Back on Kingshill . . . once you seen it, you don’t want to leave.
Saw two families pulling stuff into the lift and out again into a van parked at the bottom. Looked Asian. One black couple. Everyone friendly, easygoing. Maybe leaving brings it out.
Drizzle, the fog enveloping the Gherkin, the dome of St. Paul’s, the towers of the city. Tower Bridge off in the distance behind the blunt edge of another tower. The drizzle made the foilage between the buildings seem more febrile, alive – you could smell the moss, the green and for seconds at a time, I felt like I was back in my native British Columbia, walking through the woods, with the damp dripping from the trees onto the rich undergrowth.
Memories. Squatting in London, tearing away iron doors from blocked up flats like the ones on KingsHill to get inside some shabby council flat. I never squatted in towers like the Heygate, but I roamed them often enough, wondering what I was doing in London wandering these shabby estates looking for a place to live. Every spring I’d go back to British Columbia and work in the forests for two or three months to make enough money to live for the rest of the year so I guess those two images – council flats blocked up with iron doors and rain dripping down through the rainforest canopy are linked inextricably – bizarrely – in my mind.
What will the credit crunch bring to the Heygate? Already there is talk that the private developers responsible for the demolition and ‘restoration’ of the estate and environs, might not be able to access the funds to come through. The government is guaranteeing high-profile projects like the Olympics and Crossrail – but will they come through for the Heygate?
What happens then if nothing is done at all. The Heygate comprises some 1260 units – will they just remain empty? Let’s say the council moves everyone out yet the demolition doesn’t take place, the estate just sits there, rotting. Inevitably, with more and more pressure on the rental market – people who now can’t afford to buy or have lost their homes have to live somewhere – there will be pressure to make those 1260 units available again. By that point, many of these flats will have been vacant a year or more, their already delapidated condition that much further gone – will the council even be able to move tennants in?
At what point do the squatters take over?