Officially It’s The Denizen But To Locals It’s The Turd!

Central London is full of developments known by ridiculous names like The Shard, The Gherkin, The Walkie Talkie and The Cheesegrater. Many of these monikers are informally conferred on the buildings. While not yet built, The Denizen’s nickname The Turd is fitting because it absolutely stinks that the site was flogged off to Taylor Wimpey by the City of London, and then granted planning permission by the same local authority. It simultaneously underscores that Allford Hall Monaghan Morris broke the rule that architects shouldn’t shit on their own doorstep. That’s exactly what AHMM have done with The Turd, the site is a short walk from their Old Street office. The Denizen’s design makes it look like a toxic crap from another unloved local ghost home complex, The Bum, officially TP Bennett’s Bezier apartments on Old Street roundabout. The Bum was the runner-up in Building Design’s 2010 Carbuncle Cup; should The Turd be built it will be a strong contender to win this uncoveted award.

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The Denizen is out of scale with neighbouring buildings, many of which are listed. It will block light from a local park, schools and homes. Living rooms of council flats will lose up to 70% of the daylight that currently gets in, making them dingy. The Turd replaces the social housing block Bernard Morgan House with luxury apartments and these are being marketed to investors in South East Asia who won’t live in the building, and yet the development includes no social or affordable housing component. As The Guardian newspaper observed:

In May 2017 planning approval was given to Taylor Wimpey, despite strong opposition from local residents and businesses. During this process it emerged that the chair of the City’s planning and transportation committee, Chris Hayward, is a director of Indigo Planning, whose clients include Taylor Wimpey. Deputy chair James Thomson was formerly deputy chief financial officer and chief operations officer of Cushman and Wakefield, commercial property and real estate consultants, which marketed and sold Bernard Morgan House to Taylor Wimpey. The committee member and former lord mayor of London Sir Michael Bear was appointed chair of the planning consultancy Turley Associates – which also acts for Taylor Wimpey – a few weeks after planning approval was granted….

Meanwhile the one Golden Lane estate resident on the committee, councillor Sue Pearson, was advised by the assistant city solicitor not to cast a ballot as, having previously made an objection to the application, she could be seen to have a vested interest in the outcome. There is widespread opposition to the construction of apartments mainly bought by foreign investors as “safe deposit boxes in the sky”, with figures showing that 40% of residential properties in the West End are empty most of the time. The majority of flats allowing the banners to hang (note added: these are protest slogans against Taylor Wimpey’s ghost home development The Turd) belong to residents who have lived there since Bowater House was built.

Developers are using culture as a Trojan horse in their planning battles by Anna Minton, The Guardian, 10 October 2017 (online), 11 October 2017 print edition.

As if the potential conflict of interests flagged up by The Guardian didn’t create enough of a stink, former City of London boss Mark John Boleat (born in Jersey in 1949) is reported by The London Evening Standard as hypocritically creating even more of a shitstorm by releasing a report through the Housing & Finance Institute (a lobby group for developers) which in effect calls for the little democratic accountability there is as regards planning (a system already heavily weighed against those who lack corporate financial might) to be reined in:

London’s housing crisis can only be solved by a radical overhaul of the “deeply flawed” planning system to rein in selfish middle class “Nimbys,” a provocative new report argues today.

In comments that will anger conservation and resident bodies, former City of London Corporation supremo Sir Mark Boleat said current rules “give far too much weight to articulate groups who make a lot of noise” and not enough weight to young “have-nots” who are priced off the housing ladder.

London’s housing crisis can be solved by ‘reining in middle class nimbys’, report says by Jonathan Prynn, London Evening Standard 19 October 2017.

As Reclaim EC1 has previously reported Mark Boleat voted in favour of giving The Denizen planning permission, and claimed when doing so that it would provide much needed homes. This is nothing short of chicanery given that the ‘have-nots’ can’t afford Taylor Wimpey’s £2m ‘apartments’ in The Turd with its marble floors and private cinema. The development is being marketed to ghost home investors in South East Asia, who if they buy will leave their properties empty and allow an overheated housing market to generate unearned profits at the expense of have-nots who aren’t on the property ladder. One of the reasons many local people objected to The Denizen was because it contained no affordable housing and yet it is replacing a social housing block that provided homes to 110 key workers. Boleat and his developer lobby chums who make City of London planning decisions actually reduced Taylor Wimpey’s statutory obligation to provide money towards subsidised off-site housing for locals to less than half of what it should have been; on the spurious grounds that the developer wouldn’t make enough of a profit if they hadn’t had this charge cut.

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Mark Boleat who voted to approve the planning application for Taylor Wimpey’s The Turd.

