Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Busted: Secret document on King Street redevelopment

click on the image for full size
Secret documents leaked to Andy Slaughter MP reveal that our Council will re-submit plans to re-develop King Street to a re-elected Boris Johnson with a version of the plans that pitted residents of W6 against the council and led to the formation of the Save our Skyline campaign. The Mayor shelved the scheme ahead of the People's Question Time event at which I asked him about the scheme, to which he re-iterated that he'd sent the council packing.

Well, in politics as we saw dramatically yesterday at the Leveson Inquiry, all is not as it seems on the surface. The document which was prepared for the Cabinet - the most powerful group of councillors running the authority - is stamped "not for publication" in bold letters. They do not want you to know about this. In fact if you look at the first page, which is the second image below, you will see that they are even "exempted" from Freedom of Information requests. That is the level of secrecy this Council prefers to do business with, which is presumably why they have neutered the Council's planning committee - banning opposition councillors from being able to see documents.

In it the document, from a meeting which took place on March 28th,  makes clear that the plans will be re-submitted after the Mayoral election either with slight ammendments to the height of the buildings or simply as they were before. Boris won't be seeking re-election next time and will therefore have no qualms, presumably, about riding roughshod over the people of Hammersmith just as this Council appears more than happy to do in every part of the borough apart from Fulham. It is marked as a "Leader of the Council" item - revealing that Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh remains in charge of pushing this scheme through, and is very much up to his old tricks in doing so. This is the same Council Leader who stood before hundreds of people at this meeting about the scheme and pledged to "listen" to them.

And this is of course the same Mayor of London who feigned ignorance about the plight of the traders of the Goldhawk Road when we now know he'd signed the papers authorising their demolition only weeks before.

And the same Mayor of London who pledged at the People's Question Time to stand up for the people of Carnwath Road when he'd actually acted to approve the scheme which would authorise Thames Water to build a sewer entrance there.

Andy Slaughter has this to say:

"This disastrous scheme was stitched up between the developer, the Council and Boris Johnson four years ago. Only the fantastic campaign fought by Save our Skyline has delayed it and led to it being postponed until after the election. Clearly, if Ken Livingstone wins the scheme is doomed as it contains no affordable homes. But it is shocking to see the Council preparing to rubber stamp the hated development if Boris Johnson gets back".

"This explains why the scheme was merely withdrawn by the Council pending the election. Realising how many votes it could cost Boris they are holding it back. We smelt a rat at the time – if Boris really opposed it why did he not turn it down as he has power to do. This looks like a squalid deal to try and win popularity and then approve the scheme once the election is over."

So there we have it - Vote Boris - Get King Street redevelopment back again. And all the secrecy and behind-the-scenes shenanigans that seems to go hand in hand with this Mayor and our Council.

Residents very much not first.

1030 UPDATE - the local press have caught up with this story here. Do keep up...

1130 UPDATE - The Council have been in touch to respond to the story and have explained that from their point of view legally the council can only submit the planning application as approved by planning Application committee, or not (as was decided in Dec 11). The other options are the council asking the development partners to consider alternative options.

A spokesman told me:
"The council is aware of the Mayor of London's concerns regarding the height of the proposed buildings, concerns which are shared by some local residents and amenity groups, and the planning application was withdrawn from the Mayor's consideration in December 2011 as a result. Since then King Street Developments (Grainger/Helical Bar) has been reviewing all of their options whilst still waiting for news of the Mayor’s independent review into the current viability of the scheme. No decision has been taken on the way forward while that piece of work remains outstanding and the GLA have recently been requested to speed up their review."
Meanwhile the Leader of the Opposition on the Council, Cllr Stephen Cowan, has also weighed in. He says this:
"I think residents will be thoroughly disheartened to see this. Most people believed that a secret deal of some type had been hatched between Boris Johnson and his friends in H&F's Conservative Administration but it's still shocking to seeing it there in black and white. This is a serious blow to Boris Johnson's integrity and I think this type of shenanigans bring politics and the Mayor's office into disrepute. The evidence is now clear, re-elect Boris Johnson and get the Town Hall scheme back. 

"Boris Johnson and H&F Conservatives should now release all the minutes and records of the secret conversations they had about the Hammersmith Town Hall office scheme and how that influenced his decision to allow this controversial application to remain "live" rather to stopping it or backing it - as is the norm."


  1. The length to which they seem to be willing to go to get what they boggles the mind. The 'note' - that plan B will also (like plan C) require restarting planning - implies that they might like to avoid that as it requires them to go through the hoops of a consultation (not that this means anything to them...) So it is likely to go through as is - that's my guess. And as to the desire to avoid problems with the conduct of public affairs...using that exemption is more like saying 'we don't want anyone getting in our way or hassling us so we are just going to keep it under the radar'. Indeed - residents NOT FIRST. Great work Chris!

  2. Thank you so much, Chris. Great in-depth and independant assessment.

  3. Is this as great a surprise as you seem to imply? I don't mean that in any sinister sense. It's simply that the site can't really be left as it is - it needs some sort of redevelopment and, since the Council is the main landowner, it's up to them to put forward either new proposals or the same old ones. As I understand it, these are simply agenda items and don't represent any firm decision.

  4. just when i was about to vote for Boris as this is the single most important issue to me in voting

    So much for the conservatives at hammersmith being transparent. They remind me of an oil company trying to cover up an oil slick

  5. I honestly don't know what the big deal is here - other than a few extraordinarily wealthly people who live by the riverside and in Brackenbury Village who would like to keep the 'villagey' atmosphere of this part of the borough. Funnily enough, I suspect most of these people do their shopping in Chiswick and use their shiny 4x4s to get there.

    King Street is a dump and whilst it seemed to be getting slightly better in recent years, it's taken a turn for the worse with the proliferation of £1 stores and gambling dens (and yet another fried chicken outlet and yet another off-license).

    The Town Hall Extension is a monstrosity blighting the skyline and is quite the ugliest building I've seen almost anywhere. This scheme provides the best possible vision for regenerating a really apalling part of Hammersmith and I don't understand what the fuss is about.

    If you want a village atmosphere, I suggest you don't live in London, or if you do, move to Hampstead or Richmond.

  6. Having witnessed the disgusting way Boris treated those who turned out to People's Question Time to ask about the Shepherd's Bush Market development I wrote to ask him about, amongst other things, what his intentions are regarding Hammersmith Town Hall. I asked:

    With regards to the Hammersmith Town Hall development I would like to thank you for stepping in and putting a stop to it, however it has been suggested that this is just a political move on your behalf with the election coming up and that you are likely to change your stance if re-elected. Can you please confirm that this is not the case and that the Town Hall development will not be continuing?

    I was then ignored for 23 days (the response time supposedly being 23 days). When the answer came it was this:

    With regards to Hammersmith Town Hall, I have also attached the Mayor's stage 1 report dated December 2010 (PDU/1011/01 - Hammersmith Town Hall, King Street) in response to the Council's consultation on the planning application. The report notes the Mayor's concerns about the scale, mass and height of the proposals and the impact of the proposal on views and the Conservation Area. The Council has not referred the proposal back to the Mayor for his consideration of its final decision, and therefore his position continues to be that set out in his last response to the Council.

    Sadly, I know what that means...