Saturday, 28 December 2013

Incompetence, Fear and Loathing in the UK

'Calm down dear' hand language from the PM in Yalding

It hit me like a slap in the face, watching Cameraman on the news last night, 27 December. The over-fed PM in his open-necked shirt, warm jacket and welly boots had brought his press team by helicopter to wallow (yes I know) in the misery of Surrey and Kent residents cut off by floods. BBC News said he had come to ‘offer advice’. His advice was ‘call the Council, and the loss adjustors’; cue empathic face.
This prime ministerial advice was given to people who had been without heat, light or hot food for several days, whose homes and possessions were wrecked by the flood waters that came without proper warning and were possibly to return. These people had feared for their very lives but felt abandoned. Some hadn’t been offered any help, or even information, whatever, our wonderful but over-stretched emergency services forced to concentrate on the most vulnerable.

So where was the emergency planning, Prime Minister? Where was the mass evacuation to places of safety, warmth and food? Where were the Army, the Army Reserve, the Royal Engineers who have so often in the past pitched in to help in times of emergency?

This was, and is, a national emergency.

But it took the so-called Leader of the country three days even to drop in by helicopter and ‘offer advice’ of utter uselessness.

Of course, the Army is being ‘rationalised’, the fire brigade is ‘making essential economies’, the police force suffering ‘efficiencies’, and Council services are having the ‘fat trimmed’.

And our Prime Minister and his Cabinet of equally incompetent and uncaring ministers and the growing army of SPADs are sitting cosily at home, getting fat on our taxes.

Apologies all, I couldn’t muster a suitable heckle on seeing Michael Gove jogging off his Christmas dinner in the street yesterday. I'd be too ashamed to parade my over-indulgence in public, but then I'm not Gove.

The consequence of cutting services back to the bone and paying minimum wage was graphically illustrated in K&C a couple of years back, when we had suffered a massive snowfall. Wading through snow and ice on unsalted streets and pavements, I saw a lone street sweeper, Alan, elderly and with hands gnarled with arthritis, attempting to clear Ladbroke Grove with a broom, no gloves or protective warm clothing whatever. ‘Why are you on your own?’ I asked. ‘The others can’t get into the borough’, he told me. ‘Don’t they give you gloves?’, I asked. He just gave me a knowing look and returned to his impossible task. Living on minimum wage is nigh on impossible in Kensington and Chelsea, and this was the obvious and intolerable consequence. Alan retired soon after due to ill health, which was no surprise.

As Cameraman continues his inevitable journey to political obscurity, we see every day the presidential aura and tough-talk imposed by his overpaid advisor Lynton Crosby. His voice has changed, he uses different gestures and Alpha male language, in an effort to appear resolute and strong.

Cameraman talks austerity during five-course free meal

In October he was preaching a decade of austerity while wearing a white tie and scoffing a five-course meal, indulging himself in Sri Lanka with a ‘black-shirt’ visit (he always wears a black shirt in hot countries, whether to disguise his belly or look 'cool' is anyone's guess) to the brutalised Tamils who saw him as a god – oh the irony – then stopping off in the United Arab Emirates to sell Eurofighter typhoon fighter jets before returning to PMQs and his natural Flashman nastiness.

It’s not working mate; the little people are fighting back, the invisible are calling you to account. 

There is growing anger at frozen wages while food and fuel prices rise, the invisible people who serve your children’s school lunch, clean the streets, serve in shops, put out fires, deliver your post and shopping, tread the streets rounding up teenagers on the brink of criminality, who nurse, feed and mop up after elderly and disabled people, all these people who are invisible to you,  David William Donald Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Leader of the Conservative Party – all these and more are turning on you and your like. And we don’t mean the rich – so many of whom despise you - we mean the callous and self-interested and self-entitled, many of whom may be rich, but some of whom simply aspire to your level of greed. We mean those who trample on aspiration and stigmatise those less fortunate, and are content to encourage a totally unwarranted fear and loathing of immigration, of Muslims, of Roma, of young people, or any other convenient scapegoats, in the pursuit of political gain.

When the Pope speaks out against capitalism, it’s time to reflect. When the former Archbishop of Canterbury criticises Ian Duncan Smith’s comments on Food Banks, it’s time to take stock.

