Wednesday, 18 April 2012

West Ken Estate consultation: majority reject demolition

Earl's Court Statutory and Wider Consultation

68% of people on the West Ken & Gibbs Green Estate responding to a Council consultation have rejected the Council's plans for redevelopment of the estate in the Council's own consultation. The damning figure was revealed in the above Council paper due to be considered by the Cabinet on April 23rd and reflects what they have been saying for years now - it's just that the Council doesn't want to listen.

The Council sent out 30,000 consultation packs to residents living in a wide area around the estate as well as to those on the estate set to lose their homes - 760 families. Presumably in the hope that the wider number would reduce the rejection they were expecting from the 760 directly affected - but embarrassingly only 2% of the 29,240 households in the surrounding area have indicated that they are in favour of redevelopment. This is despite the fact that they all also received a glossy promotional pack from the Council with their forms extolling the benefits of the scheme.

Some other details that arise out of this document are also worth mentioning. They are
  • it will be at least 10 years before properties are re-provided for all existing residents 
  • residents may lose gardens, parking spaces and bedrooms 
  • freeholders will have to pay service charges for the first time. Leaseholders will pay unrestricted service charges after five years 
  • the Council will use compulsory purchase orders if necessary to give vacant possession of the land to CapCo and pay damages of up to £10million if it fails so to do 
  • the Council is committed to spending an additional 120k on persuading residents to move, including 60k on a ‘communications’ officer, and over £1m on professional advice 
  • the total benefit to the Council will be nearer £300m than £100m, when cost of re-housing residents is included 
  • In order to fund buying out freeholders and leaseholders, the Council could borrow from Capco but this is expensive. Therefore it will use money otherwise available for housing elsewhere in the borough. This includes both borrowing and the receipts from the sale of 300 council properties across the borough
The Council’s Cabinet is being asked to recommend that officers continue to analyse the consultation results and to conclude final discussions on the document so that Cabinet is able to make a final decision in the coming months. The spin the Council are putting on these figures is that opinion is "divided".

Outgoing Council leader Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh said on Monday: 
"We are making good progress in considering future options. We want to be as open and transparent as possible on where we are in our thinking which is why we are taking the step of making all consultation responses available for inspection. 
“We recognise that while some people on the estates are clearly in favour, many more have concerns. Yet it is clear that the majority of people living on the estates have yet to tell us either way or simply do not know. We will continue to talk to all residents in explaining how the CLSA will affect them should be it be agreed."
1400 UPDATE - Andy Slaughter MP has responded to this article with some strong words. Here's what he has to say:
"For over four years the Council has refused residents’ calls for a ballot to decide whether their homes should be demolished. But 80% signed the original petition opposing demolition and two thirds joined West Ken & Gibbs Green Community Homes, the body that wishes to take ownership of the estates from the Council. Now almost 70% of residents have responded to the Council’s own consultation and ‘voted’ by a majority of four to one to save their communities from the Tories and their developer pals. 

For the Council leader – who will be out of a job in two weeks – to say that the majority of estate residents have not expressed a view is just untrue. The Council has spent millions in tax and rentpayers’ money promoting their gerrymandering scheme but has failed to persuade, cajole or mislead more than a small minority into supporting the destruction of some of the best affordable homes in London.

This must stop now. The voice of the community in West Ken must be heard. The interests of property developers and other Tory Party donors cannot take precedence over those of Hammersmith & Fulham residents"

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