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The Day of the Sheriff - Clays Lane tenants threatened with eviction

The first threats to evict residents at Clays Lane were made on Wednesday 20th June 2007 by Gareth Blacker of the LDA in a Press briefing. Some tenants have not yet received any offers while some are trying to resolve disputes about offers that have been made. The deadline is now set for 27th July although no official date has yet been given to tenants who still have to be served a notice of entry by the LDA. Only two weeks' notice is required by law. The LDA has failed to keep to its own preparation timelines which dated back to the autumn of 2004. Newham Council refused to grant decant status to residents until August 2006 while it used us as bargaining counters to get increased nomination rights to Legacy housing from the LDA and other Olympic boroughs are slow to process forms or, if they are not one of the four Olympic boroughs, refuse to assist at all. All of the original promises from the LDA and the Mayor of London made to residents have been swept aside.

At another location an elderly resident living in a house on former Thames Water land was visited a few days ago by the sheriff who said he was a surveyor coming to look at the property. The 'surveyor' said he was well practised in judo. When he said he might like to look in the house the resident said he wouldn't allow him in. At this point the sheriff revealed his identity and said he would return to remove him, but so far has not done so.

The following response was made to Mr Blacker's statement by a Clays Lane tenant:

Dear Mr Blacker

I was rung up today by a journalist who told me you had said at a briefing you might have to evict 'a handful' of residents from Clays Lane. I am curious to know what is being proposed. Tenants have been negotiating and waiting to be made reasonable offers in line with their requirements. I am not aware anyone has stated he or she will not move so it is surprising to hear of this expectation on the part of the LDA. Plainly a tenant who has not received what he or she considers to be a reasonable offer will be placed in a very difficult position but that does not mean they are barricading themselves in their houses to resist the LDA however disagreeable they find your project.

You will recall that we were originally told by Mr Winterbottom of the LDA that we would receive accommodation 'at least as good as if not better than' what we now have and the Mayor of London said he was committed to us receiving housing options which would lead to 'improvement' in our housing in terms of 'space, quality, standards and amenities'. These 'commitments' no longer apply under the rehousing policy and we are now only being promised whatever is available through the local authority.

As far as I am aware all tenants are continuing to negotiate and the fact that the deadline of 2nd July will not be met is entirely down to the failure of the LDA to find us accommodation in time. We are entirely in the hands of the LDA and other authorities to sort out these problems so it would be unfair to suggest our continued presence is due to our failure to co-operate. Should we end up being evicted this will almost certainly be due to the failure of the LDA to provide us with reasonable offers. Tenants are already being put under pressure to accept accommodation they are not happy with and one was even told she had to accept a flat without proper bathing facilities (as the flat had been adapted for a disabled person) and would not be able to appeal.

We are also being told vacant possession is being sought for 27th July. Again it is unclear whether you will be able to make this deadline, not because of our lack of co-operation but because of the LDA's failures to organise the programme. We are told we have to be out of here to allow the removal of the power lines but these power lines cross the Travellers' site as well and they will still be in situ.

We were given a set of timelines in the Fluid survey report back in January 2005 in terms of the creation of a rehousing alliance, of consulting on relocation options and the relocation strategy none of which were kept. We were also asked about moving as part of a community in the Fluid survey and it was found that up to half the community might be interested in such a project yet no action was taken to facilitate those moves until early in 2006 less than a year and a half before the planned closure of the estate. Group moves have almost entirely failed to materialise and those few who continue with this project will have to make temporary moves.

None of this is the wisdom of hindsight but was set out in the LDA's own document. In fact the LDA failed to use the individual information in the Fluid survey, which was carried out in the summer of 2004, claiming it was confidential to Fluid and that the survey was to establish general trends. The survey itself stated the information was to establish individual needs.

Regrettably this failure to prepare and use the survey properly at the time is the reason the LDA is now missing its targets and it is entirely unfair to put pressure on people who find themselve in this situation through no fault of their own.

We have invited a range of people including the Mayors of London and Newham, Mr Higgins and Lord Coe as well as the IOC to visit but none has come. We have also attempted to communicate with Mr Lewis and Ms Jowell with limited success.

We are being removed to provide disputed benefits for East London (the Athletes' Village will not produce the claimed 4,500 new homes as many will be part of the Stratford City development and thus are double counted) and the nation as a whole but residents are now worse off financially and have lost valuable amenities and their community.

Yours, Julian Cheyne

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