Report from Anti London Olympics/regeneration march and meeting plus comment

suburbanstudio at suburbanstudio at
Wed Sep 26 22:08:31 BST 2007

Sunday the 23rd September was a sad day in the history of gardening. It 
was the day the Manor Gardens Allotments were closed by the Olympic 
Delivery Authority.

It was also the day former allotment holders and many other people 
decided to march and demonstrate their concern over the way in which 
development and so called regeneration is soaking up much needed green 
space. Martin Slavin an Olympic researcher was on the march and comments 
“ … so called regeneration projects like the Olympics are more about the 
careers of those involved in the Olympic industry, and the profits of 
developers and construction companies than they are about improving the 
lives of ordinary people”.

The Manor Gardens Allotments, were a little piece of the countryside in 
London, and were given to the gardeners of East London by Mayor 
Villiers, an old fashioned philanthropist, he was dedicated to improving 
the life of working class Eastenders by a transfer of resources from him 
(rich) to the people of East London (poor). As well as the allotments, 
the Olympic project has swallowed up a huge chunk of land in East 
London, most of it compulsorily purchased. The acquisition of the 
Olympic Park land is virtually a mirror image of what Major Villiers did 
all those years ago.

The compulsory purchase of the Olympic Parkland has been funded by 
public money, and as such it can be argued that it should stay in public 
ownership, post Olympics, however, exactly what will happen to the land 
remains undecided, but both Ken Livingstone and Ruth Kelly have publicly 
stated that they plan to bank role the Olympic project by selling off 
land within the park to developers when the Games are over. Major 
Villiers would no doubt turn in his grave, as his beautiful allotments 
along with virtually the whole STATE AREA site is bulldozed for a 
project which will most likely result in a transfer of land from public 
to private ownership. As the Olympic project runs further and further 
into financial difficulty the pressure will be on to claw back as much 
money as possible. This will inevitably mean getting into bed with 
property developers who, along with the construction companies, will be 
the main beneficiaries of a project that has been flawed from the very 

An added tragedy to this story is that much what will form Olympic Park 
was previously available for use, on a non-income dependent basis, a 
cycle circuit, allotments, social housing, football pitches, little 
nooks and crannies, were all sorts of marginal business and artists had 
found a foothold. There was also a rave scene at Hackney Wick, with 
tired and dazed ravers leaving parties on Sunday mornings whilst the 
well dressed congregations of the many African Churches filed by. It was 
an area that had grown organically over more thaan a century and though 
it has some rough edges the area had an authenticity rarely found in 
21st century London. This has been lost to what will more than likely be 
an Olympic legacy of expensive flats within gated communities, a 
sterile, privately owned area similar to the docklands.

It would be impossible to sell the Olympics to the nation for 3 weeks of 
sport, it is simply too expensive, so those making their living out of 
this project have marketed it on the supposed benefits of a legacy which 
remains unplanned. One of the problems is that New labour has control of 
the project, it has central government backing and with New Labour also 
controlling all 4 of the boroughs in which the Olympic Park is situated, 
and with the Olympic Delivery Authority awarding planning permission to 
itself the Olympic project can be pushed through virtually unchecked.

Sunday’s march from Hackney Town Hall to the new security gates of the 
Olympic construction site was a sign of the public’s misgivings over 
this deeply flawed project. After the march there was a meeting where 
discussions were held relating to development and regeneration. One 
interesting point covered in this discussion was the way these large 
projects evolve. First plans are made, then a so-called consultation 
takes place and then the work begins. However the meeting agreed that 
the consultations were generally a public relations exercise and that 
they made little difference to the outcome of projects, which are 
usually forced through despite any public misgivings. The Olympics 
appears to be a case in point.

Mike Wells
- e-mail: mikejwells at

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