Residents Meeting


Today we had a meeting to which all residents of the Aylesbury Estate were invited, to discuss the estate’s immediate practical problems, the council’s demolition plans and how we can organise to combat both.

We heard from leaseholders still living behind the prison-like fences of the phase one demolition area. We head from tenants in the phase two demolition area who area confused about if and how they are supposed to find other places to go.

Everyone had complaints about council neglect, particularly the council’s refusal to fix leaks. They pointed out that this is the result of the council sub-contracting repair work to private companies in whose interest it is not to complete work. Others described it as an intentional strategy to damage the estate and persuade residents it needs demolishing.


We also heard about the broader movement to destroy London’s council housing and the struggles against it (poster series). Aylesbury is one of eighty estates that will be demolished over the next decade and rebuilt to be sold and rented on the open market, and – as one resident pointed out – kept as an investment, not even to be lived in!

Together we decided to compile a dossier of council neglect, to do some repair work ourselves, and to continue with our stalls and petition against demolition. Other things, of course, we won’t write about here…

The next meeting for all residents will be in October.

Thanks for the solidarity

During our occupation of the Aylesbury Estate we were generally quite good at avoiding the police. A hundred riot cops failed to end the occupation in February and, at the beginning of April, we tore down the fence around the demolition zone before they even got into their gear. But some of us were arrested. We were charged with criminal trespass, with assault and with criminal damage. People everywhere always need to defend themselves against police attacks, and acts of solidarity against the police have become the particular focus of events in South London recently.

During ‘Reclaim Brixton’ protesters blocked the roads, danced in the street and stormed the town hall and police station. They smashed the windows of Foxtons and of Barnardos – the charity which runs the government’s detention centre for migrant children. They fought with riot police when they tried to make arrests. Then, in East Street on 21 June, a crowd blockaded an immigration raid and fought the riot cops who came to support it. They attempting to free the person who was detained. They let down the tires of the vans and broke their windows, pelted them with eggs, vegetables, bricks and whatever they found on the street. The Home Office got their prisoner in the end, but there is no way they can fight solidarity of this intensity every time they want to catch one person.

Other acts of solidarity followed. People were charged with criminal damage and ‘violent disorder’ over what happened in Brixton and East Street and the police have let it be known that they are still looking for others. After the arrests on East Street there was a protest during which Walworth police station was covered with banners, its waiting room was taken over with a sound system and dancing and with dumped rubbish. The party let the arrested know they were not alone. And it showed the police their repression would not go unchallenged.

People also continued to go back to East Street to distribute posters and flyers about immigration raids and police repression. They shared legal information and talked with people, celebrating what happened and affirming the need to keep fighting. On East Street people are building the connections to defend each other even more effectively.

Any struggle which really confronts violence and impoverishment will have to defend itself against the police. So we need all these kinds of solidarity. We need solidarity that responds immediately in a moment of attack, solidarity that is the ability to prevent arrests from even taking place. We need messages of solidarity that let people know they will be supported if they get arrested and that deter the police who know we will fight back. And we need solidarity that is the connections between people, the preparedness to give and take support, which allows us to grow stronger.



June 21, 2015

Home Office immigration enforcement have been targeting the East Street market in Walworth, London SE17, all week, with no less than five raids over previous days. Today they came again at 5PM and snatched one man from a fish shop, presumably accused of working without legal documents.

But this time, things were not going to go so easy for the thugs in blue. After call-outs went out through the local grapevine and also on social media, people from the area including the next door Aylesbury Estate rushed down to the scene. The Home Office snatch van was blockaded and penned in on a side street off the market. The bullies retreated inside the van with their prisoner while it was surrounded by people’s bodies and by makeshift barricades, the tires were let down, and it was pelted with rotten fruit and eggs from the market.

The Home Office thugs called in police reinforcements. They arrived with six cars of cops, plus dog vans and plainclothes cops, and a helicopter circling overhead, as the street was cordoned off. However, the crowd kept on growing as more people from the estate and nearby streets joined in, local teenagers called up their mates, others arrived seeing it on social media.

The stand off continued for over an hour, the local police clueless about what to do next. Then three vans of TSG riot cops arrived, tooled up in full body armour. The TSG pushed through, escorting the Home Office van limping out on deflated tires. They came under sustained attack as new barricades of street furniture kept getting thrown up to stop their progress and hails of rocks, bottles, road cones, etc., kept them at bay. At least one TSG cop was knocked to the floor, a riot van windscreen and other windows broken.

In the end, they managed to get their prisoner out, and also took one more arrested from the resisters. After the immigration van had got out the crowd kept blocking the TSG vans with commercial rubbish bins and other barriers to continue the fighting. Eventually, visibly shaken by the angry mob,the TSG managed to escape. After giving them a rowdy send-off, the crowd danced to a mobile sound system.

This was concerted angry action which brought together local teenagers, Aylesbury Estate residents, anarchists, and whoever was in the street and not going to take this shit lying down. If we could meet more raids with resistance like this it would seriously screw up the system of repression. This is the response we want to be growing on our streets, every day of the week.



The fight for Aylesbury continues: two events this week

On Wednesday (3 June) we are visiting the AJ120 architects awards at which the architects who are involved in the ‘regeneration’/gentrification of Aylesbury are being nominated for the award of collaboration of the year!? We will meet in the Tower of London Park on north side of the tower at 6pm.

Then on Friday (5 June) we will be demonstrating around the estate itself. We’ll have a stall somewhere around East Street Market from 2pm. If all goes well, we might go on a little march about about 5pm… The forecast is for hot weather and we plan to have some fun!

Down with the fences

alcatraz demo poster w gate

Several hundred people responded to our call-out for an “Eviction Eve solidarity demo”.

Solidarity with the remaining residents, who are still living in the enclosure (aka “First Development Site”), and will be for months to come.

For the past few weeks, the presence of the fences and security guards has made life intolerable for these people.

They have been asking why they’re no longer able to get in and out of their homes using the most convenient routes, and the nearest gates. Despite having guards stationed at each gate 24 hours/day, legitimate residents have been forced to make an arduous detour – of up to half a mile – each time they enter or leave (!) the area, leaving some house-bound.

They complain that they weren’t consulted about this arrangement, and that it’s not what they envisioned when they lobbied the council last year to install door-entry systems on the blocks themselves.

Whenever their friends or family come to visit, the security guards make them come all the way to the main gate to authorise their guests’ entry. Anyone not capable of walking the extra distance has been unable to visit.

Despite having every right to be there, guests of tenants and leaseholders have reported being intimidated and sometimes chased through the estate by security guards. Some of them have even been assaulted and ejected from the area. The security guards have acted unlawfully and with impunity. The police have still not taken any action about these assaults.

When the fences went up, and the locks were fitted on the gates, some of the residents were assured that they would be given keys for these locks. Two weeks later, no keys.

And no response from the council about any of these complaints. Even when the story made it into the newspapers, all the council spokesperson could say was that they would “review the situation”. Still no word on that review.

We’ve been forced to leave Chiltern House, due to the Interim Possession Order granted to the council in court on Thursday. We’ve left the enclosure. With us gone, there is absolutely no excuse for the council to keep treating the residents “like animals” (their own words), trapped in what has now been dubbed “Alcatraz”.

Obviously the residents have not been the only people affected by the fences. It’s clear to us that their construction was “expedited” (speeded up) because of our occupations. The council hoped to stop us from protesting, and stop people from the rest of the estate/ world from coming to visit us.

If leaseholders and their tenants were adversely affected, the council probably just hoped that it would encourage them to move out quicker, and accept whatever incredibly insultingly low figure offered to them for their flats. Just like the elderly folk CPO (Compulsary Purchase Order) -ed out of the Wolverton flats, these people’s lives are just collatoral damage to Southwark.

The council didn’t bother with planning permission or stopping up orders, meaning that the fences themselves are illegal.

Along with hundreds of others from the neighbourhood, we took direct action against the fences. On the evening of 2nd April, we brought down the fences in three places, spread out around the perimeter. No machinery was involved – it was pure people power.

bits of rope

The Creation Trust claims to represent those who live on the Aylesbury, and says it cares about their views. It claims to “consult” but isn’t very good at listening. Just like the council itself, it has ignored the complaints of both leaseholders and tenants. These days, the Creation Trust is almost entirely controlled by the council, in the shape of people like Councillor Mark Williams. He could have done something to help the beleagured residents if he had wanted to.

Instead of doing something themselves, they decided to brand our action a “cheap publicity stunt”. Anyone who had actually taken the time to read our media policy would find this laughable. We don’t do things for publicity. We do things because they need done. We do things for ourselves, together, sometimes together with others, and we don’t wait for permission.

We’re not going to pander to the politicians, to the media, to those paid to “represent”, “consult” or “revitalise” us. We’re not going to sit back and wait for them to do the right thing. They’re already in the pockets of the developers, the privateers, and the other financial interests at play here.

We have not stopped Fighting for the Aylesbury and against its destruction. We continue to stand in solidarity with the leaseholders and tenants who want to stay on the estate.

As last night’s demonstration showed, more and more people are willing to take direct action to defend public land and housing.

We will continue to take direct action ourselves, and we will continue to occupy space.

Watch our blog for updates

fuck southwark council

PS: There was only one arrest on Thursday night. The police have consistently failed to take complaints of security guard violence seriously. However, they did arrest an Aylesbury leaseholder, following an incident with a belligerent guard, well after the fences had fallen, and most of the protestors had left the area.

This news prompted a spontaneous, and very lively, solidarity demo at Walworth Road cop shop, which continued long after her release.

Despite five hours in custody, she was upbeat about the campaign, and touched by the large number of people waiting for her. We support all arrestees, and will support her through whatever happens next.

While we there we met a lot of people, and made some new friends. Including one elderly man who had been called in to collect his daughter at 6pm, and was still waiting for her nine hours later. The custody suite repeatedly told him that she would be released “soon” but refused to give him any other explanation for the long wait in the cold.

As he said himself “It’s no wonder that people don’t like the police”. Anyway with our presence and music we made the police station reception a less intimidating and unfriendly place than it usually is.

What next on the Aylesbury? Article from Southwark Notes

Some analysis from the excellent Southwark Notes website

What a week! Three crucial and significant things have happened this week for the ongoing fight against the demolition of the Aylesbury Estate and the social cleansing this entails.


After two months in residence in three different buildings on the Phase 1 Aylesbury site, the Occupation has decided that it is time to leave. The difficulty of 24 hour security guards who at times assaulted them, stole their stuff as well as the famous ‘Alcatraz’ fence that made it hard to get back into their chosen home made the Occupation increasingly stressful. The Lapa Security guards, who as minimum wage workers we would usually have some sympathy for, were mostly bullies to both the Occupiers and the residents. Some of them were the same guards used at the Heygate site when the Council fenced in the last three leaseholders. One of them on Aylesbury was even the same guy who assualted a Heygate leaseholder in 2013. Police were informed when that happened, issued a crime number but did not do anything about it despite the guy’s name and employer being known.

Although from Southwark Notes people’s family and work commitments we were unable to be around the Occupation much, we did get to know some of them and we take our hats off to all of them. They were so well organised and strategic and definitely sussed on the need to keep the Occupation dynamic and not get bogged down on the terms of the Council, the police or the security guards. They always set the agenda. After two amazing months having an exit strategy for leaving is part of that suss.

The Occupation is proof that sometimes you just got try something and see what happens! That’s definitely the case here. There are many arguments made about who is local and who is not. Who has a right to do what and who doesn’t. The Occupation has thrown up some great lessons into those questions and these will remain pertinent throughout the next few years of anti-regeneration struggles that are happening.

