Wednesday, 29 February 2012
An extraordinary row has erupted between neighbouring MPs Greg Hands (Conservative - Chelsea & Fulham) and our own Andy Slaughter (Labour - Hammersmith) over our Council's plans to redevelop the West Kensington & Gibbs Green estate as part of the multi-million pound Earl's Court scheme.
Regular readers will be aware that the majority of residents are not only opposed to this scheme but have actively organised against it through their own residents group. In response our Council set up a rival residents group, using over £30,000 of your money - but even the chair of that group resigned over the plans
One of the issues that has most excercised the residents against these plans are what they regard as a sham consultation that is only geared towards delivering the Council what they want. They of course have much form on this through the infamous planning committee - reference Hammersmith King Street and Ashchurch Grove, not to mention our own Shepherd's Bush Market.
but Mr Hands, who does not represent the area in question, has decided to launch a pre-emptive strike ahead of the deadline of this 'consultation', which has provoked an equally ferocious response from Mr Slaughter.
Here's what the two men have had to say this afternoon - first Mr Hands, whose statement can be seen in full on his website here says this:
The redevelopment is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and plans for up to 7,500 new homes including 1,500 much-needed affordable homes, 2 million square feet of commercial and retail space which would create 12,000 extra jobs and more than a quarter of the site, 23.5 acres, given over to open public space including a five acre ‘Lost River’ park.
Greg Hands M.P. strongly supports the redevelopment of Earl’s Court and West Kensington and urges you to take part in the council’s consultation. Greg has himself responded to the consultation and believes that if the Earls Court scheme goes ahead, it will bring huge improvements to the neighbourhood and wider area, changing the lives of thousands of people for the better.
Not long ago - just over a year in fact - the residents living on the West Kensington & Gibbs Green estates were being told by their Labour M.P. that if redevelopment in the area went ahead that they will be shipped out to Barking & Dagenham. They were also told the council wanted them moved so that they can build luxury homes. Both of these allegations have been exposed as scandalous, despicable lies designed to frighten people witless.
Instead, if redevelopment does go ahead, council tenants will a receive a brand new home that is better and - for many - bigger in exactly the same area they are already living. They would not only get a new and better home but they would also receive almost £5,000 in compensation plus new carpets, fridges and curtains. Far from communities being destroyed, neighbours would be moved over the road together and they would only have to move once somebody knocks on their door with the keys to their new home. Meanwhile, resident leaseholders and freeholders on the estate would receive one of the most generous packages ever negotiated - not only compensation running into tens of thousands of pounds but a discount on a new home that would also be worth tens of thousands of pounds. Greg believes that the legally binding contracts that the residents have negotiated is the one of the best deals ever and recently the council approved the plan for the Seagrave Road car park in his constituency which will see over a quarter of the replacement homes built in the next two years. Instead of living on an estate and in a community that was badly built with divisive high walls, new open space and parks would be created, new schools, health centres built and new community centres opened. New shops would bring new economic life to the area.
This intervention has been described to me by one of the residents campaigning against the plans as "disgraceful" given that Mr Hands does not represent the area. But Mr Slaughter is altogether more forthright:
“This shows a sneering contempt for the families and elderly people who have lived in this community, some for 50 years.
“Hands back property developers and Hammersmith & Fulham Council which aim to get rich quick by forcing people to move from their homes. This is the true face of the Tory Party.”
Mr Slaughter points out that Hammersmith & Fulham Council will receive £100 million from the developer for sale of the land after the homes are demolished. The developer stands to make much more by building 7,500 luxury flats in blocks up to 30 storeys high on the site, but there will be no new affordable homes for local residents.
In surveys 80% of residents said they oppose the demolition supported by Hands and our Council, but the Council will not conduct a ballot to decide on the area’s future.
THURSDAY UPDATE - Greg Hands MP has returned the serve and hit back at Mr Slaughter's criticisms to me, arguing that West Kensington does indeed include areas that are inside his constituency. Here's what he posted on Twitter following this article:
Posted by Chris Underwood at 17:54