Up the Common People

Luxury apartments‘… forgive me, but it has to be said. I’m sick of them. Sick to the back teeth. Sick to death. Sick as a dog and yes, sick as a parrot too.

A vision of Battersea Power Station...chock full of unaffordable flats.

A vision of the upcoming Battersea Power Station development…chock full of grossly unaffordable flats.

The hoardings are up everywhere. Every corner I turn. Glossy boards surrounding clattering building sites, all plastered with the same cliches; ‘Phase one underway’, ‘quarter’ this and ‘village’ that. One site in Hackney offers investors the chance to ‘own a piece of London’s history’- the building in question was once a children’s hospital.

The former Queen Elizabeth Children's Hospital.. envisioned here as redeveloped luxury apartments

The former Queen Elizabeth Children’s Hospital, Hackney… envisioned here as redeveloped luxury apartments

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against development. My father is a carpenter so it’s good to see tradespeople employed- although it’s unlikely that those toiling on such sites will ever be able to afford to live within at least a 20 mile radius of the city.

The thing is, many of these new builds are destined for ultra-rich offshore investors and are therefore likely to remain empty. As such they are thrown together cheaply and quickly; glorified Meccano sets which will inevitably force out locals, eradicate heritage and purge the soul.


One such place under threat is the George Tavern on the East End’s Commercial Road.

The George Tavern, Commercial Road

The George Tavern, Commercial Road

A developer wishes to level this site and plonk down even more lifeless apartments upon it. Tower Hamlets Council are more than happy for this to go ahead; they’d make a nice few quid from it after all.

This piece of land has been home to an inn since the 17th century. In its present form the George Tavern dates back to the 1820s.

Since then of course, towers have sprouted across the City and at Canary Wharf, both of which are within spitting distance of the George. Whilst the price of land here has now therefore rocketed, the value placed upon heritage has clearly not.


In the 1970s a club was added to the George Tavern. Now closed, the extension is a forlorn site when viewed from the roar of Commercial Road.

The former 'Stepney's' night club

The former ‘Stepneys’ night club

Named ‘Stepneys’, this club became famous for its light up disco floor which drew in thousands of revellers over the years.

Stepney’s finest hour occurred 20 years ago in 1995 when Sheffield band, ‘Pulp’ recorded the video for their anthem, ‘Common People’ in the club…

Over the past few years a fierce campaign has fought to save the George Tavern. You can read more about it here… please give them your support, the common people need you.


19 responses

  1. Well said Rob.

  2. The changing face of London and the area around it is going to the dogs! greed for
    money it sounds to me. It’s the same in Toronto pull down and put up apartments
    no one can afford so they stand empty! doesn’t make sense. good article Rob

    1. Many thanks 🙂 Was talking to Stuart about the same problems when he was over here.

  3. I’m with you on this one. I watched a TV documentary about the boom in apartment prices in London and New York. Most are deliberately bought as investments, never to actually be lived in. Accommodation seems to have replaced Oil and Shares as a commodity, and they are flattening history to provide even more.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  4. I’m with you every step of the way. What they’re doing is grotesque.

  5. Laura Bloomsbury | Reply

    Good to hear another voice across this prime development site that is called London. We lost the common touch when the boundaries of ‘affordable’ went upwardly mobile.
    Pubs are closing thick and fast as we’re losing the attachment to our ‘local’ – you put it well “the price of land here has rocketed, the value placed upon heritage has clearly not.”

    1. Thanks, Laura. The rate at which pubs are closing is appalling- the demolition of the Carlton Tavern was perhaps the best demonstration of the disregard these developers have. At least it’s getting rebuilt 🙂

  6. Our masters don’t like ‘community’…it means solidarity and self reliance: potential for opposition.
    So for them these obscene ‘developments are win-win’…people out, money in the coffers.

    When I come to England to visit my mother and come up to London where I worked and was a student before that I am struck each time by how soulless whole areas have become – and how ugly with these jerry built towers.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Helen. Very well said.

  7. JUPILLAT TOBITT Emmanuèle | Reply

    Hello Robert,
    I fully follow you on your analyse.
    Your blog is always so interesting and making London under an other wiew.
    Love to you and your family
    Emmanuèle (from France)

    1. Hi Emmanuele, so good to hear from you! Thank you for the comment great to know you’re on here 🙂

  8. Stewart Macdonald | Reply

    Strongly agree with your sentiments Rob. Where will it all end ? (economic social cleansing)?

    1. Thanks, Stewart. I keep thinking it must be a bubble ready to burst soon, but no sign of that yet… the momentum at which this is all happening is very unsettling.

  9. I fully agree with you. On the train last week into Waterloo there is a large development between Battersea and Vauxhall, and before that I was in Greenwich by Enderbys Wharf and this area is being redeveloped as well with the loss of the industrial heritage of the Enderby cable works. London will loose its’ character, full of identical towers which locals cannot afford to buy.

    1. Thanks, Dave. Just discovered your own website- it’s brilliant and am looking forward to reading it all.

  10. Just to peg my generation & London bona fides: I was born in Du Cane hospital, next to Wormwood Scrubs, Shepherd’s Bush, in 1949. I grew up in rent controlled private rental housing in the Bush, went to grammar school post-11+ in Hammersmith, to teaching college in Roehampton, & then to UCLA (California), where I earned my BA, MA & PhD ~ the latter all premised on the superior education I got for free in London.
    So I’m viewing London from a distance but also with a perspective. And one thing that most rubs me the wrong way is that the tower blocks of council housing built to compensate for the bomb sites I well remember, then condemned (rightly) for being jerry-built & anti-social are literally being replaced (see Earl’s Court & Heygate) by NEW tower blocks that are the antithesis of social housing.
    And what’s most sickening is that publically-owned land is traded away to commercial developers under the guise of regeneration, while any efforts by those few London boroughs who seek to build new affordable housing are ham-strung ~ despite the fact that ain’t nobody making new land & low-to-middle income households are priced out of London for rentals, let along mortgages.

    1. Many thanks, Geraldine… very well said indeed.

  11. Hello!We are occupying the Stepney’s night club and we want to save it from demolition.It’s not in a good condition,many leaks are damaging it very fast and this will be an excuse to go ahead with the planning.Please anyone come along for a cuppa and a chat.I’m so glad people are realizing all the destruction and together we will stop it.

    1. Hi Sylvia,

      That’s great news! Best of luck to all of you 🙂

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