As the stakes get higher and Labour – or indeed any and all opposition - gets stronger, we can expect more ‘careless elitism’ (as Clegg called it, as if elitism is ok if done carefully). We can expect more Flashman from the green benches, more black-shirt visits and presidential swaggers, more tough-talk and unashamed hypocrisy. The coming local and parliamentary elections will be nasty.

While our national politicians continue to let us down, as local activists we can show the way with integrity and courage.

We have the megaphone. We must pass the megaphone to people who feel they have no voice, and hear what they say -

- or no one will vote for any of us, or think voting has any meaning.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

PLANET CLANGER: Soup Dragon or Soup Kitchen?

Some politicians seem to come from another planet

Living Wage Week is 3 to 9 November, and to mark the occasion we decided to put a Motion to Council (again) on the London Living Wage.

Let’s put this in perspective. Kensington and Chelsea Council is allegedly the richest Council in the UK, if not in Europe. Once Native Land has paid off the last instalment of ‘blood money’ for the sale of Holland Park School southern site we will have cc£220m in Reserves. Yes, we sold off playing fields to developers to build piggy-banks, oops I mean super-prime flats, if you believe Simon Jenkins quite possibly to international money launderers. Our Revenue underspends are confidently predicted to be at least £10m again at year end, but this will not - abso-blimmin-lutely NOT - be mobilised to support residents who may need their Council to help them after a lifetime of paying Council Tax. No you sillies, it will be shovelled into our 100% funded Pension Fund. 

Because in the ‘Royal’ borough, 100% will never be enough.

And this in a borough where Food Banks are so stretched that they are rationed so users can only go three times max. This in a borough where in some schools children start aged 5 with dental problems – not due to eating sweeties but early stage rickets – and others arrive in the morning hungry – not due to parental neglect, but genuine poverty. Breakfast clubs are an essential, not a luxury.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is no excuse, none whatever, for such depths of poverty in the richest borough in Europe.

Golborne Ward is still the joint most deprived ward in London with Northumberland Park in Haringey, and the beautifully pimped Council estate Henry Dickens Court in soon-to-be-Notting Dale ward suffers 60% child poverty, worse than the Gorbals, with adult educational attainments about as low as you can get. Neither Glasgow City nor Haringey Council have stuffed their spare cash under the mattress while children go hungry as they do in the ‘Royal’ Borough. The lack of empathy, responsibility and remorse borders on psychopathy.

Labour Councillors support OCS workers on a picket
No, in the ‘Royal’ borough it is a question of priorities, and we certainly heard a shameful catalogue of those in relation to our Motion on the London Living Wage. To give just one example, OCS cleaning staff who work on Council estates in the ‘Royal’ borough are paid just £7.15/hour, less than minimum wage of £7.45/hour, while the London Living Wage, which the GLA and countless London Councils and organisations subscribe to, is £8.55/hour. For many, this is the difference between nutritious food on the table and getting the bus to work, or inadequate food for the family and an hour’s walk to work before putting in an eight-hour day of manual labour, and an hour’s walk home. No wonder staff sickness and absenteeism is a problem; this can be reduced by 25% on the introduction of the LLW.

So how did our Tories react to our Motion? To be fair, some looked at their feet and I can only imagine were ashamed, as they should be. And one did whisper in my ear afterwards, ‘London Living Wage will come sometime’ (when BoJo is our MP?), which is ‘something’ but means precisely nothing to families whose children are hungry NOW. None spoke out. A sole Cabinet Member was put forward to reject the Motion, stating that ‘for many this would be a second job’ or ‘a family may have two earners’, or ‘these things are best left to the market’. So, YOU KENSINGTON LADIES may not be able to earn more than pin money while hubby earns a proper living, but don’t worry dears, the market will look after you.

Or possibly not.

Elsewhere in Cloud Cuckoo-land, or Planet Clanger, national Tories were equally making fools of themselves, either deliberately, or in ignorance, or more shamefully because they had been told to. So Energy Sec Ed Davey said – while he would never suggest such a thing to others – that at home he puts on a jumper to save fuel. Which might help if you’ve turned the thermostat down a tad in a cosy insulated home, but is no damn good if your living room barely reaches 14C, which is quite common with some residents I know. If your home is that cold, and damp, no amount of jumpers, shawls and fur slippers will fight off the bone-chilling misery.

