£12 billion Earl’s Court scheme value hidden to avoid affordable housing

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After nearly two years of fighting to get the viability assessment of the Earl’s Court scheme, Capco and Kensington & Chelsea finally gave in to the Information Commissioner’s demand that the report be released. The Councils and the developer had good reason to keep the assessment produced by DVS secret. The scheme is not worth £8 billion, but £12 billion – and that was in September 2012. So imagine what it’s worth now!

Amazingly the DVS review showed that the scheme was not viable on the basis of Capco’s assumptions, a reason in itself not to approve the scheme. But it was also critical of Capco’s reluctance to co-operate with the assessment. Throughout their review, DVS questioned the calculations and methodologies that were used to justify 11% of so called ‘affordable’ housing.

In their defence, Capco claims that “the DVS had full access to all relevant Capco information”. But this is not true. The DVS report cites 23 separate issues on which information or evidence required was not supplied or clarity was not provided on how sums were calculated. It refers to “queries that remain unanswered” (benchmark land values), and information requested that “has not been forthcoming” (income in respect of land surrounding Empress State).

With reference to rent free periods, DVS states: “Further explanation is required … and we have requested this information from the applicant. To date this has not been forthcoming”. DVS queried the values adopted for other uses: “Despite requesting this information … we have not had the opportunity to review these values”. The phrase “we have not been provided” runs through the report like the wording in Brighton Rock.

Further in their defence, Capco claimed that “calculations referenced in the report were based on standard industry processes and methodologies”. But this isn’t true either. In at least 17 areas the DVS report questions the processes and methodologies as not being consistent with the standard approach for making calculations. Under the heading “Methodology” DVS states: “The approach is not a common method of considering viability assessments”.

Capco made such pessimistic assumptions that DVS concluded: “The scheme is not viable on a present day cost and revenue basis”. “We do not accept the method by which they determine individual plot values”. DVS had to eliminate 3% of the scheme cost because it was double counted. In respect of the land around the Empress State building, DVS say: “The methodology for assessing this site is flawed”. DVS questioned the basic assumption that plots would be sold to other developers to build out: “We are of the opinion that the exit strategy assumed by the applicant is not a consistent approach …We find it hard to comprehend why indeed the applicant would sell the land short”.

DVS question the overall approach made by Capco: “A fundamental area of concern to us is the level of detail that informs the residential sales revenue and construction costs and the reliance upon average unit sizes, blended capital values and the broad ranging unit assumptions that have been adopted to inform the anticipated residential revenue of c. £10.81bn of the entire scheme value of c. £12.05bn”. DVS’s solution, which they had been tasked to consider as part of their brief, was that there should be a review mechanism to capture any improvement in performance relative to the viability review. Capco refused and the two local authorities gave in to the developer.

Kensington & Chelsea Council’s defence is just as contradictory as Capco’s: “The viability assessment prepared by DVS was considered by the council to be comprehensive and robust”. On that basis they should have rejected the scheme. The problem was that the DVS review was not properly presented in the Officers’ reports to the planning committees, DVS’s fundamental concerns and multitude of reservations were not conveyed to Members, and the public was kept in the dark.

Residents vote to serve Right to Transfer notice on Council

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West Kensington and Gibbs Green residents have taken a big step forward to save their homes by voting unanimously to investigate a community takeover of their council estates. 760 homes occupied by 2,000 people are threatened with demolition as part of the Earl’s Court redevelopment scheme. The decision to move forward with resident control, coupled with the Conservatives losing control of the Council to Labour, offers real hope that the homes can be saved.

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120 residents packed the Gibbs Green Hall for the general meeting of West Ken Gibbs Green Community Homes (WKGGCH) on 1 July. The meeting was called to consider a resolution proposing the service of a Right to Transfer proposal notice on Hammersmith & Fulham Council. It was also an opportunity to explain more about the group’s plan to transfer the estates to a community controlled housing association. 79 Members of WKGGCH voted in favour of the resolution to serve the notice. Nobody voted against.

