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12 January 2018
Waltham Forest: outrage against 'monster block' plan
Waltham Forest Socialist Party members
On 11 January 140 people crammed into a Waltham Forest Trades Council Housing Action Network meeting.
This was called in opposition to plans to tear up our town square, build a monster tower block 29 stories high, build four more blocks on public land and reduce open space by a third.
The proposal also includes chopping down 81 trees and moving a children's playground to the most polluted part of the square, just in front of the bus station.
And after all that, this development will make not a dent in the 20,000 people who are deemed as in 'housing need' in the borough. The community is in uproar.
There is a palpable feeling in London that the city is being gobbled up by billionaires and spiv builders while the working class is cleared out. And this phenomenon is extending elsewhere in the country too.
Trades council secretary and Socialist Party member Linda Taaffe chaired the meeting. She made it clear that even though the decision had been made by the Labour-controlled planning committee, we in no way see it as the end of the campaign.
The Save Walthamstow's Town Centre campaign has been active for over two years and Socialist Party members have been involved since then.
At the meeting, leading campaigner David and others outlined a strategy to help force either the majority-Labour council or the property company to withdraw.
We believe that we should use every tool available to us to get this monster block stopped - and this was endorsed at the meeting.
Some will investigate launching a judicial review. Some will attempt to use their influence inside the Labour Party to get London mayor Sadiq Khan to enforce his proposal that all developments should be 50% affordable.
The meeting also agreed to target the developers, Capital and Reginal, so some people are researching opportunities to do this.
Many in the room were chomping at the bit to move to the agenda item to discuss the mass activity, which will be a key tactic of the campaign. We agreed to hold a community demonstration on 24 February to occupy the square for the day in a show of strength and to proclaim that 'this land is our land'!
Finally we discussed May's local elections. There were Tories and Liberal Democrats in the room. Those parties have implemented austerity and cut the local government grant.
Socialist Party members made it clear that we have no truck with them using this campaign to opportunistically feather their own nests - the blame lies at their door.
But these decisions are being driven through by Waltham Forest council - a Labour council. In fact, at council level, London is mostly a Labour city.
Right-wing Labour councillors have developed a certain arrogant idea that they are 'untouchable'. But in the face of big cuts to the grants from central government, a crisis of council funding and a huge housing crisis, they are now scrabbling about to save their positions.
At the meeting a Labour Party activist described the councillors as being "caught". To some extent that is true.
Some are caught by their own sense of entitlement to a position, and others by clinging to the outdated neoliberal policies of yesteryear - without realising that the tide is turning.
May's local elections
A speaker from Haringey, who is also in the Labour Party, explained how they managed to funnel the anger against the Haringey Development Vehicle through the Labour Party by getting anti-HDV candidates selected for May's elections.
Here in Waltham Forest a motion has been passed in at least one Labour Party branch opposing the plans.
The Socialist Party welcomes this. But right-wing pro-gentrification councillors have been reselected almost without exception for the local elections.
This means that one of the Labour candidates for High Street ward, which will be worst affected by the development, is right-wing council leader Clare Coghill.
Haringey is one of very few exceptions. In general there has not been a campaign by the left inside Labour to deselect the Blairites.
This has led to the boat being missed to change council candidates in time for May. Theo from the Socialist Party explained that Labour councillors have a choice in what policies they implement and they should refuse to bend to Tory housing or austerity policies.
Instead they should unite with the campaign to fight for the money needed for local services and social housing.
Socialist Party members argued that working class people, and all those being mobilised by this campaign, deserve better than a choice between the Tories, Liberal Democrats or right-wing Labour.
We need real anti-austerity, anti-gentrification candidates. Nancy Taaffe from the Socialist Party invited anyone interested in this type of a challenge to meet in the Red Room of the Rose and Crown pub on 20 February at 7.30pm.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 12 January 2018 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.
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