INURA release public letter in solidarity with Serbian construction workers

belgrade

INURA, the International Network of Urban Research and Action, have released a public letter regarding the housing situation of former Trudbenik construction workers and their families in Belgrade, Serbia.

The letter describes INURA as “a network of people involved in research and action in localities and cities, including professionals, activists and researchers from community and environmental groups, universities and local administrations. INURA is
also a member of the Habitat International Coalition, a global network for the right to housing and social justice.”

Members of INURA recently participated in their 24th international conference, “Between Big Ideas and Life’s Realities” from June 22 – 29, 2014 in Belgrade and Tara.
The conference was attended by about 120 participants from more than 20 countries.

The letter explains, “As part of the official program, we visited a number of sites and projects, including an initiative representing the interests of residents of the so called Samački Hoteli in New Belgrade, Yuri Gagarin Street no. 139, and in Konjarnik, Luneta Milovanovića Street no. 6, built by the KMG TRUDBENIK in 1980 and 1964 respectively. We are writing to you in order to draw your attention to the very precarious living
conditions of its residents and, in particular, to their unresolved housing situation.”

INURA found that a group of over 210 people – mostly former workers of the well-known Serbian construction company KMG TRUDBENIK and their families – are threatened with eviction, writing:

“Their accommodation, once built with the help of solidarity funds financed by the wages of all workers, was sold along with the whole company to the firm MONTERRA in March 2008 as part of the general privatization process in Serbia. Apparently, nothing was done by the state authorities to protect the status of the workers and residents of the Samački Hoteli from the arbitrariness and mismanagement of the new owners. When MONTERRA declared bankruptcy in 2011, all previous arrangements were annulled. More than 500 workers were dismissed, left without any redundancy program or support from the government. It turned out that the “business” policy of the new owner was to plunder the company and profit from its dismantling, with no plans for future production or any obligations towards the workers.”

During their visit, INURA learnt that the residents of Samački Hoteli and similar accommodations have been facing constant harassment and pressure, first by the management of MONTERRA and later by the bankruptcy trustee ERSTE BANKA and SOCIETE GENERALE BANKA and the Commercial Court who all want them to move out of their homes, in order to sell both buildings to repay the debts accrued under the management of MONTERRA. With the bankruptcy of TRUDBENIK, most tenants have become unemployed and are now threatened by eviction. The people who INURA talked to during their visit told them that they have no resources and no other place to
go, and therefore they will probably become homeless. Some families are also frightened that they will be separated, with their children being put in state-run homes while the adults end up on the streets.

INURA conclude: “As INURA members, we come from different countries and are not familiar with the details of the privatization process in Serbia or the laws that enabled and accompanied it. However, we strongly believe that workers and their families should not become the pawns of highly irresponsible corporations and their incessant appetite for increased profits. We are convinced that the state and the city of Belgrade are responsible for the welfare of its citizens and residents and should therefore
take action to prevent these workers and their families from becoming homeless and safeguard their right to housing.”

Therefore, INURA urge political and administrative bodies of Serbia and Belgrade, “to take action and protect the people living in the so called “Workers’ hotels” in Belgrade from harassment, housing insecurity and eviction. We furthermore urge you to make all possible efforts to work on a permanent solution for them and resolve their status as legal residents.”

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New playground in Battersea Park

Demolished adventure playground

The adventure playground in Battersea park has now been demolished for three month. Before the demolition Wandsworth council claimed that the One O Clock club had to be closed because of the protesters, but is now going to be opened as a cafe instead.

The rebuilding of the playground has started and the main part is for younger children. There will be a part aimed for older children, but to access this part you need to pay.

So is this new playground really going to be better and safer then the last one? It will probably be safer in the sense that less people are going to be able to enjoy themselves at the playground. And is it really okay to put an age limit on having fun and play and excluding older kids by forcing them to pay? Should it not be free for all or is this part, made for older children, really going to be such a magical place that is worth paying for?

Of course it is just another depressing aspect of the gentrification, privatisation and commodification of the Battersea / Nine Elms area.

