Category Archives: Posted

Concrete Soldiers – Saving Britain’s Council Estates and Social Housing from the Developer Philistines

Concrete Soldiers – Saving Britain’s Council Estates and Social Housing from the Developer Philistines

Three years ago I was looking at all the new developments in London and was surprised to see how much of the construction happened on old council estate land.

I started wondering why the councils wanted to sell off their valuable assets and whether there were alternatives…. That’s how Concrete Soldiers UK began…

– Three years later and Concrete Soldiers UK is not only answering my questions but it has also become a film about the fighting spirit that I encountered on the way.

I was so impressed by people and their tireless campaigning in situations which often ended with a negative outcome. It’s easy to see why people would become discouraged and just give up. But some haven’t and some even managed to succeed in their campaigns. That’s what Concrete Soldiers UK is all about.

There has been no funding for this project and there is no-one who is looking to profit from this film. My main objective is to make it accessible to as many people as possible, so there will be a download link available in the future.

Until then keep checking our social media or this website for updates. And please do arrange your own screening. This film was made for sharing,

French Police Use Tear Gas, Water Cannons against Thousands of Eco-Activism Protesters

French Police Use Tear Gas, Water Cannons against Thousands of Eco-Activism Protesters

TEHRAN (FNA)- Activists clashed with police for a sixth day in Western France. Law enforcement officials used tear gas and water cannons against crowds protesting the demolition of their ‘eco-camp’ on the site of an abandoned airport.

The demonstration drew nearly 7,000 people in support of occupants of the ZAD (French abbreviation for ‘Zone to Defend’) anarchist commune, according to France 24.

The rally erupted into open confrontation after the protesters, holding banners reading ‘Stop violence’, attempted to storm barricades erected by law enforcement officials.

Riot police fired tear gas in response to rocks and stun grenades being thrown at them. The windows of several shops were smashed and trash bins were set on fire.

Twelve protesters were arrested and nine police officers wounded, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said in a statement, denouncing what he described as “unspeakable violence.”

“Since the beginning of the week, at least 148 people have been taken care of,” including those who suffered injuries from stun grenades or developed neurological disorders (vertigo, headaches), according to a medical team set up at the activists’ camp.

Around 2,500 enforcement officials were mobilized for evictions in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, 20km from Nantes, on Monday.

Up to several hundred activists occupied the 1,650-hectare site, once reserved for a proposed airport, calling it their ‘Zone a Defendre.’

Environmental activists have actively protested against the construction of the airport in Notre-Dame-des-Landes since 2008.

Throughout the week, Molotov cocktails and stun grenades were hurled through clouds of tear gas as Zadists clashed with police.


The biggest land occupation in europe still under attack.


	

The 34 Estates Approved for Destruction By Sadiq Khan Despite Promising No More Demolitions Without Residents’ Ballots

The destruction of Robin Hood Gardens estate in Poplar, March 13, 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

Anyone paying attention to the sordid story of council estate demolitions in London will know how hard it is to take politicians seriously — and especially Labour politicians — when it comes to telling the truth about their actions and their intentions.

Perfectly sound estates are deliberately run down, so that councils can then claim that it’s too expensive to refurbish them, and that the only option is to knock them down and build new ones — with their developer friends who are conveniently waiting in the wings.

In addition, a collection of further lies are also disseminated, which divert attention from the fundamental injustice of the alleged justification for demolitions — false claims that the new housing will be “affordable”, when it isn’t; that part-ownership deals are worthwhile, when they are not; and that building new properties with private developers will reduce council waiting lists, when it won’t.

The biggest lie of this whole “regeneration” racket, therefore, is that structurally sound estates must be knocked down, while, on a day to day basis, the second biggest lie permeates all discussion with the success of Goebbels-style propaganda — the lie that “affordable” housing is affordable. Boris Johnson, in his crushingly dire eight years as London’s Mayor, decided that “affordable” meant 80% of market rents, but that is clearly not affordable, as market rents are so dizzyingly overblown — and completely unfettered by any form of legislation — that people are often paying well over half their incomes in rent, when what was long regarded as fair was a third (similarly, buying a home is now unaffordable for most people, as prices have spiralled out of reach, with a huge deposit needed for a property that costs ten times a buyer’s annual salary, when the fair model of the past used to be that it should cost no more than three and a half times one’s annual income).

Genuinely affordable rents are social rents, paid by council tenants and housing association tenants, which are generally a third of market rents, but it is these rents that central government, councils and, most recently, large housing associations, are trying to get rid of entirely. Behind it all is the stranglehold of Tory austerity, cynically implemented to destroy all public services, but few of those responsible for social housing are fighting back, and many — including many Labour councils — are actually gleefully engaged in social cleansing their boroughs of those they regard as an impediment to gentrification and wealthier incomers.

But here the extent of the delusion ought to become clear. These coveted aspirational professional young people do exist, but they can barely afford to pay the kind of costs associated with a property racket that is only really interested in couples who earn over £70,000 a year, while anyone who earns less — and is regarded as “poor” by bloated public servants who have lost touch with reality — will probably end up being priced out of the future of endless towers of new housing that are largely being bought off-plan by foreign investors, who often leave their investments empty.

Ironically, to keep most workers able to live in London, where, we should note, the mean income is no more than £20,000, compared to the average income, which is around £35,000, the government will end up having to subsidise cynically inflated new build rents, to add to the £26bn housing benefit bill, most of which goes to private landlords, when the only sensible way out of this spiral of greed is to defend social rents, stop knocking estates down, and embark on any number of visionary and large-scale not-for-profit social homebuilding projects to deliver new homes for social rent. City investors will be supportive of such a plan, because guaranteed rents over decades, even at socially rented levels, are actually a good investment, whose rationale has been lost in the forest of greed in which we currently find ourselves that is making life miserable for most renters, or driving them out of the capital altogether.

Over the last few years, the horrors of the housing market have started to become more apparent to more people, withthe Heygate development in Southwark as a grim template. There, Southwark Council sold off a Brutalist estate that could easily but mistakenly be portrayed as a sink estate, to Lendlease, rapacious international property developers. The council made no money out of the deal, but Lendlease stands to make £200m from the Heygate’s replacement, Elephant Park, which will contain just 82 units of housing for social rent, when the original estate had over a thousand socially rented flats.

The Heygate provided a template for the effective scrutiny of “regeneration”, but Southwark Council, greedy and contemptuous of its own constituents, failed to heeds its lessons, and has now started demolishing the Aylesbury Estate down the road, one of Europe’s largest estates. There has been noticeable resistance in Lambeth, to proposals to destroy two very well-designed estates, Central Hill andCressingham Gardens, and the false rationale for destruction becomes more transparent when architects and heritage bodies become involved. A powerful example of this is Robin Hood Gardens in Tower Hamlets, a visionary Brutalist estate, shamefully neglected, whose destruction is, however, well under way despite high-level support for its preservation.

Another key battleground has been Haringey, in north London, where campaigners successfully derailed the first phase of proposals by the council to enter into a giant stock transfer programme with Lendlease, and last June the Grenfell Tower disaster brought into sharp relief, how, in the most horrific manner imaginable, the lives of those who live in social housing are regarded as inferior to those with mortgages.

