Kingspan insulation products used for building of new North Kensington special needs school

THINKers are shocked, disgusted and horrified to learn that insulation made by Kingspan (makers of the Kooltherm K15 flammable insulation on Grenfell Tower, who were revealed at the Grenfell Inquiry to have missold the material and to have lied about their fire safety tests) is being used in the construction of a new school in North Kensington.

This shocking picture is of Kingspan materials piled outside Barlby Primary School, North Kensington, intended for use in the construction of the new Queensmill Kensington school – the first special needs school in RBKC.

Here is how upset residents responded on Twitter – along with a response from Kim Taylor-Smith, RBKC Deputy Leader and Lead Member for Grenfell Housing and Social Investment and a statement from the council:

Many of us in North Kensington, already feeling let down and that this local authority does not care one bit about residents in social housing and a whole community devastated by the needless and preventable loss of 72 innocent lives in the Grenfell fire diaster – also now feel that the council do not care about our children, schools and families.

While a response from RBKC and an investigation is welcome, it appears they have not committed to halting the construction of the school, made any sort of commitment to the public that they will cease to use products made by companies like Kingspan or that they will cease to use the services of certain contractors – in this case Mace – who still buy and use Kingspan products.

RBKC is usually more concerned with their image and putting on PR spin than they are with how they REALLY behave towards residents, so perhaps they may care to remember that they are also seeking legal action against companies who sold (or rather missold) flammable materials for use on Grenfell Tower – including Kingspan if the Inquiry finds against them. So some at our council who would usually show an insensitive or an indifferent attutude towards Grenfell, North Kensington, the poor and the vulnerable, are on this at least, sittng up and paying attention.

Kim Taylor-Smith is a successful property developer (far more so than his predecessor) and some would have thought that he might have checked what building materials were used in council constructions, but we do accept that Cllr Taylor-Smith is extremely busy and cannot necessarily keep an close eye on everything. However, we would think that he would have delegated to someone to oversee the building and contractors and to do so responsibly – as Ana’s Tweet says – ” do your due diligence” . Clearly whichever council suit /suits who were supposed to be overseeing this have some questions to answer.

Here is what the Leader of the RBKC Opposition Labour Group, Pat Mason has had to say: “I feel more rage now with this news than I did when I listened to those truly dreadful weeks of evidence at the public inquiry from companies who supplied or installed cladding and insulation on the outside of the tower-and these included Kingspan-that led Sir Martin Moore-Bick in Phase 1 to declare that the exterior cladding fuelled the fire and was a breach of building regulations

Why has the Council not ordered that all contractors and suppliers of materials who have appeared at the Grenfell Inquiry should not be considered for any work until the Inquiry has concluded and its recommendations are clear?”

Cllr Mason also called for the materials to be removed, for an investigation, he has questioned who authorised this, if there is any use of other products named at the Grenfell Inquiry , inquired as how many other developments in the borough are using material from companies named (and shamed) at the Grenfell Inquiry, and he has also written to the Health and Safety Executive.

This appears to be yet another case of RBKC negligence, and yet again, we are asking for information and answers. How could have just let this “slip through the net”? How many other of our developments have used or are still using Kingspan products? What other projects in RBKC are Mace contracted to work on? How many other of the firms that knowingly supplied combustible materials used on Grenfell Tower have been involved with other builds or refurbishments?

THINK demands answers to our questions from RBKC. and we are emailing this blog post to the RBKC Cabinet, as well as the RBKC Overview and Scrutiny Committee .

The council is proposing new changes to tenancy agreements (coming up in our blog) which put even more rules, conditions, standards and responsibilities upon residents and are mostly about what they expect from us. But what residents are getting on the receiving end from RBKC is very defintely not what is called for or needed – or indeed right or proper.

What we have received from RBKC is more of the same old culture of negligence, arrogance, lots of nice little words and statements that never go anywhere, Council Scrutiny vastly reduced and residents and their concerns (especially in the north of the borough) being constantly ignored, disrespected and disregarded. When the council have said they have changed, all this appears to mean is they have post-Grenfell, increased their PR machine (by over 400%) and are now wasting xxxx amounts of money on various advisors and consultants to supposedly make themselves look better all the while they forget who they are supposed to be serving here.

The lives of North Kensington locals along with others in the borough – largely the poor, the vulnerable, and others in social housing – are being put at risk by RBKC’s “who cares” attitude. It speaks volumes – and basically says that as far as the council is concerned, it’s back to Kensington Town Hall “business as usual” – with absolutely no lessons learned from Grenfell at all.

Grenfell, RBKC, KCTMO, our housing and a man with some information

Today, Module 3 of the Grenfell Inquiry has  begun and our thoughts have been with all the survivors , the bereaved and affected residents in our North Kensington community.

. The Inquiry today heard opening statements from legal representatives of BSRs, as well as legal representatives from RBKC and from KCTMO. The video and the papers are at this link

Our blog has uncovered one man  who may have sone information to share with the Inquiry as well as information to share with others at the present RBKC Housing team. Meet John Parsons AKA  the mysterious “John P” as featured in our previous blog post about some RBKC suits here


Most of us – including some senior RBKC councillors – have never heard of John Parsons. He has been here for 20 years, starting at KCTMO as a Landscape Surveyor, working his way up to Property Systems Analyst before becoming Technical Services Manager at the discredited KCTMO, and then at RBKC Housing, where he still remains today.

Just in case anyone is still in the dark as to what Mr Parsons’ responsibilities were and still are, , we found this from the KCTMO Link magazine, back in September 2016 here:

That’s right, Mr Parsons was and is repsonsible for logging, keeping and managing data on all RBKC and former TMO housing stock and has been so for at least the past TEN YEARS.

So we hope that Mr Parsons is called to the Grenfell Inquiry in this module to share what information he may have about the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower and the acrions  and inactions of both RBKC and KCTMO during that time. 

So far, the only mention of  evidence from Mr Parsons at the Grenfell Inquiry  we have found have  been these emails from Phase 1: 

So many questions  go through our minds , especially because it appears from what we have heard so far at the Grenfell Inquiry  that there  wasn’t a particularly “sophisticated ” location mapping system in place  when the KCTMO was responsible for the management of Grenfell Tower. 

We do have to state that our blog is obviously aware that the  responsibility for logging conditions of properties and refurbishments falls on the shoulders of more than just one person.

However we have noticed even in¬† that¬† little KCTMO Link article that a couple¬† of¬† things Mr Parsons says there aren’t¬† true . For example there were no regular electrical checks on¬† most of the KCTMO properties¬† they were managing at that time. In fact, RBKC only started having regular electrical checks on properties a couple of years ago . And residents having¬† ¬†“new kitchens and bathrooms” is a lie too. Maybe someone was feeding Mr Parsons false information?¬† Or maybe there was a whole chain of wrong information?

So with regards to Grenfell, we have so many questions……..

 Getting to the bottom of everything that happened at Grenfell  of course,  is the job of the Inquiry and not us,  but we do have sone other questions that we want to put to Kim Taylor-Smith, RBKC Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Grenfell and Housing and RBKC Director of Housing Management Doug Goldring. 

Back in December 2017,  at the first meeting of the Tenants Consultative Commitee since it was reinstated, Doug Goldring told residents that the council was going to  undertake an assessment of all their housing stock, and that RBKC was “only just finding out ” what conditions properties were in. So we want to know what Mr Parsons, the man whose job it was to record this, knew all this time ? 

The fact that  what Mr Goldring  said to residents was basically an admission by the council that KCTMO did  not do a terribly good job of recording the conditions of our housing stock really begs the question ,why Mr Goldring and Cllr Taylor-Smith kept  a man who by the looks of things had failed to record this properly, in his post?

At a fairly recent meeting of the RBKC Housing and Communities Committee, Cllr Robert Freeman asked Mr Goldring to guarantee that the council would not return to the “bad old days of the TMO” – because not all residents- including us- are convinced that our council has moved forwards; we think their decision to retain the services of¬† Mr Parsons is rather questionable – retaining the setivices of a senior KCTMO employee who appears to have serious questions to answer about Grenfell Tower as well as questions to answer with regards to what he did or did not know or report about conditions of neglected housing stock hardly demonstrates a break from the troubled past…

We really hope to get answers on this and  are deeply disturbed by the lack of openness from our council As far as we know Mr Parsons has not been before the Housing Committee once

So we will see what happens and wait for answers, as well as ask Kim Taylor-Smith and Doug Goldring and others at RBKC to give the reassurance that the housing management under  RBKC is different to that of KCTMO , to be more open with us and provide  answers to our questions.

Our community lost 72 innocent people in Grenfell Tower and we deserve to know the truth, as well as to know that RBKC is not managing (or mismanaging) our homes the same way the KCTMO did. Some proposed new changes to RBKC tenancy agreements (coming soon on this blog ) seem to do a lot of  finger pointing at residents and throwing responsibilities on to them , but many of us feel that the council ought  to get its own house in order first

Edenham proposals: Kim “Tailored-Sloth” gives THINK a telling off!


Following our last blog post on the subject of the Edenham Site, our Editor  received a  telling off  from RBKC Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for Grenfell and Housing over our comments on the posts regarding the way the council muddled social and affordable housing terms.

