Grenfall Tower Tragedy

The tragic events of last Wednesday morning at Grenfall Tower couldn’t fail to move you, and my thoughts and best wishes are with both the victims, and the families of those who were hurt or killed in this national tragedy. Our thanks should also be given to those emergency services and volunteers who witnessed first hand this terrible story unfold, I hope they get all the aftercare and support they need.

As a local councillor, I and the rest of my colleagues in Lewisham Labour Group, are clear that we want to ensure the safety of our residents, either directly in Lewisham Homes or in partner Registered Social Landlords. Sir Steve Bullock – Mayor of Lewisham has been quick to task the relevant Executive Officers to move forward to ensure that we’re doing everything possible to mitigate risks. A letter detailing this actions is laid out below.


I and other councillors will be meeting with key Lewisham Council staff tonight to discuss further our response and to review any learning, as well as consider our political response — the UK needs to ensure that it upholds the highest standards of health and safety and in particular fire safety; there are going to be some serious questions from the public enquiry.

Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn wrote to the Prime Minister Theresa May last week setting out his and the Parliamentary Labour Party initial questions about the Public Enquiry, support for families, and outlining the Labour Party’s gratitude to those Emergency Services who dealt with the aftermath.

How Lewisham is helping

Lewisham Council also hasn’t been inwards looking during this horrific incident, we sent a number of officers to Kensington and Chelsea to help their staff in running rest centres and supporting residents made homeless by the fire, and stand ready to offer further support along with our fellow boroughs across London. 

How you can help

Lewisham Council are also encouraging those residents who want to help to donate to the Grenfell Tower Appeal set up by the Kensington and Chelsea Foundation.

https://thekandcfoundation.com/donate/
https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/kandcfoundation/grenfell-tower

Living Standards and Wages crash under Tory Government

Osbourne says that the Torys saved the economy, but the average person is £1,500 worse off now than in 2010

Osbourne says that the Torys saved the economy, but the average person is £1,500 worse off now than in 2010

under the first 37 of 38 months under Camerson real Wages have fallen

under the first 37 of 38 months under Camerson real Wages have fallen

Since 2010, the rise in wages has been outstripped by the rise in rent

Since 2010, the rise in wages has been outstripped by the rise in rent

The rise in the cost of Heating our homes has been significantly higher than wages

The rise in the cost of Heating our homes has been significantly higher than wages

Barratt Homes confirmed as Catford Dog Track Developer with 1/5th affordable housing

The former Catford Stadium is to be turned into more than 500 homes, the Mayor of London has announced.

The original planning application approval proved to be ugly controversial because of the design and density of the build – splitting the vote of the council.

The historic greyhound track in south London closed in 2003 after years of falling attendances.

Boris Johnson said the £117m redevelopment, by Barratt Homes, would create more than 1,000 jobs, on the assumption of two jobs for each home.

He said 113 of the 589 properties would be for “affordable rent”, and 60 would be earmarked for shared ownership.

Mr Johnson said there was “unprecedented demand” for housing
The 4.7 hectare site was owned by leisure group Wembley when it was a greyhound track, before being acquired by English Partnerships in 2004. It was destroyed by fire the following year.

The land was transferred to the Greater London Authority last year under the Localism Act.

Mr Johnson said London’s “unbeatable allure” meant “unprecedented demand for housing”.

He added: “The transformation of Catford Dogs, which for the last decade has been left empty and unused, will not only bring hundreds of new homes to the heart of London, but will feed into the wider regeneration of Catford Town Centre.”

The mayor said the redevelopment would make the area “an even better place to live” and inject new jobs and growth “into one of the capital’s key opportunity areas”.

Catford Stadium was founded in 1932 and attracted large crowds until the legalisation of betting shops in 1961, which hit attendances at tracks throughout the country.

Work on the development is expected to start by early 2014 and be completed by 2017.

Cities Are the Future of Human Evolution

From io9

Humans began to live in urban settlements about 7 thousand years ago. As humans continued to evolve over the millennia, so too did our cities. Now, our cities are about to change again — and they’re going to look more like ancient Machu Picchu than the gleaming towers of glass and steel we have today.

Illlustration by Olga Idealist on Deviant Art

As any urban dweller can tell you, the one thing that’s constant in city life is change. Buildings rise up and are torn down; parks bloom out of old train tracks; swimming pools become ice rinks that become arcades and then turn into Whole Foods. For this reason, urban historian Spiro Kostof calls the city a “process.” Cities change with the peoples that live in them, but they are also a repository of history. Even as we relentlessly build new structures, we prefer to remain in these old places where we can live in what’s left of cities and cultures that are hundreds or even thousands of years gone.

Early Cities

Some of the earliest cities, in regions that are now called Turkey, Syria and Peru, were probably built at roughly the same time that humans were developing agriculture. As anthropologist Elizabeth Stone has found, many of the earliest city jobs probably involved farming. In the Mesopotamian cities she studies, people worked in orchards and farms just outside the city walls. These farmers built their homes from mud and brick, and as buildings crumbled into dust, they built new ones on top of the old.

As a result, many of these early cities eroded into mounds of earth over time. But even in their heyday, they would have probably looked a bit like clay boxes atop an earthen mound, surrounded by the plants, trees, and dairy animals that their inhabitants cultivated.

Like the people of the Middle East, the groups who later became the Inca in South America also built cities as an extension of their farms. Living as they did in a mountainous, coastal region, the Inca’s forebears and the Inca themselves had to create agricultural technologies on nearly vertical landscapes. They learned which crops could thrive in valleys, and which would survive in terraced farms that looked like vast steps cut into the slopes of their mountain cities. And they experimented with elaborate irrigation systems that relied on gravity to bring water to their farms.

