More dirty tricks from the TMO

Yes, it’s our “old friends” those “lovely people” at Kensington and Chelsea Terrible Mismanagement Organisation again.

They have recently been in the act of contacting resident members with a letter notifying them that there will soon be another AGM planned (they have said around the second half of November, we’ll see..) and a form to fill in for members to update their details.

Here is a copy of the letter and form:

And here’s why we are suspicious:

1: They have most of the details of their members and also, most members have the TMO contact details and the TMO can be easily looked up online. If people need to update their details, why wouldn’t they do this voluntarily anyway? Why does this need to be some mass exercise by the organisation? Oh yes, because getting rid of lots of resident members would certainly help the management to get their own way and would obviously be of no benefit to anybody except those who have some serious questions to answer at the Inquiry.

2. Many resident members did not receive a form and letter. This does not appear to be just some simple admin mistake on their part because they do not have the updated details; members who have not heard from them just happen to “accidentally” include some very well known residents – including Samia Badani and Colville Labour Cllr Monica Press; both of whom have spoken out against the practices of the TMO before.

So if the organisation gets very few responses, we’re wondering if resident members will just be “accidentally” erased from the list.

3. The form also asks members if they wish to continue being a member of the TMO. So we will refresh our readers’ memories and show this old post from 2018, just to show how this organisation treats its resident members in votes and to show how unreliable their information gathering and voting is:

We also note they are STILL using the – unreliable to say the least – data collection and electoral services of the dubious Mi-Voice. The same conpany who failed to notify residents of meetings and votes before and the same company behind the dodgy surveys supposedly showing high resident satisfaction (when KCTMO was responsible for the management of our homes), which even RBKC now concedes were false.

We can also look back to this open letter from the BWRA just before that shambles of an EGM in 2018 :

No prizes for guessing why some in charge of the TMO didn’t want Monica Press to know about their latest activities then…

THINKers point out that for the sake of fairness, accountability, and truth and for Grenfell, the 72 residents who died in the fire, the North Kensington community and all who live in social housing in this borough, KCTMO needs to remain in place as an organisation as it is; for the purposes of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.

These communications and their actions both last year and the year before, only suggest to us that they are reducing the vote and dissolving some resident memberships in yet another bid to try and dodge their way out of facing justice.

In the words of the BWRA from September 2018 “we members need to be sure that the KCTMO remains accountable to us and to the Grenfell Inquiry and the Police

The ongoing antics and actions of KCTMO, both then and now, only leave us smelling a rat…..

Fire safety and Conservative controversy : Playing politics or playing with fire?

Image: “Houses of Parlianent in Grenfell-Style cladding” by Zoom Rockman from Private Eye 2017

Over a week ago, on Monday the 7th of September in the House of Commons, the Fire Safety Bill passsed its first reading. This did not go without controversy as Conservative MPs voted to defeat a Labour amendment to the Bill.

Read the debate in full here:

Our local Kensington MP, Felicity Buchan voted with her party and unsurprisingly this has not gone down too well with some locals and supporters of our community Here are some reactions on social media:

Here are some reactions from Labour

And here is what Felicity Buchan had to say :

Fanning the flames?

What do we think? Well, as sure as dogs bark, and cats meow; most MPs vote with their party , so we cannot say we are exactly too surprised if our Conservative Party MP obeys the whip and toes the party line.

Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that residents and local community groups who have had postive meetings with Felicity Buchan before and some who held out hope that she might have taken a stand on this, do feel very betrayed and angry.

Kensington MP Felicity Buchan

But is all what it seems?

Here is some of what Gill Kernick in excellent fellow North Kensington blog The Grenfell Enquirer has to say:

This was a vote about certain specific amendments to the Fire Safety Bill as proposed by Labour. It was not a vote about whether or not to bring the Recommendations from the Inquiry into law, which is what seems to be being reported.
It is also unclear whether these amendments are sound… And we don’t seem to be considering that.

Read the blog post in full here:

Grenfell, the Conservative vote & why we are missing the point

And this is what a Conservative source said to us about the Labour amendment: “Labour put down what is known as a ‘wrecking amendment’, designed for the Government to vote down. It’s a typical opposition ploy that all parties do in opposition. An example would be an amendment to the Queen’s Speech (which the Government has to pass), saying that nurses should get a pay rise; the Government duly votes against and the opposition then says the Government doesn’t think nurses deserve a pay rise, even though that might not be the case ”

Fair point – that’s party politics we guess – but a further Conservative source told us they believe that “everything will be done in the end in the right sequence”. Sadly, THINKers do not share their confidence in this.

While not all Conservatives have approached this Bill and issues of fire safety with bad intentions, we have little faith for other reasons that this Conservative Government will ever really act and put the necessary changes into place, and here are a few brief glimpses into why…..

No smoke without fire

Inside Housing also reported from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry on Monday the 7th of September and over emails between (Grenfell Tower contractor) Rydon’s Commercial Manager Zak Maynard and sub-contractor Harley Facades, with Maynard’s email saying “and we are quids in!” as a result of savings made by switching to the cheaper (and far deadlier) aluminium composite cladding.

Private equity firm Coller Captial, fron 2009 until 2015, owned a fifth of Rydon, through Jersey-based Cavendish Square Partners, and the boss and founder of Coller Capital, Jeremy Coller also donated money to the Conservative Party in the same year.

Last year, Private Equity News reported that Boris Johnson’s brother, forner Minister Jo Johnson (who will soon be in the House of Lords), was set to be the ghostwriter of Mr Coller’s autobiography.

Also elevated to the House of Lords by Boris Johnson this year along with his brother, is another high profile Conservative, Sir Edward Lister. Forner Leader of Wandsworth Council from 1992-2011 where he was controversially known to have sold off council housing to absentee investors, after that , Lister, known as Eddie to his friends, (who include the notorious Peter Bingle), became Boris’ London Deputy Mayor with responsibility for policy and planning until 2016, when he was appointed as Chair of the Government’s housing regulator the the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) which later became part of Homes England in 2018.

