Some wondering why RBKC Conservative councillor for Earl’s Court Malcolm Spalding (pictured above) is nicknamed “Bananaman” may not remember the early days of our blog and hustings at Earl’s Court and Cllr Malcolm Spalding’s hustings performance , standng in for an absent Victoria Borwick back in 2017 . So here is our old post about it from back then:
Anyway, to more current events and after protest over the threatened eviction of RBKC tenant Chloe Williams. We can bring some good news that the eviction has been halted. As of now we do not have all the details but we thank everyone who turned up to support her on the 26th of September
That evening, also at Kensington Town Hall, there was a meeting of the new RBKC Overview Scrutiny Committee – and we have more on that meeting coming up on our blog next – of which Spalding is a member.
Housing, unsurprisingly was a big subject in the meeting with very good suggestions and points made from everyone there. Well — almost everyone – because Bananaman Spalding returned to form and said that there was ” already plenty of social housing in RBKC”!!!
Really?? Everyone knows there is a huge chronic shortage of social housing here and even the Leadeship admit that! The severe shortage of housing is why sadly the council makes final offers of housing outside the borough to people – as they did to Chloe.
Conservative councillor for Pembridge, Dori Schmetterling, sitting at the back, disagreed with Bananaman’s point about “plenty of social housing” too, pointing out that there were nearly 3000 people on the RBKC housing waiting list.
Liberal Democrat Cllr Linda Wade who also represents Earl’s Court ward was not present at the meeting, but she had said this to us: “RBKC has a chronic shortage of social and affordable rented accommodation in good condition. Unfortunately, Chloe’s case is not unique. Old and young residents face challenges such as overcrowding, damp, vermin, mould and antisocial behaviour. These Dickensian conditions should not exist in Kensington and Chelsea”.
Malcolm Spalding did say there wasn’t enough intermediate housing . But we’re not too sure what he means because he did say “for keyworkers, Police. Nurses”
Well hang on a bit – with the house prices here, the vast majority of them simply can’t afford to live here in so-called affordable housing.
Let’s go back to an article from 2015 in The Guardian by Dave Hill, which features, pre-Grenfell, the notorious “Jailhouse” Rock Feilding-Mellen:
“Councillor Rock Feilding-Mellen, K&C’s deputy leader and its cabinet member for housing and regeneration. He tells a story of a young man from a local council house background who has become a trainee manager in the financial services sector and is paid less than £20,000 a year. The royal borough contains just under 19,000 homes for social rent – 21% of its total housing stock – and there’s a large demand for it. That young man has no hope of being allocated one of his own.He’s never going to be vulnerable enough to get the points he needs for a social rented house and market prices are impossible for him. He has no way of staying in K&C at all.” Stories like that have persuaded Feilding–Mellen that the council must adjust its policies to help people in that income bracket remain in a “prime central” borough containing some of the most expensive real estate on Earth.”
” The rationale is this: “We are keen to address the growing threat of what I call ‘the dumbbell society’, where you’ve got housing at the rich end of the spectrum and housing at the vulnerable end, but nothing in the middle. ”
The article goes on to housing regenerations in North Kensington:
“Feilding-Mellen is very proud of the new “tenure blind” Portobello Square built byCatalyst Homes as part of the ongoingWornington Green estate rebuild and of the new homes where garages used to be on the western border of the Silchester estate, whose first phase was completed in partnership with Peabody in July. It comprises 91 homes, of which 36 are for social rent, 37 for shared ownership and 18 for private sale. The local lettings planfor the estate as a whole aims to use the regeneration as a way of rehousing some of the estate’s overcrowded families.”
So what “intermediate” homes are some of these then? Here are some of the flats advertised for sale at Portobello Square (they start at around £690K ) – which are very clearly way out of the reach of people earning middle income and public sector keyworkers:
A number of tenants on the Wornington Green Estate had been lied to by shameful Catalyst housing association and RBKC , and told they would be able to return to the area after being moved away “decanted”, in some cases out of the borough and in others, even outside London. These promises were not always kept.
As for the new Peabody homes – now known as “More West” Most of the people living in Shalfleet Drive – the “mini regeneration ” at least were able to be rehoused there. But this was only because there had been enough land available – from the former Silchester garages – to fit the social homes into the development – and the decants had taken place before RBKC made drastic severe changes to its housing policy
“Jailhouse Rock” did have plans for a huge regeneration project for the rest of the Silchester Estate – which would have forced not only some social housing tenants , but also all the leaseholders on the estate out of the area for good.
It was only Grenfell that really prevented this social cleansing pet project of Rock Feilding-Mellen’s from going ahead.
We note that what Dave Hill’s piece neglected to mention was that Feilding -Mellen had bought a home in Bramley Road – right around the corner from the Silchester Estate – and was clearly hoping to “cash in ” on the regeneration for himself. (After Grenfell he resigned his Cabinet position and also moved out of the area).
The whole social and affordable housing issue really needs serious reform and this issue needs to go far higher up than (a thankfully Rock-free) Kensington Town Hall
A good thing in recent times, is that “Jailbouse Rock”‘s successor at RBKC, appears to be at least trying to do something about this. Kim Taylor-Smith has been making positive moves towards building more homes for social rent in the borough (and we also have nore coming up in our blog about this soon), but ultimately, it will be down to central Government to really make a difference.
But Bananaman has made the very same comments about social and intermediate housing before – at a Planning Committee meeting on the 27th of February this year. At that meeting, RBKC granted further planning permission for Capco to go ahead with building a few more flats on the Earl’s Court site (partly in Spalding’s ward) . There had been, outside the same meeting, a protest outside the Town Hall from the Save Earl’s Court campaigners, supported by the Radical Housing Network.
This development is currently in limbo as troubled Capco are tryimg to offload it to another developer. But the approved development (22 acres of it are in RBKC ) is for luxury flats with no homes for social rent whatsoever – hardly a solution to the housing problem.
As for the Earl’s Court site, we support this petition from the Save Earl’s Court campaigners for the Mayor of London to intervene to build the world’s greenest venue on the site of the former Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre and green homes on the site too (including social housing).
Maybe Bananaman has sometbing against campaigners and protesters? It’s just as well for him that the protesters against Chloe’s eviction, who made it into the Small Hall earlier that evening, putting up pictures of rats, mice etc (we spotted one with a sign that read “Roach BKC”) had left by the time he was speaking.
We really don’t know what Malcolm Spalding was thinking. He has been on the council since 2014 and really ought to have more knowledge of this issue. Maybe there is some truth in the old myth about people getting high on banana skins after all……