KCTM – Oh No!

The discredited Kensington and. Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) or “terrible mismanagement organisation” as most of us call it, has written to resident members requesting that they “update your contact details so we can stay in touch with you” .

The letter goes on to state that ” In order for us to stay in touch with you, it’s important that we have your correct details. This means we can give you the opportunity to vote and participate in any TMO member decisions” The letter also says to “please respond by Friday 30 August 2019”

But one THINKer who is a resident member received this letter only today! That’s right – Monday 2nd September!! Words fail us sometimes.

Some resident members did receive the letter, with only a week left to respond, some received one shortly before the Bank Holiday Weekend; others have not received a letter at all!

The letter tells residents that “Your details will be held by Mi-Voice, the company thay we use to manage voting and communication with TMO members”.

So who are Mi-Voice? They are the company supposedly responsible for managing this fiasco of a vote that we reported on back in October last year:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/10/01/never-mind-the-ballots-at-kctmo-kensingtons-allegedly-corrupt-terrible-mismanagement-organisation/

Yes, a very dubious vote, conducted at in a most appalling way, with no ballot boxes (though unsecured ones later made an appearance after residents objected) So who is to say that updated details that residents have submitted have been received and that they haven’t actually disappeared somewhere into the offices of Mi-Voice in Southampton? Because there is no way of actually checking this!

Mi-Voice who also go by the name of “Democracy Technology Ltd” (no, we’re not joking) were also behind the very dodgy TMO “statistics” (which some at RBKC now concede were in fact false) like this here:

So for all these activities, THINK are proud to award Tony Slater the “Delivery Director” of Mi-Voice, a not-very-coveted but very richly deserved Piglet-Pie Award:

Also we note that Andrew Taylor is still Interim General Manager of KCTMO. We are amazed that he has lasted so long! He has made some disgraceful previous appearances in this blog before too.

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/08/17/communication-problems/

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/07/apology-public-statement-its-a-no-no-from-the-tmo/

Yes, naughty Andrew never did bother to respond to us. He is very evasive – what does he have to hide? He even tries to avoid having his photo shared publicly. Let us do the honours:

So perhaps the elusive Andrew Taylor who doesn’t respond to us might care to bother to respond to others?

Here are his email addresses:

andrewtaylor@kctmo.org.uk

ataylor@kctmo.org.uk

Oh and just in case he refuses all emails to do with KCTMO, perhaps residents might fare better if they get in contact with him at his other company email address? Here it is:

andrew@cloverdene.co.uk

And as for Tony Slater, perhaps residents can really use “Their Voices” to let him know of what they think of his company and shambolic practices? We will just leave his email addresses here:

tslater@mi-voice.com

tony@mi-voice.com

Shame on the pair of them.

We are relieved that KCTMO is no longer responsible for managing our housing, but it does have to remain as an organisation for the purposes of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. But we believe that is is time for the organisation to dispense with the “services” of Mi-Voice and also time for Andrew Taylor to resign.

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Notting Hill Carnival 2019: Butterflies, rhythm, respect and reflection

This Bank Holiday, Notting Hill Carnival came to town and we were determined to join in the fun.

Deciding to get in the Carnival mood beforehand, we made this fun picture, above, of some local North Kensington “Carnival Councillors” ! (left to right, Conservative councilllor for Norland Julie Mills, Labour councillor for Golborne Sina Lari and our Kensington MP and fellow Labour councillor for Golborne Emma Dent Coad)

But earlier we had been upset by the constant helicopters circling around outside – which took us back to the 14th of June 2017 and Grenfell, so we weren’t entirely sure then if we were feeling up to joining Europe’s biggest street party.

At 3pm on both days, people observed 72 seconds of silence for the 72 members of our community we sadly lost in Grenfell Tower. Thank you to all the Carnival goers who showed respect for Grenfell and the people of North Kensington.

It took a while, but eventually the sights, sounds and sunshine brought us some cheer as did many of the people here today.

We were also cheered by the sight of North Kensington Library which had been beautifully decorated with butterflies – we thank Sophie Lodge and all the members of our community who made these:

Unusually for us, this was probably the first time in years we have walked around Ladbroke Grove and Portobello Road without bumping into most of our local friends. But this was no time to be a stranger as others encouraged us to join the party!

So we leave Notting Hill Carnival this year with some positive memories of the event and a good time (even after having sadly earlier been reliving some traumatic memories of Grenfell). We hope the noise of the helicopters hasn’t caused too much distress to others living here – our thoughts are with others affected who have been finding this difficult too.

So we go home with smiles on our faces and the rhythm in our footsteps but we are also reflecting on our loss and that our community is still going through a very difficult time. We will be back to work tomorrow – and there really is a lot of work to do, but today, the happy atmosphere at Notting Hill Carnival has really lifted our spirits.We thank the Carnival organisers and everyone who took part and brought the positive vibes to our local area.

