“Estates could return to council control”

Residents’s reaction on hearing the news

Hammersmith & Fulham Council Leader, Steve Cowan, has written to residents suggesting that in exchange for a fresh planning permission, “we would see the two estates return to council control”.

The news follows many months of worsening market conditions for developer Capco, which this year has taken several steps to clean up the mess it’s made so that it can exit the redevelopment scheme. The most important of these is to cut away the single most burdensome impediment to a successful disposal – our community and the homes in which we live.

West Ken Gibbs Green Community Homes Chair, Keith Drew, thanked everyone who has supported our struggle over the years. “Their efforts, and ours, are finally vindicated”, he said.

Community Organiser, Jonathan Rosenberg, issued the following statement from the three residents organisations.

“At £18 billion, the Earl’s Court scheme is the most valuable on-site urban redevelopment in the world outside of China.

For nine long years, residents have been fighting to save their homes and preserve their community. Our campaign has been through some very dark times. But right now there is a tremendous wave of excitement sweeping across the estates.

The Council Leader is working very hard to get the estates out of the land sale contract. We believe that our campaign is on course for victory and we look forward to finally lifting the curse that has so sorely afflicted our community.”

As the news raced around the neighbourhood yesterday, residents reacted with elation and a tinge of disbelief.

“It’s the best news we’ve had for a very long time. But it’s not game over until we’ve got the estates back. We’re closer than we have ever been before. Thank God we voted this Council in.” Sally Taylor, Chair West Kensington estate TRA

“I feel elated and it just shows that the voice of the people is heard and people power counts. The Council have stuck by what they said. Steve Cowan and Larry Culhane have worked tirelessly.” Diana Belshaw, Chair Gibbs Green & Dieppe Close TRA

“When I found out I was over the moon. The last nine years what we did, I can see that it worked. The People’s Plan worked. If we support each other it works. We are a strong community and we won’t let it go. So it’s time to celebrate. We’ve not won yet but it shows that we can do it. You can see that the council are doing good things. Even just day today maintenance has improved.” Murvet, Churchward House

“That’s very good. Now we can start organising. It feels like we’re three quarters of the way there. I thought it was all done and dusted. Capco are running out of money it seems. They sold the Olympia.” Martin, Gibbs Green

“I’m very happy for Capco to be out of the deal, but the Right to Transfer is still my dream. You’re not really safe unless you have resident control. When I saw the letter I thought that’s amazing. It’s not a guarantee but it’s a loud announcement that it’s looking good. It’s been a David and Goliath thing but you can win if you kick them in the knee caps.” Linda, Aisgill Avenue

Advertisements

Iron determination as residents vow never to give up the fight for their homes

On 3 October 2017, 75 people, of whom 67 were residents, attended the West Kensington Estate and Gibbs Green TRAs and West Ken Gibbs Green Community Homes Annual General Meetings in the Gibbs Green Hall.

Ana-Maria explained that she was now 15 years old, but that when she was nine, she had written a letter to the Council protesting against demolition. As was featured on our website at the time, she presented her letter to the Council at the so-called consultation held in March 2012, which had to be called off following a mass protest by residents. Ana-Maria thanked the campaign for helping to stop the demolition and urged people to put a stop to the redevelopment by continuing to work together as the amazing, supportive and loving community that we are.

In recognition of his long service to the Board, the Chair, Keith Drew, presented Dr Chris Taylor with a calligraphic memorial created by Harold Greatwood.

Following a minute’s silence for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, Company Secretary, Linda Sanders presented the Annual Report of activities. She reminded people that:

  • Developer Capco still does not have possession of our land, detailed planning permission or the requisite finance;
  • Over the past year we had held conversations with 700 residents about the People’s Plan, 500 of whom, from 65% of all households completed our survey. 91% said the People’s Plan was good or excellent and better or far better than demolition;
  • We have been engaging with the plans for the wider area including working with University College London Bartlett School of Planning to devise new masterplans, and by promoting alternatives to the demolition of Empress Place and the Lillie Road shops.

Linda explained that since the last AGM, Capco has made zero progress with its plans to destroy our estates and that, with the market and the politics against them, Capco was now in a pickle.

Treasurer, Harold Greatwood, presented the WKGGCH accounts. He reported that we have raised significant sums of money from four charities and trusts, sufficient to fund us for the next three years, which means our campaign is on a secure financial footing for the foreseeable future.

