Thanks to resident “G” who very helpfully looked up the information on the property and its owner and informed us, we can now reveal that it is owned by luxury interior designer Julie Simonsen and has been for a number of years.
Here is an old evening standard article on Ms Simonsen and her “Scandi style refurbishment ” of her nearby (Darnley Terrace, North Kensington) home:
Her property in Darnley Terrace is now up for sale for £3.2 million – for any of our better off readers who would like to get some North Kensington “Scandi style ” in their lives:
But what about the Avondale Park property?
Well, this comment, taken from the 2016 article seems to show what ideas Ms Simonsen had in mind for this building “One of Simonsen’s equally personal projects is doing up a property just a mile away that she recently purchased. “I want to make it into a small hotel with the idea that everything that is on show, all the furniture, everything the guests can see, they can buy. It’s my way of linking in with the local shops in the area, so that we all benefit.” Call it blue-sky thinking.”
She must have been inhaling too many paint fumes if she ever imagined this would be a good venue for a hotel! Wouldn’t somewhere much nearer to Portobello Road or Holland Park be more suitable?
Sadly, in the aftermath of Grenfell, this part of North Kensington has had some visitors tastelessly taking selfies and pictures of Grenfell Tower – the site of our loss – as if it were a tourist attraction. So we certainly don’t think any plans to turn this into a hotel would be too well received by locals now….
We are shocked that someone who clearly has excellent aesthetic design sense and put in so much love and care to her other property, would leave this home in such a state. It is a blight on the Avondale Park Conservation area and the nearby Norland Conservation Area and the pigeon excrement is a health hazard to nearby residents and park users.
We suggest that Ms Simonsen puts her design skills to good use and fixes this place up pronto, because RBKC officials do read this blog and the local councillors and surrounding community are up in arms about the state of it.
However, if she does not, this might be a good opportunity for RBKC and Kim Taylor-Smith to test out EDMOs and repossess and repurpose this poor unloved building. As we said before, the council is desperately short of family homes and this building, with work done to restore it to its former glory, would make a wonderful home and keep a family out of temporary accommodation.
Perhaps Julie Simonsen can find it in her heart to sell it to RBKC at a decent price, and make a positive difference to both our community and a family in desperate need of a home?
Of course this is far from the only example of an empty home in the borough and we are not just pointing the finger at Ms Simonsen here, but this is perhaps the most prominent example of an empty home and the only occupants of it are pigeons.
If our readers know of any other empty homes in the borough like this, that have been unoccupied for years, are an environmental health hazard and are in dire need of some TLC, please do get in touch with our blog at firstname.lastname@example.org
And we will pass this information on to the council.
We understand that some people do have second homes in our area and we do hope everyone who decides to either move or spend some of their time here does get to enjoy this borough, and what it has to offer, but leaving homes completely unoccupied for years by anyone, and in such a state of disrepair, is unacceptable. It is even more so when we have several families and individuals who live in substandard housing or are left with no choice but to live miles away from their community and support, sometimes in low grade bed and breakfast hotels and hostels.
First of all, we would like to thank Emma Will, RBKC Lead Member for Recreation, Rarks and Community safety for acting on our request to extend this and the consultation on Kensington Memorial Park until today.
The council is asking residents to have their say on improvements to Avondale Park so have your say here (the consultation closes at 11:59pm tonight so have your day here:
Avondale Park was created in 1892 out of land that had previously been mostly slurry (known as “The Ocean” around what were before, The Piggeries Yes – this is the infamous Potreries and Piggeries” part of North Kensington. The park is located at the southern end of Notting Dale Ward in North Kensington just by border with Norland Ward.
Avondale Park is also in need of love and attention – local Labour Notting Dale councillors have told us that when the park was located in Conervative-held Norland Ward, it received a lot more care from RBKC – we think it’s time something was done about that.
It is also the nearest park to Grenfell Tower, and many of its residents including some who are sadly no longer with us, used to walk there (some of us remember Steve Power walking his dogs) and play with their families there .
We do like many of the suggestions that residents have put – especially the outdoor gym area – but just like our previous post about Kensington Memorial Park, we do hope that the needs of out less fortunate residents are considered.
Avondale Park is surrounded by social housing, including Henry Dickens Estate, Lancaster West Estate, several housing association blocks and estates, temporary accommodation blocks, as well as some of the borough’s HMOs and bedsit flats. A lot of the park users live very locally and many of these residents do not have the use of a garden
As with our previous post, we will reiterate that we think the needs of children and older residents must be especially considered and we hope the council will listen to what the majority of park users want there.
One suggestion we would also like to make is some sort of community memorial for Grenfell in Avondale Park. But the council consultation does not say anything about this and this has disappointed us.
Some at our council would prefer for people to forget about Grenfell, pretend it isn’t there and sweep it under the carpet. Our blog has to tell them that these residents were and are this community and always will be. Just as seeing some of these residents before the fire alive and well in the excellent documentary Grenfell the Untold Story, we remember some of the Grenfell Tower residents alive and well in this park just as if it were yesterday – we think about them every time we are there
We believe its important for RBKC to know that these people meant a lot to us and so do our memories of them.
One further point we have is over conservation. RBKC has not maintained the park as well in recent years. This blog urges them to look after it properly and show Avondale Park the love and care it deserves – no more neglect.
As for the park keepers house just outside the park (and the terrible state of it) we have some information on that coming up in our next that some concerned members of our community may be interested in….
Pictured above, is Kensington Memorial Park in St Mark’s Road, North Kensington. The 6.65 acre park, located in Dalgarno Ward at the north western end of the borough.
The park, originally known as St Mark’s Park, a name by which many locals still call it today, was developed in 1924 from land on the St Quinin’s Estate, bought in 1923 by the Kensington War Memorial Committee, as a tribute to those who lost their lives in World War I, was opened by Princesss Louise, Duchess of Argyll in 1926, and was later further developed by London County Council mainly as a park providing play facilities for children. Further sports and recreational facilities (such as the water park and the tennis courts) were devleopers in the park later on.