❤💛💚❤💛💚❤💛💚❤💛💚❤💛💚

Fire at Markland House, a 20 storey block of flats opposite Grenfell Tower

Today, a fire broke out on the 13th floor of Markland House, a 20 storey block of flats on the Silchester Estate opposite Grenfell Tower in North Kensington.

We are very relieved to hear the Fire was soon contained and that no one was hurt and we thank the Fire Brigade for putting out the blaze and for their prompt response and presence at the scene. We also thank both the Fire Brigade and the local Police for securing the scene and ensuring that residents were evacuated from the building.

This has been truly upsetting and traumatising for our local community two years and two months on since Grenfell and especially for residents of Markland House, which is located just across the road from Grenfell

We do not have any details of the causes of the fire, but we spoke to some residents of the building outside.

A resident of the 16th floor had been with her husband and smelt smoke at around 11:30am. Initially her husband had thought the smell was cigarette smoke coming from the balcony. She told us “We were there a little longer before we realised that’s not cigarette smoke and looked out to see smoke billowing out from the 13th floor. We got out of the flat, alerted our neighbours and left the building straight away.”

Some residents praised the caretaker of Markland House who had also helped alert residents and evacuate the block.

Other residents expressed their concerns that RBKC had not installed a fire alarm in the building. One resident who lives on the 7th floor who arrived back to find the flats cordoned off, told us “there hasn’t been a fire alarm installed in the hall, all the council did was to repaint the stairs two days after Grenfell and that’s all”. The resident also expressed his relief that the block had not been refurbished like Grenfell and that the block did not have cladding on it.

We spoke to Cllr Mo Bakhtiar (pictured above) , former RBKC Deputy Mayor and Labour councillor for St Helen’s Ward the neighbouring ward to Notting Dale, where Grenfell Tower, the Lancaster West Estate and the Silchester Estate are all located.

He told us “I am saddened and remember everything that happened on the 14th of June , since lost their lives in Grenfell l two years ago. I was anxious and worries but I am relieved that nobody was injured but this is shocking for the community.”

Cllr Baktiar also expressed his concern that about how access for the Fire Brigade to the buildings was made more difficult by the 2014 redevelopment of part of Frinstead House and the buildings to the rear of it if another such fire was to occur of a more serious nature.

For those unfamiliar with the area, the Silchester Estate has four 20 storey blocks of flats – Markland House, Dixon House and Frinstead House on the west side of the estate and Whitstable House on the east side of the estate.

Last year, in July, a fire broke out on the 16th floor of Whitstable House (pictured below) , the nearest tower to Grenfell and on the same side of the road ( known as the tower next door”). Fortunately this fire had been easily contained and nobody had been hurt in But today, some nearby residents, expressed their concerns that there are still no sprinklers, fire extinguishers or fire alarms provided in the communal areas in their blocks.

To mark the 2nd anniversary of Grenfell in June, Grenfell United projected a series of messages on to a series of buildings around the country to draw attention to lack of safety in tower blocks. One, below, projected on to Frinstead House said “2 years after Grenfell this building still has no sprinklers”

Back in March 2018, we posted this about lifts in Dixon House not working:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/03/02/down-the-road-from-grenfell-lifts-in-20-storey-tower-block-not-working/

Today we briefly saw one RBKC Cabinet member outside Markland House today – Cllr Sarah Addenbrooke, Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, outside who kindly asked asked how we were. We asked her for a statement and she suggested that we contact the RBKC Communications Team.

So we will ask them here (and we will post their response of course)

THINK join local residents in querying why there have been no sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers or fire alarms fitted in any of these high rise blocks of flats more than two years after Grenfell. We also ask Elizabeth Campbell, Leader of RBKC and Kim Taylor-Smith, Deputy Leader as well as member for Grenfell, Housing and Property, to respond to us and to the concerns raised above.

But above all, we believe that action speaks louder than words and remind them that mere statements to the media will not alleviate residents’ very real concerns about fire safety provisions (or lack of) by this council in and around their homes here – so we ask RBKC to listen to this community and act on this now.

…………………………………………………………..

For anyone feeling distressed by today’s incident, the NHS Outreach Service can be contacted on 020 8962 4393

UPDATE: RBKC has posted this with a statement from Kim Taylor-Smith on their website :

https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/newsroom/all-council-statements/information-today%E2%80%99s-fire-markland-house-and-support-those-affected

THINK blog is back! (And in the “Terrible Twos”)

We’re back!

THINK apologise to our readers for our lengthy absence since last October and also for the technical difficulties we had been having with our site – all resolved now but the many problems and issues many in our community face still go on.

Our blog reached the milestone of its second birthday in May, but this was also a month before the second anniversary of Grenfell, so no celebrations here.

In our posts coming up, we will of course, have much more to say on this; we are not going to sit back and let matters (or in some cases people), lie.

This, for now, is just a reintroductory post – but we hope that many in and who support our community can feel rest assured (and a few ill-meaning others feel discomforted by) the fact that the only changes to our blog will be more posts – load of posts coming up of course- but also some new features such as our “Local Voices” residents regular guest posts which will be coming soon

As usual, some of our posts will,be informative, some sad, some angry, some personal and of course, others humorous.

