L&Q lockout Silwood Youth Club

Jacqueline Willis Silwood resident and Ola Walker local youth worker expressed their frustration and hurt after L&Q housing association, current managers of the Lewington Community Centre, cancelled the youth club at short notice. The day before L&Q had cancelled the Zumba class again at very short notice, which sparked a resident sit down.

L&Q have a history of last-minute cancellations of community events including the residents’ Christmas Party. Fortunately, they were given permission to throw the Christmas party, but not without causing distress and anxiety to the community event organisers and the caterers. As the Christmas party drew nearer, they were still in the dark about the availability of the centre.

The Lewington Community Centre, promised under the regeneration of the Silwood estate to serve and be managed by the Silwood neighbourhood has become simply an “asset” of L&Qs portfolio of properties- it is rented out most of the time to Morley College.

These community events were cancelled at extremely short notice, just a few hours before the events were meant to begin. This was particularly unfortunate on the day that they were supposed to hold a youth club event for minors, as it posed a child protection issue when the building closed and they had nowhere to go.

L&Q offer no real explanation for the cancellations. They cite staff shortages but there is no reason for the community not to be keyholders. If they had been keyholders none of the events would have needed to be cancelled.

L&Q seem determined not to allow members of the community-led Lewington Community Centre Management Community (LCCMM) to be keyholders. Indeed L&Q appear to resist any attempt by the community to organise and run their own centre as they were promised they would under the Section 106 agreement. Before the “regeneration” of the estate the community happily and efficiently ran their own centre.

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Silwood residents sit-down to demand a community centre.

After a series of community events have been cancelled at short notice, when L&Q suddenly announced the Lewington Centre on the Silwood Estate would closed at 5pm- not the scheduled 9pm, it was the final straw, after 20 years of being excluded from their own centre. 

Residents wanted to show that there were people who would be prepared to manage and close the building after 5pm. The women were resident community workers and representatives of residents and tenant groups.

Residents were not asked to leave by L&Q but soon after 5 the police were in the room.

This is not the whole story.

Since the building was open L&Q have resisted all attempts by the community to manage and use their own centre.

This sit down was not just about a zumba class being cancelled. It was the last straw in a 20 year struggle for the community to get the centre “regeneration” promised.

What Silwood residents had pre Regeneration: a mish-mash of community resources, youth clubs, a nursery, a creche, education and training facilities, clubs and groups, council supported and bottom up initiatives effectively run and organised by residents, paid or voluntary. Many were much loved by the community and the residents made the best of what little they had.

What they were promised, the justification for the entire regeneration scheme was a bigger, better, purpose built community centre and facilities.

What they have 20 years on is the “Lewington Centre.” A building L&Q run and refer to as an “asset” and a business. The centre is in fact let out to Morley College most of the week so it is not available for community use.There is nothing “purpose-built” about the Lewington Centre. With 25 flats above the main hall, occupied by key workers, some on night shifts, the building was never suitable for the kind of noisy social  and community events like birthday parties, weddings.  The acoustics have been a constant problem. Just a few teenagers playing table tennis made a deafening noise before expensive sound remediation.

L&Q insisted they had to build the flats above the centre to provide an income stream to make the centre sustainable. Its not clear why the flats needed to be physically located on top of the building given the huge amount of land L&Q were given in the regeneration deal. Without transparency and published accounts it is also not clear what this income, combined with the rental from Morley College and other private hires, is actually spent on. Do L&Q really need to charge the community to use their own hall for social and community events to “cover their overheads”?

The community want some very basic things so they can once again manage their own community resources:

Management of activities and social events at the community centre.

Registered Community key holders.

Recognition of the Community Centre Management Committee (CCMC)

Published accounts for Lewington Centre. (required under Section 106)

These are simple demands. It is curious L&Q are so resistant. Why?

Click Silwood Video Group for more blogs
Or visit PlanA  for general posts on urbanism, planning and architecture.
See our Silwood Video Group project pages for more information and videos.
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Silwood Community Centre Management Committee

Before the “regeneration” of the Silwood Estate by Lewisham and L&Q in 2000 the residents successfully ran their own community centre and youth facilities- either voluntarily or employed.

These facilities, the youth club, cyber centre, community hall, under 5s etc were demolished and residents were promised a bigger and better purpose built “Community Centre” to not just replace but improve on what they lost. What followed was a systematic disempowerment of the community. What they got was the L&Q run “Lewington Centre”, a totally unsuitable building that residents struggle to access. L&Q sublet the building to Morley College which is of no benefit to the community and means the building is rarely available for residents to use.

