Wednesday, 14 February 2018

HDV – The Fight Goes On – Stop Social Cleansing in London

Written by Gordon Peters

There does seem to be a tide about to turn on the scandal of housing provision, especially in London, and its unaffordability for so many. The Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) in north London, has been put on hold for now. The StopHDV campaign is playing an important role in this.

Across Haringey a broad coalition of opposition to the Haringey Development Vehicle grew from grass roots in the course of the year from January 2017 to the present, motivated by the discovery that a so-called procurement process begun by the Cabinet two years earlier was intent on transferring whole estates. All the Council owned business premises, and potentially all of the physical assets of the local authority are to be transferred to a private partnership with a preferred bidder. 

This turned out to be Lendlease, the Australian-based multi-national, which has been active in Southwark in vastly reducing social housing in favour of new high rent and for sale properties, unaffordable to local residents. Many of whom have had to move out, some far away. That is the evidence behind the terms of gentrification and social cleansing.

Much of this has been documented by the 35% campaign, and the rights of local residents of the Aylesbury Estate are still being fought out in the High Court. In Lambeth too, the intended demolition of Cressingham Gardens, a very well designed mixed community of householders, was taken to Judicial Review, and their fight has also joined in support of the StopHDV campaign. 

Across London something is definitely stirring in resistance to the wholesale takeover of land and housing, and enforced displacement of poorer households, by corporate developers in league with Council leaderships, mostly Labour. Recognition of this at the 2017 Labour Party conference by leader Jeremy Corbyn, and his call for ballots on estates and the rights of local people to determine what they want, refurbishment or redevelopment, and on what scale, is a vital step.

As a result of the pressure from StopHDV - in which Labour activists, LibDems, Greens, tenants and residents federation, leaseholders association, community groups, Unite the Union community branch and other trades unions in Haringey, home owners and some small businesses, have all been involved. 

The fact that a Judicial Review was initiated from the July 2017 Cabinet decision to set up the HDV, despite the local Labour Party's opposition, and that of the two Labour Haringey MPs, it has been halted and while it remained ultra vires. The Council leadership of Claire Kober found their vehicle was being de-railed. She has resigned amid a realisation that there was no longer the time or support to start it up before the May elections. And most candidate councillors will be against it. But it has yet to be finished off.

The first outcome of the Judicial Review did not find in favour of StopHDV, but we are appealing and there are strong grounds we can win at a higher legal level. We argued that this so-called 50/50 partnership could not rightly be a Limited Liability Partnership but was in fact a company intended for profit primarily, that it had never been properly consulted on, that the equalities impact on vulnerable people was flawed, and that a full Council, not Cabinet, should make decisions of this nature. 

The judge ruled us out on a technicality of being ‘’out of time’’ and agreed with much of the argument where he said a different outcome for HDV going ahead would likely have resulted from proper consultation. And a higher court can rule on this issue of Cabinets transferring assets and making decisions affecting peoples homes and lives without their knowing and full Councils being involved - a law giving power to small executive groups in authorities, called Cabinets, brought in by Blair in the ‘90s.

The combination of real grass roots organisation and pressure and challenging the powers that govern, at our cost, through the legal process has helped create a wider, national awareness that speculative, corporate-led demolition and uncaring demolition of local communities along with compliant and complicit Council leaderships. 

These deals are often tied up at MPiM in Cannes or symposia in London and elsewhere. StopHDV and other local campaigns, show that none of this is inevitable, and that locally agreed plans for community living can stop these top down, profit driven destructions of places, environments and people.

And then beside this we need people’s plans, rent controls and rental charters, ballots, councils being released from caps on borrowing, end to Right-to-Buy, taxing empty property and speculation, and surely a Land Value Tax.

I am appealing the High Court decision but need to raise more funds to pay legal fees. Please contribute to the costs if you can to this very important case. To donate visit Crowdjustice here.

Gordon Peters is a Haringey resident.

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