EC1 Protesters At Islington Town Hall

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On Thursday 7 December a football game was held on a mini-pitch outside Islington Town Hall to protest against the current plans for the redevelopment of Finsbury Leisure Centre. These plans reduce the size of football pitches and diminish other leisure facilities, as well as unacceptably overshadowing St Luke’s Gardens and social housing. If the flats the council proposes to build on the site are placed against Central Street rather than St Luke’s Gardens, there will be less overshadowing and more room for sport.

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Maintaining the current level of facilities and building social housing is a win-win situation that could be achieved by flipping and tweaking the current design. This also requires the closing of Finsbury Leisure Centre while the redevelopment is carried out. Closure will shorten the time required for the works and thereby save money. Current plans focus on keeping the Finsbury Leisure Centre open at the expense of achieving the best possible long term result. Exercise classes could be moved to nearby Ironmonger Row which currently has excess capacity; while better use could be made of the Kings Square football pitch close at hand, with facilities elsewhere in Islington – including Ironmonger Row – temporarily catering to Finsbury Leisure Centre sports needs.

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At the Redesign demo there were many residents from Burnhill House and the St Luke’s Community Collective, whose flats directly overlook the site. Also present were representatives of the campaign against Taylor Wimpey’s The Denizen development in Golden Lane EC1 and the struggle to stop the Harringey Development Vehicle in north London. Those supporting a Redesign of the current plans from these other two groups are regular users of the Finsbury Lesiure Centre, and they are in favour of its temporary closure to achieve the best possible long term result in terms of both sports facilities and social housing.

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London Review of Books on Spectres of Modernism

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Free exorcism with every Taylor Wimpey ghost home by Anna Aslanyan, LRB Blog, 7 December 2017.

Colourful banners hang from the balconies of Bowater House: ‘Under London, heaven’s light, grow life, not loot,’ one of the 21 slogans says. Another: ‘One day will this shadow fall.’ The building is part of the Golden Lane Estate, a Grade II-listed social housing complex designed in the 1950s and built on a bomb site in the City of London. Bernard Morgan House opposite is shrouded in white sheets bearing the logo ‘Taylor Wimpey’. The developer is about to demolish the building, which housed key workers between 1960 and 2015, and replace it with a 10-storey luxury block called The Denizen.

The display on Bowater House was designed by Fraser Muggeridge Studio and curated by Clare Carolin. Artists and writers including Fiona Banner, Tom McCarthy and Iain Sinclair came up with the slogans. The installation, entitled Spectres of Modernism (‘A spectre is haunting the cynical overdevelopment that characterises London’s buy to leave property boom, the spectre of modernism!’), was created to support Save Golden Lane, a campaign against The Denizen.

Taylor Wimpey will sell all its 99 apartments privately, meeting its obligation to provide social housing by contributing £4.5 million towards 14 council flats to be built somewhere else. The most expensive properties in The Denizen – a ‘refined haven in the heart of the City’ – are going for over £2 million. The building as currently designed will overshadow Bowater House, Prior Weston School and Fortune Street Park, where local children often play after school. The park will lose afternoon sunshine between September and March.

The sun was still shining in the park when I met Stewart Home there. Concerned that the new apartments will be sold to investors and remain unoccupied, he came up with the slogan ‘Free exorcism with every Taylor Wimpey ghost home’. The developers’ marketing strategy relies on the artwashing of urban decay in an area branded as ‘Culture Mile’. ‘Fashion designers, Turner Prize winners … and you’, a slogan spotted at another development, was co-opted by Eleanor Vonne Brown for Spectres of Modernism (her fellow artists include two Turner Prize winners, Jeremy Deller and Elizabeth Price).

Across the road, another council block is emblazoned with banners reading ‘Save our sunlight’ and ‘Stop overdevelopment’. The residents of Burnhill House are objecting to plans to redevelop Finsbury Leisure Centre. Islington Council consulted them about the project, but the revised proposals ignore their suggestions. A short distance away, yet another scheme threatens Bunhill Fields, where William Blake and Daniel Defoe are buried. The public garden will be deprived of light by two tower blocks about to be built on its edge. Boris Johnson approved them in February 2016, using his power as mayor to overrule Islington Council. In May 2017, after taking back control, the council gave permission to extend the nearby Finsbury Tower from 16 to 28 storeys.

