Winstanley regeneration: A good deal for property developers and a bad deal for local people

The Winstanley Estate seen from the top of Sporle Court

Speech to Wandsworth Council, December 5, 2018

The Winstanley Estate desperately needs investment after years of neglect. The Kinghan report into the Clapham Junction riots said the estate was in the worst 1% of places to grow up in the UK.

As I said in this chamber eight years ago in my maiden speech, I joined this council to change the ward I represent, not to keep it the same.

Since I was elected more than a dozen young men have been shot and several murdered on or near that estate. Local children simply do not have the same opportunities as those born on the other side of the tracks.

As Latchmere councillors, our deeds match our words. We backed the most ambitious and far-reaching masterplan. We faced up to tough conversations. I have said directly to hundreds of local residents that I believe their homes should be demolished.

We were proud to agree a deal with the council where: all tenants and leaseholders get new homes on the estate; there will be a new school, church and leisure centre; and the same amount of green space is retained.

We were delighted when Sadiq Khan brought an overdue end to an era where estate Regeneration meant clearing out existing communities to make way for unaffordable new developments.

However, since that deal was agreed the council has added 500 extra units to the scheme, largely in private tower blocks. The rebuilt estate will now have only 35% genuinely affordable housing.

The council is a 50:50 joint venture partner in this regeneration. Sadly, that incentivises Wandsworth to behave exactly like a property developer. The more expensive the housing is, the more profit the council makes.

Instead of maximising affordable housing on public land, Wandsworth council is in the perverse position of trying to minimise affordable housing.

We were told the rate of return for the property developer on this project is currently 35%. That’s around double the industry average. The profits will be in the hundreds of millions. The Winstanley regeneration could easily afford extra affordable homes.

The figures in the parallel Alton Estate regeneration are even more questionable.

We can do better. We control the land, the crucial factor in any development.

Wandsworth Labour would make sure that an extra 100 of the homes in the regeneration are council homes for local people. Plus 70 extra in the Alton scheme.

This is a political choice and it simply requires political will.

We’ll always stand up for local people. Labour is proud to have led the community campaigns that stopped this council closing the Winstanley Estate’s library and nearby Battersea Sports Centre. Now we’re campaigning to save the Children’s Centre that serves the estate. We’re on their side.

When we take control of the council we will rebalance the regeneration deals, I want members, officers and our development partners to understand that.

If the current leader is serious about cross-party support he’ll meet people’s aspirations for homes they can hope to afford, real control over their neighbourhood and better opportunities for their children.

Many local people feel neglected. Previous promises have been broken. They see Wandsworth put property developers ahead of residents time and again. To win their trust he needs to truly listen, and to put local people at the heart of changes in their area.

If he chooses not to, he’ll find our scepticism hardening – and he’ll see the public’s opposition growing. I say all of this more in sorrow than in anger.

We want the Winstanley Estate to get the investment it so desperately needs. But this regeneration is turning into a good deal for property developers and a bad deal for local people.

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How films win votes: My election in 6 videos

Labour ran a strong campaign to win 7 seats in May’s local elections. Wandsworth Labour leader Simon Hogg explains how video was a key part of the campaign

The bad news is that we fell just short of winning the council. The good news is that we had our best result for 30 years, we won the popular vote and we now have 26 excellent councillors.

Video was a central part of our energetic and positive campaign. The films were fun to make and really helped us to connect with voters and local members.

Here are the six most important films from our campaign – with the lessons learned from each one. (You can see all of the videos from the campaign here)

1. Wandsworth Labour: Ambitious for everyone
(22,000 views, 125 likes, 34 shares)


What did you learn?

You need a strong narrative, a story you can tell to voters.

It’s tough to beat Wandsworth Conservatives: they’ve been in power for 40 years and they set the lowest council tax in Britain. We wanted to get across a positive message that Wandsworth is a great place to live – but its Tory council has the wrong values. This video explains that basic story to voters. I set out the full narrative in this Town Hall speech.

