Business owner fears third Olympic upheaval

A building contractors, currently situated within the Carpenters Estate in Stratford, could be forced to move location for a third time due to the Olympic Games.

The company was initially based where the Olympic Stadium now stands. They received a compulsory purchase order in 2005 along with over 200 other businesses. This forced them to temporarily move to Beckton. Poor communications and transport links in Beckton nearly destroyed the firm, so they moved back to Stratford eight months ago. Now plans to build a university campus on the Carpenters Estate has once again thrown their future into doubt.

The director of P.A. Finlay, Nick Athienitis, told this website that despite a healthy workload, the stress of the moves has caused financial problems and has broken family ties. In the interview below, he details how the company has had to relocate and how the threat of another move is affecting the business.

PA Finlay offer a wide range of services, ranging from large construction works to general maintenance. In the audio slideshow below, Nick explains a bit more about the type of work the company does.

‘If the ground goes, we go’ – the family business that wont survive without West Ham

Nathan’s Pie and Eels Shop is a family run business that’s been in East Ham for over 75 years. And it’s been at it’s current location on Barking Road with the Boleyn Ground just behind it since 1974.

Photo: Rosebud 23/flickr

The shop does most of its trade on football days when West Ham United play at home. And hungry fans queuing for an hour to sit down to traditional pie and mash or jellied eels is a sight to behold.

Upton Park Stadium, as it is otherwise known, has a total capacity of over 35,000. That’s a lot of hungry customers!

Photo: Not Forgotten/flickr

But West Ham might be leaving the grounds they’ve been in since 1904.

Owner Richard Nathan

They are among 4 bidders seeking to move into the Olympic Stadium in Stratford after the Games are over. The club had looked set to seal the deal last year, but this fell through after talks with prospective partners Newham Council collapsed in October, following complaints from Tottenham, Orient and another anonymous bidder. This time OPLC, the Olympic Park Legacy Company has offered the stadium on a 99 year lease basis rather than a permanent one.

Owner Richard Nathan told me that if West Ham goes, Nathan’s is going too. He said that the area has changed dramatically over the last few years. And with most of his regular customers moving away, it’s the match days (20 in a year if West Ham is doing well) that provide the bulk of his trade.

He has other sites in mind – but they’re definitely not in Newham.

When I asked him how the Olympic Games will affect his business, Richard told me that he thinks that despite serving up quintessentially East London fare, he’s too far away from the Olympic Stadium to benefit from increased footfall.

But for Richard and other businesses on Barking Road, the West Ham move is a much bigger concern, and they’re watching the progress of the bid with baited breath.

Local pub faces an uncertain future and says the Olympics ‘hasn’t done them any favours’

Carpenters Arms Landlord and lady

The Carpenters Arms located just metres from the Olympic Site on the Carpenter’s Estate in Stratford faces an uncertain future as the borough continues to undergo radical changes. Regeneration in the area resulting in road blocks and houses and factories disappearing from the vacinity have led to a dramatic decrease in business. We spoke to the landlord Seamus on a Friday afternoon. He told us that just two years ago the place would have been packed. When we were there, there were only 3 other people in the pub.

And now plans for a new UCL campus in the area are causing further worries.

When asked whether he thought the Olympic Games would bring increased business to his pub, he said he couldn’t be sure, as the council haven’t informed him about new entrances and exits to the road the pub is located on.

Seamus told this website that he would like to be able to make plans for the future, such renovations and improvements, but doesn’t know whether the pub is coming or going…..

Ask MP Stephen Timms

We will be interviewing MP for East Ham Stephen Timms next week.

Photo:ICAEW Press Office/flickr

He has been MP for the area since 1994, having previously been Labour’s MP for Newham North East. He’s the shadow minister for employment and was formerly financial secretary to the treasury.

Stephen Timms was elected to Newham Council in 1984 and chaired the Planning Committee from 1987 to 1990, before serving as Leader of the Council from 1990 to 1994.