On the 16th of September 2019, the Silwood community held a meeting to form the Community Centre Management Committee (CCMC). This meeting symbolises local people of Silwood wanting to come together to improve the facilities of the community and surrounding areas.  

Silwood Community Centre run by L&Q

Historically, the residents successfully ran their own community centre and amenities. Sadly, under the regeneration of the estate, L&Q housing association took control of the new purpose-built community centre that was meant to not just replace but improve the facilities lost. Following the regeneration, L&Q then sub-let the centre to Morley College and the community has felt excluded ever since.

After years of frustration, the establishment of an independent CCMC means the whole community could have their voice heard. In the past L&Q have managed to make promises and not keep them to individuals without being made accountable but now with the strength of the committee, this will happen no more. A significant improvement for the community, as in the past, resident’s concerns about the management of the estate was falling on to deaf ears and there was no one to hold L&Q accountable to fulfil promises made.

Spectacle has been documenting the resident’s struggle since 1999 and continue to do so today. We believe that the injustice done to the residents is unacceptable. By setting up the Silwood video group to document and lobby for a meaningful regeneration, we are working with the community to help bring awareness to the mistreatment of Silwood residents. 

The group has participated in workshops organised by Spectacle and filmed the consultative meetings so they have a personal record.

Rita Edmond, Community Develop Practitioner, in her interview, exclaims,  “we stand together, and we fall together.” which is an attitude that currently illustrates the unity of the Silwood community and their hopes for the future. 

Another interviewee, Pembe Kumbi, Local entrepreneur, said the community has lots of hidden young talent that will be expressed through the use of the community centre. 

There is so much opportunity for Lewington Community Centre to become a hub for people to gather for youth groups and an assortment of classes. Joyce Jacca mentions all sorts of potential uses for the centre if it is allowed to be run by the locals. 

This represents a whole new chapter in the Silwood story that goes to the heart of community empowerment and wellbeing.   

Click Silwood Video Group for more blogs
Or visit PlanA  for general posts on urbanism, planning and architecture.
See our Silwood Video Group project pages for more information and videos.
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Love me! Help me! – can art save Battersea Power Station?

Brian's poster

As Chairman of Battersea Power Station Community Group Brian Barnes has fought for the power station for 32 years.

The Battersea Power Station has without a doubt a special place in many Londoners hearts. It has this word presence – not many buildings have been featured in popular culture as much as the iconic building based on a river side site next to Thames.

Now the power station is facing a massive re-generation scheme led by the Battersea Power Station Development Company, a Malaysian consortium in charge of the ambitious building project. The scheme has stormed critique especially among local residents.

One of them is Brian Barnes, a mural artist who have been the fighting for the Battersea Power Station over three decades. Brian is Chairman of Battersea Power Station Community Group which has been campaigning to save the power station and to inform people about what the local community thinks about the redevelopment plans.

The Battersea Power Station has inspired Brian’s artwork and the posters made by Brian have been part of the Battersea Power Station Community Group’s campaign. One of Brian’s posters represent what Pink Floyd did in 1976. A helium filled 45 long pig was anchored to the chimney for the cover of Pink Floyd’s Animal album. “Battersea Power Station and the pig go together like peaches and cream” Brian says.

Algie

The iconic rock image Pink Floyd’s inflatable pig Algie has inspired Brian Barnes’ posters. Algie famously flew over Battersea Power Station for Pink Floyd’s “Animals” album cover in 1976.

However the pig isn’t the only animal Brian has used in his artwork. Orangutangs have also been a common feature in Brian’s art inspired by the power station. This is because one of the companies that owns the power station, Sime Darby – one of the biggest palm oil producers in the world – is cutting down a rainforest in equatorial zones and destroying the natural habitats of orangutangs.

“If they can do that in Borneo and threaten the rainforest and the orangutangs, I don’t think they are going to be much bothered about a building of brick”, Brian adds.

“On Valentine’s day we put up a big ‘Love’ banner up on the chimneys with a heart on it. That got everyone interested in loving Battersea Power Station”, Brian says. The 45 foot long banners which the Community Group members strung up between the chimneys have also said ‘Love me’ and ‘Help me’.

Brian believes that art helps to galvanise people’s attention to the power station and what’s going on: “Whether the chimneys are coming down or whether there is too much luxury housing around it or whether the tube station is really going to be useful for the local people”.