Boris Johnson & Sir Edward Lister

At the beginning of this year the Financial Times reported that Lister had last year “joined the board of a Jersey-based holding company for a housing start-up (TopHat) without any public disclosure” and that his “directorship was not announced by the government or the company and it does not have to be disclosed in Jersey, meaning there was no way for the public or bosses of rival housing companies to find out about the role.

One board member of the HCA under Lister, was Anthony Preiskel, who had a background as a property developer and also sat on the board of KCTMO during the Grenfell Tower refurbishment and was there until 2017 just after the Grenfell Tower fire.

Back to some more Twitter responses and here is what fire safety expert Phil Murphy had to say:

This is the British Standards Institution, the national standards body responsible for technical standards and safety.

We thought to have a closer look at some of the membership of the board of the BSI:

One Non-Executive Director of BSI since last year, is Ian Lobley. Mr Lobley’s background was as Managing Partner at 3i Group plc, the FTSE 100 international investor focused on mid-market private equity and infrastructure. The same year that Coller Capital invested in Rydon, they also invested in Mr Lobley’s conpany.

This might seem like a slight deviation on our part from the main subjects of fire safety and homes, but many like us would hope to see some indication of the focus of those on regulatory safety boards to not be purely profit-driven.

Moving back firmly to the main subjects of this blog post, another Non-Executive Director of the BSI is Douglas Hurt, who also happens to be a Non-Executive Director of new homes developer Countryside Properties Plc, where he is also Chair of their Audit Committee .

Safety first? People before profit? We’re not so sure about that…...

An example of how Countryside Properties treats some of their leaseholders can be found here

Claims made by the Government and their supporters that they are fully committed to fire safety in homes and people before may also appear to be extinguished in the minds of some when looking through a list of Conservative Party donors over the past decade and seeing where their interests and priorities lie:

John Bloor of Bloor Homes has donated over £1.6million, Residential Land Ltd have donated over £200,000, Canary Wharf Group have donated over £135,000, regular Tory Conference sponsors Thakeham Homes have donated around. £120,000.

Developers of Millbank Tower Reuben Brothers – David and Simon – also have, according to the Financial Times , donated nearly £200,000 .

Reuben Brothers are also the developers partly behind Paddington Walk where leaseholders have had to pay out £3.5 million to have dangerous cladding removed.

Jamie Ritblat of Delancey reportedly donated £50,000 to the Conservative Party shortly before his company purchased the former Olympic Village (which is now “East Village E20”) for redevelopment at a knock down price.

Delancey are now part- owners of the Earl’s Court Site, having bought it from Capco late last year.

Other notable Conservative donors in the property development business have also have included Nick Candy, Tony Gallagher of Countywide Developments Ltd the late Tony Pidgeley of the Berkeley Group and also media magnate and former pornographer Richard “Dirty Des” Desmond of Northern and Shell – his alleged dealings with Tories and the Government over the Westferry Printworks housing scheme and affordable housing do not make for comfortable reading for some. See this:

…Which certainly calls into question the conduct of Boris Johnson and especially that of Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

So any hopeful residents looking to Jenrick for action will likely be in for huge disappointment as he seems to think his top priorities in the job are being the developers’ BFF and advertising Taylor Wimpey – that’s if he lasts much longer in his post that is.

He who pays the piper calls the tune?

To us, all the above just points to self-regulation from this Government, with their friends in certain places bending Ministerial ears towards their own interests. (We could say worse, but as a little North Kensington community blog, we do not have the resources to handle encounters with multi-millionaire property tycoons and their lawyers.)

Burning issues

So THINK will not be flooding Felicity Buchan’s inbox with complaints; we do know she reads our blog and we hope she sees this post and our points and concerns.

It is not purely just the regulations or lack of that we feel fired up about in this case; it is questions of independence of some of those who are supposed to be in charge of regulating, the transparency issues or possible conflicts of interest there may be in some cases, and we agree firmly with the Grenfell Enquirer on the point about lack of accountability structure.

And while it still may be early days, from how we have seen of the primary interests of the Prine Minister and several of his colleagues and how some of them appear to operate (the cronyism, the cosy relationships with property development bigwigs for example) . We have seen enough in the way of indicators as to whom and what Boris and his Government colleagues may or may not take notice of to have more than just a hunch that they will do very little.

After all, some of those who are in charge are and were, part of the problem in the first place.

We‘re sorry to state the obvious , but people voted for Johnson’s Government and this is what we are stuck with; which is far from reassuring to all the residents living in homes with potentially dangerous materials and other possible fire safety hazards..

So we will leave the last word with one such resident whose Tweet says it all really:

Going down the tube: South Kensington station plans are a one way ticket to over-development

Today is the last day for formal objections to the South Kensington Station redevelopment proposals to be in by. Readers can join us and send your objections in to RBKC via this link

We are also informed that today is the technical deadline, for RBKC’s planning officers to take views into account but that the RBKC Planning Committee will be accepting comments and views from residemts right up until the date this goes to the Committee. (No date has been announced as yet .)

One thing that unites all residents of this borough, North or South, no matter what their political affiliations are or whatever other issues are, is the concern about over-development and the need to preserve the unique character and history of our borough. THINKers might live at the other end of the borough, but the protection and maintenance of our historical features and the character of our residential areas and wanting the very best for our communities is a matter for all.

THINK believe that the controversial plans from TfL and Qatari-based developer Native Land pose a threat to the streetscape, the skyline, and the local community and will change the character of South Kensington for the worse.

Here are just a few reasons why we are opposed to the plans :

– The design and height for the new station is out of place with the location and nearby listed buildings and will dominate the whole of South Kensington, obscuring protected views of the museums from all sides of the area

The proposed 5 storey bullnose is more of an eyesore than a landmark. The Save Our South Kensington website has pictures showing the impact of this here

– It had been reported in some parts of the local news that the redevelopment would bring step-free access to South Kensington station. This is not true. TfL had planned to include lifs from the District and Circle line platform (but not the Piccadilly Line) to a new entrance at Thurloe Street, to increase the size of the District /Circle platform and to upgrade the ticket hall but now they have refused to commit to this; therefore the only real positive in these redevelopment plans has been removed. Residents and visitors alike concerned about the lack of step-free access can make their case to TfL on the Transport For All website here but we think that troubled and tone deaf TfL will be far more preoccupied with their own financial crisis and are very unlikely to listen.

