On 17 March 2015, 131 residents attended a general meeting organised by West Ken Gibbs Green Community Homes (WKGGCH). In total, 150 people were in the community hall. This is the largest meeting held so far in the campaign and is a tremendous endorsement of the struggle to save the estates from demolition and to achieve community ownership. At the end of the meeting, WKGGCH Members voted by 100 to 1 in favour of serving a Right to Transfer Proposal Notice.
WKGGCH Chair, Keith Drew welcomed the huge number of people who packed into the hall. He mentioned the letter sent by developer Capco to residents that stated: “Since last May’s election we have been in discussions with the new Labour administration, led by Councillor Cowan. The Leader has been very clear about the position he laid out in his election manifesto. We are looking at the arrangements entered into with the previous administration.”
Linda Sanders, WKGGCH’s Company Secretary, reported on events since the general meeting held in July 2014. Following the election of the Labour administration in May, the redevelopment had not moved forward. Although the developer proposed the first phase of demolition on the estates, this was not agreed by the previous administration and is still not agreed.
WKGGCH has met regularly with Council Officers and Councillors. They have assured us that the Council is doing everything it can to save the estates and to deliver its manifesto commitment to oppose the demolition, to aim not to use Compulsory Purchase Orders against residents, and to work with council housing residents to give them ownership of the land their homes are on.
Linda explained that although there were rumours about the options being discussed between the Council and the developer, we were determined that residents should not be set against each other. People cheered as she held up a sign banning residents from fighting one another!
Councillors Ben Coleman and Larry Culhane addressed residents. Councillor Coleman explained that the Council was determined to put residents in the lead and had set up a Residents Commission to consider options for the future ownership of the borough’s housing stock.
Councillor Culhane confirmed that the Council was in discussions with the developer and that in due course options would be discussed with residents. He said the turnout at the meeting showed this was the most representative estate in the borough.
Andy Slaughter MP said that the campaign had achieved a great deal over the past six years, dramatically improving what was being offered to residents. He was delighted there was now an administration in place that is committed to saving the estates.
Community Organiser, Jonathan Rosenberg, reported he had discovered Capco was looking at putting up residential towers on the Empress State site, and also that the developer still wanted to drive a road through the estates to connect North End Road with the development. Neither of these options is agreed but they give some idea of the content of the discussions.
WKGGCH obtained legal advice from a senior QC about the secret Collateral Agreement signed by the previous Council and the developer. The advice states that the developer cannot force the Council to reject any Right to Transfer Notice that WKGGCH might serve and that the Council has to make its own decision whether it thinks a community transfer is bad for regeneration and whether to refer to the Secretary of State. It’s hard to believe that the Council would do this as it would effectively be siding with the developer against the residents.
Finally, WKGGCH members voted by 100 to 1 in favour of serving a Right to Transfer Proposal Notice at a time to be decided by the WKGGCH Board.
Keith Drew, Chair of WKGGCH, said: “This was an amazing turnout and a huge affirmation of everything we have been fighting for. It must be plain to everyone involved in the Earl’s Court scheme that this community is absolutely determined to stop demolition and win community ownership.”