Last orders

Marlowe Road Estate resident Michelle Edwards reacts to some more bad news from the council

The Echo‘s editor recently reminded me that I have left new and seasoned readers of this column hanging since July 2018. What, he asked, has happened since I was served a Notice of Seeking Possession – essentially an eviction order – on my birthday last year?

There are good reasons for the absence of an update. So many things happen week-by-week on the Marlowe Road Estate that it’s often difficult to balance what I experience as a stand-alone occupant against the collective experiences of other tenants, leaseholders, businesses and stakeholders. Never one to take centre-stage, I prefer to walk you through the ‘us’ aspect of the estate’s redevelopment. Having also instructed a solicitor, I shouldn’t go into too much detail.

Waltham Forest Council instructed Sharpe Pritchard Solicitors and Parliamentary Agents to ‘advise’ the remaining residents and leaseholders on the estate that the authority had made a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) on 13th March 2019, to acquire the remaining land. As if it were on purpose, these bombshells always drop during my short getaways. I can spot bad news just by the packaging; white A4 franked envelope and a red stamp with the word ‘important’ in bold and capital letters.

In the council’s ‘statement of reasons’ for making the CPO, they regurgitate the lie that “consultation responses from residents on the estate indicated widespread support for the council’s proposals”. It’s the same bullshit they used to counter my piece for ITV News London last year – we had only been asked to participate in a “fact-finding exercise” for which “our answers were not decisions”.

Cleverly, the CPO is being further justified because the estate has “poor housing standards, poor public realm, high crime levels, anti-social behaviour issues and high levels of deprivation”. This has manifestly happened because the council conducted a lengthy programme of ‘managed’ decline.

The mass evacuation of Marlowe Road Estate is not dissimilar to how Margaret Thatcher’s closest ministers came close to writing off Liverpool in the aftermath of the 1981 inner-city riots, although the genuine attempt to destroy council housing estates in London has more to do with tax. As Anna Minton explains in her book Big Capital, a key incentive for developers and local authorities to pursue demolition over refurbishment is the fact that new-build homes are exempt from the 20% VAT to which refurbishment is subject.

After being lectured by residents for the last seven years about their lack of transparency, misinformation, legal breaches, and inability to perform their duties, the council eventually scrapped its monthly steering group meetings – silencing dissenting and marginal voices. It’s no coincidence that the move follows the victory of Northwood Tower residents to retain the security gates around their block, on the back of a weighty petition supported by the Metropolitan Police. The council and estate developers Countryside are still fuming at the unexpected intervention of a ‘designing out crime’ police officer who alleged that he had been lied to by the council about the preferences of Northwood Tower residents.