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UCL students have occupied against management plans to demolish the Carpenters Estate in the construction of a new Stratford campus. 318 households are already being evicted to make way for a new UCL campus. Earlier on Wednesday, students demonstrated outside a meeting of the university’s highest governing body, UCL Council, which was set to approve for the proposition.
UCL Council had its longest meeting in living memory, as one of the most controversial issues in the College’s history was discussed, with academics and students criticising the plans and calling for them to be dropped. Despite this, UCL management effectively brushed aside dissenting voices.
An occupier said: “If UCL management refuses to listen to the overwhelming will of students and staff – and go ahead with a project that will destroy a community – we have a moral duty to fight on the issue and prevent them from going ahead.”
The room being occupied is the Garden Room, in the main UCL Building next to the Provost’s office.
UCL’s £1 billion proposition has been approved in principle by Newham Council despite fierce opposition from residents, supported by UCL students, through official consultations, open meetings and public campaigning.
In a press release supporting the demonstration on Wednesday, student union officers and academics gave this support:
Hannah Webb is Community Officer at UCL Union and has been campaigning to prevent the destruction of the Carpenters estate for several months. She said: “UCL’s proposal is appalling. It will bulldoze homes and communities without regard for the hundreds it will displace. This proposition goes against the wishes of UCL students and staff and constitutes a desecration of the strong moral principles on which UCL was founded.”
The following statement was made today on behalf of Carpenters Against Regeneration Plans by a resident of the Carpenters estate: “The Carpenters estate is a strong community with a long shared history. UCL are trying to wipe us off the map. UCL’s proposal completely disregard the needs and aspirations of our community - it treats the residents of the estate as if we do not exist. It is wonderful to have the support of UCL students who recognise the injustice of their university’s plans.”
Ben Campkin, director of UCL’s Urban Lab, said: “There is a long tradition of pioneering progressive urbanism at UCL, with a particular academic and practical focus on social housing, regeneration and community-led planning in London. Any UCL development needs to proceed from this wealth of expertise and experience. The current proposals indicate some positive ways that UCL could be a force for good in Newham, but they have not been developed through adequate engagement with the on-site community. The development as proposed will exacerbate London’s housing crisis rather than draw on UCL’s expertise to address it.”
Michael Edwards, a teaching fellow at UCL’s Bartlett School of Planning and signatory of an open letter from UCL’s Urban Lab to UCL council criticising the proposition said: “The disrespect shown so far by UCL management and by Newham Council members towards UCL’s academic body has been deeply concerning. To date UCL has consciously ignored the relevant research and advice of its leading academics, foregoing the opportunity to make a truly radical and progressive proposal for Stratford.” These comments follow revelations in an open letter from UCLU’s Ethics, Environment and Operations officer to UCL Urban Lab’s steeting committee (see https://uclu.org/articles/ucl-stratford-approach-to-academics).
Mical Nelken, a student at UCL who attended Wednesday’s demonstration, said: “This is yet another example of an irresponsible university management misrepresenting students. This management irresponsibility is endemic to UK universities, who increasingly behave as corporations rather than academic communities. It is frightening to watch as the marketisation of education prompts universities to blindly abandon their core values and treat their students, staff and neighbouring communities with contempt.”
The demonstration began at 2:30pm in UCL’s main quadrangle. UCL students, academics and residents of the Carpenters estate were all be present. All, including members of the press, were invited to attend to observe or participate. More information is available here: http://uclu.org/stratford