There is good reason for us including this little bit of history here; first of all because RBKC is currently holding a consultation on b t the park which ends tonight – here:
And also because of residents’ concerns over what RBKC may or may not do in response, and to draw some attention to some other much more recent bits of history of the park that our council would probably like people to forget about…..
Some residents, including people who live just around the corner from the park, have told us that they were unaware that this consultation was taking place, despite RBKC claiming to have send out paper copies (What THINKers did see from RBKC was a post on Twitter, but then of course, not everybody is on Twitter)
Here is the analysis of the initial survey two years ago taken from the RBKC website:
A resident of Dalgarno Ward, who lives right around the corner from the park and was previously unaware of the consultation had this to say to us after only just hearing about it : “Surprised I didn’t receive a paper copy or hear anything about this before. I’m not on social media and would very much like to hear if any potential changes are being made to my local park. This park is unique and for people of all ages and the council should stick to improving on what we have.”
Interesting comments – and we agree with this resident and some of the comments on the council consultation before about improving what the park already has and the points on accessibility for disabled users of the park.
This, from the council website did make some residents very concerned: “There was some support for installing floodlights to the tennis courts, but this wasn’t seen as a priority for investment.Parks Team feedback – Investment for floodlights will come out of a dedicated funding pot and will not be at the expense of other park improvements.”
But we did wonder who is pushing for the floodlights? We haven”t heard of any massive local demand for them…
Well, thinking of floodlights, some memories of five years ago came flooding back to us.
This is what St Helen’s Residents had to say in 2016:
The survey was discussed at the open meeting of SHRA/StQW Neighbourhood Forum on June 9th 2016, at St Helens Church hall. The 60 people present felt that the survey was weighted towards seeking support for one main option – installing an all-weather pitch with floodlighting in place of the existing grass pitch in the west of the park.
Residents value the park as open green space which is peaceful and low-key. All weather pitches come with tall fencing that is visually intrusive, as are floodlights. It would mean that the existing grassed area could not be used for other activities, as at present.
The location of a floodlit pitch would be right outside the new development at Argyll Place and would be intrusive for residents there and along Pangbourne Avenue (see below).
The back story is that funding of £150,000 is available for improvements to the park. This was part of the Section 106 contribution negotiated between the developer of Argyll Place and the Council, at the time when the development was granted planning permission. This legal agreement included a specified list of improvements to the park, the first of which was for the grass pitch with no mention of an all-weather pitch of floodlighting. Westway Sports Centre already provides these facilities.”
The Chair, Henry Peterson sent this letter at the time:
While this is in different times and the circumstances are different to the Section 106 money disussions and the pitch proposals, seeing floodlights being pushed for again, has significantly alarmed a few nearby residents who have contacted us.
One of them said “I hope we’re not going back to the bad old days of private interests taking over public needs. The park is for everyone, but it looks like the private schools are bending the council’s ear again.”
What was happening in 2016 also did not go unnoticed by others in the borough. This was before our blog existed, but From The Hornets Nest and Grenfell Action Group were on the case
Good points about the distribution and park users made there- some THINKers live a 10-15 minute walk away (Notting Dale and Norland Wards) and we didn’t receive a thing – the main way we find out about Council consultations is because we bookmark them – but what about less tech savvy residents and the elderly and the poor?
Here, is what Grenfell Action Group also said back then “The Grenfell Action Group have recently been alerted to the fact that the RBKC’s desire to facilitate the spread of private education in North Kensington may not be confined to the disposal of the aforementioned public assets. It has come to our attention that the Council’s recent survey of local residents concerning the North Kensington Memorial Park may be motivated by an intention to further feather the nest of Notting Hill Prep School and Chepstow House by providing their pupils with sports and play facilities in the form of AstroTurf football pitches. It’s interesting to note at this juncture that Sky News reported this weekend on research commissioned by Ofsted which revealed that private schools have better facilities and a stronger emphasis on sport and P.E. than state schools, which struggle these days to afford such provision, and that this lack of emphasis on competitive sport can have a detrimental effect on the academic performance of the pupils concerned.
It is strange that those residents living in close proximity to the Memorial Park have not been provided with hard copies of the survey while those living in more affluent areas of the borough have. It would be no surprise to us if the parents of local privately educated children had also been encouraged to fill out the online survey and demand an increase in the size of artificial play areas.
It is a fact that pupils from Notting Hill Prep School are currently using the Memorial Park for outside sports and are forced at present to occupy the undersized tennis court area. No doubt the provision of more private facilities , unaffordable to the local working class population and available for future block-booking by private education providers, would secure the space they desire so that their children could play away from the toxic fumes of the Westway motorway“
So we’ll just say something now. This blog has nothing against independent schools – they are part of our community too – but the provision of park and leisure facilities must be for ALL residents and not dictated by private schools and interests.
Block booking is still a concern today and not just in our parks. Notting Dale councillor Judith Blakeman has reported her concerns before about swimming facilities at Kensington Leisure Centre being block booked by private schools, leaving local state schools going without swimming lessons – totally unacceptable.
We love our parks, in recent Covid-19 Lockdown times they especially have played a vital role in our health and wellbeing for all.
One of the residents who contacted us also pointed out that the pushing for private venues may indeed be the work of members of exclusive fee paying organisations. They also wondered if the community rooms suggestions came from sources at the council looking to leaseexistingcommunity premises in other (more expensive) parts of North Kensingtonand have ones here as some sort of token gesture.
Our blog has to stress that our parks are for ALL residents- and that private interests should never take priority over the general needs of the public. If anyone should come first, it must he the “have-nots” and not the “haves”.
We also have to stress that there needs to be better management of our parks and leisure facilities and that if any interests are going to be prioritised, these should be our state schools and community groups that do not have the resources to go elsewhere .
We need to be thinking especially of our poorer residents – because for people in overcrowded or cramped housing, for especially bothchildren and older people who do not have the use of a garden, that having full and fair use of our parks is a lifeline.
If the Council is genuinely serious about improving our parks, they must ensure their cosultstions are full, fair and as inclusive as possible, to listen to what the majority of residents need, rather then what a privileged few would like. Our parks are for everyone. Let’s keep them this way.
