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.

Residents and politicians welcome People’s Plan for improvements and additional homes without demolition

p1050151

WKGGCH Secretary Linda Sanders (left) explains the People’s Plan to London Assembly Member, Sian Berry (right)

London Assembly Member Sian Berry visited the estates on 24 August to learn more about our People’s Plan. She said: “The People’s Plan clearly demonstrates that residents, with support, are capable of creating good regeneration alternatives to demolition. The plan not only proposes 250 additional homes but they improve existing estates without destroying perfectly good family homes. It is important that demolition is not the only option when regenerating an area. Residents and communities should not have to be needlessly displaced when there are other options.”

p1050149

Residents welcome Assembly Member Sian Berry to the estates

Local MP Andy Slaughter has also backed a community-led rather than developer-led approach: “The worst aspect of Capco’s demolition plan is the refusal to give residents a say in their own future. I would like to see the mayor, the council and the residents’ organisations working together to produce an alternative to Capco’s masterplan.”

Meanwhile, individual residents are stepping forward with their own reasons for supporting the People’s Plan:

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Residents launch People’s Plan for improvements and new homes without demolition

_DSC0117

We are proud to present the People’s Plan for improvements and new homes without demolition. These are still early proposals but they demonstrate that demolition of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates (which a majority of residents have consistently  opposed) is simply not necessary.

So far over one hundred of us have come together to identify how we want to develop our estates and improve our homes in the future. We have enlisted professionally accredited architects, valuers and quantity surveyors to show that what we want is possible. The project has been funded by the Nationwide Foundation as part of its support for initiatives to develop alternative models for creating new affordable housing.

Here is a summary of the People’s Plan. And here is the architects report.

What are we proposing?

Brochre bird's eye view

Diagram above based on designs by ASH

There are currently 760 homes on the estates. We are proposing to build 250 new homes where we have identified space. By selling 180 of these, we could generate £50 million to help pay for the improvements and 70 new homes for social rent.

Most of the new homes for social rent would be family size houses, but some would be bungalows for elderly and disabled residents. These new homes would help address overcrowding on the estates and suit tenants looking to down-size. Most of the homes for sale would be built in new storeys above, and extensions to, existing blocks of housing.

Proposed improvements include: better insulation and ventilation; upgraded bins and refuse systems; glazed balconies to add space to the one bedroom flats in the tower blocks; upgraded communal areas; better control of green space; better security; enhanced landscaping with a new community garden and allotments.

In addition, we are proposing an estate-based housing office and a new community centre for both estates. And, we would re-instate the concierge scheme for Fairburn and Churchward Houses.

The Chairs of the two Tenants and Residents Associations, Sally Taylor and Diana Belshaw, and the Chair of West Ken Gibbs Green Community Homes, Keith Drew, said: “As the residents, we think it should be for us to choose what sort of future we have for our community. The People’s Plan is far better than the scheme the developer wants to impose on us. It shows that the vision we have been campaigning for since 2009 can be achieved. ”

How long would it take?

We have been advised that our proposals could be completed within five years of obtaining the necessary permissions – far less time than it would take for the developer to demolish and redevelop the estates. The People’s Plan could be implemented either by the residents through West Ken Gibbs Green Community Homes, if we succeed in taking ownership of the estates through the Right to Transfer, or by working with Hammersmith & Fulham Council and the Mayor for London should the developer-led scheme fail.

MODEL_015_cutout

Tell us what you think!

These are still early proposals: please get in touch and tell us what you think! You can find us on Twitter @WestKenGibbsGr #ThePeoplesPlan or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/westkengibbsgreen or by joining the Facebook group ‘Save our Homes: West Kensington and Gibbs Green’.

If you live on or near the estates, please get in touch to find out about drop-in sessions in July and August (when the model of the proposals will be on display) or to arrange a visit to explain the plans. Alternatively, a copy of the feedback form can be downloaded by clicking here. You can contact our Housing Organiser Zoe on 07754 701 636 or email zoe.wkggch@gmail.com.

Earl’s Court developer enters stormy waters following ‘market shock’ prediction

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 17.40.56

Capco’s share price over the past year: Source FT markets .com

In June, Deutsche Bank’s Market Research department published a report on Capco that recommended shares should be sold in light of the Bank’s prediction their price would drop by 23% to 260 pence. This was based on a forecast that residential property prices face a 20% decline driven largely by a collapse in the buy-to-let market especially affecting prime central London new-build homes. Deutsche Bank singles out Capco from all the other developers since the nature of its development pipeline makes it particularly vulnerable to the “impending shock to the residential market”.