Repetition is important when you’re trying to get a message across.

Thankfully, video makes this a lot easier. Since the start of this year, Wandsworth Labour’s had around 250,000 views of our videos on Facebook. Thanks to the networks we’ve built, and Facebook’s technology, this content was targeted to people who’d consider voting Labour in Wandsworth.

I knew our strategy was working when other parents in the playground at school drop-off started saying to me: “Your videos are all over my Facebook and twitter!”

 

2. Why I’m voting Labour on May 3
(5,000 views, 65 likes, 31 shares)

 

What did you learn?

Get to know your audience and think about how they’ll consume your content.

This video was released in the final week of the campaign. The idea is to capture the attention of voters who focus on the election late on – and to put across the idea that ‘more and more people like me are choosing to vote Labour’.

Captions and clear graphics are crucial. Initially, we didn’t put subtitles on the videos. Then we realised most people were watching our videos on mobile phones so subtitles and really clear graphics were essential. (The subtitles are usually uploaded as separate files to Facebook so don’t appear on the twitter embeds on this page)

Every election is different. This was the first election where most of our contact with voters was digital. And through mobile phones, rather than desktop computers.

 

3. Battersea Power Station
(30,000 views, 266 likes, 57 comments, 117 shares),

What did you learn?

Production is important – in particular the sound quality.

You can shoot videos for free on your phone. I did with this post-election thank you video. (I used this inexpensive external mic.)

However, like all the six videos here, the Battersea Power Station video was shot by a professional with a high-spec camera and microphone. It makes such a difference. We’re fortunate to have a lot of talent in our local Labour Party.

The Tory council allowed the property developers at Battersea Power Station to cut 250 affordable homes from the scheme. This video helped us to make this a key election issue. It was a real buzz when voters started repeating the 250 figure back to us on the doorstep – proof the issue had resonated.

 

4. EU Citizens: One year to Brexit
(12,000 views, 119 likes, 32 shares)

 

What did you learn?

Let real people tell their stories. The video is so powerful because it’s local people saying exactly what they feel.

More than 26,000 Wandsworth residents are EU citizens.  Brexit was an key issue for some voters.

While face-to-face contact will always be the best way to connect, social media grows every day. We need to go where people are, which is why these videos were promoted on Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

As we move online with our campaigns, voters might thank us for less leaflets: one organiser tells me that in the last election the leaflets he printed would form a pile taller than the Shard!

 

5. Greener, cleaner and safer streets
(12,000 views, 83 likes, 23 shares)

 

What did you learn?

The response to this video confirmed that the environment is a key concern for voters. Our campaign was positive and based on evidence of what residents wanted.

We learned from 20,000 doorstep conversations, plus research and data. It’s tempting to talk about the things you care most about – but crucial to speak on topics that concern voters.

Our manifesto was ‘digital only’ and read by 5,000 people. There was a strong response, for no production cost. Overall, we included more people than ever before in the campaign through use of digital technology. It does remain a challenge and a concern that some people aren’t able to access material online.

It’s helpful to keep testing ideas and keep learning lessons. This video had a script and it went through a few versions before it was ready.

 

6. Donate to help us win Wandsworth
(Raised £2,000 in crowdsourced donations)

 

What did you learn?

We were lucky to have amazing support from Owen Jones and Sadiq Khan throughout the campaign. In this video they join with lots of other Labour figures to ask for donations to win Wandsworth.

This video was pushed out to our supporters. It contributed to the great buzz of enthusiasm and a positive atmosphere for volunteers.

Video was an important part of how we got our message across during the election. It was useful for fundraising, member mobilisation and communicating with voters.

I’d recommend you consider video as part of your next election campaign. Think about what skills and equipment you’ll need and plan ahead. If you can, get someone with professional experience involved. I’m happy to explain more about what we did if you get in touch.

Wandsworth Labour’s fresh approach is built on fairness and common sense

Speech to Wandsworth council March 7, 2018

Wandsworth is a fantastic place to live. Its strong, diverse communities represent the best of modern London.

