UK

Focus E15 Campaigners Forced To Leave Empty Homes By Newham Council

03/10/2014 08:58 BST | Updated 03/10/2014 09:59 BST

A group of campaigners "unlawfully" occupying unused houses to oppose their demolition are being forced out by a London council, despite being granted a temporary reprieve.

The protesters, the Focus E15 Mothers, have been highlighting the lack of social housing near the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London.

Many homes on the Carpenters estate have been left empty for years while the council decided whether or not to regenerate the area.

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Protestors occupy the houses on the Carpenters Estate

After deciding it would be too expensive it was decided to redevelop the site and sell land to private buyers to build luxury apartments as part of a 'metropolitan masterplan'.

The group demand be able to “to re-populate Carpenters estate and all the other estates that have just been left”.

Jasmin Stone, one of the leading activists said: “Why should people be forced away from a place they have always known?”

After nearly a two week standoff, the council has obtained a court order, forcing the campaigners to vacate the site by 7 October.

According to a council spokesman, the protest had become "increasingly aggressive".

Mayoral advisor, Andrew Baikie, called the protest "petty" and an "expensive stunt".

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A banner with the slogan 'Social Housing not Social Cleansing'

Although Thursday's legal action has meant the occupiers must leave, Newham council have said they will "immediately inspect and repair the property" and "officers have restarted negotiations" in order to house those in need.

They also promise to "introduce a temporary housing scheme before the whole of the 23-acre Carpenters Estate is redeveloped".

Over the past year, Newham Council have evicted families and long-term residents in social housing in a borough where over 20,000 people are on the council’s waiting list for a new home.

Once evicted, they are relocated to different parts of London, for example Canning Town, and even other cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Hastings.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 Today on Thursday, the mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales claimed he had been "desperately trying" to solve the Carpenters estate issue.

He added: “We have the most generous relocation package, we think, in the country".

But Jo, a supporter of the campaign and local resident, said: "Why should we be pushed out the area because it’s become gentrified and trendy? Why should we have to go?”

The campaign gained wide publicity thanks in part to Russell Brand who backed the campaign in his YouTube programme ‘The Trews’.

Housing is becoming a bigger and bigger part of the political agenda, especially in London.

David Cameron pledged proposals to build 100,000 affordable homes to be sold at a 20% discount by exempting them from some taxes and the zero-carbon homes standard.

In a statement, Sir Robin Wales said he would continue to fight against the "realities of this Government's housing crisis"...and its "barbaric approach to welfare cuts."

He added: "We will now ensure these houses are turned into homes for families who need them."