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The Right to Transfer was enacted by the Labour Government in 2008 and was brought into force by the Coalition Government when it made the Regulations in December 2013. WKGGCH is the fourth tenant group in the country where residents have voted to use the legislation, and is the first which is not already in charge of management. The Chair has now written to all residents to explain the result and to invite representations. On 22 July the Board will consider any responses and make the final decision on whether to serve the notice.

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At the meeting, the Chair introduced the elected Board of WKGGCH. Two resident Board members made a presentation about what we want to achieve:

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Company Secretary Linda Sanders provided background about the organisation and summarised the five-year campaign; Sally Taylor, who is also Chair of the West Kensington Estate Tenants & Residents Association, set out our vision for the estates under community control, which includes:

  • A landlord elected by residents that would decide the policies, employ professional staff to manage the properties, and spend all the income on the estates;
  • Affordable rents with increases strictly limited, and tenants keeping the security they have now;
  • Estate based management and maintenance providing a personal service for residents and tailored to meet the needs of the neighbourhood;
  • Tackling overcrowding through local knowledge and more efficient use of homes;
  • Improvements to the West Kensington blocks and to open spaces, with more CCTV and increased supervision by staff;
  • Community services and events for residents with many more activities for younger people;
  • Investigating opportunities to build more homes within the estates and to provide lifts for the blocks in Gibbs Green.

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MP for the area, Andy Slaughter, explained the wider political context. Residents were also joined by local Councillors Larry Culhane and Ali Hashem.

WKGGCH Chair, Keith Drew, said: “The huge turnout and the unanimous result was a massive vote of confidence in our campaign to save our homes. We had a lively discussion about what community ownership would mean in practice. The fact that not a single member voted against investigating transfer really shows the depth of our community’s determination to decide our own future.”

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Labour wins Hammersmith & Fulham!

P1020210Above: West Ken Gibbs Green Board Members meet on 27 May to discuss the implications of Labour winning control of the Council.

On 22 May Labour seized control of Hammersmith & Fulham Council. There are now 26 Labour Councillors and 20 Conservative Councillors, a comfortable majority for Labour. In North End Ward, which includes the estates, three Labour Councillors were elected – Daryl Brown, Larry Culhane and Ali Hashem. Ali lives in Dieppe Close on the Gibbs Green estate.

Local MP Andy Slaughter said that by trying to knock down and sell off residents’ homes, the Conservatives had become “arrogant and pushed people too far”. Stephen Greenhalgh, the man behind the demolition policy, was at the counting of the votes in the Town Hall to witness his party’s defeat.

The Councillors who wanted to destroy our community and wreck our homes have lost power. Labour’s Manifesto for the elections said: “We oppose the schemes for West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates. We aim to renegotiate these and halt the use of council powers such as Compulsory Purchase Orders on any of them”.

For over five years the Council planned to force everyone out of their homes so they could be knocked down by a developer to make way for thousands of new flats, mostly for sale at prices unaffordable to those in need. The previous Council made it clear that it would do everything it could to stop us from saving the estates.

Labour promised that if it won control it would “take immediate measures to protect council homes now and in the future”.

Labour’s Manifesto stated the party is against demolition and redevelopment and will be reviewing the Sale Agreement with Capco. It is also in favour of community ownership because it believes that is the best way to protect council homes in the longer term: “We will work with council housing residents to give them ownership of the land their homes are on”. So, we look forward to working closely with the new Council to transfer the estates into the ownership of a housing association controlled and owned by residents.

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Above: Residents Sally Taylor, Charlie Treloggan and Harold Greatwood are interviewed by ITN about how they feel following the shock downfall of the Conservative administration

We are asking the Labour Council to:

Consult fully with the elected and properly constituted residents organisations;

Halt all work in connection with the redevelopment scheme; and

Meet with our Board Members to discuss how they can support us to take over the estates.

