Saturday, 25 May 2013

Twickenham: Leicester Tigers v Northampton Saints, Aviva Premiership Rugby Final 2013

Together at Twickenham

Great cascades of passionate song flowed over the lush Twickenham playing surface this afternoon.
A vibrant crowd of 81,703 packed the magnificent home of English rugby - one of London's great sporting arenas. 
   After an exciting pre-match build-up, this huge crowd saw a powerful Leicester Tigers outfit finally overcome never-say-die Northampton Saints in a fiercely contested Aviva Premiership Rugby Final.
  The fervent on-field rivalry of the two clubs was matched off-field by massed ranks of fans chanting 'Ti-gers..' and 'Come on..Yoooo Saints.'

No segregation of fans needed at Twickenham though. Tigers and Saints supporters sat beside each other and enjoyed their raucous yet good-natured rivalry. 
  Leicester deserved their win but the 37-17 margin owed much to today's match referee Wayne Barnes.
  His clumsy match control sparked some lively comment in the grandstands and in the post-match car park picnic too (below).
That's to put it mildly, Mr Barnes.

With huge thanks to Emily Stroman, Northampton Saints' brilliant mascot, and to Mark and Sally Stroman.

©Words & Photos, Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, 2013

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, May 2013.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Royal Albert Dock, Royal Docks, Advanced Business Park, Stanhope: Lost Empire to Host the New Empire

Docks of a Fallen Empire to 
Host a Rising Empire?

The British Empire reached its Victorian zenith when the Royal Albert Dock opened for trade in 1880.
Steamships lugged tea, ceramics and other Chinese imports along the Thames to east London’s Royal Albert - Britain’s biggest dock.
  The Empire is long gone and the last ships left the Royal Docks (above) long ago. But now plans are being drawn up to turn the Royal Albert into an outpost of China's 21st Century commercial empire, writes Paul Coleman.

A £1 billion plan by Chinese developer Advanced Business Park – and its UK project partner Stanhope – aims to build a 24-hour ‘mini-city’ of offices, shops and homes on the Royal Albert.
  Negotiations involving ABP, Stanhope, the Greater London Authority and UK Trade and Investment are reportedly close to an agreed deal for the 35-acres of publicly owned land currently controlled by the GLA.
   But property specialists question the viability of a scheme where the nearby City Airport means buildings can reach only 45 metres tall. Rents would need to be at unprecedented levels for this part of London.

Doubts also centre on the credibility of ABP’s project track record. Chairman Xu Weiping is well connected with the ruling Chinese Communist Party but ABP seems to have completed only one other such large development.
  Some 500 low-rise offices on Beijing’s outskirts are only partly occupied. Derelict malls, giant stopped clocks in Financial Harbour and a rundown hotel also feature.
 The UK Coalition government is desperate for Chinese investment to boost Britain’s recession-laden economy. London Mayor Boris Johnson designated the Royal Docks (below) as an Enterprise Zone in 2011 to attract investment.

Royal Docks
The Royal Albert forms part of the 125-acre Royal Docks. The Docks were rebuilt after Hitler's Luftwaffe heavily bombed them during the Blitz of World War II.
  But new container ships proved too large for the Royals and the Docks declined commercially and became derelict in the 1960s.
Thousands of dockers became unemployed and many families - who had returned after the War - found themselves compelled by market forces to leave an area that had been home for generations.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, May 2013

© Words & Photo, Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, 2013

Monday, 20 May 2013

London house prices and rents, City of London, Canary Wharf, European Banking Authority: Bonus Caps

Mind the Cap

Low-income Londoners continue be squeezed out of their capital city by astronomical house prices and rents.
  These hikes are largely fuelled by huge unregulated bonuses enjoyed by City of London and Canary Wharf bankers, writes Paul Coleman.
  So Londoners might chuckle at bankers’ grief over a European Banking Authority plan to widen the scope of proposed bonus caps.
  Bankers deemed as ‘material risk-takers’ earning over €500,000 will see their ‘variable pay’ (or bonus) restricted to the same level as their salary – or twice that amount if shareholders explicitly approve.