Also in Planet Clanger, Jeremy Hunt said we should go Japanese and take in our wrinklies, never mind that under Tory policy they would never be accepted as part of the family and be eligible to be housed with them; I have current casework on this precise issue. Similarly their policy to remove Housing Benefit from under 25s ‘who should go home to their Mummies and Daddies’ is contradictory while under Tory policy children over 18 are not considered dependents.

Like, derr?

Blunder-prone Michael Gove’s SPAD (I have an unprintable definition of that acronym) equally stupidly said that success is down to DNA and not to education, and I can’t say publicly what I think about that comment either, except that it demolishes aspiration in one ill-informed sentence.

Let’s be frank, the Cabinet are not a good advertisement for selective mating.

Let’s not forget the fount of all wisdom, the PM Dave Cameraman, one week telling people to ‘shop around for the best deal’ for dual fuel, and the next week, after formerly ‘cheap’ British Gas had hiked their prices, telling people to ‘find a small supplier’. So what happens if everyone leaves British Gas and they go broke, can they sue Cameraman?

Then of course there are the goal-post-moving badgers – damn the blighters.

Well, the return of the Clangers and of ‘foot in mouth disease’ has come at the perfect time for us in Kensington and Chelsea as we power towards local elections in May next year. It seems many of our residents will be expected to rely upon the Soup Dragon for crater soup or blue string pudding, or failing that soup kitchens and Red Cross food parcels.

Soup Dragon




Thursday, 22 August 2013

From Soapsuds Island to the Money Laundry of the World? Wornington Green Blog 6

'Soapsuds Island', Kensal Town next to the canal
In the mid-19th century, there were so many washer-women operating in Kensal Town, North Kensington, that it was called ‘Soapsuds Island’. It was a very poor area of little hovels, and the home-based hand laundries served the great houses of Kensington. Just months ago the last vestige of this business, White Knight Laundry, moved away, a victim of rising rents and punitive parking charges and fines.

As businesses and families who have survived generations of change are squeezed out, what is replacing them? First the ‘slums’ and overcrowded tenements were replaced with housing estates, now the first poorly maintained and overcrowded post-war estate – Wornington Green – is facing demolition and replacement with ‘an exciting new urban quarter’.

So who can afford to buy the outrageously overpriced flats and houses on offer, that as we have seen in my previous five blogs are of dubious quality, to put it politely? With house price to earnings ration of 27:1, it's not our people.
Brilliant graph by Oliver Rivers, click to enlarge

Lovely Pepler House patio gardens
This (left) is what you see when you leave your front door in the ‘old’ estate.

The gardens are well used and well loved, you can see your neighbours or have a bit of privacy. There is light and space.

Scene from 'The Shining'
The new homes however aren’t even very nice. This is what greets you when you leave the ‘exciting new urban quarter’. A dark and featureless corridor that looks like a cheap hotel or a scene from a horror film.

Well, IF we are to believe Simon Jenkins – and who am I to doubt him? – these buyers are NOT the upwardly aspirational younger generation of local people, whose grandparents and parents sweated and slaved hand-washing linen or with three menial jobs to get them through school and uni into professional careers – the people whom Catalyst and the Council tried to persuade us they were catering for. No siree.

Jenkins tells us (1): ‘We hear that 90 per cent of the top 10 per cent of London houses go to foreigners but nobody really knows who is behind the faceless companies or offshore trusts. All that is likely is that this is tax-dodge money, funk money, Arab money, Russian money, laundered money, money so infinitely dodgy that no authority dares look at it. London is a tax haven down to its very kerbs. It is the Dubai of Europe.’

With central London housing now reputedly four times more valuable than offices, the City of London, Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea face becoming not just vast housing estates but empty ones. They see their employment base squeezed not in favour of those needing a house but those needing a bank, one that asks no questions and makes no charges.’

And then again in March (2): 'It was reported yesterday that half a billion pounds’ worth of property in these boroughs was bought in the Knightsbridge and Kensington area last year by Greeks and Italians alone. I would guess 90 per cent of it is empty, carrying negligible council tax and no other forms of impost, until this year not even stamp duty.

'What is fuelling soaring property prices in central London is laundered money, drugs money, redirected aid money, funk money from the eurozone, money stolen from the Russian people. The property market is clearing streets of their residents to attract this cash. It is erecting tower blocks of luxury flats along the Thames, which will stand as “fiscal launderettes” that are empty of occupants.