The report predicts that the fall in house prices will drive down the valuation of Capco’s Earl’s Court land by 65%. Deutsche Bank attaches no value at all to the West Kensington & Gibbs Green estates because it says their redevelopment is unlikely to be profitable for Capco given the amount of replacement and affordable housing involved. And because Capco does not have enough money to build the new homes, the bank expects the company will be bought out within a couple of years. Although the Bank anticipates that Capco will obtain a fresh planning permission to build even more homes, it does not think that will help much to improve the developer’s position.

Ironically, Deutsche Bank felt that Capco’s ownership of Covent Garden was a stabilising factor for the company, albeit this part of the business was unlikely to deliver growth. In fact, this week several commercial property funds have had to suspend dealings in the face huge withdrawals. This has put even more pressure on Capco’s share price, which, following the referendum vote to leave the European Union, was already on a downward trend. On the day of the referendum, Capco’s share price closed at 362.50 pence. By 8 July their price closed at 274.40 having reached a low that day of 258.40.

In March and April this year, homes in the Company’s Lillie Square development were being reserved or exchanged at the rate of slightly less than one per week. At that rate, it would take Capco 35 years to dispose of the remaining 357 Lillie Square homes and the 1,314 homes to be built on the site of the former exhibition centres. And that is before any homes are built on the estates land or the rail depot. Can even this rate of disposal be maintained in the current market?

The imminent decline in property prices coupled with the Brexit vote spell a long period of uncertainty that is likely to delay, if not put an end to, Capco’s redevelopment plans for the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates. Under these circumstances, it seems most unlikely the redevelopment of the estates could happen. Capco has not even begun to build the first phase of replacement homes for estates’ residents and has said they would not be ready before 2019.

By contrast, our People’s Plan to make improvements and build additional homes without demolition is far more realistic, could be delivered within five years of obtaining the necessary permissions, and is supported by many residents who have directly engaged with its creation. Watch this space for details of our plan, which we shall publish soon.

Why so shy? Capco cancels discussion which was supposed to “listen to the wisdom of the community”

IMG_1012On Friday 22nd April at 8.30am, Capco’s Group Director of Development Management, Mike Hood, failed to turn up to his own ‘breakfast roundtable’ at the Earls Court Project Rooms in Empress Place, having previously put out an invitation saying he wished to “listen to the wisdom of the community”.

A dozen Earls Court locals and residents of West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates – including local teachers, postal workers and senior citizens – had gathered at the entrance from 8am intending to greet Mike Hood and guests at the event, which was titled, ‘what makes a community flourish?’

Residents had produced a briefing document for attendees to remind them of the 500 responses to Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s consultation on Capco’s plans in 2012, at which 80% of respondents were opposed to demolition.

Consultation responses came from residents of all ages up to 92 and ranged from children saying ‘Your promises are just a trick’ to parents saying ‘I am worried about harm to the elderly’ and ‘My only dream is to keep my home’. The full set of responses can be read below.

When David and Donna Isaac – who face the possibility of being moved out of the area completely if their home is demolished – made enquiries inside, they were told that the event had been cancelled.

Said Linda Sanders, Secretary of the West Ken Gibbs Green Community Homes Board; “This behaviour tells us exactly what Capco think of the local community. Firstly, no one on the estates or living next door to the destroyed exhibition centre was given the invitation to this event to talk about how to make their own community flourish. And then in the end the big wigs at Capco decided they’d rather not listen to what we have to say. If you’re looking for proof that this so-called regeneration is not for the benefit of local people you won’t find clearer evidence than that.”

The residents’ own breakfast did proceed as planned, however, with blueberry muffins, local wisdom and fliers shared amongst themselves and with passing commuters, who were most appalled to hear of Capco’s plans to ignore the wishes of the majority on the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates.

These extracts are from residents’ responses to the Council’s formal consultation in 2012.

Five hundred voices answer “What makes a community flourish?” and share their fears, if developers take their homes.

Our children (aged 4 to 9) say:

I like my house. People might get angry. I am 6. I love my estates.

I am very worried. I play in the playground.

No. No! Knock down your own home! You are a big bully.

Please don’t knock down our homes!

My friends walk me to school. What about people?

Demolish other places! So, don’t sell our homes. That is rude.

It makes me sad and angry. To the Governor. You are being cruel.

We don’t want to move. Don’t demolish my home!

Don’t raze our homes! I am worried about this. Keep your hands off!

Your promises are just a trick. It is hidden agenda.