In autumn, Jeremy Corbyn intervened in the debate about social housing, using his conference speech to say that there must be no more estate demolitions without residents’ ballots. It was a high-profile intervention in the debate, and it set a marker for campaigners, and for the Labour left, but it lacks the teeth to stop destructive Labour Councils form continuing with their destruction, and Corbyn has persistently failed to follow up on this grand gesture by engaging in ground-level criticism of people like Peter John and Lib Peck, the leaders of Southwark and Lambeth councils respectively.

Corbyn’s promise was picked up on by Sadiq Khan, London’s Mayor since 2016, who also promised that there would be no estate demolitions without ballots, but was then rumbled by hard-working and tenacious Green London Assembly member Sian Berry, who revealed, a month ago, that, as she put it in the headline of a well-read article on her website, ‘Mayor quietly signs off funding for 34 estates, dodging new ballot rules.’

Berry produced a list of the estates, which are listed below, and stated that the information showed Sadiq Khan “signing off at least over 9,000 home demolitions, leaving around 3,000 homes we can count in schemes that will subject to ballots.” She added, “In total, since the consultation closed nearly a year ago (when the Mayor knew he would have no choice but to introduce ballots) he has signed off funding for 34 estates. And 16 of these schemes have been signed off since 1 December when the Mayor and his team were finalising the new policy and gearing up to announce it.”

As she also stated, “This information paints a sorry picture, and is a harsh slap in the face to many residents on estates under threat who – thanks to his actions – will be denied a ballot at the last moment before his new policy comes in. They include the Fenwick, Cressingham Gardens, Knights Walk and other estates in Lambeth (though not Central Hill), Ham Close in Richmond, Cambridge Road in Kingston and the Aylesbury in Southwark.”

She also stated, “I am appalled by this behaviour, and with the delaying tactics involved in trying not to admit he was rushing through major schemes like this”, and added, “It is a betrayal of the residents on these 34 estates, but it will also disappoint the Mayor’s wider electorate, who are just about to vote in local elections in London. I commissioned YouGov to poll Londoners as a whole on this issue and 64 per cent backed ballots for estate residents, with only 13 per cent against, in results revealed this week.”

A spokesman for the Mayor sought to contradict Sian Berry’s claims, telling the Architects’ Journal, “The mayor made a firm public commitment not to sign off any contracts for new estate regeneration schemes during the consultation [on ballots, which ran from February to April]. No contracts for new estate regeneration schemes have been signed since the consultation on ballots opened.”

The Architects’ Journal added, “According to the mayor, the majority of the 34 decisions were made before last summer, and 16 [other] contracts signed after 1 December were for schemes already allocated funding.”

What actually happened, as careful readers will realise, is that Khan was told — by his advisors, and by councils and developers — that deals that were considered to already be underway — even if they weren’t — had to be approved before any inconvenient new hurdles like ballots could even be considered.

As Sian Berry put it, The mayor needs to think again about how the people on the estates he’s rushed through should be treated. Their right to a ballot can’t be brushed off just because he’s decided to restrict his policy only to questions of funding and pushed these deals through. Many of these estates, including Cressingham Gardens, do not yet have planning permission and the mayor could be asking for ballots to be held on these schemes, and using the results as a consideration in his planning decisions.”

The list of estates, whose destruction was approved after the end of the consultation on the guidance for estate demolition (March 14, 2017) is below, and please follow the links for further information. And what’s particularly interesting, of course, is how only 17 of London’s 32 boroughs are involved, although most of those are Labour-controlled, which is surely something worth reflecting on with London’s local elections taking place next Thursday, May 3.

The 34 estates approved for destruction from March 2017 to January 2018 by Sadiq Khan

SOUTH

Southwark (2)

Aylesbury, SE1 – 3,500 new properties, with Notting Hill Housing Trust, approved October 25, 2017.
Ongoing destruction, particularly resisted by leaseholders facing Compulsory Purchase Orders, who secured a brief but significant success in 2016. Also see ‘The State of London’, and check out the 35 Percent campaign’s detailed accounthere.

Elmington Estate, SE5 – 632 new properties, with Peabody Trust, approved January 22, 2018.
Ongoing destruction. See ‘The State of London’, and check out the 35 Percent campaign’s detailed account here.

Lambeth (5)

Cressingham Gardens, SW2 – 464 new properties, approved December 1. 2017.
Long-standing residents’ resistance to destruction of well-designed 1970s low-level estate, and close-knit community on edge of Brockwell Park. See ‘The State of London.’

Fenwick Estate, SW9 – 508 new properties, approved December 1. 2017.
Estate near Clapham North tube station, subjected to ‘managed decline’ by council. No tenants’ perspective available online.

Knights Walk, SE11 – 84 new properties, approved September 29, 2017.
Small estate, partly saved in previous resistance involving ASH (Architects for Social Housing).

South Lambeth, SW8 – 363 new properties, approved September 29, 2017.
No tenants’ perspective available online. Lambeth Council’s page is here.

Westbury Estate, SW8 – 334 new properties, approved September 29, 2017.
No tenants’ perspective available online. Lambeth Council’s page is here.

Lewisham (2)

Frankham Street, SE8 (aka Reginald Road) – 209 new properties, with Peabody Trust, approved January 22, 2018.
Long-standing battle to save a block of 16 council flats (Reginald House) and Old Tidemill Garden, a community garden, from destruction as part of the redevelopment of the old Tidemill School. Alternative plans could easily preserve the garden and flats, but the council and Peabody aren’t interested. For the resistance, see here and here.

Heathside & Lethbridge, SE10 – 459 new properties, with Peabody Trust, approved January 22, 2018.
Ongoing destruction of two estates, only one of which, the Brutalist Lethbridge Estate, is still standing. No tenants’ perspective online. See ‘The State of London.’

Greenwich (1)

Connaught, Morris Walk and Maryon, SE18 – 1,500 new properties, approved January 15, 2018.
Planned destruction of three estates. Connaught has already been demolished, and is being replaced by a new development. Morris Walk and Maryon are subjected to serious ‘managed decline.’ No tenants’ perspective online. For Maryon, see ‘The State of London.’

Bexley (1)

Arthur Street, DA8 – 310 new properties, with Orbit Group Limited, approved December 22, 2017.
Proposed development of an estate including three tower blocks in Erith. See Orbit Homes’ plans here, and this Bexley Times article.

Wandsworth (1)

St. John’s Hill, SW11 – 599 properties, with Peabody Trust, approved January 22, 2018.
The continuation of the destruction of a 1930s estates and its replacement with new properties because, as Peabody alleges,”the accommodation does not now fit the needs of residents.” They also note, “Phase 1 of the redevelopment (153 homes) was completed in April 2016 and includes 80 homes for social rent, 6 shared ownership and 67 private sale.” See Peabody’s page here.

Merton (1)

High Path, Eastfields, Ravensbury – 2,800 properties, with Clarion Housing Group, approved December 21, 2017.
See development information about these estates in South Wimbledon (High Path) and Mitcham (Eastfields, Ravensbury) on the website of Clarion (formed from the merger of Affinity Sutton and Circle Housing in 2016) here. Alocal news article last May stated, “Clarion estimate there are currently 608 homes in High Path, 465 in Eastfields and 192 in Ravensbury. Including the replacement houses, about 1660 homes will be built in High Path, 800 in Eastfields and up to 180 in Ravensbury. This means that after the replacement homes have been built for the existing tenants, an extra 1,800 homes will be available to rent and buy.” No mention was made of what these new rental costs might be.

Richmond upon Thames (1)

Ham Close – 425 properties, with Richmond Housing Partnership Limited, approved November 17, 2017.
See the Ham Close Uplift website for further information.