'These properties are not sublet. They pump no money into the local economy. They are Midas properties, a banquet of solid gold that is uneatable by anyone. Boris Johnson’s theory that these people are “bringing wealth to London” is laughable. They are stashing it here, that is all.’

Friday, 9 August 2013

Myth vs Reality at ‘Portobello Square’/Wornington Green: some clarity please!

Wet, wonky, unfinished, but they moved people in anyway

Why would anyone wish to buy a flat in this block to rent out at £560/week?

Here is a mystery: Catalyst Housing employed Mansells to demolish and subsequently, they anticipated, to build ‘Portobello Square’ on Wornington Green, the thoroughly stigmatised and then ‘re-visioned’ North Kensington estate we know and love. As you may have read in previous blogs, Mansells were then removed from the job and the ‘more economic’ Ardmore brought in to build Phase 1.

Click to see open joints and dodgy bits
While one advisor from Planning Aid called Wornington Green ‘a model of community cohesion’, and Nick Johnson then of Urban Splash said ‘it would be a crime to knock this down’, a very different story was put about by PR/branding/marketing crew Philosophy Design. Philosophy claim they are responsible for ‘community engagement marketing to existing affordable tenants’ (whatever that means and I think we can guess),but instead they sideline residents, and seem more interested in stating as fact the myth that the rude and disdainful Stella McCartney (now thankfully disappeared from the neighbourhood) ‘discovered’ the ‘lost neighbourhood of Golborne’, and getting such utter nonsense in the press.

It is true that stuff happens (a very rare but horrific triple stabbing last weekend which for mysterious reasons didn’t get into the press) and may happen more frequently now the ‘new policing formula’ is in place. However, Golborne is a poor but friendly, quirky and interesting family neighbourhood where the crime rate is very low and – possibly because - everybody knows everybody, or at least they do up to now.

The lintel is supposed to be flush
We had trouble with Ardmore. We had trouble with rude and uncooperative workmen, for several months. They ignored the Traffic Management Plan and did as they pleased, until we formed a human chain across the road and began to film them doing dodgy manoeuvres, such as hoiking portocabins over a row of cars. Then they behaved themselves for a bit.

Ardmore, as already alleged, were squeezed on the build cost. Then, some say, they squeezed on the staffing cost; employees are said to be unskilled labourers rather than skilled workers, and the degree of problems that have arisen may confirm this. Despite all this, Catalyst are now squeezing them even further on the timescale.

We are told it won't fall off,
but neither can this be fixed
Then something mysterious happened to the build quality (see four previous blogs plus more pics here). And we have just been informed that some of the plans agreed via the legally binding Planning process may not have been kept to. These may seem like minor picky issues, but once you add them up, plus the leaks and the floods and the damp and the snags and the blatantly poor quality that is there for all to see (eg, softwood rather than hardwood used for lock-up doors), this adds up to something very concerning indeed.

Despite all this, we are told all the private flats and houses have been sold by Hamptons International. Today FIVE of the flats in the Bonchurch Road block are being marketed for RENT by Hamptons International; some say they may be getting double bonus fees for selling then renting so why would they care that they are marketing ‘shoddy and leaking’ homes? Two bed flats cost £560/wk, one beds cost £500/week.


£2,275 PCM
Brand New! A stunning two double bedroom apartment with the Portobello Square Development. The apartment benefits from its own balcony, two double bedrooms and two...

Evidently I’m missing something. Whatever could it be?

Any ideas, anyone?

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Word at Wornington: Mr Wolf is coming

The ancient game of Spillikins: is anything attached to anything?

Some residents who are neighbours of the new Wornington Green are very very afraid. They fear that the Big Bad Wolf will come, and huff and puff, and blow the houses down.
Corner house, Munro Mews

What else are people saying about Wornington Green?

'I'm a builder. These buildings could be dangerous.'

'I've seen a foreman give instructions to workmen in sign language. They don't speak any English and they are unskilled labourers doing a skilled job.'

'The builders urinate all down the mews, including on people's doorsteps. It's disgusting. I wonder if they have toilets on site.' 
Wonky woodwork at Wornington Green

 'The only people happy here are the plumbers and electricians employed locally to come in and put right mistakes the builders have made. There have been countless leaks and dodgy wiring in the occupied part; it's just shoddily built.'

