Wednesday, 30 November 2011

King Street redevelopment to get green light

Two tower blocks of luxury flats will be approved this evening by councillors on the infamous planning committee, against the massed ranks of residents implacably opposed to the idea.

The Council knows it. The residents know it.

This will result in the large scale destruction of Furnival Gardens with a bridge linking the luxury flats to the park to provide "river access". This is the same park the Council boasted it was defending against evil Thames Water back in 2009.

It will also result in the Cineworld being pulled down, a supermarket being installed and housing for blind people being demolished - so that the Council can have a new building, financed on the back of the luxury flats.

So despite the piece of theatre that will be this evening's planning committee meeting - being hosted in a school hall because of the number of objectors that will turn up, all eyes are now on two things - the Mayor of London and the Courts, as this piece by yesterday's Evening Standard makes clear.

The Save our Skyline campaign are not a bunch to be taken lightly by our Council if they wish to retain their councillors in and around Hammersmith come election time. They will, I confidently predict, lose their seats on May 1st 2014. The only question is whether they can rely on the rest of their majority to retain the Council.

This railroading over the heads of local people is everything that is wrong about Hammersmith & Fulham Council.

UPDATE Thursday - And lo, it came to pass ... eventually. The meeting, which was packed to capacity and left a number of objectors standing outside, eventually ground its long winded way towards the conclusion that everyone knew was not in doubt - the scheme was approved at around 23.30 last night.

Since the result was never in doubt - the Council were going to do what they wanted come what may - I didn't bother going. But a number of you did and several have sent in their accounts of what went on. Here's one of them which I think captures both the bizarre and depressingly familiar-sounding scenes from another night at H&F Council's Planning Committee:
Sadly, Spartacus was not in attendance
"I was stood at the back of this meeting and had to regularly nip out... so I saw quite a lot of what was going on other than what was simply being said at the front. I have extraordinary tales of inaudible presentations (despite opposition questions being adequately clear), people being blocked from entering, the attempted eviction of a member of the public (resulting in ripples of "I'm Spartacus!" throughout the room) and lots more".

"People were shouting. They were a fairly angry lot! The reason people were being held at the gates was because there wasn't enough room (fire capacity wise). People gradually left the meeting in disgust, either because they couldn't hear or they were too angry/upset by what was being said (such gems as the loss of historic buildings being justified because of the merits of the proposals). There was also an ammendment made which said that blind residents would only be moved 1.5km, as opposed the the 3km they could have been moved under the plans. As one Cllr put it, the new building has a significant number of "disabled-friendly" flats built-in. Why is the council discriminating between people of different disabilities, and why aren't the blind residents being offered accommodation in these blocks"? 
"I was there with a little one. They finished presenting at 20:30(ish) and moved onto questions, so when the other half rang me at about 21:15 I assured her that I thought they were close to a vote. By 22:00 I'd decided that I really did need to leave. I'm amazed that the final decision wasn't made until about 23:30! What a marathon"
Save our Skyline have been in touch, with John Jones, their Chairman issuing this statement on last night's procedings:
"While we are tremendously frustrated and disappointed by the decision of the Planning Applications Committee, we are hardly surprised. It only serves to demonstrate the arrogance of this Council and the inherent conflict of interest in the Council having power to grant itself planning permission for such a controversial scheme. We will continue to ask the Secretary of State or the GLA to use their power to block this flawed scheme and stop the very real damage that it will wreak on Hammersmith and the historic riverside. We call on residents to maintain the pressure by writing to the GLA and the Secretary of State to make their views known.

"In short, this is a disgraceful deal, which shames Hammersmith and is particularly galling as all the Councillors that approved it live in Fulham!"

8th December UPDATE - well the H&F Council Press Officers have been busy on this issue! First we saw Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh post what they called a "blog" on the council website here. They called it a blog but nobody is allowed to comment - unlike the 50 plus people who have done so on this article from both a pro and anti perspective - why so shy?

Then, just yesterday, they released the video below which uses the "blog post" as a script for the film, which quotes people in favour of the scheme. Such as a local, er, estate agent. Yes, an estate agent. Good luck with the spin, chaps.

Well the Save our Skyline campaign have hit back with this frankly devastating film of their own. In it a series of local residents, including a blind man set to be made homeless and a small business holder, ask why the Council is obsessed with installing luxury flats at the expense of the local area. The answer comes at the end - because we have a Council, their spokesman says, who cares little for what local people think and prioritises its relationships with greedy developers. Says it all really.


