Regeneration = Gentrification…
“As we ever expand, as civilisation grows and spreads, the demand for space, for homes and resources increases.”
…Which in turn leads to the forced removal of the poor. It happens the world over. As we ever expand, as civilisation grows and spreads, the demand for space, for homes and resources increases.
This last couple of weeks, this issue has hit closer to home.
Regular readers will know I live on a council estate in the middle of England. Many of us on the estate fall into the category of the working poor. We live here because we cannot afford to live anywhere else, but more than that, its home. Many of us have lived here for decades. Lasting friendships are formed, as are allegiances. We stick up for and look out for our own.
A couple of weeks ago, the residents received letters letting us know that the future of the estate is uncertain,that they are looking into regenerating the area and that the council would be undertaking resident surveys to find out the wants and needs of the residents.
Sounds good, doesn’t it.
Only of course, we all know that our opinions won’t get taken into account. Not really. As ever, money talks, and that’s the real issue here. You see, the council are selling off more land to housing developers.
One of the only open large green spaces this end of my town has already been sold off. The playing field has four football pitches and extra space besides. It is the only place where the kids from the estate can go and play for free, where dog walkers can amble and let the dog off the lead, or just for anyone to enjoy spending time outside. It’s a busy place in spring and summer. The council want us, the community, to welcome this change, to really want it and so they tell us about the new and improved sports facilities they will build, but we all know that those facilities will not be free, that the kids from the estate will be priced out of using these if they do in fact appear at all. The council want us to believe that they are doing this for our benefit, that our lives will be improved, and that the proposed two hundred homes that will be built on this land has nothing to do with it.
When are we going to stop believing the authorities?
The fear for the estate is that it will be sold out from under us. After all, it’s land that could be used, that could be sold off to the highest bidder. Money talks and the poor don’t count.
Don’t believe me? All you have to do is look at the Grenfell tower tragedy that dominated the UK news last year.
For those that don’t know, Grenfell tower was a tower block of flats, council owned, in one of the richest boroughs of London. The posh Kensington and Chelsea borough council had decided to regenerated the area, covering the eyesore of a building in cladding designed to improve the view for the towers rich neighbours, because you know, god forbid they should have to look at the reality that many have to face, have to endure, day in, day out.
When fire ripped through the building, killing seventy-one people and leaving many others homeless and with nothing, it soon came to light that the cladding the council had chosen had made the fire worse than it would have otherwise been. Tower blocks are designed to contain a fire breakout in the flat it starts in (and the advice to tenants who live in high rises in the event of fire is to stay inside their flat). The cladding was not flame retardant and instead fuelled the fire, helping it to spread through the entire building quickly.
The council, again, one of the richest, had decided against spending five thousand pounds more on fire-retardant cladding, instead choosing one that isn’t recommended for buildings as high as the tower block. Again, because the poor don’t matter.
The tower is currently nothing but a burnt out skeleton, and many of the former residents are still homeless, despite the public coming together and raising millions of pounds for the victims (though where that money is now, well, that’s another article for another day, but needless to say it isn’t where it should be, helping those for whom it was raised).
More than that though, do you think the land will be used to create housing for those who have lost everything? I would wager not.
I bet land developers and the council couldn’t believe their luck. Prime London land is now unoccupied! When enough time has passed for people to have moved on and forgotten, the council will sell the land and build more homes and services for those with money, for those who either willfully or not serve the capitalist agenda.
I hope that we don’t forget, that those poor and displaced people will fight for what they have lost, will hold the government and authorities to account.
The poor are being squeezed out of London. In fact the poor are the first ones out whenever the land they’re on is needed.
Sporting events such as the Olympic Games displace the poor. When Brazil hosted the games, officials evicted many families before the 2016 games. For example, to make way for one high-speed bus lane, some three hundred and eighty-five families were relocated, sometimes as far as thirty kilometres away.
Sometimes support networks including familial and friendship relationships can be a lifeline for those in need. Friends and family help one another out, whether that’s the lending of money for something to eat, childcare enabling a parent to work, advice and so on. When these support networks are torn apart because of forced removal, it becomes more than land rights.
You could also go one further and say that forced eviction is an act of violence. Whenever and wherever we look to for examples of forced removal or eviction, we see violence. Why else would people leave their homes with little or nothing? Because of the threat of violence. And what can be more violent than war? In war we see the displacement of people, and this is an act of forced removal.
Whatever you think about the politics of refugees, and in this age, there are many differing opinions, no matter your political leaning, there can be no doubt that a war zone forces many to leave their homes.
If we look past the politics of war, past the soldiers who fight in them, past all of that and really see the war machine, then we cannot deny that war is big business. Weapons and other war technologies are for sale to the highest bidder. And after the war is over, why, there’s land that’s going to need to be developed, and there’s going to be all kinds of infrastructure to be laid down. Money money money.
That’s why when world leaders go on state visits to other countries, they take with them arms dealers, construction CEOs and so on.
I don’t know what will happen to where I live. I wish I could say that we will rise up, us residents and fight the council tooth and nail, but I don’t think that will happen, least of all because there are too many who can’t be bothered. There are some who believe the council when they say it will be better, it’ll make their lives better. And there are a few of us who are angry.
I don’t know what we will do. I know I will fight it every way I can, but I don’t think it will be enough. I think the council have already made their minds up, that it doesn’t really matter what us, the residents, think or say. If they really needed land for homes, then why allow companies to build massive carparks in the middle of residential areas (there are two recently new built carparks in the town where I live, one of which is smack bang in the middle of a residential area). The council could have sold that land to housing developers, or refused planning permission for the carpark, but no. It’s all about the money.
I feel connected to the land where I live, where I have lived my whole life. The playing field is home to a host of trees, plants and fauna. The spirit of the place, of the land, of the trees, plants and animals. All of this will be lost, and I fear it’s one more step closer to our disconnection from the land.
My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!
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