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Land trust victory at Shadwell after railway yard is blessed with holy water by Bishop of London

PUBLISHED: 15:14 18 June 2018 | UPDATED: 15:40 18 June 2018

Campaigners' wildest dream comes true with the Mayor of London releasing surplus land at Shadwell for low-cost housing. Picture: Mike Brooke

Campaigners' wildest dream comes true with the Mayor of London releasing surplus land at Shadwell for low-cost housing. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Campaigners have won a victory today in their long fight for low-cost homes with the Mayor of London announcing that a disused railway depot in Shadwell is to be used for non-profit community land trust housing.

Bishop of London Dame Sarah Mullally blessed the Cable Street site with Holy Water on May 3. Picture: Mike BrookeBishop of London Dame Sarah Mullally blessed the Cable Street site with Holy Water on May 3. Picture: Mike Brooke

The site is set to be London’s biggest-yet land trust where homes are sold based on the average income in the area—less than half market price.

The homes can only be sold back to the land trust with the same criteria, with the land itself retained for future generations.

“Housing is a basic human right,” Shadwell schools family engagement officer Janice Hill-Kocoglu said. “I have seen so many families pushed out of the area because of high rents, or children in overcrowded conditions which has an impact on their education.

“Everyone deserves to have a place they can call home, where they feel safe and secure—the news of this land grant gives the community in Shadwell a sense of hope.”

St George's priest-in-charge Angus Ritchie (left) and Bishop of Stepney Adrian Newman after finding the disused railway yard in Shadwell. Picture: Mike BrookeSt George's priest-in-charge Angus Ritchie (left) and Bishop of Stepney Adrian Newman after finding the disused railway yard in Shadwell. Picture: Mike Brooke

Campaigners from ‘Shadwell Citizens for Affordable Housing’, part of the Citizens UK civil society network based in Whitechapel, came across the site next to the DLR and Fenchurch Street main line by chance, reported in the East London Advertiser last October.

The disused site—still locked up with metal fencing around it—was found ‘going begging’ by Angus Ritchie, priest-in-charge at St George’s-in-the-East church nearby.

He was on a ‘walkabout’ with his parishioners looking for land suitable for housing when he passed the yard next to the railway arches.

It got the ‘holy water’ treatment of approval last month from the new Bishop of London, The Rt Rev Dame Sara Mullally, who was invited by Bishop of Stepney Adrian Newman to give her blessing to the parishioners’ campaign.

Wave of success after Bishop of London blesses land trust campaign that has now won the Shadwell railway yard for community housing. Picture: Mike BrookeWave of success after Bishop of London blesses land trust campaign that has now won the Shadwell railway yard for community housing. Picture: Mike Brooke

She said at the time: “We have to be imaginative in finding solutions to housing. The Shadwell community has come together which shows how strong they are to address the real issue of affordable housing.”

Dame Sarah blessed the yard with Holy Water before being whisked off on her first tour of the East End since becoming bishop in December.

The land trust movement now claims its second victory with the TfL site in Cable Street.

The site is now earmarked for up to 40 homes priced between £190,000 and £199,000.

Today’s City Hall announcement follows the opening last year of Britain’s first urban land trust scheme at the old St Clement’s Hospital six-acre site in the Mile End Road.

London Community Land Trust co-director Calum Green said: “This means families are no longer forced to leave London and can stay in the neighbourhood they call home. Land trusts are a way for genuinely and permanently affordable homes that people desperately need.”

But tackling the housing crisis would take time, London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned today. Making small plots of public land available like Shadwell was only “part of addressing the shortage”, aimed at reinvigorating small homebuilders “after years of over-reliance on large developers”.

Shadwell campaigner Sarah-Emily Mutch said: “This news is a victory for communities. Our campaign has shown what happens when a community gets together and pushes for change.”

The land trust movement started 25 years ago in the East End aims to keep communities together, ensuring families with strong ties to the locality are not priced out.

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