Whatever can they do about those window frames?
'We heard a terrible story of two young apprentices, both black, who were told to guard the paint store. The paint store didn't need guarding. One of them was racially abused in a really appalling way, with the 'n' word written all over a wall. The construction company said they fired the guy, but they didn't, he's still around.'

'The show house is simply dreadful. It's not worth £1, let along £1m.'

'The new tenants in the accessible flats like it because they are big. The new tenants in the one-beds on Wornington Road are miserable. I've seen two virtually in tears. The flats are pokey and badly laid out, with no storage. One tenants keeps her washing machine in the hall as it won't fit in her tiny kitchen.'

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

THE POND OF DESPOND: Wornington Green betrayal no 3

£1m problem in Munro Mews
There are various kinds of damp. There is internally generated damp from condensation in poorly ventilated homes. This is common throughout the social sector and normally blamed on 'cooking spaghetti', though I have seen super-overcrowded homes right here on Wornington Green where it is caused by too many humans breathing the same air. There is damp caused by seepage from cracked pipes, which can be invidious and difficult to source. Then there is damp caused by badly designed roofs, often the omnipresent flat roof covered with fabric and tar or asphalt, surely the stupidest method ever devised to cover a flat surface, especially where they forgot to angle it slightly or where there is no access and even if there were, no knowledge of how to maintain it.

However, here is something entirely different. The £1m mews houses in Munro Mews, Wornington Green, are being hastily erected and are causing sleepless nights to those who care a fig about the future of the residents there. The damp you can see above is coming from the terrace area being constructed above it. You can see it along the whole stretch of houses in Munro Mews.

But, you might say, these aren't finished. Fair enough.

These homes along Bonchurch Road are more or less finished however, and are occupied:

Bonchurch Road flats

Wornington Road flats

Whatever is going on here? 

Well I just went up in my Trellickopter, and what did I see?

Click on this picture to enlarge, if you can't see the workmen on the roof with brooms, doing something mysterious to the lovely rooftop pool.

Oh, there isn't supposed to be a lovely rooftop pool?

And if you look closely at the solar pv panels on the Wornington Road block, you can see willow-herb gently blowing in the wind, which can have nothing whatever to do with the row of damp stains along the parapet. Not at all.

So that's all right then.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

THE SHEET OF SHAME: Wornington Green betrayal update

Wornington Green show house, Munro Mews

Just a few days ago we saw in horror (see previous blog) images of the £1m 'show house' at Wornington Green. What did it show us? What seems to be evidence of poor workmanship and consequently what may be even worse project management at the 'exciting new urban quarter of Portobello Square', known locally as the unwanted development of Wornington Green. 

So, a visit yesterday showed us that 1, they read my blog, for which thanks, and 2, that if told to get their finger out, out their finger will get. Some of the worst examples of Ardmore/Catalyst's joint production have been hastily covered up with reconstituted stone or patched. However, there are so many faults on display at the 'show house' that they have covered it with a Sheet of Shame; see blog below for what is concealed.

But oh,  what do we have here? Yet more problems - or shall we say 'challenges to be met'? Just where is that damp getting in?

This really doesn't look good
If none of the above offends you, you are probably an architect! So try this for size. It is PRP's 'tribute to Le Corbusier' at the west end of this 'shoddy and leaking' block.

For those who aren't familiar with Corb, here is the real thing, a tiny gem of a building, literally divine. 

Le Corbusier's Ronchamp chapel

Interior of Ronchamp chapel

If that doesn't rip your guts out, you are gutless. To compare the two would be laughable if it weren't so painful.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The final betrayal at Wornington Green; new buildings 'shoddy and leaking'

- the dream

Back in the dim mists of time, the residents of Wornington Green were involved in selecting contractors for the first phase of the unwanted development of their homes. Small recompense, but the winners Mansells seemed to be decent, straightforward and said they would work with the community – and so they did.

Once the first phase of demolition was over, however – and this is where  fact and rumour meld – Mansells were allegedly thrown unceremonially off the site one day and new contractor Ardmore brought in.

Whether this was due, as some said, to the new lot dropping the price by £10m or not, we have no idea. Rumours continue to abound.