Keith Drew, Chair of West Ken Gibbs Green Community Homes said: “We are thrilled to bits with this sudden turnaround. We  expect Labour to deliver its manifesto committments and we will do everything we can to help them. Residents and the Council now share the same objectives. The sooner we can achieve them the better”.

The Remonstrance of Harold Greatwood

Harold Greatwood, resident of Fairburn House on the West Kensington Estate  declares as follows:

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Pensioners ask Prime Minister to intervene

P1020198Pensioners from the West Kensington Estate have written to David Cameron asking him to intervene to stop the demolition of their homes. Signed by a dozen residents in their 70s and 80s and one over 90, the letter was delivered to Downing Street on 20 May by one of the signatories, Derek Dyball, accompanied by his grandson, to represent their neighbours not well or strong enough to travel, by MP Andy Slaughter, and by fellow residents and supporters.

The West Kensington & Gibbs Green estates contain 760 homes that are structurally sound and meet decent homes standards. It houses a settled, proud and diverse community of some 2,000 people. Despite repeated proof that 80% of residents oppose demolition, Hammersmith & Fulham Council has ignored their views and incorporated the estates into the Earl’s Court redevelopment.

This £8 billion scheme, the largest of its kind in Europe, would destroy the estates, the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centres and Transport for London’s main engineering depot at Lillie Bridge. The developer has been granted planning permission to build over 7,500 homes in blocks up to 22 storeys high. 80% would be for market sale with prices for 1 bedroom flats starting at £600,000.

In their letter to the Prime Minister, the senior residents explain:

“Our daily thoughts now begin with the danger we fear of demolition and of being forced out. Our concerns revolve around whether we will survive the upheaval. We would not be able to cope either with moving or living somewhere else away from familiar surroundings, neighbours and friends. In our minds, what we face is not ‘regeneration’, but destruction, which is being imposed on us against our wishes.”

This week marks the 43rd year since most of the signatories moved into their newly built homes in Aisgill Avenue. This makes the developer’s proposal for the first phase of demolition – cutting through the middle of the terraces on Aisgill Avenue – especially painful. “For those of us left behind, disruption, dust and demoralisation is dreaded. Why is there no consideration for us? For our health and well-being?”

“We appeal to you to intervene to stop the Council forcing us to move against our will. We have made our views known to the Council. Despite the harm it will cause to us as elderly residents, they are pushing on regardless. Will you stand up for us? Will you make the Council reconsider decisions that destroy all that we have?”

The letter ends with an invitation for the Prime Minister to visit the senior residents in their homes.

Local MP, Andy Slaughter said: “This is a heartrending plea from elderly constituents of mine who have every right to be left in peace. I hope the Prime Minister will be moved by their plight and step in to help. At the very least he should visit them to see the situation for himself.”

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We shall save our homes!

On 12 September residents travelled to the Council’s Planning Committee at Hammersmith Town Hall. We wanted to explain why it should reject the planning applications to demolish the West Kensington & Gibbs Green estates and the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centres.

The Council was ready for us: “No deputations, no placards, no recording, no photographs”. However, it welcomed its development partner, CapCo, whose team arrived with smiles on their faces and springs in their steps.

For two hours, residents endured a presentation of the scheme illustrated by slides crammed with drawings and text that was too small to read. Officers explained that the Committee could approve the scheme because the Council had made it mandatory for the tall buildings to have a bottom, a middle and a top.

We only asked for 10 minutes to present the case for preserving our community and for saving the Exhibition Centres. Opposition Councillors told the Chair that all he had to do was suspend the meeting to allow us to speak, as had the previous administration in such circumstances. But no, he said we should wait.

 

How small can a cluster of 30-storey towers look when set against the petitions of the local community and the exhortations of the exhibitions and events industry?

By 9.15pm, with many elderly people and children in our group, we’d had enough. We stood up and insisted that the Chair decide whether or not to hear our petitions, so we could catch our coach to go home.

Again, the Chair refused to let us speak. Residents and our MP, Andy Slaughter, shouted we must be heard. The Chair caved in. He asked one of the Ward Councillors, from the Majority Party, to read out our deputations (published below).

As his Majority Party colleague rammed home how the loss of Earl’s Court would destroy real jobs, real economy and authentic heritage in favour of property and financial speculation, the Chair became agitated. He said: “We’ve heard enough of that!” and stopped him.

After more shouting, the Chair let his colleague to continue. The Majority Party Councillor finished reading our explanation why it was wrong to destroy our homes and wreck the economy, and then joined his fellow Councillors to support the plan to demolish our estates and the Exhibition Centres.

The Planning Committee voted to approve CapCo’s planning applications.  However, the scheme cannot proceed at the moment, and may never happen at all, because there are far too many nasty hurdles at which it could fall.

October 2012: Deputy Judge Straker QC will decide whether to proceed to a full hearing of our Judicial Review application for the High Court to declare the Council’s planning policy underpinning the scheme unlawful

October 2012: Kensington & Chelsea will consider whether to approve the demolition of the Exhibition Centres

November 2012: Mayor Boris Johnson has to decide whether to approve the applications to knock down the estates and the Exhibition Centres

March 2013: the Council will apply to the Government for consent to sell off the West Kensington & Gibbs Green estates

Autumn 2012: The Police will decide whether to investigate evidence of Misconduct in Public Office, the allegations that certain residents were promised new homes in Seagrave Road in exchange for them supporting demolition, and which could lead to criminal charges

2013: The Kwok brothers, who with CapCo own half of the Seagrave Road development, will be tried for bribery and corruption, threatening the only investment so far in the Earl’s Court scheme

2013: as the recession’s grip holds firm, and the property and financial speculation that caused it is further discredited, the markets will wonder. Should they take us on? Can they beat people power?

The developer and the Council are hurling £50,000 a day at us. Thanks to our campaign, the Council’s and the developer’s lawyers and financial consultants are raking in a fortune. But, we’re bleeding the scheme dry.

Far from these titanic efforts denting residents’ resolve to save our homes, we’ve been delivered with the very ammunition we need to stop them. The more they throw at us, the more our campaign is invigorated. The more they press on with this scheme, the deeper they embroil themselves in allegations of immorality, unlawfulness and criminality.

We won’t stand for “manifestly second-class” homes! We shall save our neighbourhood! We shall never surrender!

Left to right: Richard Osband (resident); Jim Wheble BBC Radio London journalist; Keith Drew (resident)

London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham: Planning Applications Committee 12 September 2012

Petition from the West Kensington & Gibbs Green Tenants & Residents Associations and West Ken & Gibbs Green Community Homes

In April this year, we submitted our formal response to the planning applications, prepared for us by Professor Drew Stevenson, who has summarised his submission for Planning Committee Members as follows:

The planning applications are opaque. Following a range of submissions and changes, it is not possible to determine exactly what the Council is now being asked to approve.

Within that confused context, the proposals for individual blocks are vague. It is not clear precisely what could, or could not, be developed within the loose parameters for the permissions being requested.

The status of the SPD is flawed and, despite the Mayor’s instruction, the applicants ignore the guidance in the SPD for the proper development of the sites.

The proposals to demolish the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates are unsubstantiated, unnecessary, unsustainable and against national policy.

The proposals for affordable housing are contrary to the London Plan, Local Plan policy and the SPD.

The floorspace quantum still represents a gross over-development and does not meet the previously stated concerns of the Mayor and local consultees. It has been reduced by a mere 1.5% from the earlier proposals for over-development.

The housing densities are far too high. They do not conform with the London Plan, either in the ranges proposed, or in the basis used for calculation.

