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FIELD OF VIEW

£ 9 | issue #1 | spring 2012


cover image / John Saint Editor Daniel Norwood Sub Editor Andrea Lestrange Features Editor Janica Candolin Features and Design Editor Katarzyna Kaja Ciechanowska Picture Editor John Saint Art Director / Designer Chiara Tomasoni Production Editor Michael McGuinness


Welcome to

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the politics of land


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EDITOR’S NOTE

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uy land, they don’t make it anymore. This is a slogan stitched inside a well-worn pair of my favourite jeans. It ’s originally by Mark Twain, the American writer, and has been adopted by an organic clothing company, based in Wales. This energetic, forward thinking business has decided that ethics should be at the heart of their operation. The choice of strap line (waist line, perhaps) is intriguing, and one could say, summarizes the dilemma faced by the population of the UK as a whole in the 21st century. Land, of course, is a valuable commodity. It ’s protected by those who own it and coveted by those who don’t. For most of us, we can only peer over razor wire fences, through metal railings and wander with our eyes through this prohibited zone. ‘Access’ is a common theme running through our magazine. With limited space, we must think carefully about the land and how it ’s used. Budgets come and go, as do Chancellors. The current one has just introduced measures he hopes will kick start the anaemic economy. Unfortunately for our environment, it seems that the default position of this government is the proposition that there must be a default ‘yes’ to any ‘sustainable development’ project – supermarkets, railways, power stations – irrespective of local opinion or the damage to our efforts to fight global warming. Green industries, though, are outgrowing the economy as a whole, with an annual expansion of around 5%. So it would be short sighted in the extreme to abandon any eco-friendly legislation, in the hope that new environmentally damaging industries could be approved, leading to jobs and wealth. The fear is that this fickle attitude to the planet will put off those investors who actively seek out policy makers with environmental integrity. Against this backdrop, we sent our photographers to uncover some of the environmental issues facing the UK at this time. They gained access to government land, threw a spotlight on business

and brought a human dimension to the idea of urban regeneration. Hidden beneath this complicated world is a man who wants to disappear. It was a chance encounter, which led to John Saint meeting Derek – a man struggling against the complexities of modern life. John gained his trust for our feature story, offering a unique insight into his realm. We hope the issues raised here inform and provoke, leading to a greater appreciation of the land we do have access to, and its role within our world. We kick off with our resident thinker, Professor Nick Tyler from University College London, who has dedicated his academic life to finding solutions to the problems of access. For some, the difference between a fulfilling life, and one lacking in opportunity, can be measured in millimetres…

Daniel Norwood, Editor

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3 Editor’s note 6 Resident thinker

11 A better elephant Michael McGuinness

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On the edge Chiara Tomasoni & John Saint

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A waste of space Andrea Lestrange

Rust in peace John Saint

Super town corporation Katarzyna Kaja Ciechanowska

49 None shall pass Janica Candolin

A very english protest Daniel Norwood

57 62 Flash Fiction by Amanda Saint 64 Picture/Poem 66 Afterword

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CONTENT

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#1 | spring 2012

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RESIDENT THINKER

Ever tripped over your own feet? An interview with Professor Nick Tyler UCL - Pamela (Pedestrian Accessibility and Movement Environment LAboratory). PAMELA is a unique facility, which has been designed and developed to provide controlled conditions in which interactions between pedestrians and the pedestrian environment can be studied. text and images by Daniel Norwood

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an you sum up the philosophy of your research at PAMELA? Are you trying to make the world a better place? Yes. That’s the basis of what we’re trying to do here. We’re looking at those people on the margins of society, trying to make it easier for them to get around and do the things they want to do, in as easy a manner as possible. How do the needs of wheel chair users compare with those of visually impaired people? To keep it really simple, on the one hand we might have visually impaired people who like large vertical ‘signals’. For example a curb, so they know where the edge of the footway is, whereas a wheelchair user wants a very smooth surface with no curb. So the question is how we actually deal with that conflict. Should we find a compromise, which is half a curb or a slope or something like that, which both parties would complain about; or should we try and find a way to satisfy both parties 100%, even if that means a complete separation of space? That is actually quite a deep and difficult question. The idea of ‘shared space’ schemes, where there are no physical boundaries between road users

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and pedestrians have recently caught designers’ imagination. Can you explain the theory behind this radical concept? I’m very keen on making the city people based. Where I’m less certain of the concept is where eye contact relates to safety. Monderman (the Dutch traffic engineer and pioneer of shared space) was insistent that his idea worked because the different users could engage in eye contact to remain safe. I’m rather sceptical about that. For visually impaired people who have difficulty in making eye contact at all, that seems to be a bit of failure. It has the potential to make some people feel very insecure, which is not a good thing in any city. I’ve noticed you use a bicycle helmet with something that looks suspiciously like virtual reality. Is that right, and if so, what’s your precise interest in the technology? Absolutely right. What perhaps people are not aware of is the fact that when you move around an environment, you are receiving sensory information from your feet and your hands, from your posture, as well as seeing and hearing. In virtual reality, for example, you see your feet walking on a plank across a chasm but you don’t receive the physical sensation of walking on a plank across a chasm. If we were to put a tiny, 10-millimetre high plank on

An unorthodox arrangement of the equipment used to measure how an attendant pushes a wheelchair around the environment.