Here is that blog post again (complete with a proper explanation of the terms  Рreceived via Twitter from Joe Halewood of Speye Joe) :

This  is the particular part of  our blog post that Cllr Taylor-Smith took exception to:

“Thanks to Joe Halewood (who also writes the excellent Speye Joe blog¬†¬†) for the clarification. We never seem to get a straightforward answer from RBKC on this most of the time, and we think some at our council have been very misleading for referring to housing that most social housing residents and those on the waiting list will never be able to afford to live in. These councillors, suits and officers ‚Äď or rather liars ‚Äď who have mislead people ‚Äď ‚Äúsocial/affordable‚ÄĚ housing indeed ‚Äď ought to be deeply and thoroughly ashamed of their behaviour.”

Well we are sorry to have caused offence to Kim Taylor-Smith and we were not referring to him personally as a liar, but several of the council suits do keep using the misleading term¬† “social/affordable” – and muddling the two –¬† they’re not the same thing. Here is an exact example of what we mean; the RBKC website says: “The majority will be social rent (affordable housing for rent) “

Also some at RBKC do keep interchanging the two terms; again, misleading.

That is not exactly honest behaviour  as some of  what little support (only 35% of residents support the scheme) is based on the provision of  homes for SOCIAL RENT.

So we will not be removing the post; we stand by it and even if some of the council did not perhaps intend  to;   they have been in the act of misleading North Kensington residents about numbers of homes for social rent  on  the proposed  scheme.

Kim “Tailored Sloth” later told us that¬† using the terms together¬† simplifies things and makes it easier for people to understand. Well we beg to disagree – it confuses people.

So to  help clear up confusion , our  calculations show that only around   17.5% of the  homes on the  proposed site would in fact be for social rent

But of course, that is far from the only issue we have¬† with Edenham We are concerned¬† about the high volume of of homes crammed into what is already a very dense built up¬†¬† part of Golborne Ward, the area around there¬† (no thanks to Catalyst Housing and the Wornington Green regeneration) has aleady suffered from over-development and a huge loss of mature trees and green space,¬† some¬† residents are concerned about views of Erno Goldfinger’s¬† Trellick Tower being obscured, others are concerned about loss of light, and of course, the loss of¬† the outdoor space there is very little in the way of outdoor space around that area)¬† and world- famed graffiti area.

We invite our readers  who share some of these concerns, to join us in signing and sharing this petition:

We also¬†have¬† further ¬†concern over the types of homes that would be built on the site, as RBKC’s choice of architects¬†for the scheme are ¬† Haworth Tompkins.

This is the same ¬†Haworth Tompkins who¬† have been in the news for insisting¬† on social segregation in the form of “poor floors” on the tower they plan to build on the site of the former Wood Street Library in Walthamstow.

We say poor doors, poor floors and social segregation are not welcome,  and most certainly  are not  welcome in our wonderful, diverse community of North Kensington. If some stuck up people want to move here  but do not want to live next to people who just happen to be less well-off, we suggest these snobs go elsewhere.


As for building homes, yes – we¬† do get that there is a shortage of homes in the borough, and¬† we do¬† want to see more homes – especially homes for social rent which are in desperate short supply, but no –¬† not at any cost, and that cost being the deterioration of quality of life in the immediate community¬† and environment with people being packed¬†in like sardines.


Also the Edenham proposals to build a tower block right in front of another have ended up, as residents living close to Grenfell, giving us nightmares of North Kensington being filled with towers all over the place. Other locals have told us of similar experiences.

But despite a large majority of locals opposed to¬† this, RBKC seem¬† determined to push tbis¬†through and are going¬† to¬† hold more consultations….

Our local readers have until this coming  Friday the 25th of March,  to give feedback  to RBKC on the proposed scheme at this link :

Anyway¬† this pushiness from our council and their failure to listen to¬† how the majority of¬† community around Trellick Tower¬† really feel about not wanting the proposed development on the Edenham site¬† but instead pushing on regardless ¬† in the hope of talking people¬†who they think are not “getting it”¬† into this, reminded us of a certain sketch featuring the¬†¬† Ken & Kenneth “Suit You Sir” characters¬† from 90’s comedy classic The Fast Show.

We are in need of a laugh, so here is the video, and please, RBKC, Kim “Tailored Sloth” and suits, do not “press on” regardless. Residents are saying this development doesn’t “suit” them or the area. Instead, please¬† “press on” with looking at other sites – and perhaps¬† considering purchasing sites in other parts of the borough, rather than just filling every available¬† scrap of land in North Kensington with tower blocks.

Edenham/Trellick Tower controversy as locals and campaigners oppose RBKC new homes

Q: When are new homes proposed by RBKC in North Kensington welcome and when are they not welcome?

A: They are not welcome when they fly in the face of ,the local outdoor environment,, a world-famous listed building, a local art space and legal graffiti wall, when the council tries to up support by misleading and muddling affordable housing with social housing, and very importantly, goes against the wishes of what the majprity of local residents actually want there.

Despite the fact that only 35% of residents actually support building new homes on the Edenham site, by Trellick Tower in Golborne Ward, North Kensington, RBKC is still having further consultations on the matter and there will be an online Zoom meeting at 10:30am tomorrow. Link here:

Residents can also complete the online feedback form included on link by Thursday the 25th of March.

So for some RBKC councillors and suits who seem to have their fingers in their ears, we’ll just remind them of sone of the residents’ comments from the last consultation :

With regards to views of Trellick Tower, RBKC claim to be in touch with the 20th Century Society, but a few days ago, the 20th Century posted this on Twitter:

THINK are very sorry for obscuring the view of Erno Goldfinger’s Brutalist masterpiece with the “graffiti” in our picture, but perhaps that’s what RBKC might end up doing with buildings if these proposals do go ahead .

Just in case RBKC hasn’t quite got the message just yet , readers can join local residents, THINKers and the 20th Century Society by signing and sharing this petition here, calling on RBKC to protect the art and outdoor space by Trellick Tower and say no to lucury flats here:

Outdoor space is very precious to residents in Golborne Ward, who have very little of it in comparison to those of us elsewhere in North Kensington who live very closely to parks. Here, posted on Twitter, are a few views from more local residents:

Here is a response from RBKC Deputy Leader Kim Taylor-Smith;

As for homes, yes, we do need more homes in the borough, but there is a real severe shortage of social housing in this borough,but any residents who are only supporting these proposals for that reason may be in for disappointment too:

Thanks to Joe Halewood (who also writes the. excellent Speye Joe blog ) for the clarification. We never seem to get a straightforward answer from RBKC on this most of the time, and we think some at our council have been very misleading for referring to housing that most social housing residents and those on the waiting list will never be able to afford to live in. These councillors, suits and officers – or rather liars – who have mislead people – “social/affordable” housing indeed – ought to be deeply and thoroughly ashamed of their behaviour.

Of course, Edenham isn’t the only site that is being consideted, and RBKC Deputy Leader Kim Taylor-Smith has said that there will be other sites considered in the future too, including one in Chelsea;, so this is far from the one and only opportunity that the council has to build more housing.

THINKers stand with our friends in Golborne Ward, and we believe RBKC need to abandon this and think again. They are here to serve us, and the wellbeing, best interests and views of our residents must always come first.

We really fear a return to the bad days of pre-Grenfell RBKC when the council ignored and disregarded the views of the community and ploughed ahead regardless, but if RBKC continue to go ahead with more consultations and PR exercises on this , it indicates that they have made the decision already, and from hearing that the outdoor space at the base of Trellick Tower has been fenced off, that appears to be exactly back where we are heading….

Yet another RBKC inclusivity fail: This time a consultation on a new Housing Allocations policy

Dear oh dear. On the day right after when RBKC Deputy Leader Kim Taylor-Smith mentioned to one of us that our council was going to have a consultation on a new (about time!) Housing Allocations policy, a resident shared this letter with us , which shows that RBKC and consultants Newman Francis never intended to hold a wide, fair and proper consultation on such an important issue. Only a handful of our council housing residents actually received one of these letters:

We don’t think residents were randomly picked out of a hat, but what we do know is this was obviously not meant to be shared widely. THINK are guessing that the role of consultants Newman Francis in this is to use this initial consultation, picking out a “focus group” of some residents, so they can predict which views people will give and formulate a more general survey later this year to direct people towards certain responses that the council may prefer.

Too bad for RBKC that some of the residents who received such a letter believe that EVERYONE should have a fair say on this.

It also explains something about the layouts, formats and questions in a number of previous council consultation surveys.

Well we thoroughly disagree with this highly unfair and narrow approach to policymaking, and in the spirit of inclusivity we are sharing widely so ALL RBKC tenants and leaseholders can submit their views about what they think the changes to the Housing Allocations Scheme should be, if they want to, to Newman Francis at rbkc@newmanfrancis org

(There is also a telephone survey but we’re getting sick and tired of box ticking and we wouldn’t recommend it.)

But some residents may not want to take part, as we can also reveal a bit more about Newman Francis Ltd, marketing consultants specialising in housing and regeneration. Since 2013, supposedly “independent” Newman Francis have been hired by Catalyst Housing to get community support for the regeneration of the Wornington Green Estate in North Kensington. Catalyst and Newman Francis attemped to pull wool over people’s eyes, not everyone was fooled and the masterplan is still very controversial today, not least because 37 valued pollution-absorbing mature London plane trees are set to be cut down in order to build luxury flats.

So this is perhaps a CONsultation exercise; conning people into thinking they are getting something good for them and their community when the opposite is the case.

We have this to say to Kim “Tailored Sloth” and Elizabeth “Dizzy Lizzy” Campbell:

All the nice little promises and warm words; about change at RBKC, about wanting greater resident involvement, co-designing, creating stronger communities etc. are about as reliable, accurate and trustworthy as a fake Rolex bought in a used car lot from a dodgy salesman.

