In scenes reminiscent of a Christmas Pantomime the Defend Council Housing Campaign suffered its biggest set-back yet on Monday night when Heygate Estate tenants met for their annual elections to the Tenants & Residents Association.
Tenants on the estate have been inundated with material over recent weeks from HEAT (Heygate & Elephant Against Transfer). The group opposes Southwark Council's plans to replace the estate with new RSL-developed homes.
Heygate HEAT candidate, Andy ‘The Wolf' Pate has been flooding the land of Heygate with election material, huffing and puffing and condemning the Council's programme and demanding the deselection of the current T&RA committee.
But his presence at the AGM brought the kind of audience reaction normally reserved for the appearance of the Big Bad Wolf. Boos and hisses greeted the announcement of his candidacy. ‘He's behind you!' you could almost hear the tenants calling to present Chair Doreen Gee.
After the vote he was still behind her. A very long way behind her. Over the hills and far away behind her.
As Pate and his partner offered themselves for election to each committee position in turn the jeering turned to hilarity as voters against the pair waved their agendas high in the air like balloons and candy floss.
By the end of the elections, Pate, HEAT and the Defend Council Housing Campaign had been chopped up by the Heygate woodcutters.
With no further interest in the proceedings the abashed duo slunk out of the hall into the chilly Autumn evening outside with still time to read a bedtime story before lights out.
Meanwhile, back in the bright lights of the hall tenants turned to the serious business of planning their new, wolf-proof houses…
Remembering back to Project Vauxhall, a similar attempt to reshape the area behind Albert Embankment, the 'trots and nutters' come into play when local residents are finding it difficult to find a voice, so turn to people who know how to shout. However foul the Heygate might look, people live there and have their homes there. With luck and after some expensive fiascos, some basic lessons about respect and communication will have been learnt. Which means that residents, the local authority, and developers, can all meet on some more comfortable middle ground. But the Defend Council Housing Campaign did play its part in the days when 'regeneration' seemed to be simply a case of getting out the bulldozers.
I suspect if we looked back there are some plans that we are very glad were stopped.
I also suspect that the idea of 'stock transfer' as a universal panacea is losing momentum. It can work but there are plenty of examples of where Councils can and do provide better service.