Permission to build The Denizen was granted by the City of London’s planners, several of whom are associated with consultancies acting for Taylor Wimpey. (The borough has one of the highest approval rates for planning applications in England.) The only way to stop the process is through a judicial review. The campaigners applied for it in October and are waiting to hear from the Planning Court.

Home and I walked around the neighbourhood, stopping by two new Banksy murals; rumour has it they were commissioned by the Barbican to promote its art exhibitions. We passed people sleeping in doorways opposite the offices of Shelter…

Read the full article here: https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2017/12/07/anna-aslanyan/free-exorcism-with-every-taylor-wimpey-ghost-home/

Taylor Wimpey Building Disasters: From The Denizen to Eternity!

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An online search will turn up a lot of unhappy Taylor Wimpey customers complaining about major building botches and serious snags in their newly constructed ‘homes’. There are even social media groups dedicated to the subject, and we’d urge ghost home investors who’ve bought off-plan into Taylor Wimpey’s The Denizen project in Golden Lane to actually visit their buy to leave properties if they’re ever built, because they may well need to join these virtual protest communities. Having said that, we do realise that many investors aren’t very interested in the bricks and mortar they own; it’s said that 40% of those who purchased safe deposit boxes in the sky in The Heron AKA Milton Court, a short walk from Golden Lane, never picked up the keys for their apartments! Moving on, perhaps the Taylor Wimpey botch story to gain the most traction in in recent months is the driveway too small for a car, this one is from well outside London:

This is an actual parking space (see photo above) – even though the homeowners can’t physically get out of their car once in it.

A building cock-up at an estate in Great Barr has left a frustrated couple with this extremely tight driveway, that they simply cannot use.

Zena and Paul Jones first registered a complaint 145 days ago when they moved into their new home on the Fore Meadows estate and have since set up a Twitter account, showing how the drive is even a squeeze for their Ford Fiesta.

The couple claim that the £90,000 new-build disaster has made life a daily struggle as the couple are forced to park their car in the road right by a junction and cannot have visitors without having to ask neighbours’ to move their cars – just to fit a single car in.

Zena said the constant battle of trying to resolve the issue with developers, Taylor Wimpey was ‘frustrating and stressful’ and claimed they are no further forward months down the line.

She told the Mail: “It’s just as if we’re banging our heads up against a brick wall, everything they say to us is the same, ‘yes we’re looking into it’ ,’yes there’s a problem’ – I don’t think they know how to fix it.

“They’ve come out three times to it so far, two of the contractors and one from Taylor Wimpey and basically scratched their heads and walked a way. Nobody communicates with us.”

The couple claimed that when a site manager from Taylor Wimpey did speak with the couple, he admitted that the drive should have measured 2.4 metres instead of 2.2 metres.

“The response is they’re looking into it, won’t let us go any further than customer service, won’t let us go any higher so we can get some sense out of them.”

The couple have even measured other drives on the new build estate and found a parking space 110 inches wide – compared to their mere 86 inches – just next door.

Zena said: “The solution is to take away the wall at the side, but the problem is next door’s electric box is attached to the wall and goes down into the ground.”

The contractors arrived two weeks ago at the Great Barr home to dig up the wall, but said it couldn’t be done due to the the electrics not going down far enough.

“If they took down the top part of the wall, we could actually get a car on there.

“One of the guys when they were digging it up, said ‘I worked on this house when it was being built and I told them then the drive wasn’t wide enough.’ They must have just thought ‘oh well, no one will notice.’

Zena and Paul say they’ve not heard anything since the contractors came and added: “They’ve written to our next door neighbours to let them know they’ll be doing work, but not had the courtesy to let us know. It’s like playing with Billy Smart’s circus here.

“I just wish they’d talk to us. Nobody has the balls to come and talk to us.”

New home parking disaster – couple can’t even get out of car! The Great Barr couple are forced to park dangerously on the road due to a major error with their drive by Ashley Preece & Stephanie Balloo, Birmingham Mail, 15 August 2017.

