On Friday 23 October, West Kensington and Gibbs Green Residents visited the offices of the Department for Communities and Local Government to present the Secretary of State Greg Clark with our case for an alternative plan for the 760 homes threatened with demolition as part of the Earl’s Court redevelopment.
The submission was our response to the Council’s request that the Government should strike out our Right to Transfer proposal, which we initiated on 11 August 2015 by serving notice on Hammersmith & Fulham Council. The Council’s previous administration signed a secret ‘collateral agreement’ with the developer, Capco, which states the Council should do everything it can to resist any challenge to the Earl’s Court redevelopment scheme. But, legal advice obtained by the residents and included in our submission to the Secretary of State states the Council is not bound to resist the residents’ Right to Transfer proposal and that the collateral agreement is an unlawful fetter on the Council’s discretion.
The Council claims that the proposed transfer would have a significant detrimental effect on the regeneration of the area and would prevent it receiving receipts from a land sale contract with the developer. However, in our submission we pointed out that:
- The transfer does not prevent regeneration since the land sale agreement already anticipates transfer of the estates;
- Even if the estates are excluded, the developer will still be developing significant landholdings in the area;
- No progress has been made with the scheme for redeveloping the estates in the past two and a half years;
- No detailed planning permissions have been obtained, the first phase of the demolition has not been agreed and the residents’ contracts have not been finalised;
- Both Capco and LBHF want to change the current scheme, which would require revision to the sale agreement and a fresh outline planning application;
- The Council’s financial receipts from the developer will be more than soaked up by its expenditure on the scheme.
Residents believe that transferring ownership of the two estates from the Council (LBHF) to a community owned landlord would enable us to retain and invest in existing properties and work with our neighbours to plan new affordable homes on infill sites.
Homeowner Iona Bain, who handed in our submission, said:
“I am very worried about the demolition scheme and have lived with this worry for years while the area has been blighted by uncertainty. I worked very hard to buy my flat here and I have invested a lot of money and time in my community to make it my home. I feel totally let down by the promise of homeownership. I just hope the Secretary of State will listen to us and support the will of the local community.”
Alongside evidence to support our cause, tenants and homeowners from the estates handed over a petition signed by 525 residents from 57% of all the homes on the estates calling for a community-led alternative to the scheme currently being renegotiated between the LBHF and Capco, the developer.
“The majority of residents have consistently opposed demolition, 80% according to the Council’s own consultation in 2012,” said Keith Drew, resident of forty-three years and Chair of West Ken Gibbs Green Community Homes, the not for profit set up by residents to drive the campaign.
“The developer’s plan is especially disruptive for Right to Buy homeowners since the compensation they would get for their home would be insufficient for them to buy a replacement home in the area.”
“The Council is currently renegotiating the scheme with the developer. It is rumoured that the number of homes additional to those already approved will run into the thousands rather than the hundreds. This is bound to prove unpopular with people in the surrounding areas and generate significant controversy in the run-up to the Mayoral election. The community has been kept out of these discussions. We believe we can achieve a much more satisfactory regeneration scheme by retaining popular housing and building new homes on infill sites around the estates.”
Photographs appended to the submission illustrate the attractiveness of the estates, the amount of green and play space and the relatively new homes threatened with demolition.