  1. I'm at a loss for words. They sicken me, they really do.

  2. I agree with Lee. I mean, I expected it... but I'm still speechless.

  3. Next up: West Kensington estate, Goldhawk Road and Riverside Studios.

  4. ......and the land north of Westfield, The BBC Centre, BBC Offices, White City Estate. It's all about money, money, money..... Iain Muir

  5. Not to mention that we've already had the area between the Frank Banfield Park and the river.

  6. It's great to know they're really looking out for local people.

  7. Another point of debate was the height of the buildings. An apparently strong argument "for" the development was that the buildings wouldn't really be any higher than the Premier Inn. Once councillor said that the Premier Inn building was an unfortunate planning mistake of the 60s, and that it "sticks out like a proverbial sore thumb".

    The response from those supporting the application was that, although the Premier Inn was a "mistake of the 60s", the building would stand out less if there were other tall buildings in the vicinity!

    An absolutely appalling argument which will now open the floodgates for dozens of other high-rise blocks near by.

  8. Some absolutely cracking heckles from the man who was threatened with removal from the meeting...

    On the chair not speaking up:
    "How much are you paid to sit there and mumble?"

    On the positioning of the bridge:
    "You get an extra bung for that, do you?"

    On the benefits of the bridge:
    "It'll be good for drug users and muggers."

    On the (impossibly small) pictures of the buildings from the river, and in response from other hecklers saying they couldn't see the buildings:
    "To me it just looks like a monopoly board... with lots of big red hotels on it!"

    On the difficulty of seeing the new buildings in the pictures:
    "It's nicely camouflaged... against the SKY!"

    On the council's claim that they have consulted with the public and many support the bridge:
    "Did you consult the drug dealers? I bet they were very positive about it!"

    On blind residents being evicted:
    "SOCIAL CLEANSING!" (throughout meeting)

    More on blind residents being evicted:
    "It's the blind evicting the blind." (at which point one blind resident pointed at the chairman and shouted "Well I wouldn't follow him!")

    On being singled out to be ejected (and referred to "the man at the back in the red scarf"):
    "Is it because I'm wearing a red scarf?"

    On being asked to leave:
    "Well, you CAN ask me to leave. But why should I?"

    After being given a final warning, and someone nearby heckling:
    "THAT WASN'T ME!" (this even made the chairman chuckle)

  9. (Sorry, I am merely writing all of this here as I'm not sure where else to share it - and it makes an interesting record of the meeting).

    It's also worth noting that the security team at the meeting were extremely friendly. They had to have a "tough guy" approach, but I decided to take some time out and have a chat with them.

    One actually approached me and asked "Is this about the town hall project?". I replied, "yes - it's ridiculous isn't it?". He told me that he'd signed a petition, and was disappointed that it had come to the planning meeting.

    I asked another security official what he thought of the whole thing (I meant the project, but he commented on the meeting itself). Just an hour into the presentation he told me that it'd get voted through, and that he didn't think that would have changed if "a million people" came to the meeting. I dare say he was right. He said he's lived in Fulham for a long time, and it seems that nothing that ever happens here really helps the borough.

    It was interesting to see how these people, instructed to remove "NO" posters from attendees as quickly as they were being handed out at the gate, didn't actually support the councillors they were there to protect. They were as disgusted as anyone, but couldn't show it... they were just doing a job.

    It's a very sad state of affairs to see so many people disillusioned by the council. I'd be inclined to say that yesterday's strikes show a divide in the whole country, but this project by H&F doesn't really have any relation to, or reflection on, what is happening in central government. As you've quite rightly said, any local councillor who backs the proposals is highly likely to lose their council seat - so I'm not sure what the big idea is. Many there shouted things like "I'll never vote Conservative again!". I imagine they won't. Whilst I recognise that there was a good cross-section of society, I did get the impression that a lot of those there probably are lifetime Conservative supporters. But alas, talking of a new stone staircase adding "ceremonial grandeur" back to the town hall in a supposed time of austerity doesn't really wash with the public. I think it's the disregard for the electorate that is really showing here in H&F - the Tory's "show council".

    I do have some questions about the future of these proposals. I know that they now go to Mr Pickles in central government. Does the Mayor also have a chance intervene? If Mr Pickles' decision is delayed somehow, and Ken is elected as Mayor next year, would he deal with it? He'd probably love to give H&F a kicking. I'm not sure how this one will now pan-out, but I imagine that it's not going to be positive.

