Monday, 24 June 2013

Special Demonstration Squad, Special Branch, Peter Francis, Whistleblower, Smearing Stephen Lawrence's Family, LA Riots, Joy Gardner

Today, (24 June, 2013), Peter Francis, a former undercover police officer, now turned whistleblower, revealed the Special Branch’s Special Demonstration Squad, spied on members of the Stephen Lawrence family.
Undercover SDS officers, says Francis, were tasked to obtain ‘intelligence’ that could smear Lawrence family members and diminish support for campaigns demanding that the Metropolitan Police do more to bring Stephen Lawrence’s killers to justice.
  Over twenty years ago, Stephen Lawrence, aged 18, was racially murdered on a street in south-east London on the evening of 22 April, 1993. In the following months and years, London’s Metropolitan Police was tarnished with allegations of incompetence, corruption and racism over their investigation of the murder. Stephen Lawrence’s parents – Doreen and Neville – often forcefully made these allegations to the national media.
Francis told reporter Paul Lewis, on tonight’s Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, that SDS ‘uncovered evidence’ that Duwayne Brooks - Stephen Lawrence’s friend who had escaped from being attacked on the night of the murder - was a “violent activist”.
  Francis said police officers were pleased to receive ‘evidence’ against Brooks that could tarnish a Lawrence campaign increasingly critical of the Metropolitan Police’s handling of racially motivated murders, attacks and harassment in the capital. Charges against Brooks were later thrown out of court.
  A Metropolitan Police statement released today said: “A thorough review and investigation into these matters…is being supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and it would be inappropriate to pre-judge its findings…”
Doreen Lawrence spoke of her shock at the revelations. “Nothing can justify them trying to discredit the family and the people around us,” she said.

Background: In 1993, the Metropolitan Police were still reportedly on a state of alert in London following the fierce rioting in the US city of Los Angeles in Spring 1992, writes Paul Coleman.

The LA riots began after a trial jury acquitted four Los Angeles Police Department officers of a violent and videotaped assault of Rodney King, an African-American.
  In mid-1993, senior London police officers feared rioting might occur in the aftermath of the attempted arrest in July 1993 of Joy Gardner, a Jamaican mother deemed an ‘illegal overstayer’ by immigration police officers. 

Smear campaign

Deportation police squad officers had held Gardner down in front of her five-year-old son at her home in Crouch End, north London.A body belt was placed around Gardner’s waist. 
  Thirteen feet of tape was wrapped around Gardner to stop her screaming. Gardner never recovered from a coma and later died from brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen. 
  In the months and years after Gardner’s death, newspaper reports depicted Joy Gardner as a determined illegal immigrant with a violent temper. Gardner's friends claimed this was a police and media smear campaign.
Three police officers later stood trial, charged with the manslaughter of Joy Gardner, but were acquitted. No disciplinary action was taken against any officers involved in the deportation.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, June 2013

Monday, 17 June 2013

Fiona Colley, Lend Lease, Southwark, Heygate, Elephant & Castle, You Tube

The real estate at the Elephant & Castle

A Southwark councillor briefs property developers at the first London Real Estate Forum.
Paul Coleman reports.

South London's Elephant & Castle area - particularly, the Heygate Estate - attracted the attention of property developers gathered at the first London Real Estate Forum (11-12 June), writes Paul Coleman.
Elected local Southwark borough councillor, Fiona Colley, a cabinet member for 'Regeneration & Corporate Strategy', on 12 June presented an outline of developer Lend Lease's plans to demolish and redevelop the Heygate Estate, a 1970s-built estate that once housed 3,000 people in over 1,000 council homes.
  Colley, a Nunhead councillor since 2002, was joined by Mark Dickinson, a Lend Lease managing director, and Fiona Fletcher-Smith, an executive director at the Greater London Authority.
  Delegates to the LREF paid up to £995+VAT for the two-day Berkeley Square event.
Feel free to view the above clip...
More to follow on the LREF, and the Elephant, shortly...

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, June 2013.