Please don’t do this to us. I feel very scared.

Demolition game, rubble trouble. I’m very unhappy and upset.

So don’t knock it down or demolish!  30 quotes

Our children (aged 10 to 19) say:

Don’t contact me! Respect the wishes of majority! I hope my words….

The estate is not noisy or messy. I know my way around.

I’d be very depressed. No David! Our Society!

Make more money with buildings. You are making us homeless. Memories thrown away. My friends all live here. This is pathetic!

You can’t make me move. Blackmail, insulting.

Emotional, social and ethical scandal…. Very shocking.

May not be accommodating. You can shove your promises!

Don’t tear down our neighbourhood!

Children-teenagers point of view. Don’t take away freedom of speech!

Very out of order. Great sense of loss. Council spoon-feeding residents.

It is a selfish act. Kicked out. Not going anywhere!

Of course I’m concerned. Major negative effect.

Should focus on kids’ future. I will talk to my neighbours.

Very selfish indeed. I dread the idea. Accept what the people want!

I will miss my friends. Keep out from our estates!

Why would you do that? The Council has no democracy.

Going to be full of strangers. Rich people will be moved in.

I am very concerned. No, no, please. Don’t demolish!

Association to fight. Don’t demolish decent homes! Quite disorganized.

It makes me personally unhappy. I’m not happy.

The Council is sly. Somewhat greedy. You don’t ##ing care about us.

Bog off! Very devastated. They suddenly want to knock down.

Some kids…. Huge repercussions on young people.

Intent to destroy. I’ve grown up here. Please don’t! Snakes.

Scheme is rubbish. Don’t sell to the fat cat! Not reasonable.

I will have a tough fight with you. I won’t stand for it.

Government should not allow it. I’m not going to let this happen.

It will disrupt my life. You won’t have much luck. Keep our homes!

One of the reasons…. Waste of time and money. Cancel the scheme!

I don’t believe the assurances. Demolition machines.

Your assurance is a hollow one. Their offer, we don’t need it.

It’s not for the people around here. It’s a strong and safe community. They’re just pushing us aside. Take our passion seriously!

Dunkirk beaches. I feel saddened. We shouldn’t be thrown out!

The Council are quite corrupt. I’ll just get made homeless.  86 quotes

Our young people (aged 20 to 30) say:

Ballots would be democratic. I refuse to move! It’s stupid.

Piece of s###! They don’t give a f###! No one listens! It’s a bad idea!

Start all over again. Stubbornness to stay put. It made me cry.

WKGGCH should have ownership. Agree! I have two babies.

Council totally and utterly wrong. Council refuses to help.

They can’t rule over the people. I love my community.

You must listen! Don’t demolish! I will not move.

Elderly and disabled don’t deserve it. It’s horrible. No offer to me.

Everyone looks out for each other. Detriment to the wider area.

Wrong to be knocked down. False promises. No one asked me.

It’s bull s###. Too bad. Lead to overcrowding. One way conversation.

I don’t want the money. No promise for me. My brother is disabled.

Very disruptive. Classist proposal. Epilepsy. Try listening to us!

I’m happy with my home. Regardless of anyone’s views. I will stand firm.

Furthermore…. Abuse of power. The problem with the scheme…

Perfectly good homes. I really feel pity for those…

You don’t have residents’ interests at heart. It’s too risky to accept.

The human cost must be considered. I won’t let it happen.

Worst manner. I almost fainted. It is not fair. It’s disgusting.

Refused this plan from A-Z. Treating us like animals. All lies.

No choice except to fight. Very unstable for me. Not properly informed.

Unrest from all tenants. Out. Out the developer! The future scares me.

Community should take over. Too much inconvenience.

Promises are not genuine. I f###ing don’t want your promises.

Such a great friendly community. The question is…    69 quotes

Our young parents (aged 30 to 40) say:

The demolition is unnecessary. They don’t want to know.

They shouldn’t shut us down. The scheme is crap. I love my neighbours.

Cause us great distress. No focus on the people. Tell us the truth!

I feel very bad. Discrimination against lower income people.

I don’t want the community destroyed. My home is beautiful.

I will fight this demolition all the way to the end. We will be homeless.

It’s going to upset the children. Plans need to be honest.

I will be made homeless with my child. Just out for themselves.

Of course I don’t want this to happen. The developer’s hidden agenda. Demolition is not right. So much extra cost. I’m being conned and blackmailed. Not shown me any respect. Our voices must be heard!

My children like the place. Negative on the community. Please don’t!