Kingston (1)

Cambridge Road – 2003 properties, approved October 10, 2017.
See the council’s plans here for the redevelopment of the site, which includes three tower blocks. For the residents’ association, see here, and also check out this local news article from 2016.

EAST/NORTH

Tower Hamlets (4)

Aberfeldy Estate (phases 4, 5 & 6), E14 – 206 properties, with Poplar HARCA Ltd, approved October 18, 2017.
Ongoing destruction of an estate in Poplar — a 12-year project involving the creation of over 1,000 new properties. For more information, see the website of architects Levitt Bernstein, and also see Poplar HARCA’s site. Rather pretentiously, I think, the architects claim, “The site’s illustrious past is made visible through art installations including case concrete tea crates and brass cotton reels in the landscape and paisley patterns etched in the paving. Crisp detailing and a limited material palette give the buildings a modern warehouse aesthetic.”

Blackwall Reach, E14 – 1,575 properties, with Swan Housing Association, approved March 23, 2017.
This is a much-criticised project that involves the destruction of Robin Hood Gardens, the acclaimed Brutalist masterpiece, which was, indeed, an extraordinary creation, although it was severely neglected by Tower Hamlets Council as part of very deliberate “managed decline.” For more, see ‘The State of London’ here and here.

Chrisp Street Market, E14 – 643 properties, with Poplar HARCA Ltd, approved October 18, 2017.
This contentious project involves the destruction of the first purpose-built pedestrian shopping area in the UK, created for the Festival of Britain in 1951, and associated housing, although it has met with strong local resistance, and was put on hold by the council in February 2018. See a City Metric article here.

Exmouth Estate, E1 – 80 properties, with Swan Housing Association, approved March 23, 2017.
The estate is just off the Commercial Road, but I can’t find any information available online.

Barnet (1)

Grahame Park (phase B, plots 10, 11 & 12) – 1,083 homes, with Genesis Housing Association Ltd, approved November 24, 2017.
For the council’s plans for this estate in Colindale, see here. They claim that, with Genesis, as “the developer and resident social landlord”, who have now merged with Notting Hill, they will build approximately 3,000 homes by 2032, including around 1,800 new private homes, around 900 new “affordable” homes. In addition, “Approximately 25 per cent (463) of the original homes will be retained and integrated into the new development.” Also see the Notting Hill Genesis page here.

Brent (1)

South Kilburn Estate (various phases) – 2,400 homes, with Notting Hill Housing Trust, Network Homes Ltd, L&Q and Catalyst Housing Group, approved October 23, 2017.
Ongoing destruction. For the Observer, Rowan Moore was full of praise for the new development in 2016, stating, “Thanks to the enlightened thinking of Brent council and Alison Brooks Architects, a notorious London estate that featured in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth is now the site of some of the best housing in the neighbourhood.” See Brent Council’s pagehere, and also see a review on the Municipal website here.

Enfield (1)

Alma Estate, EN3 – 993 homes, with Newlon Housing Association and Countryside, approved November 15, 2017.
Ongoing destruction of four big tower blocks in Pomders End. See ‘The State of London.’

Havering (5)

Napier House and New Plymouth House – 200 homes, approved January 31, 2018.

Waterloo Estate – 994 homes, approved January 31, 2018.

Orchard Estate (former Mardyke) – 55 homes, with Clarion Housing Group, approved December 21, 2017.

Queen Street Sheltered Housing Scheme – 6 homes, approved July 17, 2017.

Solar, Serena, Sunrise Sheltered Housing Scheme – 54 homes, approved July 17, 2017.

Barking & Dagenham (1)

Gascoigne West (Barking Town Centre) – 850 homes, approved July 27, 2017.

WEST

Kensington & Chelsea (2)

William Sutton Estate, SW3 – 270 homes, with Clarion Housing Group, approved December 21, 2017.

Wornington Green, W10 – 1,000 homes, with Catalyst Housing Ltd, approved January 8, 2018.

Ealing (4)

Friary Park – 476 homes, with Catalyst Housing Ltd, approved January 8, 2018.

Havelock Estate – 922 homes, with Catalyst Housing Ltd, approved January 8, 2018.

Green Man Lane – 770 homes, with A2Dominion Homes and Rydon/FABRICA, approved November 7, 2017.

South Acton – 2,600 homes, with L&Q, approved November 7, 2017.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author,photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based bandThe Four Fathers, whose music isavailable via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found onFacebook (and here), TwitterFlickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner listThe Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas listthe full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free tomake a donation.

23Apr18

The destruction of Robin Hood Gardens estate in Poplar, March 13, 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.


Anyone paying any attention to the sordid story of council estate demolitions in London will know how hard it is to take politicians seriously — and especially Labour politicians — when it comes to telling the truth about their actions and their intentions.

Perfectly sound estates are deliberately run down, so that councils can then claim that it’s too expensive to refurbish them, and that the only option is to knock them down and build new ones — with their developer friends who are conveniently waiting in the wings.

In addition, a collection of further lies are also disseminated, which divert attention from the fundamental injustice of the alleged justification for demolitions — false claims that the new housing will be “affordable”, when it isn’t; that part-ownership deals are worthwhile, when they are not; and that building new properties with private developers will reduce council waiting lists, when it won’t.

The biggest lie of this whole “regeneration” racket, therefore, is that structurally sound estates must be knocked down, while, on a day to day basis, the second biggest lie permeates all discussion with the success of Goebbels-style propaganda — the lie that “affordable” housing is affordable. Boris Johnson, in his crushingly dire eight years as London’s Mayor, decided that “affordable” meant 80% of market rents, but that is clearly not affordable, as market rents are so dizzyingly overblown — and completely unfettered by any form of legislation — that people are often paying well over half their incomes in rent, when what was long regarded as fair was a third (similarly, buying a home is now unaffordable for most people, as prices have spiralled out of reach, with a huge deposit needed for a property that costs ten times a buyer’s annual salary, when the fair model of the past used to be that it should cost no more than three and a half times one’s annual income).

Genuinely affordable rents are social rents, paid by council tenants and housing association tenants, which are generally a third of market rents, but it is these rents that central government, councils and, most recently, large housing associations, are trying to get rid of entirely. Behind it all is the stranglehold of Tory austerity, cynically implemented to destroy all public services, but few of those responsible for social housing are fighting back, and many — including many Labour councils — are actually gleefully engaged in social cleansing their boroughs of those they regard as an impediment to gentrification and wealthier incomers.

But here the extent of the delusion ought to become clear. These coveted aspirational professional young people do exist, but they can barely afford to pay the kind of costs associated with a property racket that is only really interested in couples who earn over £70,000 a year, while anyone who earns less — and is regarded as “poor” by bloated public servants who have lost touch with reality — will probably end up being priced out of the future of endless towers of new housing that are largely being bought off-plan by foreign investors, who often leave their investments empty.

Ironically, to keep most workers able to live in London, where, we should note, the mean income is no more than £20,000, compared to the average income, which is around £35,000, the government will end up having to subsidise cynically inflated new build rents, to add to the £26bn housing benefit bill, most of which goes to private landlords, when the only sensible way out of this spiral of greed is to defend social rents, stop knocking estates down, and embark on any number of visionary and large-scale not-for-profit social homebuilding projects to deliver new homes for social rent. City investors will be supportive of such a plan, because guaranteed rents over decades, even at socially rented levels, are actually a good investment, whose rationale has been lost in the forest of greed in which we currently find ourselves that is making life miserable for most renters, or driving them out of the capital altogether.

