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Private greed, political negligence and housing policy after Grenfell

As the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire of 14 June 2017 has slowly revealed a shadowy background of outsourcing and deregulation, and a council turning a blind eye to health and safety concerns, many questions need answers. Stuart Hodkinson has those answers. Safe as Houses weaves together Stuart’s research over the last decade with residents’ groups in council regeneration projects across London to provide the first comprehensive account of how Grenfell happened and how it could easily have happened in multiple locations across the country. It draws on examples of unsafe housing either refurbished or built by private companies under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) to show both the terrible human consequences of outsourcing and deregulation and how the PFI has enabled developers, banks and investors to profiteer from highly lucrative, taxpayer-funded contracts. The book also provides shocking testimonies of how councils and other public bodies have continuously sided with their private partners, doing everything in their power to ignore, deflect and even silence those who speak out. The book concludes that the only way to end the era of unsafe regeneration and housing provision is to end the disastrous regime of self-regulation. This means strengthening safety laws, creating new enforcement agencies independent of government and industry, and replacing PFI and similar models of outsourcing with a new model of public housing that treats the provision of shelter as ‘a social service’ democratically accountable to its residents.

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Something rich and strange

Manchester: Something rich and strange challenges us to see the quintessential post-industrial city in new ways. Bringing together twenty-three diverse writers and a wide range of photographs of Greater Manchester, it argues that how we see the city can have a powerful effect on its future – an urgent question given how quickly the urban core is being transformed. The book uses sixty different words to speak about the diversity of what we think of as Manchester – whether the chimneys of its old mills, the cobbles mostly hidden under the tarmac, the passages between terraces, or the everyday act of washing clothes in a laundrette. Unashamedly down to earth in its focus, this book makes the case for a renewed imaginative relationship that recognises and champions the fact that we’re all active in the making and unmaking of urban spaces.

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Grenfell and the return of ‘social murder’
Stuart Hodkinson

Knowsley Heights in Huyton, Liverpool, was linked to the absence of fire breaks in the gap between the cladding and the block’s walls. In June 1999, a 55-year-old disabled man died in a fire in the 14-storey Garnock Court in Irvine, Scotland, after the fire spread via the combustible plastic cladding. Three people were killed, two of them firefighters, in the 17-storey Harrow Court fire in February 2005, in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, when a fire developed and spread from the fourteenth floor up the outside of the building to higher floors. In July 2009, six people were

in Safe as houses
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Tim Edensor

-standing supporters lived and worked over the eight decades of its existence. Built by the doyen of stadium design, Scottish architect Archibald Leitch, stadia such as City’s were typically hemmed in by row upon row of small terraced houses. The layout of this realm remains somewhat labyrinthine, cut across with numerous streets and cobbled alleys, and was interspersed with corner shops, fast-food eateries and pubs, with larger spaces occupied by schools and community centres. Accordingly, Maine Road could be accessed via a myriad of different routes from all directions. The Old

in Manchester
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Joanne Hudson

a place for such things to exist, thereby challenging our notion of what constitutes the urban and our assumptions of where a wilderness is. If you judge wilderness differently – as places that are overlooked, unplanned and undervalued – then the Highlands of Scotland would score low, while this wildscape in inner-city Gorton would score highly. Although rarely valued as beautiful by conventional aesthetic standards, their beauty 257 Manchester: Something rich and strange commonly lies in their ‘out of placeness’, which can surprise and stimulate. The greatest

in Manchester
Regeneration meets the Private Finance Initiative
Stuart Hodkinson

transforming itself to enable PFI to take off. Bankers were seconded into the Treasury to help manage the PFI programme, and 15 senior representatives of the City, industry and the civil service, including leading corporate executives from companies that would benefit from PFI contracts, like General Electric, SAH.indb 60 30/01/2019 12:44:50 Regeneration meets the Private Finance Initiative 61 Tarmac, Scottish Power, Serco and pension fund manager Hermes, were appointed to the government’s Private Finance Panel, which had an agenda to ‘introduce private finance into all

in Safe as houses
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Who profits and how
Stuart Hodkinson

a total of £905.17 million was raised in senior debt from banks and bond issues for these 17 schemes. Using the interest rates and terms disclosed, I estimate that these loan agreements will generate £721.73 million in interest income to these financiers. We can also see that some banks have done particularly well, with the Nationwide Building Society and the Bank of Scotland providing senior debt finance in 9 of these 17 schemes. Now let us look at the estimated interest income earned by the owners of the SPVs across these 17 schemes, which is set out in table 6

in Safe as houses
The poetic in the work of Tim Robinson
Moya Cannon

writings are in many ways reminiscent of the work of Barry Lopez in the Arctic, of John McPhee in his deep storying of the geology of the United States, of Robert Macfarlane in his tracing of old paths in England and Scotland, or of Nan Shepherd in her wonderfully poetic and rigorous account of the Cairngorms in the north of Scotland. However, his decision to base himself physically in his field of studies for half a lifetime, his background as a mathematician and as a visual artist, his scientific interests and his openness to folklore and myth give his work ever new

in Unfolding Irish landscapes
In defence of the Irish essay
Karen Babine

burst in Ireland, new considerations of place and identity are taking shape, most notably in the recent rise of Irish crime literature, particularly noir, which is intricately linked to urban place. But such considerations are also important to non-fiction. Part of this attention to the local is because both writers find themselves ‘out of place’ – Robinson as an Englishman who has come to make the West of Ireland his home and Arthur as an Ulsterman who has come to make Wales and Scotland his home. Thus the essential qualities of the essay – and the elevation of the

in Unfolding Irish landscapes
Trevor Barnes

, Tobler (1961) completed his own Map transformations of geographic space , under Sherman’s supervision. Furthermore, Alan Werritty (2010) has argued that both Tobler’s and Bunge’s works were based on prior ideas, which both acknowledged, by the early-twentieth-century Scottish biologist D’Arcy Thompson in his book On growth and form . Whatever the exact complicated genealogy, Bunge’s and Tobler’s use of the idea of map transformation represented an experiment – in this case in cartographic re-description – to reawaken what they took as a dormant geographical

in The power of pragmatism