The omission of a proposal for a strategic leisure, cultural and visitor attraction is contrary to the policies of the London Plan, the Local Plans and SPD guidance.

It’s not possible to calculate transport impacts, given the lack of essential base data, including the number and location of existing and proposed jobs.

The transport infrastructure would be overwhelmed.

The huge implications for viability and S106 agreements are not properly addressed.

The proposals for social and community infrastructure are inadequate and non-committal.

The responses given to consultations are either inadequate or non-existent.

Professor Stevenson is not the only planning expert to advise us that you should not approve the Earl’s Court planning applications.

Some time ago, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea Councils formed the Earl’s Court and West Kensington Design Review Panel to review the development proposals. This is what the Panel had to say about our community. Hear their concerns for our future!

The panel is concerned that the impact on the existing communities of Gibbs Green and West Kensington Estates of the Applicant’s proposals for such comprehensive redevelopment is perceived as a threat.

The Panel’s particular concern is that if the approved Seagrave Road scheme is seen as a detailed design precedent, there is little integration of affordable homes with the adjoining private development.

The panel believes it is important that good quality affordable housing is provided and that it is located and treated in a manner which properly integrates it with the new development, properly sharing in the open spaces and not manifestly ‘second-class’.

We have called the lawfulness of the planning policy, which underpins the proposed Earl’s Court development, into question. In June this year, we applied to the High Court for a Judicial Review, supplying grounds to support a declaration alleging that the Council’s planning policy is unlawful.

Our lawyer has advised us to advise you that it would be wrong for this Committee to resolve the Earl’s Court planning applications tonight, before the Court issues its decision on our Judicial Review request.

London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham: Planning Applications Committee 12 September 2012

Petition from the Association of Event Organisers (AEO)

The AEO represents the majority of the exhibition and event organisers in the UK and speaks on behalf of the industry. We are totally opposed to the proposed demolition and removal of the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centres.

At a time of deep economic recession, the exhibitions industry is a shining example of national resilience and economic growth. We’ve expanded the events economy by over 18% from £9.3BN to £11BN a year, at a time when the overall economy has contracted.

Earl’s Court plays an enormous role in delivering this growth; it plays a significant part in the UK’s export economy. It sits in the heart of Central London, close to the West End and convenient for Heathrow, attracting business from all over the globe.

Just when London is successfully projecting its image and position as a ‘World City’, the demolition and loss of Earl’s Court would relegate the UK’s position as a world leader in the exhibition and events industry.

This planning application would reduce the amount of venue stock at a time when competitor nations are subsidising, not removing, venues equivalent in location and status to Earl’s Court.

Unlike what’s proposed to replace it, Earl’s Court is authentic and loved around the world. It has a fantastic heritage. It’s home to a national institution, The Ideal Home Show, established 105 years ago, as well as the Royal Tournament, along with top events, exhibitions and concerts from Madonna to Pink Floyd.

Earls Court brings 2.5 million visitors, 30,000 exhibitors, hundreds of events, and over a billion pounds a year to London. It sustains thousands of jobs; it’s an anchor for London’s economy; it’s the most dearly-loved creative and business venue, locally, nationally, and globally.

Earls Court is an essential international marketing platform for thousands of small businesses and world brands. East London’s Excel is not suitable for most of the Earl’s Court shows. Some that transferred there, like the Boat Show, lost visitors; others were forced, by popular demand, to return to Earl’s Court

Approving the demolition of Earl’s Court will force successful, market-leading exhibitions and events to close, prevent hundreds of businesses from trading, and terminate the incomes of thousands of people.

We must ask why, in the midst of a property-busted recession, should anybody be allowed to destroy a sustainable, profitable, commercial, global brand, which generates thousands of jobs and maintains hundreds of businesses, to develop luxury flats for speculative gain?

