Category Archives: Poplar Harca

Chrisp Street market development proposals include 75% of homes for private sale

view from north opt

A view of the new development from the north-east. Chrisp Street itself is the main road going from the top-left to the bottom-right of the picture. Buildings lit-up are new and those that are not are existing.

Plans to redevelop Chrisp Street market into a modern retail, leisure and residential complex will see 75% of the 650 new homes for private sale with only 25% social housing it was revealed at a consultation open day this weekend. The Council’s target is 50% with the minimum 35%.

A representative of Telford Homes, the developer behind the scheme, said the lower figure was due to the investment in public facilities.

However, in its literature Poplar HARCA, the social landlord that owns the land, said it will guarantee that all existing shopkeepers and market traders will be offered a space in the new scheme with many concerned they would be priced out or not welcomed back.

One representative said shopkeepers would be offered ten-year leases at current rates, but admitted the complex – barring the social homes – would then be handed over to Telford Homes to manage on completion.

Leaseholders worried about being forcibly bought out (through a compulsory purchase order) and unable to stay in the area would be able to negotiate a package so they could, it was said, however there was currently no policy guaranteeing this.

He said: “No one will be forced out of the area against their will,” referring to one leaseholder who has lived on the market square for more than three decades. He said they would either be offered some sort of shared ownership scheme to move into one of the more expensive flats in the new development or helped to find an equivalent sized ex-council property to buy within ten minutes walk.

Most social tenants had already been ‘decanted’, but there were still a few social tenants still bidding on new places to move to, he said.

Planning permission is expected to be submitted in June with work due to commence by the end of 2017.

The majority of the area surrounding the market square will be demolished with exceptions to the Ideas Store and the shops and flats above on the north side of the square and along the path to Cordelia Street. HARCA said the shops that remain will have their fronts modernised.

view from south opt

The new Chrisp Street development is set to commence by the end of 2017 and carried out in two phases. This pic is from the south with the A13 East India Dock Road bottom left and Chrisp St coming off it to the top right of the pic.

The development will be carried out in two phases with the north side of the square demolished and rebuilt first and the south side to follow.

It is proposed market traders will be allowed to set up along Vasey Path – between the market square and East India Dock Road – during the first phase.

Shopkeepers and traders will be disappointed that no car parking facility has been included to replace what will be lost. This was their biggest complaint in a survey carried out by TH Renters in 2015.

And while existing shopkeepers and independent units are championed in the literature it admits to pursuing ‘established’ retailers (read chain stores) and a major food store for the development, both of which could have a negative impact on market traders and small retail units ability to survive.

The public facilities that it was suggested warranted offering only 25% social housing were listed as a Sure Start centre, for toddlers, and a ‘community space building on the success of the Ideas Store’.

HARCA also hopes to develop a night-time economy with a cinema and other entertainment provided in and around the square including restaurants, cafes, drinking and meeting areas.

Chrisp Street campaigners will be holding a meeting to discuss the proposals and their response on Wednesday, 1st June at the Chrisp Street Ideas Store at 7pm.

TH Renters letter of objection to the privatisation of Balfron Tower

IMG_3182Dear LB Tower Hamlets Planning Dept

please accept this letter as an objection to planning application PA/15/2554 for the refurbishment of Balfron Tower.

It is not that we are in itself opposed to the refurbishment of Balfron, in fact we wish it had happened thirty years ago when it was first mooted, or any one of the number of times since.

The problem is that instead of refurbishing the flats and maisonettes for Balfron’s tenants, Poplar Harca is refurbishing them for private buyers of which no doubt many will be investors who will either leave them empty or rent them out at rates that are unaffordable to most people.

Not only is this a breach of the promise Harca made to refurbish tenants’ homes if they voted for stock transfer in 2007 and then allow them to return, it is a betrayal of the highest order. If they had known Harca was going to kick them out shortly after they would have surely voted to keep the council as their landlord.