Members re-elected three serving Board Members, including Dioscore Mutsinzi [left], and two new Board Members, including Murvet Zengin [right]

The Community Organiser read out a message from Andy Slaughter MP, who apologised for not being able to attend this year. Andy reported on the new approach to so-called regeneration adopted by the Labour Party. In future, demolition of council estates will require the approval of residents through a ballot. Andy congratulated the residents for their struggle to save homes and communities, but noted that it was now ten years since the then Conservative Council first conspired with Capco to destroy their homes. He felt that events were moving our way and he promised to redouble his efforts to secure everyone’s future.

In his concluding speech, the Community Organiser explained the significance of Capco pulling back from the demolition of Empress Place and the Lillie Road shops in favour of refurbishment, albeit on a temporary basis. Capco is cleaning up the site as part of an effort to exit the scheme, but if Capco really wanted to sell, it would have to hand back the estates. Jonathan called on residents never to give up, to stand by their neighbours, and to march on as one to victory.

Above: Sally Taylor and Alexios Smith

Oh what a tangled web! Developer pulls back from demolition of Empress Place and Lillie Road

On 20 February 2016, The People’s Estates’ campaign in association with the Earl’s Court Area Action Group held a protest in Empress Place and Lillie Road calling for these buildings, our local heritage, to be saved from Mammon’s wrecking ball.

‘Earl’s Court Village’ portfolio

The Earl’s Court & West Kensington Opportunity Area is made up of land in various ownerships. The eastern part of the site, identified in legal documents as ‘Earl’s Court Village’, comprises a 999 year lease from TfL of the land formerly occupied by the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centres, land adjoining and over the West London Line, which is leased from Network Rail, Cluny Mews, 348-350 Old Brompton Road, and the Victorian cottages in Empress Place along with the adjoining shops and pubs at 2-26 Lillie Road.

All of this property is owned by Earl’s Court Partnership Limited (ECPL), the joint venture established in 2014 between Capital & Counties Properties PLC (Capco), which owns 63%, and Transport for London (TfL), which owns 37%.

In March 2016, the West Kensington and Gibbs Green tenants associations nominated the Prince of Wales pub at 14 Lillie Road as an Asset of Community Value (ACV). The Council added it to the ACV Register where it remains listed until expiry on 2 March 2021. If ECPL wants to dispose of this property, it must give community organisations the opportunity to express an interest in purchasing it.

The £150 million loan from taxpayers

In late March 2016, ECPL signed a Credit Agreement with the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), the Government’s housing, land and regeneration agency, and the regulator of social housing providers in England, for a 10 year loan of £150 million of taxpayers’ money from the Large Sites Infrastructure Fund (now closed).

The loan, which is secured against all of the ‘Earl’s Court Village’ properties, is being used to finance the residual demolition of the exhibition centres, the removal of the concrete portal beams over the underground lines, and the installation of strategic enabling infrastructure.

Planning status

The sites of the former exhibition centres, together with land around and over the West London Line, have detailed planning permission for the construction of 1,325 homes, not a single one of which would be affordable. However, there is no planning permission at all for the redevelopment of Empress Place and the Lillie Road shops, because these properties were only acquired after September 2013, when Capco had obtained the final version of outline planning permission for the rest of the area.

Despite pleas by Capco to increase the total number of homes across the whole redevelopment from 7,500 to 10,000, so far there is no sign that the Mayor of London will oblige by revising the Opportunity Area Planning Framework, the policy document which sets the parameters for the Earl’s Court masterplan.

What a waste! Over several years, to the discomfort of the local community and to the ruin of several businesses, Capco bought up and emptied out these properties, boarding up the shops with its customary funereal black hoarding. Cafés, shops and two pubs were summarily extinguished, and the area made derelict.

Plans for demolition

In December 2016 and January 2017, Capco exhibited plans for ECPL to demolish Empress Place and Lillie Road so as to construct over 400 residential units in buildings of between 6 and up to 24 storeys, 2,000 square metres of retail and leisure uses, and to broaden the pedestrian access to the so-called Lost River Park – the concrete deck that would run north over the West London Line in a canyon between skyscrapers.