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The Demolition of the Adventure Playground in Battersea Park

We wrote on the blog yesterday that the Adventure Playground in Battersea Park has now been demolished. Wandsworth council took the decision to destroy the playground despite protests from members of the community.

The council claims that the old playground must close on health and safety ground and that a new and more safe playground will be built soon. The new playground will no longer have staff around to make sure that all children are safe, and it is supposed to be much cheaper than the old one. If the new playground is ever built is still in question, but we are sure that the demolition of the old playground is a part of a gentrification ripple effect starting from Battersea Power Station and Nine Elms developments.

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The Adventure Playground in Battersea Park has been demolished

Despite protest from members of the community the popular Adventure Playground of Battersea has been demolished by Wandsworth council. The demolition can been seen as a part of the gentrification that are being preformed in the area of Battersea power station and nine elms-area.

Members of the community and the organisation Occupy London had since the 5th of January occupied the playground in protest of the planned demolition in hope that the council would change their mind and let them open the playground again. This didn’t stop the council and with arguments that “the old playground had safety and health issues” they decided to ignore the will of the community.

What is even more interesting is that a smaller playground in Wandsworth, Kimber road, was planned to be demolished before the one in Battersea, but the council has yet started the demolition. Why they chosen to postpone this demolition is still unclear, but it might be that they are just waiting for the bad publicity after the demolition of the other playgrounds are over.

The community are now planning to fight for the last standing playground in the council and stop this gentrification to go any further.

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The Wandsworth Council’s propaganda against protesters

Wandsworth Council posted an article claiming that “squatters who were yesterday (Wednesday) evicted from their illegal camp at Battersea Park’s adventure playground have left behind a squalid and disgusting mess”. This is part of their propaganda. More than 4000 signatures were gathered by members of the community who wish to preserve the Battersea Park Adventure Playground, yet their voices are being silenced.

Do not fall for this propaganda. The protesters are members of the public, parents and residents of the area who have spent some of the coldest nights of this winter in a locked site. They fight for their children’s right to enjoy what the Battersea Adventure Playground has offered for them and their generation. Whereas the Council’s intentions are highly arbitrary. They have not offered a valid justification for their actions and they keep ignoring the public’s wishes.

This video was filmed in the very early hours of Wednesday 23 January 2013. It was taken by peaceful protesters occupying the building adjacent to the Battersea Adventure Playground – under Section 6 (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977 – and catches the moment when the police potentially illegally enter the occupied building. You can hear a crow bar being used and the smashing up of the window/building.

In our opinion this destruction of public property is not the result of “squatters” but a staged attempt to validate bureaucratic, arbitrary decisions, that have zero consideration for the community’s children.

Sign the petition to save the Battersea Adventure Playground and support the “Wandsworth Against Cuts” organisation.

Also, visit Save Kimber Road and Battersea adventure playgrounds to read about other adventure playgrounds that have been demolished.

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Battersea Park adventure playground occupied to stop demolition

The Battersea Adventure Playground has been the jewel of Battersea Park for more than fifty years. It is located at the South West corner, not far from Battersea Power Station.

Adventure playgrounds offer a unique experience for children and teenagers, as they provide much more than just swings. This type of playgrounds are specifically designed to encourage children to take initiative, use their imagination and be more active during playtime. Staff, volunteers and carers are always present to provide assistance, keep the children safe and organize activities.

In October, Wandsworth Council decided to demolish the popular adventure playground based on various spurious claims regarding health, safety and funds. The community strongly objected and founded the Wandsworth Against Cuts organisation as an answer to the Council’s general attitude. The playground has been occupied since the 5th of January by members of the community as well as activists from the Occupy London organisation:

Battersea Park adventure playground occupied to stop demolition

Yesterday, the police succeeded in evicting some of the occupants, but not all of them. The protest against the Council’s decisions has not been silenced yet and you can show your support by signing the petition. This demolition of the adventure playground for “safety” reasons seems to be part of a gentrification ripple effect starting from Battersea Power Station and Nine Elms area.