Some may like to think they can go back to “business as usual” but so can THINK! In fact we are doing more than ever before. As well as North Kensington and RBKC we also are going to be covering many issues in communities near us or relating to our own matters.

It’s good to have our blog back, but we have been through difficult times and we wouldn’t be able to do it without the support of friends, loved ones, campaigners, groups and other communities – so we say a huge thank you all for your support – it means a lot to us.

We also remind people that yesterday was the 14tb of August, 26 months on since our community lost 72 of our own in the Grenfell Tower fire, some were friends, others were acquaintances. They all deserved to be remembered, our community is rraumatised and we intend to go on campaigning, supporting others campaigning and supporting each other.

💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚 💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚

Is Kim Taylor-Smith off his EDMO?

THINKers heard at the weekend that RBKC Deputy Leader Kim Taylor-Smith wrote to housing minister Kit Malthouse, asking for special powers for the council to acquire empty properties for social housing.

Cllr Taylor-Smith said “doing so would make it “easier, quicker and financially viable to target all empty properties that could and should be put to use to alleviate pressing housing needs”

How would he do this? Well “Tailored -Sloth” has been making noises about offering property investors tax breaks if they would rent out their properties to the council – he said: “We want to collaborate with, not clobber, the property investors”

Maybe KTS might consider that many investors would be reluctant to let their properties out to the council for social rent in the first place – we can’t exactly imagine some oligarch letting the council rent out their mansion for a homeless family to live in for some reason. As for overseas investors buying up property here , maybe our Government can look at what the Government of New Zealand have brought in?

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/15/tenants-on-our-own-land-new-zealand-bans-sale-of-homes-to-foreign-buyers

Of course we agree that changes need to be made to the law regarding empty properties lying vacant for a long time -but KTS , in his interview with Radio Four on Saturday, talked about Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs ) which in his words “give power to a council to take properties and manage them for the benefit of the owner in the circumstances where the property has been empty for more than two years or has been subject to vandalism” but failed to give numbers. Oh well, maybe we can try – these orders were put into law in 2004 and by 2010 , only 43 EDMOs had been granted. In 2015, The Guardian reported how only 17 of these EDMOs had been granted the previous year.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/money/2015/feb/11/powers-empty-houses-ignored-empty-dwelling-management

We could also point out that plenty of property investors would be dead set against ever allowing RBKC to manage their properties, after seeing how the council can’t even look after its own properties.

Anyway, maybe KTS knows something we don’t and he can think of a few fellow multimillionaires who would give someone their shoe closet to sleep in ?

Perhaps “Tailored-Sloth” could be more realistic and start with the Sutton Estate in his own ward (it was the subject of his maiden speech as a councillor apparently) and try to get Government help to stop the destruction of perfectly decent social housing and make some arrangements to buy back the empty properties from the Clarion housing association fat cats?

Our readers can look at this from last year about the situation regarding the Sutton Estate and proposed (and thankfully rejected by RBKC) plans

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.lbc.co.uk/news/london/west/kensington-chelsea/grenfell-tower-fire/159-council-houses-in-grenfell-borough-lying-empty/

THINK believe that it is time for housing associations to return to their roots and while all sides accept there is a real shortage of social housing here, this Government appears to not be doing anything at all about housing associations selling off social rent properties in higher value areas like ours. Perhaps Taylor-Smith and his colleagues should really be writing to the housing minister about this instead of all the PR bluster?

THINK say to RBKC that it is all very well to pretend to care about social housing and make nice warm noises in front of the media – but it is your deeds and not your words that you will be judged upon and residents from all over the borough and from very differing political views and social backgrounds are sharing our scepticism on this.

We will also remind this council that most of the people who were on the housing waiting list before Grenfell are being housed outside the borough, or in some cases – outside London. Since 2014, when RBKC changed its housing eligibility rules, anyone housed outside the borough for more than two years, becomes the responsibility of whichever council they find themselves being temporarily housed in.

If Kim Tailored -Sloth is really serious about wanting to do something about the social housing situation, then he should make changes to RBKC housing rules right away and abolish this punitive and socially damaging two year rule – perhaps he might respond to us and try to explain why he hasn’t bothered to do anything about this – despite being in his post for over a year?

Very happily ever after: The future of North Kensington Library is guaranteed – a happy ending and a victory for our community!

Let THINK remind our readers of a story. The story concerned our North Kensington community, coming together a to fight against our council to save our local North Kensington Library. Please read our post from last year:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/north-kensington-library-happily-ever-after/

Happy ending? But this was not actually the end of the story as our community had still only received a verbal agreement from the council that our library was safe!

Today, at long last, Friends of North Kensington Library have received written confirmation that our library will remain here as a library and do so for many years to come. This really is a happy ending this time.

We thank the Friends of North Kensington Library and everyone from in and around our community and beyond who supported the campaign to save North Kensington Library.

