The rancour and rage that accompanied this Council's first attempt at rebuilding their offices at this end of the road, however, was one of the first residents v. Council battles I covered on this blog in 2010 and which set the scene for many other such battles to come. Some of them were won outright by the residents, such as Ashchurch Grove, and others were steamrollered through, such as the Goldhawk Road industrial estate. This one seems to have ended in an uneasy compromise.
Residents were particularly outraged at the Council's wish to construct a giant bridge from two very tall towers of, yes you guessed it, luxury flats connecting the new residents with what would be left of Furnival Gardens so that they didn't have to cross King Street to get there. The bridge was set to destroy one third of the park. The same park that our Council had accused evil Thames Water of wanting to destroy themselves.
It seems that both the buildings have been lowered and the bridge is gone, but the cinema still looks set for the chop.
Why did the Council compromise and back down? Votes.
These residents live in the band of Council seats that will be key marginals in the fight for the local authority in the local elections on May 22nd next year. Lose those and there is a real possibility of a Labour victory. So while the Council was quite prepared to do the dirty on the residents a couple of years ago, by pledging publicly to listen and then going ahead anyway, they are not so sure this close to polling day. Cynical, you might think. But here's Council Leader Nick Botterill to give us his official version of events:
“We listened to residents and ditched the less popular elements of the previous scheme and I now believe we have a scheme that Hammersmith can be proud of. It’s been hard work but we finally have a plan that will kick start the much needed regeneration of the west end of King Street. The developers can now get on with the important work of breathing new life into this rather rundown area.”No doubt that regeneration is needed, and despite the low politics and skullduggery, you have to wish the scheme well. The question now, is whether it will be enough to win those vital votes. At this meeting back in the early days the residents were signing pledges never to vote Conservative again. There was a queue to sign up.