There has been a lot of debate about the quality of the old buildings in relation to their maintenance, to the design of the new buildings in relation to what they could have achieved, and about who genuinely wanted what, and why. 

Let’s just say, the money won.

But here is a chilling and undeniable fact. The first original residents have moved in. I went to see how their new buildings were treating them. I was horrified. Here’s why.

- the reality
(click on pics for horrible close-up detail)

Mismatched door mystery

Wibbly wobbly windows

Detailing disasters

Wibbly wobbly doors

Broken pretend stone

Cladding catastrophe

Glue gun terror

More glue gun terror

We were forced to accept a banal and compromised design, but how anyone can get away with such appalling build quality is simply beyond me; as far as the woodwork is concerned I've seen better sheds built with scrap. Have the overseas buyers of the private homes seen what they are buying for their £ms?

Not a shed made of scraps ...

This is the £1m Show House; note window frame

Note peeling paint, dodgy window frames

Now we are informed that ‘social’ housing provider Catalyst wish to speed up the next stage ‘so that residents can move into their new homes more quickly’. Such a degree of philanthropy seems extremely unlikely so we will leave the real reason to conjecture.

And we will just have to hope the first phase (which we hear has been subject to leaks) doesn’t fall down before the second phase is built.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

KENSAL CROSSRAIL: fast track to political oblivion


This is the site of Kensal Gasworks in North Kensington, at the top of Ladbroke Grove. The round structures are the gasholders, soon to be decommissioned we are told . Then there's a scruffy bit in the middle which Ballymore spent far too much cash on in the light of the Crossrail 'aspiration'. The square one-story building to the east is Sainsbury's best-earning store in London, apparently. To the south is the Paddington mainline; to the north a rather unloved bit of canal, and the gorgeous Kensal Cemetery.

It's in my ward. What's not to love?

Kensington and Chelsea Council had for many years aspired to have a Crossrail station there, to take loads of City Bankers and other w.. workers into the City to earn a squillion and then spend it on the poor and neglected residents of North Kensington. OK they didn't actually say that. They wanted to develop it under the pretence that it would 'regenerate' the joint poorest ward in London. 

This was their aspiration despite all kinds of pretty much insurmountable problems, such as the contamination of the site, the weak road links, the post-Buncefield Commission stating you could not put homes on much of the site, the advent of an incredibly ugly sub-station (above) etc etc. Ballymore unsurprisingly seemed keen to ignore or circumvent the problems; they had spent a shed-load of money and wished to recoup, and then some.

Innumerable new developments in the area - not least of all the ghastly Wornington Green development - boasted about the 'planned Kensal Crossrail station' to boost their prices. Politicians of all kinds mantra-ed it constantly as if it were actually viable, which we weren't at all sure it was. Not without building entirely private housing, in any case.

A truly shocking sum of money - some say well over £1m - was spent on reports, plans and consultations, and planning officers were seconded to work on it. Press officers in particular were tasked with promoting the idea with a series of ridiculous stunts and allegedly fake forums.

We have mentioned it countless times in Kensington Labour Motions to Council, comments to Council, press releases, responses to consultation and blogs (see partial list below). We were determined that anything of that scale would first of all have to benefit local residents who are overcrowded, and have poor access to health facilities and sports; we even suggested they put a secondary school there.

Then we were informed in May 2010 by people inside Crossrail, and various organisations working with them, that the Kensal bid was defunct. However the Council in its wisdom continued to spend vast sums on yet more reports and consultants. Three years and an awful lot of Council taxpayers money later the Council has finally admitted the bid has failed.

So at what point, dear reader, did the Council decide to continue promoting this fantasy station, and for what reason? Oh dear, dare we imagine it might be for entirely venal reasons? And what has happened now that the curtain has been drawn back and revealed - not the almighty Wizard but - a mere mortal, a little man with glasses and huge political ambitions? It's our former K&C Leader!

Beware of unfettered political ambitions, they will get you nowhere and at some point your deception will be discovered. 

Then there could be hell to pay. 

How interesting that in K&C and other bits of London, otherwise disinterested Tory politicians fought to maintain the fantasy (I was even shouted at in the street by one who really should know better), while in the shires Tories are fighting to stop it. Many don't really care; they are simply chasing votes. 

Remember our friend Pericles: 

It is time for Ballymore, and for the Council to understand the nature of the Kensal Gasworks site.