Harca would no doubt say that the former social tenants all left voluntarily but testimony shows that tenants felt they did not have an option – that their removal was a fait accomplis, while others were ‘seduced’ by the £4,700 buy-off, of which tenants are on record as saying they were not told that accepting it meant they lost their right-to-return.

Poplar Harca claim they cannot afford for social tenants to return given the estimated £20m cost of the refurbishment, but what has happened to the slice of the £45m they were given to refurbish the East India Estates which should have been for Balfron, and all the rent that has been paid since 2007?

And if money is so tight why did Harca swap the rent-paying social tenants for property guardians who pay them no more than a peppercorn rate, why have they voided so many flats so they can’t be rented out, and why are they paying leaseholders up to £1,500 a month since January 2014 to keep their properties empty – how many millions have been lost through this strategy to keep social tenants out of the block?

No matter, the cost of refurbishing the 146 homes comes to around £140,000 each – £20m in total. Harca says it’s not cost effective keeping them as social homes yet Barking and Dagenham Council has just spent £45m on a block of identical size. That makes refurbing Balfron and keeping it social a bargain.

But am I getting ahead of myself? The planning application makes no mention of the change of use from social housing to private sale and Harca has made no public announcement of its intention to do so. This is indicative of the sly approach Harca has taken all along: making false promises to tenants before transfer, bribing or bullying them into leaving, and failing to be open and honest about its intentions.

Throughout Harca has claimed it had taken no decision on the building’s future, yet we now know from a confidential 2012 report by the HCA that a privatised sell-off was their intention all along.

As you will know Tower Hamlets needs more truly affordable housing not less and this is what granting permission in the application’s current form will lead to. Harca will claim they can put the profit from selling off the flats to better use, but it will simply be used to pay back some of the £260m debt that its accrued under the guidance of its HSBC and property developing executives and the homes will be lost forever as we are seeing in other Harca developments.

On both Aberfeldy and Leopold estates it claims it is building new homes, but they are primarily for private sale. The number of ‘affordable’ homes it builds is less than the number of social homes it demolished. Harca is acting more like a private developer than a social housing provider.

Tower Hamlets Council should refuse to be complicit in the privatisation of social homes. Sure, allow them to build private homes for sale in and around the estates, but don’t ever let a development – or refurbishment – see a loss of social homes. If Balfron is privatised the Brownfield Estate will see a net loss of 99-social homes according to a recent academic study.

For this reason the application in its current form should be refused unless Harca agrees to keep it 50% social, which should not include any intermediate rated homes as these can in no way be considered social housing. The profit from the 50% sold would easily pay for the rest to be refurbished.

Yours Sincerely

Tower Hamlets Renters

Traders at Chrisp Street market left in dark over development plans

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Tower Hamlets Renters and Action East End held a stall at Chrisp St Market to find out what residents and traders thought about the proposed £300m regeneration scheme.

Traders at Chrisp Street market have criticised landlord Poplar Harca over the lack of information being offered about a £300m regeneration programme that will force them out for at least three years with no guarantee they can return.

Poplar Harca plans to redevelop the old market square and surrounding estates between 2017 and 2020, and replace them with a modern shopping precinct with cinema, restaurants, leisure and cultural facilities, and 750 new homes.

On top of the lack of information, the scheme has been repeatedly delayed since 2012 leaving tenants and traders living in uncertainty and unable to plan for the future.

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Campaigners challenge housing association’s social cleansing policy

picture credit: @balfronsocial

picture credit: @balfronsocial

Around 20 housing campaigners and local residents marched through Poplar today in protest over housing association Poplar Harca’s business strategy of evicting social tenants and replacing their homes with properties for private sale and ‘affordable’ rent, which of course we know is unaffordable to most.

Tower Hamlets Renters and Action East End organised the demo as Harca prepares to submit a planning application to refurbish and privatise Erno Goldfinger’s Balfron Tower.

If permitted, around £20m will be spent on refurbishing the 1960s block before the majority of its 146 properties are sold off to bankers and investors with no chance of its original and intended residents to return.

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