[Ben Reeve Lewis is looking for a pub …...]
Where have all the pubs gone?
Finding myself with a spare hour in Deptford High Street for the first time in years I sought out my old watering holes and they were all gone.
The high street once had a pub every few yards, all typical south east London boozers (only Deptford could boast a pub called “The Mechanics Arms”) but I had to walk off the main drag to the decidedly new age/crusty Birds Nest.
The Mechanics is now an African restaurant while the old job centre is now a gastro pub.
The Half Moon is no more
I was similarly shocked to see on BBC1 recently that one of my old stomping grounds for music and a pint, the Half Moon in Herne Hill near Brixton (or if you’re local “The Arf Moon in Ern Ill”) has shut down and is now occupied by Property Guardians.
I saw loads of famous acts there on their way up, even U2 gigged it once and now its all closed up, future uncertain.
The more Herne Hill and Brixton move towards gentrification the more likelihood there is that it will be turned into swanky flats.
There is already a local backlash to this kind of thing going on.
Protest at Foxtons
Foxtons in Brixton was subject to a protest this week and not for the first time, about the increasing ‘cheese shop-isation’ of the area.
A group lead by the curiously named rapper Potent Whisper gathered outside armed with blankets and pillows in a peaceful protest to highlight how soaring rent and house prices in the area are driving local homelessness and displacement.
“Social housing not social cleansing” being the nifty slogan and a sentiment that is gathering apace across the capital as vast swathes of it get bought up by Chinese property developers and rented out to people earning £50k minimum. That fortunate band of people who can afford to live in London.
Foxtons have suffered like this before and once had to hire bouncers to protect the offices.
Foxtons conversion defeated
They have even had the temerity to reduce London’s dwindling stock of pubs even further by converting the old Aunt Annie’s in Kentish Town into a branch of their strange ‘Is it a bar is it a, estate agents?-chic’, but which was fortuitously defeated by Camden Council’s planning panel.
A Camden councillor offering:
“Planning should reflect what the community want – not what big businesses want to do. We know pubs are under threat and this is becoming like a game of chess with developers.”
Hear, hear. Mind you I cant help wondering if that view is honestly civic minded or if the unnamed councillor just couldn’t bear the thought of a half hour walk to the next nearest pub down on Holloway Road.
Housing outside the borough
Putting pubs to one side and staying with the theme of high London rents there was a landmark ruling of the Supreme court which dealt a body blow to councils in cities. The case of Nzolameso v Westminster
(Cue quick necessary legal explanation)
Council homelessness units have the ability to provide accommodation out of their area in a number of circumstances, particularly when the person wanting/needing to be homed can’t afford the rent in that district.
Ms Nzolameso was a woman with 4 kids (renting a 4 bed house in Westminster anyone????)
The council said she couldn’t afford to live in Westminster and offered accommodation in Milton Keynes which she turned down. The council took her kids into care and she was left to fend for herself. She took Westminster to court.
The courts decided that the council had not done enough to try and find her and her family affordable accommodation closer to them.
A rock and a hard place
Ms Nzolameso announced:
“I am very happy with today’s outcome and delighted to be reunited with my children, who I never envisaged would be taken away from me”.
I’m sure you are my dear, but the ramification of this decision means homeless families spending longer in temporary accommodation, more spent on DHP topping up the rents = more strain on cash strapped council resources.
Don’t get me wrong. I hate the fact that the poor and most desperate are being farmed out miles away from their home town, but while London rents remain on this never ending upward curve these measures will be the only alternative in most cases.
An eternal lover of new and inspiring ideas I read a nice one in the Guardian this week the story of a 90,000 euro priced Valencian house that sold for just 10 euros.
The property, which was inherited by the Bolumar family just wouldn’t shift on the open market of Spain’s completely knackered system, so they decided to raffle it for 10 euros a ticket.
It netted them a whopping 320,000 euros which has sparked a new house lottery business down there.
Mind you it wasn’t all plain sailing, the Bolumars had to pick their way through a wealth of infamous Spanish red tape to cope with tax and lottery laws first and the whole process took a year and the housing crisis there cast a shadow over proceedings, Mr Bolumar saying:
“Some of the calls that came in were heartbreaking, from families who had been evicted from their homes or who had fallen on tough times and were desperately hoping to win the house.
But I’m pleased for the Bolumars and maybe it will offer hope to friends we have down near Marbella who haven’t been able to sell their house in 4 years as the dole queues of Estapona get longer by the day.
What made me smile this week
Catching an old episode of Frasier that I hadn’t seen before, where Niles hosts a swanky dinner for Seattle’s snobby elite only to end up with a Cockatoo stuck to his head who repeats all the sarcastic comments about the guests that he and Frasier had been saying in the kitchen.
See ya next week.