Wednesday, 19 December 2007

1000s could lose homes under EASEL regeneration

If you live in East and South East Leeds then be warned— Leeds City Council might be planning to demolish your home in the near future as part of a huge housebuilding programme called EASEL.

‘EASEL’ is the East and South East Leeds Regeneration Scheme. It is a £1bn 'public-private' partnership between the Council and developer, Bellways Homes, covering Burmantoffs, Cross Green, East End Park, Richmond Hill, Gipton, Osmondthorpe, Seacroft, Harehills, and Halton Moor.

The Council says it wants to regenerate the poorest parts of Leeds. Sounds great, until you realise this doesn’t include the people currently living there. At least 2400 council homes plus many community facilities and local schools could be bulldozed to make way for 9000 new Bellways private houses for sale, currently priced at around £120,000.

That’s why some residents there are renaming it the ‘EVIL’ project. In recent years, hundreds of perfectly sound, brick built council homes in Gipton and Seacroft have been steadily bulldozed. These demolitions have taken place for very strange reasons and have devastated the affected communities.

Now it turns out that they are the first 8 sites of the EASEL project, a fact the Council has hidden from people until recently. Several families in Gipton, however, have defied the Council, and are refusing to sell their homes. Now they face Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs).

This regeneration is based on ‘social cleansing’: kicking out the poorest people in order to make way for wealthier city workers.

All is not lost, however. Some families have vowed to fight all the way to save their homes. George Mudie MP for East Leeds has also intervened against what he calls a ‘land grab’. In October 2007, he organised a series of public meetings in East Leeds to warn tenants and residents that they could lose their home. As a result, over 1000 people objected to EASEL during the recent consultation, forcing the Council to put demolition plans on hold...for now.


Dol said...

And why does all this happen? Because the government wants 'housing market renewal' not housing renewal.

I wrote about this a few years back when the same thing was happening in Burngreave in Sheffield. One academic document (obviously not made very publicly available!) really got to the heart of the matter. It's in pretty awful jargon, but the message is clear:

"... many of the pre-existing programmes for neighbourhood renewal have been designed to facilitate community ownership and control of the regeneration process, and a fundamental premise of this approach is that the existing community is salvageable and sustainable. In contrast, Market Renewal strategies may need to be supported by a vision for the sub-region that assumes that not all neighbourhoods can be preserved and sustained."

'Community ownership' type regeneration they call 'inward-looking' (how awful that sounds, how insular!) and the new approach 'outward-facing'. And to achieve this ‘outward facing’ regeneration? We need "a future-oriented conception of the neighbourhood, so that the views and priorities of members of the existing community need to be balanced against those of households who need to be attracted into the area in the future."

Anyone who's seen any masterplans and designs drawn up by overpaid consultants knows what these 'future-oriented' neigbbourhoods look like. You can see an example of one such 'vision' for Burngreave that never came to pass at the top of this article I wrote on it.

Burngreave residents fought and won - but, of course, the money would only come into the area if most of it was private. And the private developers won't come in unless the government has already done the 'site assembly'. That is, supplied them with a large enough cleared plot to make it worth their while. Nice.

I feel a little sorry for local government, though. As with all other privatisations, they were required by central government to do it - but then totally ballsed up negotiating contracts with the private sector, because they had no experience of dealing with sharks. Also nice.

paul said...

The Partnership came to Rowner,
they spent 2 years in secret meetings dividing our homes and land up and now PHA and GBC and
Taylor Wimpy ,have brought in a
valuer Vail Williams ! who
is undervaluing our properties by
40 to 50% ! The Partnership should
change its name to The Dictatorship !