At the same time, ECPL submitted preliminary plans for demolition in the form of a request that LBHF provide a “scoping opinion” on ECPL’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) scoping report.

Then, and in the weeks following, Capco maintained its intention to submit a planning application to the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham (LBHF) to obtain detailed permission for a scheme, which, it admitted, would represent a significant net addition of residential and commercial development to the previously consented masterplan.

At the North End Road Market Spring Fair on 29 April, we conducted an informal poll, the result of which was that just 10 people chose Capco’s tedious design for the redevelopment of Empress Place against 462 who favoured the alternative proposal by architect Francis Terry to extend and preserve it.

Demolition pulled in favour of refurbishment

Although ECPL’s EIA request for demolition should have been decided by LBHF within five weeks, it was not. Between the New Year and Easter 2017, ECPL had a change of heart. It decided that rather than apply to redevelop Empress Place and Lillie Road, it should instead apply to refurbish the shops and Prince of Wales pub for temporary retail use of at least three years.

The planning application for the eastern block of Lillie Road, 2-14, would include a request to join the gardens at the rear of 7-11 Empress Place with the rear of the Prince of Wales pub to create a large open area with seating to accommodate diners and drinkers using the pub and outlets in the neighbouring buildings. Whereas, the refurbishment of the western block, 16-26, would stand alone.

By early May 2017, Capco had informed the LBHF planning officers of ECPL’s revised intentions and had begun commissioning the architectural and other building related work that would be required. Eventually, on 9 August 2017, ECPL’s planning consultant DP9 submitted a planning application to LBHF proposing “a temporary ‘pop-up’ operation for the commercial units at Nos. 2-26 Lillie Road”:

“The proposed temporary uses will create numerous job opportunities and the improvement to this local parade will improve the character and appearance of this part of Lillie Road for local residents and visitors to enjoy….The temporary ‘pop-up’ is proposed as a meanwhile use during the interim period before redevelopment proposals for Empress Place are finalised and secured through the planning process….creating high street uses that will improve the appearance of the immediate local area and draw footfall back to this part of Lillie Road”.

A restored retail hub with eateries and pub

“The transformation of 11 vacant units on Lillie Road into a temporary ‘pop up’ high street, with a mix of food & beverage and retail units to serve the local community and start communicating ECPL’s vision for the future of Earls Court as a vibrant and engaging place.” (ECPL’s architect’s project summary) Above: Computer generated image, for indicative purposes only, published by ECPL

The works to the properties will be superficial, including refurbishment of the facades and internal fit out with provision of ventilation ducting. Most of the upper floors will not be brought back into use: they will remain empty, locked up in the face of a debilitating current housing crisis. A single operator will manage the eastern terrace, with seating for up to 450 (sic) people in the extended pub garden; the western terrace will be let to individual retailers.

Routinely for Capco, security guards will play a major role, controlling overcrowding and restraining noise and anti-social behaviour from the public who use the new facilities. The 20-week contract for undertaking the works means it is unlikely the refurbished parade will be open before 2018.

So, why?

The pretentious language of a ‘revolving pop-up hub’ deserves derision, and the cynical rebranding of the high street and the pub warrants dismay. However, the temporary reprieve of the shops and houses, and the restoration of the parade for retail use is undoubtedly a great victory for all those who campaigned to preserve our heritage. But, while they deserve praise, there must be a suspicion that the developers’ motivations are other than driven by a desire to do the right thing.

ECPL may have appreciated that obtaining permission for a redevelopment requiring a material revision to the consented masterplan is more challenging than at first it presumed, and that in the absence of a quick redevelopment it would be better to avoid paying full business rates on the empty properties and instead generate an income.

Capco might have realised that the funereal hoardings showcasing dereliction directly opposite its Lillie Square showroom, and dominating the junction with Seagrave Road leading to Lillie Square, are an own-goal which cannot be helping sales of the flats it’s building there. Or perhaps, even, it dawned on Capco that it should give up trying to do something it’s not very good at – development – and revert to its core business – making money out of managing a shopping centre (viz. Covent Garden).

Whatever the explanation, there is no doubt that a property speculator trying to exit the largest and most complex urban redevelopment in the world outside of China would do well to tidy up the mess it’s made if it wants to command a premium, let alone convince anyone to take on such colossal risks.

