Socialist Worker

Housing democracy denied by demolition plan

Issue No. 1970

Residents of the Aylesbury estate  face the demolition of their homes under a plan by Southwark council (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Residents of the Aylesbury estate face the demolition of their homes under a plan by Southwark council (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Four years ago council tenants on the Aylesbury estate, south London, voted to oppose the transfer of their 2,700 council homes to the private sector.

Last week they discovered that the council plans to demolish their estate — replacing it with privatised housing association homes. Aylesbury tenant Aysen Dennis spoke to Socialist Worker about the plan.

The first we heard about the plans to demolish the Aylesbury estate in Southwark was when we read about it in the papers. We felt betrayed — this is about our homes, our futures, and we have a right to information about matters that directly involve us.

Southwark council claims it hasn’t finalised its plans, but we believe they’ve already made their decision. The official council meeting on Tuesday of this week is just a formality.

We had a ballot in 2001 and voted by 73 percent to stay with the council. But they’ve just gone and tricked us again. They’re not going to have a ballot again under the new plans, which isn’t surprising — they know they would lose. So much for “democracy”!

This place is run under a government plan called New Deal for Communities (NDC). They’re meant to do community work, but instead they just hold on to money that’s meant to be spent on refurbishment.

Southwark council and the government have wanted to privatise the Aylesbury estate for a long time. When they first started pushing stock transfer we worked very hard to build a tenants’ campaign against their plans.

At first it was just a few of us working with a few friends — including the Socialist Workers Party. We knocked on every door, distributed leaflets, put up posters everywhere. We went out and told tenants what was happening.

They spent millions of pounds trying to convince us to go private. We spent hundreds, but we won the campaign. When the result was announced someone from the NDC came up to me and said, “We’ll be back.” Ever since then we’ve seen no real refurbishments or improvements to our homes.

Now the council says it has no choice but to demolish the Aylesbury and replace it with housing association properties.

I don’t buy it. We know the government strategy is to promote private housing, and we know how the Liberal Democrat led council works as well.

This estate does have major problems—the heating and the lifts keep breaking down. But the council is talking these issues up to justify its scheme, saying we’re crime ridden, that people are scared to leave their homes.

That’s rubbish. I live here and come home at any time of night, and I’ve never seen anything serious happening. They’re just trying to stigmatise us, especially the black population living here. It makes me so angry.

We’re determined to build a campaign against these plans. Most people here don’t realise what’s going on — many of them don’t speak English fluently, but the majority want to stay with the council.

We’ve got to go out and reach them and convince them to fight.

At the end of the day we’re working class people and they don’t want to give us a nice area to live in. We have to come together and fight together, otherwise we’re not going to get the homes we want and deserve.

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Sat 1 Oct 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1970
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