– The developers’ case for providing “affordable” housing has been overstated. In fact they are only planning to provide 27% affordable housing, even though council rules state they must have a minimum of 35%. None of the housing will be for social rent. and they will be demolishing 25 existing homes as part of the plans.

– As for RBKC Planning rules, there appear to be countless breaches of these – and the Save Our South Kensington campaign website has listed them all in detail here:

Residents and representatives say no!

A Queen’s Gate resident who was already concerned about the Holiday Inn Forum Hotel in Cromwell Road and what could possibly happen on the Earl’s Court site, said “Plans show tall buildings from South Kensington to Hammersmith with none fitting into the existing streetscape”

Andrew, a resident said “The station design does not fit in with our historical area at all and they will be ruining listed buildings and features for this. It will be an ugly centrepiece for South Kensington that nobody wants”.

Some residents have also told us that they are concerned about Pelham Street the loss of light, the unnecessary extra retail units and the extra waste and disturbance this will bring. They are concerned that this could also encourage crime and anti-social behaviour to the area.

Almost every resident we spoke to on this felt that these plans, especially considering the excessive height and the lack of regard for listed buildings, historical features and protected views, could be a slippery slope to more and bigger development plans coming to the local area.

Cllr Greg Hammond who represents nearby Courtfield Ward, had this to say to us: “I was hoping for a conservation-led approach to the development of South Kensington station, but am bitterly disappointed. The proposal is the antithesis of conservation-led, being a collection of glass and steel buildings that are totally inappropriate right in the middle of a conservation area, and also block protected views of the Grade 1 listed museums and cause some physical damage to the listed station building too in their construction. To add insult to injury, TfL have also cancelled the much-needed capacity improvements to the station, so there are really very few benefits left for residents. I will do everything possible to support local residents make the case to the Planning Committee to reject this application.”

Kensington MP Felicity Buchan, plus a number of other RBKC councillors including Mary Weale, Janet Evans, Quentin Marshall and Sof McVeigh have made it clear that they against the redevelopment proposals too

The Kensington Society have also submitted their objections to the proposals and these have appeared on fellow Kensington blog From The Hornets Nest here

Local groups and residents associations opposed to the plans include Thurloe Owners and Leaseholders Association (TOLA), Pelham Residents Association (PRA), Ovington Square Residents Association, Earl’s Court Square Residents Association, Milner Street Area Residents Association, South Kensington and Queen’s Gate Residents Association, Drayton Neighbourhood Association, Melton Court Residemts Association, SouthKen Station Tenants Association, and South Kensington Busimess Association.

North Kensington stands with South Kensington

THINK believe these proposals sbow no regard for South Kensington, its history, its buildings, local businesses or residents. Instead the only thing that these plans appear to have in mind is bringing in maximum profit for TfL and the developers , which will be at the expense of destroying the character of the local area and bring no benefit whatsoever to either residents or visitors

We call on our readers who share our opposition to these plans to send in your objections to the RBKC Planning Committee and to sign up to the Save Our South Kensington campaign for updates.

Below is another picture of the planned station design which shows just how imposing the new building would be over the whole of the South Kensington and how out of keeping with the character of the area it would be. We stand with the residents of South Kensington and say NO to the plans. We are not outright opposed to any redevelopment of the station per se, but there has to be a better way forward and this is very definitely not it.

Portobello Film Festival starts tomorrow!

The Portobello Film Festival is 25 years old this year. We had been, as we do every year, really looking forward to going but we were concerned that due to Covid-19, that this fantastic, incredible groundbreaking and free event in our community might have had to be cancelled.

But fortunately the event organisers have found ways to ensure our favourite local and international independent film festival does go ahead this year; just with a few restrictions and some extra health and safety measures in place to keep us all safe.

Here is what they have to say:

This year the Festival will have an Eastern European feel to it, showcasing films from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania, as well as the usual selection from Germany, Spain, and Belgium, and two nights of London/UK films. The Award Ceremony will be on Sunday 20 September at the Muse

An exhibition of Festival artworks by the likes of Blek Le Rat, Dotmasters, Andrew Logan, Sickboy, Joe Rush, Lucy Sparrow and Pure Evil will be on display from 3 – 13 September.

We are proud of delivering this free film festival in the heart of UK counterculture for 25 years now. It’s a pity the milestone has been tarnished by the Coronavirus outbreak but the team were keen, right from the start, to put on a living live festival if it was possible

So due to Covid restrictions, attendance numbers will have to be limited, and 1hr slots booked in advance on Eventbrite. The Festival will still be free but social distancing seating and facemasks (supplied at venue) will be necessary. There will be a thermometer gun at the door. Surfaces will be cleaned/sanitised regularly and the ventilation/air con will be in operation.

Thank you for your cooperation in these strange times!”

So tickets are limited this year to enable social distancing, but people can book tickets (still free!) via this Eventbrite link here

We recommend booking ASAP as the tickets are being snapped up quickly.

The full programme of events is below :

And further information is on the website:

Lost in translation, reason and understanding – and we are almost lost for words

Not all of our readers are fluent in Japanese, but the initials should give some a good clue as to the translation.

Still don’t quite get what we are referring to?

Here is the real logo of the consultancy firm :

Yes, this is Kaizen Partnership, the consultancy firm alongside Claremont Consulting that the Government has shamefully awarded £276,000 to supposedly consult with people over what should happen to the Grenfell Tower site.

We had something to say about that a few weeks back – here

Some of these people fron Kaizen have recently been spotted hanging around our neighbourhood with clipboards, asking people – some residents and some random passers by – as to what they would like to see happen to the Grenfell Tower site.

Kaizen in Japanese roughly means “change for the better”. But we’ve never ever heard of anyone achieving positive change through causing offence to a traumatised community in a disaster area and alienating the people most affected before……

This was similar to an exercise conducted by consultants hired from TFL out with their clipboards asking passers by and residents ages ago over what artwork design for the Ladbroke Grove tube station bridge they happened to prefer.

