Congress is about to pull funding on the £600m US embassy

We just received more evidence to support the flawed nature of the BPS scheme. The US Congress is withdrawing the money for developing the US embassy, according to a detail contained in the latest bipartisan budget deal. And even more good news: the decision could also affect Boris Johnson’s plan for the Northern Line Extension. As reported on the Financial Times and Buzzfeed. This will seriously affect the Nine Elms Battersea opportunity area.

USembassy

The enormous glass cube which was about to become the US embassy is currently being built on the south side of the Thames in central London. It was seen as key to spurring the redevelopment of the Nine Elms area of the capital and led to talk of a new “embassy quarter”, with the Netherlands and China also considering plans to move their diplomatic missions to the same area. Transport for London documents state that the “first major contributor” to the enterprise zone “is expected to be the US Embassy”.

Together with the news that the development officer at the Battersea Power Station Development Company is leaving the project in May. Looks like Peak Power Station has been reached and is already downsizing.

Alistair Shaw, who joined the Battersea development team in February 2013, handed his notice in before Christmas and will leave in May to pursue other development interests in the West End and central London. Shaw previously worked as the head of retail development at Stanhope on projects including Hereford town centre, which is due for completion later this year.

A revised planning application for Battersea Power Station has been submitted and will be heard in April, while a reserved matters planning application for the high street element of the scheme is expected to be submitted in April.

Seems like some positive changes are finally happening.

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Evicted for Sport

:courtesy: Ravi Chaudhary/Governance Now.

This year, the commonwealth games are held in Delhi. Minister of Delhi 2010 Sheila Dikshit’s  concept of a “World Class” image has convinced local officials to  demolish any slums local to the commonwealth venues.

On the 7th of July 2010, during work hours, a government funded demolition team took bulldozers to the Yamuna Khada school (funded by donations) in order for it to be ruthlessly demolished. Those who attended and worked at the school were given three hours to vacate the property with no alternative. Police were present along with the construction teams and were seen destroying whatever could be demolished by hand in order to put fear into local residents. Many were removed with physical force.

After the destruction of the school, children as young as five years old were seen with teachers attempting to salvage items from the rubble of the school in order to save whatever they could for their community.  The children will have to relocate to the nearest alternative school three miles away in order to have an education. The school as part of the community was by no means a luxury but a necessity. With no immediate community to move to it is unknown when they are next able to continue their education and their lives.

Children from slums (including the Yamuna slums) have come together to produce a book of poems entitled “We Built This City” in order to save at least the memory of the community that they and their families have spent the last 25 years building. This emotional and reflective collection is the only weapon these children have against the bulldozers and police sent in by the government. With India hoping to host the 2016 Olympics it’s a wonder how far this abuse of the poor is going to go.

To find out more about what is happening concerning the destruction of the slum communities and to help support those who have suffered from the effects of the redevelopment of the Yamuna river, please visit Sarai and Governance now. If you would like to see how we have looked at this issue, please see our London / Delhi Project.

With similar effects seen in Beijing (Olympics 2008) and the UK (arguably with less government approved violence), it is questionable whether the development of these cities to create a “world class image” is necessary or progressive. The compaction of poor communities increases the class divide as well as reducing the opportunity for the poor to improve their standard of living.

Interestingly the official explanation for why the school needed to be demolished was “security”, the same reason given for demolishing the 100 year old Manor Gardens Allotments in London. These mega-events last only a few weeks- demolition is forever. There is only one difference between the events in London and Delhi. Eviction with a smile.

Remember- Its not losing that matters, its the taking part.

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Olympic Food for Thought

DSC_0600

This poster was found in one of New Delhi’s Tibetan refugee colonies, and was given pride of place amongst the other anti-Chinese propaganda. Despite the fact that it is aimed at the Beijing Olympics 2008, it has lessons for London 2012 too. The ‘human rights’ it asks us to put before the Games may not be the torture, oppression and violence that the Chinese government is accused of. But the breaking up of communities, and cheating the poor and defenceless out of the little that they have in the face of ‘regeneration’ is surely a slap in the face of human rights on a lesser scale. We cannot promote a  sliding-scale of rights; either they are respected or they are not. And at the moment, the London Olympics resides in a very grey area.

Something to think about.

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