Yesterday evening there was a meeting of the “Grenfell Community Assembly” , in which the topic discussed was “Emotional health and wellbeing”
Some of us,, still feeling raw after watching Wednesday night’s programme – Grenfell,The Untold Story – and also because of last weekend’s events with the Government briefing the press and obviously trying to push for demolition of Grenfell Tower , didn’t quite feel up to going. We have to say it is tone deaf to say the least, given the topic, for RBKC to not postpone and to just expect residents to feel up to attending , but sadly, that is typical “business as usual” behaviour from them. We did hear that other residents were going so we hope that RBKC were listening.
We do feel that because with RBKC’s poor track record in North Kensington , failures to learn from past mistakes and their preference to make their own decisions, regardless of what others are telling them and what ought to be staring them right in the face – namely this community and its social value – our hopes for this council to listen may probably be in vain.
We also did hear that RBKC had changed the venue last minute from The Harrow Club to The Curve.
RBKC are currently holding a consultation about The Curve and its future. The lease on the building runs out next June (around the time of the 5th Anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire) and they are asking residents to have their say about services (which will no longer be provided in the building ) here:
To us, this looks like RBKC have already made the decision to not renew the lease and this “consultation” is merely a formality.
We have written before about our concerns about The Curve and what RBKC has been doing wrong before, but we have also spoken to some former Governors of The Curve and one of them had this to say to us:
“The strange thing was, when I applied and was interviewed , it all seemed to be very serious, the panel seemed to be very serious, and the other Governors were serious. We were called Governors, but in reality we didn’t govern anything. We had no power at all. It was the ultimate tickbox job and we were reduced to discussing really obvious things like staffing issues, constantly having to chase up on like things that are happening there that really shouldn’t be happening, members of staff who shouldn’t be employed – totally unprofessional things going on, and that’s what the meetings were about a lot of time.”
Our source told us about times when they had meetings where a member of the Grenfell Taskforce was present (who just sat there and did nothing apparently) and the agenda had been set aside.
Regarding how appropriate a building The Curve is for centre for traumatised members of our community, here are some personal notes from our Editor’s diary made in 2017 and 2018:
“Whoever considered a large building that was intended to be used as a hub for small firms sharing workspace, right on the LBHF border, to be an appropriate centre for traumatised residents? “C” (friend and resident) says it’s because RBKC wants us out of the way – not seen and not heard”
‘That place is an assault on the senses; radios, stereos and televisions blaring out. Feel shaken by going there. Was approached several times by professionals who wanted to take my details – refused. Saw a lot of people there who aren’t from here who were using it for the wi fi and to charge their phones and computers. Normally they’ll be in Starbucks or Caffe Nero and only ordering a token latte when staff eventually notice they’ve been sitting there on their laptop for 3 hours”
“Came to the party there and signed in as “THINK blog” and for this , I was then constantly followed around by security to the point of it being comedic – they stopped short of following me to the toilet. Their farcical security efforts at least did give others a laugh though “
And this: “Went to The Curve and signed in as THINK again – then was immediately refused entry and told “no journalists” . Despite “S” and “A” (more friends and residents) telling them that I was a local resident. Sat just outside there instead. What is the point in this? ”
Our former Governor source also said this : “The place was just the worst possible place you could design for traumatised people. The layout, the level of noise, Sometimes they’d be different classes going on only separated by a plastic room divider Really not professional”
As we know RBKC will likely answer these points by saying there was a shortage of available buildings, we do have to point our that they rented The Curve (they never bought it) paying an exorbitant level of rent at the same time they followed through with the plans made by disgraced RBKC former Deputy Leader & Cabinet Rock Feilding-Mellen and equally disgraceful former suit Richard “The Bogeyman” Egan, of leasing the former Westway Information Centre on Ladbroke Grove, a centrally located and much more suitable location for a centre for the North Kensington community (as that is, more or less, what it was before) to Notting Hill Prep School and Pret A Manger.
When one of us approached Jailhouse Rock’s successor, Kim Taylor- Smith about this after a meeting of the then Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee at Kensington Town Hall in 2017 , and giving our views that the Westway Information Centre should have been retained by the council as a community hub and was a far more appropriate venue than The Curve , he seemed to think this was some sort of a laughing matter.
Seriously – our funny photoshopped pictures and nicknames aside – we do have to point out to Kim Taylor- Smith that Grenfell, disaster, trauma and the suffering of our commuunity is no laughing matter and neither is the utter incompetence of the council’s handling of this.
Here is more from our source telling us about their experience as a Governor at The Curve: “There has to be some trust in order to take on a role, you are trusting that the, the other power is going to be some more sincere, so taking that on with a title of Governor Board of Governors. And then, bit by bit we’ve realised the penny drops, we can’t actually do anything. So then we did one last throw of the dice, which was, we simply want to make a proposal for what this place is, what it does, and what the future looks like for The Curve. My idea was, it should become a community centre, A bit like the Tabernacle but for where you live. And that would involve the council buying the building, and investing in it long term. But then one of the other governors had this big idea about skills training for young people for industries of the future so in gaming, and sports industry, things like that.with definite avenues to employment. And that was also a good idea so we combine the two really, and part of it was like a living room feel, but it would be really well thought out, and you’d have it done appropriately for traumatised people, but the main thrust was that we make this a centre for serious training. We worked on this proposal for a long time, but then the meeting with (then RBKC RBKC Grenfell Executive) Robyn Fairman came about and she was just telling us what they (RBKC) were going to do. There was no collaboration. We might as well have been speaking another language.”
Our source also told us that watching Wednesday’s programme and seeing the Grenfell Tower residents speaking to the council reminded them of their time at The Curve: “We weren’t being listened to, we weren’t making decisions. RBKC , Robyn Fairman, Barry Quirk Kim Taylor-Smith and the Government taskforce were the ones making the decisions. It’s a very kind of colonial approach. They put a little body in there to control the locals, keep them quiet, Make it look like they’ve got a bit of power but not at all. On a personal note, it was one of the worst things I’ve ever been involved in probably the worst thing in terms of organisation and the way it was structured. We were traumatised people. That’s why we were doing it – because we wanted to help because we cared.”
