Wednesday, 28 August 2013

West Ken: Eric Pickles "fisked"


Oo-er. The letter sent by the office of the Secretary of State giving the green light to property developers and our Council to evict the residents of the West Kensington & Gibbs Green Estate has been comprehensively 'fisked' by Jonathan Rosenberg, community organisor for the campaign.

In Mr Rosenburg's opinion the decision is "...plainly irrational since there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary on most if not all of the grounds" given. You can read the letter above, which gives a series of reasons and logic for the decision. Here's their response:

The proposals:

Do not involve a conflict with national policies on important matters

The proposals obviously conflict with national policies for the Big Society and Localism because they involve dictating the future of the local community against its wishes. The Prime Minister and his minister have repeatedly claimed they are giving power to the people, to local communities, to decide the future of their neighbourhoods. The importance of these policies is reflected in the many statements from the Secretary of State and other Ministers. The Prime Minister has personally championed these policies, claiming this is something he is “passionate” about.

This conflict with national policy on this important matter has been reported in the national press, with dozens of articles in the Guardian and in the national media, including national television, and hundreds and thousands of media articles. For example, on 12 January 2011 the Financial Times ran a story with the headlines: “Regeneration row. West London project runs into difficulties. ‘Big Society’ threat to Earl’s Court Scheme”.

Do not have significant long term impact on economic growth and meeting housing needs across a wider area than a single authority

The loss of the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centres would have a significant long term impact on economic growth across many local authorities and more widely given their major role in UK and world trade. The Secretary of State is not qualified to opine otherwise since no economic assessment of their loss was made.

There is a significant impact on meeting housing needs across the wider area, which is caused by failing to take advantage of this development opportunity to maximise the amount of additional affordable housing prescribed by policy.

Do not have significant effects beyond their immediate locality

The destruction of the Exhibition Centres has significant effects across London and throughout the UK (more on this from AEO) as it leads to loss of business for hundreds of UK companies and in some case closure of businesses or cessation of Earl’s Court related operations, which is obviously an effect beyond its immediate locality.

The Centres generate at least £1 billion a year for the UK economy and play a major role in UK and international trade that would be lost and not replaced.

The relocation of the Lillie Bridge rail depot, which is the premier servicing facility for London Underground would be forced away from it central location, most likely to Ruislip. This would have a significant effect on the safe and efficient running of the Underground across the whole of London, which is obviously an effect beyond its immediate locality.

Do not give rise to substantial cross boundary or national controversy

On 23 August, 2013, Planning Magazine, the trade press for the planning profession reported the Secretary of State’s decision with the headline: “No call in for controversial Earls Court scheme”, The first word of the first sentence of the article is “Controversial”.

On 24 August 2013 the BBC reported the SoS’s decision not to call in.

It is quite apparent from reading just a few of the hundreds of media articles, and journalists have said so, that the scheme has given rise to cross-boundary and national controversy.

http://westkengibbsgreen.wordpress.com/media-coverage/

Do not raise significant architectural and urban design issues


Sir Terry Farrell would be surprised to hear that his scheme does not raise any significant architectural and urban design issues. The masterplan refers to a “unique opportunity” for “this extraordinary site” and lauds the masterplanner’s “visionary approach” for “an innovative and vibrant new district that is a beacon for sustainable living” that “introduces a new metropolitan ‘front door’ to the capital”.

In a Hammersmith & Fulham council press release dated 23 August 2013, developer Gary Yardley said: “The Masterplan will create a remarkable new district for London”.

At £8 billion, the Earl’s Court redevelopment is claimed to be the largest in the world outside of China. It involves the demolition of 760 decent homes, the EC Exhibition Centres and the rail depot so as to build 7,000, 80% of which would be unaffordable. It will involve the construction of several tower blocks up to 30 storeys high and over 4,000 car parking spaces.

“As the written ministerial statement of 10 May 2013 makes clear, the Government wants to see a focus on refurbishment and improvement of rundown or vacant properties rather their demolition. We would expect, in line with George Clarke’s ten point plan, landlords to consider options to upgrade and refurbish existing homes, in consultation with tenants, prior to considering demolition.” (Consultation on the Housing Transfer Manual 23 July 2013)

Ministerial Statement 10 May 2013 Empty Homes. Mark Prisk: “As part of this commitment, we have explicitly rejected the last Administration’s top-down, large-scale Whitehall targets for demolition and clearance. The obsession with demolition over refurbishment was both economically and environmentally wasteful, as well as involving significant damage of our nation’s heritage.”

Do not involve the interests of national security or of foreign governments
It likely will involve foreign governments given how much new development in inner London has been purchased by sovereign wealth funds, especially from Middle Eastern countries.

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