You might as well drop the sales patter, because residents who truly care about our borough and communities, are certainly not buying it. Your actions and inactions speak volumes about how you REALLY work.

RBKC gives residents without RAs the back alley treatment

RBKC does like to go on about increasing resident involvement, but how does reducing what was meant to be another branch of the Tenants Consultative Committee to a separate lesser talking shop, where the residents do not get properly consulted with, really live up to that?

The Tenants Consultative Committee – TCC is a very useful forum for RBKC tenants and leaseholders where they meet with the council, bring up various housing issues and are consulted with on housing policy.

Back in 2017, some residents including us, called for a branch of the TCC to be set up for residents living in street properties, small blocks and estates without a residents association.

So the “TCC Homes Group” was formed . We actually thought the council was listening.

As anyone can see by the tone of that 2017 blog post, while we certainly welcomed the reinstatement of the TCC (which had been previously scrapped by Rock Feilding-Mellen) we certainly didn’t welcome RBKC treating some of their tenants and leaseholders without RAs as second class citizens by leaving them out.

And that’s exactly what RBKC are still doing; they have separated the Homes Group from the TCC (when it was meant to be a branch of it), and members of the Homes Group do not receive the same level of consultation as the TCC. In fact there is no information shared with the Homes Group that isn’t publicly shared at the RBKC Housing and Communities Select Committee meetings.

The council also failed to invite other eligble residents or advertise it in their numerous publications or on social media.

So there is no point in us being involved with it anymore. As experienced campaigners, we have seen more than our fair share of pointless meetings which do not go anywhere or achieve very little. We did not call for the Homes Group to be set up only for RBKC to go and separate it completely from the TCC and turn it into an inferior miniscule group where residents aren’t consulted with to the same degree.

Here is an infographic from yesterday’s RBKC Leadership Team meeting:

And here is our more accurate reworking of it:

RBKC Deputy Leader Kim Taylor-Smith has previously moaned about seeing the same faces at meetings all the time. Well we have a few answers to him. First of all, most residents do not have the time, energy or inclination to be going to so many meetings. Most of those who do attend regularly are either members of RAs or other local groups such as conservation groups or campaign groups, wbose business it is to attend. Secondly, if Cllr Taylor-Smith would really like to see new faces and hear more from others at council meetings, then his council isn’t exactly going about that the right way by reducing consultation with some of their council residents.

As for why the council would want to do this, Kim Taylor-Smith has been suggesting that RBKC looks at older , harder to maintain, “more costly” council properties and considers selling them off. (As some London councils , notably Hackney have done in the past and also some housing associations, notably Notting Hill Genesis) .

Giving residents of these properties any sort of real say would no doubt be an obstacle to any little “regeneration on the quiet” plans RBKC may have in store in future.

It’s a ridiculous situation when RBKC talks and talks about ways to increase resident involvement when they are actually in the act of decreasing it and deliberately so. They’re not fooling us one bit; we judge them by their deeds and not their words.

The intriguing (and infuriating) case of the RBKC Housing “Secret Suits”

Some might be wondering whatever happened to our Editor’s FOI request back in April last year – as mentioned in this post last June:

A simple FOI request to our council that shouldn’t have been too much trouble.

But tbis basic level of transparency was evidently too much for RBKC as they completely ignored it!

So our Editor requested an internal review in July last year :

Guess what? No response, nothing, nada, zilch,, not a sausage.

RBKC obviously really do not want to tell residents who some senior officers – apart from Doug Goldring , Director of Housing Needs, and Dan Hawthorn, Executive Dorector for Housing and Social Investment – are for some reason…

So we did a bit of digging ourselves just with a few simple online searches….

The mysterious “Andrew L”, Head of Grenfell Housing Services who doesn’t want to reveal his surname, for some reason, now has a picture:

And here are a few other suits that others might be interested in ….

Ruth George, Head of Housing Services:

Zulfiqar Mulak, Head of Housing Needs and Transformation:

Martin Greenway, Head of Housing Repairs:

Anna Benbow, Director of Social Investment and Property:

Interstingly, Ms Benbow was also previously Seconded Assistant Director of Housing Supply at RBKC and at the same time, has been Director of Operations at Capital Letters, which is funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and was established by 17 councils in London, which relieves homelessness by procuring and managing social housing from private landlords and letting agencies (all of which is outside our borough)

To be fair, Mr Mulak and Ms Benbow did appear on the most recent RBKC Management Structure chart we saw so they’re not exactly “hiding” but asise from those very familiar with RBKC, seasoned Committee-goers and information junkies (like ourselves) , most residents do not know who theu are and what they do.

Rob Shaw, Housing Strategy and Policy Manager

Mr Shaw may be familar to some as he has been at RBKC for just over 12 years and was previously Housing Options Manager in the bad old days when some were facing regeneration.

Our council keeps telling residents to go to their “Neighbourhood Officers” – but the thing is, they fail to provide any details at all and most residents don’t even know who these people are.

So, for residents, here is the top suit with responsibility for Neighbourhood Management:

Stavroulla Kokkinou, Head of Neighbourhood Management

Ms Kokkinou just going on her LinkedIn profile, doesn’t want people to know her last name. We can’t think why, other than that she does not want the finger pointed at her for being in charge of all the Neighbourhood Officers and Antisocial Behaviour Managers. (No, we’ve never met or even heard of an ASB Manager either – despite one of us, a tenant in North Kensington, having suffered from violence and harassment from a neighbour.)

Many other residents , especially in the north of the borough based at Kensal Road which has changed little since the KCTMO days,, are still being failed with regards to little or no action taken over ASB. Ms Kokkinou has been in her post since 2018.

As for providing information, we understand that Robin Yu, arguably the most well known of the council’s Information Officers, departed Hornton Street some time ago. In fact he was about the only suit in that department who communicated regularly with residents over FOI questions and inquiries. So who do we have to ask ?

The council website won’t even tell us who they are and some of councillors do not even know! We’ve had no response, so there is little point in is emailing ” FOI Officers Anonymous” here:

But THINKers are not quitters and we found one:

Jessica Quinn, Information Governance and Housing Officer

Here’s how Ms Quinn describes her responsibilities on her LinkedIn profile:

For the past 9 years I have been dealing with the sole process of all things relating to Data Protection 1998, Freedom of Information 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and most recently The General Data Protection Regulations and Data Protection 2018, for the Environmental Health Department of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoy my work and looking for improvements in the way in which we can be more transparent with members of the public.

More transparent? She has been in her post for 10 YEARS – what a joke.

Many will have questions regarding RBKC and KCTMO information on housing and environmental issues, but we wouldn’t hold our breath for a response….

As for the former KCTMO, our council housing properties, projects, and technical information, perhaps this suit can answer some questions?

“John P” – Technical Systems Manager

Look at what he has been in charge of and how long he has been here and just think ; all the repairs not logged, all those missing housing records, all the KCTMO properties left in state of disrepair over many years – which most of us are paying the price of now – especially leaseholders now facing bills of up to a shocking ¬£30K for all the TMO”s mistakes amd negligence , all the void properties either left empty for years or let to tenants by the TMO & RBKC in absolutely appalling conditions, not to mention records on poor quality refurbishments and fire safety

No wonder “John P” doesn’t want the public to know his surname.

That’s if he hasn’t departed Hornton Street yet, that is. As it is, we do wonder if this guy might happen to have some useful information on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment to pass on to the Grenfell Inquiry?

THINK have not, apart from Ms Kokkinou, Ms Quinn and. ” John P” , singled the suits out for criticism here, but this blog and many of our social housing residents are still very much in the dark as to who mosr of them are and where their responsibilies lie .

Despite many steps forward; new suits and staff, proactive approaches and improvements to fire safety, more openness at meetings, the return of the Tenants Consultative Committee and more positive attitudes from councillors and suits, there is still a very long way to go .

We would rather the council, rather than all the constant PR which is of very little use, concentrated its social housing communications efforts on letting tenants and leaseholders know who is in charge of what,and who they can contact concerning the many various bousing issues. Most residents do not have the time or energy to sit through hours of council meetings to get relevant information and neither should they have to.

Many are left sending emails to their ward councillors or going to their surgeries when the councillors cannot always help, posting on social media , asking Kim Taylor -Smith about everything, or else banging their heads against a brick wall.

The few residents who know who their housing officers are can go to them, but many of these officers are already overloaded with work, and a few others (especially some of the ex-TMO ones in the north) seem to do little to nothing to help.

Some of us did suggest ages ago that RBKC allocates each resident and gives them contact details of , a housng team – and not put the entire load on one or two officers, when there are obviously others who can help – but tbis fell on deaf ears.

Residents have been failed and are still being failed, by the failure of this council to be open, direct and accountable to the public – and without making reforms to their communications regarding our social housing, RBKC will only be further failing others.

Wornington Green: Not up-to-scratch Catalyst scheme gets hissed at by residents and councillors

Residents living on the Wornington Green Estate have been campaigning against plans by Catalyst Housing to chop down 42 trees – as we reported previously in this post:

The Wornington Green redevelopment scheme had been given the green light (but only just, by a majority of one) by the RBKC Planning Committee back in 2010.

Over 1000 people – including 160 Wornington Green residents – have signed the petition to save the trees and to call for meaningful consultation over this. Catalyst Housing have said some of the trees will need to be removed in order to build new homes, but campaigners and North Kensington locals , including us, believe the trees to be crucial to the public realm and the environment and to the wellbeing of the local residents.