I will be hugely disadvantaged. Enough to cause stress. Take care of her.

We should be able to vote. People help each other. I am flabbergasted.

Don’t destroy our homes! Don’t sell to developer! Awful thing to do.

I have spent a lot of money. I love my home. Stop bullying me! Neighbours help with new born baby. Hands off the community!

I don’t want to be demolished. Misleading information from the Council. Treated us stupidly. You’ve secret agreement. I came here to be safe.

£££ signs. My family: nowhere else to go. I feel very stressed.

The future is dark for me. Scheme is not beneficial to residents.

You disregarded us. WKGGCH is the way forward.

You must be heartless. We are being exploited. Fiercely opposed.

They don’t want to communicate. Devastating for the neighbourhood. Bad idea to move the people. There is no reason to knock down. Development would destroy jobs. Should be illegal. I am against.

Development will destroy the environment. It’s not just. I will feel bad.

The way the Council talk is upsetting. Development is bad.

I am psychologically attached… Let us get on with our lives! Oh My God!

I want WKGGCH to take responsibility. Can’t imagine the mess!

My preference is for the estates to be transferred. Feel angry and crap.

I would shed a tear. Makes me sick. We are being pushed aside.

I want the right. Sense of community. Load of tosh! You are very wrong. You lied to me. Let us run our estate! My home is my kingdom.

My neighbours my family. No way! You do not deliver. Stop telling lies!

Everything is gloom and blue.  87 quotes

Our parents of growing families (aged 40 to 50) say:

Five children, better off in this house. Not been translated.

Get out please! Money only to the developer. Calling where we live slums? Diabolical. Making money out of people’s vulnerability. Very bad thing. You didn’t tell me. Adding stress. This will devalue my property.

Don’t destroy! Don’t sell! F### you! I don’t believe the Council.

Keep Out! I see no reason for destroying. I will never leave this home. Leave me alone! Poor to be squashed. Will affect my well-being.

The developer wants to throw us out. We did work hard.

I have done a lot of planting. It is a shame to be brought down.

I am worried about harm to elderly. Don’t trust the Council one bit. Residents’ emotional attachment to the community… Last thing I want.

Our future, our lives, our homes. Both my children have disability.

I will be scared. Stop lying! Confusing and unclear. You are stopping me.

I will chain myself to the doors. So very angry. Please respect the people.

Put poor people in bushes. For them to say…. I love my home.

I object very strongly. I’ll watch you fail. Give us the vote!

This is my neighbourhood. I am settled here. Listening to its pockets. You just don’t care. My only dream is to keep my home.

Very condescending. Really annoying me. Seems a waste.

What happened to the Conservatives’ Big Community? Please listen.

Already own my own white goods. Thrown away. Very worrying.

Your assurances are a sham. Kicking us around like a football.

I am not impressed. Neighbourhood means everything.

We should be self-governing. Allow residents to vote! They’ll disregard the estates. I fight to the end to keep my home. What about us?

The Council is trying to bribe people. The developer is not legally bound.

Disposition of working class citizens. I am against demolition.

There is nothing wrong with the estates. I like so much my home.

You are trying to frighten people. Stop you monsters!

I wanted stability for my family. Seven children, nowhere else to go. Council put a sum on happiness. I don’t enjoy best of health.

I don’t trust the Council. It will affect my family. You are irritating.

I object. The Prime Minister… Views are disturbing.

For rich people, not for poor. Our beloved estates. Cancelled!

You shouldn’t sell our homes! Your communication is below zero.

There needs to be social housing. Put the residents ahead!

Elderly can’t defend themselves. I can’t understand. It would hurt me.

I am on the side of the people. I don’t want the Council to get rid of me. The new development is not what I want. I am happy to stay put.

The proposal to demolish is very unfair. Neighbours are very helpful.

We have invested time and money. What do we get?

Greedy developer out!   Council in cahoots with the developer. 102 quotes

Our maturing parents & families (aged 50 to 60) say:

Asthmatic building site. Community housing a brilliant idea.

Good community spirit. We look out for one another like a family.

Stay out! To be stuffed some other place. This is a great neighbourhood.

I want to see tenant ownership. I feel completely rejected.

You say one thing…. Adversely affect residents. Get out of my house! How dare you! Money is nothing. Security and belonging.

I have set roots down. I don’t think they take my opinion….

Disabled adaptations. Blocking off my choices. I feel betrayed.

Need a bulldozer to take me out. This is my final decision. Get stuffed!

I’ll sleep in the kitchen. They talk utter rubbish.

We don’t want to be homeless. The promises don’t make sense.