© Words and film clip, Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, 2013. 

Saturday, 15 June 2013

London Real Estate Forum, Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, You Tube

London - an "exciting Monopoly game": 

says Mayor Boris Johnson

Last Monday evening (June 10) Mayor of London Boris Johnson opened the first London Real Estate Forum inside a plush marquee in Berkeley Square in Mayfair, writes Paul Coleman. 
As you’ll see from the short clip, Johnson evokes the spirit of the game of Monopoly to praise London’s property developers.
   He tub-thumps a podium in a swanky marquee to congratulate delegates, registered at up to £995 + VAT for the two-day event, for "the wonderful things you are doing for our city".

Mayor of London Boris Johnson (2nd right) scans a model...
...of London at the London Real Estate Forum

The establishment of the London Real Estate Forum means property developers and their development partners – London’s local elected councillors – will accelerate the spread of luxury penthouses, apartments and homes from central London areas like Westminster and Kensington to outlying areas such as Woodberry Down, Elephant and Castle, Battersea and Earls Court, and to the Royal Docks.
   Politicians call this process ‘regeneration’ but people say this process will mean Londoners on average and lower incomes will no longer be able to live in their traditional neighbourhoods where their families have lived for generations.
Judge for yourself how keen you think the Mayor is for the prime central residential property market to lay claim to other parts of London.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, June 2013

Words & Film © Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, 2013.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Rapid Rise of London's "Placey Places": Elephant and Castle, Lend Lease, Mark Dickinson, Southwark, Fiona Colley

The Rapid Rise of London's 
"Placey Places"

Paul Coleman reports from the first London Real Estate Forum

The Elephant and Castle will become a "placey place", according to property developer Lend Lease and its partner, the Labour-controlled Southwark Council.
Lend Lease development MD Mark Dickinson and Fiona Colley, a locally elected Southwark councillor, told the London Real Estate Forum today (12 June) that their joint 'regeneration' plan will make the Elephant and Castle, not simply a new place, but into something even better, a "placey place".
  'Place making' for 'real communities' is a term coined by developers and councillors embarked on joint 'regeneration' schemes. Critics say 'place making' is part of the 'regeneration' lexicon that trys to put an anodyne spin on plans to convert places that were once for people, into places that provide developers with yields, returns and profits.
  Spin, though, eventually runs out of steam. So 'place-making' for 'real communities'  seems to have churned up "placey places", presumably for 'peoplely people'.

London Real Estate Forum
The emergence of the first London Real Estate Forum, held over June 11-12 in a marquee in Berkeley Square, confirms that 21st Century property developers and councils are set to transform vast acreages of London at an increasingly rapid pace.
  The LREF is set to become an annual event. Potential investors will be invited to sip and nibble with property developers and their partners. 
  Their partners are chiefly London's locally elected politicians who often facilitate and subsidise the development process with offers of discounted publicly owned land.
  The chief market for LREF delegates touting their new luxury penthouses, apartments and offices will continue to be a global elite of investors from the Far East, Middle East, the 'Stan' new nations - and from countries undergoing political, economic and social turmoil, notably Greece - and, this summer, Turkey.

The glittering scale models of the various development schemes on display at the London Real Estate Forum are beautifully made by craftsmen like Duncan Robertson (above). But architects are responsible for the models' remarkably similar look. 
  Towers of glass, steel and hi-tech concrete cladding promise few distinguishing characteristics. 
  These luxury penthouses, apartments and offices are set to clamber onto London's skyline over the next 20 years and cover Earls Court, Elephant and Castle, Stratford and Nine Elms/Battersea.
Will Londoners on average and low incomes benefit from these new 'placey places'? Will they be able to afford to live in them? 
Predictably, these questions didn't top the agenda at the first London Real Estate Forum.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, June 2013.

Model of Kings Cross development

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

Monday, 10 June 2013

A Boris Sings in Berkeley Square: London's Changing 'Monopoly Board', Mayor Boris Johnson, London Real Estate Forum 2013

21st Century London: 
An "Exciting Game of Monopoly" 

The Mayor of London promises the city will attract more foreign investment. 