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the ground, so it matches the image you see in your virtual display, you will become far more terrified and find it a far more real experience. Your feet are actually conveying information to you, which reenforces that virtual world. I’m interested in that point where the physical and the virtual co-exist. You’ve identified something called ‘fixations’, where the eye lingers on an object for some reason. Can you explain this and how you use eye tracking in your work? First of all, you are fooled a bit by your eye doing a bit of rather smart processing. In simple terms, your eye flits around taking, if you like, small snap shots of the scene, which you think is a stable scene. It is almost like the brain stitches together these snapshots to build up this broad view of the world. The eye also fixates on something, which the brain has decoded as being important. The eye will then keep coming back to those fixations regularly. Eye tracking records those motions so we can count the number of times the eye fixates on a particular object; we can see how long it stays there, and that will give us some idea of what the brain is interpreting as being important. Do you have any personal stories relating to accessibility? Yes. I came across a woman with MS recently, who was wheelchair bound. She was unable to leave her flat because the entrance door had a 10 millimetre high lip, and she could not get her wheelchair over this lip. She was confined to her flat by this simple fact. If she could get over that, she could wheel herself around pretty well in the environment outside. That was her limitation. Accessibility is a whole succession of those kinds of problems, but if you can’t get out of your house the rest of the city is not available to you. p

Derrick Boamtong pushes the chair. Shoes measure step timings, wheels measure push forces and helmet measures where the person is looking.

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On the edge Britain’s land mass is decreasing, and in fifteen years its population is predicted to increase to 70 million. As a result, the need to provide more homes and infrastructures will lead to development in areas at risk of flooding and erosion. Britain has some of the fastest eroding coastlines in Europe, especially in east England – threatening roads, farms and homes.

text and images by Chiara Tomasoni & John Saint

Barton - On - Sea, site of dramatic coastal erosion, Hampshire, Uk.

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he UK has more than 12,000 km of coastline, of which 67% is under threat. The coast of England, despite being the most protected with 45% of its length lined with coastal defence works - is most affected. Barton on Sea is a small town in Hampshire, the coast of which faces the Isle of Wight. Built on a clay cliff, Barton has experienced problems with coastal erosion for many years; the strip of grass on the top of the cliff used to be 100 metres wide, but now hardly reaches 20 metres, retreating about one metre per year. Flooding, and coastal erosion are natural processes with highly variable impacts across the country. The land is reshaping, and always has been; it’s a slow process that is barely noticeable, but the long-term consequences of flooding and erosion are tangible. Other contributing factors to the diminishing coastline include an increase in storms, and a rise in sea levels, which will in turn produce more energetic wave action at the cliff base, posing difficulties in defending the coastline from being worn in some areas. In addition human activity is as dangerous as any other climatic factor; attributing coastal erosion only to the rise of the sea level would be an over-simplification, as other processes are involved. According to the Environment Agency (EA) one third of the UK population lives within 10 km of the coast, yet stakeholders persist in aggravating the impact on nature by building on unstable land. Coastal erosion causes permanent loss of land, property, and infrastructure built on it. It is estimated that by 2029, up to 2000 structures, roads, and railways will become vulnerable, and by 2080, infrastructure and businesses will be badly affected by more frequent floods. In Barton, most of the houses are set back from the cliff and seem to be exempt from any current

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threat, but there are a small number of older houses in the Barton Court area, now situated quite close to the edge. In the past, several building have been lost due to the relentless eroding activity, and it’s likely that those properties close to the edge will undergo the same fate. The Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management authorities (FCERM) have taken measures, working closely with EA and coastal local authorities to ensure that erosion risks are managed in a co-ordinated manner. The increased action of coastal erosion is providing opportunities for the development of additional (or redesigning existing) coastal defence measures. Defence works schemes have been approved across the country, such as the building of a 390 metre seawall in Dorset, and rock breakwaters in Jaywick, Essex. It was common practice in the past to build seadefence structures according to hard engineering, for example seawalls, groynes, and drainage systems - built to avoid landslides, which ended up doing more harm than good. They diminished the ability of coastal systems to respond naturally to changes; protecting the base of eroding cliffs resulted in a fragmentation of the coast. This prevented longshore drift and the introduction of eroded cliff sediments in the nearshore, affecting the beaches and making erosion worse. Today, the trend has changed. When possible, the tendency is to favour soft engineering works, such as beach recharge. It is not a definitive solution to the problem of eroding coasts, but at least it minimises damage. In the near future, floods, and coastal erosion are likely to escalate, modifying the landscape as it’s seen today. The climate change – though being only roughly foreseeable – will determine significant implications for coastal communities like Barton, and for natural habitats, possibly determining their disappearance. p


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A waste of space

As the UK’s capacity to accommodate waste in landfill sites dwindles, the only option is to increase recycling. text and images by Andrea Lestrange

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eep beneath the strangely picturesque landscape of a landfill site lies an enormous amount of waste; with virtually every material imaginable festering in each other’s unwanted company. Plastics, nappies, food, metals, clothing, and glass are just a few of the many materials buried in the land and concealed from the public’s view. Yet most of these materials are recyclable, so that consigning them to landfill is an inexcusable waste at a time when many of the earth’s nonrenewable resources are being consumed at an alarming rate. Nor is it just raw materials that will eventually run out; so too will the space to accommodate this waste. In the UK, landfill sites already occupy around 109 square miles of land and it is predicted that space for new sites will run out within the next six years. Therefore, if we are to continue to enjoy the lifestyles we have become accustomed to, something has to change. Fundamental to that change is an improvement

