Wednesday, 1 October 2014

'Everything must go' in K&C/Farewell to Chelsea?

Quentin Crisp, part of 'old Chelsea's DNA
For many years Chelsea has represented what is excellent, appealing and good in the English psyche – tolerant, diverse, quirky, eccentric, arty, where the famous can walk the streets in peace. There have always been some residents with lots, and others with less or little. There have always been people with ‘class’ but no money, people with both, and people with neither. There have been migrants and refugees whose background and education might bear no relation to how they end up earning a crust for their families. Above all, dear Chelsea, you have been an open friendly place for families. There have always been children with little or no English at local primary schools, and the most patient students are tasked with helping them through the first difficult months, and they become friends.

While much of that tolerance and character remains, along with a diminishing colony of impecunious artists, the beautiful buildings and spaces of Chelsea have attracted those who wish to monetise and pimp out your charms. Thus the vacuous, humour-free, talent-free, Barbie-Ken fake-tan line-up of ‘Made in Chelsea’ display their wares in a devalued market, and are disappointed NOT to be recognised in the street. They have ‘classy’ voices and pots of money and designer clothes, but no values; they have confidence but no integrity. They have shiny hair and luminous teeth, and are made up and photoshopped, or even go under the surgeon’s knife, to turn themselves into bland homogenous factory produced clones; but they are unattractive.

This is Chelsea now, proposed development
Similarly, the diversity and richness of Chelsea’s streets and buildings are losing their beautiful patina of time, and are photoshopped, replicated and Disneyfied, losing all character, as the vultures move in. Cookie-cutter modern developments, with brick cladding and reconstituted Yorkstone window surrounds, claim ‘sensitivity’, ‘sympathy’ and ‘harmony’ but barely achieve a level of banality.

Thus, Sutton Dwellings residents may be sold down the river, while their landlord Affinity Sutton claims no more than to be:

- and have no shame in stating at their first consultation with residents, that they wish to ‘maintain the sense of community’ while, with no sense of irony or shame, proposing private gardens for private homes.

Most sickening of all, the Council – while crying wolf - is following the tribe of property developers and cannibalising the borough.

The Council Leader recently blogged on the subject:

‘Now I’m far from against wealthy people from overseas coming to live here in Kensington and Chelsea.  If they obey the law, bring high level skills to our economy, shop in our shops and pay their taxes, that’s all positive I think.  What isn’t so positive however are foreigners using the assets of the UK as a sort of stuccoed safety deposit box, thereby sucking the life from our streets and plunging into cold storage homes that might otherwise be lived in by people who would actually contribute to the UK rather than simply profit from it.’

Fair enough you might say, but while noting the problem he is, with no sense of irony or shame, heading a Council hell-bent on monetising or selling off every square inch of the borough, thereby forcing prices ever upwards and exacerbating the problem.

A senior Tory said recently on reading the Cabinet papers: ‘Where is the policy? Where is the ideology? This is all about property.’

To which I responded: ‘That IS Council policy. It is all about property and making money from property. That is IT. We are now property developers’.

We are: Realty Brokers of Kensington and Chelsea.

With every square inch of land or property up for grabs, whether owned by developers, social landlords or the Council itself, we have become embroiled in a fire sale, a desperate effort to dispose of anything realisable before prices – inevitably – drop off a cliff.

Thus, riding on a tidal wave of bluster, contradiction and misrepresentation (that some would call ‘lies’ but I would not dare) the Council paraded Cremorne Estate for possible sale before the world – but was repelled by an immovable and united Chelsea, old and new, of all classes and none.

Thus, propelled by a tornado of what we are told is misrepresentation and distrust, Thamesbrooke Residential Care Home was hurriedly emptied of its vulnerable residents on the presumption – or pretence – of the presence of Legionella, which some experts have insisted is easily fixable and of no risk - while the Adult Social Care budget is UNDERSPENT by over £6m.

Thus, the property development company that my Council has become is looking at its entire portfolio, and trying to pick off ‘low hanging fruit’ buildings of the vulnerable, in the false belief that there will be less protest.

How very wrong they were. Instead, they have provoked their own voters to near riot. And they don’t even need the money. Because, with £283m in usable Reserves, we are also: