21 December 2020
This is a comment from one of XR Newham’s rebels, part of our Political Strategy Working Group.
Sometimes an idea, like a bad smell, can linger longer; even when the idea has evaporated and been thoroughly discredited – it can somehow linger on long after it should have gone.
“Trickle down” was an economic idea that maintained that the best way to re-distribute wealth was to feed it into the system from the top – give it to the rich, who because they are entrepreneurs, would make more and more wealth and then, that wealth, like water, would ‘trickle down’ through all tiers of society, eventually benefiting the people at the bottom. We all know, and can see with our own eyes that wealth is not like water: indeed wealth trickles up, not down! The gap between rich and poor grows ever wider.
I was reminded of that strange pungent odour while listening to the presenters of the new initiative for developing the large crescent shaped piece of Newham land from Canning Town round the Royal Docks, to London City Airport. The Opportunity Area Planning Framework (OAPF) is being prepared jointly by the Mayor of London (Greater London Authority and Royal Docks Team), Transport for London (TfL), and the London Borough of Newham (LBN). The consultation process is under way with online presentations from ‘the team’. It’s a long-term planning framework, so we’re talking about the 2040s.
We are told that the scheme will create 25,000 new units of accommodation. We know that Newham has a population already of 350,000, forecast to rise to 450,000 by 2030. Newham has some 25,000 people currently on the housing waiting list. So, will the 25,000 new units be for those 25,000 people on the waiting list? “Err, no. We’re hoping that 5,000 or 6,000 will be affordable housing.” So, the plan is to use a whole stretch of Newham land to build 25,000 homes to get 5,000 for the people of Newham… Funny smell round here.
We are told that the scheme will create 35,000 new jobs. Any idea what kind of jobs? Living wage jobs? “Oh no: we only base our figures on the square metre of floor space, created for new businesses.” Oh, that funny smell again…
What about the Silvertown Tunnel? “Well, that will have a bus lane to be able to give easy access from Kent and Greenwich, for the new jobs created in the Enterprise Zone.” What about all the other traffic trucking through this four lane tunnel, capable of spewing out very large HDGs? “We note your comments.”…Funny smell of more pollution round here.
And what about Newham’s Climate and Emergency Plan to stay within the limits of the Paris Agreement and reduce Newham’s emissions by 12% each and every year through to 2050? “Oh, the OAPF is very committed to climate change.”…Terrible smell coming through now.
Wouldn’t it be so refreshing to have some imaginative, creative ideas? Amsterdam has created a “Circular Economy” for its people to thrive: the Council asked the residents of Amsterdam how they wanted their locality to develop; and people stepped up to the challenge, were excited by the challenge, and, with the support of the Council, university, colleges, businesses and everyone, created the plan – by and for the people. What a framework! It is possible.
‘Trusting the people’ is the fresh aroma of XR’s demand for citizen participation.