  10. Well, clearly in a minority here, but I'm glad the nimbys and 'back to the caves' brigade lost out. London never has been and never should be frozen in time. As for the area concerned, it's pleasant enough, but has at least 3 problematic aspects in the form of a carpark, the townhall extension and the fleapit (sorry, 'historic cinema'). Roll on something new and better!

  11. Re. comment above, no-one has said that there should be NO development, just that the one going through is ill thought out, badly designed and against everything that this insensitive council is supposed to stand for. Interesting that all the members present live in Fulham...

  12. 1) The town hall extension needs to go. That is supported by the residents. But the project shouldn't happen (a) whilst the council can't afford it and (b) at the expense of vulnerable blind folk, etc.

    2) Regeneration does not equal "build more high-rise flats that nobody can afford". Regeneration could be done on a scale that is much more appropriate to the area.

    3) The "fleapit" of a historic cinema is only a "flea-pit" because it has not been maintained in years. Why? The company that owns the land also manages Tesco's property portfolio. They've purposefully staved off any improvements to the building purely so that they can argue that it has become a "fleapit" - which is absolutely criminal. I'd much rather have a landmark like a restored historic cinema rather than one of the crappy new multiplexes or another bland "Tesco Metro" - wouldn't you?

  13. I couldn't make it to the meeting but once again, I see that H&F Tories have ridden roughshod over the wishes of the residents. I wonder how much money in brown envelopes has changed hands in advance of this decision?

  14. I'm totally happy with the 'fleapit' - at least it isn't ridiculously expensive. It's just an ordinary cinema as opposed to some ridiculously pricey multiplex.

  15. I'd much rather the 'fleapit' to one of those stupid silver Odeons-of-the-90's!

  16. It looks like the H&F News hasn't covered this in a particularly great deal of depth (not online, at least).

  17. The conservativve councillors would have served Hitlers army very well. Nice to know that they have listened to the over 30 community groups which opposed this scheme. We shall not forget.

  18. It was a disgraceful meeting, not because of the decision but by the people who attended. Shouting abuse at Council officers, racially abusing one in particular. It is nice to know that Hammersmith and Fulham is full of racist bigots. It was utterly disgraceful.

  19. I was there and although it was an unfortunate diversion I don't think saying "You come from Australia, don't you?" counts as full on racist abuse.

  20. People - I share the view that the Council has ignored local people and should be criticised for that - but that does not excuse references to Hitler or allegations of brown envelopes - please refrain or I will need to moderate comments - and that just kills discussion.

    Lets keep it above board.

  21. If this large and well connected group of objectors has been ignored, might the rest of us with quieter voices and far less clout, just as well give up?

  22. Perhaps the gratuitous flyposting of Furnival Gardens will stop now.

    Two posters stapled to each tree is just as much an eyesore.

  23. well I guess with those trees chopped down to make way for the concrete bridge you'll just have to make do with graffitti instead now.

  24. just like under Thatcherism and the poll tax- the power has unfortunately gone to the conservative's heads. Their Complacency is clear to everyone. Total disrospect to the good people of Hammersmith who cherrish the local environment.

  25. It was a joke and I claim the "Jeremy Clarkson" defence.

  26. No doubt most of the objectors are motivated by a deep love of the environment and sadness at the loss of cherished river views. But just maybe one or two don't like the thought of development depressing their property prices.

  27. The irony is, as anyone who goes to the town hall to sort parking permits etc, that there is an entire wall in there plastered with a photographic view of Thames Riverside. I half expected to see mocked up tall buildings stuck on it!

  28. I imagine most people are actually upset over the destruction of a cinema, a home for the blind and a pleasant riverside park. For "luxury" flats, whatever that means.

  29. Save Our Skyline is just a group of residents working to stop this particular development. There's something in the scheme to offend everyone: the damage to historic views and buildings to which English Heritage, a statutory body, still objects; the demolition of the Pocklington Trust low-rent homes for the blind and others; the high-rise towers and blocks which will be a blot on the landscape; the bridge across the A4 and the land-grab of Furnivall Gardens and, perhaps most stupid of all for a development which claims to be regenerative, the demolition of the cinema which currently brings in 150,000 people per year to the west end of King St.
    Visit to find out more. Write to the Secretary of State asking for a call-in, and to the Mayor asking him to direct the Council to refuse the scheme. This is not the end. Keep on going.

  30. The planning department or should i say paymasters..the council make a mockery of themselves. The pocklington building is one of the most beautiful on king street and supposedly protected as a building of Merit. In other countries buildings like this would be preserved for future generations to enjoy by keeping the outer skin "facade" in any redevelopmeant plans.