in the general public’s understanding of the significance of waste, the importance of waste reduction, and the alternatives to landfill. The amount of waste produced in the UK each year is vast. In fact, in 2007 the UK was dubbed ‘The Dustbin of Europe,’ after reports revealed that we generate more waste than any other EU state. Figures from Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) show that the UK generates, on average, 280 million tonnes of waste per annum, comprising household, commercial, construction, and industrial materials, of which 44 million tonnes are sent to landfill. The government has engaged in efforts to drive a positive behavioural change towards waste disposal and introduced a tax on landfill in 1996. The tax is currently charged at £56 per tonne and will increase each year, reaching £80 per tonne by 2014. The Government Waste Policy Review states, ‘Landfill Tax is the key driver to divert waste from landfill, and remains necessary to ensure that we meet key EU targets in 2020.’ The most significant

above: Bletchley landfill site has been in operation for over 30 years, and is due to close in 2022 when the planning permission expires. It currently buries approximately 100,000 tonnes of nonhazardous waste per month. At present there are over 1000 open landfill sites in the UK.

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of these targets is to reduce all waste going to landfill by 35% compared to 1995 levels. The importance of the Landfill Tax is clearly illustrated by the fact that the quantity of waste sent to landfill halved in the first four years following its introduction. One of the problems with landfill is that it is a convenient solution for waste management; it has been the most common way to dispose of waste for decades and is what society is most familiar with. However, due to the Landfill Tax it is becoming an increasingly expensive option. Such sites also pose a potential threat to the health of people, wildlife, and the wider environment. For example, the release of methane from decaying organic waste constitutes three per cent of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions. In an attempt to mitigate the environmental impact, all landfill sites are required to implement environmental control, including regular inspections by the Environment Agency to manage noise, smell, dust, vermin, greenhouse gases, and leachate. These measures go some way to reduce environmental damage but they cannot entirely prevent it, which also applies to closed landfill sites.

In its efforts to move towards a ‘zero-waste’ economy the government recognises three key elements – reduce the amount of waste that is produced, re-use as much waste as possible, and recycle the waste that can’t be re-used. In this way, burying waste becomes a last resort. To that end, there has been positive progress, and the Local Government Association (LGA) reports that household recycling has more than doubled to 40% in the last 10 years. This is almost entirely due to councils’ improved efficiency at collecting and disposing of waste. However, councils in England are still spending more than £500 million each year on landfill costs so there is much room for improvement with waste. An increase in industrial and commercial recycling is also apparent. In 2009 Defra noted that businesses generated more than 47.9 million tonnes of waste per annum, of which 52% was recycled. Many such companies choose alternatives to landfill for a variety of reasons - including the proximity of recycling and recovery plants to industrial and construction sites, and the financial benefits of environmentally friendlier disposal. A ‘green’ image is also beneficial in terms of customer

above: Here at Powerday, one of the numerous recovery and recycling plants in the UK, employees filter out larger components of the waste prior to it entering the waste-reducing machine. This divides all materials automatically into separate recyclable categories.

left: The baling machine compresses and binds recyclable materials into bales. This process enables more efficient transportation of the materials to reprocessors, and power plants.

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perception and attracting investment, so many companies now have clearly defined sustainability policies that include waste management. Once waste is transferred to a recycling plant, large mechanical separation processors get to work on dividing materials into categorical types to make the recycling process easier, more efficient and cost effective. Baling services are usually offered, which compress and bind together the separated materials into bales. This makes separated recyclable material much easier to store and sell to reprocessors and power plants. Statistics generated by local and central government make it clear that the most effective way to reduce landfill is to increase recycling.

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Most of the waste generated by households, construction sites, and businesses can be recycled if it is sorted, separated and managed effectively. In parallel, industrial recycling sites are a cheaper option for businesses than using landfill tax, and there are opportunities to generate energy from waste. Often, waste is a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’; very few people think about the journey their waste takes after its disposal. Changing this attitude is crucial and education is the key to achieving that change. Making people aware of the importance of managing waste effectively – and the consequences of not doing so – empowers them to play an active role in the future management of the UK’s waste. p

above and right: Among the most commonly baled materials are cardboard and plastics. Each bale weighs between 750 kg and one tonne. The compacting of these materials enable a significant saving of space, and this permits more output to be achieved before being transported for recycling.


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a better

Elephant Welcome to failed utopia; where monolithic grey blocks are waiting to be torn down and replaced. There is no escaping the presence of these abandoned structures as the public stream through the busy Elephant & Castle intersection just south of the Thames river in London.

text and images by Michael McGuinness

A grey monolithic block confronts the roads around Elephant & Castle.

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he Elephant & Castle (the Elephant) is being ghosted by former residents during this period when their environment is being radically altered through regeneration. Social housing, initially introduced after World War II, was an attempt to alleviate critical housing shortages in certain parts of the country. Over the years, successive governments have introduced change within the housing stock at various stages. Margaret Thatcher introduced the most radical and far-reaching policy in the 1980s. Initially packaged and marketed as the Right to Buy scheme, it quickly became known as an official Conservative party policy. This scheme offered tenants the opportunity to buy their own council home at a reduced cost of the actual market value. Councils benefited from decreased costs of maintaining individual properties, and generated additional income. During the property boom a decade later, when the cost of inner city homes became hugely inflated, many middle class people started buying excouncil properties on the open market, changing the shape and structure of council estates. As part of the Elephant’s regeneration, Southwark Council in consultation with former and current residents, the local government, and the strategic planning authorities, has been involved in setting key issues related to the urban environment. One important issue was to examine ways of preserving the 450 mature trees, which form one of the largest urban forests in Europe. Another priority was to re-house former