The demolition of Earls Court would contract the exhibition and events industry, deplete foreign visitors, destroy jobs, decimate businesses, and take away the area’s heritage. The disruption would diminish economic output, and deprive the Treasury of billions of pounds of tax revenues.

It’s widely documented that London is already short of exhibition space for national and international events, and the UK is losing revenue and trade to other countries.

Currently, the event organising community is seeking MORE exhibition and event space, but alarmingly this is being ignored. The lack of space is forcing many UK, organisers who seeking to expand their businesses, to go abroad.

Far from preserving and improving what we have so we can enhance the UK’s offer, the demolition of Earl’s Court would substantially contract the exhibition and events industry. It would reduce the number of tourists visiting London just after the Olympics and Paralympics elevated the city’s stature in front of a global audience.

Should we destroy real economy, real jobs, and real business, in favour of luxury flats, which make no on-going contribution to the economy, flats that likely will end up in the hand of wealthy foreigners, and which are unlikely even to be occupied? What is more likely to sustain economic recovery: business and creative industry or property and financial speculation?

The per capita spend at The Ideal Home Show is £800. To put this into perspective, this one event attracts 250,000 visitors over a fortnight, generating £200 Million. The amount of business stimulated at trade and business events totals in the tens of billions of pounds.

UK organisers are amongst the most pioneering and prolific players in the global events arena, which is why we expect local and national government to support our industry. Earl’s Court is an engine for growth, a goose that lays golden eggs. For generations it’s underpinned the events industry and stimulated business.

Tonight you can save this national institution; tonight you can prefer creative industry, you can save our cultural heritage, and you can protect the real jobs we need to get this country out of recession.

We shall never surrender!

Residents assemble outside Hammersmith Town Hall before the Cabinet meeting

RESIDENTS DEFIANT AS COUNCIL PRESSES ON

Over 150 West Kensington & Gibbs Green residents attended the Council meeting on 3 September to say no to demolition. We addressed the Leader of the Council and his Cabinet – see below for the full text of our deputation addresses. When two of our children stood up to speak, the Majority Councillors stopped them; when our MP tried to speak, they called the guards, closed the meeting and ran away.

We warned them their scheme is wrong, their process is tainted, and they won’t get away with it. We told them we shall see them in Court, we shall lobby the Government, and we shall never surrender!

Councillor Stephen Cowan, surrounded by other Opposition Councillors, speaks up for residents

Our elected MP, Andy Slaughter, attempts to address the Council on behalf of residents

Security Guard pounces on the MP as the Council Leader declares he is not allowed to speak and the Cabinet Members walk out of the room

With the Council Leader and his fellow Majority Councillors out of the room, the Council’s Consultants, who signed off the deal and also work for Capco, are left sitting pretty

Residents were very angry that the Council voted to go ahead, but very happy that we proved the strength of our determination to win

Prime Minister faces final Big Society test: Will he let his favourite Council bulldoze our community?

At 7pm on the 3rd and 12th of September 2012, Hammersmith & Fulham Council intends to agree the sale and demolition of our homes against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of residents.

The Cabinet meeting on 3 September is for the Council to decide as landlord whether to sell the West Kensington & Gibbs Green estates to developer CapCo for demolition as part of the £8 Billion scheme to demolish Earl’s Court. The Planning Applications Committee on 12 September is for the Council to decide as planning authority whether to approve the whole scheme – demolition of the Exhibition Centres, the Lillie Bridge rail depot and West Kensington & Gibbs Green.

Once it has made its decisions, the Council intends, in March 2013, to apply to the Government for consent to sell off our estates, and our MP, Andy Slaughter, shall insist that the Government reviews any planning permission. We shall lobby the Government to refuse consent for the sale of our homes and to throw out planning permission to demolish our community. We expect the Government to help us implement the Big Society.