Council is on one-track mission. Against my wishes.

It makes me feel violated. Treated as an idiot. Social cleansing. Uprooting destabilizes family and neighbourhood. Fat cats!

Plans are unnecessary. Like pie-crust: easily broken. Unbelievable!

Toe the Leader’s line. Affected negatively. Nervous breakdown.

People call and cook for me. You cannot put a price on the home.

Don’t darken my doorstep! Fed up to the teeth. It is not polite.

I feel uninformed and herded. You cannot put a value on the home.

My psychological well-being. You are robbing us. Very, very angry.

The Court will bring justification. They don’t know who I am.

Tory canvassing for Boris Johnson. Council is just being greedy.

I’ll march tomorrow to stop you. We should have full freedom! I’m lost.

Get together and fight this decision. The community should take over.

We will not move for the world. I refuse to leave.    61 quotes

Our original neighbours (aged 60 to 70) say:

Good community spirit. Making us feel sad. Disabled and need to stay.

My neighbours are good friends. Force us into hutches.

Jargon hides their lies. I’ve experienced dictatorship. Council! Stop that!

A very important argument…. I am disabled after a brain tumour.

Put to Outer Mongolia if lucky. Cannot replace what I have got.

I must not move. Load of rubbish. All about greed. Full of s##t.

I am appalled and upset. You make me feel terrible.

The Council is running down the estate. I have a right to be heard.

Sell to a company saddled with debt. Stop and think! Leave us alone!

You only want to build private homes. The Council are mean.

Greenhalgh wants social cleansing. I’m not a gambling man.

Stress might finish me off. Not conducive to well-being.

I don’t want a flat. I want to stay here. Greenhalgh stood in my house.

Made me feel worried. Fight for the estate! It hurts me. Keep protesting! It would be criminal to demolish. Let the people decide! No Sir!

Stop ignoring us! It belongs to the people. No water or heating bills.

Improved immensely under Decent Homes. Council try to cheat me.

The Council does not listen to the tenants. Your mercenary intentions.

A community of loving families. Think of what you are doing!     48 quotes

Our retired neighbours (aged 70 to 80) say:

This is causing a lot of stress. High class people will benefit.

Many people will go homeless. I am very depressed and angry.

You’re playing around with people’s minds. It’s all one way. I am disabled.

This house suits my needs. Council is utterly wrong. I want my vote.

Scheme’s promoters – self-aggrandizement. You want to throw us out. She doesn’t want the upheaval. This is bad. You are just trying to fool us.

Do not sell my home! I’ve had enough. Put everyone in a ghetto.

Council treat people like idiots. Proposal would harm community.

I won’t let you kill my mother. Scheme is crackpot.

Like most of my neighbours…. Who are they to say? I am old and blind. You are wrecking my nerves. It would be awful to demolish. No way!

It makes me bloody angry. I am a doctor serving humanity.

Do not pack my things! It’s mysterious. The Council are cheating us.

We oppose with efforts of unity. I belong here. I don’t want to move.

Not good enough. Council neglecting their responsibilities.

Upsetting me. The buildings are structurally sound.

The Nazi Party bombed us.   40 quotes

Our octogenarians plus (aged 80 to 92) say:

I will go to the Queen. One of the stupidest things.

My Gosh! My Gosh! You will have to drag me out.

In my mind and being… It is a bit scary. Home.

Greed! When your heart is in a place… In one ear…        9 quotes

Our West Kensington & Fulham neighbours say:

Bullying tactics to bulldoze. It’s a crime.

Harm the local people. Café members strongly object.

We cherish this estate. Lump you in your head. Don’t dictate!

Cannot put a price on community spirit. Explain. I feel for the people.

Nothing short of contempt. Unfair. They never tell us properly…

Bring rich people in to serve you! Council has declared war.

Talk to TRA. Battery hen environment.

I do strongly object. Cause stress and hardship.

Stop it! Wider community adversely affected.  20 quotes

Complaint to European Commission alleges Council gave £1.5 billion in unlawful state aid to Capco

european commission logo

A West Kensington resident has submitted a formal complaint to the European Commission alleging that Hammersmith & Fulham Council gave £1.5 billion of unlawful state aid to Capco, the company redeveloping Earl’s Court. The state aid arose from the Council’s previous Conservative administration signing a contract for the sale of 22 acres of land occupied by the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates for £90 million – well below market value. For the past seven years, the estates have been at the centre of a high profile campaign by residents to save their homes from demolition.