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residents of the area who have been evicted while regeneration occurs. New, brightly coloured buildings are springing up around the ruins of the old in the Elephant, denying former long time residents of the area any choice of housing when re-locating back to the area. Strata - a new high-rise residential building in the Elephant dominating the skyline was funded and built by private investors attempting to capitalize on the excellent location and transport links. The first 10 floors of this building have been set aside for an ‘adjusted form’ of social housing, reserved for key workers in the area, while floors 10-42 are solely for private purchase. The main access lifts in the common entrance are divided accordingly to the separate living spaces; in effect preventing mixing between the different classes of residents in the building. This seems to fly in the face of the recent comments made by David Cameron. He is, like Margaret Thatcher before him, attempting to breathe new life into the Right to Buy scheme by offering existing council tenants discounts of up to £75,000, arguing that discounts will help encourage “strong families, and stable communities.” In this scheme, household residents could receive a 35% discount after five years residency, with an extra 1% for each year up to a maximum of £75,000. Tenants in flats will get 50% off after five years, with 2% added yearly with the money raised from sales going towards further constructions of social housing. However, this idea of becoming a stable community as Cameron is suggesting, may

Kay Ellis speaks fondly of his not too distant memories of living on the second floor of the building to his rear. Since being relocated to Croydon he often returns to listen to the sounds of his beloved old neighbourhood. He finds his current location very quiet compared to the hustle and bustle of the Elephant.


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Ian Aitchison, a pensioner now living nearby in Arrol House, Rockingham Street, vividly remembers the vast changes in the Elephant over the years. He wonders with regret, how the community has become so fragmented. He talks about his former neighbour and long time friend, John, who he was en route to visit when I stopped to talk with him. John has been relocated further south, to Eltham, with no hope of return. Our conversation started as Ian invited me to look at his photo album, which he carries around with him, containing pictures he had taken through the years. field of view

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Kenneth Rois, a former resident of the Heygate estate returns almost daily with his dog, Jack, to visit former school friends and old neighbours who are scattered about the Elephant. “We all meet up in a local cafe run by a member of the close-knit Colombian community,” he tells me. He speaks about his mother’s sadness of being forced to move away from the Elephant after living so close to the West End.

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have escaped the people of the Elephant, (as it did the community of Somers Town, an area of North London in the 1980s) as new and ongoing development plans seem to have destroyed any hope of such stability. The government has announced more details of its NewBuy Guarantee, designed by the Home Builders Federation and the Council of Mortgage Lenders, to give potential buyers access to mortgages even with only a 5% deposit. Apparently three high-street lenders and seven construction firms have agreed to endorse and support the scheme. Ministers believe this initiative will help 100,000 people who would otherwise have been frozen out of the property market. The NewBuy scheme is only available on flats and houses up to a maximum value of ÂŁ500,000 applicable only to England. With the reintroduction of these policies, Cameron stresses that by rebooting the Right

to Buy scheme, the government is delivering its promise to offer affordable mortgages to buyers who might not otherwise have the means to buy a home. Jack Dromey, shadow-housing minister, recently dismissed this announcement as “too little too late.� However, at least the policy is something from a government that has done little to tackle the worst housing crisis in a generation. Meanwhile for the old residents pictured here, this is an interim period where they can mourn the loss of their old community, while looking forward to a time in the future when they might return and enjoy the proposed common green space and the summer shade of the trees, or simply move on though, and ghost in the mean time. p A view of the brightly coloured new homes that have been recently built, as a result of regeneration in the Elephant.

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Rust in peace

Beneath the rattle and hum of the M4, under the watchful gaze of the Glaxo Smithkline UK headquarters, Derek Finlay lives quietly on ‘his’ island, which sits on the confluence of the River Brent and the Grand Union Canal.

text and images by John Saint

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above: In the sanctuary of his caravan, Derek Finlay listens to his radio and talks about his life on Clitheroe Island. right: The locked gates, which Derek built on his sanctuary - Clitheroe Island.

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ong before the Canal was built and the sounds of the motorway echoed through the trees above, the island and its waters were named Botany Bay by James Clitheroe, who once owned much of the land in that area. According to local historian, Janet McNamara, “it was a gesture to his friend Sir Joseph Banks, who had named Botany Bay in Australia when on Captain Cook’s first voyage to the South Seas.” The Clitheroe family sold the land to Brentford Urban District Council in 1924, which to date has not yet developed it. Derek has lived there for the past 14 years generally unnoticed, partly because his house is hidden from the view of walkers on the canal path, due to the dense mix of native trees in the summer months. In the autumn though, as I walked over the bridge, my steps beating in time with the rhythmic thud of the cars and trucks on the motorway above, the ash, willows, and oaks had started to lose their leaves, and Derek’s secluded

sanctuary had, in turn, started to lose its privacy. I saw something unfamiliar so I waded through the brambles to get a closer look. In front of me stood a house constructed from pallets, a rusty old tub of a boat, and a black and white cat, which was staring at me with an equal amount of curiosity. There was no sign of any people. Over the next couple of months I kept revisiting as the trees revealed more and more of the dwelling on this little island; but there was still no sign of the inhabitant or any response to my shouted greetings. Eventually my curiosity led me to climb over the gates and I sat and waited, watching the house. After a while I noticed a man hiding behind a cluster of brambles, while I hid behind a big broken willow tree. We both stood there looking out at each other for a few seconds before I walked out to meet him. He was leant over an upright barrel, intent on not making eye contact. I knelt down in front of him, reassuring him that I had only good intentions. He seemed to believe me, and led me