THINK will end this story with a happy ending (for good this time) and leave our readers with the written guarantee and a reminder to RBKC and the Government that our North Kensington community will also continue to fight strong campaigns over Wornington College, our 23 acres of land around the Westway, Canalside House and our social housing. We may be able to happily close the book over our battle to save the library, but this isn’t over…..

But for now we can at least have a concrete guarantee of a happy ending for the future of North Kensington Library – a real victory for the community!

MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING

Following the tragic events at Grenfell Tower in June 2017 the leadership group at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (“the Council”) announced a new resolve to engage fully with the community in North Kensington and to start to develop a new culture of trust, where the voice and views of local people are placed at the centre of all decisions. As a clear expression of that resolve the Council has agreed to make this firm commitment, on 20 October 2018, regarding the future of the North Kensington Library at 108 Ladbroke Grove, London, W11 1PZ (the “Library”).

The Council has listened to the community and understands that the Library provision and the building in which it is located is much valued and cherished. It is a public resource that has supported the community since 1891. Having listened and reflected on previous plans, the Council is now committed to ensure that the Library, a recognised community asset, continues to provide the local community with high quality library services. For clarity, the Council has no plans in the short, medium or long term to close the North Kensington Library building nor to end its use as a public library.

To deliver on this commitment, the Council, as a whole, declares the following:

1. The Council guarantees that, for as long as the Library offers a valued and well-used service to the local community, the Library and the building will remain as a permanent public asset. Throughout this period, the Council undertakes to:

(a) provide the relevant operational funding and resources required to run the library to a high standard of service, access and quality;

(b) and to maintain the Library building as required.

This guarantee is not time-limited and will not expire on account of the passing of time nor the change of personnel. Rather, the guarantee is only subject to change after active consultation as outlined in section 4 below.

2. The decision as to whether the Library offers a “valued and well-used service” will lie with the resident user base of the Library and the local community who live in North Kensington (as defined as all wards north of Holland Park Avenue), whose opinion will be sought through unbiased consultation and surveys. Key measures that will be used to review whether the Library offers a “valued and well-used service” will include: usage levels; library users’ satisfaction levels; specific surveys for the users of the library and the local community (as above); and CIPFA public library surveys and benchmarking. This will be done in collaboration with users of the library.

3. Any proposals regarding any substantial change to the building and service (apart from general management of the Library) will be co-developed and co-designed from the outset, and will place the interests of the community at the centre of any plans.

4. Any substantial change or proposal put forward, whether proposed by the Council or the community, will only be enacted after active consultation with the resident user base of the Library and the local community who live in North Kensington (as defined as all wards north of Holland Park Avenue), and if the proposal is supported by the majority of those consulted. For clarity, a proposed change, will only be agreed and implemented if over 50% of those who respond to the consultation make a positive choice for the change. Any consultation questions will be signed off by an independent party to ensure that they are neutral and non-leading in their design.

Signed,

– Leader of Council (Cllr Campbell)

– Deputy Lead of the Council (Cllr KTS)

– Lead Member for Skills and Enterprise (Cllr Faulks)

– Leader of Labour party (Cllr Robert Atkinson)

– 1 Councillor from the Colville Ward

– CEO (Barry Quirk) and Executive Director for Environment and Communities (Sue Harris)

– Nick Hurd as Minister for Victims for Grenfell

Save Wornington College: KCC community meetings today and tomorrow

Back in July the Save Wornington College campaign and Kensington & Chelsea College held a community meeting for people to come and share their views and ideas for the future of our local college.

This first meeting held back in July had the support of many members of the community and now, two more meetings for today and tomorrow, plus an opportunity for the community to meet the Governors of KCC Wornington Road today.

The final decisions on the College, its curriculum, its financial position, and any potential merger will be made by the governing body in the next few months.

This is your chance to have your say in the future of your local College.

Meet the Governors: Today, Wednesday 3rd October 5pm-6pm at KCC Wornington Road, London W10 5QQ

KCC Wornington community meeting: Today, Wednesday 3rd October 7pm-9pm at Al Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, 244 Acklam Road, London W10 5YG

KCC Chelsea community meeting: Tomorrow, Thursday 4th October 6:30pm-8:30pm at KCC Chelsea, Hortensia Road, London SW10 0QS

Urban Dandy Post: RBKC bites back @ Canalside House and the community

The council of Kensington and Chelsea has revived its plan to get rid of North Kensington community asset Canalside House and replace it with flats. The resurrection of the plan will be viewed by many as signalling the explicit return of the council’s long-standing policy of asset-stripping North Kensington. Will it be third time lucky for the council?

What is Canalside House and Why Does it Matter?

Opened in 1929, Canalside House is an integral and much-loved part of the North Kensington community, serving many hundreds of local people each year, including hundreds of children, the disabled and other vulnerable groups. It is ideally located at the north end of Ladbroke Grove, with excellent transport links. It continues to play a vital role for people in West London, including with its role as a hub for Grenfell recovery and support.

