Some History

On this page we would like to include some of the rich history of local people who have organised to keep their communities in tact. By looking back at the past, it’s clear that we will only keep what we fought for in the past (decent public housing, local green spaces, community resources such as libraries and healthcare, nurseries and so) by fighting for it now.

Our friends at the SOUTHWARK NOTES: Whose Regeneration? blog have an ever expanding page of local history of action and campaigning against plans to ruin many local areas in North Southwark. You can find that here! Below are some screenshots of the Archive page

You can see some of this inspiring history here:
Jam Tomorrow!
Some history and notes on the regeneration and gentrification of North Southwark + Bermondsey from 1900 to 1987

Short excerpt on the successful 1980’s Cherry Gardens campaign:

In November 1982, local tenants and activists from the Bermondsey Labour Party and a number of local councillors occupied the scaffolding of the conversion of Corbetts Wharf warehouse in Bermondsey Wall East between the river and the Millponf Estate. The protest was against one of the first LDDC-assisted private developments of a former riverfront wharf into luxury flats. The demands were for the abolition of the LDDC and the implementation of the Southwark Council and GLC plans to develop Surrey Docks and Bermondsey for local people including industrial jobs, council houses with gardens, new shops and better public transport.

Other local initiatives and community organising was centered around equality issues and childcare provision, especially the Surrey Docks Childcare Project. Another local campaign for homes in Elephant Lane, near the riverside, saw local school children devising and putting on a play to protest about the threat of yuppie flats being planned for their area.
Later, in the years 1984-86, a flotilla of boats named The People’s Armada sailed from Docklands up to Westminster to present petitions to the Commons and No.10 demanding local democracy, more social housing, better transport among other things. The GLC-funded procession carried banners proclaiming ‘Give Us Back Our Land’, ‘Docklands for the People’ and ‘Jobs not Snobs!’. A total of 123 different community groups were consulted in organising the Armada and on the demands to be made of Parliament.

In what was to be one of the successes of local opposition to the LDDC, the Corbetts Wharf occupation leaflet had raised the question of the future development of Cherry Gardens in Bermondsey which the LDDC had put out as an architectural competition in May 1984. The eventual winner Lovell Farrow planned that 250 luxury homes were to be built including four pairs of seven-story blocks right along the river front. Not only were local people to be excluded from the new housing (approx price £100,000 a home) but the riverview was to be completely blocked out by the new yuppie housing. With the assistance of the Rotherhithe Community Planning Centre, over 200 people met at the Millpond Estate Tenants Hall and overwhelmingly rejected the LDDC plans. An Action Committee was established and work started on publicising what was happening through leaflets, posters and an extensive graffiti campaign – LDDC Think Again!, Bermondsey For Bermondsey People, Graffiti Looks Better Than Luxury Flats”.

In the 1970’s, the local tenants had already fought off a developer who had wanted to build offices all across the river front and the land had been bought by Southwark Council for £2 million. An imaginative scheme for housing with gardens and a riverside walk was proposed instead. Falling foul of Central Government spending restrictions, the scheme was abandoned leaving the land empty but enclosed. Local people soon pulled down the corrugated iron fences to have access to and enjoy the Thames side wilderness. When the LDDC came about, it vested the land from the Council using compulsory purchase powers, paying the knock-down price of £600,000.

Initially the LDDC refused the listen to the Cherry Gardens Action Group campaign, ignoring a petition from several hundred residents of the area. In September 1984, at a stormy public meeting, local campaigner Beryl Donovan made local feelings clear – “The proposed development will devastate this area and I and many others are prepared to stand in front of the bulldozers. We shall not be content until the LDDC throws out the scheme entirely and starts again by listening to what local people want”. Others suggested that arson would be the result of homes being built for the wealthy in the local area. In the end, arson, as had been speculated to be the cause of the spectacular half million pound burning down of Commodity Quay in the newly redeveloped St Katherine’s Dock on the other side of The Thames, was the some time property developers tool against listed and conservation-area building obstacles especially around St Saviours Dock in the early 1980’s.

In March 1985, the LDDC offered one third of the site to housing associations for rent claiming that this would provide 90 homes. The Cherry Garden Action Committee disputed this, putting the figure at closer to 30 with gardens. After persistent opposition, the LDDC gave in and released half of the land back to the Council. After three years of campaigning, the Cherry Gardens Action Commitee could draw up plans for 64 council houses (42 homes and gardens and 22 flats) modelled on the ‘Red Bermondsey’ era Wilson Grove cottages. The original 70’s plans of a river walk and the new Fountain Green open space were also realised.

In November 1982, local tenants and activists from the Bermondsey Labour Party and a number of local councillors occupied the scaffolding of the conversion of Corbetts Wharf warehouse in Bermondsey Wall East, between the river and the run down Millpond Estate. The protest was against one of the first LDDC-assisted private developments of a former riverfront wharf into luxury flats. The demands were for the abolition of the LDDC and the implementation of the Southwark Council and GLC plans to develop Surrey Docks and Bermondsey for local people including industrial jobs, council houses with gardens, new shops and better public transport.
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