North Kensington, the local community and the Rotten Borough: A personal account from one of our THINKers

IMG_0827

I live in Notting Dale Ward, just around the corner from Grenfell Tower.When I saw the fire (from my back garden), my obvious feelings of shock were mixed with feelings of anger towards this council and the system of failure that caused this and outright anger as in “they’ve mutdered my friends”.

Then later, as people came together to help, feeling an overwhelming sense of pride in my local community as many came together to offer help and donations. Sadly RBKC’s so-called responses have been less than adequate, adding insult to injury for many of those affected

North Kensington is a real “London village”- we all have connections to one another and see the same faces at all the local events and feel a real sense of togetherness around here – sadly something that those in charge of this council fail to understand.

They draw up so-called “regeneration” plans that propose to “create communities” Well we have a strong community thanks you very much – communities are not created; they evolve, and ours has evolved over a considerable time to be one of the most vibrant and inclusive communities you could ever wish for.

DIVERSITY:

What is unique about North Kensington is not that it is socially and culturally very mixed – you can find this in many other areas of London too – but that people from so many varying backgrounds, and ethnicities freely mix with one another without putting barriers up and categorising themselves and others into separate groups.

As someone who comes from a rather unusual background both culturally and socially, “fitting in” to a particular community can be a challenge, but I have never found that here. People openly accept each others’ differences while also finding similarities and common ground. It is impossible to live here and not have a wide circle of local friends – I would not dream of living anywhere else.

The talk of “rich vs poor” here is the feeling of most of us that this council who mainly come from very privileged backgrounds, do not care one bit about the poor and the vulnerable. They do not mix with most of the North Kensington locals and only turn up to events if the media do.

There is very much an “old London” tight-knit community feeling mixed with a free spirited creativity and a real internationalist outlook too. We are living breathing proof that mixed communities work.

You really can come to this area and see the world yet experience traditional London at the same time and these aspects of North Kensington uniquely compliment rather than conflict each other.

A key point showing that the Tories do not understand us is their attitude towards the Notting Hill Carnival. They appear to want to turn what is a free, fun and inclusive event that celebrates not only the Caribbean community here but shows our inclusive and positive attitude to its best here, into some kind of corporate event. They go on about re-routing it to Hyde Park and even suggest introducing ticketing – ludicrous.

CREATIVITY

North Kensington also has a fairly “Bohemian” artistic creative spirit to it. There are always interesting things going on around here and you never get bored. There is street art everywhere for all to admire. There are some amazing musicians on Portobello Road and many of our residents have their own unique sense of style.

Historically this area has many links to art, music literature and fashion, but the council couldn’t be any less interested in artists, musicians, writers  and other creative types, unless they thought they could get any money out of them!

SOCIAL HOUSING:

RBKC appear to  consider social housing a privilege rather than a right. They do not invest much time or money in it and when you complain about the quality of your accommodation or other problems within it, they dismissively fob you off with excuses or completely fail to respond at all and then go on to make further cuts.

They have made really devastating cuts to housing staff which means that so many problems in social housing in the borough are not being seen to. I have had to go to my local (Labour) councillors in order to get things resolved – Cllr Judith Blakeman has effectively done the job of my housing officers for the past few years!

The fact that many in Grenfell Tower who tried to bring their many issues about the building were ignored or even bullied and many are now no longer with us or left homeless and traumatised is a national disgrace, but still this council appears to have not learned any lessons and wishes to go on with “business as usual” and has put their regeneration plans “on hold” rather than cancelled them.

A long time ago, RBKC drew up something called the “Notting Barns South Masterplan” which includes my home as well as many neighbouring blocks, and the Lancaster West Estate which Grenfell Tower is in. RBKC never actually approached any of us who live here to tell us about this plan – it was the Grenfell Action Group who obtained it under the freedom of information act.

What RBKC did announce were “regeneration” plans for the Silchester Estate (five minutes down the road from me). Of course they show plans with glossy new buildings to entice residents into thinking that they will be living in them, but in fact will be unaffordable to most and the number of social housing places will be greatly reduced.

It is also a disgrace, that some of the leaseholders affected have bought their properties under the Tories “right to buy” scheme and thought they were secure for life, will face being forced out of North Kensington and possibly even London, as well as families being broken up. It is not unusual in this area to see several different generations of families all living together – something which also  adds to the closeness of our community.

Of course Rock Feilding-Mellen  has bought a place in Bramley Road, within eyesight of both Silchester and Lancaster West Estates and the people he wishes to remove from the community. This shows ignorance of this area and also arrogance regarding  the feelings of his neighbours.

LOCAL AMENITIES:

If the actions of council couldn’t hurt North Kensington any more, there are of course, other plans that RBKC has for North Kensington.

The vast majority of residents around here  do not want North Kensington Library being leased to a private school. Yes the council plans to build a new one, but most of us are happy with the existing one.

Their plans for the proposed new library are ill-thought out to start with – the proposed building is ugly in design and they plan to combine the adults and children’s libraries together.

For me personally the library has been an oasis of calm in the middle of a very busy area. I cannot imagine being able to fully concentrate and study in peace and quiet if there are children running around!

Then there is the possible loss of Wornington College. This is a local community college with adult education courses that has provided opportunities for many around here and forms part of many local peoples’ success stories.

Many of the students there do not have the time and resources to travel very far, so it is crucial that the College remains here and retains provision of all its courses and staff. Wornington College has a real place in the hearts of many in the area and from nearby and is a key part of this community’s identity – you cannot replace this with so-called luxury flats.

Not to forget that the council also once considered giving away part of Kensington Memorial Park to a private  school as well – it appears that nothing is safe from this council who only think of money and don’t consider the true cost in devastation  to the local community that their decisions make.

A real problem all over London that many will recognise is the building of homes for the wealthy that sit empty as are bought purely for investments.

While social housing is sold off and fewer genuinely affordable properties are built, the existing local population falls. The council appear not to care that once thriving local small businesses will be forced to close and the vibrant atmosphere of our community will gradually fade away if this is allowed to continue.

We don’t want Portobello and Golborne Roads decimated and our markets, pubs and small shops to go, only to be replaced with chain stores, shops selling tourist tat and estate agents.

THE FUTURE:

North Kensington and many of our lives have been devastated by the Grenfell Tower fire and we will be traumatised for a very long time. It makes me furious that the council still wish to carry on and ignore the wishes and needs of this community and yes the TMO is still responsible for the borough’s social housing – do they ever learn? It appears not.

No sadly we will probably have to help each other as neighbours and friends to recover and count down the days to the local elections to finally give the Rotten Tories here a long overdue eviction from the Town Hall.

I believe that the future of our community is better served in the hands of residents who understand it, not those who take an interest in it that is purely financial. The Save Earls Court campaigners have produced a very inspiring set of proposals for their area, and there is no reason why we in North Kensington cannot put our heads together to come up with our own positive solutions here for all.

I am very proud of North Kensington but feel ashamed of this council and deeply angered by their attitude towards us – as soon as they are out the better.

Advertisements

1 thought on “North Kensington, the local community and the Rotten Borough: A personal account from one of our THINKers”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s