Background

In 2016 the sale of Canalside House to property developers was agreed by RBKC. This was initiated by the then deputy leader of the council, Rock Feilding-Mellen, who has since resigned following the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 72 people. He is widely believed to have been culpable for decisions made that led to the fire, as well as cultivating a culture at the council in which people in North Kensington were ignored and their assets stripped for the benefit of property speculators.

The tenants of Canalside House were presented with a fait accompli and told they would be moving to a building on Latimer Road. The building was wholly unsuitable and the decision by the council was an existential threat to most of the Canalside organisations.

In 2017, after the Grenfell fire, when the Canalside residents played a notable role in supporting the affected local population (in contrast to the council, who by their own admission were not up to the task), RBKC paused the sale of the building.

In January 2018, the council issued an executive decision to sell Canalside House, with Director of Corporate Property Richard Egan taking up Feilding-Mellen’s plan. Egan, along with deputy leader of the council, Councillor Kim Taylor-Smith and Councillor Matthew Palmer, told a series of lies to try to force through the sale. It was also revealed that zero social housing was to be included in the “3,500 new homes” earmarked for the Canalside site.

RBKC’s lies were exposed by local activists and blogs and the council did a U-turn. Taylor-Smith stated: “Kensington and Chelsea Council has no plans whatsoever to sell off Canalside House, the building is a key base for charities and the voluntary sector, as well as small businesses and other local enterprises, all of which create important job opportunities in the north of our borough”.

He also vowed that the council would work on improving the building. This has not happened. And Taylor-Smith ignored all emails from the Canalside User Group, which represents the 14 resident organisations, until September 2018, when he notified the group that the sale was back on, albeit with the word “demolish” replacing “sell”.

Some Lies

At the 13th September RBKC Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee meeting, a report from Conservative Councillor Mary Weale justified the plan to demolish Canalside House using exactly the same language that has been used by the council in their grab of other local public assets including Ladbroke Grove library, Wornington College and Lancaster Youth Club. Namely: that there are issues of disabled access and that the building is too costly to refurbish. Weale also claimed that a number of the offices are only used “on an occasional/part-time basis”. The crucial work undertaken by Canalside organisations was not mentioned.

The renewed move to sell/demolish the building suggests that the RBKC’s (repeated ad nauseam) claims that it would “change” after the Grenfell fire amount to nothing more than platitudes and propaganda, smokescreens for business as usual.

Some Facts

The council turned down a grant from the Tudor Trust to install a lift for disabled people at Canalside House; the council has made no effort to refurbish Canalside House and has let it slide into decline; all of the offices at Canalside House are used full-time, except for one, which was vacated by the Volunteer Centre when the council first announced the building’s sale. After that it was left empty by the council and has only just reopened as a hot-desking service, which has started to become popular.

The Canalside User Group told us that they will demand the council do another U-turn and abandon the plan to make Canalside House another victim of the North Kensington asset strip. They will not be alone in making this demand: service users whose futures depend on the Canalside organisations will oppose the move, as will those who will not understand how politicians can promise change, explicitly state they will not sell a building and then do the opposite. And just maybe the national government, or their Grenfell Taskforce, will call the ruling party at Kensington Town Hall and demand an explanation for this textbook example of hypocrisy…

Hypocrite – from the Greek work Hypokrites, meaning “an actor”

Canalside House is home to: Abundance Arts; African Women’s Care; Baraka Community Association; Colville and Clydesdale Housing Cooperative; French African Women’s Association; Hodan Somali Community; Hope Care Agency; Kensington and Chelsea Mental Health Carers Association; Munro Health Cooperative; Portobello Business Centre; Rain Trust; Sudanese Community and Information Centre; Sudanese Nubian Association; Talk Together CIC; Worldwide Somali Students and Professionals.

Full Canalside backstory part one: https://urbandandylondon.com/2018/02/08/rbkc-council-selling-vital-community-aset/

Part two: https://urbandandylondon.com/2018/03/16/councilcanalside/

Written by Tom Charles @tomhcharles

Art and other help from THis Is North Kensington

Urban Dandy London | October 2, 2018 at 6:59 pm | Tags: Canalside House, Grenfell Tower, Jailhouse Rock, Kensington and Chelsea Council, Kim Taylor-Smith, Ladbroke Grove, North Kensington, RBKC, Richard Egan, Rock Feilding-Mellen, Sharks, THINK, THis Is North Kensington | Categories: Grenfell, Politics | URL: https://wp.me/p1wRQz-2r4

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Time for RBKC to stop planning officers and councillors from playing the developers’ tunes

At last Thursday’s planning committee meeting over the redevelopment plans for the Holiday Inn Forum, a couple of things particularly caught our attention.

One was that planning officer Philip Elliott seemed to be very friendly with the developers, so much so that we almost mistook him for one of their party!

Another was that at one point, some of the people working for the developers and the architects for the proposed scheme, received something on their phones and then some of them turned around to look at and point out to their colleagues, the THINKer sitting nearby.

