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When Clays Lane Estate residents are relocated a community is destroyed

It was the statement, in the various bits of evidence produced to justify the Compulsory Purchase Order, that the ‘socio-economic impact would be negligible’(on the residents of Clays Lane) that should have set off alarm bells. It did with me, anyway, and with others engaging with the process of objecting to the Order.

Then there was the process of the Inquiry. (It is a matter of public record, but I will repeat it for those who haven’t seen it.)

Jason Prior was asked why so little consideration had been given to the residents of Clays Lane and the effects of their relocation. The ‘further submissions’ referred to by the Inspector were never made. Requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act, in a variety of forms by various residents relating to the impact assessment Prior alludes to, were unsuccessful. The LDA were either unwilling or unable to provide evidence of any consideration of the impact on residents – placed in the context of the statement

5……“All of those components came
6 together to suggest to us that the demolition of
7 Clays Lane, setting aside the obvious social impacts and
8 issues of that
, from a broader regeneration development
9 point of view became worthy of consideration in terms
10 of, "this is where we locate the Olympic village".”.

(pp. 132 Lines 5-10)

(as it gives the clearest summary of the view ‘from the top’ see pp.181 – 183, pp. 187 – 188 and pp. 195 – 196 ‘Round Table Discussion’ 6 June 2006 - CPO Inquiry transcripts

The needs of the residents are firmly in the basement of any priority scale. As someone very familiar with housing noted in a recent conversation, “Clays Lane was probably not very high on their scale of priorities” when I mentioned the obvious lack of assessment.

This is not strictly true, of course. There has been assessment – of the cost-benefit analysis variety. Sitting in ivory towers, or moving the figures that represent the residents of Clays Lane around on desktops. The rational choice theorists would conclude that the optimum advantage could be gained by displacing the residents of Clays Lane. This is precisely what Prior states. (The same desktops used for the contamination analysis, hopefully, so that we could be placed contextually and physically proximate to the radioactive dump)

But it is a cliché that a house is not a home and a collection of houses does not make a community. Why else would communities, of the Bull Ring (Waterloo) or the Savoy type, of homeless people develop? Clays Lane housed a very mixed group of people, from all parts of the world. A significant proportion of those of the ‘home grown’ variety of resident had been either homeless or vulnerably housed before finding Clays Lane as a refuge.

There is a considerable body of research, evolving during the late 1990’s and earlier in the new century, that identifies personal vulnerabilities as having a role in the development of homelessness. People with emotional, physical or mental health problems have a greater susceptibility to not being able to cope with economic, infrastructural or social instability. A large proportion of people I have met, on the streets, were not there because of ‘fecklessness’, they were there because they had fallen through the social net.

Inefficiencies and inadequacies in service provision contributed as much to their condition as their own choices. Choices that in many cases had been dictated by breakdown in their own networks; and, of course, economic, infrastructural and social change. They had turned up where they did because they had ‘got on their bikes’ (Lord Tebbitt).

As noted by the LDA, deriving information, presumably, from the Fluid Survey (R.I.P.) Clays Lane had a higher proportion of people in employment than would have been expected from what was thought to be the profile of the population of Clays Lane. Attaining some form of ‘inclusion’ rather than ‘exclusion’ because the environment of the community enabled the re-establishment of some form of personal dignity was one of those characteristics GIS [Geographical Information Systems] can’t identify, Mr Prior.

This rather calls in to question the value of the desktop analysis, rather touchingly described by Jason Prior in an exchange in a break at the Public Inquiry, as, ‘incredibly accurate’ – ‘able to identify the profiles of populations down to within metres of the location’. But then an actuarial and managerial approach would be satisfied with that, wouldn’t it? Just as the touching faith in the ability of Social Services to deal with resulting problems created by dislocations such as eviction, despite evidence to the contrary, would mean that those responsible for these evictions can state that ‘the socio-economic impact would be negligible’.

Actually what that means is it isn’t going to cost the big programme very much at all.
That the ‘Legacy’ may mean that the Local Authorities are going to be faced with a £300/week plus hostel bill for former residents of Clays Lane, in the grand scheme of things, is ‘negligible’. That figure is for keeping those who become homeless because they are unable to support themselves in their new environment who may, eventually, end up in a hostel. It is made up from Housing Benefits – for hostel accommodation – and provision from the Social Fund for case workers and counsellors. (Westminster Homeless Arrest Referral Team member Interview, November 2006) Only very belatedly has the importance of continuing care been recognised, with the appointment of yet another set of advisors for the vulnerable.

How does this figure compare with the costs of maintaining residence at Clays Lane? That, of course, is irrelevant to the Local Authority; they have made that perfectly clear from the alacrity with which the Planning Permissions were given and the tardiness demonstrated in the assumption of their obligations in rehousing people they were making homeless (until bribed sufficiently by the ‘legators’ – this is all on record).

I was surprised that the Inspector didn’t insist on the production of the further submissions to which he had referred (pp.196). In many ways he had appeared to be a careful and efficient gatherer of information. He had also appeared considerate of the plight of the residents. Perhaps we were insufficiently insistent on the production of the assessment when it could have been obligatory. But then, because the process of ‘relocation’ (eviction) devised by the LDA was already at work, as he noted in his Summary, this was probably largely irrelevant.

The only thing being abused, after all, were our Human Rights – and the Secretary of State made perfectly clear where they stood, in the grand scheme of things. Our present and presence was a hindrance, our future was irrelevant - because the effect was ‘negligible’.To whom? Did the High Court agree with that?

So ‘setting aside’ consideration of people is acceptable in the design of communities. Is it? How is that, for a ‘Legacy’? Good luck, Mr Epstein. I hope the reality conforms to the desktop model and a ‘community’ does emerge.

By Ian Sandison who is a Clays Lane Estate resident.

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