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.

RBKC consultation and the beginning of the end for Kensal Library?

Some of us who had hoped that when North Kensington Library in Ladbroke Grove, was saved, that this would be an end to any council plans for closures of our local libraries for good, have been surprised that RBKC have recently decided to hold a public consultation on the future of Kensal Library in North Kensington.

THINKers ourselves do not use Kensal Library nearly as much as we do North Kensington Library – our nearest – or Kensington Central – the biggest; but that is not the point:

Some residents who are regular users of Kensal Library in Golborne Road have expressed their concerns. One young family told us that they live near Kensal Library and go there regularly, that it is great for activities for young children, and that they do not have the time to always travel on the bus further south.

Another resident pointed out that Kensal Library is wheelchair accessible when some of the other libraries in our borough still fully aren’t.

But RBKC ‘s consultation is doing this by a general borough survey which asks residents all over the borough how often they use use Kensal Library, so we fear the result of this will able closure as most outside North Kensington will not be users of (and some may have not even have heard of ) Kensal Library .

And that again misses the point; that being that our borough is diverse and various different Libraries are used in many different ways by our different residents with various different backgrounds, lifestyles and needs and that this big general survey across the entire borough will only end up ignoring the needs of the residents living close to Kensal Library – including quite a lot of North Kensington’s most vulnerable residents.

(We have put a link to the survey at the end as we suggest that others read this post in full first before responding. )

Kensal Library is also historically and culturally significant to North Kensington as this is where the archives for Kelso Cochrane, an innocent black Antiguan resident who was stabbed to death in a racist attack by white youths in 1959, right around the corner in Southam Street are kept. (And our readers can see more about the background , racial community tensions in 1950s North Kensington, and the legacy after Kelso’s unsolved murder at these links : ).

Back to the survey and here is more of what the council says in their consultation :

The Libraries and Archives Service at Kensington and Chelsea is taking steps to improve and develop its offer, with a focus on the usage of Kensal Library. The Council is now beginning the conversation with local people and users of Kensal Library to hear their views on how the library could be improved, specifically around how a local community or voluntary group could partner with the Council to expand the offer available at the library. Our ‘social investment’ policy aims to ensure that we use our local resources – including library buildings – to provide the maximum benefit for our communities. We want to continue to provide a high-quality service and meet our responsibilities as a Council service, to contribute to the priorities and commitments to local residents.

Cllr Pat Mason, Leader of the RBKC Labour Group and one of the local Golborne councillors told us that RBKC had sought to close the Library and that the community with the local Golborne Labour councillors had successfully fought against tbis 10 years ago.

RBKC do keep saying how much they have changed, but the then councillor who first suggested that Kensal Library should be run by volunteers was none other than disgraced former RBKC Deputy Leader Rock Feilding-Mellen. So it’s not unreasonable for some residents to wonder who does keep putting tbis on the agenda, the motives, and if other local libraries in the borough will be safe in time to come.

Many of our local libraries will have been closed due to Covid-19 but our residents do look forward to times when they will be able to use then again . Libraries are not just about books, they are valuable free places of learning, activities, media resources, archives – real community hubs. We do understand that in these difficult times RBKC will be looking for places to make savings and cut costs, but closing Kensal Library will be a slap in the face to North Kensington . Closing this library – or any other library – will be an act of depriving reaidents of valued community space and free resources and services. We need them.

We ask RBKC to think again

Here is the consultation survey – which closes on February the 21st:

Wornington Green: Still green for now

This morning, Catalyst Housing were set to chop down 37 trees on the Wornington Green Estate in North Kensington.

Catalyst are not exactly the most considerate and thoughtful of housing associations, having completely ignored the calls from Wornington Green residents, other North Kensington locals and some of our local representatives to reconsider their plans and save the trees (most of which are mature pollution absorbing plane trees), and the housing association decided to turn up with their chainsaws this morning.

But Catalyst probably didn’t reckon on a big turnout of residents, locals and groups , including members of the Labour Party, local Golborne councillor and Leader of the RBKC Opposition, Pat Mason, members of the local Green Party and members of the Kensington branch of Extinction Rebellion, to all be taking their peaceful socially distanced morning exercise out there too.

After a stand off and the Police being called for no reason, “Catastrophic Housing” decided to clear off. The trees are still here.

We thank everyone who turned up this morning in support, and all who shared and posted on social media, including Cllr Pat Mason, Cllr Judith Blakeman and Green Party PPC for Cities of London and Westminster and London Assembly candidate, Zack Polanski.

We especially thank the local residents and campaigners who care deeply about the health and wellbeing of this community and conserving our environment, both now and for generations to come.