He has lived in the East London Borough of Newham since 1979. He has concentrated on regeneration in East London – including regeneration partnerships, the Thames Gateway initiative, Stratford international station on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and the Olympics in Newham in 2012.

We plan to put some of the concerns we have heard from small business owners and workers over the course of the last few months to him. These include the effect on businesses of road closures, VIP lanes and congestion, compulsory purchase orders, problems of forced labour, how changes to Sunday Trading laws could affect businesses and much more.

If you have any questions you would like us to ask, please tweet us on @2012newham or leave a comment on this site……

We look forward to hearing from you!

Crimes against businesses in Newham drop in the lead up to the Games

In the last two years, Newham has seen a 45% drop in robberies against businesses. That’s significantly more than the London average drop of just under 15%.

Andrew Stanley from Andrew Stanley Woodworking says he hasn’t been ram raided since London won the Olympic bid back in 2005. Before that, being robbed was something of an occupational hazard.

His business is located just 600 metres from the Olympic site. He says a drop in crime against small businesses like his are one of the positive impacts the Games have had on the area.

Of the six Olympic host boroughs, Newham used to be the worst in terms of business robberies. But in recent years, as the following chart illustrates, there has been a significant drop in this type of crime, and the borough is now on an equal footing with Waltham Forest and Greenwich. The chart shows the number of business robberies in the six Olympic boroughs over a 10 year period from the year 2000. Notice how Newham experiences a surge in business robberies around 2005 and then a dramatic drop after 2007. The statistics are from the Metropolitan Police Crime Mapping and its Crime Mapping Data Tables.

Statistics from Met Police

But what’s behind the fall?

A key part of the winning bid was an emphasis on the social benefits of sport. In the run up to the bid almost £1m of government money was spent encouraging young east Londoners to engage in different sports. Over 64,000 young people took part in 26 different Olympic activities including fencing, swimming, gymnastics and boxing. Olympic ‘Gold Cards’ allowed young people to gain access to Newham’s four leisure centres.

And in 2005, the year of the winning bid, the number of young people in the borough making a first court appearance dropped by a quarter. This compared with a mere 1% reduction in other parts of London. Overall the figures for juvenile court appearances in Newham were down by just under 40%.

So it appears that promoting sport has had a beneficial by-product – it may have caused a dramatic reduction in Newham’s crime figures.

But Andrew Stanley has another more direct theory. He believes the drop in business robberies is down to the increase in policing and security in the area around the Olympic Site:

Security continues to beef up as the event itself approaches

Up to 12,000 police will be dedicated to policing on the busiest days of the Games, and about 9,500 of those will be in London.

And as the event itself looms large on the horizon, Chris Allison, the Met Police’s assistant commissioner and national Olympic security co-ordinator, successfully secured an agreement from chief constables around the country to postpone cuts to certain key areas such as firearms, explosive detector dogs, mounted police until after the Games.

But those reductions will be phased in after the Games. So will the borough of Newham continue to enjoy a drop in crime rates when the party has left town?

The alternative Olympics tour – this Saturday

Those over at the Site/Fringe project have planned a screening day for their finished film this coming Saturday. The production details how communities near the Olympic site have been affected by the Games. They’ll also be a walking tour conducted by one of the residents of the Carpenters Estate.

Six MA students from Goldsmiths University are behind this project along with CARP, The Friends of Queens Market and the Save the Atherton Campaign. The collected material from the event will become part of the Museum of London’s collection.

They’re meeting this Saturday 24th March at 3.00pm outside Stratford Tube Station.

Image courtesy of site/fringe

Living with Auntie: BBC granted permission to move into Carpenters Estate

Newham Council’s planning committee last night gave permission for the BBC and Al Jazeera to use two tower blocks overlooking the Olympic Park. From May till the end of September the top five floors of Lund Point and Dennison Point (pictured above) will change use from residential flats into a media broadcasting venue.

