Gentrification? In Tilbury?! We never thought we’d be mentioning these two words in the same sentence – what’s going on with the proposed Gloriana Thurrock Ltd. development on St. Chads Road in Tilbury means we are now doing just that… These stories in the local media provide some background: Tilbury housing project Gloriana returns to the planning committee – http://www.yourthurrock.com/2017/02/20/tilbury-housing-project-gloriana-returns-planning-committee/ and: UKIP anger over council proposal to hike rents for new Tilbury housing up to £1400 a month – http://www.yourthurrock.com/2016/12/20/ukip-anger-council-proposal-hike-rents-new-tilbury-housing-1400-month/
At a planning committee meeting held on December 15th, Gloriana applied for an amendment to the s106 legal agreement for planning permission to delete the obligation for the provision of on-site affordable housing. This was refused with Labour and UKIP councillors expressing deep reservations about the proposed amendment.
Gloriana have submitted a new application to be discussed at the planning committee meeting on Thursday, February 23rd. The options they’re putting on the table read as follows:
“Gloriana has re-assessed its financial model and although the return from the housing development will be lower, the company will offer to provide:
• 20% (26 units) of affordable housing and £640,000 financial contributions – based on some of the affordable housing being shared ownership; or
• 22% (28 units) of affordable housing and £300,000 financial contributions – based on some of the affordable housing being shared ownership.
“The preference being the first option (i.e. 20% affordable housing and a £640,000 financial contribution).”
Basically, with this grudging concession, Gloriana are trying to get away providing as little in the way of genuinely affordable housing as they can get away with. Which for a housing provider wholly owned by the council is as far as we’re concerned, a massive abrogation of their duty. Gloriana Thurrock Ltd. was set up towards the end of 2013 by the then Labour administration on Thurrock Council with the aim of building homes on land that commercial developers ‘wouldn’t touch’: Is Thurrock a model council house-builder? – https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jun/23/thurrock-model-council-housebuilder Given what’s going on, the answer to the question posed in the title of the Guardian piece has to be a resounding no!
Let’s take a step back for a minute and look at the area where this proposed development is going to be sited. We’re talking about Tilbury, probably the most solidly working class town in the region. One where those people who are working are mainly on low incomes. Although there are some massive new warehouse developments going up to the west of Tilbury, it’s likely that a lot of the jobs there will be low income with a fair number quite possibly being on zero hours contracts. Given all of this, any rational person would have thought that a priority would be the provision of homes with genuinely affordable rents that locals on low incomes can pay without having to skimp on food, heating, clothing and other essentials. It would appear that these are not Gloriana’s priorities…
So, what’s going on here? The only conclusion we can come to is that this development is aimed at commuters. It’s aimed at people who are probably on fairly reasonable incomes but cannot afford to live in London because house prices and rents are obscenely high – this is a direct consequence of the project of making the capital a welcome home for the global super rich. One of the consequences of this is a ripple effect which is being felt way beyond London as commuters struggle to find somewhere they can afford to live. Hence, we have Gloriana pitching a new development on the fringes of Tilbury at this demographic where they can see themselves making a hefty wedge of dosh while ignoring the locals on low incomes who are desperate for any kind of secure roof over their head.
The logic of the market has deemed that Tilbury is now ripe for gentrification which is just the polite term for social cleansing. This is what happens when housing is seen as a financial asset class instead of what it should be in an ideal world – a basic human right. Do we roll over and accept this situation or do we start to challenge this perverted view of what housing is and fight back against the system that perpetuates it?