This Property is ConDemned

By Owen Hatherley, 30 April 2013
Image: Highgate New Town, Peter Tabori, Camden Architect's Department, (1972-78)

What are the ConDems up to with their grim vision of class cleansed, jerrybuilt cities? Owen Hatherley pieces together recent urban austerity measures to reveal a policy of deliberate chaos


There have been a few striking moments where the sheer scale of the housing crisis and the coming exodus from London suddenly became obvious. One was when the London Borough of Camden announced earlier this year that it was planning to rehouse 761 families who would no longer be able to afford to pay the local rents after the various benefit caps, taxes and cuts, somewhere outside of London.1 What made it particularly shocking was not so much that this was a London Labour council acting in this fashion. Indeed, Newham Council's strikingly cynical proposals for 'decanting' its tenants to Stoke-on-Trent had already grabbed a few headlines. But Newham is Newham and Camden is Camden. While Newham has never had a great reputation as either a borough or a provider of council housing, Camden, as Ken Livingstone pointed out in his recent autobiography, has long been a minor London showcase for the possibilities of municipal socialism, with 'the best run social services, libraries and council housing in London'.2 Even after its shift to New Labour policies, Camden, unlike Hackney, Southwark or Tower Hamlets, did not offload its more potentially lucrative stock to developers or Housing Associations, and still maintains a large social infrastructure.3 It can still residually resemble the nearest thing London has to a not entirely dysfunctionally-run local government. If Camden, too, is reduced to throwing up its hands and expelling its less wealthy inhabitants, then we are in a crisis that sweeps across political and municipal boundaries, that is seemingly beyond the abilities of even relatively conscientious local government to do anything about; an unprecedented onslaught on the remnants of council housing and Britain's relatively socially mixed cities that leaves councils unprepared, even in the event that they are willing to defend their tenants and residents. Estimates of the number likely to be made homeless begin at 100,000 and go upward.


The litany of policies that are exacerbating this crisis are by now familiar. The 'bedroom tax', where those with 'too large' flats are deliberately coerced into moving by punitive housing benefit cuts; the ending of lifelong tenure in council flats; the various caps on benefits, targeting especially those who have been breeding at a rate that evidently unnerves the coalition government; the collapse of even the tiny trickle of Housing Association 'social' housing that was being built under New Labour; the final criminalisation of squatting; the continuing rises in rents and house prices, thus far freakishly unaffected in the South-East by a double-dip recession; the redefinition of 'affordable housing' as a preposterous 80% of market rent; the abolition of the obligation upon councils to quickly house the homeless in local areas; new incentives for tenants to exercise their 'right to buy' in order to take out even more council housing stock – all of them quickly announced and quickly passed, in the coalition's now familiar blizzard-like approach. They are then accompanied by even more psychotic proposals from strategic outliers like the thinktank Policy Exchange, who can frequently be found in the mass media advocating demolishing all tower blocks or selling off all council housing in 'rich areas' so 'affordable' housing can be built somewhere cheaper.


However, this destructive programme was not heaped upon a 'healthy' housing stock, but one which is already deeply dysfunctional. The imperative to offload, sell or raze council estates (whether 'eyesores' or 'icons', either can be spun the right way), the baleful 'Housing Market Renewal' programme in the North, the legacy of Right to Buy and the effective prohibition on new council housing over decades, the favouring of landlords and the nonexistence of rent control, the use of housing speculation to propel an entire economy – all these already existed under New Labour. The new situation is seemingly designed to create what New Labour's urban policies appeared to aim at all along – a 'Parisian' form of city where a wealthy urban core is surrounded by a proletarian banlieue, a situation that exists in only a handful of British cities, such as Oxford or Edinburgh. Accordingly, it is hardly well placed to try and hold back this torrent. How did the situation become this severe? Are there any possible ways out of it? What are the possible means of struggle, and how could a different housing policy be advocated?