Is the City Evolving Too Fast?

Over time, many early farm cities grew into political city-states, were swallowed by nations, and eventually became powerhouses for the nineteenth century industrial revolution. Of course many early cities simply died out, and new cities were built that suited emerging forms of human social organization. For most of human history, however, the city was an aberration: the majority of people lived in villages and other small communities.

All that changed in the twenty-first century. In 1800, according to estimates made by the UN, only 3 percent of the world’s population lived in cities. Today, more than half the world’s population lives in urban areas, and by 2050 the UN estimates that will be more like 67 percent. In developed countries, that percentage will be higher.

Homo sapiens is evolving into an urban species. Already, our genomes have been transformed by one development associated with city growth: agriculture. The genes that allow adults to process the lactose in milk from farm animals have spread like wildfire through the population in under 10,000 years — probably because of the tremendous survival advantage in being able to eat the products of animal husbandry.

Still, city life sometimes feels much too crazy and complex for simple hominins like ourselves. Have our own urban creations evolved more quickly than we have? The answer is no. As evolutionary biologist Marlene Zuk has argued:

Neither we nor any other species have ever been a seamless match with the environment. Instead, our adaptation is more like a broken zipper, with some teeth that align and others that gape apart.
Just because our urban environments don’t always feel perfectly comfortable doesn’t mean they aren’t also part of our our ongoing process of adaptation. As I said earlier, the city reflects both human history and our present state. It’s a process, always transforming, but always reflecting who humans are — and who we are becoming.

The Cities of Tomorrow

Now that the majority of humans live in cities, we’re going to be confronting a new set of problems in urban life. For one thing, natural disasters in cities can cause much greater numbers of fatalities than in sparse, rural communities. So the cities of tomorrow will need to be robust against many kinds of disaster, from earthquakes and floods, to radiation bombardment. It’s possible that many cities will built partly under ground, and partly under water. They might even be built inside a single building surrounded by farms. Not only will such structures allow us to conserve space, but layers of earth and water are excellent protection against radiation.

Illustration via Brisbane Architecture Blog

How to grow a biological city of the future

Many future-minded designers and architects believe that cities of the future will survive these kinds of disasters partly by changing the materials we use to build. Instead of dead trees, we’ll use living ones, combined with genetically modified algae and other plants that could purify water and air, as well as provide energy. In a recent book, Rachel Armstrong has described what she calls “living architecture,” where cities are built with semi-living materials that can repair their own cracks and heal themselves when damaged by a quake or just regular wear and tear. She proposes rescuing Venice from drowning by engineering a living reef underneath the city. It would be made with calcium-extruding protocells that latch onto the city’s existing piles, strengthening them and attracting living creatures whose shells will eventually turn into a true ocean reef.

Infographic by Steph Fox. Click to expand.

Is this the city of the future?
A century ago, we imagined futuristic cities full of hulking, steel buildings, their towers… Read…
New York architect David Benjamin has been working on similar ideas with his students at NYU, and with a bio-architecture group called The Living. He told me that he imagines cities of the future could look something like ancient ruins. Modified vines and molds would cover the tall buildings, producing clean water and energy. Their walls would be bumpy and scarred from years of self-healing materials doing their work. But beneath that organic exterior, the city would be humming with smart technologies that allow buildings to communicate with the grid minute-by-minute, modifying how much energy they’re sipping to suit the needs of their residents.

How We’ll Live in a Future Where Cities Have Become Forests
Tomorrow’s cities may be constructed partly out of living materials that produce energy… Read…
In a century, many cities may resemble early urban settlements in another way, too. They’ll be ringed by farms. Urban farming is a movement that is just taking hold in many places, from Havana to Vancouver, but it’s not just about growing food in your backyard. It’s about replacing suburbs with small, sustainable farms that yield a diversity of crops. These farms can cut down on the costs of importing food, and help make cities as self-sustaining as possible. Driving your electric car between futuristic cities might involve taking a long, elevated road over forests.

But the road to these future cities is complicated, and could involve a strange new merger between synthetic biology, city planning, and design. Cities will evolve along with humanity, and humanity for its part will make cities more like living organisms.

Catford Dog Track to be developed by Barratt Homes?

Catford Greyhound Stadium succumbed to the bulldozers after closing nearly a decade ago but the derelict south London site will soon play host to almost 600 homes.

Barratt Developments is in pole position to lead the £50 million redevelopment, creating nearly 1200 jobs and 589 flats and houses, according to Construction News. Reports the Evening Standard

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#Budget: The increase in the personal tax allowance will mean an income boost of just 32p a week for most of the lowest earning income tax payers.

Today the Chancellor announced a further increase in the personal tax allowance. He claims helps struggling families. But who benefits most?

 

Tax relief not supportive

The rise in the personal tax allowance mainly benefits the top income deciles. as shown by this chart produced by the Resolution Foundation: http://www.resolutionfoundation.org/blog/2013/Mar/20/easing-squeeze-tax-cut-all/

This policy does not help those at the bottom much because they either don’t pay tax, or get most of any extra allowance tapered back as their Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit is cut. The regressive nature of the policy is show in this Resolution Foundation chart.

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Boris bids to make London an electricity supplier

London Mayor Boris Johnson has put in a bid to enable London’s small energy producers to sell energy back to the grid.

If successful, the move is expected to boost the capital’s small energy producers and help encourage low carbon electricity generation methods.

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