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FORGOTTEN ITEMS A broken toy is all that is left from the playground present on the site during the heyday of the estate.


lazy journalism and excitable media.”


Ironically, the council is now using the state of disrepair, in which they have left the building, to their advantage in ‘voluntary’ negotiations with leaseholders. By this they are breaching their obligations to keep the estate maintained.


In consequence, the estate is much more dangerous now compared to what it was when people actually lived there. As people started slowly moving out, lifts stopped working (leaving some disabled residents with no choice but to move), water and heating were switched off, passageways blocked and steel shutters placed on windows. This has transformed the estate into a hostile ghost town. Kirsty McNeill, Labour’s parliamentary spokes-


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person for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, said: “Just because the Heygate is going to be knocked down, it doesn’t mean people who live there should be treated like second class citizens. They deserve better from a local council that has turned its back on them and has had to be dragged kicking and screaming to spend even a penny to improve their lives.”


In an interview with the BBC, James Smith, 64, who lived on the estate for 22 years but moved in December 2010, said: “Out of 200 flats on our block, there were only four people left when we were still there – the rats left before the tenants did. In the later stages these stairwells were like a mugger’s paradise. It was terrible. You couldn’t go out at night, your life was under constant threat.” Jerry Flynn


adds: “People fear the estate more now that it’s empty. It certainly supports our argument that, if retained public and active, it’s a better way of keeping the place and The Elephant safe.”


Indeed, now the residents continue to argue for the estate to be open for as long as it is being redeveloped, preventing it from becoming a deserted dangerous space. Their proposal is to use it for gardening, educational purposes, temporary art studios or low cost work spaces. However, so far, except for agreeing to retain the large number of trees on the estate, the council has not been very responsive to their demands.


The Heygate served a much- needed social function: keeping low-income families in the centre of London. The


regeneration that aims to erase it will see it replaced by flashy towers such as the nearby Strata, aimed at a luxury market.


Jerry Flynn concludes: “I was always skeptical but I didn’t think it would turn out as badly as it did for Heygate residents. I still feel very angry and aggrieved because Southwark Council continues to claim that they did it all and are still doing it all for Heygate tenants, which is very dishonest of them.”


If the plight of residents continues to be ignored and the site remains vacant until the demolition planned for 2015, Heygate risks becoming an abandoned shell of a once thriving community


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