This website is about the history of Nelson Square, an area currently surrounded by constant change. A river of money is running through Bankside and North Southwark and threatens to displace the long-standing communities that have lived here.
On Blackfriars Road, adjacent to Nelson Square, stands Linden Homes project “The Residence”. It was built in 2014 on land owned by Southwark Council which then had garages on it. When the garages were being demolished, the locals discovered that at least 15 people were living in those garages, many of them workers in local restaurants. A London rent was far beyond their means. The flats that replaced the garages now fetch around £1m or more as do most of those being built in this area. Many others in this area are luxury flats priced in the millions.
Private rents follow the same pattern. A flat in Nelson Square now costs £28,000 a year to rent. Developers and landlords are raking in the money.
At the same time the supply of social housing is shrinking fast and the new Housing Act virtually guarantees its demise.
So we ask, where are people going to live in London? People staffing the essential services, older people, people with disabilities, low waged people? And the answer, given loud and clear to the Heygate estate residents decanted, many forced to leave London was… who cares?
It sounds disastrous and it is disastrous. Working people are being driven out of London. What can be done? People need to fight for social housing and against social cleansing. An impoverished Britain in 1945 pledged to house people and built hundreds of thousands of council homes, Nelson Square amongst them as the flagship scheme in Southwark. In this much richer society it is a political choice not to do so. And political choices can be challenged.
There will come a day when those looking at the glass skyscrapers might quote Nelson Square’s most famous resident Percy Bysshe Shelley:
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! (Ozymandias)