Does the richest Council in Europe
want historic assets to be cost neutral?
Trellick Tower with the original cornice in place, 1970s
At the foot of North Kensington’s Trellick Tower Erno Goldfinger completed his ‘cradle to grave’ Cheltenham Estate (1972) with an old people’s home. Until 2008 Edenham Residential Care Home housed 45 people, many with dementia, plus a mental health day-care centre surrounded with beautiful mature gardens. In 2006 the Council deemed it ‘not fit for purpose’.
Despite a huge community battle to save the home the Council demolished it, leaving a gaping wound, then to add insult to injury turned it into a coach-park.
We kept track where possible of residents; many became very distressed at their forcible removal and nearly half died within a year. Two tragically ended their lives by refusing to eat, including William Rogers below.
Our horror at what had been done to older people we should honour, protect and care for, turned into a dogged insistence that whatever came next on the site would include housing for older people. Indeed, we were promised this, and a commitment was enshrined in the Council’s ‘Older Persons’ Accommodation Report’ that emerged the following year.
No doubt they hoped we had forgotten after three years. We have not.
After this first heartless act, when the Council then turned its avaricious eyes on the 100 houses and low-rise Goldfinger flats next to Trellick Tower at Edenham Way with a plan to redevelop, residents were ready. A huge campaign was launched that went worldwide and amazingly resulted in a Council commitment not to demolish. To seal this commitment the savvy residents lobbied English Heritage, and in November 2012 Edenham Way was listed Grade II.
A Vision for Edenham 2009, by Edenham Way RA
and Novarc Studio (now LBMV Architects)
The future of the care home site is hugely problematic as there is no trust whatever between residents and the Council, or indeed between the Council and residents. In 2009 residents put forward their People’s Plan with the ‘Vision for Edenham’, working with local Councillors and Novarc Studio (now LBMV Architects). This included various facilities demanded by residents and evidenced by local need such as a health centre, the extra care housing which Council officers had promised, a public space, community rooms, history centre, and a proposed use for Trellick Tower’s half-demolished car park.
This of course was before Localism and the Council seemed horrified by the idea of planning by residents, though some of the proposals appeared in the Core Strategy.
Then earlier this year the Council finally got around to addressing a future use for the site. We are part way through a feasibility study, which has had a pathetically low response from distrustful residents who believe it will all be private housing, whatever they say or do.
The Council is playing the ‘too-early-too-late’ game. It goes like this: there are some very early proposals for which they are asking some feedback - over Christmas. But they say we mustn’t worry as it is ‘too early’ to comment in detail. Then some concrete ideas will be put forward to be consulted upon, probably over the summer holidays. By the time we have seen something tangible, it will be ‘too late’ to make any material change.
This is the ‘too-early-too-late’ game which the Council excels in.
Another game is even more dangerous to the future use of the site. There is a hidden agenda that the purpose of any development would be to support the costs of keeping the Grade II* listed Trellick Tower in good repair - breaking the ‘culture of dependency’? How much this involves has been variously reported – and often includes large sums that have been spent already – but the latest sum is ‘£13m over the next ten years’.
If this sum is accurate – it is open to challenge – this is a new move for the Council. If buildings must now be cost neutral or self-financing, we will have to review the running costs of several K&C heritage assets. Leighton House and Linley Samborne House must pay for their own upkeep, and of course Opera Holland Park must now cease its parasitic existence and pay for the repairs of its host building, the listed Holland House – which the Council was so careless with that English Heritage listed it on ‘Buildings at Risk’.
Street art. Not a crime; cool. OK?
The current study – the fourth or fifth we know of – seems to have been informed more by preconceptions than by any genuine research or understanding of the area. It is easy to misunderstand when you don’t actually care. Thus we have been informed that the area suffers terrible anti-social behaviour, and this is evidenced by the graffiti wall. In fact the wall is tolerated or even encouraged by the TMO and the Council; we treasure our local artists many of whom exhibit in the three street art galleries on Portobello Road. The Council actually commissioned some of these artists to paint a wall, and here (above) is the Council Leader up a ladder with spray can proudly pretending to paint. This was quite cool for him, frankly, and that day I shook his hand in all sincerity for the first and possibly the last time. As for crime, you can check the crime stats for yourself below, where you will see that Golborne is joint lowest for theft from motor vehicles, just three instances in 12 months. Brompton ward (Knightsbridge darlings) is highest by far for anti-social behaviour, with Golborne around half-way down the list of shame for ‘all crimes’.
So, enough stigmatisation. Just. Don’t.
So what will happen now? We have one of the best architecture practices in London working with a derisory consultation input, with scant interest, no understanding and apparently no love whatever for either residents or the neighbourhood.
This cocked-up process could make or break the future of one of the most iconic buildings in London. So if you care about the future of Trellick Tower and Cheltenham Estate, please go to the Council website (link below) and comment. Or you can give me your comments here.
We only get this chance once; we have to get it right.
A Vision for Edenham (The People’s Plan: residents proposals from 2008 working with Novarc/LBMV Architects)
Early proposals for the Edenham Care Home site (Levitt Bernstein)http://rbkc.gov.uk/housing/regenerationandcommunity/trellickandedenham.aspx