  31. I think the scheme proposed is a disgrace and the council behaviour utterly reprehensible. Councillors should remember they work for us, the residents of the borough. We pay their (often inflated) wages and this is our borough, the one we live in, regardless of the council make up. We need to fight this scheme but also we need to remember - they work for us. Not the other way around.

  32. If the council really want value for money and efficiency why not move all admin council offices to a Super single Efficient Development which would also include Westminster and Chelsea councils in the future White City redevelopment plans. Economies of scale and cost effective.

  33. Robert - Err - no thanks. Careful you don't start an "Our future redevelopment is worse than yours" argument Hammersmith v White City!
    We already have the monstrous Westfield and much more to come so you can keep your council! But thanks anyway.

  34. This is how Tory leader Stephen Greenhalgh justifies the approval of the scheme on the LBHF website:

  35. Check the breathtaking hypocrisy! Compare the full weight of council support shown in their full-page sponsored advertisement in this week's Chronicle supporting the anti super-sewer campaign in Fulham - home turf to the very same Conservative Councillors who block voted to force through the monstrosity that is the proposed Town Hall development in Hammersmith a couple of days ago! At least the sewer will eventually be invisible, and will truly benefit millions of Londoners - despite undoubted upheaval during building. By comparison, the Town Hall Tower Blocks will be there in perpetuity - ruining the borough's riverside for generations to come - a fitting legacy to those very short-sighted and selfishly ambitious Fulham Conservative Councillors. Please don't expect any support from this neck of the woods.

  36. So many nimby people on here posting.

    Step back and see the bigger picture (just look at how the whole of King street is declining - this will have impacts on property prices).

    The councillors are there based on the democratic process. If you voted Tory and this kind of thing is a surprise then I suggest that next time you research/think about who you are voting for and what the consequences might be should they secure a majority. A protest vote against Ed or Nick in the local elections won't serve you.

    And btw - this is nothing compared to what will happen if the Tories have a majority after the next local elections.

    Hanger Sheep Length - leader's anagram (well one of them)

  37. Is it still St James - Tesco's development arm - doing the development? They're the ones who bought the cinema, quaker meeting house, flats, etc. 6-7 years ago with the aim of doing this. I can't imagine anyone else having the cash to blow on this now.

    If so, then sureliy this is as much about the power of their money as it is about the venality of the planners. The planners may be the errant husband, but Tesco is the scarlet harlot.

  38. If everyone loved the cinema so much, how come my family and I were the only people in it for a popular first run family blockbuster weekend matinee? King Street needs to move on. There's been years to come up with something and this is the best that's on the table.

  39. The only people which want this development are the conservatives at the council.They will want to rejuvinate the under utilised thames walkway next with Westfield Waterfront oh and the irony of all the extra concreted surface and the extra sewrage over spill into the Thames.

  40. "If everyone loved the cinema so much, how come my family and I were the only people in it for a popular first run family blockbuster weekend matinee?"

    The council is right: people are going to Shepherd's Bush to watch movies. I disagree that it's because people want to go to the "big multiplexes" like Vue Westfield. We're in an age when people only go to the cinema if there is something they REALLY want to see. People don't need the choice offered by multiplexes: a smaller cinema would do (remember, the one on King Street does have lots of screens).

    The reason that people aren't going to the King St cinema is because the seats aren't comfortable and the screens are updated. This could be fixed. But is hasn't been. Purely because the cinema operator knows what is on the horizon.

    So, to refer back to your question... the reason not many people are frequenting the cinema is because this development project has ALREADY had a marked impact on the cinema itself. This is really sad. I'd much prefer an art deco cinema with the latest technology in five or six screens over a fifteen screen grey box any day.

  41. It'd be great if the Hammersmith Cinema could take a leaf out of the Brixton Ritzy - showing classic, or arthouse films alongside the usual guff.

  42. Gents, not entirely sure if anybody had the opportunity to walk down Kings Street lately.

    The only thriving businesses are pound shops, off licence and gambling which have as the only result an exponential increase in the local chav community.

    The cinema that everybody seems to be so moved about is a disgrace - cold, outdated and part of a big chain... can't really see any lost of heritage in demolishing it!

    regarding the luxury appartments bits, i wonder if anybody realizes that bringing disposable income to the area will benefit immensly the local community and will as a consequence improve the local shops.

    it seems clear to me that the people opposing this can be grouped in 3 categories:

    1) uber-wealthy leaving far from the high street in their riverside mansions which couldn't be bothered about the regeneration of the area

    2) political activists (ie: fight the torys whatever they do)

    3) normal people that are being played with by the two other categories

    As a local home owner I invite everyone in the third category to switch on the brain an think what really would make a difference for their local community.