Boleat and the rest of the development lobby on the City of London council are Nimbys who only want to provide social housing outside their own borough’s boundaries because they don’t like the way ordinary locals vote and as far as possible want to disenfranchise them. To paraphrase these anti-democratic demagogues: “More council tenants entitled to vote in City of London elections? Not in my back yard!” The Standard piece continues with this:

“… Sir Mark said that residents must have their influence hugely scaled back by excluding councillors representing residents affected by a planning application from the decision on whether it should go ahead.

Sir Mark said: “On the face of it this might seem to strike against the concept of democracy and decisions being taken at the local level. But in reality many councillors would welcome such an approach, as all too often they feel they need to be supporting the local prevailing view even if they know that a development is desirable.”…

…Sir Mark, who this year stepped down as chairman of the City’s key Policy and Resources Committee after five years in the role, said pressure from well-organised voters often put councillors “in a near-impossible position”.

He added: “They have been elected and need to be re-elected and therefore are responsive to their electorates, who invariably are opposed to developments…”

Boleat doesn’t give a shit that representatives being responsive to their electorate is crucial to any functioning democracy. What isn’t mentioned by Boleat or The Standard is that the situation this foe of democratic decision making decries doesn’t actually apply to the City of London; where he holds office and it is the business vote (abolished in the rest of the UK) which has the decisive say in elections. Local residents have only one third of votes in local elections and so it is business that controls the City of London council. Boleat currently occupies one of these local council seats after being elected in a business vote ward with a total of 77 votes; that’s NOT Boleat’s majority, it’s the total number of votes the finance sector gave him to serve their interests! This is not only absurd, it is why the business vote must be abolished, politics in the City of London stink, The Turd should not be built, and demagoguery from the likes of Boleat needs to be relentlessly exposed as anti-democratic.

Pippa Henslowe.

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Notes:

Developers are using culture as a Trojan horse in their planning battles by Anna Minton: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/10/developers-culturehousing-luxury-homes-art-artists

It appears that ‘Sir’ Mark Boleat lives in the Three Rivers district of Hertfordshire like his fellow ‘City of London’ development lobby chum Chris Hayward (currently chair of the Planning Committee and who like Boleat voted to approve Taylor Wimpey’s The Turd planning application). See http://www.itv.com/news/anglia/2017-06-16/hertfordshire-people-recognised-in-queens-birthday-honours/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moor_Park,_Hertfordshire

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We’re not going to link to The London Evening Standard because it is pushing fake news. Anyone who wants to read the original version of the story about Boleat quoted above can find it by doing a simple web search.

Boleat hammers on the same anti-democratic themes addressed above when talking about Jersey, the tax haven in which he was born. The following extracted from a summary of a lunch address given to The Chamber of Commerce, Jersey, is indicative of what Boleat sees as wrong with that island’s political system: “Excessive consultation rather than leadership… An over-responsiveness to perceived public opinion as expressed in the media, rather than recognition that States members have been elected to govern.” See: http://www.jerseychamber.com/chamber-debate/mark-boleat-addressed-the-chamber-lunch-in-december.

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The Tax Justice Network is also critical of Boleat, see for example this from 2015:

”Father William Taylor, an elected member of the City of London Corporation, has blogged an interesting exchange he had last week with Mark Boleat, who chairs the Corporation’s Policy Committee. The crux of the exchange is that the Corporation will not be supporting the proposal before the UK parliament for a public registry of beneficial ownership (i.e. the true owners of a company) on the grounds that this is a unilateral measure and transparency should only be adopted through a ‘coordinated international approach’. This sounds very much like the City telling the government to kick the whole project into the long grass….

“…What interpretation can we draw from this exchange other than that the City of London Corporation does not support transparency? Boleat’s reference to the position of the UK’s Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories is disingenuous since he will know full well that they have clearly signalled to Prime Minister David Cameron that they will not respect his request that they create registries of beneficial ownership…

“…Last week’s exchange between William Taylor and Mark Boleat at the Court of Common Council is an important indicator of City attitudes towards transparency. They cannot directly argue against transparency, which is a motherhood and apple pie issue as far as public opinion is concerned, but they will delay and permanently stall transparency initiatives in order to protect Britain’s spiders web of secrecy jurisdictions.

“Mark Boleat symbolises the extent to which tax havenry runs through the veins of the City. A Jerseyman by origin, in addition to his role as the Corporation’s Chair of Policy, he also chairs the Jersey Competition Regulatory Authority, the Guernsey Competition and Regulatory Authority and the States of Jersey Development Company. Proof, if such was needed, of the proximity of interests between London and its offshore satellites.”

See: http://www.taxjustice.net/2015/03/11/city-of-london-corporation-fails-to-support-transparency-shock/

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A computer simulation of Taylor Wimpey’s The Turd development.

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