But with Conservatives in control locally and nationally, people are feeling the strain.

They once claimed to run a tight ship here, but they’ve become stuck in a tired and self-serving rut. They are trapped in a mind set that knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

When our most vulnerable residents need more protection than ever, the Tories have instead prioritised their relationships with property developers and lobbyists.

Most clearly seen at Battersea Power station. A £9 billion scheme with only 9% affordable housing.

Where the council allowed developers to cut 250 affordable homes.

Where the remaining affordable homes have been moved half a mile away from the river to an old industrial estate.

Where a Transparency International investigation found 85% of flats are sold to overseas investors, 44% from ‘high corruption risk’ jurisdictions.

This scheme has become a symbol of everything that’s gone wrong with Wandsworth’s Tory council.

So Wandsworth is now at a crossroads.

Continue with a council with the wrong priorities and no new ideas, or choose a dynamic team with a radically different vision built on fairness and common sense.

As our neighbourhoods change, we need a council with the right values. And as London grows as a global city, we need a fresh, practical approach that harnesses potential without creating imbalance or division.

Only Labour offers this.

Labour will keep Council Tax low – because it’s not right to ask those who are struggling to pay more. We’ll freeze council tax this year and next, and we’ll raise 2% on the social care precept to make sure older people get the care they need and to relieve the pressure on our NHS.

We’ll open up the books, cancel wasteful contracts and cut councillors’ expenses to help pay for much needed services. And we’ll work with local people to protect high streets, provide the homes our communities want, and stop Wandsworth being a soft touch for developers.

We won’t repeat the Tory mistakes of the past.

When they let down vulnerable children and have spent £14 million of local people’s money trying to set right those failings.

When they turned Battersea Park into a motor-racing track – and tried to charge children £2.50 to play in the adventure playground there.

Selling of thousands of affordable homes and building only hundreds in their place.

Labour’s team is principled, experienced and successful. We will put fairness first and stand up to powerful interests. We’ll match competence with compassion, protect neighbourhoods and support those who need it.

We will be ambitious, act with integrity and work tirelessly to make Wandsworth a place where families can thrive.

Wandsworth deserves better. It’s time for a change, we’re ready to serve.

Wandsworth Labour will create a listening council, one that puts local people first

Speech to Wandsworth Council, Dec 6, 2017

simon-and-balloons-school-gate1

We love Wandsworth and want to make it an even better place to live.

In May 2018 at the local elections, local people will have the chance to vote for change. To leave behind a tired Tory party that’s run out of ideas and run out of road.

To trust Labour to deliver homes you can truly afford, better care for older people and outstanding schools.

We’ll defend jobs threatened by Brexit – and protect Wandsworth citizens from its negative impact.

We’ll create a listening council. One that puts local people first. Continue reading

A busy year: My first anniversary as Wandsworth Labour leader

Wandsworth Labour leader Simon Hogg with deputy leaders Fleur Anderson and Candida JonesThat went quickly! A year ago today I was elected leader of Wandsworth Labour.

It’s been an extraordinary year in politics. Lots of joy mixed with some real sadness.

In terms of election victories, we’re probably in Wandsworth Labour’s most successful period ever:

Local boy Sadiq Khan is London Mayor, Leonie Cooper joined the London Assembly, Rosena Allin-Khan was elected as Tooting’s MP, and ace campaigners Paul White and Aydın Emre Dikerdem became councillors.

There’s a huge amount of hard work behind these victories. Wandsworth Labour is a team of 19 brilliant councillors backed by more than 5,000 Labour members in Battersea, Putney and Tooting.

We’re in our best position for 25 years and we aim to win the council in 2018.

Wandsworth Labour listens to local people. We try to be positive and practical. I’m proud of our powerful education funding campaign, which took us to school gates across the borough.

For our vigorous work on Brexit, Candida Jones listened to the stories of EU citizens in Wandsworth. Former Battersea MP Alf Dubs came to the Town Hall to support our call for the council to accept Syrian refugee families.