The Prime Minister promised power to the people, but now it turns out that it is he who shall determine the future of our community

Three times since 2009, we have proved methodically that we are overwhelmingly against demolition and in favour of community control. But the local state rode roughshod over our needs and wishes to impose the very type of speculative property development that ruined the national economy. According to the former Leader Stephen Greenhalgh, who’s now in charge of the Metropolitan Police, the Council’s motivation is to obtain party electoral advantage by driving poor people out of politically marginal areas.

We championed the Prime Minister’s goal for a more responsible local society, where communities take control of their assets and greater charge of their neighbours’ welfare. We pioneered cross-party localist policy for council estate communities to own their homes, mobilising residents to determine their future so they can contribute socially and economically to national recovery. We stood up for the economic powerhouse of Earl’s Court, a goose that lays golden eggs for this country’s culture and prosperity.

Gibbs Green, Dieppe Close and the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centres

What will the Government do next year when the Council applies for consent to dispose of our homes? Will the Prime Minister champion his Big Society by refusing the sale and demolition of the People’s Estates? Will he empower us to take charge, or will he impose the politicians and property and financial speculators on us? We don’t want to see him in the driving seat of the bulldozer that destroys our community and removes the last shred of credibility from his most heartfelt belief!

Sally Taylor and Diana Belshaw, Chairs of the two residents associations, said:

We remain true to the principles of the Big Society, and we stand firm by our belief that local people should take greater charge of where they live so they can exercise more responsibility for their environment and assume better care of their neighbours. We occupy the ground; these are our homes; and we shall restore ownership to the local community. Politicians and profiteers may come and go, but we the people shall never surrender.

Aisgill Avenue on the West Kensington Estate

Council cancels critical meetings

 29 July 1588: Battle of Gravelines, the turning point in the defeat of the Spanish Armada (see historical note below). Painting by Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg, 1796

CAMPAIGN DELAYS SELL-OFF AND PLANNING DECISIONS

Hammersmith & Fulham Council was desperate to agree to sign the Conditional Land Sale Agreement with the developer on 23 July. But, we exposed how its analysis of the responses to consultation was biased and we insisted that Councillors could not rely on it to make a decision. The Council cancelled the meeting, and has rearranged it for 3 September.

23 July 2012: Residents make banners and placards while being filmed by Channel 4 Television

The Council was desperate to grant planning permission for the demolition scheme on 31 July. But, we launched Judicial Review proceedings in the High Court of Justice, and our lawyer told the Council to hold off. The Council cancelled the meeting and we have no date for when it will be held.

26 June 2012: Lawyer Michael Webster (wearing the tie) stands with residents in Dieppe Close on the Gibbs Green estate. The Council wants to demolish the houses in the background to make way for luxury flats.

Historical note: On 29 July 1588, England confronted the invading Spanish Armada at the Battle of Gravelines. The English sent fire ships to scatter the huge Spanish fleet. Using superior manoeuvrability, the English fleet provoked the Spanish guns while staying out of range. It then closed in, firing repeated and damaging broadsides into the enemy ships.

Though the English ships eventually ran out of ammunition and were forced to withdraw, five Spanish galleons were sunk, throwing the invasion into disarray. The English fleet pursued the Armada, forcing it to sail north round the British Isles, where famously it met the deadly gales that wrecked the world’s most formidable navy on the far flung rocky shores of Scotland and Ireland.

A ship of the Spanish Armada, wrecked on the west coast of Ireland, illustration from ‘Spanish Pictures’ by the Rev. Samuel Manning, 1870 © Bridgeman Art Library / Private Collection / Ken Welsh

Now is the time to save Earl’s Court!

PROTECT OUR CULTURE, DEFEND OUR ECONOMY, STOP THE DEMOLITION!

From Buffallo Bill to the Ideal Home Show, Earl’s Court has a tremendous history. It’s London’s premier, iconic, showcase for all that life has to offer, from leading-edge technology to popular music. Earl’s Court is the UK’s third largest venue, an outstanding feat of 1930s engineering, adorned with original Art Deco features. It’s a world-class venue for a world-city, and it’s about to stage the volleyball competition for the London 2012 Olympics.