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down the path past his pallet home to a fence that was easier to climb for my exit and return. “Nobody bothers me, and, I don’t bother them,” was one of the first things Derek said to me in our early conversations. A mantra he often repeats. A few years ago, however, things started to appear on the island. First of all there was a boat engine, then chairs, copper and steel pipes - the list goes on. As Derek is generally nocturnal, he did not witness the appearance of these items or the arrival of a new neighbour, who’s boat appeared one afternoon alongside Derek’s no mooring sign. This new resident, who only stays for a few days every couple of years, and seems to use the island as a dumping ground, is the reason Derek has contained himself to the south-eastern tip of the island. Concerned that he might lose his grip on the land that he loves and has lived on for so many years, he lodged an application with the Land Registry Service to buy the island. Since then eviction notices have started to be taped to

the fences surrounding the land. Derek just takes them down. After I had made a few more trips to Clitheroe Island, Derek invited me into his home. Within the pallet house sits a small caravan, which is very dark inside and became even darker when I was asked to close the door, a piece of plywood with gaffer tape hinges, behind me. The smell of paraffin was overwhelming and combined with the darkness made for a heady concoction. Derek revealed that he reluctantly makes occasional trips off of his island to refill gas bottles, buy food and collect his pension – which he said he hadn’t done for months, “there’s thousands in there.” He expressed a strong desire: “not to get involved with people out there,” believing that, “it just leads to trouble.” The company that Derek does like to keep is with the radio. Occasionally there is interference from planes flying overhead on their descent to Heathrow Airport. “I can’t get away from it, the bastards even bother me from up

above: the incomplete home that Derek started building from pallets seven years ago. left: Derek’s home on the bank of the River Brent, overlooked by Glaxo Smithkline Headquarters UK.

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there,” he said as he thrust a pointed finger at the paraffin fume stained roof of his caravan. Derek is concerned for his safety when he leaves his sanctuary, “fucking people, cars and motorbikes – vroom,” he raised his arms and stamped his feet on the caravan floor making everything rattle, “buses – vroom,” again he stamped his feet. He became heated when he talked about being “out there” but subdued, his voice reduced to a mumble, when I asked him about his life on Clitheroe Island. “I’m just surviving, that’s how I live in the winter. When the summer comes I can start to do things but first I need to get things sorted out up here,’ he tapped the side of his head. ‘I could do with a little flat but I just can’t deal with all the bullshit. I’m getting too old to survive another winter.” With eviction notices now appearing on the fences around the island with increasing regularity, it remains to be seen if Derek will even get the opportunity to try. p

previous page: A mannequin laying in the undergrowth on Clitheroe Island. left: Derek finding his way along the bramble covered pathway to his home.

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super town corporation

Imagine leaving your minute flat within a large block, and being transported by a claustrophobic lift into a Tesco shopping shed at the base of a building. You pick up a trolley, select your goods and join a long queue for a self-scanner where your unique Tesco customer code is used for payment. Escaping with your new purchases via sliding doors into a cheap tech design courtyard where your children play, next to a colourful school, opposite a bank, which in turn backs onto your health centre. You collect your children and head towards your husband who is emerging from a cold basement of a multi-story car park. Finally, you disappear through an entrance gate into a maze of dwellings where your flat hides...

text and images by Katarzyna Kaja Ciechanowska

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Streatham, South London August 2011 – spring 2014 The Streatham Hub development, located at the west of the high street, is being constructed by VINCI Construction UK Ltd, on behalf of Spenhill Regeneration which is in partnership with London Borough of Lambeth. It will comprise a new leisure centre, a 6,500 square metre Tesco Extra, 250 new homes, a new bus interchange for Transport for London, and underground parking. The site is in close proximity of the Grade II listed Streatham United Reform Church, and associated Children’s Centre.

Dartford, Kent December 2011 – late 2013

“While the economic down-turn has hit many parts of the development industry hard, Tesco, which recorded profits of nearly £3.8 bn profits last year, is expanding now through a supermarket-led mixeduse developments – entire districts of homes, schools and public places built by the company. These plans face opposition from groups worried about its dominance over many aspects of life.” GUARDIAN

After some difficulties with development proposals and planning permissions for the site back in 2003, St James Investments were finally granted permission in November 2011. This £80 million invested development is located within and on the edge of Dartford town centre. It includes 231 flats, retail, community and food service units, a new market square, bus facilities, a new road, 771 parking spaces, and a 12,000 square metre Tesco Extra hypermarket – one of the UK’s largest – of which half of the space will be used for nonfood goods. “Tesco has an online estate agent to market homes and a bank that will provide mortgages, while Tesco Direct online store can furnish a home from top to bottom. Britain’s richest retailer also has a vast bank of both urban sites and areas on the outskirts of towns as well as the financial muscle to borrow the money needed for the developments.” TESCOPOLY

Woolwich central, SE London September 2011 - July 2013

West Bromwich, Dudley December 2011 – late 2013

Property developers Spenhill Regeneration - owned by Tesco - have developed a 14-hectare site, which was designed by Sheppard Robson. It will consist of one of the largest Tesco supermarkets, at 8,000 square metres, to be complete in 2012. An additional seven retail units are to be developed, as well as a large car park, community facilities, and civic offices including a new police station. Above the supermarket, contactors Willmott Dixon with an £86 million contract will build 259 residential apartments - 189 available for private sale, and 70 for affordable rent, due for completion in summer 2013.