But perhaps we have to print in capitals to make it clear to some that THIS IS NOT EXACTLY THE SAME SORT OF MATTER.

Just in case they ask us – we will just tell them here that we think what happens to that site should be up to the survivors and the bereaved to decide amongst themselves and not decided by some ludicrous expensive public relations exercise involving the input and views of various people, some of whom have no connections whatsoever with the 72 people who lost their lives in the fire, or with their families, or with the survivors, and even in some cases, barely know anyone in this community at all.

We’d also probably tell these consultants that they can stick their clipboards where the sun doesn’t shine…

Let’s put a few points and questions to the Government by way of trying to translate to them just how appalling and tasteless this is:

Imagine if somebody went around around outside where your a loved one of yours lost their lives in an entirely preventable man-made fire disaster. conducting a survey in this way concerning what should happen to the site.

How would you feel if someone had the outright nerve to think that the decision of what happens to a site containing some of the remains of your loved one, should be made by conducting a general survey exercise like this and not strictly among those who lived there and their families?

Do you not see anything at all wrong with the matter of the Grenfell Tower site being treated in such a flippant way? And do you not consider how someone personally affected may feel?

This was a national disaster and is a site of loss; not a matter of changing a mural on a tube station bridge.

Not exactly thoughtful, tasteful or respectful is it?

THINK believe this is nothing short of an utter disgrace – we are trying to mind our language – but the words that came out of our mouths about this certainly aren’t printable in this family-friendly blog. We aim to be respectful, which is more than can be said for some of those in charge of us who appear to have little to no empathy for this community.

While we do not know who exactly is responsible for this, the ultimate responsibility for this lies with the Government Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service, and the minister responsible for Grenfell Tower Victims work, Kit Malthouse.

Some might have hoped that as Malthouse once long before he went into Parliament was a councillor in neighbouring Westminster and served as Deputy Leader there , that he might not be too unfamiliar with our community. But then again, we have had a few Deputy Leaders here in RBKC before (notably Rock Feilding-Mellen and Daniel Moylan) who have treated our community with ignorance, arrogance and utter contempt before.

Regardless of whether this is Kit Malthouse’s idea or not, we think he needs to put a stop to this ludicrous, tasteless and thoroughly disrespectful exercise right away or else do this :

That’s Japanese for resign.

Notting Hill Carnival goes virtual for 2020

“Carnival Councillors 2020” (L to R: Portia Thaxter, Monica Press, Laura Round & Julie Mills)

Unfortunately this year, Notting Hill Carnival has been cancelled due to Covid-19, but the good news is that the organisers have made other arrangements for a virtual Carvival so people can join in from home.

Today, plus tomorrow and Monday, anyone hoping to join in the Carnival fun can tune in to the livestream and watch on this YouTube link and on the Notting Hill Carnival Website – link here – and can also register free for “access all areas”.

THINK have kept with one of our usual Carnival traditions with another one of our fun Photoshops of some RBKC North Kensington local councillors getting in the Carnival mood too.

We thank the Notting Hill Carnival organisers and all taking part for making this happen.

THINKers are taking a break, but will be back on the other side of this Bank Holiday with more local news and views from North Kensington, nearby and beyond.


Last orders at Ariadne’s Nectar Bar? Bad news as licence revoked

We’re sorry to be the bearers of bad news but we have heard that the licence for much-loved independent local North Kensington pub Ariadne’s Nectar Bar has been revoked.

Last Thursday, the RBKC Licensing Sub- Committee met for a review over the future of the pub. The Committee consisted of Cllr Dori Schmetterling (Chair), Cllr Malcolm Spalding and Cllr Tom Bennett.

This review had heen called by Winston Labarr, a senior Environmental Health officer from the Noise and Nuisance team and was supported by Fiona Johnson, a Licensing Officer and Ashleigh Wilson, a Planning Officer. The Committee did not make the decison there and then, but yesterday we received the bad news.

Back in 2018, the Licensing Committee had a previous review (called by former councillor Eve Allison) and the outcome was that tighter conditions were put on the pub and it’s licensee Demetrios Kotsakis.Among these conditions were that there was no music – live or amplified – after 10pm and that the outdoor area was cleared of people by 10pm, which was reported in the local press here.

Here is some further background to the matter from us:

“Ariadne’s Nectar Bar under possible threat of closure by the council “

“Ariadne’s Nectar Bar under threat of closure AGAIN”

“Foster and Reid: The Planning “Duo of Destruction”

Review: The case for the prosecution

Sarah Lefevre, the barrister acting for the applicant Mr Labarr had talked of Groundhog Day or dèja vu referring to what she desctibed as “same people, same problens same revuews and same outcome” all over again this being the third Licensing review thr pub had been subject to (there has also been another one in 2009) .She had pointed out that there has not been an alternative Licensee for the pub.

Ms Lefevre stated that action against Ariadne’s since 2009 had included a noise abatement notice, a Police interview under caution and fines, as well as the two previous licensing hearings.Winston Labarr said that there had been numerous complaints receive being made about noise that resulted in visits. On those occasions officers had found, music being played after 10pm, and/or people sat outside the outdoor area after 10pm.

Cllr Schmetterling had asked, going back to points raised by residents’ written submissions supporting the pub, as to why the Noise and Nuisance officers had not used devices to record the measurement of sound?

Mr Labarr said that it was not a legal requirement for officers to carry sound monitoring devices and record levels of noise.

The terms on which they use to establish if noise is a nuisance are

– Proximity

– Frequency

– Whether there is a pitch

– Loudness

– The experience of whether the person complaining is a “normal” person (those were his words)

.Some of the Noise and Nuisance officers had turned up to see what a appeared to be private parties goung on as had some Licensing Officers in previous years , and often seen signs saying “Private Party ” out front or officers told there was a private function taking place.

Fiona Johnson, Licensing Officer, had said that for events, Mr Kotaskis needed to apply for a “TEN” – Temporary Events Notice – and that there was no record of one since 2017.

