Friday 9 March 2012

Historic victory against profit-led 'regeneration'

In many streets, there is a scarcely visible process going on: developers eye up land and properties with a view to convincing councils that there is a place or space which they can make a profit out of. They don't call it that. They call it 'regeneration' and proceed to line up various agencies or authorities to back them: eg the local transport people, some 'business people', some kind of 'development agency' or ngo in the area and so on. They will also try to capture some key members of the council (elected or non-elected). Sometimes this process is initiated by a council committee as part of their own 'regeneration' scheme.

In fact, more often than not, it's a con. The 'affordable' housing that is sometimes promised at the outset, starts diminishing in numbers as the developer pleads economy and 'returns  on investment'. Quite often some kind of half-hidden subsidy is engineered by either the council or one of the ngos whereby the developer gets the land cheap or received some kind of suspension in the council tax etc. And when it comes to the 'retail units', more often than not, this is in face an effort to bring in the multinational chains.

Prior to all this, the land or properties that the developers have been eyeing may well have been deliberately run down by the public authorities eg the council or transport authority. The 'dereliction' they talk about in their glossy brochures may well have been engineered, by refusing to let tenant holders, short-term occupiers or some such stay and develop their own property. Groups (eg council subsidised self-help groups, community organisations and the like) are often told that they can be moved out at any time. Another trick is for the council to have not updated and upgraded some properties they owned so that they are in effect falling down.

At this point the developer's plan is presented as the only viable alternative. The possibility of people on the ground developing their places and spaces has been eliminated by refusing to let them (!), some deal is on the cards whereby the developer is getting some kind of subsidy from us, the council tax payers, but which may well be hidden as a non-ask eg a very low payment for a slice of property, and the council and the developer produce some great big brochure of blather saying how this is all a marvellous retail opportunity, everything is going to look smart and nice, Marks and Spencer are going to be on your doorstep etc etc.

Now to the council meeting to see if they can get it through.

At this point, I'll break off the story...with this:

Just up the road from a historic defeat for the people, places and spaces of Dalston in Hackney, comes a historic victory: