regeneration schemes which is why we are very interested in our position at Greenwich, our discussions at Elephant & Castle and also being involved in Stratford for the medium to long term,"

Despite this, Mr. Labbad said 'significant barriers' still existed for 'entry' including the credit market, and a suitable partnership with the government.

Meawhile . . . The two Caryatids sequestered in the little garden in the middle of the estate, have been moved out. The two caryatids (a column carved in the shape of a person, in this case an imitation of the stone lady statues on the Parthenon) were carved by Henry Poole in 1885 and decorated Rotherhithe Town Hall, until bombing destroyed the Town Hall building in 1945. The caryatids survived however, and were installed on the Heygate.

I discovered the two stone ladies last year, but had no idea of their history. They seemed totally incongruous in the conext of the estate, but they were a nice touch nonetheless. If you looked into the little garden from the right angle, the green blocked the towers on either side, and you could imagine you were somewhere else entirely.

Also, from the Independent: London: City of Broken Dreams: reports that East Euros made desperate by the recession are squatting the Heygate. The council claims that there are no squatters on the estate (of course). But if the deal with Lend Lease is NOT signed, I wonder if the whole estate will be taken over? Who would stop them?

Friday, 9 October 2009

Regeneration Skyscraper Plans Under Threat

From London SE1:

Boris Hyde Park Policy Change Could scupper SE1 skyscraper plans

From the article:
"In June Boris Johnson published draft planning guidance to protect significant views of London landmarks.

Among the new measures proposed in the document is an additional protected view from the bridge over the Serpentine in Hyde Park towards the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.

On Tuesday night Southwark's planning committee was told that this new protection could affect proposals for tall buildings as part of the regeneration of Elephant & Castle.

The council's head of design & conservation Michael Tsoukaris told councillors that the effect of the policy would be to cap the height of future developments at some locations around the Elephant & Castle northern roundabout at 65 metres."

Among the buildings affected would be Oakmayne Plaza, the hi-rise complex along New Kent Road which would replace the Heygate. Oakmayne, as it is proposed now, would be 87.5 metres.