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.”

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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.

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