Paul Coleman reports on a night in Berkeley Square.

A 'Lego' model of London's Olympic Park took two days to build

Monday, 10th June, begins in one square and ends in another very different city square, writes Paul Coleman.
Radyo Gezi, broadcasting from a tent in Taksim Square in Istanbul, reports this morning on three deaths. One person died from a heart attack. Another died from injuries suffered in tear-gas flavoured clashes with police. A  police officer also fell from a bridge.
  Thousands more suffered injury as police clashed with thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators in and around Istanbul's central square. An estimated one million protesters are involved, campaigning against unemployment, 'creeping dismemberment' of Turkey's secular institutions, and the political and economic disenfranchisement of an entire generation of younger people.

Westminster City Council leader Philippa Roe introduces
Mayor of London Boris Johnson (2nd left)

London Real Estate Forum
By vast contrast, on a cool evening in wealthy Mayfair, Mayor of London Boris Johnson tub-thumps a podium in a swanky marquee in Berkeley Square. The Mayor delights in opening the first London Real Estate Forum, a gathering of London's 'real estate community', mainly property developers. 
   Their delegates, registered at up to £995 + VAT each, hear Johnson congratulate them for "the wonderful things you are doing for our city".

New developments
Johnson announces a new scheme at Silvertown Quays - where a 'global brands centre' might host √©lite brands, like Burberry, Nike and Apple, on a publicly-owned 50-acre site at the Royal Docks in east London. 
  He highlights the Westfield and Hammerson joint venture to 'regenerate' the retail heart of the south London suburb of Croydon - and the £1.6 billion Malaysian-led investment in Battersea that "will transform that mouldering old hulk - Battersea Power Station - that most of us know only from the Pink Floyd album cover".

Mayor of London Boris Johnson (Photo: Agnese Sanvito) 
Chinese commercial centre
In full chunter, Johnson goes on: "I was also very pleased the other day to sign with an extraordinary Chinese company, er, ahem..organisation, ABP, a fantastic project to regenerate the Royal Albert Dock into a third financial district for London.
  "I can't promise the Royal Albert will be the same as in the nineteenth Century when it was the  epicentre of the world's greatest commercial empire...but under these proposals there will be twenty thousand jobs for Londoners - which is as many jobs as there were in the docks in their Victorian heyday."

Mayor of London: "London - an exciting Monopoly game"
(Photo: Agnese Sanvito)

Monopoly board
Johnson says he looks at the elegant maps and detailed models displayed by developers in the marquee and regards them as "a real Monopoly board". Sweeping his hand across his marquee audience, Johnson waxes: "You are players in one of the most exciting and most important games of Monopoly ever played. 
  "There are people in this room who can genuinely claim that they have Park Lane. Who's got Mayfair? Who's got Piccadilly? Yes, Land Securities. 
"And who's got the Old Kent Road? And why not? My friends, that's my message to you tonight. We're going to need a bigger, revised Monopoly board for London."

The Mayor of London formally opened the London Real Estate Forum 2013, hosted inside a temporary marquee at the north end of Berkeley Square.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, June 2013.

© Words and Photos (Unless Stated Otherwise) Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, 2013.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Regeneration or State-led Gentrification: Woodberry Down, Berkeley Group, Hackney Council, social tenancies, affordable homes

Heaven and Hades…

... The Tale of Woodberry Down

By Paul Coleman

Donkeys’ years ago, Harold P. Clunn, the walking chronicler of changing London, rested his aching feet. Clunn paused his walk in north London amid 42 new council estate blocks that housed almost 2,000 working families.
Clunn heaped much praise upon the London County Council’s edifice: “About a mile along the Seven Sisters Road bring us to the splendid new housing estate at Woodberry Down.
  “The landscaping includes a promenade along the New River,” gushed Clunn. “For a large family to be removed from two rooms in the squalid Caledonian Road…to Woodberry Down must have seemed like stepping out of Hades into Heaven.” *