She said that this was the first time she had heard of 3 of these review proceedings taken place against the same premises and same licensee.

She referred to Mr Kotsakis being dismissive in response to action taken against the premises and called for the licence to be revoked.

Cllr Spalding questioned Ms Johnson witu regards to noise, private partoes, people reportedly drinking in there when council officers arrived and with regards to people not being moved from both the seating area outside and being dispersed from outside the pub – all which she had mentioned.:”Can you confirm that all four of these is an absolute breach of the licence?” Ms Johnson: “Yes”

Ashleigh Wilson, the Planning Officer said that the porch and shelter did not comply with planning regulations She told the committee that Mr Kotsakis had failed to comply with the planning enforcement notices served on him .

Ms Lefevre had said it had not just been one neighbour complaining about the noise and that the neighbours have asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal.

She said that just because some neighbours living near the pub did not mind noise it didn’t mean that others did not find noise fron the pub disruptive.

Review: The case for the defence

The subject of the neighbour’s conversion had been raised by Mr Kotsakis who suggested that if the walls at the neighbour’s conversion has not been sufficiently insulated then noise – any noise – would leak through to the nrighbour’s property.

Mr Kotsakis asked Ms Johnson if she could confitm that he did not need a TEN to hold a party within licensng hours and Ms Johnson confirmed this.

Mr Kotsakis said that the premises did not apply for a tenporary events notice because there were not private parties held there outside hours. .

Because the previous review had been brought up and added to evidence to this review, Mr Kotsakis then brought up the 2018 review and Eve Allison and claims thay there were fights;, children being harmed etc. “The saga goes on” .He spoke of lies and misrepresentation. “There has never been a fight in this pub”

Ms Johnson :” I wasn’t party to those so I can only go by what was in the review applications and decisions”

Mr Kotsakis: “So is the application the Bible then? and what you take from it is true? Is that how you see it?”

Ms Johnson: Well that is to the best of the applicant’s knowledge I can only report hy what they said in the application”

Mr Kotsakis :All these allegations were dismissed. I remind you why I call it slander”

(Ms Allison the applicant in 2018 had made herself or submitted for others several allegations, all of which , apart from noise escaping were unproven and she admitted to never having been in the pub herself ).

Mr Kotsakis took issue with evidence for this review including evidence that had been submitted to the 2009 and the 2018 hearings and evidemce which was disputable .

Robert Larkins, a resident supporter of the pub present at the review questioned Fiona Johnson about the list of complainants listed A to E and also a question of anonymous complaints: “In most criminal cases anonymous evidemce is rarely accepted and it seems rather bizarre that you accept anonymous complaints regarding noise”

Ms Johnson : “Anyone can make a complaint, they don’t have to divulge thei details Those who I have spoken to have asked that their details are not divulged because of fear of retaliation or reprisals from both the owners amd the customers of the premises. There’s nothing in law to state that a complainant has to give their details ”

Mr Larkins: “That in itself sounds quite derogatory that you’re suggesting thay the licensee would resort to taking reprisals”

Fiona Johnson: ” I can only report what’s been reported to me”

Mr Larkins questioned that if the complainants are anonymous how much weight can be attached to them?

He also pointed out that descriptions of violence seem to refer to 2009.

“So can we draw the conclusion thay since 2009 there has been less violence and less disorder.?””

Fiona Johnson: ” i cannot Sir, no and I can refer refer to the complaints of violence and disorder in 2018 and alnost certainly in 2019 as well”

( These being anonymous unproven written allegations of violence and disorder)

Mr Larkins also commented that it was “interesting” that one complainant was writing “on behalf of residents” .

In response to the Planning Officer, Demetrios Kotsakis said they had erected the porch on the front of the pub to help keep out noise with the advice from sound engineers .

Ms Wilson said that there was no proof that thos would help to prevent leakage but then admitted she did not know about sound travelling and said that was for Noise and Nuisance officers .

Robert Larkins, referring to the porch ,planning and noise matter said Mr Kotsakis was “Damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t”

A few other points from the review hearing

There were a few points of dispute between Mr Kotsakis and RBKC regarding the legitimacy of this review as Mr Kotsakis claimed the appeal would be on the 9th of September but RBKC said they have not received a date of the Court appeal.

– It didn’t help matters for the “Defence” when a video – submitted by the pub suppoedly in their favour – was played that showed live musicians (on a piano, a saxophone and a double bass plus a singer) , playing there and Mr Kotsakis had said these were musicians from “The Jazz Age” at the Plauground Theatre who had popped in for drinks and played a set. This might have been a good adverisement for live music and the great atmosphere there, but Cllr Bennett did point out the music was loud and Mr Kotsakis did admit they had been playing after 10pm at tiimes.

– Cllr Bennett had put a question regarding the neighbour’s conversion and noise to Sarah Lefevre who responded by saying that there was no evidence of this and it didn’t change the fact that Noise and Nuisance officers arriving heard noise from outside the pub.

Notes from us on some points they missed

– With regards to noise and nuisance being subjective, does that mean that if we were to complain about being able to hear any noise from a neighbour’s property at any time, such as something like a person running a vacuum cleaner round their flat at 2pm , would that be also be treated as a legitimate source of noise and nuisance by council officers?

– Noted were also complaints about music from the neighbours within the pub’s permitted hours. Unless the music was at an excessive volume (and we do suggest for accuracy, that the Noise and Nuisance officers use sound monitoring devices) there shouldn’t really be a problem, other than that the neighbour appears to find any pub that plays music objectionable…

– Sarah Lefevre did claim the letters of support for the pub were “largely identical” and that most of these were from “people who live some consderable distance away”. But in counting letters of support for Ariadne’s and those against just for this 2020 review , we examined just the addresses of both residents who supported – the pub and those against who supported the review and found that in the immediate neighbourhood (ie Latimer Road and its surrounding streets within 5 minutes walk away) that 8 of these letters were in Mr Kotsakis’ favour and 3 of these were against

.- Also looking at the same addresses , we did note that two of these three letters of complaints about the pub which rather strangely, came from an industrial unit in the neighbourhood rather than residential addresses. and we do question therefore whether they would necessarily be residents of the neighbourhood and/or be present after 10pm to witness breaches of the licence and excessive noise and nuisance?