Now unlike some RBKC councillors we could mention, THINK are not exactly in the habit of putting pictures of ourselves all over social media. So we did wonder how come one of us was recognised?

Well, most of the people who knew who we were at the meeting were local residents who were objecting and campaigning against the scheme and we very much doubt that any of them would ever tip off developers, let alone have their mobile phone numbers.

So who else was there who would also recognise us? As this was the first time we had ever come across Philip Elliott in person, it would have to be either be one of the RBKC councillors or Elliott’s boss Graham Stallwood tipping them off!

Well this should raise more than a few red flags about RBKC officers and councillors and their rather cosy relations with developers

Regular readers of this blog and residents with their eye on the ball will only be too much aware aware of an ever-creeping culture of lobbyists and developers getting close to councillors, and council staff.

Huge developments being snuck through little planning meetings, planning officers moonlighting for other interests or becoming best friends with developers with plans in the area, and the one-sided, dismissive responses given to concerned residents are all something residents of the Rotten Borough have had to long put up with: enough is enough.

Unfortunately the rot in the Rotten Borough can go even further than this – see our post about former RBKC leader Sir Merrick Cockell, who is executive chairman of property lobbyists Cratus Communications:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/05/cockell-and-his-connections-are-still-wreaking-havoc-all-around-the-rotten-borough/

The short sighted culture of property development for huge short term profit regardless of the needs of the community, has been so much of a pattern in RBKC over such a number of years that we even had a Deputy Leader and cabinet member for housing, property and regeneration who was a property developer himself.

“Jailhouse Rock” Feilding-Mellen was so keen to show off his property development skills in his post, that he even thought he would have a hand in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower himself – even taking a role in picking some supposedly shiny new cladding and material at a knock down price to make the building more appealing to not its residents, but for the people who were going to buy the private homes (still being built) next to Kensington Leisure Centre and for the shiny new buildings that were going to be privately sold as part of his prize regeneration scheme on the Silchester Estate. (which has since been cancelled).

Of course, RBKC is not the only local authority whose hands appear to be less than clean over such matters and we have also posted about lobbyists and developers at City Hall recently. Some of our readers will have seen our “London Trilogy” for those who haven’t, here it is :

Part 1:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/24/who-really-runs-london/

Part 2:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/24/david-lunch-lunts-the-mr-creosote-of-the-gla/

Part 3:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/more-terrapins-in-the-tank-at-the-city-hall-of-shame/

Our blog may not have the power to resolve most of these unsavoury activities but we try as best as we can to highlight matters of concern and bring these matters to the attention of and also put some public pressure on those who are in positions of power to do something about it. We ask our council to enforce a complete ban on councillors, council officers and other staff from accepting hospitality, gifts from developers and their clients and to not allow planning officers to meet with developers and their mouthpieces privately..

We would also like to see more council staff recruited from the local area – after all we do not think that planning officers would show a cavalier attitude to our local communities or be quite so keen on having meals and drinks with lobbyists and developers if proposed plans affected where they live.

We also believe that all council meetings – should be recorded in notes word for word not just as a point of reference for all parties involved but also because quite a few at RBKC have long gotten away with going back on their words.

So we ask the RBKC leader Elizabeth “Dizzy Lizzy” Campbell to look into these matter and act upon them If she is serious about reforming this council and making positive changes, this is as good place as any to make a start. Please restore residents’ confidence in council proceedings by getting a stenographer to take the notes at every council meeting that takes place, please recruit more staff from the local area and please ensure that Mr Stallwood, Mr Elliott and their colleagues are kept on a tight leash.

Some good news for South Kensington residents – Holiday Inn Forum redevelopment plans rejected

THINK will put aside our anger, frustration and disappointment after the TMO vote and EGM for now and share some good news from last Thursday – after a gruelling six hour meeting. the planning committee has rejected the proposal for the Holiday Inn Forum in Cromwell Road.

We posted about this here on the day (details of plans included in the post):

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/27/judgement-day-is-also-here-for-south-kensington-and-the-holiday-inn-forum/

At the same time as the awful TMO meeting and vote was taking place, RBKC’s planning committee was meeting in the chamber to decide over these controversial plans.

THINKers arrived to a chamber packed with concerned residents and took seats that had been reserved for the few supporters of this scheme (who had not bothered to turn up).

Graham Stallwood, executive director for planning and development and Philip Elliott, senior planning officer at RBKC had recommended that the council approve the scheme.

We spotted the applicants , or rather developers right away, as they gave off more than an air of arrogance and were disrespecting the rules of the chamber by bring food and drinks in and THINK regretted not bringing cameras to take photos of them shoving sandwiches into their greedy mouths and littering the place – so no fancy lunches for them this time – but what we noticed even more, was how chummy Mr Elliott and the people from Rockwell and Queensgate appeared to be with other.

People at the meeting were treated (or not) to slideshows from both the developers and from residents objecting showing pictures of the proposed development not only towering over and dominating the area not just in height but also protruding right out towards the street.