They also pointed out that The Curve was supposed to have 12 Governors and now there are only two and as far as they know, no world leading experts on trauma were ever brought in to advise the council over The Curve and managing facilities for traumatised residents.
No doubt RBKC will say how much money they have spent on The Curve and Grenfell Recovery – but that’s just it – stage management.
Our blog has previously highlighted issues of confidentially in other posts and another resident who also works for Grenfell NHS said this to us “Your concerns about confidentiality are justified in some cases. I can’t tell, for example, a young mother who comes to The Curve, contacts myself and my colleagues, and who tells us they are having suicidal thoughts, that their records will not be shared around and they will not be getting visits from social services, the Police or housing officers. It leaves me feeling torn, you know we’re here to help but the thing that is patient confidentiality is not always being respected. The council does access people’s records if they go there – it’s no secret, and if the resident happens to be personally known to council officers , if they are tenants of RBKC , they will likely be flagged up elsewhere and they should not be surprised to find that the council will likely hold a lot more personal information about them then they probably should”
Indeed – concerns about confidentiality and people accessing confidential records has been a real barrier to some residents seeking help for their mental health. Our source here did say that information sharing is not an everyday occurrence and she always makes clients aware of confidentiality and information issues but not every professional did and she did say that some residents had previously signed consent forms without it being ensured they had full comprehension of what this meant.
When the Grenfell night service was running, it was confidential There was help from both NHS staff and local charities available and this was done properly – with people signing consent forms and being aware of what they meant. But RBKC did not approve of this and even demanded that one of the charities invoolved hand over details of their service users. Understandably, having concerns about the sensitivity of their work, their existing services users and well as not putting off others from seeking their help, they refused. It wasn’t too long after this when RBKC pulled the plug on the nigbt service.
One of us is a former user of the night service – it was safe, confidential and very helpful and the only concerns we ever had about it were over the lack of promotion of this valuable service by RBKC and tthat it should have been moved to more suitable secular premises.
So our council, that never promoted this service, which made unreasonable demands on a highly respected long established charity, which never bothered to act on the suggestions that ourselves and many other users of the service made, simply axed it – citing lack of uptake.
RBKC has previously tried to justify their their data sharing by saying they need to monitor and measure service use – fair point- but they completely ignored the sensible suggestions made by several residents to set up focus groups made of consenting residents of different ages and backgrounds in order to do this.
Perhaps if they had, they wouldn’t have completely forgotten about older people in their initial Grenfell Recovery plans.
The level of council incompetence over Grenfell Recovery and the handling of our traumatised community is truly staggering so we’ll remind people of this post of ours again:
And mention RBKC basic communication errors of not communicating with bereaved residents in their respective languages and also the fact that it took them over a year to put together the “Together For Grenfell ” umbrella, in which they only included three of the organisations provided to them by Kensington and Chelsea Social Council on this list:
And of course, if RBKC was truly serious about Grenfell Recovery, then they wouldn’t have scrapped the Council Committee that was supposed to be scrutinising it.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and our thoughts are with everyone affected It is beyond appalling that we have to tell our council that one of the last sightings of a resident who took their own life, was of them turning up at The Curve to seek help around 8pm to find it closed. This was after the night service was axed.
Much more recently, we have heard reports that another resident took their own life at an underground station, many residents have suffered from breakdowns, and other residents suffering were just told to”call 999″. We cannot stress how unacceptable all of this is.
This community is a friendly close-knit one, with many highly skilled residents who are keen to help others out. Our council doesn’t seem to value community-led recovery very much, even when people have made it clear that they are much more comfortable using these services than ones run by the council.
The SPACE, one such positive valuable and helpful resident led community hub, is still in need of storage space for their baby bank initiative.
If the council really did want to move Grenfell Recovery in a more resident-led direction they have a funny way of showing it..
One resident spoke to us about the “Grenfell Community Leadership Programme” and did say they found it helpful, but did question where this would go “because if some of us are doing this trainng , we do wonder what are we going to get at the end of it? Starved of resources and made to bid for the scraps of funding against other community groups? ”
We hope that RBKC and the Government do read this post carefully and especially do take note of what other residents have said. They might be coming from different perspectives on this , but it all amounts to the same thing- that RBKC “Grenfell Recovery” is failing the Grenfell community.
So we will end with some key points our picture is of an “impossible heart”, the impossible being an optical illusion that actually is a lot more possible than it appears
– POINT 1 : TRUST –
It is clear, for very obvious reasons and their poor track record in North Kensington that RBKC is not very trusted among residents here. That should not be an excuse for cutting and removing vital services. The “top down ” “box ticking ” approach to Grenfell Recovery is a shambles .
Trust has to be earned, and it certainly isn’t earned with that approach, by ignoring resident- led initiatives and by deciding they know this community better than the people who live here.
Trust works both ways, and its clear that RBKC does not trust committed residents with either funds or decision making very much. This needs to change.
– POINT 2: RESPECT –
Respect, just like trust has to be earned, and the council has treated residents including those who spoke to us, with zero respect. There is a lot of “talking down ” to people and groups and ignoring others going on – there has been from the beginning and it still goes on now.
Just sitting down at the table with others, treating them like equal human beings and accepting that people who live and/or work in North Kensington will know considerably more about this community, its residents and what works and doesn’t, than suits based at Hornton Street would have been a start.
– POINT 3 : UNDERSTANDING –
Nobody expects others who have never suffered first hand trauma of Grenfell and have not lost their home, members of their family, friends, neighbours to have an innate understanding of what this is, but residents, including the people who spoke to us and indeed ourselves, do at least hope to be listened to. RBKC are certainly NOT “‘Putting Communities first” .
Understanding is also about not getting caught in tunnel vision or black/white thinking, but looking at and exploring the possibilities carefully and examining what is working and what isn’t.
