On 11 August, 30 residents and supporters of West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates went to the Town Hall to serve a legal notice on Hammersmith & Fulham Council proposing the transfer of their homes to a community owned landlord. Click here for audio slide show.
The Right to Transfer is enshrined in Section 34A of the Housing Act 1985. It grants council tenants the right to transfer their homes to a housing association subject to certain criteria and conditions being met. In 2011, residents founded West Ken Gibbs Green Community Homes as the resident controlled company to take forward their community transfer ambitions. The Coalition Government eventually implemented the Right to Transfer in December 2013.
In May 2014 the Council’s Conservative administration was replaced by Labour, who over the past year have been in discussions with Earl’s Court developer Capco about renegotiating the massive redevelopment scheme that would see the estates demolished. During this time, the original regeneration scheme has been in abeyance, effectively frozen while a different scheme is being drawn up. No new scheme has yet been put in place and residents have not been informed about the options under consideration. Residents were told that proposals would emerge by early this year, but these have not materialised.
Meanwhile, Capco has established an office on the estates to promote their demolition plans. In consequence, residents don’t know what is planned for their homes and are left in limbo with the threat of perfectly decent homes being demolished. They fear that new plans would still involve demolition of their homes with even more homes being built in their place.
Chair of the tenant group, Keith Drew said: “Residents are fed up with the on-going uncertainty. We’ve always opposed demolition and the current Council’s manifesto said the same. The Council has been talking with the developer for almost a year. It’s apparent that the previously agreed regeneration scheme is undergoing major revision but we’ve been excluded from the discussions and no new scheme has been agreed. We expect the Government to support tenants to exercise our legal rights to be empowered to get on with our own plans for regeneration. It would be ironic, to say the least, if the Labour Council asked a Conservative Government to help them stop us from saving our homes.”
Following the service of the Right to Transfer Proposal Notice, the Regulations stipulate that the Council has 28 days in which to validate the notice. At any time, the Council may seek a determination from the Secretary of State not to co-operate with the transfer proposal on the grounds it may have a detrimental impact on the regeneration of the area or the provision of housing services.
In January 2013, the then Conservative administration secretly signed a ‘Collateral Agreement’ with Capco binding it to resist and oppose any challenge to the redevelopment. A legal opinion obtained by residents from Martin Westgate QC of Doughty Street Chambers states that this agreement is an unlawful fetter on the Council’s discretion and that the Council should not have regard to it when deciding how to respond to the tenants’ request to transfer their homes to a community landlord.
As part of their transfer proposals, residents intend to produce our own plans for regeneration of the area. Architects will be engaged to draw up options for making improvements to the existing properties and constructing new homes at various locations around the estates. There will be widespread consultation with neighbours who will be invited to make their own suggestions and get involved in preparing a policy for prioritising who should be offered new homes.