– On the point of private parties, we do know people who live in, above or next to their business premises will from time to time use them as extended living rooms and have private gatherings in these for friends or family. So just because a few people do happen do be there after hours, this does not necessarily mean that the pub is in operation and they are having events there. The signs could be just to deter anyone who isn’t a private guest of the Kotsakis family from disturbing them or from trying to go in who might otherwise assume that the pub is open. Interestingly council officers entering the premises on these occasions did not witness any drinks being served on these occasions.

– Planning, we do have to point out that the local plan that the Planning Officer uses as a point of reference is the St Quintin Woodlands conservation area, the architect of which, Henry Peterson is a regular and supporter of Ariadne’s and who applied for the pub to become an Asset of Community Value late last year. Both the porch and the shelter were in place then and at no point had Mr Peterson formed any objections to these.We are guessing it was the neighbour or her forner councillor friend who made the complaints to the council Planning Officers

Our view

We’re disappointed in the “Verdict” and we fear for the future of this much-loved pub which is an asset to the community.

Do we think this this is some kind of conspiracy? Perhaps not, but we do believe that some council officers appear to have taken a rather heavy-handed and one-sided approach and that approach has been firmly against the pub and on the side of the conplaining neighbour, and it is our view that the neighbour has persistently complained because she does not like the pub and the Kotsakis family being there.

As we said before, we struggle to understand why someone would move right by a pub and expect complete peace and quiet?

We spoke to some other neighbours in the same street who submitted support for Ariadne’s and who say the pub is relatively quiet.

Others in the area who too support Ariadne’s did tell us that the pub that was there before did have a bad reputation for violence and trouble and that this welcoming pub has been a “breath of fresh air”

Many of the complaining neighbour’s letters and supporting letters to both the 2018 and the 2020 hearings mentioned smashed glass, broken glass around the pub – anyone who goes to that locality at any time can see that this is patently isn’t true.

Also some of the neighbours letters paint a picture of the pub and its patrons being dirty, smelly and threatening. Again, anyone who visits there can see that this is not true.

Actually the majority of Ariadne’s regulars tend to be either just ordinary people who live in the immediate neighbourhood, creative/artistic types such as musicians actors, and artists, or local political types from the Labour Party in North Kensington – most Labour councillors have attended the pub at some time or another

.In fact the two Labour local St Helens ward councillors Mo Bakhtiar and Portia Thaxter, support Ariadne’s and turned up to speak favourably of the pub at the review.

Cultured types who are fond of live music or vocal political debate do not exactly fit the same profile as mindless hooligans glassing each other or gang members lurking in the backstreets, peddling hard drugs to the community and endangering our local children.So we do question the sanity of the person/people making the complaints because if these depictions aren’t crazed exaggerations that go far beyond the boundaries of. reality,; we do not know what isn’t……..Yet these have somehow been taken seriously and added to evidence at reviews while being completely unproven.

Much like the last time, there was repetition of expression and parts of sentences in the complaints letters duplicated: implying the letters were written by one or two people.In our opinion, as we have been regulars at Ariadne’s over the past five yeats, is that it is not a noisy pub and there are far noisier and more crowded pubs in the area situated on main roads and that perhaps the out of the way location of the pub on a quiet street makes any escaping noise far more noticeable than would be on – say Portobello Road or Ladbroke Grove.

We accept that on a few occasions that Ariadne’s have been found to have broken the rules over playing music and over not clearing the outdoor area after the stated time. While the breaches must be dealt with, we feel that stripping Ariadne’s Nectar Bar of their licence is unduly harsh.

What next?

If some people now assume all this will be the death sentence for this pub, we have to point out that Ariadne’s Nectar Bar is a comnunity pub that has the support of many residents from North Kensington and beyond – and there are hundreds of local supporters here who will fight to keep the pub going as an independently run pub with character and live music, and not as some sleepy little “village pub (hardly anyone would go there and it would close) and not a high end “gastropub” (there are plenty of these already), both of which no doubt that the vexatious neighbour would prefer.

We North Kensington residents have had to deal with more than our fair share of experience of fighting battles – and the number of us who wish for our community pub to continue in business far outweighs the one or two residents who do not . It looks like we now have yet again, another local community campaign on our hands…..As for the dispute bween Mr Kotsakis and RBKC over appeals , we have since been shown this:

This would appear to confirm that Mr Kotsakis’ appeal is not null and void as RBKC ‘s Legal Officer had said and he does have an appeal over the previous review decision (which imposed tighter conditions on his licence ) due at Westminster Magistrates on the 9th of September.

Ariadne’s Nectar Bar may he closing for now, but this is far from over…..

Top of the blogs? Maybe not, but our blog is certainly a big hit!

THINKers actually forgot that our blog turned three years old on May the 11th. We thank everyone who has followed and supported us through what to say the least, have been testing times for us.

Despite Covid-19, lockdown and ourselves not always feeling up to blogging because of this and the Grenfell 3rd year Anniversary this year , our bloggers seem to be busier than ever with writing new posts and we have loads of them – including RBKC Scrutiny, Ariadne’s, Nectar Bar, South Kensington station and Earl’s Court – coming soon.

So here’s a quick sneak peek behind the scenes and a few general questions answered….

How many viewers do we get? Well it varies greatly from day to day from a couple of hundred to thousands, but here is just a brief screenshot of our viewing figures on our blog just for the past year acoss the world:

That is not a complete list of countrues and rhe blog has had bigger figures in other years- the biggext being over 250,000 in 2018. We are not on social media so much these days to share our blog posts but perhaps when we are in more cheerful times and feel more up to it (and can deal with trolls and people needlessly reporing us and getting us banned!) , we will be back on there.

What do people search for when they find us?