Simon Wady joined our team as full-time Campaign Manager in March. We’re lucky to have him.

The low points of the last year in terms of Tory policy include:

• More than 1,000 homeless local families live in Wandsworth temporary accommodation

• 400 jobs cut as Wandsworth merges its staff with Richmond council

• More than £10 million set aside to clear up the fall-out from a Wandsworth council child protection scandal uncovered by an Ofsted inspection

The lowest points were personal. Rex Osborn stood down as leader last May due to ill health and has spent much of the past year recuperating. We look forward to seeing Rex in full effect in the Town Hall soon.

Worse was to come: Councillor Sally-Ann Ephson passed away last summer after a long illness. She was just 49.

Hundreds of people attended Sally-Ann’s funeral in Tooting. Sadiq Khan led the tributes: “She was a ray of sunshine, much-loved by all who knew her. I will remember Sally-Ann fondly as a dear friend, determined campaigner and, above all, as someone who never stopped smiling. Rest in peace, Sally-Ann.”

Councillor Wendy Speck, who’s been a great Wandsworth Deputy Mayor this year, also gave a lovely tribute on Wandsworth Radio.

Wandsworth Labour was fully engaged during the EU referendum – where 75% of local people voted to ‘Remain’.

Volunteers are now working round the clock on a General Election.

We’re listening to local people every day in Battersea, in Putney and in Tooting – where we aim to re-elect our excellent local champion Rosena. It’s the third time in three years we’ve hit the streets to elect a Labour MP in Tooting!

The good news is that we like elections. Campaigning brings people together and Wandsworth is one of the most fun and exciting places in Britain to do Labour politics. Hundreds of volunteers help out each week. There’s a really positive team spirit.

A huge thank you from me to each councillor and every of our volunteers for making Wandsworth Labour what it is.

Do please get in touch if you want to join us!

2016: My political year in 16 photos

1. Labour councillors Rex Osborn, James Daley and Wendy Speck prepare for a meeting of Wandsworth Council. (January)

rex

2. At Tooting Broadway, supporting striking junior doctors from St George’s Hospital (February)

Simon Hogg supports striking junior doctors from St George's Hospital at Tooting Broadway

3. Reading the shock Ofsted report into Wandsworth children’s services that reveals the council repeatedly failed foster children, children leaving care and teenagers at risk of child sexual exploitation (February)

febofsted

4. A real mate: tribute to Thomas Griffin, seen in Postman’s Park in the City of London (April)

SONY DSC

5. My fellow Latchmere ward councillor Wendy Speck is elected Deputy Mayor of Wandsworth – she’s done a brilliant job! (May)

maywendymayor

6. Elected as Wandsworth Labour leader with Fleur Anderson and Candida Jones as deputy leaders. (May)

Wandsworth Labour leader Simon Hogg with deputy leaders Fleur Anderson and Candida Jones

7. It’s not often you get to canvass with your heroes: Listening to local people in Tooting with the awesome Alf Dubs. The former Battersea MP, now Baron Dubs, this year persuaded the government to welcome hundreds of unaccompanied child refugees to the UK. (May)

Simon Hogg and Alf Dubs

8. Glastonbury’s more political than usual: the UK votes to leave the European Union and much of the shadow cabinet resigns. (June)

juneglastonbury2

9. Rosena Allin-Khan becomes Tooting’s new MP in June, her election day overshadowed by the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox. Rosena’s pictured with ace campaigner Paul White, who was elected a Tooting ward councillor in August

augustpaulrosena

10. Hundreds of local people attend the Get Active Battersea Festival on the Winstanley Estate. A chance for local people to see regeneration plans to demolish 700 homes on the estate and replace them with 2,000 new ones – and to play with a firefighter’s hose. (July)

julywseregen

11. Our friend and colleague, councillor Sally-Ann Ephson died this summer after a long illness. Tributes were led by Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, who said: “She was a ray of sunshine, much-loved by all who knew her. She served her constituents with dignity and grace. I will remember Sally-Ann fondly as a dear friend, determined campaigner and, above all, as someone who never stopped smiling. Rest in peace, Sally-Ann.”

