Sunday, 1 August 2010

Battersea's Tideway Houseboat Community Under Threat

In June my Nine Elms walks went along the Tideway, where there is a thriving house boat community. This is now under threat. A petition has been launched on the GoPetition website, and by end of 1 August had already received over 1,090 signatures. It states:

'Now yet another very special London gem is under threat: Tideway Village and the Nine Elms Pier Boat Community may disappear forever, possibly as early as March 2011. Tucked away next to the Battersea Power station the 30+ houseboats with their inhabitants form a diverse vibrant community framed by old boats, water wildlife and nature, dearly loved and frequently photographed by passers by.The current plans being submitted for the construction of ‘Tideway Wharf’ by St James (Berkeley Homes) proposes a development that would replace this special corner of London with cloned, soulless structures, erected in pursuit of profit at the expense of beauty and diversity.The houseboat community calls on you for help, there is still time to prevent the loss of Tideway Village so please sign the petition today and forward the link to all your friends!We the undersigned call on Wandsworth Council and Berkeley Homes to let the residents of Tideway Village, remain in our dock and keep the houseboat community spirit alive!'

To look at the petition and sign up in support go to

Tideway Within Context

We don't actually need more apartment blocks. We need to halt and reverse the growth in the size of London and encourage a more even spread of population and economic activity around the country. We need more and more experiments in different types of living and communities particularly those which are green and sustainable; not just increasing the number of exploited tenants and leaseholders, whose blocks will have major repair and maintenance problems within 20 years.
While the effect of an individual planning application may seem small and not worth the effort making a fuss about, each one adds to an accumulation of developments which can completely change the nature of an area, often not for local benefit. The Tideway development needs to be seen within the context of the massive proposals for the development of the whole of the so called Vauxhall, Nine Elms and Battersea Opportunity Area.

Wandsworth Council Information Meetings

On 27 July Wandsworth Council held an information meeting about the Wandsworth part of the Opportunity Area. Senior officers of Town Planning gave the overview of the proposed development and the policies that the Council will have in place by 2012. Councillor Ravi Govindia then fielded questions and comments. As local resident and community activist Brian Barnes has pointed out to me by 2012 most of the planning applications for Battersea Power Station, the US Embassy and Ballymore’s Embassy Quarter will have all been decided. All those attending were opposed to some element of the redevelopment. The Tideway group complained that they would be losing their homes. Another group opposed the US Embassy because a Battersea resident Shaker Aamer is in prison in Guantanamo Bay and called on Govindia to get him released. A Chelsea Wharf resident wondered if his view of the Power Station will disappear with REOs new plans. The tube line was treated with scepticism and Govindia suggested a supplement of hopper buses. Brian adds: 'The Council’s strategy for the Nine Elms area has the acronym SSAD'!
The Council's second meeting on 28 July followed the same format. When an officer said that 45,000 jobs would be created, someone pointed out that the construction phase jobs would be temporary, and that the same people from large building firms might work on all the schemes. Given that a primary school would be needed, the Council was asked why it had sold off John Milton School in Sleaford Street to be replaced with flats. The second meeting was more polite with some applause for the speakers than the stony silence of the night before. The issue of Shaker Aamer was brought up again. The audience was rather hostile to idea of 16,000 new incomers to the area and congestion on roads and especially bridges, to the height of the buildings and absence of affordable homes.

Blind Faith in the Private Sector?

Brian's impression is that the Council seems to believe that the developers will provide school, health service, parks, affordable housing and tube stations. When did this ever happen?

Battersea Power Group are very anxious about the way the largest site around the Power Station will be decided on in September and the deadline for the residents to comment is 5 August. There was hardly any mention of the Power Station and the permission to demolish and rebuild the chimneys by a company whose debts are £1.6 billion in NAMA, the Irish Government’s toxic bank The group is also concerned by Council Leader Edward Lister claiming that the Nine Elms area is the last undeveloped land in central London, when it is being used intensively by a wide range of businesses. As Brian asks: where will those displaced by luxury apartments go?

What Benefit for Local Residents?

And what will become of the people of Patmore, Savona and Carey Gardens Estates all of which are in the Opportunity Zone? As I pointed out on my Nine Elms Walks in June's Wandsworth Heritage Festival they are unlikely to benefit, just as preceding generations in the Nine Elms district did not benefit, which is why the area was so poor when Charles Booth did his survey. This was shown with telling effect by Sandra Keen in her 'Poverty and East Battersea' talk which I organised in the Festival.

It should be noted that several people involved in local organisations only received notification of the first meeting and copies of the leaflet for distribution 5 days beforehand.

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