Do the business, secretary!

A new video has recently surfaced on youtube which gives a great summary of the problems surrounding the redevelopment of the Hampton Court site.
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The video makes the point that urbanisation of the south bank of the river Thames will not  only mean destruction of a historic view of Hampton Court Palace, but will also make some people and companies very rich.
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Hampton Court Palace lies in business secretary Vince Cable’s constituency of Twickenham. Mr Cable opposed the plans whilst in opposition, but since coming to power he seems to have lost his voice on the subject.

The video makes one point that should give us all cause for concern. The application itself is opposed by many factions, including Hampton Court. If Hampton Court is unable to oppose an inappropriate planning application then there is no hope for us commoners.

 

Here it is:

 

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Real Estate Opportunities “debt D-day” approaches

The financial credibility of the owners of the Battersea Power Station site, REO (Real Estate Opportunities) faces a strong test on the 31st of August when payments are due to both NAMA – the Irish toxic debt bank – and Lloyds Banking group. REO’s creditors have recently appointed Ernst & Young as insolvency advisers in advance of the 31st August deadline. Further details on the ‘debt D-day’ are available via the  The Telegraph and Co Star Group.

The Battersea site was bought in 2006 by REO, which is in majority owned by Irish group Treasury Holdings. This purchase occurred during the craziest period of the Irish property bubble. We can see remnants of the bubble in the current development proposal for the Power Station site. The plans bear all the hallmarks of the worst in speculative urban development that occurred during the bubble. However London has remained somewhat immune to the property bubble, and developers are happy to continue with business as usual and forget anything ever happened. This ‘developers dementia’ is of course good news for REO’s creditors NAMA who have been actively encouraged by some commentators to keep inflating a London property bubble.

Within all of this financial wheeling and dealing the real question is being ignored. That is not how long REO can sustain its current level of debt, but one of how long more the planning authorities in London will go on supporting the speculative urban development charade that inflates such bubbles.

The Battersea site is to be developed with a FAR (Floor Area Ratio) of roughly 5.0. This density is above average for London and well above an acceptable maximum density for a northern European city. Such densities sacrifice important basic human needs like daylight and turn open spaces and streets into canyon like wind tunnels. The only purpose such densities serve is to maximise short term profits for developers.

London’s planning authorities need to develop new thinking and approaches to the development of such iconic locations. Which have at their heart urban design that pays regard to human scale and the longer term societal, environmental and cultural needs of the city, rather than pandering to the demands of the demented developers.

 

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Olympics 2012: Legacy, Land Grabs and Liberties

Olympics 2012: Legacy, Land Grabs and Liberties

Mark Saunders presentation at HafenCity Universität Hamburg department of Urban Design.

Thursday 13 Jan 2011. 7.30

In the Fog of Games the first casualty is the truth.  The Olympics, like other sporting spectaculars, are only brief and transitory television events that disguise and justify Mega projects of vast urban restructuring that permanently distort our cities for the benefit of a few business interests . The common features of these Mega projects are unprecedented land grabs, the peddling of myths of “regeneration”  and the “legacy” benefits for the host community, the sweeping away of democratic structures and planning restraints, the transfer of public money into private hands and “information management” to hid truths and silence critics.

Mark Saunders will be showing some “work in progress” extracts from Spectacle’s film on the London Olympics.

Zeit:
Donnerstag, 13. Januar 2011
19.00 Uhr

Ort:
HafenCity Universität Hamburg
Averhoffstraße 38
Erdgeschoss, Raum 16 b

Eine Veranstaltung im Rahmen der UD-Vortragsreihe “Feste feiern. Kollektivierungen urbaner Praxis”

For more details and maps

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Urban Platform in Brussels

Brussels XL Bravo 04-04-07

This weekend, there will be a 3-day long conference in Brussels organised by City Mine(d) on urban issues and initiatives concerning how to make cities more liveable. The conference begins Friday 19th November at 19:00 with a panel debate on ‘small initiatives, big challenges’. On Saturday 20th November, closed workshops will be held in the afternoon, with group discussions from 19:00 to 23:00. And on Sunday 21st November, from 10:00 til 22:00, there will be a bazaar of idea-sharing and proposals.

For more information, or to register for this event, see their webpage: http://urbanplatform.citymined.org/

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The Delhi Eye – A Symbol of Innocence and Inexperience?

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With the Commonwealth Games slipping into their final days in Delhi, other construction efforts are rushing for completion in a similar manner. Located away from central Delhi, in Kalindi Kunj gardens on the banks of the Yamuna River, the 45m wheel aspires to evoke comparisons with its more famous London counterpart. However, like much of the city, it remains unfinished and unused, with it’s location unknown to most locals and with the RP20 entrance fee to the gardens likely to prevent it being enjoyed by all levels of society.

It does boast one feature that the London Eye doesn’t – a VIP pod equipped (as rumour has it) with a minibar and a television. In case the view from the top proves underwhelming.

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Pirate Urbanism: Delhi’s Commonwealth Regeneration

Cuius testiculus habes, habeas cardia et cerebellum. If you have people’s attention, you have also their hearts and minds.

Not so for the building constructed as the headquarters for the Commonwealth Games 2010 in New Delhi. Stark, sublime and constructed out of grey brick with seemingly arbitrary flashes of colour in idiot-purple, it is no wonder it has stirred up furious controversy.

To put it into World Cup terms, the teams are as such. On one side you have the architects, praising it’s modern feel and visionary style; on the other, grassroots organisations and a not insignificant slice of the public decrying the cost and confused over the desired architectural intention……….