Over the last few years, the horrors of the housing market have started to become more apparent to more people, with the Heygate development in Southwark as a grim template. There, Southwark Council sold off a Brutalist estate that could easily but mistakenly be portrayed as a sink estate, to Lendlease, rapacious international property developers. The council made no money out of the deal, but Lendlease stands to make £200m from the Heygate’s replacement, Elephant Park, which will contain just 82 units of housing for social rent, when the original estate had over a thousand socially rented flats.

The Heygate provided a template for the effective scrutiny of “regeneration”, but Southwark Council, greedy and contemptuous of its own constituents, failed to heeds its lessons, and has now started demolishing the Aylesbury Estate down the road, one of Europe’s largest estates. There has been noticeable resistance in Lambeth, to proposals to destroy two very well-designed estates, Central Hill and Cressingham Gardens, and the false rationale for destruction becomes more transparent when architects and heritage bodies become involved. A powerful example of this is Robin Hood Gardens in Tower Hamlets, a visionary Brutalist estate, shamefully neglected, whose destruction is, however, well under way despite high-level support for its preservation.

Another key battleground has been Haringey, in north London, where campaigners successfully derailed the first phase of proposals by the council to enter into a giant stock transfer programme with Lendlease, and last June the Grenfell Tower disaster brought into sharp relief, how, in the most horrific manner imaginable, the lives of those who live in social housing are regarded as inferior to those with mortgages.

In autumn, Jeremy Corbyn intervened in the debate about social housing, using his conference speech to say that there must be no more estate demolitions without residents’ ballots. It was a high-profile intervention in the debate, and it set a marker for campaigners, and for the Labour left, but it lacks the teeth to stop destructive Labour Councils form continuing with their destruction, and Corbyn has persistently failed to follow up on this grand gesture by engaging in ground-level criticism of people like Peter John and Lib Peck, the leaders of Southwark and Lambeth councils respectively.

Corbyn’s promise was picked up on by Sadiq Khan, London’s Mayor since 2016, who also promised that there would be no estate demolitions without ballots, but was then rumbled by hard-working and tenacious Green London Assembly member Sian Berry, who revealed, a month ago, that, as she put it in the headline of a well-read article on her website, ‘Mayor quietly signs off funding for 34 estates, dodging new ballot rules.’

Berry produced a list of the estates, which are listed below, and stated that the information showed Sadiq Khan “signing off at least over 9,000 home demolitions, leaving around 3,000 homes we can count in schemes that will subject to ballots.” She added, “In total, since the consultation closed nearly a year ago (when the Mayor knew he would have no choice but to introduce ballots) he has signed off funding for 34 estates. And 16 of these schemes have been signed off since 1 December when the Mayor and his team were finalising the new policy and gearing up to announce it.”

As she also stated, “This information paints a sorry picture, and is a harsh slap in the face to many residents on estates under threat who – thanks to his actions – will be denied a ballot at the last moment before his new policy comes in. They include the Fenwick, Cressingham Gardens, Knights Walk and other estates in Lambeth (though not Central Hill), Ham Close in Richmond, Cambridge Road in Kingston and the Aylesbury in Southwark.”

She also stated, “I am appalled by this behaviour, and with the delaying tactics involved in trying not to admit he was rushing through major schemes like this”, and added, “It is a betrayal of the residents on these 34 estates, but it will also disappoint the Mayor’s wider electorate, who are just about to vote in local elections in London. I commissioned YouGov to poll Londoners as a whole on this issue and 64 per cent backed ballots for estate residents, with only 13 per cent against, in results revealed this week.”

A spokesman for the Mayor sought to contradict Sian Berry’s claims, telling the Architects’ Journal, “The mayor made a firm public commitment not to sign off any contracts for new estate regeneration schemes during the consultation [on ballots, which ran from February to April]. No contracts for new estate regeneration schemes have been signed since the consultation on ballots opened.”

The Architects’ Journal added, “According to the mayor, the majority of the 34 decisions were made before last summer, and 16 [other] contracts signed after 1 December were for schemes already allocated funding.”

What actually happened, as careful readers will realise, is that Khan was told — by his advisors, and by councils and developers — that deals that were considered to already be underway — even if they weren’t — had to be approved before any inconvenient new hurdles like ballots could even be considered.

As Sian Berry put it, The mayor needs to think again about how the people on the estates he’s rushed through should be treated. Their right to a ballot can’t be brushed off just because he’s decided to restrict his policy only to questions of funding and pushed these deals through. Many of these estates, including Cressingham Gardens, do not yet have planning permission and the mayor could be asking for ballots to be held on these schemes, and using the results as a consideration in his planning decisions.”

The list of estates, whose destruction was approved after the end of the consultation on the guidance for estate demolition (March 14, 2017) is below, and please follow the links for further information. And what’s particularly interesting, of course, is how only 17 of London’s 32 boroughs are involved, although most of those are Labour-controlled, which is surely something worth reflecting on with London’s local elections taking place next Thursday, May 3.

The 34 estates approved for destruction from March 2017 to January 2018 by Sadiq Khan

SOUTH

Southwark (2)

Aylesbury, SE1 – 3,500 new properties, with Notting Hill Housing Trust, approved October 25, 2017.
Ongoing destruction, particularly resisted by leaseholders facing Compulsory Purchase Orders, who secured a brief but significant success in 2016. Also see ‘The State of London’, and check out the 35 Percent campaign’s detailed account here.

Elmington Estate, SE5 – 632 new properties, with Peabody Trust, approved January 22, 2018.
Ongoing destruction. See ‘The State of London’, and check out the 35 Percent campaign’s detailed account here.

Lambeth (5)

Cressingham Gardens, SW2 – 464 new properties, approved December 1. 2017.
Long-standing residents’ resistance to destruction of well-designed 1970s low-level estate, and close-knit community on edge of Brockwell Park. See ‘The State of London.’

Fenwick Estate, SW9 – 508 new properties, approved December 1. 2017.
Estate near Clapham North tube station, subjected to ‘managed decline’ by council. No tenants’ perspective available online.

Knights Walk, SE11 – 84 new properties, approved September 29, 2017.
Small estate, partly saved in previous resistance involving ASH (Architects for Social Housing).

South Lambeth, SW8 – 363 new properties, approved September 29, 2017.
No tenants’ perspective available online. Lambeth Council’s page is here.

Westbury Estate, SW8 – 334 new properties, approved September 29, 2017.
No tenants’ perspective available online. Lambeth Council’s page is here.

Lewisham (2)

Frankham Street, SE8 (aka Reginald Road) – 209 new properties, with Peabody Trust, approved January 22, 2018.
Long-standing battle to save a block of 16 council flats (Reginald House) and Old Tidemill Garden, a community garden, from destruction as part of the redevelopment of the old Tidemill School. Alternative plans could easily preserve the garden and flats, but the council and Peabody aren’t interested. For the resistance, see here and here.

Heathside & Lethbridge, SE10 – 459 new properties, with Peabody Trust, approved January 22, 2018.
Ongoing destruction of two estates, only one of which, the Brutalist Lethbridge Estate, is still standing. No tenants’ perspective online. See ‘The State of London.’