Aftter New Year, the trees are thankfully still here – well for now anyway.. Last month, some of the residents and campaigners addressed the RBKC Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Also there were a couple of representatives from Catalyst present. Here’s what happened:

Keith Stirling, resident of the Wornington Green Estate: “We are in-a very very precarious position In fact regarding the felling of trees, our oxygen and the Ozone Layer. Chopping down trees, doesn’t help. The people of Wornington Green and the wider area need their trees.” He pointed out that the area is deprived of trees and that London plane trees supply the most oxygen. He said that Athlone Gardens was being regenerated as well and that it was a perfect place to transplant the trees – he had looked into it.

Constantine Gras, multimedia community artist and campaigner, who started the petition : “I”ve just heard that Catalyst have been listening to residents – they’ve just posted a newsletter to us. I think they’ve revised their plans to fell 42 trees down to 37″ Well that’s a start….

Constantine said that the Royal Borough “from posh squares to green housing spaces loves its trees and looking at the trees and listening to the birdsong – more so now as we’re stuck at home under Covid-19 restrictions”.

He emphasised the environmental benefits of trees here: “Trees in North Kensington, they really are a matter of life and death – the carbon emissions here are among London’s highest. The RBKC air quality climate change action plan has reported that 7.6% of all deaths in the Royal Borough are attributed to air pollution. Green spaces and trees are vital for filtering out toxic particles, so every tree in the borough, especially these 50 year old mature London plane trees on Wornington Green Estate they will help the borough become carbon neutral in 2040; I believe that is a council commitment”

As a community artist who has worked on social housing estates in North Kensington, Constantine Gras knows that residents really value their trees and green spaces, so he was been shocked to hear over a month ago of Catalyst Housing’s plans to chop down the trees as part of the next phase of redevelopment and that most of the community were unaware of this. “There seemed to be no consultation on this – how is this possible in this day and age? It’s wrong on every level. Just imagine someone walking down Wornington Road and all of a sudden all the trees have been cut down. Is this the type of regeneration that creates a sustainable community? ”

Constantine had looked at the planning applications from Catalyst – about 20 of them, the most recent one was last October – all of which had a tree plan from 2009 attached, which had never been followed and was obviously out of date regarding the information contained – disgraceful.

He questioned the legality of the process as to whether the council would let development be carried out that wasn’t in accordance with the submitted plans and without updated environmental assesssments.

Residents had carried out their own assessments of how many trees had already been lost. In phases 1 and 2a of the redevelopment 55 trees were removed, 10 retained and just 27 new sapling trees were planted with only 8 in the public realm. For the whole of the redevelopment there will be a whopping 167 trees lost – mostly mature trees – and less than half of them will be replaced.

As we said before, we think that Catalyst are partly renaming the estate “Portobello Square” because there will likely be very little “green” left when they are done….

It was stated that as well as the impact of construction and demolition, there will also be new roads – which will increased traffic flow and will have a major environmental impact. Residents expect Catalyst Housing and RBKC to monitor measure and offset the carbon footprint of this redevelopment.

Constantine also pointed out that as Catalyst are worth around ¬£3 billion and half of the new homes are or will be for private sale, that it won’t put too much of a dent in their profits to build fewer private luxury flats. (prices start at ¬£600,000 for a 1 bedroom flat) and put their resources into building an innovative development around the trees. “Just who is benefiting from this regeneration? ”

Fearghal O’Hara from Catalyst Housing, who is a Regeneration Manager for Wornington Green and who is responsible for overseeing the new builds at Wornington Green, responded: “We understand the concerns about removal of trees. We understand that this is a concern at the moment when people are spending so much more time at home. around the local community appreciating the local green space.”

He said that Catalyst Housing try to avoid tree removal, and whenever they can, “buildings and streets are designed around trees” . Really? That’s not exactly reflected in the number of trees lost, from what Wornington Green and nearby residents tell us, or indeed viewed on our own visits to the estate…..

Mr O’Hara::”Unfortunately we do need to move trees in order to build more homes. We accept and share the view os the petitioners that there is a climate emergency. However, we also recognise that there is a growing demand for modern efficient housing in London and in this phase of development (2b), we are bulding 230 homes 108 of which are social rent energy efficient standards amd to reduce environmental impact” Sorry Mr O’Hara, but we’re far from convinced as to how large scale destruction of trees and greenery reduces environmental impact.

He went on: “There will be huge gains for the community aside from more modern homes as a result of this regeneration. There will be new community facilities, new public realm, and we’re creating a new green space in partnership with RBKC – that’s Athlone Gardens”

No, we cannot excuse this from Mr O’Hara, saying that Catalyst are creating community facilities, – they’re not; they’re replacing them. -. We think he has some downright nerve to say this to people who have been in or around the local area for years.

He did say that the regeneration since 2011 has brought an additional £1million to fund community development projects including services, jobs and training opportunities as well as after school clubs and funds for the Venture Centre.

Mr O’Hara said the tree plan had been agreed by RBKC in 2010 and as many new trees should be planted as possible and as many as possible should be retained. He said it would have been looked at carefully when the masterplan was designed.He said with regards to consultation, the masterplan was widely publicised at the time and while this was 10 years ago, the masterplan remains the blueprint for the regeneration and that subsequent planning permissions were given by RBKC in 2014, 2017 and 2019. Catalyst had according to him, held a number of events both online and in person and that the RSG – the Residents Steering Group that the housing association sees as integral to the project to represent to views of residents and helps to choose designs and recently helped with selecting a contractor and keeps the organisation close to comnunity opinion apparently.

He said that they were proposing to plant 16 additonal trees in the public realm, bring the total of new trees in the development to 69, but failed to say how many of the 69 trees would be in the public realm and how many would be plane trees

Cllr Johnny Thalassites Lead Member (cabinet] for Planning, Place and the Environment thanked Constantine for the petition and said: “We need to save as many trees as possible. I welcome the commitment to retain two additional trees and to plant some more. I’m grateful to Fearghal and his team for working with us on that, but I think the key thing I would say is that I knew from campaigns in my own ward saving trees in Holland Park Avenue just how emotive and valued trees can be in a community, and that they can be a real green lung for for a neighbourhood”

“So I really believe that we should work harder to protect the more of the trees. I tend to think we’ve not gone far enough yet, I think there’s work to do.”

He said that they needed to go further to work to saving the trees and implored Catalyst to keep wotking with council officers to save more of them and while more social housing provided was a good thing, he regretted the fact that the council could not do anything about the Planning decision made 10 years ago (before he was a councillor), he would want to retain the treet but his hands are tied as Catalyst has no legal compulsion to follow his directions.

“The mood in the council and the Leadership is certainly to protect community, to protect trees and to support local residents and in the north and across the borough.”

Cllr Marie-Therese Rossi (Conservative, Redcliffe) – and Chair of this very Committee asked Catalyst if there was any way that Catalyst could look at the plans again to try and save the trees.

Cllr Greg Hammond (Conservative, Courtfield Ward) asked for more clarity on the planning permission, as he understood that there was a time limit on planning permissions “Or is it because the development has already started planning permission is deemed to still be in existence because the building work was started?”

Martin Lomas Strategic developments Manager, RBKC Planning and Place; ” Planning permissions, effectively once they have been implemented, they exist in perpetuity and developing countries that planning permission out so when we grant planning permission they’re subject to a condition that requires them to commence within three years. But if they do commence within that time period, then effectively the permission is then available to the developer in perpetuity to carry out that development in accordance with that planning permission.”

Pat Mason (Labour,Golborne Ward) Leader of the RBKC Opposition is one of the local councillors for the estates and said he was there objecting at the Planning Committee 10 years ago and at the time the consultation was a “complete joke”

“Kensington Housing Trust that morphed into Catalyst had a history of having absolutely dreadful consultations that even the council at that time said were not sensible, were not representative of what residents think. I have the planning application in front of me as it happens . The planning application noted that there was a 540 signature petition against the application and there were 53, other main objections, including the local councillors, and these were on 40, different main points, and these included, the loss of trees, the removal of Athlone Gardens, because that was mentioned here, the road layout and speeding traffic”

He said that Lady Hanham, a former Leader of RBKC for 11 years, had objected to the scheme saying that ‘I’m voting against because I do not believe this application benefits the people of Wornington Green’ and we made a big fuss at the time about the fact that Athlone Gardens was going to be erased and replaced and it was going to take years and years for these trees to be knocked down, but the prevailing majority on the committee with the casting vote of the then Chair (former councillor Terence Buxton) voted for this, and we were horrified because you can’t cut down. nearly 100 trees, and not expect an environmental problem so I think they should redraw the masterplan”

He said the development was 60% private housing because Catalyst needs this to stand up financially: “It’s not about helping our people. Overwhelmingly we need social rent housing in Golborne, which is the poorest ward in England. We do not need more housing for the rich here”

“I think that they should redraw because they have a very unhappy community there, and very unhappy councillors, and they are adding to the desecration of the environment and I’m not persuaded by the soft platitudes of officers from Catalyst who are now speaking to me who were not there then. And who will be gone as soon as this development is built living up the mess that they created”.

Kim Taylor-Smith RBKC Deputy Leader and Lead (cabinet) member for Grenfell, Housing and Social Investment said he was grateful to Catalyst for looking again at the issue with the trees and also said that overall , the scheme provided more homes for social rent.