Bankers and their sympathetic politicians say the EBA proposal, affecting all banks across the European Union’s 27 member states, will ‘damage London’s financial competitiveness’.
   Barclays, for instance, has reportedly employed 393 ‘material risk-takers’ and 1,338 staff earning more than €592,000 in the past year.
  Earlier, the EBA had pondered but then dropped an idea to cap bonuses for bankers earning more than €250,000. The EBA wants to cap bonuses to stop bankers taking excessive risks with investors’ money, similar to those risks that led to the financial meltdown of 2008.

Get around
The European Parliament and European Commission still have to finalise the EBA proposals.
  Meanwhile, banks are looking at legal ways to mitigate and get around the caps.
So don’t expect London house prices and rents to start dipping.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, May 2013

© Words & Photo, London Intelligence. 

Friday, 17 May 2013

Labour Housing Policy, Open House, Squatters, Old Kent Road

Get Out of Town

"Self-destructive" Labour Moves Londoners Out of London,
writes Paul Coleman.

'Police are prohibited from the building.'
Banning the police is a bold statement by the 'Open House' squatters just off the Old Kent Road in south London (above), especially in an era of heavily policed protest.
  About 100 mainly young people, packed inside the squatted and previously empty two-storey building, are engaged in a nine-day protest against London’s housing crisis.
  The protestors say London local authorities are selling public land and council estates to developers that seek to ‘unlock’ potentially huge profits from luxury apartment sales, rents and valuable land.

Pushing out
The protestors listen to housing expert Owen Hatherley (below) explain how rent rises, welfare cuts and gentrification are pushing low income Londoners out of London.
  Hatherley claims Conservative and Labour housing policy is to move low income Londoners to cheap and empty homes in depopulated areas in Middlesbrough, Stoke, Gateshead, Merthyr Tydfil and Salford.
  Hatherley points to a photo of empty low-value Middlesbrough homes projected onto a bedsheet. “This is the kind of place where they want us to move,” he says.

Poor export
Hatherley recalls Labour-run Newham Council in east London gained notoriety in 2012 over a plan to “export” 500 families on housing benefit 160 miles away to Stoke-on-Trent, a town of high unemployment.
  Newham had said rising demand, rents and prices for east London homes, generated by bankers and the 2012 Olympics, meant the Council could no longer house tenants on its waiting list and benefit claimants in local private accommodation.

Labour-run councils like Newham defend their potential ‘export’ of tenant and benefit claimants by saying their hands are tied by Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition policies, such as the ‘bedroom tax’, housing benefit caps and a lack of funds allocated to build new ‘affordable’ and social homes.
   But Hatherley says "Labour politicians seem willing to antagonise their natural voters in this way as they believe this makes Labour more electable".
"By doing this, Labour is gerrymandering against act of self-destruction," says Hatherley.

(Top): Poster at Camden Town tube station platform

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, May 2013

© Words and Photos, Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, 2013

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The Artworks Elephant, My Space Pod, Charlie Fulford, Sam Minionis, Walworth Road, Heygate Estate

Metal boxes land in Walworth.
The Art of ‘Displacement/Regeneration’. 
Paul Coleman reports.

Walworth's Little Boxes: 
Deal or No Deal? 

Sam Minionis gestures towards a stack of gaudy-coloured 40-foot containers perched on railway sleepers. “They seem bigger inside than outside, just like the Tardis in Doctor Who,” says Minionis (above, right).
 Sceptical local artists and creative designers struggle with Minionis’ vision that they will be able to work and even live in the steel containers.
  “Is the rent affordable?” asks Delia Spatareanu, a portrait and performance art photographer. “And what’s Doctor Who got to do with it?”

Container rent
Minionis explains rents will range from £50 a week for a half-shared container, to £200 for a whole ‘work-stay’ or residential unit.
  Several artists wince when Minionis says these rates exclude electricity and VAT. Southwark Council also plans to charge business rates.
   Stacked on a former Shell petrol station site along the busy arterial Walworth Road, the 48 containers sit adjacent to Swanbourne, one of several decanted Heygate Estate blocks earmarked for demolition. The metal boxes also sit opposite a Grade II listed council office, library and museum badly damaged by fire in March.

