Thursday, 10 October 2013

West Ken: Council claim victory, residents fight on

West Ken Residents: "going nowhere"
Our Council is on a roll this week, claiming "victory" in press releases that fail to mention that it is anything but. This time its over the West Ken Estate, the majority of whose residents are fighting to protect their community from our Council's plans to demolish it in favour of luxury flats. Sound familiar?

This latest challenge, which failed at the High Court yesterday, was made by the Residents Association on four grounds:
  • They claimed that the SPD was an Area Action Plan and as such a Development Plan Document (DPD). They argued that the council had therefore erred in law by failing to follow the statutory consultation and adoption process for a DPD.
  • They also said that the council acted unlawfully and irrationally in adopting a supplementary planning policy which was in conflict with adopted planning policy.
  • They also said that the council had unlawfully failed to consider the need to replace the social housing lost to the estates’ demolition in breach of the council’s core strategy.
  • They also claimed that there had been multiple breaches of the SEA directive and Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004 (the SEA regulations).
All four grounds were dismissed by Mr Justice Lindblom save to the extent that the Councils were ordered to prepare a statement, complying with the SEA regulations, setting out how environmental considerations were taken into account in the preparation of the SPD.

But there are different views over what this means. For our Council it means all systems go and full steam ahead, but our MP Andy Slaughter who has been supporting the residents it means the precise opposite. First up, here's Council Leader Nick Botterill:

“This is the third legal challenge that has been dismissed since the turn of the year. We now want to put all our efforts into progressing this once-in-a-lifetime scheme so we can reap the huge rewards and bring major, life-changing improvements to Earls Court and the wider area.

“All qualifying tenants will be offered a brand new home, white goods, moving costs and support as well as a compensation package of £4,700. The legally binding contracts state that no tenant will move until their new home is ready to be occupied. All new homes will be provided in the area. All eligible home owners will receive 10% compensation on the independently-verified value of their home and the chance to buy back into the redevelopment with a 10% discount.”
The community organiser supporting the residents, Jonathan Rosenberg gives this short shrift:
"The Council says that: "Residents of both estates have been offered some of the best terms ever negotiated in any regeneration scheme in the country, including brand new homes and a generous compensation package".

This is a grand claim that needs to be evidenced. Can the Council name the regeneration schemes which have worse terms?"
I suspect he may have to wait for a while for an answer. Meanwhile here's Andy Slaughter:
"Contrary to the council/developer’s bluster the challenges to this monstrous scheme are just starting not finishing. The Tory council has committed three cardinal errors. Firstly, selling 23 acres of prime land to developer Capco for an undervalue: the district auditor has agreed to look into this at my request. Potentially hundreds of millions of pounds have been gifted from taxpayers to one of the biggest international developers in the council’s hurry to get on with its biggest social engineering project.

Secondly, they are about to grant planning consent to the largest current development scheme in London which will disrupt the lives of thousands of my constituents who will have their homes demolished and replace affordable homes with ten times the number of luxury high-rise buy-to-leave-empty flats. They have ignored their own and the Mayor’s rules of providing affordable housing. There will be no new affordable rented homes on the site. They have failed to require the developer to share any future profits over the 20 years of the development against independent advice. And they are allowing the destruction of the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centres and vital railway workshops which employ 550 highly skilled personnel.

Thirdly, they intend to proceed with the compulsory purchase of hundreds of homes, many occupied by the same families for 50 years. Elderly and vulnerable residents will be forced out to make way for private profit. This scheme will continue to be fought through the courts and at the local elections next May.

We need a council that takes the side of residents, small business and local communities, not developers and City investors".
Looks like the battle rumbles on, and is likely to be decided not in the Courts but at the ballot box at next May's local elections.

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