“The impacts in terms of obviously having improved housing and what that does in terms of the environment and I think we mustn’t forget that. We really are looking for as many socially rented homes as we possibly can. ”

He said he supported whar Cllr Thalassites was saying and that all of the trees should be looked at again and talked of the possibility of the borough “adopting ” the trees that cannot all go in Athlone Gardens and suggested that they could go in other parts of the borough.

David Lindsay (Conservative, Norland Ward) asked Catalyst to explain the nature of the consultations that Catalyst had with residents living in the area and nearby and to expand upon that because an observation of his, as a councillor was “when I have planning issues in my ward, typically, the person who is putting in the application testifies that they have given and spent a great amount of time, consulting with their neighbours when in actuality some neighbours don’t believe a word of it.”

Fearghal O’Hara responded by sauing thay Catalyst had been consulting with residents over the past few years and held numerous events, including a “Party in the Park” event at Athlone Gardens, where they presented their proposals for Phase 3. Catalyst had held many consultation meetings in relation to conservation and proposals on designs for Athlone Gardens which they had held in collaboration with RBKC. Catalyst hild monthly meetings with the RSG – Residents Steering Group- and he said they endeavour to keep the RSG abreast of upcoming proposals and actions. “In addition to that, personally I strive with my communications team to keep the locals updated as to what is happening in terms of construction and anything we believe will impact on the residents’ wellbeing.”

Cllr Lindsay asked residents if anything what Mr O’Hara had said then, bears any resemblance to their experience of consultations.

Keith Stirling:”I was a member of the steering group and have recently resigned over this business with the trees I was a member of that steering group for many, many years. And the consultations that passed, basically paying lip service to the residents on Wornington Green ” and that “Catalyst were going to do whatever they were going to do”.

Keith told the Committee that as far as the steering group went, it was around 4 to 5 people and didn’t really represent the whole of the estate. He had argued that more people should be involved with the RSG but that some did not want to belong to it as they didn’t belive what Catalyst was telling them. When he found out that Catalyst were going to chop down the trees, he was horrified and resigned because “I’m not going to sit in a room with people that are going to do this sort of damage to my environment”.

David Lindsay: “I think its abundantly clear that Catalyst have not taken their residents with them. ”

Cllr Rossi: “I agree. I think that the whole thing. You know it’s a 10 year old planning permission and that people are saying they only just found out in November, that this is is going to happen. In terms of communication, something has obviously gone very badly wrong”.

Cllr Janet Evans (Conservative, Courtfield Ward) said she thought what Kim Taylor-Smith had said on moving the trees elsewhere was a good idea as was concerned that if some were moved on site at this stage , they might not survive.

She asked Catalyst “How would you mitigate on the loss of the trees? Because people do need them, especially now. They need a psychological environment of beauty, and what can you give, in terms of a happy space?” And she asked Constantine if he would be happy with this.

Mr O’Hara replied that part of what Catalyst are proposing will be two blocls of flats surrounded by trees in the public realm and in addition to that, each block will have a courtyard, whereby residents on the blocks can look out upon gardens which are below ground level. He said that Catalyst see Athlone Gardens as a potential jewel in Wornington Green, “so at the end of the regeneration, it will be a green public space for all to enjoy”.

Constantine: “These trees are here, they’re Wornington Green trees, theu are quite fragile and precious, so I mean it’s a very last resort to contemplate doing that. I could imagine an environmentally sensitive architect who would be connected to the scheme could look at the plan. attempted to build the new blocks around the site of what’s here. So we have the ability of building, what’s here as a footprint, and that might give us the ability to try to build around the trees. Now, I don’t think it’s rocket science to look into that. I wish that was being explored. Just seems to be about, people often come into an area, developers, and they just want erase what’s there, and not take stock of the value of what’s there.”

Keith: “The green spaces on Wonington Green that we have at the moment are quite precious to us, we really do need them. Everybody on my estate here, we talk about it all the time, how how much we love those trees and how much we love the wildlife that lives in those trees.

He said it was a wonderful thing to get up in the morning and see birds and squirrels when you’re going to work. But they’ll all be gone and it will take away from out environment What are we doing? I remember there was a song about putting trees in a tree museum. Is that where we’re going? To pay to come and see trees?”

Cll Will Pascall (Conservative, Stanley Ward) and Chair of thr RBKC Environment Select Committee asked Catalyst specifically to follow up on what Kim Taylor-Smith had said, if they would he open to looking again at the trees that have to be cut down and seeing if there can be any modifications made to the design to allow some of them to stay and for others to be moved elsewhere locally He said that as London plane trees have specific benefits and these ones were old and magnificent. He spoke of planting the trees for the future and that several trees would need to be planted for each one taken down.

“Now, it seems to be in this situation there is no answer that will fulfill what Catalyst, want to do. What they’ve got planning permission to do on one hand, and what the residents, particularly the two people who brought this petition, have expressed on the other hand, that what Councillor Lindsay pointed out, is that what is missing from here is some kind of working together, and I think that what Councillor Kim Taylor Smith suggested was a very good suggestion towards that possibility. And my question is really as to whether Catalyst would be prepared to look at it seriously and to put some money behind it?”

Fearghal O’Hara: ” I have been working with a team of architects and landscape architects and structural engineers over the past months. We are not just brushing the concern aside and we have investigated the layout of the buildings and of the public ground, but the problem is these trees were planted with the layout of the estate” He said it’s almost impossible to build the buildings in the same layout and build around the trees. He said they do recognise the benefits of London plane trees and they are proposing to plant some on the scheme.

Cllr Pascall then re-asked part of his question ” part of the question which I don’t feel has been answered” regarding are Catalyst prepared to take on board what Kim Taylor-Smith said and look at the trees and which ones can move moved locally and which ones cannot, if and if they cannot, can be moved elsewhere in the borough and for additional extra mature plane trees to be planted in addition to what has been reported and on top of that engaging with borough officers and residents and to put some money behind it.

Mr O’Hara replied that it was subject to approval within the various departments at RBKC….

Cllr Pascall:”.and to plant some new ones”

Mr O’Hara said that Catalyst feel that they are at capacity with planting additional new trees on the street because root systems, plus the daylight issues that additional trees may create could become a factor.

Cllr Pascall: “So you’re prepared to look at it, the question is are you prepared to look at it with the borough officers and residents because as Councillor Lindsay said one of the key components here is a meaningful consultation with local residents. On this particular issue that does not seem to be a meeting of minds”

Cllr Max Chauhan (Conservative, Queens Gate Ward ) asked Mr O’Hara why only 3 trees when the company spoke to specialist contractors “it was put in section 3.16 that this is being explored, implying it hasn’t been explored. Can we see more exploration and see if these trees can be identified to transport to Athlone Gardens or adopt in the wider borough”

Mr O’Hara said that Catalyst would be prepared to explore that further.

Cllr Judith Blakeman (Labour, Notting Dale Ward) :”We heard today that the regulator of social housing has just downgraded Catalyst’s financial position. So I am concerned that we have no guarantee either that this development will ever finish, because it’s already been delayed,- all that after the trees have been destroyed. This destruction of trees goes against all the council’s new policies.”

Christine Dingle, Wornington Green resident: “I think everything needs to be relooked at, reassessed and replanned., and I think it’s just so devastating and upsetting to think about, cutting the trees down, and all that time to grow, and are part of our lives”.

Abbas Dadou, Notting Dale resident, Cahir of Lancaster West Residents Association said that the community was being treated as a commodity “these people, they come and buuld and they go” He had issues with the planning department “you know, you people are supposed to be our guardians” referring to 200 square metres of green space in Lancaster West Estate, he said that planning officers and an architect had referred to it as a “useless bit of green” “We have 4 beuatiful palm trees there. For over 20 years , that green space is very important to us and they want to build a nursery beteeen two blocks forcing in a building, and leaving 4 metre gaps. So I can understand and I feel their pain . These companies who make huge money at the expense of the community who has been through a lot since 2017”

Isis Amlak, resident Norland Ward and community campaigner : “The plan to me does not seem that it’s any longer fit for purpose. 2010 was a long time ago and as we all know, one of the things that the Grenfell Tower atrocity has shown us is that it’s vital that communities are listened to. And I believe there is a commitment from the council, that we would do things differently, , and that going forward, the voice of residents, particularly in the north of the borough would be heard, far more loudly. ”

Isis said she lived in a part of North Kensington that was abundant in greenery, but when you head further north, particularly in Golborne, there is a lack of trees and a lack of green space.

She mentioned toxicity in the environment, found in the soil after Grenfell, and that the trees are vital to removing pollution and they provide so many environmental benefits besides such as helping to avert the risk of flooding. The trees also bring psychological benefits – “it’s just more beautiful with trees” and she said that ” a clever committed architect will find a way to build around the trees and incorporate them into modern building designs.”

Isis also had tbis to ask Catalyst: “How have you taken the impact of the Grenfell Tower atrocity and all the multiplicity of issues that is caused into consideration in your plans? Can you evidence that because I’m horrified to think that this plan went through 10 years ago, Grenfell happened three years ago, and no one sat down at Catalyst and reconsidered how they’re going forward.”

Feaghal O’Hara said Catalyst now recognise the sensitivities in North Kensington, especially since the Grenfell tragedy ( meaning they didn’t recognise them before?) and that’s why they were committed to keeping residents informed and involved.