Greenwich (1)

Connaught, Morris Walk and Maryon, SE18 – 1,500 new properties, approved January 15, 2018.
Planned destruction of three estates. Connaught has already been demolished, and is being replaced by a new development. Morris Walk and Maryon are subjected to serious ‘managed decline.’ No tenants’ perspective online. For Maryon, see ‘The State of London.’

Bexley (1)

Arthur Street, DA8 – 310 new properties, with Orbit Group Limited, approved December 22, 2017.
Proposed development of an estate including three tower blocks in Erith. See Orbit Homes’ plans here, and this Bexley Times article.

Wandsworth (1)

St. John’s Hill, SW11 – 599 properties, with Peabody Trust, approved January 22, 2018.
The continuation of the destruction of a 1930s estates and its replacement with new properties because, as Peabody alleges,”the accommodation does not now fit the needs of residents.” They also note, “Phase 1 of the redevelopment (153 homes) was completed in April 2016 and includes 80 homes for social rent, 6 shared ownership and 67 private sale.” See Peabody’s page here.

Merton (1)

High Path, Eastfields, Ravensbury – 2,800 properties, with Clarion Housing Group, approved December 21, 2017.
See development information about these estates in South Wimbledon (High Path) and Mitcham (Eastfields, Ravensbury) on the website of Clarion (formed from the merger of Affinity Sutton and Circle Housing in 2016) here. A local news article last May stated, “Clarion estimate there are currently 608 homes in High Path, 465 in Eastfields and 192 in Ravensbury. Including the replacement houses, about 1660 homes will be built in High Path, 800 in Eastfields and up to 180 in Ravensbury. This means that after the replacement homes have been built for the existing tenants, an extra 1,800 homes will be available to rent and buy.” No mention was made of what these new rental costs might be.

Richmond upon Thames (1)

Ham Close – 425 properties, with Richmond Housing Partnership Limited, approved November 17, 2017.
See the Ham Close Uplift website for further information.

Kingston (1)

Cambridge Road – 2003 properties, approved October 10, 2017.
See the council’s plans here for the redevelopment of the site, which includes three tower blocks. For the residents’ association, see here, and also check out this local news article from 2016.

EAST/NORTH

Tower Hamlets (4)

Aberfeldy Estate (phases 4, 5 & 6), E14 – 206 properties, with Poplar HARCA Ltd, approved October 18, 2017.
Ongoing destruction of an estate in Poplar — a 12-year project involving the creation of over 1,000 new properties. For more information, see the website of architects Levitt Bernstein, and also see Poplar HARCA’s site. Rather pretentiously, I think, the architects claim, “The site’s illustrious past is made visible through art installations including case concrete tea crates and brass cotton reels in the landscape and paisley patterns etched in the paving. Crisp detailing and a limited material palette give the buildings a modern warehouse aesthetic.”

Blackwall Reach, E14 – 1,575 properties, with Swan Housing Association, approved March 23, 2017.
This is a much-criticised project that involves the destruction of Robin Hood Gardens, the acclaimed Brutalist masterpiece, which was, indeed, an extraordinary creation, although it was severely neglected by Tower Hamlets Council as part of very deliberate “managed decline.” For more, see ‘The State of London’ here and here.

Chrisp Street Market, E14 – 643 properties, with Poplar HARCA Ltd, approved October 18, 2017.
This contentious project involves the destruction of the first purpose-built pedestrian shopping area in the UK, created for the Festival of Britain in 1951, and associated housing, although it has met with strong local resistance, and was put on hold by the council in February 2018. See a City Metric article here.

Exmouth Estate, E1 – 80 properties, with Swan Housing Association, approved March 23, 2017.
The estate is just off the Commercial Road, but I can’t find any information available online.

Barnet (1)

Grahame Park (phase B, plots 10, 11 & 12) – 1,083 homes, with Genesis Housing Association Ltd, approved November 24, 2017.
For the council’s plans for this estate in Colindale, see here. They claim that, with Genesis, as “the developer and resident social landlord”, who have now merged with Notting Hill, they will build approximately 3,000 homes by 2032, including around 1,800 new private homes, around 900 new “affordable” homes. In addition, “Approximately 25 per cent (463) of the original homes will be retained and integrated into the new development.” Also see the Notting Hill Genesis page here.

Brent (1)

South Kilburn Estate (various phases) – 2,400 homes, with Notting Hill Housing Trust, Network Homes Ltd, L&Q and Catalyst Housing Group, approved October 23, 2017.
Ongoing destruction. For the Observer, Rowan Moore was full of praise for the new development in 2016, stating, “Thanks to the enlightened thinking of Brent council and Alison Brooks Architects, a notorious London estate that featured in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth is now the site of some of the best housing in the neighbourhood.” See Brent Council’s page here, and also see a review on the Municipal website here.

Enfield (1)

Alma Estate, EN3 – 993 homes, with Newlon Housing Association and Countryside, approved November 15, 2017.
Ongoing destruction of four big tower blocks in Pomders End. See ‘The State of London.’

Havering (5)

Napier House and New Plymouth House – 200 homes, approved January 31, 2018.

Waterloo Estate – 994 homes, approved January 31, 2018.

Orchard Estate (former Mardyke) – 55 homes, with Clarion Housing Group, approved December 21, 2017.

Queen Street Sheltered Housing Scheme – 6 homes, approved July 17, 2017.

Solar, Serena, Sunrise Sheltered Housing Scheme – 54 homes, approved July 17, 2017.

Barking & Dagenham (1)

Gascoigne West (Barking Town Centre) – 850 homes, approved July 27, 2017.

WEST

Kensington & Chelsea (2)

William Sutton Estate, SW3 – 270 homes, with Clarion Housing Group, approved December 21, 2017.

Wornington Green, W10 – 1,000 homes, with Catalyst Housing Ltd, approved January 8, 2018.

Ealing (4)

Friary Park – 476 homes, with Catalyst Housing Ltd, approved January 8, 2018.

Havelock Estate – 922 homes, with Catalyst Housing Ltd, approved January 8, 2018.

Green Man Lane – 770 homes, with A2Dominion Homes and Rydon/FABRICA, approved November 7, 2017.

South Acton – 2,600 homes, with L&Q, approved November 7, 2017.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), TwitterFlickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner listThe Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas listthe full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

Sat 14th April 2018: Tour of London’s land & housing crisis by the Land Justice Network

THE LANDLORD’S GAME: A tour of London’s land & housing crisis
Saturday 14th April 2018

Join the Land Justice Network for a walking tour of London’s land and housing crisis on Saturday 14th April 2018, 1pm-4pm. Meet 1pm in Brown Hart Gardens on Duke St, near Bond St Tube. Facebook event here.

London faces a housing crisis of epic proportions, with homelessness rife, house prices sky-high and many people unable to afford a home.

At root, the housing crisis is a land crisis. London is home to millions of people – but the land on which it’s built is effectively monopolised by a handful of wealthy estates.

Join us for a tour of some of the most expensive locations on the Monopoly board: places that Dukes and Earls inherited as fields hundreds of years ago, but now – thanks to a lucky roll of the dice – is some of the hottest super-prime real estate on the planet. Along our route, you’ll see Mayfair mansions left empty for nearly 15 years, discover properties owned in offshore tax havens, and find out the truth about who owns London.

It’s time for change. The Land Justice Network has organised this tour to showcase some of the root causes of London’s land and housing crisis – and call for change.

************************************************************

The Landlord’s Game is part of a wider Week of Action…..

