Socialist Worker

Can charity sit-in rescue Aylesbury estate from the wreckers?

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2536

Preparing for the occupation at Thurlow Lodge

Preparing for the occupation at Thurlow Lodge (Pic: Valerie Msoni)


Activists and residents have occupied the Thurlow Lodge community hall on the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark, south London.

It houses the charity Divine Rescue, which provides food, advice and education to homeless people.

Southwark council issued a notice for the charity to vacate the hall, despite having paid their rent in advance.

Labour councillors want to demolish and “regenerate” the Aylesbury estate—making a mint for their developer pals but worsening the dire shortage of council housing.

Service user Daniel told Socialist Worker that taking the charity’s space away would devastate the lives of those who need it. “I rely on the service here,” he said.

Valerie Msoni, who works for Divine Rescue, told Socialist Worker the council has wanted them out for a long time. “We were told we would have to leave in October,” she said. “Then they sent a letter saying we had to be out by 5 January.”

Forced

Over two years the council has made their work harder and harder. Volunteers and service users were “stopped from using the kitchen.” Homeless people were forced to eat next to bins.

The occupation group announced on Sunday after a 40-strong public meeting that any representative of Southwark council would be refused access to the hall. So would housing association Notting Hill Homes or the Creation Trust charity set up to promote the regeneration.

The regeneration has already seen residents kicked out of their homes and many priced out of London.

But the council’s plan has hit a snag. The compulsory purchase orders issued to eight leaseholders were overturned, then an appeal was rejected.

Now the occupation is throwing a new spanner in the works. Messages of support have flooded in from trade unionists and housing campaigns.

Barry Duckett from the Canada Estate Tenants and Residents Association (TRA), said the eviction was “another way of undermining the TRA movement in Southwark.

“It takes years for us to build a community yet minutes at a council meeting to destroy it.”

Visit the occupation at 1 Thurlow St, London SE17 2US
Saturday 14 January, 3pm—Solidarity Tea Party with music and fun
Sunday 15 January, 6:30pm—public meeting

Barwell can’t hide from Housing Act campaigners

Housing campaigners took the fight against the Housing and Planning Act to Tory housing minister Gavin Barwell’s constituency of Croydon Central in south London last Saturday.

They collected signatures of people who want to get involved in the campaign and organise against Barwell on his home turf. He has a majority of 165 just votes.

The Axe The Housing Act campaign is holding a national planning meeting this Saturday. Campaigning has beaten some of the act’s measures and delayed its rollout, but the Tories are still pushing it.

Saturday 14 January, 11am, Unite House, 128 Theobald’s Rd, London WC1X 8TN

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