Which brings us to the final point –
THE WHOLE PICTURE
Our “impossible heart” Grenfell optical illusion picture also alludes to the fact that RBKC ‘s approach to the process is stage managed as in “pour money into The Curve and say you are spending this on Grenfell Recovery” and “have fake “consultations when you have made the decisions already” – creating the illusion they are genuinely listening to us.
It’s not impossible to find possible ways forward.
Impossible figures like this heart, only appear impossible – the solution is there, right in front of you – the answer is in how you see it, perspective, and sadly this is how they are getting it all wrong. They have the wrong perspective. . Some at our council, especially Elizabeth Campbell and Kim Taylor-Smith, have accused members of this community of “playing politics”, but by labelling and portraying residents who are communicating with the council and trying to find positive ways forward as “rebels” “activists” and “troublemakers” they are doing just that.
It’s time this was all viewed from a different perspective, and our blog believes that Grenfell Recovery will not work here while RBKC is in charge of it. It’s time to send Commissioners in.
72 innocent members of our community needlessly lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire disaster on June the 14th 2017.
Survivors, relatives, friends and members of our community living nearby will forever be devastated and traumatised by the events of that morning, the loss of their relatives, friends and neighbours, and also by the fact that still, more than four years after, nobody has been brought to justice..
Sadly we do have to keep reminding certain parties – because why then, is the Government publicly briefing newspapers about demolition of the Grenfell Tower site instead of having discussion in full over this with bereaved, survivors and local residents of our North Kensington community?
This was put out at 6pm yesterday, AFTER the Grenfell Memorial Commission had held discussions with the community about the site and BSRs were not notified before this article was released – beyond disgraceful.
Natasha Elcock, Chair of Grenfell United, said this to LBC yesterday : “Part of the process was the bereaved and survivors and the local community would be at the heart of the decision making process around the future of the Tower, and today, less than 10 of the bereaved or survivors have been consulted on the process. So as you can imagine, this evening, there is a lot of shock, amongst the community around. It almost feels like the decision had been made”
Here is just some of what Karim Mussilhy from Grenfell United had to to say to Andrew Castle on LBC: “We all having these discussions publicly about something that’s so sacred to us where our families died and some of the remains still remain. And this is happening, publicly, and we even haven’t had the opportunity to have these conversations”
Andrew Castle responded to Karim by saying “to be honest, the decision hasn’t been made yet has it? “
Well we’d say it is plainly obvious by the way Government officials are briefing the press and calling this a “fait accompli” , the way in which they have approached this by deliberately bypassing the bereaved, survivors and the local community, as well as local North Kensington councillors – all of whom have not seen the latest report from the structural engineers – that they have already made the decisions and they have gone about doing so in just about the most cruel, callous, insensitive and disrespectful way possible.
Karim pointed out that the structural engineers were appointed by the Government, that they have never met with them, yet people are expected to take their reports at face value. He also said ” It’s like going to a doctor to get a second opinion. We’ve spoken to structural engineers that have told us, if that tower, if people want that tower to stay up – the tower can stay up” .
Only a few days ago Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Goverment visited this constituency and met with Kensington MP Felicity Buchan and Leader of RBKC Elizabeth Campbell. The purpose of his constituency visit? A PR photo op. He did not go to North Kensington or mention anything about Grenfell Tower at all.
This insult to the bereaved, survivors and the North Kensington community just shows that Jenrick and his Government wish to sweep Grenfell under the carpet as soon as possible, to erase it from memory, to evade justice to forget about our affected community and to go ahead with “business as usual”.
Our blog has this to say to Robert Jenrick:
“No demolition without fairand full consultation. And by this, we mean discussions with the bereaved, the survivors and the North Kensington community; rather than discussions withthe media.
Your officials say the building is structurally not safe, but it’s hard for people to trust you here; not just because of what happened in 2017, but the failure of this Government to address the building safety issues properly and the many various ways in which you and your Government colleagues have continually failed people affected.
The writers of this blog are affected residents ourselves, so we will not be discussing too much in this blog as to what we think or feel should be happening or not to to the site here , but we will say that we strongly agree with Grenfell United representatives about the need for a second opinion on how safe or not it is for Grenfell Towerto remain in place – this is the site of peoples’ loss after all.
Survivors, bereaved and this community MUST be respected; so should the processesof the Grenfell Inquiry and justice be respected and so should the memories of those who are no longer with us.
The only public media statement you should be offering right now is an apology for your disgraceful conduct over this. We also demand that if demolition is such a matter of urgency and this is a matter of public safety, that you come to North Kensington and hold a meeting with the bereaved, survivors the Memorial Commission, local councillors and North Kensington residents and that you share IN FULL – your reports from structural engineers and that you allow people hereto question you on this.
The fact that you haven’t bothered to and seem to prefer putting on PR shows and briefing the media instead seems to indicate to people here that you and your colleagues have your own motives behind this and possibly somethingto hide. Shame on you. “
THINK will leave the final words here with Grenfell United:
(“Carnival Councillors 2021” L to R – Cllr Portia Thaxter, Cllr Emma Dent Coad, Cllr Mo Bakhtiar, Cllr Judith Blakeman, Cllr Julie Mills & Cllr Ian Henderson)
Unfortunately , due to Covid-19 there was no Notting Hill Carnival again this year. However a few ticketed events did go ahead, including Panorama, the national steel pan competition, held at Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance Park in North Kensington last weekend. Our congratulations to Mangrove, who came first, and also Ebony who took second place, and The Metronomes who took third place.
Carnival was badly missed by many locals and visitors alike this year, and while the need for people to keep safe is understood, quite a lot of people had written to us about missing Carnival and their fears for the future of the event.
Because some of the events were held elsewhere, this caused quite a stir We have to say that our inbox had plenty of emails from locals who were upset (particularly about events in Holland Park and Chelsea) and some expressing concerns about the future of Notting Hill Carnival becoming a paid ticketed event.
