New Labour’s regeneration in preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games, and how local schemes are set to affect current residents, has interested me since director Anthony Wonke first broached the subject in his BBC documentary ‘The Tower’: an observational piece on a council estate in south east London. While volunteering at a shelter in Deptford, I took the opportunity to gauge an unmediated local response to the gentrification of the area.

Jack Mills, 87, who lives in an estate next to the Pepys tower block that was sold on to Berkeley Homes featured in the programme, was one of the shelter’s guests during my time there. He talked to me of how he believes that “all the government want to do is a big clean, moving all the poor people that have lived here for ages to house the “new regeneration” rich people looking for a view of the river”. Jack identifies why he believes Deptford is being targeted for urban renewal: for commuters from the business district Canary Wharf looking for a quick journey in, a nice view of the Thames and easy access to affluent Greenwich. Deptford was named an ‘Opportunity Area’ in the London Plan with the potential for 1,000 homes, a scheme however that would seem to be exclusively benefiting new residents, with 250 of these from the same renovated tower block with a starting price of £300,000. Jack moved to the area after returning from serving in the Second World War, and is all too aware of its considerable poverty problems. It is only now he feels his residence there is under threat: “well, we don’t look that good for business do we? Eventually they will move us out to make those staying in Deptford feel more comfortable about being in such a dangerous neighbourhood”. Jack believes he will be just one of many casualties of the government’s regeneration, though a spokesperson from Lewisham Council has said in response that there are “5,000 equal opportunity jobs created from the plan in the Deptford area”: plans which are not “temporary solutions in the 2012 preparation”.

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