Brixton: APT Self Help
A community fighting the developers in central Brixton
(Article by APT Self Help - 12th November 2003)
APT Self Help is a central Brixton neighbourhood association established in 2002 to defend 86 flats on Rushcroft Road and Clifton Mansions on Coldharbour Lane from sale to property developers.
The estate is home to a mixed community of council tenants, council leaseholders, ex-housing association tenants and squatters. Many residents have lived on the estate for a generation.
Lambeth Council has owned the flats since about 1975 when they were bought for demolition.
Politicians and planners wanted to build a motorway and high-rise council housing. It was to have been the biggest, tallest, nastiest public housing development in the world, outside Chicago.
Fortunately the money ran out, city planning fashions changed, residents resisted, and the estate survived.
Rushcroft Rd runs behind Coldharbour Lane into Brixton Oval (by the Ritzy)
Rushcroft Road is a beautiful curved street of Victorian and Edwardian mansion blocks running from Tate Gardens opposite Lambeth Town Hall to Coldharbour Lane.
It was built to house artists and technicians from the old Brixton Music Halls.
Lambeth Council habitually abandons flats on the estate, leaving them empty for years on end.
There is a major homelessness problem in the borough so many of these abandoned flats have been squatted by people in desperate housing need.
There has been an active squatters' movement in the borough since at least the mid-1960s, a famous protagonist of which was Olive Morris, after whom Lambeth's Benefits Office was named. She died tragically young, and must spin in her grave at having a rent office named after her.
There is a long, sad history of Council mismanagement on the estate. One flat was abandoned by the Council for so long the occupant won ownership in the House of Lords under the so-called 'twelve year rule.'
Five Law Lords threw up their hands in exasperation, took a flat away from Lambeth Council and gave it to him, gratis, after more than a decade of Council mismanagement, incompetence, irresponsibility and neglect.
It's an amazing story.
The squatters have stabilised and strengthened the central Brixton community. They have prevented abandoned flats being turned into crack houses from which gangsters would torment and endanger the neighbourhood. They have renovated a large number damaged flats.
When an eviction occurs bailiffs sometimes - illegally - smash-up a flat in an effort to render it uninhabitable.
The Council usually then boards it up and leaves it to rot, while homeless families moulder on the housing waiting list, and queue outside the Lambeth Homelessness Office, situated - irony of ironies - a few yards away on Town Hall Parade.
So after a while the abandoned flat is quietly reoccupied, the damage repaired, homeless people are housed, and the community protected from the blight of abandoned homes and drug-dealing gangsters.
The 'For Sale' signs are sprouting all along Rushcroft Road
If the estate is sold it faces gentrification by property developers for onward sale, mainly to wealthy whites.
Few local non-white families are likely to be able to afford to buy 'luxury private apartments' on a gentrified Rushcroft Road. Lambeth is a deprived inner city borough and the estate is situated in one of the poorest wards.
So as well as seeking to defend the community and retain the estate in public hands, APT is determined to see the flats regenerated and transformed into a model public housing development, fully reflective of Brixton's unique ethnic, cultural and cosmopolitan mix.
Sale to property developers followed by crash-gentrification as a prelude to colonisation predominantly by wealthy whites occupying 'private luxury apartments' at the strategic core of Brixton.
A large number Brixtonians and friends of Brixton are determined this will not happen. APT invites support from everyone who shares its objectives.
» Selling Central Brixton to Yuppies
» Rushcroft Road: 'Then And Now'
» APT Self Help (external link)
» Brixton bulletin boards
MARCH 2009 UPDATE:
» Squats evicted, Ruschcroft Road, Brixton
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