Tuesday 28 February 2012

Occupy Camp At St Paul's Cathedral Evicted

This video from Sky News shows riot police moving in just after midnight this morning to forcibly remove protesters from outside of St Paul's Cathedral. For the time being, the Occupy encampment in nearby Finsbury Square remains untouched.

Sunday 26 February 2012

Occupy London: Waitinng For Eviction

Following the Court of Appeal ruling On Wednesday that none of the applications presented by Occupy London would be heard, eviction by bailiffs on behalf of the City of London Corporation are now imminent. Yesterday I dropped by St Paul's Cathedral on the off-chance that they might begin this weekend: a sweep of the encampment seemed more likely with no City workers around. I found the camp slowly packing up, the atmosphere somewhat forlorn. Here are a few pictures - there are more on Flickr.

Thursday 16 February 2012

Newham Council Gives More Time To Forest Gate Developers

Newham council's Strategic Development Committee has decided to defer discussions on the planning application submitted by property company Obsidian for redeveloping Forest Gate, which were due to take place at its next meeting on 21 February. This decision was made with the agreement of the committee chair, Cllr Conor McAuley and means the plans will now most likely be reviewed again on 20 March. In an e-mail, Karen Dennis, Head of Technical Support Planning & Development Services, states:

The reason for deferral is because the applicant has recently submitted amended plans and documents for the Council to consider, and wishes for these to be formally assessed prior to any Council decision. The Council will shortly be reconsulting local residents as well as other statutory consultees regarding the amendments.

Another reason, a more likely one, is that council officers had recommended refusal of planning permission. A report drafted by Senior Planning Manager Ralph Mullen for the committee (now withdrawn) notes that objections were received from Kay Rowe Nursery School, the Methodist Church, Aston Mansfield Charitable Trust, the Woodgrange Society & Residents Association, 174 residents and the council's own Conservation Officer. Only two letters of support were received. The report recommends referral to the Mayor of London (GLA) saying the Council are minded to refuse application, as well as delegation of authority to the Director of Strategic Regeneration, Planning and Olympic Legacy to refuse full and outline planning permission and conservation area consent.

There is a powerful argument that Obsidian should have been better prepared before submitting their plans and have only themselves to blame for the level of opposition. Instead, they face the prospect of effectively rewriting their proposal from scratch. Unless Obsidian's proposals are drastically amended, it is also hard to see what further consultation with residents, who vehemently oppose the plans, can possibly achieve.

So why on earth is Newham council giving them more time for a plan that is so fundamentally flawed?

Thursday 9 February 2012

Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere

Newham Bookshop has managed to persuade Newsnight economics editor and author Paul Mason to talk about his book "Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions" at Wanstead Library on Saturday 17 March at 7pm.

Mason's book explores the wave of protest that emerged in 2011, from the so-called 'Arab Spring' to the Occupy movement, and whether new forms of activism involving dynamic networks of young, social media savvy cyber-protesters are redefining what 'revolution' and political alternatives to capitalism now means.

Tickets for the event, which is likely to sell out very quickly, can be reserved by calling 020 8552 9993. Wanstead Library is on Spratt Hall Road, Wanstead, London E11 2RQ

Wednesday 8 February 2012

More Bad News For Forest Gate Developers

Aston-Mansfield, one of Newham's oldest charities and the owner of Durning Hall Community Centre, has today issued a statement on its formal objection to controversial regeneration proposals for Forest Gate submitted by developers Obsidian.

Last month, Obsidian's plans were rejected by Mayor of London Boris Johnson, with the Greater London Authority questioning the suitability of a 20 storey tower block on the current Durning Hall site and raising serious concerns about the lack of clarity on a range of issues from affordable housing to community facilities. Now the objection of a significant Forest Gate landowner - as well as Durning Hall, the charity owns a number of other properties in Woodgrange Road and Earlham Grove - has put further pressure on Obsidian to drastically change its plans. Whilst accepting that Forest Gate is in urgent need of redevelopment (lets not talk about the £92 million spent on the seven-year SRB programme that was supposed to rejuvenate the area), the charity's statement says:

Aston-Mansfield supports the principle of regenerating Forest Gate but does not believe that the proposals set out in the current Obsidian planning applications adequately meet the Council’s regeneration objectives nor are they in the best interests of the local residents and community groups. In particular:
  1. The volume of space that Aston Mansfield currently provides for community use in Forest Gate is more than two and a half times larger than the amount proposed in the application;

  2. We agree with high density housing near the station but think the proposed tower requires much greater justification both in terms of visual impact and financial viability;

  3. The application makes no contribution to affordable housing and no mention of how the temporary hostel for homeless people provided within Durning Hall will be replaced or improved;

  4. The five phase development proposed could disrupt life and work in the area for years causing operational difficulties and planning blight that will severely compromise our work;

  5. There is no indication as to how the Charity is expected to maintain its services whilst the Durning Hall site is redeveloped.
Consequently the Charity is unable to support the application as it currently stands and is working on some constructive suggestions to put to Obsidian and the Council if the current application can be deferred for further consultation.

If this does not happen there is a real danger that Durning Hall will have to close during the period of redevelopment and may not be able to reopen in Forest Gate.

Aston-Mansfield's intervention will make it far more difficult for Newham council, which has been supportive of Obsidian's proposals, to make an early decision on the planning application in its current form. The planning committee is due to meet on on 21 February and if it decides to reject the call for further consultation and grant planning approval, the developers have said they aim to start construction work this year.

The Save Forest Gate camnpaign continues to call for local people to lobby councillors - more information here.

Random Blowe | Original articles licensed under a Creative Commons License.