LORD vs COMMONERS: A Week of Action for Land Rights, 14th-22nd April

The Land Justice Network (LJN) has called a Week of Action around the theme of ‘Lords vs Commoners’ for the 14th-22nd April.

According to the Country Land and Business Association, 0.06% of the population own 50% of the rural land of England and Wales.

The Week of Action is intended to draw attention to the current unequal distribution of land in England and Wales, by inviting you to organise an event in your area and share photos and stories of what you do. This could be a public meeting or protest or maybe a banner drop, occupation or mass trespass.

You can find out more on the LJN website here and on the event Facebook page. Leaflet here

Sat19May, COUNTY MAYO Irish Famine Walk 2018

Afri, Action from Ireland

Date for the diary: Famine Walk 2018

Date for the diary: Famine Walk 2018 by Afri

Saturday 19th May, Doolough Co. Mayo

http://www.afri.ie/news-and-events/date-for-the-diary-famine-walk-2018/

Registration from 12.45pm in Louisburgh Town hall

Beginning at 1.30pm

Walk Leaders: Richard Moore, Fatin al Tamimi

Music: Lisa Lambe

Famine Walk 1988-2018

Register online here (alternatively you can raise sponsorship for Afri – just bring this to the registration desk on the day) and see who’s going on Facebook

Saturday 19th May 2018 will see the 30th anniversary of the Famine Walk from Delphi Lodge, Doolough to Louisburgh in Co. Mayo. Afri first organised the walk in 1988 to commemorate the Great Hunger of 1845-50. Regions such as Mayo illustrated how a natural setback such as potato blight can mutate to disaster in the context of unchecked market forces, lack of democratic structures and resources, and a pitiless, moralistic ideology. While some £9.5 million was eventually spent on late and poorly-designed ‘Relief’, £14 million went to sustain the military and police forces.

Our walk retraces a journey of horror which occurred on 30th/31st March 1849. Two poor-law commissioners were to assess people in Louisburgh, entitling them as ‘paupers’ to meagre relief rations. The inspection never happened, but the people were instructed to appear at Delphi Lodge (ten miles away) at 7 the following morning. They walked the hilly road in wintry conditions, including snowfall. At Delphi Lodge they were refused food, or admission to the workhouse, and so began their weary return journey, on which many, even hundreds, died.

Afri, drawing on the local history of Louisburgh and Doolough, recalls the dead and displaced of the Great Hunger – and all those facing the same grotesque and avoidable cruelties in today’s world, from the so-called ‘War on Terror’ to the indignities of ‘Direct Provision’. We walk the famine road to remember the causes of hunger and poverty in our world – political, military, economic and environmental – and our failure to learn the lessons of our own history. Our Walk Leaders eloquently represent the spirit of resistance and transformation:  

In the twentieth-anniversary year of the Good Friday Agreement we welcome Richard Moore, who was blinded as a 10-year-old child by a rubber bullet fired by a British soldier during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. He reacted by founding Children in Crossfire, declaring: “I learned to see life in a different way. I may have lost my sight, but I have my vision”.

2018 is also significant in that it marks the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, and in this context, we are also honoured to welcome Fatin Al Tamimi, Chairperson of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

The extraordinary voice of Lisa Lambe will provide the music for this year’s walk. We are delighted to have Lisa as part of this year’s walk line up.

Register online here (alternatively you can raise sponsorship to help Afri continue our work – just bring this to the registration desk on the day) and see who’s going on Facebook

Read an article about the Famine Walk and BBC Radio 4 Ramblings Show.

Find out about our ‘Music From A Dark Lake’ CD, a compilation of songs from past Famine Walks.

Support the work of Afri in tackling the root causes of hunger, poverty and conflict in the Global South.

Afri’s vision is of a more just, peaceful, equal and sustainable world. Afri seeks to inform debate and influence policy and practice in Ireland and internationally on human rights, peace, global justice, and sustainability issues.

Contact Details
134 Phibsborough Road,

Dublin 7, D07 V882

Ireland.

Tel: +353 (0)1 882 7563/7581

E-mail: admin@afri.ie

Charity No. 7627

Charity Registration No. 20017262

Nine Gaza land protesters shot dead by IDF snipers, at least six journalists shot and wounded

Journalist among 9 killed as 20,000 Palestinians protest at Gaza border

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/06/palestinian-man-killed-fresh-gaza-protests-officials-say/

Deadly clashes on Gaza border erupt from Palestinian protest

Raf Sanchez, Gaza city – Sat 7 APRIL 2018

At least nine Palestinians, including a journalist, were killed by Israeli forces on the Gaza border on Friday, as thousands of demonstrators burned tyres and sent towers of thick black smoke billowing over the isolated Mediterranean enclave.

The latest fatalities mean that 31 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli snipers since Gaza residents last week began “the Great March of Return”, a series of weekly border protests demanding the right to return to their ancestral homes in what is today Israel.

Around 20,000 Palestinians flocked to five protests site along the border, according to the Israeli military. A 16-year-old and a well-known Palestinian journalist were among those killed, Gaza health officials said. The health ministry said 408 Palestinians had been taken to hospitals and medical centres for treatment. Hundreds more suffered other injuries, including tear gas inhalation, the officials said.

Early on Saturday, Palestinian health officials confirmed that Yasser Murtaga had died from a gunshot wound sustained while covering demonstrations near the Israeli border in Khuzaa. The area was the scene of large protests Friday, and was covered in thick black smoke.

Murtaga was over 100 meters (yards) from the border, wearing a flak jacket marked “press” and holding his camera when he was shot in an exposed area just below the armpit. Journalists were in the area as protesters were setting tires on fire.

 

The Israeli military has said it fired only at “instigators” involved in attacks on soldiers or the border fence. It had no immediate comment.

Demonstrators burned hundreds of rubber tyres all along the Israeli frontier, creating a wall of smoke which they hoped would blind Israeli marksmen. Israeli forces used fire hoses to try to put out the flames and large turbine fans to keep the noxious smoke from blowing into Israel.

The overwhelming majority of the protesters were unarmed and the small handful who did carry weapons were wielding small axes, knives, or heavy shears to try to cut through the Israel fence. The Telegraph saw no firearms in the crowds.

 

The Israeli military alleged that Hamas operatives had tried to use the chaos of the riots to damage the border fence. A spokesman said there were at least four attempts to throw improvised bombs towards Israeli forces.

No Israelis were killed or wounded during either Friday’s demonstrations or the clashes last week.

António Guterres, the UN secretary general, had earlier appealed to the Israeli military to use “extreme caution with the use of force in order to avoid casualties” among Palestinian demonstrators.

 

Human rights groups have criticised the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) for their policy of directing sniper fire on those who come too close to the fence, arguing that lethal force is only permissible to counter an imminent threat to life.

Lt Col Jonathan Conricus, a spokesman for the IDF, said Israel was “using less lethal means to the greatest extent possible before using lethal means”. He said Israeli forces were justified in opening fire to prevent Palestinians breaking through the Gaza border fence.

“The reason we are so adamant about the integrity of the fence is because it is all that separates thousands of rioters from the nearest Israeli target, which could be a kibbutz, or a farm, or other Israeli communities, or Israeli soldiers,” he said.

The protests on Friday were significantly less bloody than last week, when 16 Palestinians were killed during the day and others died later from their injuries. The IDF said that it had not changed its rules of engagement but that fewer demonstrators had attempted to breach the fence.

