Thursday, 1 March 2012

West Ken Protest: A 9 year old's voice

Away from the sound and fury of last night's Council meeting, which was basically a piece of political theatre, a small act of protest took place by the residents of the West Kensington & Gibbs Green Estate, who don't much fancy being moved out by our Council so that their homes can be demolished and rebuilt in a multi million pound planning redevelopment. These were real life people who are very very frustrated, angry and frightened.

The residents, who formed their own campaign group in opposition to the plans and at one point seemed poised to use Big Society legislation to take control of their estate by evicting the Council as a "rogue landlord" turned up to protest outside an event organised by the Council as part of a consultation excercise.

The residents believe the consultation is about as genuine as that which was engaged in over the King Street or Shepherd's Bush Market ones so have no faith in it, and turned up in numbers to express their views.

Our Council were not best pleased and have just released this terse statement:

"Residents living on West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates who were unable to speak to officers at last night's information drop-in session are being urged to contact the Council with the questions they wanted to raise.It was unfortunate that a small group of residents and non-residents turned at the drop-in session without notice to stage a protest. This had the affect of preventing many real residents who live on the estate from asking officers the questions they wanted to pose". 

They mention non-residents and "real" residents - and this from a Council that spent £30,000 of your money setting up an alternative residents group that agreed with the Council. Until it's chairman resigned. In fact they were all very much real residents who had every right to be there - the Council had not stipulated any notice being required. I understand the only non residents, who did not interfere, were some MSc Housing students from the LSE studying regeneration schemes. Not exactly the Occupy Movement, is it?

So who were these dastardly people, these do-ers of evil, these vagabonds of vagrancy? Well, one of them was Ana-Maria who is 9 years old. She has a new born baby brother. Her family lives on Gibbs Green Estate. Because they are private tenants, they would be made homeless by the demolition scheme.

In the picture she is asking the Council officers not to demolish her home. Watched over by Council security guards, she explains how she came to write a letter to the Governor (held by the officer in the blue shirt) on her own initiative. Her mother is videoing the occasion on her mobile phone. This is what Ana-Maria said in her letter:

To: The Governor or to whom it may concern

I am writing to ask why you are knocking our houses down, in West Kensington Gibbs Green.

I understand you want to make plant, cycle parking and things like that, but there are going to be lots of happy memories here. Instead of knocking our houses down just change the name of the area instead.

It’s really sad for us because not only adults live here but babies, children and old age people. I know it’s until next year but, my mum has a new born baby, so where will we live and where am I going to play with my little brother?

If you want to reply to my letter then send it into this address.

I hope this letter has changed your mind about your plans. Thanks you for reading this letter.

Yours sincerely

Ana-Maria9 years old.


  1. Come on. That estate is a dump. It can only be a good thing that they rebuild it.

  2. Um, rebuilding it would be a good idea. Rebuilding it so that the affordable homes in the area are replaced would be a better idea(or crikey, some extra ones built, given how short London is of social and affordable housing right now). Strangely, H&F Councuil keeps giving away (pretty much) public land with social housing on it, waving through development plans, and not requiring that meaningful numbers of social housing are built in its place.

    Why not? Either because they're too toothless to avoid being rolled over by the developers, or because they don't mind a bit of social cleansing.

  3. "Come on. That estate is a dump. It can only be a good thing that they rebuild it."