Tesco’s £200 million investment in a 53,000 square metre mixed-use development located in West Bromwich town centre will create an excellent new shopping hub and leisure destination. The New Square development anchored by a 15,000 square metre Tesco Extra store will also include high street shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars. The development will connect The Public Arts Centre with the town’s main retail area and a soon to be refurbished Queen’s Square shopping centre.

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his collective monopoly is not an imaginary dystopia, this is an example of a model structure intended for 21st century British society, designed by a group of individuals from the previous government and developed during their term of power for future use. This time has arrived, and it is physically materialising in our urban environment throughout the architecture of Tesco’s newly built housing estates and multifunctional neighbourhoods under construction. The new housing model for this future society is based on the formation of large land developments into independent multifunctional city areas, each one structured around and functionally dependent on the central node: the Tesco shopping shed. This model has been dubbed by its critics - Tesco Town. Tesco has become an architect of social change within the UK. According to the information distributed by Tesco, it is a multi-functional corporation - the most dominant British retailer and a major land developer in the current national housing market. Accepting that buildings create more than floor space - they determine social behaviour through their organisation of space, then the stakeholder, Tesco, is able to influence that behaviour by its design. The logical geometry of a factory - the mother of a Tesco industrial shed - evolved with the need to deliver high quality mass-produced commodities from within its walls. This introspective view disengaged the building from its surroundings, and was therefore seen as a neutral object randomly placed in the open landscape, or a densely developed city. Today, this principle constitutes the general concept of the Tesco Town development. The acknowledgement of this logic facilitates an understanding of the internal character, the homogenisation, and the disengagement of the promoted Tesco Town model from its surrounding environment. Consequently, it proves the forthcoming isolation of the developed area, and the slow deterioration of its social creativity. The Tesco Town system determines which goods are in the ‘factory’ based on pre-designed

consumption patterns, leading to a structure that influences the behavioural social outcome – so Tesco can influence what people consume. Such a relationship has already been recognised by Space Syntax (a Spatial Research Laboratory at University College London) as an interdependency formula responsible for the correlation between movement, form, and social forces. This is not a new socio-spatial parallel as it formulated itself in the rise of the first cities on our planet. However, perhaps we are reaching the point where economic flow from consumption is dominating social forces, and weakening our own will to define our model of life. We no longer live in a context of unconscious cultural values. Instead this context is designed for us by elites - transnational organistations operating to a specific set of economic laws and values, in order to keep our society running the world system, which provides them a profit. This combination of factors allows for a further hold of power over the people of the UK. This consumption pattern-led system, where commerce is the superficial engine of urbanity, is not far removed from the medieval model, which used a tax system as slavery, nor from the recent modern housing explosion within Eastern Europe, which used surveillance as an operational system. The total number of Tesco Towns undergoing construction in the UK is unknown, as such information is not readily available. The Design Council, Commission for Architecture, and Built Environment, avoid releasing any statement concerning quality and dignity of Tesco Town design. As the Tesco Corporation is designed on the basis of the governmental information about society, and commissioned to house it through the wide construction of Tesco Towns across the country, the factual capacity of the company is progressively formulating a monopoly over the society within a society itself, where Tesco reflects us as much, as we reflect Tesco. Consequently, Tesco has become the largest driving force behind the spread of clone towns in Britain. p

The total number of Tesco Towns undergoing construction in the UK is unknown - such information is not readily available. The Design Council, Commission for Architecture, and Built Environment, avoid releasing any statement concerning the quality and dignity of the Tesco Town design. This research has identified 18 Tesco Towns under construction, in Woolwich, Streatham, Bromley-by-Bow, Highams Park on the outskirts of London as well as in Linwood, Gateshead, Sittingbourne, Hawkhust, Sutton, West Bromwich, Dudley, Truro, Twickenham, Cambridge Perth, Newcastle, and Inverness. Over 100 are in the planning application stage within the UK, where there is pressure from the government on the local councils to approve these plans, despite protests from the local communities.

PREVIOUS PAGE: West Bromwich Tesco Town construction site. NEXT PAGE: Woolwich Tesco Town constuction site.

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“The reports about the Tesco mixed-use developments hide the net destruction of employment that follows in the wake of supermarket expansion. Their profits come from reducing operational costs, a key one of those is labour. And they act like giant economic vacuum cleaners, sucking wealth out of an area. By contrast, money spent in locally owned, embedded enterprises is more likely to stick and recirculate. But the malign influence of the big retailer in a community leads to a civic disengagement. The big store’s negative impact on the other local enterprises destroy social capital, dissolving the glue which holds communities together. There is a whiff of inverted snobbery in the suggestion that poor neighbourhoods need a big supermarket to feel good about themselves. It also ignores the undersupported capacity of communities to do things for themselves. Areas that look poor from the outside are almost always full of talent, enterprise and masses of human assets. What is needed is an economy that supports their own efforts to build distinctive, thriving neighbourhoods – not a red carpet for remotely owned corporations who want to extract value and will leave clone towns in their wake.” Andrew Simms from ‘The New Economics Foundation’

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A very English protest If the government get their way, the fastest train in Europe could soon be tearing through the Chiltern Hills, a protected area of outstanding natural beauty. Unsurprisingly, local people feel embattled, not just from the state, but also from advocates of the plans, who see detractors as stereotypical NIMBYS.

text and images by Daniel Norwood

51 41’30.20” N 0 40’13.49” W Towards Little Missenden, Chiltern District.