augustsallyann

12. Back of the net! Wandsworth council agrees to keep Battersea Sports Centre open following a community campaign led by local Labour councillors. (September)

augustbscsaved

13. Aydin Dikerdem (right) campaigns in the Queenstown ward by-election. He won with a 10% swing to Labour in a ward the Tories have held for decades. (November)

novaydinalt

14. Representing the Labour Party at the Act of Remembrance in Battersea Park. (November)

novremembrance

15. Viewing a Surrey Lane Estate flat with a homeless local family. This one-bed flat was the council’s first and final offer of help (December)

dechomelessness

16. Merry Christmas! Wandsworth Labour councillors’ Christmas meal at The Ship in Battersea (December)

decchristmas

2015: My political year in 15 photos

“I’ve not found one local person in favour of building this 14-storey tower block on Battersea Park Road”

culvert-road

The proposed development at Culvert Road

Comments to Wandsworth Plannning Applications Committee, December 14, 2016

This is the most one-sided major planning issue I’ve seen in my ward.

I’ve spoken to local people over many months. I’ve not found one person in favour of building this 14-storey tower block on Battersea Park Road.

The council has logged more than 200 objections received, including two petitions. I should say that I wasn’t involved in either petition or any of the comments – this is entirely grass-roots opposition.

The main objections to the development are clear:

  • It’s too tall
  • It blocks people’s light, and their views
  • The architecture is not in keeping with the low-rise Victorian character of Battersea Park Road
  • Loss of privacy – a building of this height would overlook surrounding properties
  • The application does not comply with the London Plan or with council policy on tall buildings

All of which is true.

The council report captures some of the more colourful language used by residents: “outrageously high, out of proportion, intrusive, overbearing, unattractive, a monstrosity, a skyscraper.”

I note there were three letters of support.

I’ve sympathy with the resident who says Harris Academy “is doing a wonderful job in turning the school around to being one of best in the Borough”. It’s an excellent school that has improved greatly. The gym would be a big benefit.

I’d like to focus on two more points of view and will then sum up.

First, Jane Ellison, the Battersea MP says: “The application does not comply with the London Plan and that Council policy (DMS4 of the 2016 Development Management Document) suggests the site is in an area where tall buildings (ie five stories or higher) are inappropriate.”

Second, the Battersea Society objects to this application. “Specifically: the design, height, bulk and massing of the proposal respond poorly to the surrounding context including nearby listed buildings, and to the two adjacent conservation areas – the Latchmere Estate and Battersea Park Conservation Areas.”

From my perspective this is an important point. Latchmere only has one conservation area – the Latchmere Estate. It’s lovely and it is literally a re-writing of history to say this area is incoherent or lacks character.

I’ll conclude with some points about the impact this building will have.

A new 14-story tower on Battersea Park Road is just too much. It will be a beacon of anxiety – residents will ask: what’s stopping the council approving a tower block next to their two-storey Victorian street properties in Latchmere, Queenstown or St Mary’s Park or Shaftesbury?

People need to know they have some control over the way their neighbourhood looks and feels. Our urban environment must be under democratic control.

We can’t continue with such a massive gap between what people want for their neighbourhoods and the over-development being pushed upon them.

We do need to deliver more homes.

There’s an important political point here: tower blocks such as 3 Culvert Road call into disrepute the council’s whole home building programme. Resistance to any new developments will harden if people believe the council is happy to allow 14-storey tower blocks in their neighbourhood.

There is a place for towers, in certain agreed areas. Where they can be clustered – or as part of larger schemes that are balanced between low-rise and high-rise.

This is something else. This is not a template to solve our housing crisis. This is just a developer trying too hard to make a profit out of tight corner plot. I urge you to reject this application and the damaging precedent it will set.

UPDATE: The application was approved by the committee by 5 votes to 2