Read the full story here: http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/new-home-parking-disaster-couple-13478078

Paul and Zena Jones were savvy enough to start a social media campaign about the problem with their Taylor Wimpey new build; it was an absurd story with a good visual angle, so they gained lots of local coverage and the story was even reported by the BBC. After a lot of hard work the Jones’s were able to get the builder to fix the problem by knocking down a wall, but many of those purchasing new builds have less luck getting firms like Taylor Wimpey to resolve snags and botches. Buyer beware! Purchasing a Denizen luxury apartment will haunt you forever!

“A spectre is haunting the cynical overdevelopment that characterises London’s buy to leave property boom, the spectre of modernism!” #savegoldenlane

City of London Has Highest Planning Permission Success Rate in England

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A news story about how easy it is to push development schemes through planning in the City of London appeared in a number of places recently. What we didn’t see anywhere was an explanation for this sorry state of affairs: although obviously the fact that this is the only borough in the UK to retain the business vote means there is a lack of democracy and residents don’t have a proper say in local matters – about 80% of councillors are elected by local firms and not by people who live in the area. If local people’s interests were taken into account developments like Taylor Wimpey’s The Denizen would not be granted planning permission. The City of London council doesn’t care about local people because overwhelmingly it isn’t local people who elect it. Here’s the more general planning ease story from News Anyway:

Government data has revealed that the London borough saw 100% of major development applications granted in 2016/2017.

The City of London has seen a huge population surge in recent years, growing 29.6% in the decade 2006 to 2016 and newly highlighted data reveals development here is just as popular.

In its recent campaign to educate investors on the planning permission process in England and Wales, commercial finance brokers Pure Commercial Finance unearthed data which reveals you’re more likely to get planning permission accepted in the City of London than almost anywhere else in England.

In the year ending 31st March 2017 there were 18 places in England where 100% of major development applications were accepted: the City, among more Northern locations such as Copeland, Wigan, and Lincoln. The historic financial district also saw the highest percentage of minor development applications granted (98.53%) last year….

…Ben Lloyd, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Pure Commercial Finance, said:

“Commercial property finance is our bread and butter and we help arrange funding for development projects across the country on a daily basis, so we were intrigued to see where these were most likely to get permission and at what rate.

“We are pleased to see a number of planning bodies across the country are keen for the redevelopment and expansion of property on offer in their areas, and are delighted to provide our current and future clients with an insight into this data. 

The City of London is Revealed to Have One of the Highest Planning Permission Success Rates in England by Sam Allcock, News Anyway, November 7, 2017

Read the full story here: https://www.newsanyway.com/2017/11/07/city-london-revealed-one-highest-planning-permission-success-rates-england/

The story title in News Anyway isn’t all it could be, if the City was joint first for allowing major planning applications and first for minor applications, overall it has the highest planning permission success rate in England! We note that the local City Matters newspaper stated in its issue of 15-21 November 2017 that the ‘report highlighted the City’s willingness to rubberstamp bids of varying sizes…’ (Developers in love with City, page 3). The fact that the City of London is willing to ‘rubberstamp’ developments like Taylor Wimpey’s The Denizen on Golden Lane – which will steal sunlight from schools, local homes and a park – illustrates exactly what’s wrong with the undemocratic business vote system and why it should be abolished. Local people have no say in decisions that massively impact their lives because faceless financial interests control the City of London council under the business vote system. We want democracy and a proper say in what goes on around us!

Image above shows two of the banners on Bowater House forming part of the protest exhibition Spectres of Modernism against Taylor Wimpey’s Denizen development. Arnaud Desjardin’s French, which he asks people to read, translates as “city = thieves = liars = speculators”. Free Exorcism With Every Taylor Wimpey Ghost Home is by Stewart Home. Ghost homes are residential properties which the buyer neither lives in nor rents out, but on which huge profits can be made due to rising house prices.

“A spectre is haunting the cynical overdevelopment that characterises London’s buy to leave property boom, the spectre of modernism!” #savegoldenlane

EC1 Goes West: Developers Desperate But Not Serious!

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Tacky and overpriced, The Broadway luxury ghost home development on the former New Scotland Yard site in Victoria, London.