 

Palestinians at a protest site east of Gaza City said the vast plumes of tyre smoke had also reduced the killings. “The burning tyres helped us because snipers can’t see us. But also people did not go as far as this week because they did not want to go past the smoke,” said one man.

Many women and children stood amid the crowds at the border and young Palestinians flew colourful kites into the blackened skies, where they shared airspace with Israeli surveillance drones.

Israel claims that Hamas, which is considered a terrorist group by the US and UK, was behind the demonstrations. Several senior Hamas leaders didi visit protest camps during the day on Friday.

But most of the people gathered at the border said they were not affiliated with Hamas or any other faction. All said they were there to protest for the Right of Return, while many unemployed young men said they were also simply there for the excitement.

“It’s useless, we’re resisting alone,” said Ali Abu Hasira, a 23-year-old as he gestured towards Israeli forces in the distance. “The Arab countries have abandoned us.”

Several protesters burned images of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the heir to the throne of Saudi Arabia, after he said the Jewish people had the right to a state of their own in the Middle East.

The protests are expected to continue every Friday until May 15, when Palestinians commemorate “the Nakba”, the Arabic word for catastrophe, when they were displaced from their homes in 1948.

The IDF said they were prepared for weekly confrontations but were encouraged that the protests were smaller than they had been on March 30. “We are not going to tolerate riots like that being a weekly Friday occurrence,”  said Lt Col Conricus.

At least six journalists were shot and wounded, according to a statement from the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate. A spokeswoman for the Israeli army had no immediate comment on the statement.

US blocks UNSC statement on Israel’s use of force on Land Day

Friday’s rallies in the Gaza Strip coincided with Land Day, which commemorates the murder of six Palestinians by Israeli forces in 1976
Friday’s rallies in the Gaza Strip coincided with Land Day, which commemorates the murder of six Palestinians by Israeli forces in 1976

The United States has blocked a draft statement by the United Nations Security Council that called for an investigation into the killing of 17 unarmed Palestinian protesters near the Gaza Strip‘s eastern border.

The statement, which was proposed by Kuwait, demanded an “independent and transparent investigation” under international law into the bloody events on Friday’s Land Day protests.

The statement also expressed “grave concern at the situation at the border” and stressed “the right to peaceful protest”. 

However, the US blocked the statement on Saturday, with US representative to the UN Walter Miller saying “bad actors” were using the “protests as a cover to incite violence” and to “endanger innocent lives.”

US, UK ‘complicit in Israel’s occupation’

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee, condemned the US’ decision, describing the US and the UK as beingcomplicit in Israel’s persistent violations and violence.

“The Israeli army used unbridled violence, unleashing more than 100 snipers and firing live ammunition, tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets against the protesters before the very eyes of the entire international community,” Ashrawi said in a statement on Saturday.

“Yet, the UN Security Council failed to agree on a statement condemning the egregious violations that occurred at the hands of Israel.

“Such a counterproductive stance can render them [the UK and the US] complicit in Israel’s military occupation and in its persistent violations and violence,” she continued. 

“Neither one has displayed the moral or political courage to hold Israel to account and to curb its illegal behaviour.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s minister of defence Avigdor Lieberman rejected calls for an inquiry into the actions of the Israeli army.

“Israeli soldiers did what was necessary. I think all our soldiers deserve a medal,” Lieberman told Army Radio on Sunday. 

“As for a commission of inquiry – there won’t be one.”

Great March of Return

More than 1,500 others were wounded on Friday’s protest when Israeli forces fired live ammunition at protesters to push them back from Gaza’s border area, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

On Saturday, 49 more people were wounded in the ongoing demonstrations.

The mass protests, called “the Great March of Return”, were organised by civil society groups and supported by all political factions to call for the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

It marked the beginning of a six-week sit-in, starting on Land Day, an event that commemorates six Palestinian citizens of Israel who were shot dead by Israeli forces after protesting the government’s confiscation of large swaths of Palestinian land on March 30, 1976.

The sit-in ends on May 15, or Nakba Day, which will commemorate 70 years since the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians by Zionist militias from their villages and towns.

What's behind the protests in the Gaza Strip?

Palestine: The Great Return March, marking 70 years since the Nakba.

Gaza ‘Return March’ has begun – the refugees won’t stop until their voices are heard

Despite at least 15 deaths and hundreds injured by live fire, many in Gaza believe the only way to resolve the conflict is to return to the root cause

by Sarah Helm, The Independent
Date: 30 March 2018
Ref: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/gaza-palestine-land-day-return-march-border-israel-a8281671.html
By first light yesterday Palestinian preparations for the Gaza “Return March” seemed well underway: tents were being pitched all along the Gaza buffer zone and old men were arriving with banners proclaiming the names of their villages, from which they were expelled as children 70 years ago, never to return.

Palestinian factions in Gaza, including the ruling Hamas, had ordered that the demonstration be peaceful, insisting marchers to keep well back from Israel’s barrier wall.

With 100 snipers positioned on the barrier, however, Israel’s preparations were a show of brute force and soon after dawn an Israeli tank shell had killed Omar Samour, a Palestinian farmer with land near the buffer zone – the first Return March martyr but certainly not the last.

Israel’s ruthless response to the Gaza’s peaceful Return March should come as no surprise. The Israeli military justified the show of force on the grounds that Hamas might exploit the event in some way with acts of violence. But Israel’s real fear of the “return marchers” runs far deeper. Nothing has ever frightened Israel more than the demands of Palestinian refugees for a right to return to their pre-1948 homes. And no group of refugees has a stronger case than those of Gaza who live within a few miles of their former villages.

The Arab-Israeli 1948 war, which brought the Jewish state into being, also brought about the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from lands they had lived on for hundreds of years. The Palestinians call this loss of land their “Nakba” or catastrophe. Of those expelled more than 200,000 fled to Gaza.

These refugees came from villages in the Gaza area, close to what is now the Gaza barrier wall.

In 1948 the United Nations passed Resolution 194 agreeing that the refugees should have a right to return to their villages, but Israel always refused. From the first days any who tried to get back – to harvest their lands or to bring belongings – were shot as infiltrators or locked up as terrorists. As the years passed the refugees’ claims were set aside as unresolvable and David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, expressed the hope that “the old would die and the young would forget”.

The refugees, however, have never forgotten, as the Return March protest demonstrates.

In view of Gaza’s daily struggles, living under siege, it might seem surprising that they have time to think of the past. Since Hamas took power in Gaza in 2007, the two million people here have lived under economic blockade, imprisoned by a barrier wall. The Palestinians here have also lived through three wars. The last in 2014 killed more than 2,500, destroyed many thousands of homes and crippled infrastructure. But it is precisely because of the recent wars that memories of 1948 have been revived. Such was the destruction of 2014 that Gazans spoke of “’a second Nakba”. And the deprivations of living under siege have only reminded the people here of what they had as self-sufficient farmers in the villages they inhabited before 1948.

Whether the Return March explodes in more bloodshed, or plays out peacefully as the participants hope, is hard to predict.

As Hamas arranged for buses to take people from the mosques after Friday prayers, the numbers swelled. The intention is to maintain the protest until 15 May – Nakba Day, when the 70th anniversary commemoration will reach a pitch. If Hamas can keep the peace on its side of the buffer zone, the case for the right of return will be heard, perhaps louder and clearer than it has for many years.