Judith Blakeman: “Keeping residents informed is not engaging with the residents and you don’t have to live there afterwards, after you’ve chopped down the trees. We have a salutory example on the Silchester Estate, where they put small trees in a courtyard as you said, and none of them flourished because of the lack of light. They’ve now got a mud patch. ”

Pat Mason: “Residents are just being palmed off with platitudes and you think we are stupid, you think our residents are stupid. You think they have nothing in their heads now that can’t be palmed off with any old story,

That’s what the residents said 10 years ago. That’s what they’re saying now. Councillor Blakeman is right, being informed what’s going to happen is not consultation and that’s what has happened

You will be gone just in a couple of years, leaving us with the mess behind, environmental mess, trees cut down, you move on to some other project, we hear this and that, we hear these stories all the time from people like you in five years time, you won’t be here, you will not be here, you will leave us with the mess you’ll leave the council with the mess”

Maybe Catalyst had expected an easy ride from the council that once approved their scheme? They certainly did not get one and finally, Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Cllr Marie-Therese Rossi (who has gone up tremendously in our estimation) , got her claws out and said this: “To sum up, I have something to say to Catalyst. Something has gone very badly wrong here. You’ve got a planning permission, which by the sound of it, you got by the skin of your teeth, 10 years ago. You have not been engaging with the residents. And something I learnt a long time ago. I used to work with the urban regeneration agency and rule number 1 for regeneration is that you don’t impose it. It’s got to be bottom up. You have got to take people with you. And it really seems in this instance that that is not happening.”

“So I would urge you Catalyst to go and look at your plans again and just see by building a few less houses or flats that you can actually save some of those trees. Because that is what the residents want, and as they have said, they are the ones who have to live there for years to come.

And Catalyst cannot just dump a project on residents and expect them to be happy about it because they would like to keep their trees. My sympathies are with the residents. I would urge you, Catalyst to look again, because it can’t be right, this level of protest against what you are doing and that you have not engaged with people down the years.”

THINK’s view

So, it appears that quite a few of our councillors do not think the Wornington Green masterplan is the “cat’s whiskers” and neither do we

As a supposed charitable housing provider with local roots , Catalyst really ought to be caring more about this community and .their social housing residents. Instead these residents are, in the words of one of them who spoke to us, , “treated as an afterthought by Catalyst and in the way of the luxury flats” .

It’s all very well to build homes, but residents in the area deserve to feel comfortable and happy in their homes , and to look out of their windows or step outside and see trees. and wildlife, and not just see grey buildings and roads.Residents’ health will suffer as a result of this scheme, with more pollution, extra roads and far fewer trees,

This blog also has to tell Catalyst that if their plans lead to the immediate area lacking in trees, greenery, playspace and beauty , it might not attract the sort of buyers that would want to live there to set up home and to be part of the local community and instead would appeal more to buy to leave investors only interested in the high land value and lessen the close knit friendly community feel in the area.

This, along with less trees, green space and playspace would give the neighbourhood more of a transient, and less of a green, pleasant, neighbourly and welcoming aspect and would also likely bring an increase in antisocial behaviour and crime

We do take some encouragement from the responses of RBKC now (a huge difference from when the plans got through) We thank Johnny Thalassites in particular.

While we think the climbdown from Catalyst over the fate of 5 of the trees is a bit of good news, their whole conduct over this has been deplorable.

We too say they need to revisit their plans and not just plough ahead regardless and not put hefty profits above the health and wellbeing and needs of the local community. We also suggest that Catalyst looks into providing more additional green amenities, such as roof gardens for the residents , which would make the developments more pleasant and attractive for all residents – those in social housing, and also prospective buyers looking to set up home in North Kensington and be part of the local community rather than absentee investors whose main interests are in the land value (land banking) .

Listening learning and understanding the needs of the residents and community is key, but Catalyst do not seem to care, Another Wornington Green resident said this to us: ” Catalyst could use this as an opportunity to show they are adaptable and change and adapt their masterplan to fit the 21st century. They could listen to residents, work with an imaginative environmentally friendly architect and create a beautiful innovative redevelopment that works around the trees we love and need.

This blog thanks all the inspirational residents and campaigners who are pushing for a better, healthier and considerably more environmentally friendly way forward for all.

We will leave our readers with some essential viewing – this link (which also links to some of Constantine’s other work) – a video of the brilliant “Wornington Word” film, a wonderful, but also bittersweet documentary showing residents from the Wornington Green Estate, their personal views, memories and experiences of the estate and the regeneration. We strongly recommend that our councillors and suits – and especially the officers, suits and directors at Catalyst Housing, watch this too;

THINK Christmas Special: Deck the Town Hall with boughs of holly

As it is Christmas, we decided to compile our own naughty and nice lists of RBKC councillors and suits.

So, who has been naughty and who has been nice this year?


Matthew Palmer (Independent, Queen’s Gate Ward)

No surprises here, and now he has been kicked out of the Conservative Party and is not serving on any committees, Cllr Matthew Palmer’s sole purpose at RBKC seems to be to get money for nothing as he is simply being paid to turn up – and just sit there without contributing a single thing. Residents have also informed us that he is paid to sit on the WRWA (West Riverside Waste Authority) at Smuggler’s Way

And he does nothing there (does only introducing yourself at the start of a meeting and sitting there doing nothing really there count as “work”?)

Well, Cllr Palmer may not have much to say on waste and recycling but he certainly knows how to waste our taxpayers’ money! Unfortunately for him, being out of the Conservative Party will mean that his Queen’s Gate constituents will be binning him in 2022.

Also, Cllr Palmer was ordered back in 2018 to apologise to our friend Eddie Daffarn by the RBKC Audit and Transparency Committee over upsetting remarks made over Grenfell and sprinklers at a Full Council Meeting as we reported here:

¬†Matthew Palmer’s offensive behaviour lands him in trouble

But OVER TWO YEARS LATER, he has still failed to apologise – disgraceful

Marwan Elnaghi (Labour, Notting Dale Ward)

Now we are very disappointed to have to hand our this lump of coal as we know Cllr Elnaghi well and have worked with him on campaigns before, but he is hopelessly out of his depth as Chair of the RBKC Adult Social Care and Health Select Committee, and everyone knows it.

At the special Royal Brompton meeting, Cllr Elnaghi’s “contribution’ was to basically let the NHS bosses talk and talk and he failed to question them , and even far worse, completely failed to allocate time for residents to speak at this meeting. We would not be a fair blog if we simply only pointed the finger at Conservatives for shutting residents out of meetings, and this was really only the last chance that most of them had to raise questions and make points over this.

The most recent meeting of that Committee showed some improvement from him, but too little too late we say because his earlier performances as Chair have been lacklustre at best and it really saddens us that a North Kensington Labour councillor is not accepting that he is not up to the job. He is letting both his community and other communities down by putting his own interests first in staying and taking the money and not properly taking responsibility for running down this, one of the most important council committees, and doing the right and honourable thing and resigning

Barry Quirk – RBKC Chief Executive

We could sit here forever and reel off a list of suits who have failed us – Iago Griffith and the resident engagement failure here:

We say it’s time for Iago to go-go (and for other useless suits to stop hanging round like yo-yos)

is a notable example of this..

But ultimately, who is to blame is the top suit who is responsible for many of these appointments so Barry Quirk, RBKC Chief Executive makes our naughty list this year.

Dr Quirk is also responsible for the appointment of his friend, forner Head of Strategy at Lewisham Robyn Fairman as Deputy chief Executive and Grenfell Executive, whose only real Grenfell legacy has been to ignore most of the community around Grenfell, and cause tension and division between various residents and residents’ groups and also to help cause divisions and friction between residents and survivors, that previously did not exist. Panto horse Dobbin Fairman has exited the RBKC stage now and will certainly not be missed by most of us living in the North of the borough.

Thanks to Bookworm Barry, we have had loads of expensive fly-by-night interim suits who achieved very little but like him, have commanded six figure salaries – these include Rachel Sharpe and Sue Foster – both of whom have since left (not that many of us noticed when they left) .

At such a time of economic hardship, our residents are now faced with increased council tax, increased rent and increased service charges partly to pay for all of this which is hard to justify when there are so many areas showing little to no improvement – not least in North Kensington .

Perhaps some Christmas holiday reading might be in order?

Or perhaps not, because if the Plain English Campaign reads some of Barry’s books or sees his speeches, they might strip our borough of our once prized Crystal Mark when they try to get through his particular style of corporate-managerial-jargon-speak , most of which is unintelligible to most people outside backgrounds like his. No wonder our council still has communication problems despite spending more on PR than ever…

Elizabeth Campbell – Leader of RBKC (Conservative, Royal Hospital Ward)

There is no way we can complete this naughty list without the inclusion of perhaps, the naughtiest councillor of them all. It is Cllr Elizabeth “Dizzy Lizzy” Campbell who ultimately has the final say in council policy, who signed off the appointments of most of Dr Quirk’s suits and who keeps failing our residents – as well as having past form serving in RBKC pre- Grenfell cabinets. And Dizzy Lizzy appears to be in the act of taking our council right back there; as we reported in this post:

Grenfell affected residents banned from questioning RBKC Grenfell Recovery policy

She has taken the backwards step of holding Leadership Team meetings without opening the floor to residents and to opposition councillors. Only one step backwards more will be a return of the meetings held behind closed doors , back when Nick Paget-Brown and “Jailhouse” Rock Feilding-Mellen were here .

In not allowing residents and other councillors to ask questions at these meetings, she is showing her contempt for democracy and for North Kensington and also for our most vulnerable residents – the last meeting had Grenfell and Covid-19 on the agenda.


