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West Ham - The Property Developer's Legacy

The media has fallen over itself to provide sympathetic coverage of West Ham's sale of their Boleyn ground. The Guardian headlined their article saying West Ham ‘agree’ to sell the old home ground as if this was something they would have preferred not to do instead of pointing out that developing the Boleyn ground was the whole point of the move to the Aftermath Park.

There were plenty of references to the intention to include a memorial garden and statue dedicated to Bobby Moore and the link up with developers Galliard preposterously described by West Ham as having close links with the community. Certainly there are those in Charlton who would be astonished at such a description of Galliard. Their Royal Gateway development in Canning Town has faced criticism, while another notorious project is Capital Towers, which provoked a storm of protest over its 'no social housing' advert. Its website reveals no interest in community, except the community which wishes to maximise its financial return as in "...buyers who acquired homes at Papermill Wharf have seen their £50,000 investment now valued at £500,000".

There was little or no mention in this ecstatic coverage of the staggering deal West Ham have pulled off whereby they get a new stadium costing almost £600 million for a contribution to the refit of £15 million and an annual rent of around £2 million, sweetened by a loan of £40 million from impoverished Newham, a deal described as a 'bung' by Leyton Orient boss Barry Hearn. Tottenham's David Levy said David Gold had told him 'it's too good a deal to turn down'. But then they were just bad losers!

Of course, the West Ham property developers’ good fortune was duly endorsed as yet another London2012 legacy by Newham’s Mayor. But then, for those unaware of the connection between London2012 and property development, these congratulations were entirely in line with the original goals of the project as set out by the former Head of Development at the now defunct LDA, Gareth Blacker, famous for losing £160 million, when he declared London2012 to be a ‘prime opportunity for the property industry’. As for turning the Olympic stadium over to a football club, who now remembers Tessa Jowell’s plaintive cry back in 2009: "We don't need another football stadium, we have got Wembley"?

Tottenham, the losers in the Pudding Mill white elephant raid along with Leyton Orient, have managed to benefit from the infatuation with football clubs’ ‘regeneration’ schemes. Haringey and the Mayor of London have used public money to back Tottenham’s plans, the rules on affordable housing have been set aside and the club’s interests promoted over those of other local businesses.

Few details of the deal between East London's benefactors have been revealed and we do not know what interest West Ham retains in the development of the site which may yet bring them further very substantial rewards. However, it seems in the eyes of the media only the most hardened cynic would stoop to recall earlier statements by David Gold in 2010 which might suggest he does not hold the local area in such high regard: "Nothing has really happened in that area apart from some work on the stadium and the erection of a statue of West Ham's World Cup winners. It is time for redevelopment."


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