The applicant had claimed that their proposals would “animate adjacent streets” Well we heard animated loud gasps of shock and horror from local residents in the chamber upon seeing pictures of the planned two towers – and these were the supposedly favourable pictures that the applicants had themselves submitted!

One of the applicants also conceded that there will be a “noticeable change” of loss of daylight for nearby properties – yes, very noticeable for those whose homes would only be 60 metres away and considering the plans were for two buildings and not just the one. There were marked contrasts as to claims about on both sides about the loss of light and the impact of this. The applicants’ surveyor had claimed the changes “would not be perceptible in Spring”

The developers had talked up the increased space in the outdoor area that the plans would have brought, but Michael Bach from the Kensington Society, opposing the plans – pointed out that the increased space in the garden was “not a gift from the developer – it is the minimum requirement”.

The plans to build a much bigger and more luxurious hotel with 749 rooms, and 340 serviced apartments also concerned many residents about the increase in traffic and pollution in an already heavily congested area. In fact we heard the applicants admit that the plans for conference facilities at the hotel could see traffic in the area increase by a third.

The applicants had made a big song and dance about how their scheme conformed to the London Plan. Well Cllr Quentin Marshall, the committee chair pointed out to them that they had ignored the RBKC local plan which did not permit such a tall tower. The committee also had concerns that the application had not taken the second building into account – oh dear, who didn’t do their homework?

They had also claimed that the extra jobs provided by the bigger hotel would be of benefit to this area – well it was pointed out to them that Kensington isn’t exactly an unemployment hotspot.

As for housing, the developers had included a token small number of so- called affordable” housing and just 11 homes for social rent – a figure that Courtfield councillor Greg Hammond called “derisory”

Cllr Sina Lari (Labour -Golborne Ward), gave both the people opposing the development and the supporters and developers of the proposed scheme a real questioning – so much so that it startled some of the developers and planning officers , and some of them ended up struggling to find answers to his questions!

He raised the very good point that the proposals were not at all in keeping with the area and actually added to the transient feel that the local community in an area already with many hotels and tourists would like to see rather less of. So much for the developers claiming that the plans would enhance the area.

Cllr Lari coming back up with ” and one more thing” a few times put us in mind of a certain TV detective and here is a THINK photoshop picture of the usually immaculately dressed Cllr Lari as Columbo….

Cllr Cem Kemahli (Conservative – Royal Hospital Ward) also gave the developers a hard time, notably over traffic and idling engines – particularly over hotel guests using taxis . The developers appeared very keen to avoid trying to answer his points.

Finally after six and a half hours, the committee voted to reject the plans (with one abstention from Cllr James Husband (Conservative – Abingdon Ward) who thought the application had some benefits such as housing provision.

We left at 11:30pm and missed the end of the meeting so sadly did not get to enjoy the sight of the arrogant developers slumping off with their tails between their legs….

One thing we will mention is that local Labour MP and councillor Emma Dent Coad, had sent a letter objecting to the proposals which was mysteriously “lost” by RBKC. The letter was eventually found on the day itself when Emma noticed her objections were not published and the Labour group made the council investigate its whereabouts. This led some newspapers to wrongly believe that Emma supported the plans.Well THINK utterly condemn this disruption of the objections procedure by playing dirty tricks – whoever this is should be ashamed of themselves.

We thank the planning committee for not accepting the planning officers’ recommendations and rejecting the scheme, but most of all we thank the local residents and the Stop The Towers campaign for fighting a good, strong and informative campaign – good on them.We also hope that Sadiq Khan will not be seduced by developers’ promises of a token few flats for social rent on the site and will let the council’s decision stay.

For now at least, residents of South Kensington can rest and get on with their lives without the destruction of parts of their local area and the disruption to peoples’ lives that this development would have brought them for years to come.

But we know that the developers Queensgate Investments have thrown millions at this proposed project and are unlikely to throw in the towel without a fight. THINK will be watching them very closely and we will expect them to come back at some point with significant amendments made to their plans.

Residents and campaigners can be rest assured that when the developers do put up a fight over this, THINKers will be firmly on the side of the locals – and we will be keeping a very close eye on the activities of the planning officers and developers .

Never mind the ballots at KCTMO: Kensington’s (allegedly) Corrupt Terrible Mismanagement Organisation

Imagine a vote conducted with no ballot boxes at first, a rule of having to show a passport or a driving licence to vote, refusal of admission even to people with a passport, one of the parties involved in the vote able to bloc vote by proxy without?proper independent verification , and some people eligible to vote not even being made aware by the organisation that the vote was taking place.

No, this is not an election conducted by some sort of crazy tinpot dictatorship that we are talking about here – this was last Thursday’s vote at the extraordinary General meeting (EGM) on resolutions put by the now-discredited and disreputable Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation to resident members.