The Exodus and the Influx


The reason for referring to Camden Council at the start of this article is that Camden, when formed as a borough in the mid-1960s, embarked on the most impressive of London's various municipal housing programmes. Under the direction of architect Sydney Cook, its housing department favoured individually designed, low rise neo-modernist estates, that were frequently very expensively built. Many of them – Alexandra Road, Dunboyne Road, Branch Hill, Highgate New Town, Mansfield Road, Maiden Lane – have become architecturally famous, while unassumingly carrying on as well used and (usually) well maintained council housing stock.4 Camden was able to do this not because it was unusually noble or well intentioned, but because it could afford it. Given that the borough contained some of the wealthiest areas of North London alongside various ex-industrial areas, it could raise enough in tax to fund much more ambitious and careful schemes than its neighbours. Newham, an amalgamated borough formed at the same time, had no such luck; its most famous effort in late ’60s housing was Ronan Point, a jerrybuilt prefab tower, part of a package deal with Taylor Woodrow, that notoriously collapsed in May 1968.


Image: Bedroom tax protest, Liverpool, March 2013


Not wholly coincidentally, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when most of these schemes were being built, Camden was one of the first London areas to really experience 'gentrification' as we now know it: the middle classes moving into working class areas, not in Burdett-Coutts fashion in order to bring light to darkest London, but in order to snap up down-at-heel early 19th century housing in a location convenient for central London and enhanced by various picturesque, bygone-age-evoking local amenities, like the junk market and the canal.5 These media professionals and proto-hipsters, the 'knockers-through' as one of their number, Alan Bennett, dubbed them, were the first of a now very familiar sub-class, bringing chic restaurants, antiques shops and rent rises in their wake. That this did not create a situation of total working class exodus is largely to do with the massive housing programme that was unfolding at the same time. Not only that, but when the council shifted at the end of the '70s away from large-scale modernist undertakings, it started buying up and letting to council tenants exactly the early Victorian housing stock that had become so desirable to the knockers-through. The fact that Camden did not wholly become Chelsea, a haute bourgeois ghetto, is surely due to this legacy. Without having quite the same spectacular architectural success, a lot of other areas in larger British cities can tell similar stories.


The difference between gentrification '70s-style and the present day is, of course, that no such attempt at alleviation (even if it was here fairly inadvertent) exists. In fact, these processes are encouraged by Labour councils, and have been since the mid-1990s. This can't be put down entirely to mere venality, but the confused groping around for a purpose which overtook local governments in the aftermath of rate-capping, the GLC and metropolitan county council abolitions, e.g. the crushing of Liverpool and Sheffield. Despite the scattered examples of Camden, Notting Hill or Islington, or the 'Merchant City' in Glasgow, few urban local governments in 1992 could have seriously considered their main problem to be an influx of the wealthy into working class or low-rent districts. After 1997 especially, an apparatus of quangos and propaganda was gradually pieced together by local authorities and central government, heralded as early as 1992 by Richard Rogers and then Labour culture secretary Mark Fisher's A New London. The components of this, now quite familiar, entailed an uncritical embrace of the 'continental' city, for various reasons. Barcelona, Bilbao, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Berlin, Paris, were all cited extensively in the mid ’90s, usually for the same reasons. A winning combination of social democratic local authorities holding both power and the trust of business; concerted, planned (as opposed to 'enterprise zone'-driven) building on former industrial sites; a culture of apartments, rather than single-family houses; a situation where the middle classes often live in the centre of cities; investment in public space, parks and riverside promenades; and a willingness to employ young and untried architects to design finely, expensively wrought architecture.


