Letters to the editor: 17/11/16

(17 November, 2016)

This week: lessons to be learnt from past fights against fascism, the Odessa crane, and the council's reaction to the Housing Act

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Peter John: Keep your promise to resist the Housing Act

It is no exaggeration to say that the Housing and Planning Act is set to destroy all social and council housing within a generation.

It is aimed at forcing councils to sell off council housing, making tenants on moderate incomes pay a tenant tax and ending the right to lifetime secure tenancies.

Southwark Council admits that the effect on Southwark people will be devastating. That’s why we were pleased when Southwark’s Council Leader Peter John committed last February to call a public meeting in May and said he would encourage all tenants and residents to join the campaign against the Act. This commitment was also made in April by then Cabinet Member for Housing Richard Livingstone and Mayor Dora Dixon-Fyle. Councillor Stephanie Cryan, Cabinet Member for Housing also talked about supporting this at a meeting of tenants in the summer.

But now we are told this public meeting won’t be going ahead- because Peter John thinks it’s already happened! It’s true there have been many meetings and activities in Southwark to oppose the Housing Act but not one of them have been called, or promoted, by the Council.

At the recent Axe the Housing Act Summit a councillor from Islington talked about the meeting they had called- 600 people turned up- and the council had also publicised its opposition to the Act widely. The Islington councillor said other councils should do the same. We agree. If all those against the Act get together and seriously resist the government we believe we can stop the Act. It’s not fully implemented yet. There’s still time to put a spanner in the works. But councils must do their bit.

Our message to Councillor John and Southwark’s Labour Group is simple: Hundreds of tenants heard you promise to call a public meeting- please do so now.   And on 23rd November at 12pm Axe the Housing Act has called a protest outside parliament to coincide with the Autumn Statement- publicise this to the people of Southwark and come to the protest to pledge your support. It really is the least you can do. Making promises and not keeping them is a sure-fire way to increase the cynicism that most people already feel about politicians, and a Labour council that verbally opposes vicious government policies but then does little to organise against those policies will, in the end, undermine its own support. Don’t make that mistake. Help us fight this Act now.

Signed by: Tanya Murat, Chair Southwark Defend Council Housing; Cris Claridge, Chair Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations; Steve Hedger, Chair Tenant Council; Ian Ritchie, Vice Chair, Tenant Council; Barry Duckett, Chair Rotherhithe Area Housing Forum; Tim Whelan, Chair Walworth East Area Housing Forum; Sue Plain, Branch Secretary Southwark UNISON; Jerry Flynn, Elephant Amenity Network/35% Campaign; Tony Linforth-Hall, Saving Southwark

 

Crane should be protected by law

We all have to abide by the law, we are told.

Unless that is, you are part of Southwark Council’s Planning Department.

Last week saw the end of Rotherhithe’s ‘ Historical Red Crane’ (Scotch Derrick) when the planning committee granted permission for it to be demolished and replaced by blocks of flats up to twelve storeys in height. Nothing new there you might think? But you’d be wrong.

The main objection by local residents on the night was the fact that the application contravenes the ‘ ‘Mayors London Plan’ by, not 10% not 50% not 100% but by almost 300%. How?

The site is designated as ‘Suburban’ in the ‘London Plan’ and also the ‘Area Action Plan’, meaning it is only capable of supporting 24/25 flats.

The developer put in for 74 flats and the planning committee granted permission. I don’t blame any developer for maximizing their profits, but I do blame the council for completely ignoring and abusing planning law.

A last minute ‘Addendum Item’ from ‘English Heritage’ was relayed to the planning committee plus all attendees on the night, stating that “They are looking into the possibility of  Listing the Crane”. Attempts by some planning committee members to postpone the application until after the English Heritage decision were rebuffed by the Chairman , Nick Dolzel, after taking legal advice. It was agreed however that ‘If’ the Crane is awarded Grade II Status, the application will have to be resubmitted and re-heard.

Residents plus, Cllr Dan Whitehead, put a very good case on the night, but were very angry at witnessing the council blatantly abusing planning law on designation, which local residents fought so hard to get on the statute book some ten years ago. Remember the Council’s slogan ‘ Low, Clean & Green’ it should now be ‘ High, Dense & Grey’.

Rotherhithe residents  accept that there’s going to be high rise and dense development around Canada Water Masterplan Area, which is designated as Urban Density.  But they won’t accept planning law being abused in this way.

Southwark Council’s latest proposal is to build up to 26 storey blocks on the ‘ Suburban’ South Dock Boatyard is another prime example of planning law abuse. Residents fought some epic battles here in Downtown, it seems like we have another battle on our hands.

Steve Cornish, Rotherhithe

 

Fighting Fascism

Is was great to see Southwark News dedicate a page to those who went out to Spain to fight Fascism (‘The working class who went to fight knowing they might not come back’, November 10, 2016).

For those of us who have studied history will know what turbulent times they were during the ‘20s and ‘30s, this war was a lesson the West should have “taken seriously” instead they openly supported the Fascists by their inaction.

Many years ago a good comrade of mine Tony Gilbert, who fought in Spain and later went on to become secretary of an anti-Imperialist organisation called Liberation, told me: “If we had stopped them in Spain, there would not have been a second World War.”

KJ Barry, Blackheath

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