Our blog, plus fellow local blog Grenfell Action Group plus a number of local residents and campaigners were urging members to vote NO to the resolutions. Read our post and the press release from the BWRA here:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/27/judgement-day-is-here-a-call-for-rbkc-residents-to-be-at-kensington-town-hall-at-630pm/

We arrived at Kensington Town Hall to find that as well as the TMO requiring members to bring official photo ID to go into the meeting and vote (not usually a requirement for voting in a General Election!) , residents were subject to heavy- handed security measures such as bag searches and metal detectors at the entrance. In fact we witnessed the chair of Lancaster West Residents’ Association being denied entry despite showing them her passport – ridiculous. Filming and journalists were also being banned from this meeting so there was no chance of us getting to view the very sorry proceedings ourselves.

We heard from other residents attending that the meeting (and a big thanks to all who kept us informed) was being chaired by Anne Duru, Deputy Chair of the TMO,

Unsurprisingly many members at the meeting expressed their anger and frustration with the TMO, only to be treated in a patronising, arrogant and disingenuous manner by Ms Duru. Some asked severely times if minutes were being taken and who by and Ms Duru replied (or rather, lied) and said that minutes were being taken. When challenged by local resident Samia Badani over this, and told to look over the minutes and at question 3 again, Anne “Dodo” Duru and her colleagues couldn’t – liars.

Duru and her colleagues stated that the changes that they were trying to bring about were the result of feedback in surveys from 98% of residents. Odd then that out of the hundred or so people in the room, only three people there had been surveyed. When residents from the north if the borough asked if only residents from the south of the borough had been surveyed, the TMO refused to confirm or deny – so we’ll take that as a “yes” then.

TMO residents are unfortunately all too used to this sorry organisation falsifying surveys and resident feedback and patting themselves on the back for doing a rubbish job . Have a look at this, published in their (now defunct) magazine The Link back from 2016 :

Three times members attending voted to allow the press into the meeting and this was refused.

Residents pointed out that there were no ballot boxes and eventually they brought out a couple – but these were neither guarded nor sealed.

Anne “Dodo” Duru is supposed to have a hundred and one or so qualifications and several letters after her name – odd then, that she was completely clueless and even at one point, asked traumatised residents what PTSD was. Words fail sometimes, but we think Dodo should “do one” Un fact residents were so upset with her behaviour at that meeting they voted for her to be removed as chair of it – again refused.

A 75% vote in favour of the resolutions was required to carry them and for “some reason” the TMO refused to announce the result at the end of the meeting. Anyway here, posted on the TMO website, later than promised, are the supposed voting results :

Yes, despite there being a very large and vocal opposition to the resolutions, the TMO had managed out of thin air, to get 526 proxy votes in favour. THINKers who are TMO members and did cast their “NO” votes by post were wondering if the chair had wrongly cast our votes in favour or if our votes were sitting in a office in Southampton? Because we know for a fact that more than 28 members voted NO in the postal votes.

Residents did also wonder why postal votes were expected to be received in Southampton rather than the TMO main office in Kensington This was because vote was apparently being managed by Tony Slater of Mi-Voice, an organisation that among many things, provides electoral services for membership based organisations who are based there. (We’d never heard of them!)

Tony Slater himself (pictured below) apparently has a background in managing election campaigns – so many people there were wondering how independent Mr Slater actually is? His supposed role in this was providing electoral services; anyone simply reading this post can clearly see that he didn’t exactly do a good job of that.

With a supposed vote run like this, we wouldn’t trust Tony Slater or his organisation to run a bath!

Local resident, campaigner and friend of THINK Joe Delaney posted this on Twitter:

Extraordinary General Meeting? Well it was extraordinary for being an utter shambles , that’s for sure.

Finally when the meeting ended, our council delivered one final slap in the face to those attending it by locking the doors to main part of the Town Hall where a meeting of the planning committee about the Holiday Inn Forum in Cromwell Road was still going on in the council chamber. Perhaps they felt a need to “keep the riff raff out”? Because TMO members (including a number of elderly and disabled residents) either needing to use the lavatories or hoping to catch the planning committee were forced to walk around to the front and past security to go in. THINKers attending the planning meeting at the time spotted Dizzy Lizzy coming out of the cabinet meeting room and we did wonder if she had authorised this?

We think the heavy-handed security measures speak volumes about say this council’s attitude if they appear to view residents living in social housing as a bunch of riotous thugs….

Anyway, to us, the whole sorry meeting and vote just appeared to be an exercise for some in charge of the TMO to cover their backs and one which put several locals through unnecessary distress . We will wait and see what legal responses there will be to the TMO vote and keep you posted – we very much hope residents will legally challenge this vote for the reasons we have given above, and also the 46 abstentions were not taken into account (which would have been 72.6% in favour – falling short of the 75% – plus the fact that some members did not receive a letter to their correct addresses (and we know for a fact that the TMO did have the correct addresses in question).THINK also know that there are a couple of thousand resident members of this organisation and we question as to why there was such an extremely low turnout for this vote.

As for the people in charge of Terrible Mismanagement Organisation (past and present), our reworking of their logo should give anyone reading this a very good idea as to what our blog believes should happen to them……