According to a Knight Frank survey London’s luxury property prices fell for the third quarter in a row in the period ending September 2017. On a 12 month basis there was a 4.6% decline in London’s ‘premium’ property values. Contrast this with a 4.2% increase across the 41 cities the estate agent surveys around the world. As London prices crashed, European cities like Madrid and Paris were booming; with 11.9% and 11.3% annual increases respectively; even Berlin luxury properties went up 7.3%. Elsewhere the cost of luxury homes leapt by 36.3% in Guangzhou, China.

Amid London and Brexit buy to leave investment gloom, the developer who bought the old Metropolitan Police headquarters in central London has tried floating the fantasy that those in the market for City fringe ghost homes in EC1 – places like Dance Square, Lexicon, Canaletto and Taylor Wimpey’s yet to be built The Denizen in Golden Lane – would soon be heading uptown and upmarket. A PR puff piece has appeared on the websites Zawya and Arab News in recent days:

The high-end property market in London is likely to see a “dramatic” increase in buyers from Asia over the next decade, potentially rivaling more traditional investors from the Middle East, according to a luxury developer.

“Our bread-and-butter clients have been from London and the Middle East in the recent years … however I think there is going to be a huge emergence of clients from Asia,” said Niccolo Barattieri di San Pietro, CEO of property developer Northacre. The developer is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Financial Group (ADFG).

“You have seen them in the low-end, but I think people are underestimating the purchasing power that they are going to have in the next five to 10 years. I am a big believer that a lot of the high-end residential market in London will be sold to the Asia market in the coming years,” he said.

Northacre is redeveloping New Scotland Yard, the former headquarters of London’s Metropolitan Police, into luxury apartments and a high-end retail area. The project — known as The Broadway — is due to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2021.

The developer has started to sell off-plan its proposed 268 apartments spread across six towers — ranging from one-beds to penthouse suites — to investors (our emphasis). One-bedroom apartments have a starting price of about £1.56 million ($2.1 million).

The development has a 25-metre pool, gym and a cinema room for residents.

Given the potential of the Asian market, Barattieri di San Pietro said that Northacre has just conducted its first roadshow in the region, traveling to Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. This was “first of all to get the Northacre brand out,” Barattieri di San Pietro said during a preview tour of an apartment from the Broadway development, “and second to do some exhibitions there that went really well.”

Securing new sources of demand will be important for property developers in London, where concerns about the impact of Brexit on the UK capital, as well as recent increases to stamp duty, have curtailed investor appetite for luxury homes.

“This is not like it was in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Mid-2014 was when the market peaked,” Barattieri di San Pietro said.

…The development of The Broadway has attracted some controversy since ADFG acquired the New Scotland Yard site in 2014, with many criticizing the decision to build high-end luxury apartments in a city facing a dearth of affordable housing.

Asian buyers to rival Arabs in London luxury property market by Paul Hackett.

Because this is all about bling and the ghost homes are aimed at investors who won’t even rent them out, let alone live in them, three of the six towers containing the development’s 285 over-priced flats are tackily named after diamonds, seriously! And those who want to buy into The Sancy, The Paragon and The Cullinan, will have to part with more than £1.5 million for a one-bedroom flat – so that requires them to have more money than sense. The prices are higher, but not that much higher, than those for The Denizen – which is just as tacky.

So it seems there isn’t that much difference between the old Metropolitan Police HQ and an old police section house in London. In case you don’t know, The Denizen’s 99 luxury flats fail to replace any of the 110 social housing units in the soon to be demolished Bernard Morgan House, which for 55 years put a roof over the heads of both cops and nurses. Notice in the piece quoted above there isn’t even any pretence that these safe deposit boxes in the sky will contribute anything at all towards solving London’s housing crisis, this PR puff unashamedly describes them as being marketed to ‘investors’. Taylor Wimpey have been marketing their Denizen flats off-plan to the same South East Asian ‘investors’.

For more on the fury about the lack of affordable housing and breach of planning guidelines in the New Scotland Yard/Broadway/Squire Towers development see: https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/london-mayor-refuses-squire-towers-change-as-affordable-housing-stance-toughens/10023126.article

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“A spectre is haunting the cynical overdevelopment that characterises London’s buy to leave property boom, the spectre of modernism!” #savegoldenlane