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Commonwealth Games 2010 and New Delhi’s ‘Jugad’ Spirit

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New Delhi is to play host to the first ever Commonwealth Games held in Asia this coming October and, as with the London Olympics in 2012, opinion is divided. There is a powerful PR machine here feeding out reminders all over the city in the run up to the Games, with slogans such as ‘Green Delhi Clean Delhi’, in the hopes of cleaning up the rather extensive levels of pollution. New Delhi’s chattering classes, however, seem bemused at high foreign expectations.

“You do know there will be no Games?” a well-respected lawyer has exclaimed. Less pessimistic, but equally reserved architects involved in the construction of the highly controversial Commonwealth Games headquarters more humorously claimed the public and wider international community would certainly not receive the Games ‘described on the tin’, but that the government would unquestionably know what to show. And more importantly, what to conceal.

The spirit of jugad is a common concept in New Delhi, which roughly translates at best as ‘God willing’, and at worst as ‘by hook or by crook’. Many have invoked the term in relation to the Games, which are taking far longer and becoming much costlier than anticipated, as with the 2012 Olympics. The Games will be completed jugad, but it’s clear from walking the streets and talking to people that while it remains a subject of interesting debate for the Money Men, it is a worrying and at times livelihood-threatening prospect for the many million wallahs or ‘street sellers’ as harsher security restrictions are brought into place. Many are doubtful that the measures will end when the Games do.

There are those of course who proclaim that the Games connote excitement and invigoration, that they will bring life to the city. And in several respects this is true. It must be noted, however, that after each Asia Games in the 70s and 80s, there was deep civil unrest, which may or may not have been related to the Asia Games themselves. But taking into account the suspension of civil rights after the first Asia Games due to an internal ‘state of emergency’; and the holding of the second Asia Games in order to clean up the image of the regime – whispers of papering over social cracks, and governmental tin ears cannot be avoided.

As to the aftermath of this autumn’s Commonwealth Games, New Delhi dwellers must watch and wait.

Read the latest planA posts here.

Also see related blogs:

Battersea Power Station

London Olympics

Silwood Video Group

Eco Towns and Villages

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Waiting for Godot: The Silwood Diaries

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At this month’s Residents Meeting (5th May), the rolling issue of the Pocket Park was raised. The park (sans grass) has been opened, and then closed, on and off for the last 6 to 12 months, and as it is the only source of outside space provided for young people on the Silwood as part of one of London & Quadrant’s Section 106 contracts, there is rising concern by parents.

‘Health and Safety’ issues were cited as the primary reason by L & Q officials at the meeting, however the nature of these health and safety issues were unable to be clarified when enquiries were made. Silwood Video Group members were told simply that there are ‘more repairs that need to be done to the park. This has been passed back to the contractor. As soon as these repairs are done, the park will be opened.’ It is unlikely that L &Q would be unaware of specific problems (if there were any), and seeing as children climbing over the gates in order to access the park (as they habitually do) presents greater health and safety risks, such an answer has not assuaged the residents’ questions, or annoyance.

Let’s hope that Godot, in the form of the golden key to the Pocket Park, decides to turn up soon…

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The Good. The Bad. And Section 106.

Sil Workshop 28-07-05

Spectacle, having established the Silwood Video Group, have been an active presence on the Silwood Estate since 2001, and in nearly 10 years of voluntary film-workshops and attendance at Residents’ Meetings, we have seen the landscape of this slice of South-East London change, and change as a result of regeneration.

Since 2005 at the Residents’ Forum Meetings, which are now held quarterly, the residents have asked to see the business plans for development and to have access to details of Section 106, which was declared a ‘non-public document’ by the London & Quadrant NIT Manager on the Silwood. The statement was later retracted, but the Section 106 document, to date, has not been made available to residents.

Tower Homes, the commercial wing of London & Quadrant, won the planning permission rights to the land in the Silwood area, on which they intended to build luxury apartments. By law, this makes them accountable to Section 106 Agreement of the Town and Country Planning Act (1990), which states that if development is agreed upon, for example, Lewisham Council awarding planning permission to Tower Homes, then the new landowners must provide resources that are of benefit to the community that will be affected by the development. In the case of the Silwood, London & Quadrant was entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing the re-provision of community facilities, play areas/ parks, and youth centres on the Estate, which were demolished as a result of the regeneration process. The Lewington Centre was then built as a replacement for the former community centre and the Cyber Centre under Section 106.

Residents are currently being asked to pay relatively steep rates in order to use their new Centre, but the bone of contention lies in the fact that, according to the ‘Regeneration Project Initiation Document’, freely available from Lewisham Council, London & Quadrant allocated a fund of £2 million in order to meet their Section 106 obligations. On top of this, despite the claim of London & Quadrant representatives at Residents’ Meetings on the Silwood that these rates are essential to their business plan and the long-term running of the Lewington Centre, their business plan for 2009 shows that they have made a profit in the region of £120, 000. So why do they seem so unwilling to invest in fully rebuilding the local infrastructure?

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Silwood Land for Silwood Residents?

Sil 180707

As part of the continued regeneration of the Silwood Estate, an application has been submitted by London & Quadrant Housing Association for planning permission on vacant land that residents wanted to be used to provide play areas for their children. After a series of quarterly meetings in which residents were unable to obtain information from L & Q representatives as to status of the Lewisham Council-owned land, it has become apparent that the housing trust themselves have made a bid for it. According to Planning Application DC/09/73169/X , L & Q are seeking permission to build tower blocks ‘ranging from 2 storeys… to 6 storeys’ in the area north of Silwood Street. Residents have requested that this issue be raised at the next Silwood Community Meeting.

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