Campaigners tear down part of 'mini Berlin wall' erected around London social housing estate

The Aylesbury estate has gained notoriety for being among the most run down social housing estates in the country

South London's Aylesbury estate gained notoriety for being among the most run down social housing estates in Britain
South London's Aylesbury estate gained notoriety for being among the most run down social housing estates in Britain

A part of a “mini Berlin wall” erected around a social housing estate has been torn down by campaigners amid claims that residents were being forced to “live inside a cage”.

The Aylesbury estate, a huge brutalist development built to house south Londoners in the 1960s and 1970s, gained notoriety for being among the most run down social housing estates in the country.

Five years ago Southwark Council set out plans to demolish almost 3,000 homes and rebuild 3,500 new properties to help meet growing demand for housing in the capital.

Some residents and campaigners are fighting against the demolition – claiming the regeneration amounts to “social cleansing” – and the council recently courted further controversy by spending a reported £140,000 erecting a high fence topped by razor wire around the estate . It has been dubbed a “modern Berlin Wall” by protesters.

The council claimed increased security measures were installed to protect remaining tenants, as squatters moved into the site to protect it from demolition.

But the campaign groups Fight for the Aylesbury and Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth say tenants on the estate were being trapped inside their homes with only one point of entry to the area. The site is being manned by a private security firm employed by the council.

Activists organised a rally outside the site on Thursday evening to protest against the wall, but once gathered the group took direct action and a dismantled a section of the hoarding by brute force.

A statement released by the activists said: “Several hundred people came to destroy the cages. No fence can contain us. No fence can keep us out…. We are residents who still have leases and tenancies. We are everyone who needs a place to stay. We are bound by nothing but this need.”

The political consultant and former Labour Party branch secretary Ben Maloney said on Twitter that he was “delighted” to see activists “tearing down the inhumane fencing” around the estate.

A south London resident and member of Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth, who identified himself only as Jack, said the demonstration pointed to a new wave of housing activism across the capital.

“It’s becoming more militant. There are definitely an increasing number of grassroots organisations. It’s a huge imbalance of power still, but look at where we were a year ago. [The regeneration of] the Heygate estate felt almost unchallenged. This very much feels like people realise that they can challenge it.”

Mark Williams, cabinet member for regeneration, planning and transport at Southwark Council, said the damaged fence would be repaired and re-erected. “These protesters do not speak for our residents and are attempting to block the very homes they claim to be campaigning for,” he added.

“They seem intent on causing damage, rather than holding a peaceful protest.

“The fence was put up following requests from the few remaining residents on this first development site to stop anti-social behaviour and to keep people safe who walk through this largely empty area.”

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