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Clays Lane planning deception

Having spoken to a planning decisions officer for the ODA I now find not only is the relocation strategy not agreed but it is not even required as it was submitted under the original planning permissions which lapsed in January 2006 when new proposals were put forward. This was at exactly the same time as JPAT was consulting on the relocation strategy! So we were responding to a strategy which was already dead. No-one told us this and in fact we have been told over the past few months that the strategy was in force even though it was not approved. Now it appears it didn't even exist and was not even required.

According to the original permissions development was not supposed to happen until these strategies, for different users, residents, etc, were approved. At the moment, according to this officer, there are no planning permissions in existence at Clays Lane, and presumably elsewhere, as new planning permissions will have to be sought. So effectively from requiring the LDA to produce a relocation strategy to protect residents the planning authorities have provided no protection for residents. JPAT and the boroughs were apparently unhappy with the original strategy particularly on the issues of monitoring and control and refused to approve it. However, as the permissions had already lapsed they actually had no power to approve it anyway! As it is there has been no monitoring and only now, ten months after the process was launched is discussion occurring with residents about a monitoring panel. The LDA wanted it to be made up of LDA and CBHA personnel, including some tenant representatives from CBHA. However, to date the tenant led management committee of CBHA has shown no interest in Clays Lane and have never even visited or met with us. We are Peabody tenants and are just managed by CBHA. CBHA staff have been telling some immigrant tenants that they have no rights to rehousing which is untrue as being assured tenants Peabody had obligations to rehouse them.

Since writing the above I have been told the Olympic Delivery Act was passed with a stipulation that Grampian Conditions (contained in the relocation strategy) would not apply in the case of relocations for the Olympics. So even though this has been the case for some months neither the ODA, LDA or the Boroughs have informed Clays Lane residents. In fact they have continued to assert, as above, that they do apply but have got caught up in technical difficulties relating to the planning permissions.

In addition there now appears to be confusion over whether or not there is planning permission dating back to 2004. Ms Thomas of the ODA, the planning decisions office, said they had lapsed. However, reading the LDA's application for planning permission to carry out work at Eastway Cycle Track it seems the LDA thinks there is an existing planning permission. I'm beginning to lose track of the meaning of the word.

The LDA is also producing a rehousing policy which sets out the conditions for forcing people to move if/when the CPO is granted. It does not specify equivalence in terms of housing even though the LDA originally said it intended to provide housing 'at least as good as if not better than' what we have and the Mayor of London said he was committed to housing options which would provide 'an improvement' in terms of 'space, quality, standards and amenities'. The LDA 'clarified' its original promise with a statement that we would receive accommodation 'at least as good as in so far as is reasonably practicable'. Now they won't even put this commitment to equivalence in the rehousing policy. If we object to this we are told we are 'confused'! I certainly am!

The LDA carried out a very good survey in the summer of 2004 which, according to the report of the survey, said it was carried out to discover 'individual' needs. However, in the summer of 2005 they introduced a new, restricted survey with a much more limited list of questions. This was supposed to 'complement' the original survey, however, the individual questionnaires from the original survey were not released on the grounds that they were confidential to the organisation which had carried it out. This was then changed to confidential to residents, even though residents had provided the information freely for their rehousing. We are now told the original survey was just for general research.

It was claimed on the basis of the original survey that few residents were interested in living near open space. We have a semi-wild open space next to our estate, which the LDA says 'isolates' us! However, the question quoted was one which asked for 'any additional information'. Another question asked what was important to residents and over three quarters stated that living near open space was either very or quite important to them. Now if we discuss amenities like these we are told no account can be taken of such concerns.

The Olympics are supposed to bring benefits to East Londoners, yet Clays Lane residents are nearly all worse off in financial terms, many are paying twice what they were paying in overall housing costs, some even more. Because most residents were living in shared housing most have now received flats with larger living space but the costs being charged far exceed the costs of similar, possibly larger flats or bungalows at Clays Lane. Those in flats or bunglows are told they cannot be sure of receiving a flat to match what they have now and it will almost certainly cost more.