The amount of unlawful state aid provided by the Council to Capco was estimated on four different commercial bases. All of them showed a very large element of state aid. The analysis, carried out by consultant Dr Richard Fordham, estimated, on the strongest basis, state aid of £1.5 billion. This was calculated using figures Capco published in its annual results on 25 February 2016, which showed the company valued the profit on a similar sized area of adjacent land at £1.274 billion.

The complaint to the European Commission highlights many unusual features of the arrangement with Capco, including:

  • Capco was chosen by the Council for the scheme without a public tender, in contravention of Government Guidance on the sale of public land. The Council offered no logic for avoiding a tender process. The market was not tested; and many other well-qualified development companies in London and the EU were denied the opportunity of bidding for the land. Therefore it is impossible for the Council to prove that it obtained the best possible price.
  • The phased payments for the land, which run from 2015-2019, were not indexed for inflation, nor is there any review mechanism for the Council to benefit from property price increases. So no value growth was allowed for, despite the deal being struck when the property market was at its lowest point in the recession.
  • The Council used PricewaterhouseCoopers to confirm that financial due diligence had been satisfactorily undertaken and Jones Lang LaSalle to confirm the Council had obtained best consideration for the land. Both these firms were also engaged by Capco to audit its own accounts and value its Earl’s Court properties. PwC’s advice was so heavily qualified that, according to its letter, it did not constitute investment advice or provide an assurance.
  • The £90 million sale price for the estates’ land is far less than the current estimate of £140 million it would cost the Council to buy back homeowners and to obtain vacant possession from the secure tenants.
  • Although the 760 replacement homes were counted in the CLSA as part of the consideration for the estates, they were also calculated into the £452 million planning gain that formed the S106 agreement signed as part of the planning permission agreed in 2013.

Now that the European Commission has received the complaint it is for them to decide whether to mount an investigation. Should they find that there has indeed been unlawful state aid, the most suitable remedy would be either for the CLSA to be declared void and unenforceable or for Capco to pay £1.5 billion to Hammersmith & Fulham Council (net of £45 million it has already paid the Council).

Keith Drew, the resident who made the complaint, said: “The Council entered into a contract for the sale of our homes to Capco for a pittance. They used state resources to confer a huge exclusive unfair economic advantage on a wealthy developer. That £1.5 billion belongs to us. If this is not stopped, Capco stand to make an obscene profit out of public resources, causing misery to a community of 2,000 people. I hope the European Commission will mount a full investigation.”

Article 107(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union states that any aid granted by a Member State or through state resources in any form whatsoever which distorts or threatens to distort competition by favouring certain undertakings or the production of certain goods shall be incompatible with the internal market, in so far as it affects trade between Member States.

In January 2013, the Council’s then Conservative administration signed a Conditional Land Sale Agreement (CLSA) with EC Properties LP, a Limited Partnership presently owned and controlled by Capital & Counties Properties plc, otherwise known as Capco (the name used generically by the Council to describe the holding company and limited partnership).

The CLSA requires the Council to transfer phases of the estates to Capco with vacant possession. In exchange for the estates land, Capco has to provide 760 replacement homes and pay the Council £90 million. But the Council has to buy back 171 homes from leaseholders and freeholders and arrange to rehouse all the tenants out of its own resources. Although it will then own 171 extra homes, it will have borne the associated costs of repurchase and taken the risk on the date of signing the CLSA that it would have to buy the properties at progressively higher points in the market to achieve the vacant possession it had undertaken to provide in phases over 25 years to EC Properties LP.

The CLSA is an option in favour of EC Properties LP, exercised wholly at their choosing. There are no obligations on them that can be triggered by the Council unilaterally without their willing participation. Thus, the Council cannot require EC Properties LP to proceed with, or once commenced to complete, the development. EC Properties LP can stop whenever it might be financially convenient for them to do so.

The Council claimed that only Capco could offer replacement accommodation so as to facilitate one rather than two moves for tenants. However, this was plainly wrong since the Council owned a redundant school in the middle of the estates occupying sufficient land area to have provided the replacement homes needed to empty out the first phase on the estates, and which it sold to Capco for £9 million, again without any tender or competition.

According to a review of the financial viability assessment conducted in September 2012 by District Valuer Services, the total Earl’s Court scheme value was estimated at £12 billion. Land Registry data puts the uplift in house prices in Hammersmith & Fulham between 2012 and 2016 at a factor of 1.57. This increases the total scheme value now to nearly £19 billion. Yet, the context for the price agreed by the Council in 2012 was a scheme value of £8 billion.