These blocks of flats form part of the 1960’s Carpenters Estate in Stratford. Since 2010 the council has begun a rehousing programme for tenants as homes are earmarked for redevelopment. Last year a deal was signed with University College London to look at the possibility of building a second campus in this area, much to the anger of current residents.

Al Jazeera image of studio to be built on the roof of Dennison Point – submitted to Newham Council

The towers are mostly vacant with around a quarter of the flats being used in both. In Lund Point (to be used by the BBC) there are five flats still occupied on the upper five floors, in Dennison (to be used by Al Jazeera) there are seven. Effectively, these tenants will be living within a media production centre throughout these five months.

The council has received written objections from twelve residents, most of whom were present at Stratford Town Hall last night. One was even allowed to keep hold of his placard inside the council chamber (pictured right).

Amy Brennan, who lives on the top floor of Lund Point, was worried about excessive noise from the studios. She said:

“How can I be expected to get a decent night’s sleep? I feel stressed and anxious at the mere prospect with sharing my building, my home, with a high-profile media organisation…shame on the BBC and Newham Council. Two organisations that exist to serve the public.”

She added:

“Why should we have to put up with this serious disruption to our daily lives? This discomfort in our homes? So that you Newham Council can make some extra money? You are capitalising on my discomfort, my ill-health and the discomfort of other residents.”

David McGinn, who moved into Lund Point six months ago, spoke on behalf of CARP (Carpenters Against Regeneration Plan). He brought up concerns regarding asbestos, something the BBC will have to tackle if they need to redesign the space for broadcasting purposes. He said:

“Newham Council informed residents awhile back that the reason the asbestos is still in the building was because it was too dangerous to move, that now seems to be no longer the case when there’s some money involved.”

He also mentioned his concerns regarding security and spoke about the ongoing regeneration project. He said:

“The council has been trying for seven years to move everyone out of the blocks for redevelopment. Having failed to do so, the council have now decided to redevelop it with the residents still in place.”

Jamie Hindhaugh, BBC’s Head of Production for the Games, was in attendance. He spoke directly to locals, responding to their concerns. He said:

“What the BBC are proposing is essentially a news coverage which is very much in a quiet environment, which the BBC will want to maintain throughout their period of occupancy there.”

It seems like the BBC’s hands have been tied. They couldn’t contact and consult residents until they had planning permission and in my view it looked as if the council hadn’t done a particularly good job in the interim. McGinn, allowed to speak again in what was turning into a very open and informal meeting, spoke about the building work that had already begun. He said:

“Why has it come to this? It’s because there’s been no engagement, no substantive consultation beyond this specific planning process. And we’ve been told by the [Tenant Management Organisation] that the council actually point blank refused to send a letter to the residents of Lund Point explaining what works were going on.”

The BBC, after reaching an initial agreement with Newham Council, has allowed all building work to be done by council contractors. It’s these contractors that have already dug two exploratory holes near the base of the towers and erected scaffolding.

Stratford Town Hall

Then the conversation turned to money. Prompted by a councillor as to what would make residents reason with the broadcasters, McGinn said:

“A discussion about actual financial compensation I think will not go amiss here.”

The chair of the meeting, Cllr Ron Manley, was quick to say that any agreement would be between the residents and the BBC and wouldn’t be a part of this planning application. Thoughts turned to the financing of this temporary studio. Cllr Shelia Thomas, Plaistow South ward, asked:

“How much money is the council making out of this planning application?”

Cllr Ron Manley responded that he didn’t have any idea but that all money paid by the BBC “will be ploughed back into sports and education for the borough”.

Despite the anxiety and anger shown at this meeting, representatives from the BBC and local tenants left on good terms and arranged to meet again to start more detailed discussions. Whatever its long term future, Carpenters Estate will be getting two high profile tenants for the Olympics. So when you’re watching the likes of Clare Balding, Gary Lineker, Hazel Irvine and Sue Barker this Summer – spare a thought for the people just metres beneath their feet, going about their daily lives.