'The Olympics destroyed my home'
On July 23, the residents of the Clays Lane housing estate in Stratford left their homes for the last time. Once a vibrant community of 450 people, with its own café, community hall and advice centre, the estate must now be vacated to make way for the Olympics
Set up in the 1980s, to address the lack of housing for young single people, Clays Lane was the largest purpose-built housing co-operative in Europe. Last week, with almost all the residents moved out, the place resembled a boarded-up ghost town. But around 15 people did hold out until the end, more from problems experienced by the London Development Agency (LDA), which is relocating them, than any desire to man the barricades. Ed Doherty, 34, who lived at Clays Lane for ten years, was one of the last to leave. Here, he tells us why he’s sad to go.
'This has been a unique place to live. We’ll never see the likes of this kind of community in London again. We lived in blocks – “houses” – arranged around a courtyard, and with communal bathrooms and kitchens. We’d meet every month to decide on estate business. The whole thing ticked over. It was like living in a big family. Lots of artists and musicians lived here and the atmosphere was very creative. In the 1990s, there were free parties, with DJs and performers and sometimes over 1,000 people attended and the party would spill over on to the Eastway cycle track next door.
‘On the day London won the Olympics, I was just surprised. How could this place that I’d lived in for so many years be turned into a new development so quickly? The LDA approached us about moving. They told us we could move anywhere we wanted. One of the first places offered was a development in Beckton, which was by an airport and not attractive. The LDA presented the move as something positive, whereby residents were offered self-contained flats. The point is that many people chose to live here because it offered a co-operative lifestyle and we want to continue to live communally. We also had low rents, which many of us are seeing double in our new places.
‘The biggest problem is that the relocation has taken so long. Some people still do not have new accommodation and are being moved into temporary places. I’m part of a group of four who want to move together to Brighton. Just a few days before we were kicked out of Clays Lane, I signed my new tenancy agreement for the Brighton flat. It’s spacious, with a balcony and roof terrace, so it’s worked out okay in the end.
‘But it’s terribly sad to leave Clays Lane. It’s been a place of great memories. What do I feel about the Olympics itself? Development was happening around here anyway; it didn’t need the Olympics. At the end of the day, the Olympics has destroyed my home.’
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