The LDA has claimed it will provide 9000 new homes. However, some of the housing claimed is part of the Olympic Village, to be built at Stratford City. This housing would have been built anyway as part of that development so this is double counting. The programme also involves the demolition of two estates at Clays Lane, one of which has lain empty for well over a year. In the particular case of Clays Lane the LDA was asked whether it had ever considered not including the estate in the park during the process of revising the plans which had resulted in moving some of the housing for the Village off the Clays Lane site onto the Stratford City site and redesigning the park around Clays Lane. New facilities were moved into this sector from further south and even from outside the park. The astonished looks told us, no. According to its evidence the LDA was supposed to have included the 'disruption' to residents in assessing where to place the Village. We asked to see evidence that it had done this. The LDA had no documentation on the subject.

In his evidence to the CPO Inquiry Lord Coe said it was not possible to know what the economic climate would be in 2012 and thus what investment would occur. Up until now no clear figures have been provided for the Legacy. Only now is a budget being declared. However, whether that money will actually be spent will still depend on the situation in 2012 and how much has been spent on the Games themselves. Costs are now running wildly out of control with the BBC claiming the Treasury and Department for Culture, Media and Sport are looking at a total spend of £9billion. We are still five and a half years away from the event itself and the likelihood is spending will increase further. In that event more expendable parts of the project will come under pressure. Taking the experience of the Dome it is entirely possible the Lea Valley will be left with a number of abandoned stadiums while the government and others argue over what to do with them and how to save money on the Legacy phase.

There is already a massive regeneration programme under way at Stratford City which is planned to produce around 5000 homes, more or less the same true number for the Olympics, 35,000 jobs, about six times as many jobs and which will not remove one business or house. The LDA claims it will create a new park along the river Lea. At the CPO Inquiry the LDA rubbished the Stratford City developers and referred to the development as 'inward looking' whatever that may mean. In written evidence they had earlier referred to it as an important factor in making Stratford a suitable location for the Olympics and that it was a 'metropolitan centre' to serve the needs of London.There is already a park at the Eastway Cycle Track which could be extended by including open space which is at present inaccessible. Indeed this is what the LDA plans to do. It is building on part of the existing Cycle Track and the new park will be overlooked or include sports facilities, so in the northern sector, the new park will be more or less the same as the exisiting potential open space, but more managed. Further south there is plentiful open space waiting to be made available at Mill Meads and areas aroung West Ham and Three Mills up to the High Street. In the short to medium term a considerable area of open space will be lost. It remains to be seen whether it will be returned.

Stratford does not need the Olympics for regeneration as anyone wandering around Stratford can see for themselves with new blocks of flats, Porsche showrooms, offices, etc opening everywhere. Planning guidance requires planning gain in terms of environmental improvement and includes a steady process of greening the Lea Valley. The Olympics needs Stratford for its excellent transport connections, its open space and its marginal communities and businesses which are easier to move. Previous Olympics, including showcases like Barcelona and Sydney, show that poorer private tenants will be evicted while local businesses will suffer from the competition of large corporations moving in for the Olympic jamboree, while most cities incur huge debts. An international tourist association has reported that the Olympics and other mega events do not bring any benefit as other nearby tourist sites lose custom during the event. In his evidence to the CPO Jason Prior, the Park designer, referred to intangible benefits which are difficult to quantify. Increasingly studies of these kinds of event show little real benefits and that advocates of such events place a great reliance on these unquantifiable benefits, such as 'world city status', whatever that may mean. I think most people around the world when asked to name 'world cities' would include London on the list so it is difficult to see why it is necessary to host an event to achieve this result.

