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Urban Laboratory and DPU open letter to UCL Council

22 September 2012

UCL Urban Laboratory academics and students, endorsed by The Bartlett’s Development Planning Unit staff, have written the following open letter to UCL Council regarding the UCL Stratford Proposition. The letter will be considered at the Council’s meeting on Wednesday 28th November 2012.

22 November 2012

UCL Urban Laboratory open letter to UCL Council, endorsed by UCL Bartlett Development Planning Unit

Dear UCL Council Members

We are writing to alert you to our serious concerns with the current version of the "UCL Stratford Proposition", which in its current form constitutes a missed opportunity to draw on the expertise of the UCL community and show leadership in developing a sustainable and socially equitable approach to regeneration.

UCL Urban Laboratory is a cross-faculty centre for interdisciplinary research and teaching on cities and urbanization. It comprises a network for urban researchers and students, and it promotes UCL’s work on cities widely amongst urban scholars, practitioners and the public. We have a particular focus on London, and on housing, regeneration and community engagement, as well as extensive networks internationally, and a wealth of knowledge of cities across the globe. Our work draws from and promotes UCL’s rich heritage of pioneering urbanism, evidenced in the work of thinkers and practitioners such as Patrick Abercrombie, Reyner Banham, Ruth Glass, Peter Hall, Otto Königsberger and Walter Segal.  

We have seen only the public document UCL Stratford Proposition (11 October 2012) and we have not had access to the information on which these proposals have been based. Some of us attended Academic Board (24 October 2012) when a summary of UCL’s vision for expansion was presented, albeit without reference to the site, its existing use as the Carpenters Estate, or the opposition of the estate’s residents to UCL’s proposals.

We are united in our view that UCL should not go ahead with a project in which it becomes the replacement use for what has been the home of a settled community with 700 housing units. The dispossession of council estates in London is now a widespread phenomenon. We see this as an aggressive and unethical process, and a major contributing factor to the UK’s severe housing crisis, which is concentrated in Newham. UCL cannot legitimately hide behind Newham Council by arguing that the estate was already going to be cleared, or that if it does not go ahead another developer will. If it does proceed without changing direction the College will be operating in a way that contradicts its stated values, and runs counter to the findings of its own researchers, past and present. Severe reputational damage will be inevitable, with UCL being seen as a powerful but destructive external force, with actions that contradict the principles it articulates. 

Some of us consider, however, that it is not too late for UCL to re-think its approach and to try, in a quite different and more original and creative way, to work with residents and surrounding communities to develop a new proposal. It would, for example, be possible for the quantum of social and affordable housing to be maintained, and the existing and recently-displaced residents to remain alongside teaching, research and UCL residential activity.

We therefore urge Council Members to insist that any further decisions on the UCL Stratford Proposition be opened to full debate in UCL, and that the proposals for Stratford be restructured in reference to the wealth of relevant academic, practical and planning expertise held within the UCL community.

Dr Pushpa Arabindoo (Geography)

Dr Matthew Beaumont (English)

Dr Sarah Bell (Engineering)

Dr Camillo Boano (Development Planning Unit)

Professor Iain Borden (Architecture)

Dr Victor Buchli (Anthropology)

Dr Ben Campkin (Architecture)

Dr Claire Colomb (Planning)

Professor Richard Dennis (Geography)

Dr Adam Drazin (Anthropology)

Dr Ger Duijzings (Slavonic and Eastern European Studies)

Mr Michael Edwards (Planning)

Professor Adrian Forty (Architecture)

Ms Laura Hirst (Urban Laboratory)

Ms Sandra Jasper (Geography)

Mr Regan Koch (Geography)

Professor Murray Fraser (Architecture)

Professor Matthew Gandy (Geography)

Dr Andrew Harris (Geography)

Professor Nick Phelps (Planning)

Dr Hilary Powell (Architecture)

Professor Mike Raco (Planning)

Professor Jane Rendell (Architecture)

Professor Jennifer Robinson (Geography)

Dr Claire Thomson (Scandinavian Studies)

This letter is endorsed by UCL Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU)

The Development Planning Unit is a multi-disciplinary unit in the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment with extensive research and professional experience in various fields of urban, regional, environmental, social, and institutional development throughout the world.

DPU signatories:

Dr Julio Davila (Senior Lecturer and Director of DPU)

Dr Michael Walls (Lecturer and Director of Research)

Mr Julian Walker (Senior Lecturer and Director of Training and Advisory Services)

Dr Camillo Boano (Senior Lecturer and Director of Communications)

Ms Caren Levy (Senior Lecturer)

Dr Adriana Allen (Senior Lecturer)

Dr Alexandre Apsan Frediani (Lecturer)

Dr Barbara Lipietz (Lecturer)

Dr Caroline Newton (Lecturer)

Dr Vanesa Castan Broto (Lecturer)

Dr Kamna Patel (Lecturer)

Mr Etienne Von Bertrab (Lecturer)

Dr Cassidy Johnson (Lecturer)

Dr Liza Griffin (Lecturer)

Ms Pascale Hofmann (Lecturer)

Mr William Hunter (Teaching Fellow)

Ms Rita Lambert (Teaching Fellow)

Ms Gynna Millan Franco (DPU Media Coordinator)

Ms Di Jiang (Graduate Teaching Assistant)

Ms Alicia Yon (Graduate Teaching Assistant)

Mr Matthew Wood-Hill (Graduate Teaching Assistant)

Ms Stephanie Butcher (Graduate Teaching Assistant)

For previous press releases from the UCL Urban Laboratory on the UCL Stratford Proposition please follow these links. 

Stratford Proposition, UCL Urban Laboratory statement, 23 October 2012

UCL proposals for a Newham Campus, Urban Laboratory statement, 25 April 2012

Page last modified on 27 nov 12 11:01


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