Sadiq Khan will review Earl’s Court masterplan if elected as Mayor

Sadiq Khan

Labour’s Sadiq Khan has joined the list of Mayoral candidates promising to review the Earl’s Court Masterplan if elected, leaving Zac Goldsmith for the Conservatives as the only major candidate yet to clarify his position on the contentious scheme.

A spokesperson for Mr Khan confirmed the following in a statement given to Dave Hill at The Guardian: “Sadiq will review the Earl’s Court Masterplan as he has serious reservations about the overall direction the scheme is taking.”

If it goes ahead in its current form, the Earl’s Court scheme would involve the demolition of 760 homes on the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates.

Prior to this, Mr Khan had criticised Capco’s £12bn Earls Court scheme on Channel 4 News for containing not a single additional unit of social housing amongst the 7,500 new homes to be built, and only 11% additional ‘affordable’ housing.

Keith Drew is a long term resident and the chair of West Ken Gibbs Green Community Homes (WKGGCH), the resident-controlled non-profit Community Land Trust (CLT) which aims to prevent demolition and put the community in charge of building new homes and making improvements to the estates. Said Keith, “This announcement has created a feeling of real hope in what has now been a seven year campaign to stay in the homes that we love.

“The majority of residents have repeatedly said that we are against this demolition – a demolition which is frankly needless as there is nothing wrong with the homes here. We know Zac Goldsmith has said he wouldn’t support regeneration schemes where a majority of residents are against it – a commitment to review the Earls Court Masterplan is his chance to show that he is serious about what he says.”

Sally Taylor, Chair of the West Kensington Estate Tenants & Residents Association, added: “I am beyond thrilled to discover a prospective Mayor has ears that work! Maybe common sense isn’t as rare as the current Mayor has led us to believe. Londoners need to be heard. Thank you Sadiq!”

A petition on Change.org calling on the next Mayor of London to review the Earl’s Court Masterplan currently has over 2,000 signatures and has received public support from Grammy-award winning west London-born singer, Estelle. The petition was started by residents of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates.

Murvet Zengin, a local beautician and mother of two who is leading the petition online, said, “It is great to know that Sadiq Khan has promised to help us. If demolition happens it would destroy our lives. So many families would have to start again. It takes years to build a community like this. We want to know if Zac Goldsmith will make the same commitment.

“This is a big campaign, it is not something little. A lot of people are involved. A lot of money is involved. It’s not going to be easy. But this news gives us hope. We know other campaigns have won before, like New Era and Walterton and Elgin. We won’t stop working for it until our homes are safe.”

Over the past few months, West Kensington and Gibbs Green residents have been developing an alternative plan to demolition: The People’s Plan. The People’s Plan was informed by over one hundred residents who briefed architects to create a plan for infill development of new social rented housing and estate-wide improvements without the need for demolition.

Geraldine Dening, our lead architect, said: “Lord Heseltine, Chair of the panel set up to look at how to implement the Prime Minister’s initiative for council estates has said that estates regeneration “has to be locally led” and that he wants to “see local communities coming forward with innovative ideas to achieve desirable neighbourhoods that local people can be proud of”. The plans we have worked with residents to develop here achieve precisely that.”

Earl’s Court sales flatline: Capco spies on its opponents

Meet Gibbs Green homeowner Matt Bain who is fighting to save his home from being demolished to build luxury homes that no-one wants to buy

On 25 February, Earl’s Court developer Capco published its annual results. These showed that since its last update on 10 November, the proportion of the 70 flats in Phase 2 of its Lillie Square development that have been reserved or exchanged has stayed at 40%. So it seems that sales have flatlined. Capco has still not sold all the 237 homes in Phase 1 that was launched in March 2014 – 10% are unsold according to its website. And, despite announcing in September 2015 that 1 bedroom flats in Phase 2 would be offered at prices starting at £795,000 – a third higher than those for Phase 1, the February 2016 results report that prices achieved for Phase 2 are only 5% higher than Phase 1.

Concerns about the luxury property market have forced Capco’s share price down from £4.72 on 18 August 2015 to £3.27 on 2 March 2016. The price went so low that on 25 February, four Capco directors bought a total of 140,000 shares at a cost of about £454,000.