Although no-one from the Occupation was ever a tenant or resident of Aylesbury there were some long-term connections to the tenants struggle. In two months, the Occupiers ran themselves ragged making more connections, publicising the Aylesbury campaign all over the estate, organising events for all, working with the campaigns to make it known to Creation Trust, the Council and MP’s that all is not well on Aylesbury. There are a significant number of people there who do no want to be thrown out of the homes they love and who do not trust that they will be able to afford any of the new rented ‘affordable’ homes that get built there. The Occupation and the work of the campaigns has been a huge boost to those people who are consistently shut down and marginalised by the regeneration machine

The Occupation also shows that not all housing struggle occupations are the same and that has been a very useful lesson. They always insisted that the Occupation was both an act of solidarity with the Aylesbury campaigns and also the taking of homes for themselves as squatters seeking other necessary ways to live against the brutalities of mad private rents and the lack of any chance of a council tenancy. Alongside this, the Occupation maintained itself as a protest against the fairly recent criminalisation of squatting in residential buildings. With so many luxury flats bought as investments and then kept empty by their owners, this new law is vile and punishing. Everyone needs a roof over their head. The Occupation’s insistence on “squatting the lot’ makes sense when you look how at the housing crisis gets worse and worse. With the demolition of public housing (such as Heygate and Aylesbury), where else will people go?

The Occupiers short leaving leaving statement sums up their defiance and attitude: ‘ We are squatters who are not bound by the borders of the Aylesbury estate. We are residents who still have leases and tenancies. We are everyone who needs a place to stay. We are bound by nothing but this need.

What to say? The Occupation’s leaving present was particularly momentous. When the last 20 or so residents around Bradenham and Chiltern asked the Council to maintain security around their homes they never asked to be fenced in behind locked doors. The residents remain clear on this despite the Council’s public statements that the fences were asked for. We’ve heard stories of residents afraid to leave their homes due to the guards, of residents crying from the stress, of relatives unable to visit, of residents’ mail being intercepted, of vulnerable people having to walk half a mile more around the estate due to the fences. It was clear from talking to residents that the fences were a humiliation. From talking to local people, it was clear the fences were a disgrace.

ayles fence cost1SOLIDEMO
From the publicity that was first made by the residents and then others about the ‘Alcatraz’ fences, a groundswell of anger built slowly over the weeks towards the Council’s indifference to residents suffering. Not only this but how the fencing in of residents and the occupation showed how the regeneration scheme proceeds now on its own logic of success with little attention paid to both its unpopularity and the suffering it is causes. There can no longer be any real truth that the regeneration will benefit the local community. Not now and definitely not in the future.

ayles fences down 2ayles fences down 4

It was no real secret that the fences would be pulled down. That was why people came to the demo and that is what was put into practice. 250 people came together to support a necessary direct action against this fence, the symbol of the violence of regeneration. As we said a few times now, regeneration politics never looked this way one year ago. A massive shift has occurred where people no longer have faith in the institutions that supposedly work on their behalf: planning committees, regeneration consultants, councils and so on. People know they need to do things for themselves and defend what they have. Protests, occupations, direct actions have all have upped the ante. We welcome this because this is what was needed and because these tactics work!


Seeing the fences come down was a great moment and it remains a moment. Just one moment of all the work done so far – street stalls, petitioning, public meetings, researching, writing, publicising, organising, learning together. We don’t mistake the fences for the trees. We are sure the fences are mended and back in place. It’s up to the residents and supporters to still maintain pressure to get them permanently removed. It’s also vital we support the one arrested Aylesbury resident of the night and we will post further details on this when she is ready. 20 people held a party outside Walworth cop shop as they waited for her to get out! It is also vital to keep on supporting the Aylesbury campaigns, both the tenants and the leaseholders.

Significantly, on the same day as the fences came down the venue for the Aylesbury Estate Compulsory Purchase Order Public Inquiry on 28th April and subsequent days was announced: Conference Centre, Millwall FC, The Den, Zampa Rd, London SE16 3LN

These few days are where there will be an open and public examination of whether the regeneration on Aylesbury will be of any benefit to the local community.We invite all who support the Aylesbury residents to attend and listen to the arguments, support those giving evidence and testimony and also if you are in a position to help as a legal bod or some kind of expert in planning, CPO, regeneration, housing policy etc, please get involved.

The leaseholders Statement of Case is worth reading but we also summarised some of it here. It makes the case that the regeneration is only about being a private development scheme that will see most residents displaced to either existing Council homes (like this one) or see leaseholders unable to stay in the local area (like Heygate), We doubt very few tenants or residents will take up residence in the new homes Notting Hill Housing Trust (NHHT) promise to build.