We can’t put pictures of too much of the (very large) list for security reasons and because this post would go on forever – but we have a few screenshots – and some of the search terms that lead to people finding our site give us a giggle :

On some of these we don’t know if we’re laughing at the searches themselves or at finding the fact that our posts and pictures are now partly what Sam Gyimah and Robyn Fairman are well known for, amusing.

So what are the most popular searches?

Predictably the most popular searches are usually for our blog and also for North Kensington and Grenfell.

Some RBKC former councillors are often still searched for and Rock Feilding-Mellen, Daniel Moylan and Nick Paget-Brown top the list.

The “Top Ten ” most popularly searched current RBKC councillors this year (including misspellings, abbreviations and nicknames) are:

1 – Emma Dent Coad

2 – Kim Taylor-Smith

3 – Elizabeth Campbell

4 – Ian Henderson

5 – Johnny Thalassites

6 – Linda Wade

7 – Catherine Faulks

8 – David Lindsay

9 – Sina Lari

10 – And a “Courtfield treble” for Quentin Marshall, Janet Evans and Greg Hammond

Matthew Palmer will be jealous....

We’re proud to be one of what are known as one of the big “Kensington Blogs”. We highly recommend that our readers check out the other big well known Kensington blogs too – and now we’ll stop crowing and post the links :

– From The Hornets Nest – here

– Grenfell Action Group – here

– Urban Dandy London – here

– The Steeple Times – here

– Kensington View – here

– The Grenfell Enquiter – here

Grenfell 3 years and 2 months on: The Silent Walk, memories and memorials

Warning: Some of the content of this blog post may be distressing to read for some traumatised residents affected by Grenfell

Two days ago,  Friday the 14th of August saw the welcome return of the Grenfell Silent Walk to our community. Over 100 North Kensington residents turned up to walk in silence in  memory of the 72 members of this community  who lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire disaster.

We  will  say a few words  about memorial sites:

Yesterday , The Times reported that PR fire Claremont and consultants Kaizen, have been awarded a £276,000 contract to lead discussions on what should happen to the Grenfell Tower site.

Understandably, this has been very badly received by many of the bereaved .

As a few Government ministers and certainly most  RBKC councillors and senior suits regularly read this blog, we thought we would show just a few  screenshots of  the article   to show  them how some affected people are  feeling about this:

We’re very sorry that we cannot post screenshots of  the complete article in full for legal reasons but our readers can access  it  via a paywall  – here

And this is what Grenfell Next of Kin have said on Twitter:

Many residents of the North Kensington community may not be survivors or bereaved relatives, but many of the people in Grenfell Tower were good friends, neighbours, work colleagues and classmates and we feel loss too.

It has been reported in the local community on several occasions over  considerable  time that some memorials and tributes left by local residents  outside Notting Hill Methodist Church  have been removed.

The Editor of this blog, who lives atound the corner from Grenfell,  stopped leaving hand painted votives in memory of   her friends who lost their lives in the fire  outside the Church   some time ago as these   repeatedly  kept going missing for some  unknown reason.  Other affected  residents   in the community have told us that votives and hearts that  they have left   outside   the  Church  much more recently  have also  gone missing.

At the site outside Grenfell Tower some time back, when some of  the hoardings were removed, a couple of these which had messages from us and some other local residents on them were never returned and we do not know the whereabouts of these .

Some people in charge and some outside influences  appear to think they can pit local residents  against the survivors and bereaved and play us all  off  against each other. This is beyond disgraceful

So we’re going to go back to a meeting  of the  Grenfell Recovery Scrutiny Committee (which is also no longer with us) back in February 2018 – here

That meeting (we will come back to the subject of a controversial figure there in another post)   – which unfortunately did end in disarray –  had been well attended and even though some opinions  on a variety of subjects did differ, here is  something that residents (regardless of what type of housing they lived in or whether they were in an RA or not) , survivors and the bereaved  all  did agree on – and that  was that affected  people here are sick and tired  of  not being listened to and of the consultants and outside agencies that have little to nothing  to do with our community.

The  thoughts feelings and wishes of the survivors, bereaved and the North Kensington residents need to be  respected and taken on board   and more than three years after the fire,  they are still being sidelined or ignored altogether.

Most people  will thankfully never experience what it is like to lose their homes, family members, or friends in a man made disaster or  to suffer fron ongoing PTSD .  The  grief and trauma, that we felt then and still feel now is real and is ever present.

We do not expect everyone to completely get what any of this feels like, but is being listened to and treated with respect and dignity really too much to ask for?


Time is running out for RBKC residents to apply for NCIL funds for the community

RBKC residents, community groups, (residents” associations, charities and infrastructure providers have until Wednesday 19th of August (exact deadline : 11:59pm) to apply for NCIL money for their community here

There has been a call out for applications fron our council since the 24th of June.

But since many local residents are unaware of this and so were some THINKers, (we thank From The Hornets Nest and the Kensington Society for bringing this to our attention ) , we thought it good to give a comprehensive explanation.

Please read this:

What is NCIL and what is all the fuss about ?

NCIL is the Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy. Community Infrastructure Levy- CiL is a planning charge that was introduced in 2010 , levied on new developments to help deliver infrastructure to support those developments. Most of the money goes to big projects, but 15% is set aside for neighbourhood projects – NCIL

What sort of neighbourhood projects would receive funding?

Community priorities for the next two years were set by RBKC residents responding to a council consultation. These are:

-Air quality

– Policing Resources and emergency services

– Parks and open spaces

– Streetscape

– Community safety

This is what rhe Kensington Society says : “These various priorities have now been adopted by the Council. However, it has been agreed that, while ward councillors (who will be responsible for choosing projects) should be guided by the community priorities identified for their wards, this does not preclude them from spending on NCIL projects that fall within other priorities

Who can apply?

Local residents, local community groups, residents’ associations, registered charities, infrastructure providers and charitable companies can all apply for NCIL funding.

How much money is set aside in RBKC?

