London Gypsy Traveller Unit - North and East London boroughs

London Gypsy and Traveller Unit

"Seeking to support, empower and represent Gypsies and Travellers on all levels"

increase text size decrease text size

Site Relocations - Olympic Sites and Crossrail

Olympic Sites

In late 2003, twenty families from the Hackney council site and fifteen families from the Newham council site first heard they would need to move to make way for either the Olympics, or for the regeneration of East London. This was the beginning of 5 stressful and uncertain years for the families. Once the Olympic bid was won in July 2005, the pressure was on the authorities to find suitable land where new council sites could be built as quickly as possible. Those living in the two sites were determined to seek the best possible outcome for their communities and worked hard to engage with the authorities.

Waterden Crescent Hackney

Smaller Sites

The 20 families were given the option by the council and London Development Agency (LDA) of splitting up and moving onto smaller sites as it would be difficult to find land for such a large group. The LDA and council started a series of meetings at which options were discussed with the residents. They finally split into 4 small groups and various pieces of land were identified as possible locations.

CPO Inquiry

CPO inspectors Visit to Waterden Crescent July 2006

At the Compulsory Purchase Inquiry ( CPO May 2006), one resident spoke on behalf of the Waterden Crescent community, voicing everyone’s concerns about where and how they would be relocated. They researched possible land options themselves, producing a likely list for the authorities to pursue. Despite the promised options, in the end there was no choice, and the groups had to fit in with the only land apparently available.

High Court Challenge

In April 2007, through solicitors at Community Law partnership and with support from LGTU, residents from Waterden crescent and Clay Lane sites jointly challenged the secretary of state’s decision to grant the compulsory purchase order which included the two Travellers sites. In doing this he had overruled the recommendations of the CPO inquiry inspector who said that the CPO should not be granted until suitable new Traveller site locations were secure. The judge acknowledged that there was an interference with the Travellers human rights by moving them off the land before new sites were secured, but agreed with the Secretary of States that the greater benefits of the Olympics out weighed the interference to the Travellers human rights.

Site Design

Waterden Residents represented themselves
at the Hackney Planning Committee July 2007

Throughout this time, LGTU worked with the residents as lack of clarity from the authorities and the uncertainty of their situation grew. They sought to publicise their concerns in both national and local media and to further their determination for the best possible outcome by speaking up at planning meetings to either support or disagree with the proposals from the LDA, with some success.

Once the options had been whittled away, the council and LDA consulted the residents on site layout and design. Three of the new sites include small bungalow style permanent dwellings – the first such example on a site in Britain.

New Sites

St Theresa’s Close opened February 2008

The three areas to which they have been relocated are Homerton Marshes (named St Theresa'a Close), Wallis Road (names Palace Close and St Anthony's Close) and Millfields Depot (Ruby close). The last site at Millfields was so delayed that this group of 8 families had to move onto a temporary site on the edge of the Olympic Park which meant another 12 months living in the midst of the Olympic works. They finally moved onto Ruby close in March 2009.

Clays Lane Newham

Campaign for a suitable location

Clays Lane Residents at the High Court with their
Solicitor Chris Johnson from the community Law Partnership

The residents of Clays Lane Site in Newham found themselves in dispute with the London Development Agency over the location of their new site.

The authorities favoured land on the edge of the borough. It was under a flyover, close to sewage works and miles from Clays lane where the families were well established having lived there for 30 years. The community actively campaigned against this location and it was finally dropped just before the public inquiry into the compulsory purchase of the Olympic lands. (CPO)

In June 2006 site residents represented their communities at this CPO inquiry and a proposal for a site under a flyover was dropped. The Inspector and the Clays Lane residents were told they would be moving to a new site within the Olympic Park which the residents agreed to, as it was local to Clays Lane.

Consultation meetings followed to agree the design for the new site. Two months later this agreed location was suddenly withdrawn, to be replaced by the proposal to build the site on the local park and community facilities at Major Road. From then on site residents opposed the move to Major Road Park by joining forces with members of the local community; working through the media; political lobbying; and in court, but they finally lost the battle, and planning permission was granted by Newham Council to demolish Major Road Park and build the new Travellers site.

It was very difficult for residents to come to terms with the forced move to Major Road Park. They wrote to Ken Livingstone to put on record their concerns and fears. They felt that they were now being put in a vulnerable position and that they would be blamed for the loss of the park and community facilities, and could face hostility from some members of the local community.

Living in a demolition site

Along with the enormous stress and uncertainty over the move, Clays Lane site residents were also living in a demolition site from Feb to October ’07. High levels of dust, dirt and noise and heavy traffic meant conditions on the site became intolerable for the families. Throughout this period the residents raised their concerns and requested Health and Safety measures from the Olympic Delivery Authority, such as traffic reduction, building shrouding, rubble hosing, noise mitigation, controlled working times and information about dust levels.

The move from Clays Lane to Parkway Crescent

The move from Clays Lane October 2007

The actual move itself was extremely stressful for residents who had been told they would be moving mid- August. After a catalogue of errors, and 12 different moving dates they finally moved in mid October 2007. By this time most services had been cut off and they had been living out of packing cases for two and half months.

Parkway Crescent opened October 2007

The new site called Parkway Crescent, is on a traffic island surrounded by main roads and with two pubs nearby. Although residents are trying to get used to it, they are unsure of the long term future and have decided to pursue the option of a move back to a more suitable location in the Olympic park, once the games are over and new building begins. With support from LGTU and their GLA member they are actively seeking a way forward.



Crossrail and the Relocation of Eleanor Street Site

Marian Mahoney represented
Eleanor St at the Crossrail
Select Committee Oct ‘06

Not long after Eleanor Street Residents group started, residents discovered that their site was under threat from the proposed Crossrial scheme which will directly affect the site due to the construction of a ventilation shaft at Eleanor Street. Residents made contact with Crossrail in 2004 and since then have been involved in negotiations over the future of their site. They were legally represented by Chris Johnson from the community law partnership.

Site design consultation meetings

In 2006 a three party agreement was reached between the residents, LBTH and Crossrail. The secretary of the residents group attended the House of Commons to give evidence at the Crossrail Bill select committee.

The Government has finally given approval to the Crossrail Scheme and the Crossrail Act was given Royal assent in July 2008. Since then the residents hosted a number of site visits made by the Crossrail design team and were actively engaged in consultation on the design of the new site. This process is still ongoing and residents are involved in meetings with the Crossrail design team and the Council to agree the final design for the new site.