In several respects, what they saw in Barcelona was a sort of super-Camden, with the crucial difference that council housing and the mix of classes (and, for that matter, races) was largely absent in their European examples; as Fisher and Rogers noted with regret in 1992, the Barcelona Olympic Village never became the 'mixed class' development that local government intended.6 Neither, obviously, would the Olympic Village in London 20 later. By that point, the process had taken on a momentum of its own. No longer was it sufficient to house the new urban middle classes, the 'urban safarians' as one tactless developer called them, in post-industrial conversions or high-density newbuild.7Home Sweet Home, Enrica Colusso's film on the Heygate estate includes a leader of Southwark Council declaring that in the early ’90s, the borough woke up and realised that rather than being a poor area, it was in fact a central London borough, a potentially rich area. It's a short step from that to Policy Exchange's proposals that council tenants and housing benefit claimants be moved out of rich areas. What were they doing there in the first place?



The Clearances


The earliest demolitions of council estates and their replacement with the requisite 'urban renaissance' newbuild were relatively uncontroversial, entailing some degree of genuine 'consultation' and direct rehousing of those who were to be cleared; the demolition of the ’70s estates in Hulme, Manchester, even gave rise to a mildly radical housing co-operative on part of its former fabric, in amongst the usual developers' 'townhouses'. Again, however, the process rapidly shed its social democratic covering, and became increasingly ruthless. In Keeling House or Balfron Tower in London or Park Hill in Sheffield, clearance was justified by architectural fame (all three are listed buildings, and hence need expensive levels of care) and a convoluted socio-historical argument whereby the clearance of 'communities' in the first instance when these places were built justified the clearance of the 'communities' that lived there by the 2000s. Other estates were demolished not as icons awaiting a better class of clientèle, but as a way of 'saving' residents from the unbearable burden of secure, low-rent housing in large city centre apartments: the Three Towers and the Cardroom estate in Manchester, the Ferrier and Holly Street estates in London, and currently, large estates in the Elephant and Castle, Earls Court and Stratford, to name but a few. Alongside them, came the much larger-scale Pathfinder programme in the North of England, where areas of 'low market demand' and sluggish levels of property speculation were given a fillip by massive demolition programmes of publicly owned housing, with tenants and owner-occupiers alike being offered new houses far from the city centre, in order to create a 'better social mix' in the inner city. These struggles are mostly well documented, including in the pages of Mute – the purpose of mentioning them in the context of the coalition's housing policy is to make clear just how much they are building on New Labour's foundations. What Boris Johnson calls 'Kosovo-style cleansing' was, it must be admitted, hardly the sole product of his party.


What the coalition have done is abandon the 'positive' aspect of New Labour's housing policy, the optimistic elements, the 'vision thing'. The jolly rhetoric of high-density-city-living-is-good-for-you has disappeared, replaced with the grim hectoring of austerity. The notion that cities would need the 'good design' considered so important by the Barcelonists was an early casualty. The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) had its public funding withdrawn, as more recently has Design for London; Michael Gove has taken a particularly hard line on the suspicious notion of 'architecture', preferring supermarket-like prefab kits or adaptive re-use for his meagre 'free schools'. The Regional Development Agencies, hardly particularly admirable organisations, taking on the functions previously performed by the Metropolitan County Councils without any aspect of democratic accountability, were abolished across the North and Midlands, and with them the quasi-state funding of the new city skylines. The focus on the inner city (especially the northern inner city) was itself threatened by the reforms of the National Planning Policy Framework, which attempts, with an unusually incremental approach due to the influential lobbying of those in the shires, to encourage new development in that small part of South East England where the increasingly desperate house building industry can still collect a decent profit on their speculation – something that is no longer true of, say, condos in Leeds. The government's early rhetoric around mythical 'garden grabbing' was aimed at attempting to break with the notion of dense, tall housing in inner cities. It gives some indication of the curiously retro nature of coalition urban policies. They've even resurrected the 'enterprise zone' – a policy which was initially aimed at taking post-industrial spaces ripe for development in inner cities out of the hands of 'loony left' local authorities. Now that the local authorities are cowed and quiescent, it appears as a kind of zombie Ridleyism – if it worked in 1986, maybe it'll work now.