Linda Wade (Liberal Democrat, Earl’s Court Ward)

Arguably one of RBKC’s hardest working councillors. Cllr Wade has canpaigned relentlessly for years for her local Earl’s Court area and the residents living there. She has steered the Covid-19 voluntary efforts in her community and goes above and beyond to help people in need. Her work has gone beyond Earl’s Court and she has helped many other residents living far and wide elsewhere in the borough. As well as that, she has also been very supportive to North Kensington residents affected by Grenfell, so we say a massive thank you to Linda Wade and we just wish there were more exceptional councillors like her.

Ian Henderson (Labour, Colville Ward)

As well as being an outstanding and inspirational campaigner who has worked hard and helped to save Chelsea’s Sutton Estate, Cllr Henderson has also been outstanding in his volunteering work and not just volunteering for the Covid-19 mutual aid – and not just in and around his ward. He, alongside his fellow Colville councillors Nadia Nail and Monica Press coordinated a lot of the donations for the council’s hubs and we thank them for this too.

Cllr Henderson has also campaigned for years to save the Royal Brompton Hospital and even though the acquisition deal is set to go ahead unless the Government intervenes ,  he is still campaigning on this, is calling for an inquiry into the Royal Brompton and Harefield Trust and he has also highlighted the issue to others in the borough who were unaware of this scandal. A more than well deserved present from us goes to him

Robert Freeman (Conservative, Campden Ward)

If there is a councillor who deserves a prize for years of thoughtful intelligent contributions, questioning and scrutiny, it has to be Cllr Robert Freeman.

He is also another councillor who has highlighted the Royal Brompton hospital issue for years. His work in council committees has been outstanding and he has also contributed in his local Kensington communty – many of his Campden Ward constituents always have good words to say for him. Our blog might not always see eye to eye with many of the Conservative councillors but he is one of the decent and honourable ones – so we say a big thank you to Cllr Freeman whose place on our nice list is truly deserved.

Portia Thaxter (Labour, St Helen’s Ward)

Cllr Thaxter is well known for her outstanding voluntary work in the North Kensington community – especially her efforts with the North Kensington food bank and with residents affected hy Grenfell, plus has impressed many of her St Helen’s Ward constituents with her commitment and sheer hard work.

Portia Thaxter is what we would call a real community councillor who is much more of a North Kensington grassroots politician than a Town Hall based one, and has been an absolute breath of fresh air, as well as also being one of the kindest and most sincere councillors we know, so she more than deserves this present ftom us .

Special mentions have to go to a few others :

It is encouraging that RBKC is going ahead with much-needed works on residents (neglected for years and years by KCTMO) homes. But what is not so encouraging happens to be the scandalously huge bills Рof up to an eyewatering £30,000 that leaseholders are having to pay for this.

If it wasn’t for the progress in measures our council is taking to improve fire safety, Kim Taylor-Smith and Doug Goldring would be getting a lump of coal – but we recognise that they have made some – not many but some – positive changes however so not this time.

We are also not pleased about the lack of information shared with residents over works that will be taking place this coming year. All residents received was a letter informing them of a meeting to discuss these two days ago, and if they missed this meeting – tough, because all the council papers actually say is “major works” Well major works to what exactly what in people’s homes some may ask? That is vague at best. If we knew exactly which suit was responsible for this appallingly poor communication with residents being kept in the dark as to what exactly will be done to their homes, they would be receiving a lump of coal too

As for almost-nice , a special mention has to go to Cllr Malcolm “Bananaman” Spalding. No, we haven’t gone bananas but we think he is the most improved councillor- we haven’t exactly been his biggest fans in the past – but this year he has helped out in his Earl’s Court Ward with raising money for the community , as seen here outside St Cuthbert’s Church some months back.

Cllr Spalding has spoken well and put in some research on the issue of holiday and short term lettings – something which affects many residents, especially in Earl’s Court, Kensington and South Kensington . Also his performance at the Royal Brompton meeting and his questioning of the acquisition/merger/sell off was a highlight for us.

So do keep up this good work Cllr Spalding, and you’ll make our “nice” list next time round!

A final special mention has to go to most of our North Kensington councillors, especially those with a lot of challenging casework and whose constituents are affected by Grenfell and are still waiting for justice.

Our thoughts at the time of year especially go out to the Grenfell survivors, the bereaved and members of our community. We are also thinking of people affected by Covid-19 and other residents who will be spending Christmas alone due to the restrictions.

Our best Christmas wishes go out to all our friends, relatives and supporters of our blog (too many to name here but you know who you are!) who have helped get us through these crazy crazy times.

We wish everyone – yes everyone, even those on our naughty list ! – a Merry Christmas and leave you with our version of the 12 Days of Christmas – RBKC style. As we remind our council that over three and a half years on, our residents are still waiting for that much-promised culture change. Perhaps we’ll get it after the New Year? Let’s hope so…


RBKC Housing Residents Summit this evening and tomorrow – but THINKers are in no mood for fun

RBKC “Alternative” Residents Summit

First of all we have the news that – yes some suit has FINALLY seen it fit to get into contact with our blog from RBKC Community/ Resident Investment/Engagement (whatever they call it these days – still same thing) and notify us of an upcoming event which starts this evening. So we will say a big thank you to whichever suit sent this and now THINKers will do our job and publicise, so here goes (plus some extra commentary from us of course):

“The Alternative Residents Summit”

“Despite the restrictions of lockdown we can still enjoy a little light relief. We would like to invite all residents to join us at our Alternative Residents’ Summit, which due to lockdown restrictions, we will hold online this year. Plans are well underway for what promises to be an interesting, interactive and fun event that we are sure you will enjoy”.

FRIDAY NOVEMBER 20TH 6:30pm – 8pm

“Grab a seat on your sofa for a quiz and virtual tour of the borough. Landmarks, hidden gems and a few stories of life in the borough in bygone days”

Residents can join via Zoom on this link: HERE


“Learn who does what in Housing Management”

“Award winning food writer and campaigner Jack Monroe joins us to discuss the challenges this year poses, and we’ll have a panel discussion and cookery competition.

(For more information on the cookery competition (subject to change) , please contact )

Residents can join via Zoom on this link HERE:

Well we hope other residents do enjoy these events and find them useful, but some of us are certainly in no mood for this.

As to learning who does what in housing management, perhaps RBKC would like to hurry up and answer this long overdue Freedom Of Information request that one of us sent:

This FOI request was sent back in April – the law states they must respond within 20 working days. All our Editor received back was an acknowledgement they received it and they said they would respond by May – liars. She requested an internal review back in July; also ignored by RBKC. We could ask why these very simple questions are being ignored – but we just wish our council would pull their socks up and provide us with an answer, please.

As for our housing services, THINK are not so sure that VIP guest – food writer and social campaigner Jack Monroe will be too impressed when she hears about some of the conditions that some of RBKC’s council housing residents are expected to live in (after all, they’ll be no cooking for one of us when the council refuses to replace to replace old rotting kitchen cupboards which have gaps and holes in them) plus a number of other more serious issues.

We are also concerned about the proposed changes to tenancy agreements; we believe these need a serious overhaul if RBKC really wants to commit to positive change and improved relations and communications with its tenants and leaseholders post Grenfell.

So our blog will go through some of these and also go into part of the ordeal that one of us has had to put up with by way of explanation in some parts; so we hope others can forgive us for not being in the mood to “party”…..

Proposed changes to RBKC Tenancy Agreements: A THINKer’s view

First of all this:

In fact only a SMALL NUMBER of RBKC social housing residents were consulted about these proposed changes. Certainly some of us weren’t. See this post of ours again:

It is certainly not a fair process of consultation if residents belonging to the TCC (Tenants Consultative Committee) Homes group were not thought worthy of inclusion in the process by the council at all and even more unfair and disproportional when a far larger number of residents in council housing have not even been made aware that the TCC exists.

Next, there’s this:

What is this “Tenant’s Handbook” ? Most of us don’t have one and many of us have never even heard of it. Moreover, why does this have to be separate fron the agreement anyway? Putting out various separate documents/booklets etc. all relating to what amounts to the same thing only causes confusion.

As for repairs caused by neglect or damage, we think this more than reeks of blaming tenants for the council’s neglect. Those rotten kitchen cupboards that one of us has were provided by the council!

This resident has been desperately asking to move (more on that later), will not spend money they do not have on a property they are desperate to leave and does not know the first thing about DIY anyhow (if RBKC encourages complete novices to fit kitchen cupboards they really will end up with tenants causing damages to council properties by the way). Nearly six years ago when that tenant was forced to take this property (a final “offer” – in fact it was the only offer of housing and not really an offer – more “accept this or you’ll make yourself homeless and we will never house you”), the council refused to fix most of the problems. RBKC/KCTMO’s work can be shoddy at times to say the least ; just look at these tiles protruding from a kitchen wall and the gap (which again RBKC have refused to fix):

RBKC also gave the same tenant a bathtub with a hole in – which rather than bother to replace, had just been filled in!

We understand that a very small minority of tenants may have caused harm to their properties but that is in many cases difficult if not impossible to measure properly who has damaged what and when because RBKC themselves in conjuction with KCTMO, have poorly maintained and in some cases, severely neglected quite a lot of their housing stock over a number of years – especially properties that were earmarked by the council for regeneration or potential regeneration and also a certain number of street properties.

There is also a monumental failure on the part of this council to keep full up to date records on the conditions of properties as well as on tenants.

It’s not only “Catastrophe Claire” Williams’ records and notes that appear to have ended up in the bin…..

