Campaigners and local residents are furious with a Labour council for ‘allowing social and ethnic cleansing’

A boarded up store in Chrisp Street Market
Nye Jones

On 24 July, Tower Hamlets Council in east London approved a controversial redevelopment plan, to the fury of campaigners and local residents:

Chrisp Street Market

Chrisp Street Market is the oldest pedestrianised shopping area in the UK. In a documentary about the regeneration of the market, a local resident describes how:

We are working class people, Chrisp Street Market [is] for working class people. We want to keep [it] as it is.

The Canary previously reported that:

10 years ago, the housing association Poplar HARCA took over management of both the market and the housing situated around it from Tower Hamlets council.

During this time, local residents, traders and campaigners have accused Poplar HARCA of deliberately running down the area, with the aim of forcing the local community out.

However, Poplar HARCA denies this accusation. A spokesperson told The Canary:

The scheme is a partnership between Poplar HARCA and Telford Homes plc. The market stalls are now, and will continue to be, operated by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

We have listened closely to local traders, residents and shoppers over the past eight years. They are all vital to the success of the Market, and together we will create a thriving town centre by adding new retail, amenities and desperately needed new homes to the best of what’s already here.

The listening doesn’t now stop. We will liaise closely with everyone to ensure all shops and market stalls can continue trading throughout the works, and disruption is kept to a minimum.

Furious

But the council meeting itself was marred with controversies:

Some campaigners accused Tower Hamlets Council of being very selective about who they let into the meeting:

And council staff threw out campaigner Terry McGrenera “for shouting out comments questioning the amount of social/affordable housing”.

A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council told The Canary:

The Chrisp Street Market planning application was considered by the council’s Strategic Development Committee on Tuesday evening.

Extensive consultation took place as part of the application process and all the responses were taken into account.

In addition, the applicant held a series of engagement events involving residents and stallholders. A number of petitions, both for and against the proposals, were sent in.

The report considered by the committee recommended that, subject to any alternative direction from the Mayor of London, the application be approved.

The meeting heard representations for and against the proposed development and considered a range of relevant planning issues before coming to a decision.

The committee voted unanimously to grant planning permission. Votes on planning decisions are a matter for individual councillors.

Social housing

Leader of the Save Chrisp Street campaign Rab Harling told The Canary that Poplar HARCA’s proposal:

in reality almost completely removes any social housing from the market, replacing it with a small number of “affordable” homes and units for part-ownership.

Harling went on to describe how the Tower Hamlets Labour council has allowed:

the wholesale social and ethnic cleansing of an entire community in order to “change the social mix” of the local population.

And other campaigners agree with Harling’s analysis:

As do local residents:

The East London Advertiser reported that Poplar HARCA plans to bulldoze the ex-council estate surrounding the market. It describes how:

Poplar Harca has had to raise the ratio of “affordable” homes to 35 per cent from 124 to 200, including 136 at social rent, 27 at ‘living rent’ and 37 shared ownership. Another 443 homes are to go on the private sale market.

There are currently 129 social homes on the estate. Poplar HARCA’s plan to increase this by just 12 seems scant reward for knocking down so many homes.

Not giving up

Ammar Hasanie, a shopkeeper in Chrisp Street Market, told the East London Advertiser that the local traders aren’t giving up:

We are going to legally challenge this decision on grounds of policy breach because there hasn’t been a ballot on demolishing the market or the housing.

But these types of decisions have unfortunately become the norm for London Labour councils:

London Labour councils are continually showing a complete disregard for the concerns of local people.

Putting private interests ahead of working-class people’s concerns is the antithesis of the labour movement. And it must stop.

Get Involved!

– Follow the Save Chrisp Street Market Twitter for news about the campaign.

– Support housing campaigns like Focus E15London Renters UnionGreater Manchester Housing ActionACORNStreets KitchenBalfron Social ClubSave Our Homes LS26Ledbury Action Group, and Generation Rent.

Featured image via RabHarling.com

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