We shall prevail

While the about-turn on Lillie Road (coupled with the recent refurbishment for use by the Fulham Boys School of the Capco-owned former Rootstein factory at the Northern end of the Opportunity Area) goes some way to easing Capco’s retreat, one certain fact remains indelibly engraved on the landscape: nothing will make the Earl’s Court scheme saleable so long as our estates are bound in to it, and so long as we maintain our deeply entrenched campaign to save our homes and protect our community.

Risks and rewards: latest goings on with Earl’s Court developer

Capco perceives our community as a risk to its reputation

Capco’s interim results, published on 21 July, show that the valuation of its Earl’s Court properties has decreased again, this time by 2.4%, which is on top of the 20.4% decrease Capco reported in February. However, the company appears to have returned to profit, having made a loss of £223 million for the year ended 31 December 2016.

Capco’s financial position was boosted by the sale of the Olympia exhibition halls. As the company eloquently explained: “Having extracted significant value from the venue since acquisition, Capco took the decision to exit this non-core asset”.

As for Earl’s Court, its results state: “Capco remains focused on maximising the potential of the strategic land holding . . . Accordingly, representations have been made by Capco to the GLA’s London Plan to deliver 10,000 new homes, an additional 2,500 homes above the current consented scheme”.

Reputational risks Linda and David at our Summer Picnic

Meanwhile, Capco still insists that our campaign to save our community is a risk that might damage its reputation or distract its management. Its measures for mitigation are to “review activity and communications of activist groups”.

But it seems the company is looking in the wrong direction. Arguably, one of the biggest risks to Capco’s reputation is not us, but its own formal association with the Kwok family, with whom it is in a 50/50 joint venture for the development of 808 homes in Seagrave Road, otherwise known as Lillie Square.

The Kwok Family Interests (KFI) are major shareholders of Hong Kong property developers Sun Hung Kai (SHK). In 2014, SHK Chairman Thomas Kwok and his right hand man Thomas Chan, at that time a Director of Lillie Square GP, were convicted of bribing the second most senior official in Hong Kong, Rafael Hui, with HK$8.5 million. Thomas Kwok was sent to prison for five years, and Chan for six years in what has been widely described as the highest profile corruption case in the city’s history.

After serving 18 months in gaol, Kwok was released on bail pending the outcome of his appeal. A month ago, five judges of the Court of Final Appeal unanimously dismissed the appeal, confirming that Kwok’s and Chan’s actions were corrupt. Chief justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li said: “It will now be necessary for [Kwok] to return to prison for him to serve out the remaining sentence.”

Thomas Kwok clutches the Bible as he climbs into the prison van

Despite these facts, on the Lillie Square website Capco and KFI persist in describing Sun Hung Kai as “one of the most highly reputable real estate companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange”.

But that is not the only misleading information published about Lillie Square. In a full-page advert printed in the Evening Standard on 3 May 2017, Capco and the Kwoks claimed that the latest Lillie Square apartments have “views over the Lost River Park or the landscaped garden square”. The advert trumpeted the so-called Lost River Park as “Central London’s largest new park in 100 years”.

Advert in Evening Standard with misleading claims about the so-called Lost River Park

Well, not only is Burgess Park a mile closer to Charing Cross, it’s 50 times larger. And, as for the view from the new flats over the so-called Lost River Park, given that it is little more than a path only a few metres wide, those views would likely be limited.

Capco’s latest results show that sales at Lillie Square are little more than one per week. At that rate it would take a century to sell the consented scheme, let alone the 2,500 flats it wants to add. Could this explain what’s going on?

Locals prefer to preserve and extend Empress Place, while Capco keeps it empty in face of Grenfell Tower disaster

WKGGCH Board Members Baghdadi Daoudi and Linda Sanders display the results of the informal poll conducted on 29 April at the Spring Fair

In December 2016, Capco exhibited proposals to demolish the Victorian houses, which it had bought up in Empress Place. It wants to replace them with over 400 flats, including a 24-storey tower block. Despite announcing its intention to submit a planning application to Hammersmith & Fulham Council, so far it has not done so.

Empress Place consists largely of two-storey Victorian cottages, though, as can be seen at the right of the photo, it also includes the purpose-built engineering headquarters (1907) of the Brompton & Piccadilly Railway Company. It was from this building, with its large windows designed to provide as much light as possible for the draughtsmen, that the Piccadilly line was designed.