Here are just a few excerpts from emails we had from residents upset that there was a paid ticketed Carvival event at Holland Park held with Holland Park Opera: “What the —- does Holland Park Opera have to do with Carnival, its roots and black culture?” “Why isn’t there anything around Ladbroke Grove?” “Don’t forget about Holland Park Opera getting all that money from RBKC – was this an RBKC decision? ”
So THINK will clarify things a bit – it was not an RBKC decision – it was a decision made by the Notting Hill Carnival organisers for the event not to go ahead due to Covid-19. This paid event, as we understand it, was organised largely because the Carnival organisers are desperately short of funds and there was an expectation that some sort of Carnival-related event should go ahead.
There was also some sort of Carnival event in Chelsea which some residents were also upset about and also saw some responses on Twitter. Here are just a couple of them…
The Chelsea event, as we understand it was part of the Kensington and Chelsea Arts Festival. We recognise the need for the Carnival organisers to raise funds, but we do share some of the concerns expressed by locals that by having events in Holland Park and Chelsea rather than North Kensington, does seem to rather move away from the event’s roots around here and this also reminds people of the borough’s north- south social tensions,, which is partly why some residents were thinking of RBKC (yes, they’ve got a lot to answer for but not this!)
So we do hope that next year, the views of residents who wish to see the Notting Hill Carnival we know and love return to our streets are taken on board. The Chelsea event was free and we cannot quite understand why this wasn’t held in North Kensington given this is the natural home of Carnival and why on earth someone took the decision to hold it there rather than here.
As for a few people upset about Panorama being a paid event, well that has been a paid event for some years now and we have no issue with that – Carnival funds have to come from somewhere, and also that people pay for concerts and shows all the time – but we do think that some tickets ought to be available to purchase in cash outside the venue as having it all booked via credit or debit card only does tend to exclude poorer residents.
Carnival often draws mixed views from people who live here, with most, like us, who love it and wish to see Europe’s largest street party remain a free, fun, multicultural event here for many more years to come. But there are some others who do not like the crowds, noise and mess and find it difficult when the event comes to their doorsteps (there are usually plenty of arguments on our local Nextdoor about it every year).
Also some rather more exclusive people in or near our locality, have previously been in the act of smearing Notting Hill Carnival before and calling for it to be held in parks as some sort of corporate based paid ticketed event. So we do understand the concerns from locals who are longstanding Carnival goers regarding paid ticketed events and fearing that this is what Carnival will turn into.
The absence of Notting Hill Carvival this year and last year, even to some residents who weren’t the biggest fans of it, has left the area feeling rather empty and depressed at August Bank Holiday. Most other local residents that we have spoken to, really do wish to see the event back on the streets of North Kensington next time.
As for funding, we urge those who like us, love Notting Hill Carnival and wish to see it back on our streets, to donate to the Carvival Village recovery fund here:
Such a huge event obviously requires money and by donating or at least sharing the link to others who can donate, hopefully at least a lack of funding won’t be any obstacle to having Carnival back here where it belongs next time.
So we hope the organisers do get enough funding and also do listen to locals – after all, it’s the Notting Hill Carnival not the Chelsea Carnival or the Holland Park Carnival.
Whether the event will be back next year or not, will largely depend on Covid-19 and whether it is deemed safe to go ahead with such a large public gathering. Fingers crossed for its return next year…..
This Summer, our council has been promoting the “Kensington and Chelsea Summer of Love” there are a whole host of events – activities, exhibitions, shows, lots of stuff to do around the borough this Summer – check it out here:
RBKC Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for Grenfell, Housing and Social Investment Kim Taylor-Smith and his colleagues are determined to push through over 100 flats, including two tower blocks, one 14 storeys high, right through the middle of the Cheltenham Estate which will also obscure views of Erno Goldfinger’s magnificent listed Trellick Tower and the Estate.
Residents have had no input in the selection of the architects, Haworth Tompkins – selected in 2014 by disgraced former RBKC Deputy Leader Rock Feilding-Mellen – plus what the council now proposes to build is far too high, too dense and too damaging to community infrastructure – the scale is also contradictory to the council’s own SPD in the fact that it is higher that 6 storeys and does not respect existing buildings on the site. Also, as we reported before, Haworth Tompkins insisted on segregating the social housing and private residents – poor floors ‘ in flats they are building elsewhere in Walthamstow. We say social segregation is not welcome – especially in our wonderful mixed community.
As Gill’s blog also says , both the architects Haworth Tompkins are not experienced in building high rises, and the fire safety issues of having two high rise buildings in such close proximity ought to be discussed.
As for the discussions that did take place with residents, the input from local resident representative steering group CoMMET appears to have been totally disregarded by both RBKC and Haworth Tompkins. Have a look at this letter from them:
And here is Kim Taylor-Smith’s response:
Seriously, what’s the point in asking for residents’ views if you are not going to be bothered to take them on board? But it gets worse, as Cllr Taylor-Smith has gone about both on social media and at council meetings, portraying local residents as NIMBYs and trying to say that they are against having anything built on the site – what a liar!
This is what he said at a meeting of the RBKC Housing and Communities Select Committee back in May:”On our second consultation, 67% of the residents do not want it or are not interested, they don’t want the development on that site, because they feel, I think the quote I’ve got here is like sardines. Now, my challenge is balancing the demand for the local resident who is obviously going to be impacted by that building, but also the necessity for us to provide housing for our homeless, and my personal challenge for me is to represent the voices of those people who are in temporary accommodation, also desperately needing a home because we’re not consulting with them when we’re going out onto consultation, and I think that’s a voice that very much needs to be heard. Do we listen to residents or do we listen to the homeless?”
Kim “Tailored-Sloth” might not be feeling the love for local North Kensington residents, but never mind, we’ve got a very special “gift” for him…
For ignoring the local community – and that’s a large majority opposed to what the council is proposing to build in on the Edenham site, for lying and putting a false narrative and spin on things, for having the nerve to call the locals objecting- mostly occupants of social housing – “privileged”and for ignoring the concerns that Gill Kernick, CoMMET and other residents have put to him, for misrepresenting what co-design means (no it doesn’t mean that residents have the final say but it does mean they have some input in this – instead of being ignored and disregarded) and also for having the outright nerve to portray himself as the “voice of the homeless” (!!), THINK proudlypresent KimTaylor-Smith with a Piglet-Pie Award:
It’s his second one so his mantelpiece will need to be bigger than his ego. We know the residents, we’ve watched all the online meetings as well as all the steering group meetings – the community were keen to work productively and positively with the council over this – anyone simply reading the CoMMET letter or reading Gill’s blog can see that! We probably should also go and present KTS with a dictionary so he can look up what consultation and co-design actually mean.