Local jobs
Minionis works for My Space Pod that specialises in converting recycled shipping containers into ‘modular accommodation’. He is consultant to ‘The Artworks Elephant’, a new project and company headed by Charlie Fulford.  
   Property developer Fulford (below right, with Minionis) explains Artworks is seeking planning permission from Southwark Council to use the containers to “incubate new arts and creative design businesses and create about one hundred new jobs” with many – hopefully – going to local people in Walworth and Elephant & Castle.
   Fulford says Artworks will develop local businesses, differentiating the Walworth scheme from the containers hosting established brands at Boxpark Shoreditch in east London.

Developer Charlie Fulford (right) with Sam Minionis

Interim uses
Fulford's temporary five-year project is tied in with the much wider demolition and permanent redevelopment of the decanted Heygate council estate by Southwark Council and developer Lend Lease.
   Artworks won a Southwark competition to provide a five-year ‘interim use’ scheme on the former petrol station site.
  Southwark and Lend Lease say ‘interim uses’ could provide ‘early regeneration gains’ for local people in the form of businesses, training and jobs. Once planning consent is secured, Southwark will lease the site to Artworks for up to five years. Fulford hopes to complete construction in August.

Defunct Dutch
Fulford says he bought the containers in Amsterdam from a defunct Dutch student homes project.
  Unlike shipping containers, Fulford says the double-glazed units are “purpose built for accommodation with small kitchens and bathrooms”. Artworks’ proposed development includes a licensed bar and market. The petrol station kiosk could become a cafĂ©.

"But Del, what the hell are we going to do with forty-eight, forty-foot containers?
- "Mais oui, Rodders, it's all cushty.
We'll plonk them on the Walworth Road and rent them to arty types."
Fulford tries to reassure local residents that a new community of artisans and artists will boost - and not compete with - established local businesses.
  “It’s not an obvious money-spinner for us,” says Fulford. 
  “We’ve risked a lot of money to contribute to the Walworth Road community.”
   Asked if he’s ever succeeded elsewhere with a similar venture, Fulford simply replies: “Never.”

Concerned local residents at a Walworth Society meeting in May quizzed Fulford about the container scheme's viability. Some residents hinted Southwark Council might be hoping to use art and artists via the scheme to render the Heygate 'regeneration' scheme more palatable. 
   Development partners Southwark Council and Lend Lease secured outline planning consent last January to demolish and redevelop the 1970s-built Heygate. 
   Opponents claim the Heygate's 'developer-led regeneration' is forcing local people on low and average incomes to move out of the area.

Lost public homes
Now almost entirely emptied through tenant decanting and compulsory purchase of leaseholders' homes, the Heygate Estate once housed over 3,000 south Londoners. Some 1,200 council homes (subsidised public housing) are being demolished. 
  Lend Lease says its “£1.5 billion Elephant & Castle regeneration scheme will include up to 3,000 new homes by 2025”.
  Southwark Council say “the development will deliver a minimum of 25% affordable homes”. But, currently, only 71 will be social rent (council) homes.

Southwark stoked further controversy earlier this year by unwittingly revealing 'commercially confidential' information that the local authority had sold the publicly-owned and valuable 22-acre Heygate site in central London to Lend Lease for just £50 million.
  Local campaigners say Southwark has spent £44m moving residents out - and that Southwark has sold a much smaller neighbouring site to another developer for £40m.
Southwark Council says it will reap the benefits of a profit-sharing deal with Lend Lease.
  Higher land and rental values, once 'locked in' by the ex-council estate, are now starting to be released. 
Future new homes are now being marketed and offered 'off-plan' to potential buyers and investors.

Strata tower's luxury apartments gaze down on 
Walworth Road's new container architecture.
With thanks to the Walworth Society.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, May 2013

Click on images to enlarge.

Other Threads

• Sam Minionis (below) presented his idea for “demountable and transferable” student and nursing homes in shipping containers to James Caan of Dragons’ Den in 2011. 
Minionis said container homes/units could be built at “around £135 per square foot”.

Sam Minionis of My Space Pod at 'Walworth Quays'
• Visit the Artworks website:

* Tardis = (Time and Relative Dimensions in Space), such as a box bigger inside than on the outside. More popularly known in the UK as a police telephone box converted by BBC TV ‘Time Lord’ Doctor Who into a time travel machine. 

© Words and Photos, Paul Coleman,
London Intelligence, May 2013