THE BLOG

Working for Walthamstow? It's Not Working for Me

23/11/2015 12:38 GMT | Updated 23/11/2016 10:12 GMT

My husband is a lifelong Labour voter. I can't say the same; in 2010 I voted Lib Dem but, well... that won't be happening again for a long time. I don't embody the cliché of someone who gets progressively more right-wing the older I get - like a sunset, I've evolved slowly from yellow through to red (no purple bits, obviously). In the last general election, I voted for Stella Creasy. I liked Stella Creasy. I believed in Stella Creasy.

You'll notice the emphatic usage of the past tense. This morning, 23 November 2015, Stella's Working for Walthamstow weekly newsletter arrived in my inbox. I scanned it to see Stella's summation of What's Happening This Week in Walthamstow. The key event mentioned for today is a meeting between local councillors and residents to discuss how to save a copse of mature trees on a roundabout. Nothing else.

Trees are important. I love trees. I particularly love the four mature trees on my property, especially the ornamental plum at the front of our house that explodes into glorious pink blossom every year around my little girl's birthday. It's an important day for those trees too. Today Waltham Forest's councillors also decide whether to approve the planning permission to demolish Marlowe Road, our road, our home, also the home of sixty-odd other mature trees and, incidentally, well over 200 families.

I know the difference between local and national politics. I am not visualising Stella personally trundling down our road with a wrecking ball, cackling delightedly. During some regrettable bickering with her on Facebook recently, she told me that she couldn't get involved as she had no control over the regeneration and social cleansing of our local community, demanded to know what I wanted from her. At this point, my magnificent friend Marion cyber-thundered "Your VOICE, Stella".

It wasn't forthcoming; she instead advised us to get a good lawyer. It hurt a month later when we saw the pictures of Stella and others noisily demonstrating outside Turtle Bay about their unfair tipping policy. I'm guessing that our local MP doesn't have any control over how Walthamstow's restaurants pay their staff either; the difference is, she cares enough to use her influence. Low paid workers; we're working for you in Walthamstow. Just don't expect to be able to live here!

It's an odd feeling, living under the threat of a compulsory purchase order. You do everything "right"; save up, get a mortgage, work hard, pay the majority of it off and suddenly, boom, the home you thought was yours is being snatched by property developers, enabled and encouraged by the local Labour council. You go on living in that home while the tortuously slow process of "the project" rolls on, but you don't know where you'll be in six, twelve months. You stop caring for your garden; don't fix minor things when they go wrong. Wasting money isn't an option. We don't even have the choice to bite the bullet and find another house to love. We did what our MP said and took advice and we've been told that the price LBWF is offering us to go away is some £100,000 below the market value for our property.

Since my last blog, we've met with LBWF to try and negotiate with them. They were more candid with us this time. The promise that all residents of Marlowe Road can remain on the new development isn't one they can keep; there is no new house for us. Khevyn Limbhajee's utopian vision of a home we can live in "rent and mortgage free" for as long as we like is also pure fiction ("Yeah, we don't know where he got that from, sorry").

Tonight, I will be attending the Planning Committee and I will be speaking. I've only been allowed three minutes; no time to reference the sixty-odd other objections to this regeneration project.

I will concentrate my efforts on pleading - in objective planning speak - the case for retaining our sweet little row of houses. I will talk about how replacing them with a towering seven-storey block will block out the light for everything that lies behind for much of the year. I will reference the argument that the forced eviction of people living in decent, affordable homes in order to build less affordable ones is a breach of our human rights. I will try not be to emotional about the home we love, the only home my five year old daughter really remembers. I don't have time, and emotion has no place in planning decisions.

At the point that you read this blog, it may well be that the decision has already been made. A decision that affects whether hundreds of people - social housing tenants, leaseholders, freeholders, local businesses - can stay in our neighbourhood. Whether local children will have anywhere to play for the next three years.

Nothing much is happening in Walthamstow today.