Save Carpenters Estate from Demolition for University Campus
Residents from the Carpenters Estate in Stratford protested with students and staff from University College London against the university's proposal to expel the community from their homes to build a new Stratford campus, approved by Newham council.
The Carpenters Estate in Stratford, on the edge of the Olympic site, is a popular place to live, a post-war council estate with low rise housing and several tower blocks close to Stratford station and the town centre. Some of the residents who moved in when it was built still live there. But its position and superb transport links make it a valuable site, and Newham council has been trying for some years to persuade residents to leave so it can be put to other uses.
Last month Newham Council accepted UCL’s £1 billion proposal to build a new campus in Stratford on the Carpenters Estate, displacing all the existing residents. The residents several years ago founded a group called CARP (Carpenters Against Regeneration Plan) who have been fighting to keep their homes on the site. Newham's reaction to tenant opposition was to get rid of those opposed to the demolition of the estate from the tenant's management organisation by underhand means, but most of those now in the TMO are also opposed to the UCL campus plan.
UCL has a enviable academic record in development planning and its DP Unit has issued a statement following a public meeting in September to discuss the UCL expansion plans which was attended by residents of the Carpenters Estate. This states "we believe that such an expansion should take place in a manner that supports and respects local communities" and calls for a review to be "undertaken on the basis of revised ‘site desirability’ criteria, to include a clear commitment to the well-being of local and East London borough residents, the active participation of affected communities, as well as engagement with local government."
Around a hundred people attended the protest in the main Quad at UCL, including leading members of CARP and students and staff of UCL. After a few short speeches, the protesters moved to picket the main entrance to the building where the UCL council meeting had been rescheduled. CARP members were able to talk to a couple of members of the council on their way to the meeting, and also to some other members of the academic staff. One of the council members said that the university did not yet have fully developed plans and that there would be consultation with the residents before any development took place.
The protest was joined by more members of Unison and the UCU, who were also picketing the council meeting about proposed changes in academic contracts, in particular about 'Statute 18'; they say these changes threaten academic freedom.
The protesters then heard that the council meeting had been moved, and decided to move their protest elsewhere, entering the university building. They walked past the dressed skeleton of Jeremy Bentham to a meeting room and decided that they would hold an alternative council meeting there.