Well-known architect, Francis Terry, has prepared an alternative proposal that would achieve as many homes without demolition.

Francis Terry’s proposal to preserve and extend the heritage of Empress Place rather than destroy it

At the Spring Fair on 29 April, we asked people who visited our stall whether they preferred Capco’s proposal (A on the left of the board in the photo) or the alternative (B on the right). Just 10 people preferred Capco’s scheme against 462 who preferred Francis Terry’s alternative. Common responses were: “It’s a no-brainer” and, pointing at Capco’s proposal: “Who would want that?”

Francis Terry’s alternative plan for Empress Place would produce the same number of homes as Capco’s demolition plan

WKGGCH Chair, Keith Drew said: “What a beautiful and refreshing change to the characterless concrete and glass blocks proposed by Capco! Why can’t we have this instead of yet more tedious residential warehousing? It would enhance the charm and attractiveness of our neighbourhood as well as provide much needed additional housing.”

Capco ignores plea to house Grenfell families in empty homes

On 16 June, following the terrible fire at Grenfell tower that made so many households homeless, Linda Wade, Councillor for Earl’s Court, said: “26 homes [owned by Capco] in Empress Place stand empty. I am sure that Earl’s Court developers Capco wish to support Grenfell Tower survivors.”

Meanwhile, in response to the Grenfell disaster, our Tenants & Residents Associations, led by Sally Taylor and Diana Belshaw, have mobilised a powerful effort to support those families directly affected, including providing food, clothing and housing support.

Capco’s response to this tragedy on their doorstep? A deafening silence.

Alternative Earl’s Court plans preserve estates and bring back exhibition venue

On 18 May, University College London’s Bartlett School of Planning displayed eight alternative masterplans for the Earl’s Court and West Kensington Opportunity Area.

Each masterplan, prepared by groups of up to four students from the third year and master degree courses, led by tutor Dr Juliana Martins, presented ideas for developing the area very different to the masterplan created by Sir Terry Farrell on behalf of Capco.

Unlike that plan, most of these plans incorporated all or part of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates and re-introduced a major cultural and exhibition facility directly accessible from Earl’s Court station.

Far from being solely based on demolition and luxury flats, some of the plans preserved the historic railway sheds and established a centre for transport engineering excellence, building on the legacy of the Lillie Bridge Rail Underground Maintenance Depot and the Transport for London Training facility at Ashfield House.

Both the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, and developer Capco have said they want to review the masterplan for the wider area, amid common agreement that the consented plan for Earl’s Court is not fit for purpose. These fascinating and imaginative contributions show that masterplanning is not the preserve of celebrity architects or self-interested developers. There is an alternative, and there is a better way.

Course Tutor Dr Juliana Martins explains the masterplanning exercises to Robin Hawkes, WKGGCH Board Member

Student Sam (right) explains his masterplan to WKGGCH Board Member Dioscore (left)

Professor Michael Edwards (centre) with Anabela Hardwick (right)

London Blogger Dave Hill talks with West Kensington estate TRA Chair Sally Taylor

Hundreds of local people visit People’s Campaign stall

Left to right: Zoe, Elizabeth, Sally, Faisal and Linda

On Saturday 29 April, North End Road was closed all day for the Council’s Spring Market. The West Kensington & Gibbs Green community had a stall displaying the People’s Plan, our alternative for making improvements and building additional homes without demolition.

Throughout the day, hundreds of local people visited us to learn more about our campaign and to support our alternative vision.

Councillor Mercy Umeh, Mayor of Hamersmith & Fulham

Councillor Ben Coleman

After lugging the People’s Plan model to the market, the People’s Pram enjoys a well earned rest!

BACKFIRE! Natives throw trinkets back at Capco

fullsizeoutput_216c

Colourfully decorated Tote bags adorn Capco’s Project Rooms

A daft marketing gimmick went spectacularly wrong on Saturday when residents used Capco’s own ‘community engagement’ event to expose the harm its plans are causing to local people and their neighbourhood.

As part of Capco’s offensive to con people out of their homes, which has included summonses to decorate “luxury biscuits”, residents were invited to the developer’s Earls Court Project Rooms to “learn more about the Earls Court development”. The developer is keen to show off its plans to destroy the attractive Victorian houses in Empress Place along with the historic Project Rooms themselves.