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D

rifting on invisible currents of winter air, high above ancient beech trees, two red kites whirl. This area of the Chilterns is a hugely successful breeding ground for these historically persecuted birds. It is with their call: a piercing, archaic screech that this archetypal English landscape is imbued with an enduring sense of timelessness. This is all set to change. The government has committed to a new high-speed train from London to Birmingham, which will bring noise, disruption, and the unnatural sounds of progress to the area. Essentially, it’ll be a plane, but on the ground. The nose cone, for example, on the Chinese world record train (302mph) owes more to jet fighter than anything on its way to the Midlands on the West Coast mainline. And there’s the rub. High speed won’t work if it has to stop and pick up passengers – a staggering threemile braking distance adds to the problem – and communities along the way are finding ways to voice their dissent. Little Missenden is the nearest village to the planned exit tunnel into the Chilterns. Small red and black protest signs are tacked neatly to imposing gateways, leading to even grander houses beyond. Inside the village hall older residents gather to air their views, seeking solidarity against the common enemy. Meticulously laid out on trellis tables inside the entrance door, campaign stickers, postcards and pens are available to buy. On one card it says, ‘Ok, it’s a white elephant, but at least it’s a fast white elephant.’ In this sombre atmosphere, the humour is best served dry. The environmental impact of the project is picked over and analysed; local businesses, farms, roads and communities referred to, as the path of the line is described. The business

51 41’6.22” N 0 40’49.58” W Little Missenden.

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above: 51 40’35.38” N 0 38’22.78” W A413, near Amersham. left: 51 42’50.71” N 0 42’09.61” W Havenfields, Great Missenden.

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case is dismissed and the prospect of reaching Birmingham half an hour quicker, politely but firmly ridiculed. “Are there any landowners in the building?” asks the chair. “HS2 need access to land to carry out their environmental survey. This might be the perfect time to repeat the phrase beloved of farmers everywhere – get off my land!” Keen to avoid the ‘NIMBY’ label, all public chatter afterwards is careful not to focus too heavily on house prices, which have tumbled all along the route. In nearby Great Missenden, where Range Rovers are a common sight in the car park, local feelings run high. Estate agents

tell tales of unsaleable houses and a ‘challenging’ market since the HS2 route was announced. A street in nearby Wendover, earmarked for destruction, is starting to look shabby. Homeowners have become reluctant to spend money on their properties. Carole, a long time resident of one of the eight houses subject to compulsory purchase orders, imagined a long retirement here, but now, all bets are off. “I was hoping to spend my retirement here and see the grandkids play in the garden,” she says, gently thumbing the compulsory purchase order to her home of 30 years. “Now nothing’s certain. I

51 43’38.62” N 0 46’41.74” W Dirtywood Farm towards ‘Chequers’ – the Prime Minister’s country residence.

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simply don’t know where I’ll be in 5 years time.” However, another condemned homeowner is more open-minded. Friendly and keen to talk, she nevertheless wants her name withheld to avoid the tag of social pariah. “If it’s to benefit future generations too,” she says, “it will need to use emerging technology and increase capacity - a railway for the 21st Century. So I can’t be a Luddite, even though this HS2 route threatens our beloved area of outstanding natural beauty, I am sure every effort will be made to minimise the impact, and nature is amazing at adjusting.” Emerging into the frozen air, I reflect on those words, and feel myself confronted by a dilemma. On paper high-speed seems like a good idea. We

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take for granted, for example, the journey from St. Pancras to Paris Gard du Nord, as if the channel was nothing more than a mirage. Yet the reality is that smaller, more mundane improvements to services would benefit more people. The government want to inspire and excite with high-speed – to encourage a new generation of innovators and engineers. I too see their vision, but the signs in the land are a warning of the cost of that dream. p

above: 51 43’24.56” N 0 46’32.34” W Chiltern Way, near Hampden Bottom Farm. right: 51 41’57.64” N 0 40’39.50” W Hyde Farm.


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NONE

SHALL PASS Just as nature needs protection, so does valuable, governmentowned land. Since the beginning of the Second World War in 1939, The Royal Air Force, (RAF) site in Uxbridge has been inaccessible to the public. The functions of the site will be transformed during the current decade, as the military unit has been recommissioned and the land will return to public use.

text and images by Janica Candolin

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ocated within the London Borough of Hillingdon, the land, formerly part of Hillingdon House estate, was purchased by the British government in 1915. The RAF station, which was founded in 1917, has been best known for its years of service as the headquarters of No.11 Group RAF, which was responsible for the aerial defense of London and Southeast England during the Battle of Britain, and has been described as the place where it was won. In 2010, the military unit was shut down as part of the Ministry of Defense Estates London, (Project MoDEL). The project was designed by the Ministry of Defense to work towards reducing the number of defense sites in Greater London; RAF Uxbridge being one of the six military units facing closure. Since it was shut down, the 44.4 hectare site has remained empty and unused, as the aim of Project

MoDEL has been to relocate these closed military units to the modernised RAF Northolt base. Redevelopment plans were approved in January 2011, which are due to be carried out over the next 10 years. The creation of around 1600 new homes, cultural facilities, shops, a primary school, and new health facilities, are just a few of the planned establishments. The new ‘town within a town’ would become an extension to Uxbridge town centre. The body in charge of the conversion is VSM Estates, which, according to their development proposal: ‘are responsible for delivering the entire project through funding and project managing the construction requirements, the relocation of units and the actual disposal of the surplus sites’. The closure of the famous base was considered as an ‘end of an era’ by MPs and councillors. The conversion also raises concerns about the