And here’s why:
nhht aff 58% 1 nhht aff 58% 2

Also on the same day the fences were toppled, we had a reply from our question to Notting Hill Housing trust re: the tenure status of their 44 ‘affordable’ homes on their Exchange development in Bermondsey Spa. When planning permission was agreed, the application had NHHT promise 44 homes for ‘social rent’. That means that the rents are set according to income levels as determined by the National Rent Regime regulatory framework. This also means that these 44 homes were more likely to be affordable to local people. After the planning permission was agreed, when a later S106 agreement was signed with the Council, the 44 ‘social rent’ homes had changed unchallenged by the Council to ’44 Affordable Rent’ homes. NHHT clarified to us this week that they mean to rent these flats at 58% of local private rent prices. That could be up to £250 – 300 per week or more!

aff rent swark 2011
The Council very well knows the difference between ‘social rent’ and ‘affordable rent’. “Affordable rent’ was introduced by the Government in 2011. It means that Housing Associations such as NHHT can charge up to 80% of market rent for these supposedly ‘affordable’ homes. The council were part of 4 councils seeking a Judicial Review of ‘affordable rent’ as in the words on then Council Head of Regeneration Fiona Colley: ‘We are very keen to seek a judicial review of this decision. Maybe there are some areas of London where rent levels of 80% of market rent are affordable to most people, but they certainly aren’t in Southwark. The implication of the mayor’s decision is that councils will have little power to make sure new affordable housing is really, genuinely affordable for local people‘.

Not only this but the Council wrote to Boris Johnson in March 2012 outlining in detail how ‘affordable rent’ would be entirely out of reach of most Southwark residents pockets. See Southwark’s own graph above which shows how a council rent in Walworth is roughly £108 per week. Under ‘affordable rent’, the equivalent rent would be (at 2012 prices!) £226 per week. Southwark’s letter is here: Southwark Letter to Boris Affordable Rent

Whereas before NHHT has guaranteed in its planning application 44 social rent units, through sleight of hand and unopposed by the Council, these 44 homes have been taken away from local people. What concerns us is that as NHHT are the regeneration partner for Aylesbury regeneration will the promised 100’s of social rented homes on that site be magically transformed into ‘affordable rent’ ones? It’s a concern also because the loss of 44 social rent homes at The Exchange also means less homes for decanted tenants from Aylesbury. If 1000’s of Aylesbury tenants will only end up being rehoused in existing council stock outside the Aylesbury area then it makes a mockery of the regeneration benefiting tenants with new homes. With NHHT zealous love of ‘affordable rent’, will they seriously stump up the promised number of new social rented homes at Aylesbury? Increasingly Housing Associations are converting their existing social rent properties to affordable rent. In the past three years, London and Quadrant switched 1,673 tenancies earning an extra £4.2m and Notting Hill Housing Trust switched 853 earning an extra £3.3m. Both L&Q and NHHT are development partners at Aylesbury. Will the social rent homes L&Q built on Phase 1 slowly be switched or re-let to more expensive rents?

ayles occ pcard
Horrible questions that need answers and these answers only seen to come from paying constant attention and constantly demanding them. For Southwark Council in its dreamworld of regeneration, everything is fine and everything is dandy. Their regeneration proceeds smoothly as social cleansing is either explicit or sneaked in through the back door. But there are many regeneration fences that are ready to be pulled, be they ‘Alcatraz’ ones or taking on the Council, NHHT and anyone else. We haven’t given up yet!

Even when we lose in court, we win in the streets. Victory to the Aylesbury!

Today, after tearing down the fences built by Southwark council to isolate us, we left our occupation of the Aylesbury Estate. Several hundred people came to destroy the cages. No fence can contain us. No fence can keep us out. We are squatters who are not bound by the borders of the Aylesbury estate. We are residents who still have leases and tenancies. We are everyone who needs a place to stay. We are bound by nothing but this need. See you soon at Aylesbury. See you soon at Sweets Way. See you at the Guinness Trust. See you at UAL, LSE, Kings and Goldsmiths. See you soon in all the squats. See you at every protest and minor act of resistance. See you soon everywhere.

Aylesbury estate011.jpg

Another film from Watchful Eye