Earl’s Court brings 2.5 million visitors, 30,000 exhibitors, hundreds of events, and over a billion pounds a year to London. It sustains thousands of jobs; it’s an anchor for London’s West End economy; it’s the most dearly-loved creative and business venue, locally, nationally, and globally.

Centrally located and close to Heathrow, Earl’s Court is an essential international marketing platform for thousands of small businesses and world brands. East London’s Excel is not suitable for most of the Earl’s Court shows. Some that transferred there, like the Boat Show, lost visitors; others were forced, by popular demand, to return to Earl’s Court.

Madness at Earl’s Court 2010. Photo Nick Pickles © Anglo Management

The owner of the Earl’s Court leases proposes to demolish the Exhibition Centres and build 7,500 flats in blocks up to 30 storeys high, along with two million square feet of offices. Its refusal to grant tenancies post 2013 will force successful, market-leading exhibitions and events to close, prevent hundreds of businesses from trading, and terminate the incomes of thousands of people.

Why, in the midst of a property-busted recession, should anybody be allowed to destroy a sustainable, profitable, commercial, global brand, which generates thousands of jobs and maintains hundreds of businesses, to develop infertile luxury flats for speculative gain by off-shore interests?

London is already short of exhibition space for national and international events, and the UK is losing revenue and trade to other countries. The demolition of Earl’s Court would contract the industry, deplete foreign visitors, destroy jobs, decimate businesses, and rob us of our heritage. The disruption to commerce would diminish economic output, and deprive the Treasury of billions of pounds of tax revenues.

On the other side of the tracks: West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates are in the upper part of the photo beyond the Empress State and the Lillie Bridge Rail Depot

For the past three years, the West Kensington & Gibbs Green council estates have held the line against the £8 billion Earl’s Court redevelopment. Our homes stand on the original Western Gardens of the Earl’s Court Exhibition Grounds, created in the 1880s to attract the highest, and most fashionable echelons of society.

Because we are a diverse community living on valuable land next to the Exhibition Centres, the Council labelled our neighbourhood not decent and decided our estates should be demolished. There’s nothing wrong with our homes; we’re proud of our close-knit community; we love this area.

Capital & Counties is spending £1 million a month to pursue demolition; it’s given the Council £5 million; and TfL hopes to make £200 million. We’re not intimidated; we won’t be bullied into demolition: we shall not be moved!

The British Military Tournament at Earl’s Court 2010 ©sampsonlloyd@tournamentimages.com

Suddenly, the Leader of the Council, Stephen Greenhalgh, this scheme’s driver and originator, is exiled to be Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime. The venture has lost its motivator, just as this project unravels at the seams, and when Europe teeters on the brink of financial meltdown.

We’ve redoubled our efforts to save our homes, reminding the developer’s associates that they must behave ethically and telling them what the people really think. Now, backed by the legal team that won the Shepherd’s Bush Market Judicial Review, we’ve launched High Court proceedings against the planning policy underpinning the demolition of the Exhibition Centres. We’ve asked the Court to declare it unlawful.

West Kensington resident, Rita Vlahopoulou, ready to share residents’ views with shareholders at CapCo’s AGM on 20 April 2012

If you love Earl’s Court, if it’s part of your life, your memories, and your livelihood, act now! Discuss Earl’s Court with colleagues and friends; organise exhibitions and events; write to Government Ministers, the Mayor, and others. Bring on the music!

Join and communicate via Facebook; follow on Twitter @saveEarlsCourt; learn more about the history.

If you want to talk tactics or offer particular support, please contact Jonathan Rosenberg, Community Organiser: 07961 301 801; jlnr49@gmail.com

 

Prince Charles opens the Ideal Home Show at Earl’s Court, 16 March 2012

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