Newham Council have publicly pledged that all families will be moved out of the cramped, unsuitable building at 10 Victoria Street, Stratford (formerly known as Brimstone House and Focus E15 Foyer) by May 2023. This is after Focus E15 campaign and residents protested and complained, time and time again, about the overcrowded and unsafe living conditions in the building.
This week the campaign learned that back in December 2022, the council presented at an internal meeting, the findings of an Options Appraisal regarding the future of 10 Victoria Street – which included an option to demolish (called redevelopment) as well as an option to refurbish. The crucial point is that the report recommends demolition (known as Option 1: Redevelopment), although the report also states:
“given that the lifecycle environmental impact of a redevelopment is greater than a refurbishment, it may be that a different decision could be made, depending on the political priorities of Members.”
What are the political priorities of Newham Council? And is providing safe and suitable homes for working class communities and organising to protect the planet, mutually exclusive?
A Guardian article published last week declared Britain is addicted to the wrecking ball. It’s trashing our heritage and the planet. The article explains that since 1997, the demolition of at least 161 council and housing association estates has resulted in a loss of around 55,000 homes and the displacement of an estimated 131,000 people. This suits the ruling class parties just fine as more people are pushed into the lucrative private rental market place and more demolition of our public housing occurs, without any concern for the environmental damage taking place. Pro-capitalist political parties have even ensured that any new house building is VAT exempt, meaning it’s automatically 20% more expensive to refurbish than demolish. Carbon emissions occur when demolition takes place and are a leading cause of climate change. Incidentally, the use of ‘carbon offsetting’, so beloved by local authorities up and down the country as a mitigating measure, has largely been debunked.
Newham council says it takes climate change seriously and it has declared a climate emergency. They have stated they want Stratford to be a zero carbon district, and for Newham to be carbon neutral by 2030 and carbon zero by 2050. Already these sentiments seem like words rather than actions, as Newham Council’s plans to demolish the Carpenters Estate mean that demolition and construction activities are predicted to peak by 2028.
Neither our campaign nor residents have been consulted on the future plans for the building at 10 Victoria Street which are leaning towards demolition, when this should be a last resort. Why doesn’t this Labour Council take inspiration from refurbishment projects, such as the award-winning Grand Parc housing estate in Bordeaux?
Focus E15 campaign is engaging with architects to submit alternative plans for Victoria Street to Newham Council which aims to provide suitable secure council housing for those in need whilst refusing to add to the destruction of our planet.