Brian and mural

A mural ‘Battersea in perspective’ was made in 1988. The mural including Battersea Power Station ‘is all about the Battersea area and people who are famous of being Battersea residents’ Brian says.

“Battersea Power Station missed out being an art gallery because it didn’t have a roof” Brian says referring to the Bankside power station which now serves as the Tate Modern.

The chimneys of the Battersea Power Station have been a significant part of Brian’s art. “If all the chimneys are down and the present Battersea Power Station Development Company leaves then you would have a box of brick with no chimneys”, Brian worries. At the moment the chimneys are indeed going down in order to be rebuild.

Perhaps art cannot save the Battersea Power Station. However it has spread the message of what is happening and helped social change by being a part of a wider campaign. “I used it (Battersea Power Station) as an image to represent Battersea”, Brian says and what is sure is that his campaign to save the power station isn’t over yet.

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Battersea Power Station – from no mans land to architectural extravaganza

 

bps small web

The iconic Battersea Power Station is at the heart of Rafael Vinoly’s master plan – a massive “regeneration” scheme for Battersea.

The riverfront district of Southwest London around the Battersea Power Station will soon be unrecognizable due to a huge “regeneration” scheme. The Battersea Power Station which has remained largely unused since its closure in 1983 is at the heart of this luxury housing development financed by a Malaysian real estate investment group Eco World.

This regeneration scheme has recently hit the headlines with its culmination London’s first ‘sky pool’, a swimming pool which has been planned to bridge two 10-storey buildings in Embassy Garden’s as a part of the Battersea “redevelopment” plan.

However Nine Elms ‘sky pool’ has not been acclaimed by everyone. A private swimming pool sky bridge in the middle of London’s affordable housing crises has stormed critique as a symbol of rising inequality. The recent newspaper headlines show the other side of the story of the highest residential swimming pool in London:

The Independent wrote: “Nine Elms ‘sky pool’: luxury London flat owners  will be able to swim while literally looking down on everyone else”.

In addition, The Guardian stated: “The ‘sky pool’ is just the start: London prepares for a flood of bathing oligarchs”.

The planned luxury flats are being criticized for being aimed at wealthy foreign buyers taking advantage of the rising value of property in London. In January 2013 the first residential apartments went on sale and now all of the Thames-facing apartments have already been sold, way before the project was even launched.

Last year the reselling cycle made possible that the flats with starting prices from £1 million were on sale later on the year for £1.5 million. However the rapidly increasing prices are only a one side of the issue. The fundamental conflict lies on the fact that only 16 % of the planned new homes (560 of the total of 3,444) will be affordable housing.

pbs model

The “redevelopment” of Battersea would change the Landscape of London – the iconic Power Station would be surrounded by huge building blocks.

Since the power station ceased generating electricity in the 80s, it has become one of the best known landmarks in London. As the largest brick building in Europe, the iconic power station was listed on the World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund in 2004.

During the past 50 years, numerous redevelopment plans for the Battersea Power Station have been introduced. However these projects have usually failed due to a lack of funding. In 2010 Real Estate Opportunities were granted permission to redevelop the power station. This resulted in the creation of the current master plan for Battersea, an architect Rafael Vinoly’s design which gained planning consent from Wandsworth Council in 2011.

However, Vinoly does not have exactly a clean architectural record. According to the BBC the ‘Walkie Talkie’ skyscraper on Fenchurch Street in London had been blamed for reflecting light and causing a ‘death ray’ with a high temperature. The 37-storey tower designed by Rafael Vinoly was claimed to damage vehicles by melting parts of them and even causing fires.

Last week Building Design magazine announced that Walkie Talkie, nicknamed because of its bulbous, curving shape was voted for the worst building in London. Building Design’s annual Carbuncle Cup sparked an online debate including not so flattering comments about the building such as one reader commenting: “I now have a new personal goal: to live long enough to see this building demolished”.

Now the planned Phase 3 with proposals for the future of Battersea and the power station has been revealed by the Battersea Power Station Development Company, a Malaysian consortium in charge of the project. The Phase 3 of the project will provide 1,310 residential homes with only 103 of them being affordable which is less than 8 % of the houses that are planned to be build.

Will this solve the growing divide in the London housing market? Very unlikely. So far it seems that the beneficiaries are the wealthy few who the housing crisis doesn’t hit with its sky-high prices.

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

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