That depends on the ward. Here is the full list of RBKC Wards and the amount of NCIL funds that are available:

Abingdon : £287,018

Campden : £ 57,853

Chelsea Riverside : £150,842

Colville: £40,991

Courtfield: £ 49,404

Dalgarno: £ 42,368 (of which £7,078 is to be spent within the St Quintin’s Neighbourhood plan area)

Earl’s Court : £ 48,528

Golborne : £ 46,968

Holland : £668,035

Norland : £ 92,651 (of which £57, 462 is to be spent within the Norland Neighbourhood Plan area)

Notting Dale : £44,635 (to be spent outside Norland Neighbourhood Plan area)

Pembridge : £123,571

Queen’s Gate : £ 46,001

Redcliffe : £64,888

Royal Hospital : £63, 605

St Helens : £ 58,111 (of which £22,922 to be spent within the St Quintin’s Neighbourhood Plan area)

Stanley : £499,203

Why do some council wards have a far greater amount of NCIL money available to them than others?

The council decided to allocate the money on a ward by ward basis

The reason for the huge disparities in funds is apparently because some wards have more developments in them than others.

Some of our local readers will know of a project that would benefit their area/ward/community or have ideas or views themselves on how to use the money to improve their local area. If so, then we encourage these residents to apply to RBKC and/or to contact their local ward councillors right away.

Anyone unsure of which ward they live in or who their local councillors are can check here

The long hot Summer of craziness, confusion, depression and anxiety

(Warning: This blog post goes into some subjects that might be upsetting to read for those suffering from PTSD, depression, and /or anxiety or other mental health conditions )

Pictured above is Ian Henderson, Labour councillor for Colville in North Kensington and a formidable campaigner and resident of the Sutton Estate in Chelsea.

We were shocked and horrified to hear this news that somebody attempted to set fire (by setting alight bottles of hand sanitiser and pushing them through the letterbox) to Ian’s home last week. See this here

Fortunately Ian’s partner was at home and quickly put the fire out but it is scary to think what could have happened if there had been nobody in.

THINK spoke to Ian and we are glad to hear that both him and his family are well and we really hope that Police get to the bottom of this and deal with whoever is responsible.

It’s hard to imagine who would ever possibly do such a thing and we did wonder if whoever did this was not in their right mind?

Quite a lot of people don’t seem to be in their “right minds”

In our own local area of North Kensington, things have already been tough for a lot of locals and then some others only go and make tbings worse.

If we wouldn’t be breaking the law and putting others at risk of Covid-19 ourselves, quite frankly, we’d like to wring the necks of the idiots who were keeping our local residents awake by having illegal street parties in and around North Kensington

We do not suppose that most of the partygoers live here, because if they did, then they might have been more mindful of the fact that not only are they disturbing people, but also that it was the 3rd Year Anniversary of Grenfell in June, and also that the subsequent Police activity as a consquence of their behaviour, particularly all the helicopters constantly circling around the area, takes many locals right back to June the 14th 2017 and retraumatises people

Whatever the case we ask these partygoers to stop and to please think of our community . Lockdown has been immensely frustrating and yes, many of us look forward to when we can party safely , but there are times and places for things and right here and and right now isn’t it.

In some cases it does appear as if the psychological effects of lockdown appear to have hit some people as hard as the virus itaelf.

As for ourselves, missing a normal work life with a routine, a social life, and family life, plus coping with sleep problems and neighbour problems and having to exist as some sort of recluse has not exactly been easy for some of us. We have found it hard to write in recent times.

Personally, the lack of our usual activity (things aren’t still back to normal) and sleep has left some of us feeling utterly drained and thoroughly depressed and when someone suggests “perhaps you should go for a walk”, and you take that advice , except that when you live around the corner from Grenfell Tower, it doesn’t help matters. Especially when the pain and the memories hits you very hard at times and there aren’t the community gatherings and places operating back as they were before , where people here can support each other.

Many people are also hurting here because Grenfell survivors and the bereaved have not been allowed to attend the Grenfell Inquiry in person and recently there was a (socially distanced) protest outside the Inquiry.

The thought of a “second wave ” of Covid-19 and going back into Lockdown is a terrifying one – as if some aren’t worrying about others or their own situations enough already

Some attempting to cheer us up remind us – as if we need reminding at all – of the weather , but the heatwave and the humidity is taking a toll on us and we are not enjoying it one bit .We’re certainly struggling with sleep and concentration; but this is not a blog about the weather (!) and after all, others with real health problems have far more to worry about. We ask all others to look out for vulnerable people with physical health conditions at this time.

As for other local issues, some of the talk of these can end up taking the form of a garbled game of “Chinese whispers” when people have their minds elsewhere.

Here is just one example; some concerns about the controversial plans around South Kensington station were being confused with the Holiday Inn Forum and there was talk going round about developers coming back with worse plans for Cronwell Road. No, the bigger towers story is not true. but we are concerned as to what happening around South Kensington station and will be blogging about this very soon…..

Residents around Notting Hill Gate and Kensington have received a “poke in the eye” from Robert Jenrick and will now have this monstrosity – to replace Newcombe House. Some residents near there are also fearful this could lead could lead to more and more towers and skyscrapers being built in their locality – a worry that most residents in this borough regardless of whether they live in north or south or their party political persuasion, all share.

Around Earl’s Court, developers Delancey appear to think they can use – or rather abuse – a time when many people are feeling too confused, frustrated, anxious and exhausted to take part in consultations – to phone people to supposedly canvass their opinions about what they would apparently like to see on the Earl’s Court site.

As well as the sort of loaded questions along the lines of “do you agree that a brand new shopping centre would bring revenue and people to the area ?” , some of them have even been canvassing people who don’t even live in Earl’s Court! No, they haven’t phoned us and we wouldn’t be able to print our likely responses here if they did…..

So more sleepless nights in store for us, and likely many others. We’re sorry for a truly miserable post, but we have not felt up to writing much until we put our thoughts out in this way and some things just had to be said.

Tomorrow, THINKers will put our noses to the grindstone and try to get back on with our everyday lives ) or what little we have left of our everyday lives), and get back to doing our jobs, and blogging about the issues that matter.


Because we do, and we do because we care and most people need to have something to hope for and a possibility (even the faintest one) that there will be something positive to look forward to…..