by Nancy Taaffe, Chair, Waltham Forest Save Our Square
The ‘Save Our Square’ campaign in Waltham Forest, East London, has kept the private developers at bay for seven years. 60 attended our protest on 9 April.
The Labour council looks to have cleared the last hurdles to sell off this public green space, and throw up a monster block of unaffordable private flats. This model for development has spread out and gathered speed. It’s changing the landscape of London.
I believe we are one of the longest land campaigns in the city. Many other groups have been overwhelmed by the forces against them.
I spoke about what we had done as a group to disrupt the plans.
We have stood in virtually all elections, created an alternative plan, protested at City Hall where security carried us out, engaged in all the ‘consultations’, held various community events and protests, and more.
When we first started campaigning there were 9,000 on the borough’s housing waiting list. Now its 24,000!
In addition, we have seen people forced out of the borough, systematically displaced, particularly working-class women with children. We outlined the high-profile cases of Nadia, Nana and Elizabeta, women who were told there was nowhere for them when flats are going up everywhere. We also highlighted the scandal of empty properties.
We are really concerned about fire safety too. The recent fire at Whitechapel caused Tower Hamlets council to pause planning permission on a similar tower. Like ours would be, it only has one staircase and one lift.
The Socialist Party’s Mike Cleverley spoke about the scandal of the council using its own money to bankroll the tube station entrance the development needs. All the way through, they said they didn’t have money and this funding would come from external bodies like Transport for London (TfL).
Unite branch secretary Kevin Parslow explained that Unite is now opposing the sale of public land to offset cuts to income.
We heard from Glenroy Watson, a tube driver and RMT union activist. He spoke of how these developments, once again, will create extra demand on transport. The logic should be to expand the services, not cut them!
Ken Driscoll is a consistent supporter of the Save Our Square campaign, now standing for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in the elections. He said he was fed up with being ignored in ‘consultation’ after ‘consultation’. Linda Taaffe from the local trades union council spoke of the need to rehabilitate council housing as the model to solve the crisis.
What’s the point of Labour?
At the very end a local resident spoke about his disillusionment with the council, ignoring the needs of residents. He asked: what’s the point of Labour?
The gathering then took placards and marched through the shopping centre – where units are already closing to allow the block to go up.
We urged people not to vote for people who support this scheme. We urged people not to vote for people who had stayed quiet these last seven years and left it to the community to object and organise.
We urged people not to vote for people who don’t have a track record of fighting for the local working class.
Waltham Forest Socialist Party is standing alongside community campaigners and trade unionists under the banner of TUSC – 24 candidates in the borough. Some anti-cuts independents spoke too.
In the absence of other election hustings, Save Our Square will be organising one online. We will reconvene after the election to discuss our next steps.