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preservation and protection of the historically remarkable buildings. For the sake of cultural history as well as nature conservation reasons old buildings should be retained and reused. The history we are to be reminded of may be destroyed if too radical a change is made. The vast empty space, and lifeless barracks create a ghost town atmosphere. Peeking through the barrack windows looking at the empty rooms one feels as if a generation would have disappeared, the generation of soldiers who committed their lives to serving their country. The military unit

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once provided security, and now the site itself needs to be secured. The history embedded in the land should be carefully preserved in order to appreciate the existence of crucial establishments that guaranteed the freedom of the country in the Battle of Britain. Awaiting its new days of glory, the site is controlled by security guards; a lonely man’s job. They keep their eyes tightly on the surveillance screen, making sure no vehicle shall pass through unnoticed. The site is heavily gated, and barb wired; the brick walls had kept the military base secure


and continue to do so. Today the walls ensure that no trespasser is able to cross over to the protected piece of land to commit acts of vandalism on the buildings. The surveillance has guaranteed the protection of the last century’s architecture, and in order to preserve it in the future too, the new has to be created accordingly to the conditions of the old. The authenticity of the former military unit has been well preserved within the brick walls, which also attracts storytellers; and is a unique setting of which the BBC has been taking advantage of by filming a drama series on site.

The closure of military units is a global phenomenon, which is usually done due to a government’s economy cuts. This is unfortunate for the military – however, it is beneficial to maintain the historical sites. In order to trace back our history the remains need to be well preserved, as through the knowledge of it we are able to evaluate it. p

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FLASH FICTION

Progress by Amanda Saint

H

ungr y, hungry, give me food. The command grows more insistent.

Three

grasping,

gaping mouths fill the nest.

Demanding, unrelenting, impatient. Obeying their orders, the bird stretches her wings, drops, glides, floats away. Her passing shadow darkens the wood and its dwellers below. Tiny creatures freeze, afraid that the bird is looking for them, then melt with relief as she flies on by. The

landscape

is

familiar.

The

landmarks

seldom change, except with the seasons. Yet today, something is different. The berry tree has gone. In its place noise, dust and machines fill a new hole in the wood. The bird wheels around fast, startled, eager to escape these confusing sights and sounds. She heads, instead, for the other berry tree. Much further to go, a more arduous trip for already tired wings to undertake but the ‘give me food’ command, it must be obeyed. Later, on her return, the weary bird is confused once again. The landscape is no longer familiar. The landmarks have completely changed. The hole in the wood has grown into a wide, human-infected wound. The noise that so startled her earlier has died down, the dust settled, but the machines they have multiplied. The bird can’t find the nest. She circles around and around. When she does finally find it the nest is shattered on the ground amongst broken branches, scattered in the shadow of a machine. Three mouths lie silent now. p

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PICTURE / POEM

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant – Success in Circuit lies Too bright for our infirm Delight The Truth’s superb surprise As Lightning to the Children eased With explanation kind The Truth must dazzle gradually Or every man be blind –

Emily Dickinson American poet 1830 - 1886

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AFTERWORD

Biophilia: a love of life or living systems An interview with Dave Bookless, MA, PhD student at Divinity Department, Cambridge University, and Advisor for Theology & Churches for A Rocha International. Image and text by Janica Candolin

H

ow would you describe the conservation situation in the UK compared with other European countries? If we compare the UK with Scandinavia for example, we have considerably less wildlife space, so we have to be more careful as we have less to spend. For instance West London is Europe’s most densely populated area, in the UK we fortunately have several nature reserves. In A Rocha (Portuguese for a rock), international conservation organisation, local ecology is our way of working, deep and long term commitment with a broader view. We try to combine people and wildlife in order to renew their connection. Due to the pressure the EU has put on the UK institutions we can see a rise in the recycling rates, in the usage of sustainable transport and solar energy. But in the EU resources are more likely to be invested in industries than on the environment, economics always seems to win over wildlife. How significant do you consider landscaping? Access to nature is a basic human need, not to mention a human right. Through the work of A Rocha I have seen changes in the lives of many families who through the access to rural spaces have seen the quality of their lives change for the better. On a personal level I have seen changes especially in the lives of young children living in Southall, London, who have experienced

wildlife previously only through television. After familiarising themselves with Minet Country Park, their bizarre perceptions of nature has changed. The King’s Fund conducted a research, which revealed that the levels of mental health problems of young people increased in correlation with inaccessibility to green spaces. Therefore I would say access to nature for humans is vital, as we need nature for psychological and physical health, especially for the people living in urban areas. What are the requirements for sustainable development? In urban planning and design we need to create spaces, where nature is not separated from human life, they need to be integrated. Minet Country Park is a perfect example in combining these two. We have forgotten how dependent we are on nature, we go to Sainsbury’s and buy a vegetable in its plastic wrapping and forget that it has grown on land. We need the sense of rural in order to create sustainable societies. In building we need to use natural light sources, solar energy, wind energy; options for non-dependency on oil. Growing food locally will shape our relationship closer with nature and will save our natural resources. We need to re-integrate human beings with nature and make them realize their dependence on it. p

Minet Country Park located next to the A312 in Hayes, Middlesex, has been one of the projects of A Rocha. The organisation that initiated the idea of converting a wasteland into a park, which has improved the lives of people living in the densely populated area.

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