Image: Houses boarded up due to Pathfinder, Smithdown Road, Liverpool


The attempt at establishing a new (anti-)urbanist hegemony by the coalition, or rather by the Conservative Party and its thinktanks, has been an interminable rehash of various ideas which were initially proposed in the midst of the battles against, inter alia, modernism and municipal planning in the late 1970s, with Keith Joseph's 'reading list' of Jane Jacobs, Friedrich Hayek and Martin Weiner hardly updated to the 'new' circumstances.8 This can be seen especially strongly in the case of 'Cameron's favourite thinktank', Policy Exchange, who have performed the classic role of the ideological outrider, proposing more extreme versions of official policy which serves to make that official policy look restrained and compromised by comparison. Policy Exchange, under its then director and current planning minister Nick Boles, first came to prominence in 2009 by advocating that the inhabitants of Liverpool and Sunderland decamp to London rather than attempt to regenerate their doomed local economies.9 Boles himself achieved some early notoriety in the coalition's first year by advocating 'chaos' in local government, as an alternative to 'believing that clever people sitting in a room can plan how communities should develop'.10 This was a peculiar target. In 1975, it would not have been strange for an average voter to imagine that the town hall was breathing down their neck, setting them rules and regulations, planning new towns and new estates at a rapid rate. Although town planners have hardly regained their reputation, it's unlikely that they are considered by many to have anything like the same power today. After Boles' departure, Policy Exchange threw out proposal after proposal, all of them on the face of it inflammatory, all of them versions of what was already official policy. The 'Ending Expensive Social Tendencies' report argues that social housing in rich areas should be directly sold off, to pay for a new generation of banlieues on the outskirts, hence, apparently, solving the problem of the undersupply of housing.11 That this relied upon pushing people out of areas, like much of inner London, Manchester, Leith and elsewhere that were 'cheap' areas until recently, was clear enough; that it was essentially the more militant version of the housing politics inherent in the Bedroom Tax and housing benefit caps was also obvious. Another of their proposals entailed proposals to destroy all tower blocks, whether those of the ’50s-’70s or – in a rare concession to the 21st century – those built on brownfield sites under New Labour.12 This, and its accompanying astroturf campaign 'Create Streets' were based on Jane Jacobsesque ideas that only blocks of street-facing housing were viable means of city living, and that tower blocks inevitably created alienation, loneliness, danger, urban blight and so forth. The creeping suspicion that Policy Exchange were also going to blame them for the mods and rockers was never far away.


This is the 'hard' side of the coalition's urban policies; the 'soft' wing of it has been more associated with the recently disgraced Grant Shapps, housing minister for a time and, tellingly, MP for Welwyn Garden City. Shapps' has been a public advocate of the Edwardian Fabian utopianism of the Garden City, as an example of 'bottom-up' urbanism, where a group of the sort of people usually dismissed by Tories as kooky planners or do-gooders got together, bought some land and built themselves a city.13 This, aside from flattery towards his constituency, was used to flag up the possibility of 'new' Garden Cities, which turned out to resemble rather closely the 'eco-towns' planned under Gordon Brown, most of them in the south eastern areas that developers are itching to get their hands on. In aesthetics, likewise, Shapps as housing minister flagged up a change from the trespa and aluminium of New Labour to 'local materials', a shift which has hardly been registered, given the near total collapse of building outside of London. In both the hardcore neoliberal and wet versions, there is something almost comfortingly unoriginal and overfamiliar about the new Tory ideas on housing, the city and planning. There’s something encouraging about seeing neoliberals reduced to regurgitating bromides from the mid-1970s, taking aim at enemies that have long since ceased to have any power or significance, the planners, architects, local authorities.


