Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Degeneration tales from East End Park ghetto

My home is in an area that comes under the EASEL partnership.

I moved to East End Park from the Dawlish's (also in East End Park) about 15 years ago with my young son after the death of my husband. It was a smaller home, Type 3 back to back, built in 1905, structurally sound, in an area that was looked upon as 'desirable'.

Shops abounded supplying fresh food, clothes, shoes, hardware. Leeds city centre just a short bus ride away. A cohesive community. Families knew each other and that created a form of benign authority. People married in their respective churches in the area, children went to the same schools their parents had attended. There was continuity.

Now it's a ghetto. We fill the criteria for the private developers and finance companies to move in. How has this happened?

The housing: unfit for humans but ok for asylum seekers

The area is built on mine-works and some (not all) back-to-back houses were built for quarry workers. These type1 back-to-backs had bin-yards that housed toilets for adjacent properties. The Glensdales were amongst these. They were condemned in 1989 as unfit for human habitation. A project to build new homes in four phases was set in motion. It was estimated that it would take about three years to rehouse tenants and complete demolition.

However, only one phase was built. Approximately 118 homes were left standing. Refurbishments were then carried out on them - yes, on homes that had previously been condemned as unfit for human habitation! Notorious housing providers such as Angel Group bought up housing in the area and were given lucrative contracts by the Home Office to house asylum seekers here; it has since been revealed the appalling conditions in which they lived, see Indymedia. I knew of two of these families who were intimidated and forced to leave. Houses were boarded up, graffiti was everywhere, rubbish lay in the streets.

In March 2003, I attended a meeting at which spoke the incumbent Labour Councillor, two council officials and two members of a community group. Here is a quotation from the councillor at that meeting:

"The houses, fourteen years on have, 'outlived their usefulness', money and resources going into removal of burnt-out vehicles, repairs to bollards, environmental problems e.g rats in disused shops and bin-yards. Properties in negative equity (many council owned), people want to leave the area, being replaced with asylum seekers, refugees and people who've been evicted from council properties in other parts of Leeds'.

Yet, the same Labour councillor suggested in a glossy promotional magazine at the time that the bin-yards were an ideal place to have barbecues and for children to play!

In May 2004, replying to residents concerns about the contribution of these houses to the decline of the area, Labour Councillor Peter Gruen, who was also Chair of South East Homes ALMO, wrote:

'Modelling systems are showing the Glensdales as sustainable and they are therefore included in some work in our capital programme, including new roofs. There are no plans to demolish them and in fact they require less work towards decent homes than others in our area'.

Further down, towards city centre, a seven-year £50m SRB2 regeneration project managed by re’new (a council owned company) was completed in March 2003 and reportedly had 'revitalised' the East Bank and waterfront. Who were these homes and developments for?


Anyone reading this might want to be able to look up a Daily Mail article of December 2 2007. It's a diary of a woman called Joanne who has experienced horrendous intimidation on East End Park. We should all have her determination and be as brave, even though I'm sure it cost her a lot of heartache. I did not, unfortunately, know her, but have known others who have been burnt out of their home or had to leave with their families for their own safety, because they spoke out.

In the home of a neighbour who has suffered a great deal of racism, a policeman and policewoman answered a call following the blowing up of a vehicle. The policewoman stated that she was tired of listening to people 'whining'. I left, because I'd adopted a policy of non-aggression. Recently a newly-appointed Special Constable quoted statistics to me outlining how crime had been reduced in the area and it was the 'perception of crime' that foolish people like me who lived in deprived areas were labouring under. He almost convinced me that I had imagined the last few years, but then he asked my name and queried whether I'd been drinking. His uniformed chest was fairly bursting with self-importance and I nearly forgot the policy I'd adopted!

I've been hissed at and called a grass, viewed burning cars from the kitchen window, witnessed a refugee man and his wife and child being kicked and threatened by young men and women whose vocabulary seemed to consist mainly of the word 'fuck'. Had the cat's life threatened! Sad at times, when you see elderly people, locked behind iron gates, who have lived here and brought families up here, now they won't go out.

Neighbourhood Plans

We are told that consultation will take place in the New Year so exact plans for our homes are not yet known. Maybe they will be refurbished. No doubt some demolition will happen, such as the Glensdales and surrounding streets. The investors have their own agenda. For individual residents it's a matter of wait and see. Seacroft and Gipton are the first phases. 52 houses in Cross Green are to be demolished in the New Year. As EASEL covers 1700 hectares of land, approx 36,500 homes, that's a lot of homes, a lot of prime land. A lot of money to be made. Will it be the private developers and finance companies who benefit? Will we be banished to trailer parks, other sink estates? Maybe a ship will be seconded for those who cannot afford affordable homes?

Futures are being decided by Government and local officials. We are bombarded by the wisdom of Quangos, teams, projects, a myriad of council officials, housing partnerships, joint ventures, AAP's, the list goes on, UDP, LDF, SPD, SA, narrowing the gap, PFI, PPP, joint public-private venture. Emphasis is placed on the fact that all this is for the benefit the poor and deprived. If we can afford it, that is. Poor is a relative concept and deprived would have to be defined, deprived of what?

In this country it would a concerted effort to put a cash price on education, hospitals, housing. We do and have paid for the right to aspire to these basic human rights, but the money is being used elsewhere and let's face it, if we got too educated we might be a force against those who have the power to decide how the money is used.

At a public meeting in Cross Green last year, a lady who had, days before, been informed that her home was in the demolition programme, was told by a council official on the bench, that 'no-one was evicting her from her home'. I don’t know what he was on! He had embraced 'doublespeak', well, the pay's good. The same lady was comforted by a councillor who reminded her 'no pain, no gain'. Obviously he didn't live here and didn't expand on whose was the pain or who's the gain.

We have all, through our taxes, whether we like it or not, financed the printing of the slogans such as Leeds Live it, Love it. So far though, no tourist buses have been routed through these areas, probably not aesthetically pleasing enough. The slogan should have the proviso 'depending where you live in Leeds'.

So much of this seems negative, but every word can be verified with supporting letters or witnesses. Accusations of being resistant to change, working class attitude etc have all been made as has the accusation that I'm an alarmist or a conspiracy theorist. Maybe I have really been turned into a cynic.

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