Here’s another page, we don’t disagree with or object to these rules of course, but just have a look:

What we object to is the format and the tone of it – eg. “You have to do this, you cannot do that”. There are only a couple of paragraphs on the agreement relating to the council’s responsibilities – and it doesn’t go far enough in our view. This format of the tenancy agreement and most of the wording of it remains COMPLETELY UNCHANGED since the TMO days.

Look, we are very pleased that the council is really taking fire safety seriously, we also very much highly welcome and applaud the decision made by RBKC some time back to restore lifetime tenancies – these are excellent and positive changes. But we believe that they must break firmly with the KCTMO past and they must start again with the tenancy agreements – and, by consulting ALL tenants and leaseholders.

We strongly suggest they change the format and wording – so in part 1 – with rules and conditions – is “what we expect from you ” and part 2 of same agreement is “what you can expect from us”.

So what should tenants and leaseholders expect from RBKC, some may ask?

Well, we would expect to see a condition on all housing staff and repair staff to keep full records of conditions of properties and needs of tenants – because they don’t – and there appears to be no condition that they do . See this:

What about the vulnerable? The ill, the disabled and the elderly? We believe that these chronic failures of RBKC/KCTMO to keep up to date records and documents puts the wellbeing of these residents at risk. Council housing management should not purely be just about properties and finances after all

We also expect tenants to be protected from violence and threats. RBKC have proposed this:

But this isn’t good enough. It does nothing to fully address needs of safety of residents if it is not properly enforced and if the council will not fully commit to moving tenants who have been subject to violence and/or threats away from problem neighbours.

The same tenant mentioned above, has also been a victim of violence in their block – from their downstairs neighbour (whose flat they have to go past every day) and also once (from druggies using the bin cupboards who punched said tenant’s front tooth out ) when the tenant went out to put their rubbish out in the cupboards late at night and accidentally happened to inadvertently interrupt these trespassers and their illegal activities.

The tenant is terrified and absolutely desperate to move. Kim Taylor-Snith and the housing officer responsible gave permission to move – but that’s it – no action taken to move her. Instead she is just told that she can bid under the system but has ZERO chance of being moved under that system as she is fairly young- ish, in good health and able-bodied and does not have many housing points.

RBKC just punishes this resident further and tells her she needs to go to the doctor in order to stand a chance of having her housing points increased – ridiculous.

This tenant also lives right around the corner from Grenfell and is affected , but is not considered by RBKC to be eligible for the Local Lettings Policy- under which she might stand more chance of being rehoused – because she does not live in Lancaster West Estate, Treadgold House or Bramley House. So RBKC is making an already traumatised resident (who lives nearer to Grenfell Tower than a few parts of Lancaster West) suffer even more by not accepting her case and other similar cases on this scheme.

There needs to be a guarantee that the council will act to move victims of violence immediately, otherwise the bleak prognosis is that the only way herself and others in a similar position will ever leave their living hell of a council home will be in a bodybag.

Lastly, THINK will reply to this below, as this was obviously proposed by council officers reacting to something we said on this blog:

Here is what one breach of data protection by housing officers towards ourselves was: Housing staff used our blog email and passed that email address along with one of our personal details to other departments without our knowledge or consent. Our Editor was contacted by RBKC Electoral Services via our blog email. She did not hand these contact details to them, she is on the electoral register anyway of course, but the point is, neither she or the blog consented to this and that is the email addresss for the blog and NOT for our personal details to be used and shared freely – for electoral registration or not – and certainly not for the council to pass around; completely unacceptable

Anyway, we will end by wishing all at the events a happy weekend .

All animals are equal but some animals are STILL more equal than others down on the TCC “Animal Farm”

Down on the farm with Anne, Kim, Iago & Doug

Back  in December 2017  we posted about the TCC (Tenants Consultative Committee) here:

The result of¬† the visit to the meeting from us and a few others who had been left out was that the TCC “Homes” group for residents¬† without RAs was set up .

Much more recently RBKC have been consulting¬† resident members of the TCC¬† over proposed changes to tenancy agreements¬†–¬† but they have ONLY consulted with members of the TCC RA group¬† (others might as well not exist as far as this council is concerned)¬† A representative of the TCC Homes Group Bruno has told us that he wasn’t even notified of meetings.

RBKC resident engagement officer Iago Griffith, has claimed that this was because of a “spreadsheet mistake” – ludicrous.

So for ALL residents in RBKC council homes, here are the proposed changes to tenancy agreements  (that most residents  were not consulted about )

Noted is the absence of  any conditions upon housing staff to keep full case records  Рwhich  we have previously  reported  that  some are failing to do::

We also note¬† from this , below, that they aren’t consulting residents¬† (well, the few residents they bother to consult with anyway)¬† about increases to rents and service charges:

Links here:
Windows and double glazing 25-9-20 now 15-10-20

Service for drainage & pipes, gully cleaning  16-10-20

– Resident Involvement Sttategy 19-10-20 now 9-12-20

– Scaffolding/Mobile towers 20-11-20

– Heat & smoke detectors 2nd decision 11-11-20

– Sustainability & fuel poverty 11-11-20

– CCTV 11-11-20 Compatibility?

– Tenancy agreements variation 8-12-20

But if members of the TCC Homes ¬† group may be feeling like second class citizens, there are others who¬†are¬† left even further down what our council appears to think is¬† some sort of a “pecking order”, and those are the residents who¬† unaware that the TCC even exists.

Some might say that the TCC Homes Group is very small, but there is a reason for this:
We did ask before as to why RBKC has not invited any other residents to join but we got no answer from them. The simple answers are firstly because Iago (who seems to only ever communicate with a small handful of people in RAs anyway) cannot be bothered, RBKC seem¬† to have taken have taken the rather arrogant assumption that people who haven’t sought out the council¬†¬†do not want to get involved , and lastly¬† that they would rather not really give the oppotunity to most residents to put their points and suggestions across anyway.

Because otherwise why have they have still failed to include all residents fairly ? There are no other answers.¬† Well we’re sadly not exactly unfamilar with ¬† RBKC not wanting residents to have their say….

THINK¬† could send something out to all the addresses¬† but then we would¬† likely be in breach of the Data Protection Act if we did¬† – so we can’t.
But¬† we ‘re going to¬† try to live up to our acronym and here instead are¬†¬†
a  couple of  blocks of  council flats in Notting Dale Ward around the corner from Grenfell, that do not appear to be  included :

Foreland House, Walmer Road

Allom House & Barlow House- Clarendon Road & Walmer Road

If residents¬† aren’t interested,¬† fine – but they should be aware that the TCC exists and be invited and have that choice of whether to get involved or not in the first place.

So for failing to  include, consult  and engage with all residents properly, for causing divisions and tension  between residents  and for telling porky pies to Bruno by way of some excuse for not inviting him to meetings, THINK  proudly present Iago Griffith with a very richly deserved Piglet-Pie Award:

Setiously? A resident engagement officer who can’t or won’t engage with residents properly?

But there have been¬† other matters going on at the TCC too…..

At the last¬† TCC RA meeting, a residents’ survey from Grenfell United about satisfaction (or not)¬† with council housing¬† services¬† was presented by Kim Taylor-Smith and ¬† Doug Goldring.

Some RAs have expressed concerns about this and as to why Grenfell United, who have no mandate to provide council services are undertaking tbis, why this was presented by RBKC  And believe that  is a matter to be needs to be scrutinised   by the Housing and Communities Committee.

Also , we have to point out  the Grenfell United survey was just for RAs. It does have to be asked why  the views of ALL residents  in RBKC social housing do not  matter according to some?

Look, we are friends and supporters of Grenfell United but we have to say that we are very disappointed and sad about this, especially considering that some were excluded from council processes regarding housing  in times past but  now happening to be, even if not deliberately so , in the act of excluding others.

We also agree with the RAs ¬†that this is a matter for scrutiny if the council are presenting it, and our¬†housing services – that many of us especially in the north of the borough are less than satisfied with (it’s like the TMO are still here)¬† – need to be subject to further council scrutiny.

We accept that the immediate¬† thoughts of Grenfell United may be obviously¬† elsewhere with the Inquiry (have a look at today’s shocking revelations here: )

So we will therefore not be pointing fingers at them for this.
It is RBKC who we feel very angry with –¬† the whole thing;¬† exclusion of residents from processes and meetings, the dishonesty, and causing divisions in our community – it is they who are ultimately to blame.

We also call for Iago Griffith to resign  He might want to leave anyway, because after reading this, there will be more than just  a few residents ready to make mincemeat Рor indeed pork pies Рout of him.

We also have to say that Doug Goldring knew¬†ages ago that a number of residents without RAs were dissatisfied because of being¬† excluded – but he is likely¬† preoccupied¬† with other housing issues –¬† he is at least doing other¬† things (yes we will post further¬† soon)¬† which is why he¬† not getting an award this time – and let’s hope it’s not because he doesn’t care.

Please RBKC , stop paying for  resident engagement suits who fail to engage with residents, and please lets ensure our  housing services  and staff are subject to proper full and fair  scrutiny.

There is supposed to be a TCC Homes online meeting this Thursday  evening but we will not bother if it is only there to exist as a mere  talking shop. This council has insulted the intelligence of both some of us and the other residents in that group if they ever  thought we would accept this.

Sometimes whenever we feel RBKC is making progress on housing,   there is usually another matter of concern or failure that casts a bad shadow over it all  and it  feels like one step forward and two steps back.