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East End tenants 'booted out' of Goldfinger's iconic Balfron Tower' claim

PUBLISHED: 15:40 18 February 2015 | UPDATED: 15:40 18 February 2015

Protesters outside Poplar Harca Housing's offices

Protesters outside Poplar Harca Housing's offices

TH Renters

Campaigners have protested against a social housing organisation in London's East End they claim is booting out low-income tenants from Erno Goldfinger's iconic 1960s Balfron Tower.

Goldfinger's iconic 1968 Balfron TowerGoldfinger's iconic 1968 Balfron Tower

Members of Tower Hamlets Renters and Action East End demonstrated outside the offices of Poplar Harca Housing’s offices yesterday over a planning application they fear would “evict social tenants” from the ex-council block which is due to be refurbished after 46 years.

Around £20 million is needed to spruce up the high-riser in East India Dock Road, overlooking the Blackwall Tunnel entrance, before most of its 146 rented flats are “sold off to bankers and investors” with no chance for the tenants to return, protesters believe.

“People bang on about the architectural importance of Balfron Tower,” campaigner Glenn McMahon said. “But frankly, its legacy will be more ‘ironic’ than ‘iconic’.

“Goldfinger designed it for the East End’s working classes—yet Poplar Harca has kicked them out and is selling their homes to bankers and investors.”

Balfron Tower by nightBalfron Tower by night

The 26-storey tower opened in 1968 brings in around £1.5m a year in rents, which campaigners say is enough to pay the refurbishment loan over 20 years.

“The wholesale transfer of low-income tenants in favour of people who can afford mortgages up to £1m is ‘social cleansing’ by any standards,” McMahon added.

But Poplar Harca today denied trying to get rid of the tenants. It had moved out families into larger homes in the neighbouring Carradale House who had been stuck in overcrowded accommodation.

A spokesman said: “We’ve built 1,000 social homes in the area over the last 15 years and are refurbishing all tenant accommodation to ‘Decent Homes’ standard. Contracts are also in place to build another 300 homes in the Poplar and Bow area, many of them family homes for local need.”

The agreement with Tower Hamlets Council when Poplar Harca took over Balfron Tower in 2007 specified that it had to be renovated.

Tenants were told before the hand-over that homes “would need to be sold” to pay for the architectural Grade II-listed restoration. They voted at the time for Poplar Harca to run the block.

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