The refugees’ despair is also fuelled by Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. This has driven many in Gaza to the belief they now have nothing to lose but rise up and join the march. With no realistic peace deal now on the table, many in Gaza believe the only way to resolve the conflict is to return to the root cause – and that means to address their right of return.
[end]

See also:

Israel army opens fire as tens of thousands march in Gaza

Israel deploys hundreds of snipers to Gaza border ahead of expected protests on Palestinian Land Day

Steward Community Woodland: part of Dartmoor’s soul killed by an overbearing authority

Why are all forms of alternative living, including canal and gypsies/travellers being actively suppressed by the UK’s Tory government? Sound familiar?

The treatment of an alternative green community saddens Tom Greeves

Sonia "Sonny" Parsons with daughter Asha, and Daniel Thompson-Mills at Steward Community Woodland
Sonia “Sonny” Parsons with daughter Asha, and Daniel Thompson-Mills at Steward Community Woodland

The announcement by Steward Community Woodland, near Moretonhampstead, that most of the 21 residents have now left, and that their homes and other structures are being dismantled, should send a shudder through all of us.

It is the consequence of an enforcement notice issued by Dartmoor National Park Authority following the loss (in August 2016) of an appeal against refusal of planning permission for permanent residency, combined with the refusal of the park authority to countenance a new application for low-impact dwellings in the 32-acre woodland (which is owned by the community).

This is one of the worst environmental outcomes that I am aware of, having studied Dartmoor for more than 50 years. Future generations will be astonished that this has happened in one of our national parks, which are often hailed as leaders in environmental protection.

Sonia "Sonny" Parsons and daughter Asha at Steward Community Woodland
Sonia “Sonny” Parsons and daughter Asha at Steward Community Woodland

After 67 years of existence it is surely not too much to expect Dartmoor National Park to be a beacon of environmental and social awareness, with well thought-out policies on how the resources of Dartmoor can best be used for the communities that live there, as exemplars of what could happen elsewhere? But it seems we are still light years from that happy state.

There was once a call to ban all cars from Dartmoor

The community had lived quietly and gently in Steward Wood since 2000. Their homes had not been built by means of large machines scouring the earth and replacing the habitats of thousands of living creatures with concrete and brick, but had grown organically, through the skill of their builders, in a symbiotic relationship with the other occupants (plants and animals) of the wood.

Despite making it their home since 2000, the Dartmoor National Park Authority refused them permanent planning permission and ordered them to leave
Despite making it their home since 2000, the Dartmoor National Park Authority refused them permanent planning permission and ordered them to leave

Some of us were encouraged by a policy (DMD30) in the Development Management and Delivery Development Plan Document adopted by Dartmoor National Park in July 2013, which specifically allowed low-impact residential development in the “open countryside”.

Anxious to comply with the criteria in this policy, and to address the concerns of the Planning Inspector who refused their Appeal in 2016, in the autumn of 2017 the members of Steward Community Woodland submitted a detailed proposal to the national park for an imaginative new scheme of roundhouses and an “innovation centre”, which would be a base for the study of low-impact living.

‘Anger, grief and sadness’ as ‘off the grid’ community is cleared from Dartmoor

Extraordinarily, the response of Dartmoor National Park Authority has been negative to an extreme (as it has been for the past 17 years).

Sonia "Sonny" Parsons and Daniel Thompson-Mills at Steward Community Woodland
Sonia “Sonny” Parsons and Daniel Thompson-Mills at Steward Community Woodland

Rather than allowing the application to take its course, with opportunity for public comment and debate, they would not even validate it.

They claimed that the roundhouse built by two members of the community from their own wood, straw bales, cob and turf, was not of appropriate design or scale for any other structures, and would not fit policy DMD30, which, on their interpretation, was meant to apply only to tents and yurts.

This is despite Pembrokeshire Coast National Park having given permission for many roundhouses of similar type. No sensitive person could say that the roundhouse in question was not a thing of beauty, to be marvelled at for the skills, craftsmanship and sound environmental criteria used for its construction.

The Steward Woodland Community - made up of 23 people, including nine children and teenagers - live in hand-built huts on a beauty spot in rural Dartmoor with no connection to mains, electricity or water
The Steward Woodland Community – made up of 23 people, including nine children and teenagers – live in hand-built huts on a beauty spot in rural Dartmoor with no connection to mains, electricity or water

This story is, sadly, one of overbearing authority unable to grasp intellectually or practically the benefits to be gained by Dartmoor as a whole from the Steward Wood settlement.

How can a planning authority allow controversial new housing developments on greenfield sites in Chagford and elsewhere, and yet not embrace low-impact dwellings by an established and respected community in their own woodland, hidden from public gaze?

Many people on and beyond Dartmoor have for years recognised and celebrated these contemporary woodland dwellers, for the new and hopeful messages they brought all of us.

Part of Steward Community Woodland on Dartmoor, which was home to 21 people. The site is being cleared after a failed planning appeal
Part of Steward Community Woodland on Dartmoor, which was home to 21 people. The site is being cleared after a failed planning appeal

They are inheritors of a marvellously rich cultural history, millennia old, contained within our Dartmoor woods. Those who know Steward Community Woodland, and what it aspired to, should seek out David Spero’s wonderful book Settlements (2017), which documents photographically Steward Wood and other low-impact communities in Britain.

If Dartmoor National Park Authority had adopted a similar approach, they would now be extolling the virtues of Steward Wood, which would have brought them deserved plaudits.

Their alternative lifestyle includes foraging for food, using solar powered electricity and alternative medicines - and they claim to be virtually self-sufficient
Their alternative lifestyle includes foraging for food, using solar powered electricity and alternative medicines – and they claim to be virtually self-sufficient

Unfortunately the present situation indicates that Dartmoor National Park Authority actually has no deep understanding of the environmental crisis affecting our planet, and no flexible will to allow serious practitioners the opportunity to demonstrate alternative lifestyles.

This is not the sort of cultural behaviour to expect from a national park, which should be open to all new environmental approaches, and it is deeply concerning. We are all diminished, and Dartmoor’s soul has lost a spark of hopefulness for our future relationship with the land.

Dr Tom Greeves is chairman of The Dartmoor Society.

Building in central London occupied for homeless shelter

A building in Central London was squatted today in order to provide shelter for homeless people. The group who took this action writes:

Since temperatures are so low and homelessness is still a big issue, some people came to an idea of opening a safe space shelter available to everyone!

So the building is at 204 Great Portland Street, entrance from 56 Bolsover Road ( Sophia House). At the moment there’s some issues with electricity, however there is possibility to brew hot drinks and despite lack of heating at the moment it is still warmer & dryer than out on the street

So if you know or see any people sleeping rough or struggling with this chill: feel free to spread the word & address.

If the place will get attention of few people in need & we will deal with the electricity problems there may be some screenings & hot food servings in upcoming days.

Any donations of heaters/sleeping bags/duvets warmly welcome. Same applies to anyone who would like to volunteer some of their time for couple of shifts in here if it would come as necessary.

Spread the word & share the post if you feel like.

This is a much welcome news considering that Streets of London: a charity providing support for people who are homeless in London and raises awareness about homelessness, report that there are 8,000 people sleeping rough on London’s streets each year. Homelessness and housing crisis are one of major issues experienced by Londoners. What’s more, those on the streets are subject to official harassment with measures taken to make their lives as uncomfortable as possible. Their situation is even worse when the weather gets as cold as it is now. Anyone who can, should go and help the good people from Great Portland Street.

a Landrights campaign for Britain

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