Except that would be to overlook the emotive current underlying all of these proposals and policies. If the ideas are so shallow and so devoid of likely public appeal, how can the Tories set up some kind of hegemony for their housing policies? The answer is to drum up support by demonising the poor, and using the public horror thus established as the impetus to clear them out of the inner cities. Here, the strategic ruthlessness of their 'negative' programme contrasts strikingly with the fumbling libertarianism of their 'positive' proposals. The bedroom tax, the end of lifelong council tenure and the housing benefit caps are all designed to mobilise a certain kind of petit bourgeois outrage: the 'I don't see why I should pay for' politics. Each of them evokes ogres, which are willingly provided by the tabloid press. The homeless family billeted by the council in a grand Kensington house. The huge rate of housing benefit for the tenant with a flat in inner London. The person receiving benefit for a flat full of empty rooms. And, most recently, the murderer who was 'created' by 'welfare Britain'. Each of these essentially mythical creatures is a weapon against any kind of solidarity within the working and lower-middle class under attack – victims are impelled to disassociate themselves from the caricature rather than dispel it. But although there is no positive vision, no marketable image of the joys of (middle class) inner city living in the coalition's rhetoric, they are even more able to create a rent control-free version of the 'European' model of poor-in-outskirts-rich-in-centre cities, this time through a simple project of monstering and expulsion. They may be able to finally realise New Labour's dream by claiming to want to reverse it. This makes Labour councils a hugely unlikely vehicle of opposition.



Why Do They Hate Us?


But this all begs a question: why? What is the purpose behind all of this? Why do Conservative (and, we must assume, Liberal Democrat) ministers want to create an exodus from the inner city, and what do they want to put in its place? Again, with New Labour, there was always a reasonably simple answer to the question, no matter how surreal the execution would gradually become. The notion was to in some way rejuvenate, or put back into profitable service the parts of the country where the Labour Party still had its base – inner (especially East and South) London and inner cities more generally, the North, Wales, and Scotland. These all had faced drastic de-industrialisation and had large derelict areas very near the city centre – many of which survive even now, from the Millennium Mills and Battersea Power Station sites in London to Stanley Dock in Liverpool and 'New Islington' in Manchester. This appeared to make sense electorally, at least at first, by providing tangible evidence of positive 'change'; and it made a degree of sense economically, by creating (usually service industry and public sector) jobs. It also created a lucrative revolving door for ex-Labour politicians. That these were becoming an increasingly dubious rationale became clear when the property and construction bubble burst (again, especially in the Midlands and the North). Labour's response to this was Kickstart, a stimulus programme aimed at the construction industry. CABE's negative assessment of the volume housebuilders' publicly funded endeavours here can hardly have endeared it to the government; but then already the 'good design' aspect of the Barcelonist programme was surplus to requirements.


This became all the more strange when peculiar election results started appearing. In the 2010 general election Labour lost Battersea, a seat which was once so leftwing that it elected a Communist, not a Labour MP. This can hardly have been unconnected to the influx of middle class incomers, both into the existing building stock as it became more lucrative and especially into the new linear city of riverside luxury flats. Labour local authorities' increasing fixation with 'decanting' their council housing, in combination with their unwillingness to do anything about the rising rents and house prices that first gradually then sharply expelled their core vote has created the utterly bizarre situation of a party that, as Andrew Coley, a housing campaigner in Leeds, puts it, 'gerrymanders against itself'.


This process can hardly have been missed by the Conservatives. It is oft-forgotten, for instance, that the expulsion of council tenants from Westminster under Shirley Porter, though she may be on the lam because of it, had precisely the desired effect: the council is now a safe one for the Conservatives. So, while junking the it's-for-your-own-good aspect, they have retained the fundamental policy, albeit limiting it a little more to the South East, though the bedroom tax is likely to have profound effects in the North. This is largely because, as New Labour knew, the speculative property market was one of the few genuinely dynamic aspects of the British economy, and one which, as we've seen, could be kept inflated even after a double, soon to be triple dip recession. It creates a culture fixated with the housing market, with owning, buying and selling this large and unwieldy commodity – as the entire channel of home makeover shows, UK Home, attests – it kept, and keeps, money sloshing around the increasingly elaborate and remarkably unrepentant financial institutions; it keeps the construction industry, and associated public sector-oriented contractors happy and keeps their profit margins high. The significance of adding planning reform to this, as has occurred under Eric Pickles, is to make sure that those entities can take on the most obviously lucrative, least risky parts of the country – inner-urban sites in the capital, and greenfield sites in the South East. Hence Boles' public advocacy of a massive housebuilding programme in rural areas: 'all all we need to do is build on 3% of land and we've solved a housing problem', apparently.14 This is what Pickles' stimulus programme aimed at 'getting people to build again' means.15 Its logic both as neoliberal economic rationale and as an act of class power is fairly unquestionable.


