Thursday, 5 April 2012

Livingstone: Stench of corruption over planning in H&F

Ken met residents at the Grove Park Neighbourhood Centre, Hammersmith
Labour candidate Ken Livingstone, in a meeting with traders from the Goldhawk Road, Shepherd’s Bush Market and residents of West Kensington & Gibbs Green estates accused our Council of corruption in their approach to planning decisions affecting all three this afternoon. He pledged that as Mayor he would immediately open up the records to examine any areas of inappropriate collusion between property developers and our Council, or the Boris Johnson Mayoralty and campaign. Why was it, he asked, that in such a small borough as H&F there was such an intensity of property developers riding roughshod over residents when there were vast tracts of develop-able land across the city?

Ken did not rule out involving the Police although he also said other independent third parties could be appointed to lead such an investigation, as he responded to a heartfelt plea from Shirley Wiggins, Chair of the West Kensington & Gibbs Green Residents Associaton. Residents in H&F felt, she said, helpless. Referring to the property developers set to demolish the estate she said “we seem to be at their mercy”. And they weren’t showing any.

Shirley Wiggins, West Ken Residents Association
When I pressed him on exactly what he was alleging about the relationship between developers and H&F Council Ken referred to political donations having been made to the Conservative Party. Such donations, he said, brought into question whether the current Mayor could really be acting impartially.

On Shepherd’s Bush Market Ken answered questions from shopkeepers set to be made way for our Council’s tie up with property developers Orion, and said that while he had to be careful not to pre-judge any planning isssues before the election he very much hoped that the shop-owners judicial review, set for mid-May, would be successful “…and put back in the new Mayor’s lap”. Clank went the hint as it hit the ground loudly.

Both sets of residents were clearly angry more than upset, and their moods were not improved by revelations that Boris Johnson appears to have been being less than honest in his communications on the issues. Andy Slaughter MP told the meeting that he has a letter in Boris’ name dated February 29th which makes clear that he has no objections to the demolition of the Goldhawk Road row of shops as part of the Market redevelopment. Yet a week later in answer to my own and shop owner Aniza Meghani’s public questioning at the People’s Question Time event, which I recorded and you can watch for yourself below, he feigns ignorance and says he is “sorry to hear that is happening”. Worse still he later stated that he would ‘protect’ them in answers to journalists – all the while knowing he’d signed a letter giving the go-ahead to the scheme. The smoking gun letter will appear here shortly.

As you might imagine this provoked a great deal of Boris bashing, the room being full both of angry residents and Labour politicians including Val Shawcross AM, Ken’s Deputy, and Todd Foreman who is standing for Labour in our ridiculously large West Central constituency. Ken said Boris was dishonest and that he was even worse than Norman Tebbit or John Redwood in his ability to tell lies to people’s eyes. Given lift-gate this was small fry by all accounts.

Finally I raised the air pollution story I broke last week, during which Shepherd’s Bush scored the highest possible marks for dirty air according to indices published by King’s College London. Ken was visibly angry about this, arguing that the problem was replicated across the city and was responsible for the early deaths of between 4 and 6,000 people per year in the city. It was, he said, akin to a 9/11 every year in terms of fatalities but "because people die in their beds" politicians get away with it. He blasted Boris’ plans to spray glue near the monitoring stations to mask the extent of the problem and said there was a good reason why the European Commission was threatening to fine the city for subjecting its citizens to such dangerous levels of pollution. He would work with them, he said, to put plans in place to address the problem not its symptoms through a blend of clear air vehicles and planning policies. When I first reported this story I speculated that the local press may pick up on it, which they haven't as yet - given these strong words I don't think they can ignore it any more.

Residents, assorted politicians and Ken
As we were moving to leave Shirley Wiggins interjected again to thank Ken for coming to the West Ken estate, as Brian Paddick had also done, she said. It was a good estate “that works” she said and the community wanted to stay as they were. She said the first time that residents had seen the local Conservatives was last week when they were canvassing and asking people how they might vote in the elections. They received the answer you might expect.

1900 UPDATE - H&F Council have responded to Ken's comments to me here, and it's clear they don't intend to take any lectures from the Labour candidate.


  1. Livingstone: Stench of corruption over planning in H&F


    Chris Underwood: Stench of corruption over planning in H&F


  2. John of the Bush5 April 2012 at 17:18

    here we go again ... those brave anonymous commentators

  3. ... but I do know what anonymous is driving at?

  4. I'd be surprised if you didn't given that it was your comment!