Increased Stamp Duty and reduced tax relief on second homes are not the only worries facing Capco. The Company reports that: “Due to its scale, there will remain a risk of protests or legal challenges (ranging from complaints about noise through to judicial reviews or applications for listing) against specific aspects of the scheme as it is progressed. It should be noted that all such challenges to date have been successfully defended however future challenges of this nature cannot be discounted.”

theimperialarms

West Kensington residents Keith Drew and Rita Vlahopoulou in period costume on 20 February protesting against Capco’s threatened destruction of our Victorian heritage in Lillie Road and Empress Place

The report goes on to identify “public opinion” as a principal risk and uncertainty: “The Group’s business (or aspects of it) is opposed or challenged by public interest or activist groups”. The impact on strategy could be “reputational damage, litigation, distraction of management and prosecution for non-compliance.” So, what is Capco doing to mitigate this risk? According to the rather sinister statement in its report, it is: “Monitoring intelligence on activist groups” – in other words it is spying on the residents of West Kensington and Gibbs Green and on those who have supported the campaign to save the exhibition centres. Do the public authorities – Hammersmith & Fulham Council and Transport for London – that have contracts with Capco feel comfortable that their business partner is spying on people acting in the public interest?

Capco also recognises as a risk the political climate, “unfavourable policy or changes in legislation (in particular, as a result of political change) e.g. London mayoral elections”.

Matt Bain, a first time homeowner living on the Gibbs Green estates, said: “I’m a musician and I teach music at a local school. It’s an insult to be told that there is a ‘supply glut’ of the type of housing that I or nobody I know could ever possibly afford. I have been fighting alongside my neighbours now for five years to save my home.

These are decent, genuinely affordable places to live, with a strong sense of community. If the next Mayor of London allows demolition to take place, this strong and genuinely socially mixed community will be destroyed as private renters, leaseholders and council tenants are forced out, leaving only the ghost of a Fulham that used to be.”

Demand may well be slowing for the pristine, glassy luxury homes shooting up all over London. But demand is at crisis point for the kind of housing that is here already. And, with Capco’s development strategy faltering, it’s time we had a Mayor whose policies are to protect council estates that don’t need to be demolished and to build new homes that Londoners can really afford.

Over 2,000 people have signed our petition calling on Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan to review the Earl’s Court masterplan should either of them get elected as the next Mayor of London. They would do well to read the 370 comments posted on the petition to appreciate the enormous strength of feeling behind our campaign.

Click here to view the petition on Change.org.

Will Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan put their money where their mouth is on estate regeneration?

 

 

To hear why such a commitment is so important, click to watch the video below and hear the story of David Isaac and his family, who could face moving out of the area or even London if demolition of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates is allowed to proceed.

So far, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and Respect have all promised to review or to block demolition of West Kensington and Gibbs Green under the Earls Court Masterplan.

What is more, Lord Heseltine, who has been appointed by David Cameron to chair a panel looking into the regeneration of council estates has said that estates regeneration “has to be locally led”. He has said that he wants to “see local communities coming forward with innovative ideas to achieve desirable neighbourhoods that local people can be proud of”; an aspiration which is embodied by our People’s Plan for an alternative to demolition and not by the unwanted Earls Court Masterplan.

Zac Goldsmith said recently that he won’t support estate regeneration without “majority support in the communities” (read more here). The majority of us on West Kensington and Gibbs Green have consistently opposed demolition: most recently 57% of households signed a petition supporting the Right to Transfer as an alternative to demolition.

Sadiq Khan has announced that if he is elected Mayor, 50% of new homes built on public land should be genuinely affordable (read more here). The Earls Court scheme promises just 11% new ‘affordable’ units, which would be provided at 80% of market prices. And this was based on a viability assessment that was demonstrably designed to minimise the developer’s contribution to affordable housing.

Given all this, we cannot imagine why both candidates shouldn’t support a review of the Earls Court Masterplan.

Over the next few months we will be publishing more stories like David’s, from his neighbours and friends in West Kensington and Gibbs Green. David’s story is just one of many.  We want the candidates to see first hand how the needless destruction of the estates would affect people and why it is crucial to the future of London that they agree to review the Earl’s Court scheme.

Do you think the Labour and Conservative frontrunners should get with the times and agree to review the demolition of our homes?

Here are a few quick things you can do to get behind the campaign:

  1. Sign our petition on Change.org calling for the next Mayor of London to review the Earls Court Masterplan and the proposed demolition of West Kensington and Gibbs Green
  2. Like our Facebook page West Ken & Gibbs Green – The People’s Estates and share David’s story with your friends
  3. Follow us on Twitter @WestKenGibbsGr and tweet the candidates to tell them to #ReviewEarlsCourt
  4. Contact our Housing Organiser Zoe at zoe.wkggch@gmail.com to be added to our supporters mailing list and hear about events and opportunities to volunteer

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: