They forgot that we were seeds…

sweets way resists

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On Friday we paid another visit to Annington Properties at their 1 James Street address in Central London (feel free to pop by and let them know what you think of their plans, by the way). Given the events of the last couple of weeks, it felt important to let them know we hadn’t disappeared and were just as committed to challenging their ‘regeneration’ plans as we ever have been.

Accordingly, we rolled up with a coffin covered in flowers, and a giant banner emblazoned with the slogan we have adopted from Mexico: ‘They tried to bury us; they didn’t know we were seeds.’

We know that everything about our fight is a David and Goliath-uphill battle, since Annington (and parent company Terra Firma) have the backing of Barnet Council, a Tory Cabinet Minister, and billions of pounds in the bank. However, that is not enough to stop us. Annington…

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Bringing homelessness home… Round One

sweets way resists

Photo by Jen Wilton (@GuerillaGrrl) Photo by Jen Wilton (@GuerillaGrrl)

A week under threat of brutal eviction by high court bailiffs is bound to put most people into a pretty bad state… but it will take more than high court bailiffs to silence the Sweets Way community!

It was a week ago on Friday that Annington Properties had everyone left on the estate’s possession orders moved from County Court to High Court bailiffs. This meant that as of Monday morning, families were facing the prospect of goons kicking in their front doors, unannounced, at 6am, leaving them with ten or so minutes to empty all of their belongings into the street. Luckily, this didn’t transpire, though it did set-off a real panic amongst the remaining families at Sweets Way. In the panic, we all headed to Barnet Homes and demanded immediate rehousing. What families got varied considerably, and continued the pattern of people being…

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Sweets Way campaigners plan weekend of fun and resistance in new occupation

Sweets Way Resists Press release – Thursday 2 April

Residents fighting for their homes have occupied an empty house backing onto the Sweets Way estate in Barnet in ongoing protest at tenant evictions. Campaigners are planning a weekend of community fun and resistance in the property which is part of the ‘Sweets Park’ redevelopment.

On Monday a county court ruled against residents following a three-week political occupation of empty homes including 60 Sweets Way, which had been turned into a thriving social centre and campaign hub. A judge granted full possession of the site to developer Annington Homes, who also requested an injunction preventing people from protesting on the estate.

In a further assault on human rights and an indictment of the court system, campaigners have not been given the details of any potential injunction, even though it potentially criminalises protesters, residents and the public at large.

Immediately following Monday’s ruling, residents and supporters occupied an empty five bedroom house, part of Annington’s ‘Sweets Park’ development area – but just beyond the possession and potential injunction zones.A weekend of fun and resistance is planned in the new occupation, including an ‘Easter Fun Day’, debate and action-planning.

Sweets Way estate is home to over 150 families. Residents were forced to leave their homes in February and moved to temporary accommodation out of the borough. Since then, they have been fighting for the right to go back to the estate and in an effort to stop the development, occupied an empty house, supported by housing campaigns Focus E15 and Barnet Housing Action Group.

Since the occupation began in early March, a handful of residents have been offered temporary accommodation in borough by Barnet Council. But campaigners, known as ‘Sweets Way Resists’, won’t stop until all of the residents are offered suitable alternative housing.

The occupations are a political statement about the criminality of destroying perfectly good houses and replacing them with investment properties. Sweets Way Resists are also staging lunchtime protests at the central London offices of Annington, to shame the company.

Annington (part owned by tax exile Guy Hands worth an estimated £250 million) looks set to make a killing on the London property market. Only 11% (33 units) of the new properties in the planned redevelopment are being leased as ‘affordable rent’ (80% of market rates).

A spokesperson said: “We’re not going to stop: we’re planning to keep the question of social cleansing on the agenda, and support one another as we fight to protect the estate from demolition and secure decent homes for all residents who have been forced out of Sweets Way.

“Our new occupation has all the makings of a fantastic place for community celebration over the Easter weekend. It’s an outrage that this five-bedroom property lies empty while right next door, people are losing their homes.

“Monday’s court ruling was a predictably unfair legal decision in which private property rights are deemed more important than human rights. As well as granting Annington possession over the whole of the estate, they have proposed an injunction on the site! This is worrying for anyone involved in housing justice work and political protest. In addition, the court has so little respect for us that they have neglected to clarify what the injunction means.

“There’s a Mexican proverb that feels appropriate for us: ‘They tried to bury us, but they forgot that we were seeds.’”

Sweets Way Resists – the fight continues!

Sunday 5 April Easter Fun Day, 12-4pm

Easter Egg Hunt, BBQ, Children’s Fun and Games, Bouncy Castle, Arts and Crafts, Egg Decorating, Rabbits, Music

Tuesday 7 April Public Meeting at the new occupation, 7.30pm

The new occupation is at 76 Oakleigh Road North, N20. (Nearest Tube: Totteridge & Whetstone, Northern Line)

Twitter @SweetsWay20

Facebook.com/SweetsWayResists

Sweetswayresists.wordpress.com

Sign the petition on Change.org – 62,000 have signed already!

PRESS RELEASE – Barnet Housing Action Group

Sunday, March 8, 2015, ongoing, Sweets Way Estate, N20

Sweets Way Estate housing occupation kicks off with community fun day

Tenants and activists have occupied a prominent empty house on the Sweets Way estate in Barnet to highlight the community being destroyed by Annington Homes’ ‘redevelopment’ plans, as eviction of 150 family homes is underway.

This morning, metal covers were removed from the doors and windows of a recently emptied Sweets Way flat, opening the space to the public as part of a short-term political occupation by activists and tenants. The action was inspired by Focus E15, the East London campaign launched by 29 young mothers facing evictions, who fought to be rehoused locally, occupying four flats on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford in September 2014.

Like the Focus E15 Open House, the Sweets Way social centre aims to highlight social cleansing of a community, and provide space for residents to organise together for decent homes.

Property developer Annington Homes is committed to just 11% ‘affordable’ homes in the planned re-development of Sweets Way estate.

Most of the families of Sweets Way have already faced eviction from the estate – and are currently residing in temporary accommodation across London – and the occupation kicks off with current and former residents coming together at a fun day to celebrate the community they have built in the past five years.

Children have been at the centre of the Sweets Way campaign, with a viral video featuring young people evicted from the estate describing the impact of evictions on their families’ health, their education and community, recently featured in the Guardian.

Rejane Barbosa, one of the remaining Sweets Way residents said: “How can they do this without having any other local housing available for these families, how can they do this to do the community? How does Barnet Homes justify demolishing 150 perfectly good family homes, while leaving the community who have been living there for more than five years with nowhere to go?

“They’re uprooting people and rehousing them many miles away, far from Barnet! Our community has come together and supported one another through this awful period, while Barnet Homes has utterly neglected to find decent affordable homes in the area.”

Jasmin Stone, one of the original Focus E15 mums from Newham, who is taking part in the occupation at Sweets Way said: “I support the Sweets Way campaign because it’s important we all have decent secure homes. It’s time we take back what is being taken from us and demand council housing for all.”

Those involved are committed to leaving the space in better condition than they found it in, and to leave peacefully after a period decided with the wider community.

The social centre is supported by residents, as well as campaigns Barnet Housing Action Group, Our West Hendon and Focus E15.

For more information contact: sweetswayresists@gmail.com / barnet.hag@gmail.com

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/720272474760037

Twitter: @SweetsWayN20

Facebook: Sweets Way resists

VIDEO – The children of Sweets Way speak: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyeD-x-uDCA

Sweets Way – Fact Sheet Summary

SITE HISTORY

  • Built in 1980’s – Army Estate – 150 (note 1) 2 storey houses, majority 3 beds, some 4 beds / 2 beds
  • Acquired in the late 90’s by Annington Homes, as part of their acquisition of 57k MOD nationwide portfolio
  • Leased back to MOD, until no longer required
  • For the last 5 years, the estate has been used:1) to house barnet council tenants on temporary / nonsecure tenancies on the estate, 2) mostly in homes leased by Notting Hill Housing Trust, 3) others were rented privately via managing agent Touchstone – at approx £1k/month for a 3 bed home

ANNINGTON HOMES

  • 1996 – acquired 57,400 (for 1.67bn – c. £29k per property) army homes – entire MOD property portfolio, to lease back to the MOD until release
  • At that point in time became the largest private UK owner of residential property
  • Annington Homes was intially set up by Nomura (founded by Guy Hands – ex Goldman Sachs worth over £100 million http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Hands), who subsequently founded Terra Firm who later acquired the portfolio as part of the largest ever European leveraged buyout, paid with a “payment in kind loan structure” with Barclays as a major financial advisor in the transaction.
  • IN SHORT GUY HANDS IS BORROWING FROM INVESTORS, INVESTING THEIR MONEY TO MAKE HIMSELF (and them) RICH OFF THE BACKS OF THE PEOPLE EVICTED FROM SWEETS WAY (and others like them)
  • LINK TO TERRA FIRMA (WITH SHORT VIDEO ABOUT THE *EXCELLENT* INVESTMENTS OF ANNINGTON HOMES: http://www.terrafirma.com/investment/annington.html

PLANNING APPLICATION HISTORY:

  • Application submitted Jan 2014 – included 360 units, 0% affordable – REFUSED
  • Application submitted Nov 2014 (see link below) – 288 units (201 houses / 87 flats) – APPROVED by Barnet Council
  • Affordable housing in approved application: They say they have achieved 20% (vs the guideline 40%), however, this consists of 56% / 44% split of “affordable rent” and “intermediate housing”.
  • So: “Affordable” Rented units total = 33 (or 11% of total development) consisting of 6 x 1 bed, 9 x 2 bed flats, 2 x 2 bed houses, 10 x 3 bed and 4 x 4 bed.
  • Intermediate housing (i.e. shared ownnership) = 26 (or 9% of total development) consisting of 12 x 1 bed, 8 x 2 bed flats, 6 x 2 bed houses.
  • See section 3.7 on pages 58/59
  • Viability study by Deloitte confirms this is max possible whereby the projects remains viable
  • 80 PAGE APPROVED PLANNING APPLICATION: http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s19944/Land%20between%20Sweets%20Way%20and%20Oakleigh%20Road%20North%20London%20N20%20-%20B0430914.pdf

OTHER MATTERS:

  • Site size = 6.28 hectares, prime location
  • 96 trees to be removed from site as part of the development – noted by Annington as “limited tree removal” – original application = 146

PEOPLE

  • The residents who have lived on the site for the last 5-6 years always knew that their tenure would end, and the site would be redeveloped
  • However, they have loved their homes, their community, their schools, and are reliant upon their support networks, local doctors etc
  • The houses they live(d) in are decent, solid, well designed homes, and to demolish them is a waste of resources
  • None of the people living there over the past 5-6 years will be able to return to what is being built in place of their homes
  • No provision was made for the loss of their homes, in terms of arrangements for where they would go
  • Many faced eviction with nowhere alternative to go, other than to the council office to declare themselves homeless
  • They then faced being passed keys to temporary emergency accommodation in far flung places in sub-standard accommodation and appalling conditions.
  • Many face long arduous journeys to attend work, school and other commitments. For some it is no longer feasible to get to work
  • Some private sector tenants have managed to find alternative accommodation: One family has moved to Hatfield, borrowed £3k from pensioner parent for rent deposit, is now paying £200 extra in rent per month and facing additional travel costs/time. This is someone who works in the NHS.
  • Some were given offers of homes in the private sector in places as far away as birmingham.
  • Many claim housing officers did not explain to them properly their rights, obligations and the implications in terms of acceptance / rejection of offers of unsuitable accommodation, resulting in some being discharged from duty to be housed. Little or no assistance provided in respect of language barriers. (A solicitor now involved is challenging the legality of the latest eviction notice served by Barnet Homes)
  • Many have multiple health issues and disabilities
  • Many faced extortionate costs of storage / removals with assistance refused in some cases
  • Others left belongings in houses, on the agreement that they had 7 days to return by appointment to collect their stuff, only to find their homes cleared out and stripped already
  • Some have been temporary nonsecure tenants for 16 years.
  • One family – the father has been hospitalised due to the mental stress of the situation, the mother is working part time in North Finchley, was housed at the 11th hour in emergency temporary accommodation in a house which the front door did not lock, in Ponders End. 3 buses required to get to and from work. Her children attend East Barnet school are needing to get up at 5 am in order to ensure they get to school on time. Her eloquent, beautiful 13 year old daughter has been wetting the bed with the stress brought on my this.
  • Those that remain onsite are living in an apocalyptic ghost town, with opportunists scouting around for any worthwhile belongings, groups of youths wandering around seeking out quiet corners to loiter & smoke drugs

ACTION TO DATE:

  • Alerted to the situation by residents facing eviction via Facebook / Twitter contact to Barnet Housing Action Group – 11th Feb 2015
  • Visited Sweets Way 12th Feb 2015 – spoke to residents to try to find out more / contacted person scheduled for eviction to see if we could assist
  • Attended Sweets Way 13th Feb, witnessed and recorded evictions by High Court bailiffs
  • 16th (& 17th) Feb 2015 – call out to local / London wide activists to attend Sweets Way for eviction resistance (or whatever assistance we could provide to residents)
  • Footage from the days – focussing on the impact to the children: http://youtu.be/hyeD-x-uDCA
  • Residents at the lowest ebb were buoyed by our presence and the fact that they weren’t completely forgotten and some people DO care
  • Bailiffs arrived, but departed presumably due to the numbers / cameras present
  • We marched to Barnet House, who refused us entry and locked the doors
  • Housing officers agreed to speak with 2 representatives and a witness, and made promises that have not been fulfilled.
  • That afternoon BHAG supported residents in meetings with the council
  • BHAG liaised with Labours Housing representative in meeting with top Housing Officers from Barnet Homes, putting forward suggestions for solutions to the crisis that had emerged. One homeless family who had been discharged now rehoused. However, minimal feedback / follow up from Barnet Homes since
  • 21st Feb 2015 – attended local Councillors Surgery with residents – of 3 councillors, 2 attended and 1 was late. Richard Cornelius (Leader of Barnet Council) and Allison Cornelius said they had not attended Sweets Way, or was there anything they could really do – no residents have yet received follow up contact. Richard Cornelius had written the following comments in the local newspaper that week:http://www.edgware-today.co.uk/coldetail.cfm?id=2543&bid=1122&headline=The%20borough%20is%20getting%20bigger%20and%20better
  • 28th Feb 2015 – residents meeting at house on Sweets Way – 40 in attendance with specialist Solicitor providing advice
  • 5th March – meeting arranged with solicitor to discuss specific issues – review documentation – which upon initial inspection by the lawyer was found to be flawed

PLANNED ACTION

  • SUNDAY 8TH MARCH – COMMUNITY FUNDAY – TO RAISE AWARENESS AND SEEK SOLUTIONS FOR THE UNSATISFACTORY AND ABOMINABLE SITUATION SO MANY ARE NOW IN – AND TO HAVE SOME FUN – COS COMMUNITY IS NOT DEAD!!!

SHORT TERM AND LONG TERM AIMS

  • To be discussed and decided upon, with the following suggestions likely feature in those discussions:
  • Dispersed residents need to be housed adequately, suitably and locally
  • Treatment of people in this manner is not acceptable – and MUST NOT HAPPEN
  • We need homes for all, not just for the rich and greedy
  • We need homes people can afford to live in, be safe and secure in – we do not need “affordable homes” quite simply because we can’t afford them!
  • Rent caps and controls and restrictions on landlords and property investors would help the situation – AS WOULD THE BUILDING OF MORE COUNCIL HOMES – NOT THE WHOLESALE LOSS OF COUNCIL HOMES WHICH IS CURRENTLY HAPPENING IN BARNET
  • Maybe too bold – but Sweets Way should be CPO’d by Barnet Council and made into a new Council Housing Estate. If not WHY NOT?!
  • HALT THE DEMOLITION – REPOPULATE!!

HOW TO GET INVOLVED / SUPPORT:

  • Read the press release issued today (copy to follow on this site)
  • Twitter: @sweetswayN20
  • Facebook: Sweets Way Resists
  • Come visit: Nearest tube (5 mins away): Totteridge & Whetstone, Northern Line (15-20 mins from Camden Town), Buses: 263, 234, 125, 251, 34, 326 – stop by B&Q or the Griffin

Note 1: Corrected from “150-160” on the 3rd May 2015

SWEETS WAY – SUNDAY – FUNDAY – 8TH MARCH FROM 1PM

Sunday 8 March 1-4pm
Sweets Way London N20 0NU
Come and meet the community and have a fun day – all welcome

https://www.facebook.com/events/720272474760037/

(NEAREST TUBE = TOTTERIDGE AND WHETSTONE, NORTHERN LINE. BUSES: 263 / 234 / 34 / 125 / 251, STOP BY B&Q / THE GRIFFIN)

Sweets Way Estate families to celebrate the community that developers plan to bulldoze

Barnet tenants announce community ‘Fun Day,’ Sunday 8 March, to show London what private developers Annington Homes are trying to replace with unaffordable private rentals.

Barnet, London – As London’s most populous borough scatters its poor and working class residents in homes miles from their communities and support networks, private developers continue to build new units that a growing part of the city’s population can’t dream of affording. But rather than simply protest, the remaining residents of Barnet’s Sweets Way Estate are determined to show the Council – and the capital – the faces of a community facing social cleansing.

In spite of the chaos evictions have brought to the lives of many on the estate, residents and recent ex-residents are coming together to highlight the community they are at risk of losing if Annington Homes – who bought over 57,000 homes from the Ministry of Defence in 1996, and have since been cashing in on London’s housing boom – has its way.

On Sunday 8 March, 1-4pm, the remaining Sweets Way families, along with several former residents who have been rehoused out-of-borough in derelict emergency accommodation since their evictions, will be barbequing, dancing, and chalk-drawing on the sides of the mostly-empty buildings around the estate. In the recent efforts to secure decent local housing, children from the estate have been at the forefront, articulating the costs that dispersal out-of-borough is having or may have on their social lives, health, education and development.

While the land is owned by Annington Homes, the former military barracks have been used to house those on Barnet Council’s housing list, many having lived on the estate for five years, growing a strong sense of community amongst residents.

Sweets Way resident said: “At a time when families like ours are unable to find anywhere else affordable to go, it is criminal for perfectly good homes to be replaced by yet-more luxury flats. All over London affordable properties are being replaced by unaffordable ones, and we want to make the city see, in human terms, the cost of this social cleansing.”

This will be a child-friendly event and families from around Barnet and beyond that are concerned about social cleansing in the capital are encouraged to come along, bring food to share, and stand in solidarity with Sweets Way.

For more information contact: sweetswayresists@gmail.com

In conjunction with the Focus E15 Campaign
Website: focuse15.org

Twitter @focusE15

Facebook: Focus E15 Mothers
Street stall every Saturday 12-2pm 
Outside Wilkinson’s on the Broadway, Stratford  

Leader of Barnet Council – tell the truth PLEASE

Last week, Richard Cornelius, Leader of Barnet Council and ward councillor for Totteridge (which includes Sweets Way) wrote this column for the local paper:

http://www.northlondon-today.co.uk/coldetail.cfmid=2543&bid=1122&headline=The+borough+is+getting+bigger+and+better

(Incidentally, he has not himself attended any evictions at Sweets Way – despite our invitations to join us to support the residents. A video where we challenge him in person directly about the claims in this column can be found on our facebook site).

This is the response from Barnet Housing Action Group and Our West Hendon:

OUR RESPONSE TO COUNCILLOR CORNELIUS (SENT TO LOCAL PAPER)

Barnet does not compare with Bristol in any way shape or form. Bristol is a city dealing with its city issues responsibly, Barnet is an urban borough that are evicting their responsibilities.
The growth shows the actual proof that Barnet council is happy to allow developers to make unlimited profits at the expense of the ordinary average person. There is ‘no prize’ of new homes for the middle waged/low waged/no waged ordinary people of Barnet!!

No new homes are springing up on Brownfield sites (the new name for housing estates) only unaffordable buildings. All the 1960’s housing that is being demolished are desirable social housing that are perfectly sound, the only reason they are being demolished is because the developers can make mega amounts of money at the communities expense.

On the West Hendon Estate council tenants are by no means ‘delighted’ with their replacement homes – stuck in the middle of a car park , overlooking the back of garages and kebab shops alongside the Edgware Rd. Yes , Councillor Cornelius is right in stating in his column in The Press (19 Feb) that ‘it is important people who bought their flats which need to be replaced are given the best possible deal.’ Those that are being forced to sell their homes at tens of thousands of pounds below market value price – by Barnet Council – do not want new properties, they wish to keep their current homes which are bigger, more spacious and cheaper to run. Hence the public inquiry around the compulsory purchase orders – at which Barnet Council have paid for the services of a top expensive Q.C. IN WHAT SHAPE OR FORM IS THAT PRESSURISING THE DEVELOPER (as he states in his column)?! How can he possibly justify this statement when he knows that it was clearly stated at the Public Inquiry held at Hendon Town Hall in January 2015 by Paul Watlings of Capita that it was his personal view that determined the final value of the privately owned houses purchased from residents for the regeneration, NOT the open market value.
The council is constantly capitulating to both Capita and the developer..
As for leaseholders not needing a mortgage – watch for yourselves https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OXc814Q9ps
.
Residents have been kept as temporary tenants at West Hendon on average 9 years many in-between 13 – 17 years already and many of these temporary tenants will stay that way for another 5 – 10 years (27 years), and will be then told under the new housing proposals expected to come into force this year “If you live on a Regeneration Estate You Will No Longer Be Entitled to a Council Home”.

Temporary tenants from West Hendon and Sweets Way would vehemently disagree that the process of finding new homes for them has ‘gone quite smoothly’. At West Hendon there was misinformation given about the need to turn up at court, months of anxiety and stress around where they will be moved to – with no choice and only ‘one ‘ offer – if they even qualify at all to be rehoused!! Residents in the next phase are still in the same position.
At Sweets Way this week temporary tenants were advised by the powers that be at Barnet that they had to wait until bailiffs had actually evicted them out of their homes before they could be offered any assistance – people standing in the road, belongings strewn along the pavements , waiting for telephone calls to inform them where they were being shipped off to – without , in many cases, even being allowed the opportunity to view the properties first and without assistance in storage and removal.
If Councilor Cornelius had been present he could have observed for himself the devastated residents and their traumatized children, but he chose not to accept, or even bother to reply, to our invitation to come and speak with the residents on one of the days evictions took place.http://youtu.be/hyeD-x-uDCA

The fact that Councilor Cornelius ends his column stating that ‘the solid achievement of building homes needs to be recognised and celebrated’ – when we know these are actually just homes for the rich, only 3 council properties in the past 22 years and only 41 more in the pipeline – probably makes the ordinary people of Barnet wonder: does Councilor Cornelius even live on this planet, never mind in this borough!!!

Our West Hendon/Barnet Housing Action Group
https://www.change.org/p/boris-johnson-put-our-homes-before…

Excerpt from Mon 2nd Feb – BBC’s the One Show. Residents on the West Hendon estate being forced out. Promises of new homes in the development supposedly fell…
YOUTUBE.COM