We, just like other locals, are not against housing on the site, but we say these plans are wrong, the community should have a say and also that it’s time to ditch “Jailhouse” Rock’s choice of architects
And while Kim “Tailored-Sloth” takes a Summer holiday and retreats into his tree to escape upset residents on social media, we think he should spare a thought for people living in or around Trellick Tower and the Cheltenham Estate whose “habitats” are now under threat thanks to his forcing this monstrosity upon them . This Summer is most definitely not a “holiday” for many residents here who are suffering from RBKC’s failure to learn from Grenfell and change their ways We ask our readers to please join us and let Tailored-Sloth and his colleagues know that their behaviour over this , their planned act of cultural vandalism and their disgraceful attitude towards members of our North Kensington community is completely unacceptable.
So we ask our readers, wherever you live, to please also join us and sign and share this petition and let’s all tell RBKC that it is time to reconsider and go back to the drawing board.. North Kensington deserves better.
When should council tenants and leaseholders be included or not included in the Tenants Consultative Committee? What about when the council’s work programme is discussed which includes works done to THEIR HOMES???
Apparently not, here is a response from Iago Griffith, RBKC Head of Resident Engagement and Partnerships to a North Kensington local councillor who raised this on a behalf of a constituent:
“Residents of street properties and small blocks without resident associations and compacts do have the their meeting which is the HOMES meeting. This is open to all such residents and meets bi-monthly and discuss much of the same topics as those discussed at the TCC, and is always attended by Doug Goldring and senior officers, we are always keen to encourage further attendance at these meeting and have on several occasions written out to encourage attendance. We do always ensure where we can parity with the TCC, with the same agenda’s items being discussed, and attendance from Cllr Taylor-Smith, Doug Goldring and other senior officers. “
“You raise the role of the HOMES representatives. Bruno DeFlorence and Gaenor Holland-Williams role is largely to represent HOMES on the TCC – to ensure synergy with that committee, rather than represent all street property residents per se, as all of these residents are invited to the HOMES meeting. Never the less I am aware both Bruno and Gaenor do at these meetings raise issues by other street property residents, and I agree with your point if they are to act as advocates there contact details need to be available and at certain points the HOMES group needs the opportunity to re-elect its representatives. This can be discussed when the group meets again in late September.”
“We are keen to build up the HOMES group and I would be only too happy to have an informal discussion with a constituent of yours who may have ideas on how to do this. Kind regards. Iago:“
Well this response is something of a joke, because not only do the “HOMES” representatives live nowhere near the resident’s North Kensington home, the resident in question was part of the small group of residents who called to set it up in the first place, and it was intended to be part of the MAIN TCC GROUP and not some inferior little offshoot, as we said previously here:
But RBKC seems to view residents in smaller blocks and street properties as third class citizens who don’t deserve the same level of communication and respect as those in RAs.
We hate to go on and on about it but why otherwise wouldn’t Iago Griffith and his fellow Resident Engagement officers just send links to the meetings to any tenant or leaseholder who is interested to join? There really isn’t any reasonable excuse for this.
But RBKC might want to shut these residents up and out of these meetings for other reasons too. The resident who contacted their local councillor was under threat of regeneration before Grenfell – these were the little North Kensington regenerations planned outside of the Silchester Estate that people did not even receive so much as a letter about. If this had gone ahead, they would have ended up being forced out of the borough on the quiet.
With RBKC returning back to “business as usual” it appears that the council doesn’t want these residents to make some noise, especially if it will alert others towards any posssible future regeneration plans that the council may have in store for us.
If anyone is thinking our warnings about regeneration are a little far-fetched, let’s not forget about what Dan Hawthorn (pictured second right, next to Mr Griffith) , RBKC Executive Director for Housing and Social Investment, was doing before he came to Hornton Street – he was in charge of housing at Haringey Council – and partly responsible for the controversial (and thankfully axed) HDV regeneration scheme there. While times have changed and Mr Hawthorn may have moved on since then, quite what the motivations were for RBKC to hire the man in charge of such a scheme for the housing top job here, does make us wonder…
Plus, let’s also not forget that RBKC Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Grenfell, Housing and Social Investment Kim Taylor-Smith did tell a meeting of the Housing and Communities Select Committee some time back, that he thought that the council should at some point go back and look again at regeneration of properties that are more costly for the council to maintain.
RBKC tenants and leaseholders of smaller blocks and street properties, you have been warned!
in which they tried to evade questioning from residents and from Felicity Buchan, outright refused to provide compensation to residents wbose property was badly damaged by the heavy flooding (they didn’t quite use the tern “act of God” but as good as said that ), made empty excuses to angry residents and only recommended FLIP switches as flood prevention and vaguely said there would be an “Independent Review” but didn’t say much else. We gained little to nothing from that meeting, apart from seeing that Thames Water Directors are more full of crap than people’s sewage-flooded homes were…
When FLIP switches were discussed in that meeting resident Stephanie pointed out that all these do is divert it somewhere else. Well, we know that social housing providers, RBKC council and various housing sssociations do not usually invest a great deal of money on their housing stock, and we think presenting this as a solution could end up in future with wealthier residents who are able to pay for this work, suffering from fewer incidents of flooding in their homes than poorer residents. In any case, pushing the problem further on to the homes of others is far from an ideal solution…
As floods such as last month’s are set to be a nuch more regular occurance with climate change, we say this needs to be considered again. A resident of Barnes, another affected part of London told us they think a “super sewer” for London is the solution, and this may be controversial, but we think this is a more sensible option than expecting residents to pay for FLIP switches or otherwise living with their homes and businesses flooded every year and being told to take out insurance ….
Our blog will be keeping a close eye on Thames Water, and we will not let them kick this “Independent Review” into the long grass, as will many of our affected local residents.