It is NOT a prime piece of real estate. It is not a jewel box waiting to be 'unlocked'. It is not a development opportunity of any kind that will reap huge financial rewards. It is 'other'.

It is a compromised site, poorly located, contaminated, accessed by a single road, on a strip with two defunct gasholders and a five-storey height electricity sub-station, set between Paddington Mainline and a contaminated canal, currently with no plan to connect to the putative HS2 station to the west at Old Oak Common, which we are now told by HS2 CEO Alison Munro may never happen anyway. 

Think about it. The Council set aside £30m for the mythical station, and was thinking about spending £50m on land in fabulous Peterborough to transport our 'ambitious young people' out of the rich man's exclusive playground of RBKC. That's £80m to spend on a real and lasting legacy for the people of North Kensington. 

Buy the land at its realistic price, clean it up, add some open spaces on unbuildable land, and build homes, lots and lots of beautiful and sensibly designed homes (we'll tell you which architects to avoid), for the future of our overcrowded families, our 'ambitious young people', and their grannies, and their children, right here. Pericles understood; regeneration is not about paving schemes or magnolia trees for 'plebs' or Prime Ministers, or art on walls, neither is it about providing investment property for overseas buyers; regeneration is about improving people's lives, prospects and well-being.

Be bold. Do it. We'll even let you think it's your idea. Promise.







Golborne Labour Councillors

March 2011


Extract from Cab Mem report to Public Realm, 9.7.13

6.1 On 15 April, the former Leader of the Council, Sir Merrick Cockell, together with Sir Malcolm Rifkind and senior officers attended a meeting with the Stephen Hammond MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, to discuss the prospect of a station at Kensal Portobello. This meeting was followed by a letter from Stephen Hammond confirming that no further work on a Crossrail station at Portobello would be undertaken by the Crossrail Joint Sponsor Team.

6.2 This letter stated that High Speed 2s proposals for a station in Old Oak Common had fundamentally weakened the Royal Boroughs
case for Crossrail because it would add substantially to the cost of the HS2 project.

6.3 The Minister continued to state that improving connectivity between Kensal and Old Oak Common was still important and he recognised that transport improvements should come forward within a similar timescale to Crossrail and offered to work with the Council on finding these alternatives.

6.4 On receipt of the Ministers letter, the following action has been taken:
 Sir Merrick Cockell wrote a letter to the Prime Minister (a subsequent response was received from Stephen Hammond)
On 22 April, the former Leader wrote to the Prime Minister asking him to reconsider the Ministers decision as it would seemed to have been made without due consideration of the Governments pro-growth agenda.
A response was received from Stephen Hammond MP on June 17. This letter reiterated his previous position but also noted that if an improved business case can be presented, he would entertain further discussions with the Royal Borough.
 Transport for London have agreed to work with the Royal Borough on alternative transport options
TfL have committed to undertake an assessment of alternative transport options to link Kensal to the wider area. The Council has already undertaken some preliminary research on such alternatives but at present, no option will deliver the same scale of economic growth as Crossrail and cannot come forward prior to 2026 (at the earliest) when HS2 opens.
 The Council has withdrawn from the Opportunity Area Planning Framework process

As the Ministers letter stated that no further work on Crossrail would take place, the Joint Sponsor Team requested that all references the Royal Boroughs aspirations for a station be removed from the draft Old Oak Common Opportunity Area Planning Framework. As the sole reason for joining the OAPF team was to further our case for Crossrail, the Council has withdrawn from the OAPF planning process. 7
Officers will continue to work closely with colleagues from neighbouring authorities to ensure that both the Kensal Opportunity Area and Old Oak Common come forward in support of one another, especially with regard to transport issues.
 The Council is challenging the basis of the Minister’s decision
Officers and elected members of the Royal Borough have spoken to the Crossrail Joint Sponsors to seek information as to how this decision was reached. At present, this has not been forthcoming and there is no reassurance that the Ministers decision has been made on the basis of sound evidence.

I have asked officers to continue their ongoing dialogue with the Crossrail Joint Sponsors in order to find a suitable resolution in the belief that the decision that has been made fails to address rationally the Royal Boroughs case.

Councillor Timothy Coleridge,
Cabinet Member for Planning Policy, Transport and Arts