Friday, 27 March 2015

A Day of Action against the 'regeneration' of the West Hendon estate

West Hendon residents block construction site vehicles
© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015
Protester climbs onto van trying to enter estate regeneration building site
© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015

"Get down off the van," growls the van's driver.
Ben defies the driver and deftly hops onto the van roof.
It’s 8.30am on a Friday (27 March), writes Paul Coleman.
Ben protests against developer Barratt Metropolitan LLP’s demolition and redevelopment of the West Hendon estate in the north London borough of Barnet.
It’s part of a Day of Action.
Defiant tenants and leaseholders block lorries and vans trying to get to the gates of a vast building site.

A towering crane swings heavy loads almost directly over nearby Tyrell, a block where residents still live, including elderly people,
Sat on the van roof, Ben holds up photos of Hendon MP Matthew Offord and Barnet Council leader Richard Cornelius.
The clearly miffed driver snaps photos of Ben and complains to two police officers.
Ben clambers down.
The police officers then take Ben for a ‘quiet word’.
“The driver isn’t part of what’s going on here,” says a portly constable.
“Maybe, but he’s still working for the developers who are to blame,” rebuffs Ben.

Residents blame Richard Cornelius for denigrating their homes and the estate’s immediate neighbourhood in order to justify Barratt Metropolitan LLP’s phased scheme.
They also say Offord’s tacit support for the scheme means the MP fully senses a chilly welcome if ever he ventures to this corner of West Hendon.
Yet Cornelius remains undaunted.
“I’m convinced this will be a good result for all the people of Barnet,” says Cornelius, in an oft-quoted TV interview.
“The buildings are grotty down there.
“They need rebuilding.
“And the way you rebuild an estate is you put in private housing which pays for the rebuilding.
“We believe this regeneration is very much in the public interest.”

Private sale
Barratt and Metropolitan Housing's joint venture scheme for the estate is backed by Barnet Council, and aided by Barnet Homes.
The ‘regeneration’ scheme will demolish the West Hendon Estate’s 680 homes block by block and replace them with 2,000 new homes.
Of these, 1,494 will be for private sale.
Metropolitan will offer 287 ‘intermediate’ homes, including shared ownership and shared equity.
Just 219 will be ‘rented’, let to existing secure West Hendon tenants at ‘target rents’, sometimes aligned with ‘social’ rents, closer to council rents.

Despite phases of the development already forging ahead, a significant number of residents demand that all ‘flexible, non-secure tenants’ – many of whom have lived on West Hendon for over nine years – be granted ‘secure’ tenancies.
A ‘secure’ tenancy would have suited Shainaz, a ‘non-secure’ tenant who lived on the West Hendon estate for over four years.
Barnet Homes, the ‘arms-length’ body that manages and maintains Barnet’s 15,000 council homes, moved Shainaz to West Hendon after she became homeless.
But, with the pending regeneration of West Hendon, Barnet Homes have since moved Shainaz to another home, several miles away in North Finchley.
“I don’t know anyone there,” says Shainaz, who suffers from severe depression.
“I enjoyed living here at West Hendon and miss the people.

West Hendon resident Jackie now overshadowed by new block
 © Paul Coleman London Intelligence 2015

Local resident, Jackie, a retired communications worker, recalls the initial ‘like-or-like’ promise made to residents.
“They promised everyone would have a new home on this estate,” says Jackie.
“But the 2,000 homes being built here will be mainly for private sale, and they’ll be so expensive for leaseholders. Even the shared equity – people can’t afford it."
Jackie is a leaseholder of a two-bedroom flat now overlooked by construction workers and overshadowed by a new housing block.
“So, we’ve got to go," adds Jackie.
"But you need enough money to leave here and buy something else.
“And the third offer they made, you wouldn’t be able to buy a garden shed in this area of London.
The Council is basically telling tenants and leaseholders, ‘If you can’t afford to live in this area, then clear off.’”

Jasmin Parsons, a BT engineer, has lived on the West Hendon estate for over 35 years.
Parsons bought her council home in the late 1980s.
She feels strongly that Barnet Council’s current political leaders want wealthier people to live at West Hendon.
Affluent newcomers living densely in new, luxury apartments raise local tax revenues.
They also don’t rely on public services, like people on average and lower incomes.
That makes it easier to cut spending on public services.
Lower the council tax.
And win easy votes.

In the final analysis, Parsons says West Hendon estate homes and the land on which they are built should be publicly owned.
No politicians should have the right to sell this public land to corporate private interests.
“The biggest public asset we have is land,” says Parsons.
“And it’s specifically for the majority of people, not for the rich.
“But we have to fight to get it back."

Jasmin Parsons, West Hendon resident for over 35 years, taking direct action
© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, March 2015

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