Fast-forward fifty years. Clunn might've shuddered at tonight’s narrative (5 June) where 21st Century property developers and architects are relaying how Woodberry Down deteriorated from “a Utopian ideal” of “uniform slabs…into disrepair…beset with high crime rates, unemployment, and the physical decline of the buildings themselves”.
  True, Woodberry Down’s depressing decay is not disputed. A local resident, who still lives locally, recalls: "My brother and I often walked through there as kids - and we'd get a shift on."
   But some local people contend Hackney Council, which had assumed ownership of the land and responsibility for the estate’s upkeep, is firmly to blame for the Down's decline.

Regeneration or gentrification
Hackney Council is effectively divesting ownership of this publicly owned land to Berkeley and Genesis Housing Association through long leases during the re-development.
   The Council say this is necessary for the area's ‘regeneration’. Scheme opponents say regeneration is 'state-led gentrification'.

Completed and occupied new tower and blocks
Visitors study model of part of Berkeley's vast 'Woodberry Park' scheme

The Berkeley Group prefers a 'quality' rather than 'volume house-builder' tag. But tonight the Berkeley men find it hard to escape from the vast acreage and ambition of their development. Building could go on until 2031.
   Berkeley is building 4,684 'master-planned' homes on Woodberry Down's 60 acres. Many of these homes will be in towers and blocks that overlook urban water reservoirs rippling across an adjacent 40 acres. The New River also courses through the site.
  So far, 860 new homes have risen from the footprint of the old Woodberry Down blocks that are undergoing phased demolition - and some of the 1,983 former Woodberry Down council tenants have moved into new 'Woodberry Park' properties. Of the 860 completed new homes, 550 are ‘affordable’. 
Council tenancies
Interestingly, other London regeneration schemes on a similar scale often include little affordable housing and often virtually no social or council tenancies (Heygate, Seven Sisters). But Berkeley say 41 per cent of the 4,684 new homes will be ‘affordable homes’, including shared ownership homes with Genesis Housing Association, as well as social tenancies.
   Some 25 per cent of Woodberry Down's council tenants had exercised their Right to Buy. Now, a clutch of these leaseholders are insisting they will not be moved - a headache for Neil Sams, Berkeley’s development director. Sams recalls: “It’s fair to say the Council turned their back on the people who lived here. But towards the end of the nineties, Hackney Council resolved to look at the issue of Woodberry Down.”

Neil Sams (2nd right) explains Berkeley's ambitious plans
"I think local people will always know this place as Woodberry Down,", adds Sams. "Woodberry Park is a brand." 
Before this blog returns to the story of how Woodberry Down declined – and, perhaps more importantly, where Sams and company might take it in the future – it’s worth pausing to dwell on one aspect that would’ve rocked Harold P. Clunn down to his worn out boots.
Clunn's Woodberry Down waterside heaven later dilapidated to such an extent that a production crew in the 1990s chose it as a location to film scenes for... Schindler’s List.

Part of Woodberry Down was used as a location in Schindler's List

More tales to follow from Woodberry Down…

* The Face of London, Harold P. Clunn, Spring Books.

The Berkeley Group tour of Woodberry Down was part of the 
London Festival of Architecture (1st-30th June, 2013)

'Woodberry Park' looks over two reservoirs and the New River

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, June 2013.

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

Legal aid reform will harm poorer Londoners: Elaine Needham, Tottenham, London

Tottenham-based solicitor Elaine Needham says the government's legal aid reforms will harm poorer Londoners, writes Paul Coleman.
Cuts to legal aid are already affecting poorer Londoners, says Needham. Furthermore, government reforms will make it much harder for people with mental health problems and drug addictions to secure good quality legal representation.

Justice Minister Chris Grayling disputes the claim that competitive tendering amongst law firms for a reduced number of legal aid contracts will harm people on average and lower incomes. Grayling says reforms will save taxpayers' money and professional qualified lawyers will still be available.
Read more:

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, June 2013