Monday, 30 March 2015

Sweets Way: Is Housing a Human Right?

Sweets Way resident Kauthar, aged 13, protests against loss of family homes
© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence 2015

Poster on newly occupied Sweets Way home  © London Intelligence 2015

"Housing is a human right...not a privilege," chants Kauthar, a Sweets Way resident.
But Deputy District Judge Shelton doesn't agree," writes Paul Coleman.

Kauthar, aged 13, spends the first chilly morning of her Easter school break protesting outside Barnet County Court in north London.
Inside a full courtroom, Shelton says UK human rights law simply does not apply to private bodies.
“I really don’t think the human rights point is valid at all,” says Shelton, addressing his remarks to Ella Harris.
Harris is representing herself and two other unidentified defendants.
They had occupied Sweets Way homes as a protest against an ongoing plan to demolish and redevelop the estate.

Legal right
The judge then grants a possession order to Sweets Way's private landowner Annington Homes.
This gives Annington a legal right to 'remove' residents and social housing campaigners from designated homes they have occupied.
But Shelton goes further by also granting an injunction to Annington.
This forbids anyone from entering the Whetstone estate to occupy other emptied homes. 
Shelton also rules that Harris must pay £3,163 legal costs.
Annington hope this award will deter future protest occupations.

Order served on protesters still on ground outside Sweets Way home
© London Intelligence 2015

Moving into another emptied Sweets Way home
© London Intelligence 2015

Human right
But, just a few hours after Shelton’s ruling, a group of protesters and residents, including Kauthar and her mother - and Ella Harris - are back at Sweets Way.
They watch as other protesters move sprightly from the properties subject to Annington's possession order to another neat home on the northern fringe of the estate (above).
Several families and their supporters had occupied homes on the estate.
The homes are in good habitable condition.

Barnet Homes has placed Sweets Way families in temporary accommodation.
Families say this accommodation is unsuitable and far away from schools, doctors and family and friends.
Tenants and campaigners on other London estates undergoing developer-led 'regeneration' have taken similar direct action, notably on the Aylesbury and Loughborough Park estates in south London and the West Hendon Estate in north London.
“People are not taking this anymore,” says Kauthar.
“Housing is a human right and we’re fighting back.”

Re-occupying Sweets Way  © London Intelligence 2015
Sweets Way homes face demolition
© London Intelligence 2015

Perfect condition
Kauthar and her family have lived on the Sweets Way estate for five years.
Annington Homes are breaking up our families and our community,” says Kauthar.
“They want to knock down those houses which are in perfect condition.
“They are evicting us from our homes because we are poor.
“If we were rich they wouldn’t be doing this.
“They’re taking us far away from our friends and families." 

Speaking to London Intelligence, Kauthar explains: “Because of Annington, Barnet Council have sent my family – my Mum, my brother, my Dad and I - to Enfield.
“It takes my brother and I an hour and a half just to get school.
“We need to wake up at five in the morning.
“They put us in emergency accommodation.
“When we first arrived the door wouldn’t lock.
“You didn’t need a key.
“We still don’t have hot water to this day from the shower.
“And there’s no proper heating.

“My Dad has just come out of hospital with mental health problems.
“He’s had seven operations since last September.
“My Dad can’t climb up and down up the stairs.
“My mother has like three jobs.
“She works in a coffee shop.
“Then she looks after my Dad.
“And then she looks after us – her kids.
“The Council once told my mother she must work in order to get help.
“But now she works – and we still don’t get any help.

“It takes Mum more than an hour to get to work.
“And my brother and I spend like half of our day just travelling to and from school.
“By the time we get home, we’re too tired to even eat sometimes.
“We used to have a really strong community on Sweets Way.
“If my Mum had to take my Dad to hospital, she could leave us with our neighbours because she knew they’d take care of us.”

Land and homeowner Annington Property Ltd want to move all residents to make way for a new, ‘mixed’ and more densely populated development.
Sweets Way is a former Ministry of Defence-owned estate that the Annington consortium bought in 1996.
Annington sub-let homes to the housing association, Notting Hill Housing.
NHH asked Barnet Council to nominate families from the council’s list to live at Sweets Way.

'Tinned' Sweets Way homes prepared for demolition
© London Intelligence 2015

But, in December 2014, Barnet granted Annington Homes planning consent to demolish 160 homes and redevelop the estate with up to 288 new homes.
Annington say they will offer 59, or 20%, as ‘affordable homes’.
Twenty-six of these 59 will be offered as shared ownership with 33 as ‘affordable rent’.

Annington sought vacant possession to prepare the site for this redevelopment.
This led to residents being served with eviction notices - and Sweets Way's homes 'tinned' with metal screens by contractor Orbis.
Barnet Homes say ‘long-term temporary accommodation households’ still at Sweets Way will be offered temporary accommodation ‘prior to their eviction’.

© London Intelligence 2015

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, March 2015

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