Last Friday, the Colville Labour councillors, Monica Press, Ian Henderson and Nadia Nail, arranged for Thames Water to have a stall at Portobello Market, and far from the PR exercise that Thames Water may have hoped it would be, we have heard they had to face more affected residents , who gave them an earful too – good.
At least some of our local representatives are listening and ensuring that Thames Water hears the voices of our residents and don’t just complacently sit on their fat profits and do nothing while people suffer. Thames Water make over £100 million profit – we expect action, rather than fobbing off people This is their infrastructure, they are expected to maintain it responsibly and respond accordingly to changing times and circumstances. The word is that some residents will be looking to take legal action against Thames Water if any more such instances occur, if not before .
Pictured above is a block of council flats located in Hesketh Place, North Kensington. It was built in 1906. Looks quite nice from the outside doesn’t it? But it will not be looking so attractive for much longer if the council has its way….
Pictured below is its neighbouring block, a block of temporary accommodation flats known as “Hesketh and Runcorn” which straddles Hesketh place to the south and Runcorn Place to the north. As you can see, unlike the first (permanent accommodation) block, of flats the KCTMO were not so kind to the exterior of this block as the window replacements were and still are, completely out of character to the age of the building.
Neighbouring smaller buildings in Walmer Road have not been as fortunate with their window replacements either:
RBKC now has a window replacement programme (part of their so-called “home improvement scheme “) which includes all these properties. The problem is, just like the bad old TMO, the council wants to do this on the cheap and what could have been an oppotunity to replace the ugly cheap and inappropriate windows with ones more appropriate to the character and age of the bulldings with a more appropriate design and well as being more energy efficient, is now turning into an act of vandalism.
On the 20th of July, the Planning Applications Committee approved window replacements for these in Walmer Road, but these will be like-for-like nasty cheap ones, rather than something more in keeping with the character of the buildings. We thought RBKC could do with a local geography lesson, as the Planning Officers seened to be rather clueless about the area. It isn’t in a conservation area, but it is in VERY CLOSE PROXIMITY to both the Avondale Park Consservation Area and tthe Norland Conservation Area
Residents of these buildings were not consulted with about the design at all, and we strongly feel windows like this, above, should NOT be on properties that are over 100 years old and which sit very closely located to conservation areas.
So here are some words for RBKC:
Just because the KCTMO did it, that does not mean it is acceptable. People in this neighbourhood live around the corner from Grenfell Tower and have a permanent tragic reminder of shoddy works done by RBKC and KCTMO on the cheap – living with the loss of 72 members of their community. Enough is enough.
We are not opposed to the principle of energy efficient windows, we are opposed to it being done with zero respect and consideration for design and age of the buildings, no proper consulting with residents (and neighbouring RAs and Consetvation Groups should have been consulted about this too) and what is part of the same programme on buildings in the same location, of buildings of the same age should all be treated as ONE planning application, not lots of little ones desgined to hurry tbis though the Planning Applications Committee boping nobody will notice.
RBKC in fact used the ” it is not in a conservation area but sits close to conservation areas” argument as part of their case for opposing the Holiday Inn Forum Hotel scheme in Cromwell Road, South Kensington. Conservation matters. It matters in South Kensington , it matters in North Kensington and it should matter no less with regard to social housing.
After all, it’s completely hypocritical of a council wbich claims to do its best to preserve older buildings and conserve the borough, and comes down hard on residents who fit inappropriate windows or decorate the exterior of their home inappropriately, to then go and do this. It is sticking up two fingers to residents of both these properties and to other residents in both Notting Dale and Norland wards.
As for the interiors of these properties, well, the word is that RBKC cares even less about that and that residents in these are receiving poorer housing services than they did under the TMO.
And to “hammer home” the point, here is our UPVC window photoshopped makeover of the RBKC Deputy Leader and Lead Member for Grenfell, Housing and Social Investment, Kim Taylor-Smith’s Chelsea home:
Meet Fat Cat Ian Marchant (pictured above). Mr Marchant is Chair of Thames Water and gets paid £325,000 for a two day week. Alright for some….
No doubt he has never had to undergo the ordeal of being knee deep in water and sewage in his home or business. His prize possessions will be secure and insured to the hilt, unlike many residents and businesses in and around our area (some of whom on top of their ordeal, are facing real hardship) after the flash floods two weeks ago.
Fat Cat Marchant has only been photoshopped by us in North Kensington, and we think he should pay our area a visit and talk to residents whose homes were badly flooded here. He certainly needs a reality check….
Perhaps he can be bothered to lift himself out of his cat basket to look at some of what our fellow Kensington bloggers at From The Hornets Nest have had to say about him and his company here?
On Tuesday July the 27th at 6pm, there will be this online Q & A meeting called by Kensington MP Felicity Buchan, where affected residents can put their questions to Thames Water. There is still just a day left to RSVP to Felicity Buchan’s office felicity. email@example.com to register attendance and send questions in. We strongly recommend that any of our local readers who have been affected do go. RBKC will be there too:
It’s fair to say this blog isn’t usually full of praise for Felicity Buchan, but for organising this meeting, we say thank you and well done to her.
But no pats on the head for Fat Cat Marchant and his company, and disappointingly, affected residents and businesses with many questions about lack of maintenance, infrastructure , planning , future flood prevention given the climate crisis and why Thames Water, that rakes in £500 million profit, spends less than £20 million on cleaning and maintaining the capital’s sewers – won’t get to meet Fat Cat Marchant there (he is probably too busy dislodging his head from a bowl of cream ), or the other Thames Water big fat cats. So three stooges from the company will be there instead.
Today, with the constant rain, our thoughts have been for all affected by the floods and really hoping there won’t be a repeat of two weeks ago. We’re also wondering what it will take to get Thames Water to get their act together….
UPDATE: Residents who have any questions for Thames Water can go and speak to them on Friday July the 30th as they will be in the area. Representatives from Thames Water will be in Portobello Road, running a stall on pitch 51 outside Moneycorp in Portobello Road/Colville Terrace W11 from 10am to 4pm.