It's also clever politics, in its awareness of the inability of its opponents to intervene. Newham Council's Mayor, Sir Robin Wales, may have put the blame onto the coalition for the need to shift tenants to the potteries, but this is hard to sustain as a serious proposition in the face of Newham's attempt to clear the Carpenters Estate for the purposes of University College, or its sponsorship of a dozen buy-to-let towers, or its playing host to the almost entirely publicly-funded and Qatari Diar-owned Olympic Village. If in Southwark the Heygate and soon the Aylesbury are to be cleared, with the residents having little chance of being able to afford even the notoriously ever decreasing 'affordable' percentage of the new developments, how can its Labour council lament the injustice of the bedroom tax? How can Liverpool's Labour Mayor, Joe Anderson, speak on behalf of those about to lose their homes when he is still forcing through massive demolitions of viable working class housing via an extension of the (abolished but undead) Pathfinder schemes? The basic position of urban local authorities, which now, especially after the Liberals' drubbing in local elections, are overwhelmingly Labour, is to desperately hope that the upturn will come soon enough, and the mirage of 2007 will again be tangible.




The results of this are already easy to see. London now boasts 'super-sheds' in back gardens and back alleys, some of them secretive, some of them seeing landlords trying to get round the legal requirement to offer housing that has windows. Housing Associations are trying to withdraw from the need to build any new housing at all. A huge exodus is expected from London zones 1-4. Rates of homelessness will undoubtedly rise sharply. Let's say that local authorities want to help. What can they do?


Image: Ripe for public purchase? Empire Square, Bermondsey, London


Some councils have actually been proposing and in some cases building new council housing over the last few years, after the brief window between Brown and Pickles, when local government was allowed to borrow again to build. In some cases, such as Birmingham, rather remarkably under a Tory-Liberal coalition, this resulted in a few very small, low-rise infill estates being built. In London it has largely been a matter of replacing units that have been sold off or demolished, as in Anne Mews in Barking or, in the near future, at the Colville Estate in Shoreditch. This merely moves around the problem, but it does imply a willingness to actually build council housing, something which is clearly essential given the (at least) 5 million people on the waiting list. It is to be preferred by far to the GLA's quotas for 'affordable' housing, which, as the London Tenants' Federation's report points out, were never truly able to make even a dent in the housing crisis even before the rate of 'affordable' rent was hiked up to 80%.16 It is also to be preferred to the libertarian proposals coming from a strange intersection between the co-operative movement and the disappearing wet, 'big society' side of the coalition, ranging from the potentially sensible (community land trusts, for instance, a viable if small scale alternative to ubiquitous rent seeking and speculation) to the criminally whimsical (the asinine cult of self-build, especially offensive in the context of the criminalisation of squatting). Given, however, that 'localism' under Pickles entails a relentless squeeze on local authority budgets, it seems unlikely that even a resurrection of the Camden Council of the 1970s would be able to build enough to offset the amount expelled, cajoled and driven out.