The reason the Government and the Mayor need a site like Stratford is because of the requirements of the International Olympic Committee which specifies the need for an integrated park. In fact the Olympics could be held in existing stadiums with one or two new constructions. The IOC demand that athletes should be accommodated in a Village and not be required to walk for more than twenty minutes. If this means businesses and residents, who may have been there for decades, be moved so that athletes shouldn't be inconvenienced for a couple of weeks, so be it. In Beijing it is now thought around 1.4 million have been forcibly moved, some illegally. In Seoul the figure was around 700,000. The IOC said it would uphold people's human rights but said nothing. If an earthquake inflicted this kind of homelessness it would be described as a catastrophe. For the Olympics it is regeneration. Now, after decades of seeing former parks lie derelict and these kinds of humanitarian disasters the IOC tries to sell its brand in terms of providing legacy benefits. The IOC has also been rocked by scandals of vote buying and corruption, most notably in Sydney and Salt Lake.

Stratford and neighbouring areas show high levels of deprivation in terms of social indicators. It is claimed these will change as a result of the Olympics. However, it is likely these would change anyway as a process of regeneration is already under way. Piecemeal development does not impact so severely on existing communities. Mega or catalytic events create entirely different conditions. Social indicators may well change but this is likely to be because a new population will move in. A community like Clays Lane, which serves a particular need for mainly young, mobile and sometimes homeless people is demolished. Much is made of the need to build diverse and sustainable communities yet this was such a community which has been torn up. The LDA promised, when it first came to Clays Lane, to move people as a community or communities and this was discussed in the first survey. In 2004 the LDA had plenty of time to make this a reality by mid 2007, the closure date for the estate. However, they did nothing to look for land until sometime around early 2006. The question about moving as a community was removed from the second survey and, despite agreeing in December 2005 that a new survey to discover this demand was a priority, no further survey was done until June 2006, a year before closure. Now most of those who wish to move as part of a community will have to move twice. In the first survey the LDA was told around 200 people might be interested in a group move of some kind. The LDA has since dismissed this figure saying it wasn't concrete, however, it was based on a reasonable extrapolation of results to include those who had not participated and those who were unsure but possibly interested at the time. The LDA prefers now to refer to the 95 or so 'definites'. Either way they did nothing. In the second survey in June 2006 120 or so were still interested in a survey which reached about two thirds of the population. Most have given up and moved individually, which, for all the talk about sustaining communities, was always the LDA's preferred option.

I attended the original consultations in Stratford at the end of 2003 and all sorts of wonderful 'promises' were made. We are now told, of course, that these were not 'promises'. Actually we should understand those words have no legal status at all, just like the statements by the LDA or the Mayor. Clays Lane was the last community to be visited by the LDA team prior to these consultations, even though it was the most affected. We were told Clays Lane was to be demolished anyway and were shown a plan for a 'non-Olympic' scenario. Later it was revealed in LDA evidence that no such plan existed and a commission for such a plan was only established in the summer of 2004. It was abandoned later as being unviable. One of those chairing the consultations in Stratford said, when it was suggested a permanent Olympic park be created in Greece, this was not the purpose of the consultation. It was to make a success of these Olympics!

In the CPO Inquiry the LDA suggested there would always be the occasional 'aggrieved' resident. It was claimed there was only one resident on the estate who was concerned about the original promise and plainly he was 'unreasonable' and could only find fault with the programme. So consultation is fine provided you don't complain 'too much'

Transcripts of Clays Lane residents' appearances at the cpo enquiry are attached. Residents appeared on several occasions; 11th May, 6th June, 27th July, 28th July, 1st August and 2nd August, 2006.

Please note, the links no longer work. Instead the material saved on the Inside Housing forum has now been attached as a document.

11th May 2006 transcript.pdf377.16 KB
Day36.pdf844.81 KB
Day37.pdf1016.84 KB
Day38.pdf704.75 KB
Day39.pdf917.3 KB
Day40.pdf679.06 KB
Inside Housing Forum Document226.5 KB
Day13.pdf427.68 KB
Day15.pdf226.19 KB

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