Compromises and contradictions

In her latest opinion column about life living on Marlowe Road Estate in Walthamstow, Michelle Edwards takes umbrage with a piece of election propaganda

Marlowe Road Estate

Marlowe Road Estate in Walthamstow is currently being redeveloped, but will have fewer social homes when it is completed

It was a strange moment when the Waltham Forest Labour Party’s pre-election material landed on my doormat. It had followed weeks of sleep deprivation caused by the noisy neighbours above me, abdominal pains, and a diagnosis by my doctor as to why my right knee joint had given way.

Moreover, the rise of violent deaths in the borough had made it to the national news, with two in a matter of days. Joseph Williams-Torres, 20, was shot in Essex Close on March 14th and died en route to hospital, then five days later Jermaine Johnson, 41, was stabbed in Vallentin Road and pronounced dead at the scene. The second suspected murder occurred within close proximity to my own home.

The local Labour Party’s propaganda arrived at precisely the time I was packing my suitcase to depart the next day. In a supportive move, a friend had booked a coach ticket for a destination out of London in order for me to escape the crime and disruption. Access and public space around Marlowe Road Estate as it is gradually redeveloped has become so restricted that it’s akin to living in a rabbit hutch.

Phase 1 of the construction works closed the Wood Street entrance to Marlowe Road last year. The latest phase (1B) involves demolishing the ‘project shop’ (previously home to the police) to create an access road to some existing properties on the estate, rendering it the filthiest it has ever been.

A further demolition of the vacated businesses on the plaza is set for the beginning of May. I and many others fear a repeat of Grenfell as part of Marlowe Road is closed so there is no vehicle access, including emergency access, to Blocks 2-7. Northwood Tower has previously had two small fires, as I’ve highlighted in past columns.

So catching sight of the council leader Clare Coghill’s smiling face beside a celebratory announcement on delivering “47 percent affordable homes” in the borough, dribbling on about how Conservative policies have “put developers in the driving seat”, was simply too much to take. I literally had to hold down a desire to vomit.

In Clare’s ‘registered gifts and hospitalities’ declarations on the council website she lists two trips in 2016 and 2017 to the international MIPIM Conference in France ‘offered’ by various sponsors – including Countryside, the company redeveloping Marlowe Road Estate. Lavish hospitality is the norm at these events.

Last year, Clare plus three other council staff made the the trip at a cost of £3,223, although the website states “there was no charge/cost to the taxpayer”. Of course the website does not explain the obvious dangers of public officials accepting hospitality from private comapnies, as public land across the borough is being privately developed.

Meanwhile, as of January this year, 1,031 households were living in temporary accommodation in Waltham Forest and another 1,253 families were being placed in temporary accommodation outside the borough.

Those from Marlowe Road are still desperate for a safe and secure place to live.

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