However, there's no reason why an acknowledgement of this fact should lead the sulkily anachronistic response occasionally seen on the left, where council housing is dismissed as a class collaboration ploy. More common is the performative contradiction of a simultaneous defence and critique of the remnants of the 'planner state'. In any case, surely the first important move is to fight and block the sell-offs, clearances and demolitions. It is possible, if hardly a certainty, that some of the worst of these policies, specifically the Bedroom Tax, will be repealed when (surely not if) the coalition lose the next election. At some point, however, local authorities will have to build, or at the very least take over housing, in order to even begin to alleviate the damage that has been done. One of the most interesting, if hugely counter-intuitive proposals comes from policy blogger Alex Harrowell, who advocates that the Labour controlled umbrella group London Councils, using the Mayor's £2 billion housing budget, buy up the buy-to-let flats that litter the capital, whether in ex-council flats, Victorian terraces or purpose-built Blair-era newbuild.17 As a demand, ‘nationalise the yuppiedromes!’, it has a certain redistributive charm, and unusually for proposals on the left, it has a degree of financial plausibility that could potentially convince even the most conformist of Labour councils – especially given that it has a middle class-placating element, compensating the investors in a massively unstable market rather than just letting them fall into negative equity. There is a degree of satisfying historical justice in the notion of flats that were designed to transform the demographic of cities in the middle class' favour becoming council flats. The only problem is, with housing as cheap, jerrybuilt, poky and mean as this, who would actually live in it out of choice?


Owen Hatherley <owenhatherley AT> is the author of Militant Modernism (Zero, 2009), A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain (Verso, 2010) and A New Kind of Bleak: Journeys Through Urban Britain, (Verso, 2013)



1 Randeep Ramesh, 'Camden council plans to move 761 poor families from London', The Guardian, 13 February 2012. Suggestions for rehousing on the part of the many London councils planning outward movements of their tenants include, as well as South Essex and North Kent, towns like Stoke and Merthyr Tydfil – i.e., areas with the highest rates of unemployment in the UK.

2 Ken Livingstone, You Can't Say That, Faber, 2011, p139.

3 Not for want of trying, however – tenants voted against attempts to make them give up their council status.

4 There is as yet no book on the subject, but there was an exhibition at London's Building Centre, 'Cook's Camden': see Michal Boncza, 'Cook's Camden: London's Great Experiment in Social Housing', Morning Star, 3rd December 2010; note also the film Rowley Way Speaks for Itself, on the most famous of the Camden estates.

5 See the frequent notes on the 'knockers-through' in Alan Bennett, Writing Home, Faber, 1994; and see also the recurrent references to Camden in Raphael Samuel's Theatres of Memory, Verso, 2012.

6 Mark Fisher and Richard Rogers' A New London (Penguin, 1992) prophetically notes, in amongst the praise, 'the almost total elimination of social housing at affordable rents in the new Olympic Village apartments' (p67). If it was obvious that early on...

7 The guilty party is the developers Igloo, speaking of their Bermondsey Square development. Dan Stewart, 'Operation Hip', Building, 29 May 2009.

8 The Lib Dems have offered little in the way of either independent policy or criticism here, somewhat suicidally given their former electoral bases in Sheffield, Newcastle and Liverpool.

9 Policy Exchange, Cities Unlimited, 2009, Interestingly, Oxford and Cambridge are stressed as much as London as the place for the North's overspill, anticipating the coalition's stress on building in lucrative south eastern greenfield sites.

10 'Planning Minister: “Planning Can't Work”', report on Ipsos MORI seminar given by Nick Boles, 7 December 2010.

11 Policy Exchange, 'Ending Expensive Social Tenancies', 2012,

12 Policy Exchange, 'Create Streets', 2013,

13 Grant Shapps, 'Garden Cities: reshaping the ideas of the past for the 21st century', The Guardian, 19 September 2011,

14 Christopher Hope, '1,500 square miles of English countryside needs to be built on, says planning minister Nick Boles', Telegraph, 27t November 2012. Of course, this runs up against deeply Conservative interests in these usually Tory voting areas, a dilemma which the coalition appear unable to solve without attacking their own base – something which, unlike Labour, they have so far proved reluctant to do.

15 It also means allowing developers to abandon the 'costly' quotas of 'affordable' housing that they were required to provide under New Labour. See,

16 London Tenants Federation, 'The Affordable Housing Con', at

17 Alex Harrowell, 'The Simple Plan', at