The enticement on this occasion was nothing less than the opportunity to “create your own personalised organic tote bag”. Faced with such a tantalising prospect, local residents participated enthusiastically. The result? Cotton bags decorated with “Capco has broken my heart and stolen my home”, “Capco KILLED Earls Court: get your bloody hands off the estates” and “Save W14” hung prominently against the developer’s propaganda backdrop in Capco’s very own Project Rooms.

Sally Taylor, Chair of West Kensington Tenants & Residents Association, explained: “I took Capco up on their disconcerting offer to ‘personalise my own Tote bag’ and expressed my emotions via the acrylic paints provided. My work was exhibited until Capco realised I had painted off message. They promptly censored my efforts by removing it from the display. They might believe they can destroy my home, but surely even they realise they can’t dictate what I think and feel.”

fullsizeoutput_216a

A carefully positioned plate contextualises Capco’s model of destruction

Meanwhile, Capco exposed further how out of touch it is with its latest edition of ‘The View’, though the only view residents have is of the pile of rubble left by Capco’s destruction of the much-loved exhibition centres.

Capco’s Managing Director, Gary Yardley, claimed that its portakabin show homes space “sets the gold standard for engaging with residents”. But gold is not enough. As Capco went on to proclaim: “The New Homes Space not only sets the new gold standard for resident engagement but also uses the latest gaming technologies to create realistic walk-throughs of the new homes.” Who’d have imagined that a developer would try and dupe residents into giving up their homes through a computer game?

Estates resident, Linda Sanders, said: “This is about taking our homes from us against our will. When you visit their exhibitions they dazzle you with fancy technology and shiny kitchens and bathrooms. But they don’t tell you what you really need to know, such as how high the service charge would be or that temporary tenants have no rights at all in the redevelopment. If that’s the gold standard then it’s fools gold. They’re taking us for the fools, and they’re taking the gold for themselves.”

Capco sales halved as K&C lays down the law

webpost-1

Lillie Square where sluggish sales have prompted a rethink by Capco

In July, we reported that Capco’s sales rate at Lillie Square was slightly less than one per week. This, we calculated, meant it would take Capco 35 years to sell the remaining 357 Lillie Square homes and the 1,314 homes to be built on the site of the former exhibition centres. And that was before any homes are built on the estates land or the rail depot. In September, in an article that appeared in the Financial Times, a property analyst suggested it could take a century to achieve all the sales that are planned across the whole site.

Back in July, with sales at the rate of one per week, we asked: “Can even this rate of disposal be maintained in the current market?” Well, now we have the answer and, not surprisingly, it is a big ‘No! Not on you nelly!’

According to Capco’s Trading Update for the period 1 July 2016 to 28 November 2016, the total number of apartments reserved or exchanged in Phase 2 of Lillie Square has reached 50. This is an increase over a 21-week period of just nine flats from the 41 that were reported as reserved or exchanged in the Interim Results for the six months ended 30 June 2016.

This means Capco’s sales rate has halved to less than one per fortnight, doubling our estimate for how long it would take to sell the part of the development with detailed planning consent to 70 years and across the whole site to 200 years, assuming this rate remains constant.

So, it was not surprising when Capco suggested in another Financial Times article, which appeared in October, that it intends to switch between 20 and 25 per cent of the homes for sale to homes for rent. Capco Director, Gary Yardley, said: “We want to create something people can be proud of in 100 years”.

But, at the rate Capco is going, even with converting a quarter of the homes from sale to rent, in 100 years time the job won’t be half done. That’s because, as the developer admitted in the FT article, and in an article published in the Daily Telegraph in July, it wants to up the total number of homes to be built across the whole site from 7,500 to 10,000.

Never was the adage “when you are in a hole, stop digging’ more apt. A 10,000 home scheme would mean a development that increases the total number of homes currently in the Opportunity Area by 13 times rather than 10 times, ramping up both the density of the scheme and the heights of the buildings, well beyond the monstrous development that is already consented. Surely, if the current scheme is too big to implement, how can an even bigger one succeed? “If the public and private sector works together”, suggests Gary Yardley, “we can find answers.”

webpost-2

The Council Chamber of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, where Councillors called on Capco to come clean about its intentions

Kensington and Chelsea Council, for one, is not impressed. On 19 October, meeting in Full Council, the Councillors passed the following resolution unanimously:

“This Council notes the announcement that CapCo is considering a significant change of housing mix and a significant increase in the density of its Earl’s Court redevelopment, which would impact on the wider masterplan for the area as reflected in the Earl’s Court and West Kensington Opportunity Area Joint Supplementary Planning Document adopted by this Council in March 2012. The Council also notes the very high level of public interest in the Earl’s Court development, as one of London’s major regeneration areas. 

Such a change would require a new planning application to be considered in the normal way including:

  • a reassessment of the community and transport infrastructure effects and mitigation;
  • delivery of other requirements in the Local Plan strategic site allocation; 
  • a policy compliant level of affordable housing and, where necessary, publication of a financial viability assessment consistent with previous decisions of the Information Commissioner on the balance between the need for commercial confidentiality as against public interest in disclosure; and 
  • public consultation. 

In the interests of sound, open and transparent planning, the Council calls on CapCo to fully engage with the Council and local resident and business communities over any proposal to change the scale of development on the site from that already approved.” 

Hey Capco! What do you say to that?

Big turnout reaffirms campaign

161004_033

94 people, of whom 78 were residents, attended the Annual General Meetings for the West Kensington estate TRA, the Gibbs Green & Dieppe Close TRA and West Ken Gibbs Green Community Homes (WKGGCH). The meetings were held on 4 October 2016 in the Gibbs Green Hall.

The TRA AGMs received reports from their respective Chairs, Sally Taylor and Diana Belshaw, approved the accounts and elected committee members.

The WKGGCH meeting followed straight on, when residents of both estates came together under the chairmanship of Keith Drew.

161004_037Julia Lawlor is hugged by a neighbour following her speech

Resident Julia Lawlor opened the meeting with an emotional address to her neighbours, explaining that four generations of her family have lived in her home. Her closing remarks provoked a rousing response: “To them, the people who want to knock down our homes, we’re down there. They just think we’re rough people. And all they want to do is make money. They’re not bothered what happens to us, where we go. And they think they can tempt us with show flats you can’t swing a cat in? Yeah: Thanks, but NO thanks. If I wanted to move, I would have done so a long time ago. This is a special place, and we’re not going without a fight.”

161004_052

Left to right: Keith Drew, Chair; Charlie Treloggan, Treasurer; Linda Sanders, Secretary

Treasurer Charlie Treloggan took the meeting through the accounts, highlighting the expenditure on producing and publicising the People’s Plan.

161004_057

WKGGCH Company Secretary, Linda Sanders, gave the annual report on the activities of the organisation. Firstly, she displayed a slide showing the Land Registry title proving that despite the contract between the Council and developer Capco, the estates land is still owned by the Council. Linda went on to remind the meeting about the participation of over 100 residents in the production of the People’s Plan and its positive reception on the estates.

She further reported that following the collection of over 7,600 signatures for an online petition, the then candidate, now Mayor Sadiq Khan, had agreed to review the Earl’s Court masterplan as he had serious reservations about the overall direction the scheme is taking. Finally she reported on the submissions we have made to the Government in support of our Right to Transfer proposal, the lack of any significant progress made with the demolition scheme, and the one third reduction in Capco’s share price along with its difficulties selling the new homes it is building in Lillie Square.

161004_082

Board Member and Chair of West Kensington TRA, Sally Taylor, summarised the People’s Plan, pointing to the model on display in the hall. The Plan is proving to be a popular alternative for delivering improvements and additional homes without demolition.

161004_091

Donna Isaac, one of the six candidates for five places on the WKGGCH Board explained that she had been living on the estates as a temporary licensee for over a year and that she was determined to contribute to the campaign to save the estates.

161004_095

Faisal Roble, another candidate, said that he had helped a lot with the People’s Plan and wanted to help stop the demolition because this is his home and he is a passionate believer in social housing.

161004_110

Co-opted Board Member Kevin Veness counted the votes to elect the Board Members.

161004_116

Local MP Andy Slaughter, who has steadfastly supported residents throughout our campaign, said it was thanks to the community’s efforts that the estates were still standing. In his view, the masterplan is dead and the plans will have to be redrawn.

The Chair thanked residents for attending. The meeting closed and was followed by refreshments.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: