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london diary

February 2019

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Aylesbury residents protest lack of heating

Aylesbury Estate, Southwark, London. Mon 4 Feb 2019



 Two large blocks on the Aylesbury Estate. They are still occupied but Labour Southwark Council want to demolish them

 This block, Taplow, has the Council's area housing office

 

 and protesters arrove to complain about the frequent failures of the local heating system (its boiler chimney in the distance)

 They find the shutters are down

 but they are raised as the protesters shout at them, though the door is still locked

 Aysen Dennis, a local resident shouts calling on someone to come outside to talk with the protesters - but nobody will

 Soutwark want to demolish the estate and redevelop it with a private developer, with most of the new housing being

 sold or let at market prices - making large profits for the developer but losing almost all low cost public housing

 in the kind of scheme that resulted in the loss of over a thousand low cost homes in the neighbouring Heygate estate.

 She holds up a poster 'Wanted for Betraying the People of Soutwark - Peter John, Leader of Southwark Council - Head of Social Cleansing'

 A resident's vote showed a large majority in favour of staying put and refurbishing the existing flats. The council lied

 about the cost of this and decided for demolition and giving away a huge public asset to private developers in

 excahnge for a very small fraction of social housing - and lucrative job offers for some councillors and officers

 The protesters continue to call for someone to come out and talk with them

 

 As well as local residents there were a few housing activists supporting them , including some from the neighbouring

 borough. Similar estate demolitions are also taking place across London, with around 200 estates in Labour-controlled

 boroughs either under threat or already being demolished. It is happening in the few Tory boroughs too.

 The residents - and activists - see the failure to keep the boilers working as a deliberate attempt by Southwark council

 to force people to move out of the estate, and that the system is in a poor state because of years of deliberate

 managed neglect. As well as the major system failures, the council has also been failing to carry out repairs in

 individual flats, with one resident at the protest having been without heat in some rooms for six months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 A woman spoke about her problems, with the flat being too cold to sit in and for her children. The back-up electric

 heating is very expensive to run, and she says that when she put £20 on the key for her pre-pay meter it only

 lasted 24 hours. She can't afford to heat the flat and feed her children

 

 The protest was small - most of the affected residents are at work outside the area on a weekday - but it was

 reported by a regional TV news channel, who also got some rathre disingenous replies from Southwark Council

 who claimed they were doing their best to keep the heating going. Apparently their best is just not very good.

 

 Two police stood watching the protest for half an hour or so, then came to talk with the protesters before going away

and the protesters left soon after. It was too cold outside to keep up the protest and a later protest at the council offices was abandoned.

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