Wandsworth Council insist cuts are necessary but claims it is spending £200,000 replacing the demolished adventure playground with standard play equipment.

Visit Save Kimber Road and Battersea adventure playgrounds to read about other adventure playgrounds that have been demolished.

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Save Kimber Road and Battersea adventure playgrounds

Wandsworth Against the Cuts has opened an online petititon to the Government to avoid the closure of Kimber Road and Battersea Park playgrounds. As York Gardens Playground has been recently flattened by builders they believe Kimber Road could be torn down as early as this Friday and Battersea soon after.

Campaigners claim that the closure of the adventure playgrounds will deprive children and young teenagers of things to do on these areas.

Visit Wandsworth Against the Cuts website for ways to try and prevent this happening.

It seems that Malaysian owners Sime Darby´s plans for the regeneration of the Battersea Power Station does not include any playground areas among these 3.400 homes, 2 hotels and dozens of shops and restaurants.

It would be a very good idea if part of (a publicly owned) Battersea Power Station were to be designated a huge public adventure playground for the joy of all the children of the area. But it is clear Wandsworth Council does not see providing for children as important as helping to enrich property developers by sanctioning the building of DINKy (Double Income No Kids- yet) Ghettos.

Check this video out for more information about this story.

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Keith Garner on Rob Tincknell

Keith Garner, local architect and member of the Battersea Power Station Community Group, has laid out a tyraid of questions to the chief executive of the Battersea Power Station Development Company, Rob Tincknell.

In an article described as ‘sycophantic and uncritical’ by Garner, Tincknell answered a series of questions about his involvement with the new plans for the regeneration of Battersea Power Station.

Garner responded strongly to the article, posing probing questions that still need answering. For example;

Why did Treasury Holdings not complete any substantive work in the five years they owned Battersea Power Station between 2006 and 2011, when you were in charge?

Why is the river walk connecting to Battersea Park still not built when your colleagues at Treasury Holdings promised at a meeting in 2011 that this would be done?

Why are you currently carrying out a “public consultation”, when it is clear that you have no intention of responding to any of the concerns raised?

The list ended with Garner asking, ‘Perhaps you would put some of these questions to Rob Tincknell as well?’

We can’t see the Architects Journal being so bold, but are keen to have these questions answered ourselves.

If you have any questions you want answering, let us know and we’ll try to pose them to the companies behind Battersea.

You can read the article itself, and Keith’s full response here, http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/daily-news/rob-tincknell-committed-to-battersea/8635755.article

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Brian Barnes Skeptical of Latest Battersea Plans

Brian Barnes has publicly said that he’s continually doubtful of the new plans set out by Sime Darby to regenerate Battersea Power Station.

Barnes, the driving force behind the Battersea Power Station Community Group that he begun 29 years ago, has seen many plans come and go in his time and is sure the recent proposal from the Malaysian giant will be just another in a long list of failed plans.

He has also criticised the plans for not having enough affordable housing, claiming that no-one from the local area will be able to afford to live there, especially young people looking to get onto the property ladder.

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Battersea Plans Unveiled

Sime Darby have released their plans for their regeneration of Battersea Power Station. This Friday (14th) 10:00am-6:00pm and Saturday (15th) 10:00am-4:00pm will see an exhibition of these plans at the Consultation Suite, Battersea Power Station (Gate 2).

These plans have been reported to involve the demolition of the chimneys, and replicas being constructed as the degredation of the current structures is said to be too much to allow a conservation effort.

Around 3,400 homes, including 500 classified as “affordable” will be built on the 29-acre site, as well as two hotels, 160,000 sq ft of offices and dozens of shops and restaurants in a new “high street”. This work is part of their 12-year development project, with a park and walkway projected for completion as early as next April.

Visit www.batterseapowerstation.co.uk for more information.
Email powerstation@batterseasociety.org.uk with your thoughts on the proposed plans.

Click Battersea Power Station for more blogs
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Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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