  43. Relating to the previous reply; people do not object to a suitable new development but by building 14 stories will cause a precedence along the whole King street.If people want high rise they should move to the docklands or Croydon

  44. Hammersmith has the highest level of degree educated people in London so i am sure they are inteligent enough to make up their own minds and not played with.

  45. Joy Cox, hammersmith resident6 December 2011 at 15:48

    This council's logo is "putting residents first". Nothing about this development puts residents first. We do not need more cafes and another supermarket. Our "flea pit" of a cinema is used by a lot of people. This development will kill what is left of Hammersmith and it will end up like the broadway and King's mall -full of large chains or fast food restaurants because they are the only retailers who aren't in competition with large supermarkets. THIS IS NOT THE END. IF YOU CARE, PLEASE VISIT THE SAVE OUR SKYLINE WEBSITE FOR DETAILS OF WHO TO WRITE TO. THIS SCHEME NEEDS TO BE STOPPED AND STILL CAN BE!

  46. The cinema took £850,000 in 2010. It could be wonderful place showing independent films alongside the blockbusters. The tickets are around 25% cheaper than at the large multiplex cinemas in Shepherds Bush. How can another supermarket be beneficial to the residents? how can compulsory purchase of Thomas Pocklington Trust flats that house blind people be beneficial for anyone?

  47. Let's stay in our caves everybody - those new fangled mud huts are a blot on the landscape!

  48. To the "Anonymous" poster (6/12/11 @1131)

    You wrote:
    "it seems clear to me that the people opposing this can be grouped in 3 categories:

    1) uber-wealthy leaving far from the high street in their riverside mansions which couldn't be bothered about the regeneration of the area

    2) political activists (ie: fight the torys whatever they do)

    3) normal people that are being played with by the two other categories"

    And you know this for certain? What does "normal people" mean? I think people can make up their own minds about this project and most people are against it. They don't need to be "played with", they have more intelligence than you give them credit for.

  49. I don't understand how anyone can consider a branch of Tesco to be "regeneration". They're probably the same people who take their wives and girlfriends to Nandos on valentines day because it's a bit more upmarket.

  50. "And you know this for certain? What does "normal people" mean? I think people can make up their own minds about this project and most people are against it. They don't need to be "played with", they have more intelligence than you give them credit for."

    Going by the anonymous poster's transparent contempt for 'normal people' it wouldn't surprise me if he's posting from Tory Central Office.

  51. Good morning, I am "Anonymous" (6/12/11 @1131)

    I profoundly believe in my categorisation, but of course this is just my opinion – i am not trying to force it on anybody.

    By normal people I mean the portion of general public that does not fall in the super wealthy or politically motivated grouping.
    By normal people I mean local home/flat owners/renters that pay their taxes, don't live on the government shoulders and care about their local community.

    Just to clarify, I identify myself in this category even if i would't mind being part of the first one and then have the luxury of not really caring bout the development of the local area.

    Regarding the flats and the tesco, i believe is clear to everybody that you need money for this kind of projects. The council clearly has to make the business case work to attract the right investors that in turn are not sponsoring the project for charity – they want to make a profit.
    If the price the community has to pay for a regeneration project is a new tesco and a couple of modern skyscrapers, personally i believe its a price worth paying.

  52. Like you said Chris, The conservatives are shooting themselves in both feet with this project upsetting thousands of traditional conservative voters. Next election night it will be The conservatives London Jewel in the crown Hammersmith lost due to the complacency of their leader.Their legacy will be 15 storey "blot on the landscape" building

  53. And what's wrong with Nando's?

  54. Yeah, what's wrong with Nando's? It is an upmarket venue for the chicken children to aspire to.

    However I do object to rubbish planning jargon such as "security by design" and "animation of the area" and "legibility of the public realm" which all just mean "cram in more shops and people!"

  55. Vote Labour to keep everything just the way it is! How will the voters resist?

  56. let the fight commence. look at the fightback video from "SOS" Save our Skyline

  57. I think the view across the river from St Pauls school to Furnival Gardens will be eminently improved by some nice modern buildings. It's a bit of scrappy grass populated by drunks. Hardly worth getting upset over.