But callous Catalyst say they will be back to chop down the trees next week.

So we have this to say to them:

” As long as you refuse to listen to and respect the needs and wishes of your residents and the North Kensington community and as long as you pose a threat to our environment, and as long as you refuse to change your plans, this community will stand together against you.

The fact that lots of people turned out early in the cold, the petition to save the trees gained over 1,000 supporters in such a short space of time, and even the present RBKC Leadership do not support your destructive plans, all ought to be strong indicators that you need to think again.

Members of this blog had planned to be there this morning too, but only due to personal circumstances, we unfortunately couldn’t make it, but THINKers will be out there taking our morning exercise next week, when you have said you will return to chop down the trees.

Do not underestimate the power of community and how we feel about our environment, our trees and our green spaces here – they are invaluable to us – and mean far, far, more to the locals of North Kensington than your luxury flats ever will”

This isn’t over……

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;

Royal Brompton Hospital: The merger/takeover/ acquisition against much local opposition:

The Royal Brompton Hospital is a world-famous, world class spacialist heart and lung hospital – the latgest in the UK – based in Sydney Street Chelsea.

The Hospital has played an important role in the fight against Covid-19 as the one of only 5 centres in the UK which provides live saving EPMO treatment.

But all this sadly does not appear to be enough to stop NHS management and their asset stripping and selling it off for luxury flats and relocating setvices south of the river. We are truly appalled by this.

The fat cats tell us that there wil still be services there for a decade as they have committed to a new imaging centre in Dovehouse Street

But others in the know tell us this centre will most likely end up being sold off to private medical providers in the end.

Children’s cardiology provided at the Royal Brompton is also set to move to the Evelina Children’s Hosptial under the plans

The board is set to vote to merge with Guy’s and St Thomas’s today.

The RBKC Committtee meeting

An online meeting of the RBKC Adult Social Care and Health committee last month about the acquisition was perhaps, in some parts, special for some of the wrong reasons, partly because the Committee Chair, Labour’s Cllr Marwan Elnaghi had decided to have the bulk of the meeting devoted to presentations amd the NHS bosses making their cases, and at the very end of it, they only had time for a couple questions and statements from members of the public for a few minutes at the very end – disgraceful (we’ll say more about this later)

But we will summarise :

The first (and far largest part were the presentations.

Dr Richard Grocott-Mason: “We are glad to be given the opportunity to share what we believe are exciting plans that will benefit our patients”

First I’d like to reassure our patients, local residents and members of the committee that role is not closing. We will continue to provide specialist care for patients who need our services on the current site for at least the next decade.

Staff are very grateful for the recognition that the Council have expressed repeatedly for their excellent work, and I’m particularly proud of the outstanding care staff with both our hospital sites and delivered to patients during the last eight months.

I want to start by reminding the committee of the vision of the Royal Brompton and Harefield, which is the the UK, leading specialist center for heart and lung disease, developing services to research and clinical practice to improve the health of people globally, delivering the highest possible care to our current patients and ensuring that we can continue to do this in the future as being the driving force for the board. And we believe that the merger with Guy’s and St Thomas’s is the best way to take forward a partnership that we’ve had more than three years,”

“COVID has accelerated the transformation and models of care. Many of our respiratory patients now receive their biological treatments and intravenous drugs at home, rather than having to come up to the hospital, each time they need treatment, more patients are speaking to their clinical teams from home or work, rather than having to travel to the hospital”

Robert Craig, the Director of Development and partnership : “.We’re proposing mergers structured as an acquisition for a number of reasons. Firstly, they will bring stability and resilience to our services after many years of uncertainty about their future. We will become part of one of the largest health care organizations in the NHS, and one with a very stable history.

One of the catalysts for our collaboration was to pull our considerable resources to build a strong congenital heart disease service for patients of all ages. That could not only comfortably meet our national standards, but also and I think this part is crucial. Enable the expert teams to work together so successfully as to remain together in the same organization in the future.

Secondly, the scale of a new organization will support the development of greater sub specialization, as well as investment in the next innovations and in future technologies. And thirdly, we know that we’ll be able to sustain the important characteristics of Royal Brompton services, and that specialist care across a patient’s whole life. And the supportive, academic clinical culture, as we expand the academic opportunities that are available to our specialists.”

Helena Bridgman, a patient governor at thr Royal Brompton talked about her own experience and said this:” I started with one major problem in my lungs, but I am in fact the sum of many different parts. In fact a system of care, compassion, collaboration and coordination of care closer to home have figured large in smoothing my passage.

The staff at the Brompton have provided me with superb world-class care but the story did not end there. So what I have experienced firsthand as a patient and a nurse, is how inportant it is to be cared for by coherent and integrated teams and services that can treat many different conditions and needs at many different levels and can also provide coordinated aftercare to both local and more distant patients”.

Dr Ian Abbs, Guy’s and St Thomas’s :”This is a merger coming together of two partners, equal partners…… ”

Who does he think he is kidding here?

Dr Abbs: “The future has already been discussed and it is subject to consultation” ”

“the partnership with the other members of the NHS family n thr Royal Marsden in particular on a lung cancer pathway, with Chelsea and Westminster and other organizations of Northwest London, where we will be remaining for many years to come. as a major provider of care in northwest London, and we’re committed to engaging collaboratively with the NHS colleagues with our local authority partners, and with other stakeholders”

Charles Alexander, The Royal Marsden: “Of course we are the Royal Brompton’s most immediate neighbours as indeed is our academic department of the Institute of cancer research on the other side of th the Bromptons frontage on the Fulham Road, and not only have we been in the Fulham Road since 1870. but we intend to continue to invest throughout the whole period, both in our site in Chelsea and in our site in Sutton . The observation is that our trust has on this merger, firstly, of course, we respect, the will of the two boards of their respective trusts Guy’s and St Thomas’ and the Royal Brompton to pursue one thing, in the best interests of their patients. Our principles therefore concern the future of our patient provision on our side. And our partnership with the Royal Brompton. And indeed, with through Royal Marsden partners through the rest of the network with the Cancer Alliance, to which we provide, and have provided throughout the Covid pandemic in particular, a very joined up treatment pathway.And we wish to build on that, and invest in it.”

Hazel Fisher, NHS England ” NHS England in this role is arranging the provision of a wide range of health services to the extent that it considers necessary to meet the reasonable requirements of the people for whom it is responsible. And it does that, in large part through the commissioning stops and NHS improvement is responsible for overseeing NHS Foundation Trust and ensuring that patients receive consistently safe, high quality compassionate care within their local health systems that are financially sustainable. So those differences are important when it comes to a matter of this sort. So the NHS England is responsible for consulting on substantial service change, and variations in service, and I’m fact, our engagement responsibility is quite broad, it can go from a smaller service change which could be with a discussion with a limited group of invitations involved, or it can be full scale public consultation. And indeed, we are responsible were for those sorts of public consultations, where services move, and that is equally true if services move from one site managed by a trust to another site managed by the same trust, as it is true, if a service moves between trust. So I know that it has been a voiced concern that potentially with this transaction between the Royal Brompton and Guy’s and St Thomas’ that services will move without the right degree of scrutiny. And I think it’s really important to emphasise that that will not be the case. It was very good to hear from both Ian Abbs and Richard Grocott- Mason that that’s fully understood.”

Dr Bob Klaber” I’m a paediatrician and the director of strategy research and innovation in Imperial College healthcare and I’m going to be joined by Nicola Grinstead who is leading work across West London Children’s Health Care Alliance, and a halfway through this. So I guess just reflecting on what we’ve heard. I thought Richard’s comments around inequalities and Helena’s really important patient’s story really take us to the heart of what needs to be about and our plans. that we have been working on in collaboration with Imperial College London are very much designed to meet the health needs and address the health inequalities within our local population in northwest London, and this work has to not be about organizations, it has to be about patients residents citizens our local communities and the population we’re here to serve. And we believe that that’s best achieved by preserving and developing the long established Northwest London networks of specialists in respiratory and cardiovascular care and colleagues at the Brompton rightly talked about collaboration, being right at the heart of it, it needs to have medical education and research entwined with it. And we know from all the work we’ve done over decades, is that it led to significant improvements in adult and pediatric care but also having impact nationally. I’m just goiing to pass you to Nicola who’s goung to talk a little bit about about some of the deyails of the work we’ve been doing ”

Nicola Grinstead, managing director for West London Children’s health:

“It is important to us in northwest London in terms of meeting the health and wellbeing needs of our population, we thought it would be helpful to highlight to this meeting, very specifically through the lens of Cardiology and respiratory services which obviously is the main interface between ourselves and the Royal Brompton.

Some of the key areas of focus in collaboration across Imperial College health care, Chelsea and Westminster, and Imperial College, right now, above that line, our commitment to making sure that the needs of our population are met, our commitment to tackling health inequalities to ensuring that services are developed around patient need, and to breaking down, organizational boundaries to ensure good access to the full spectrum of health care and services including specialist provisioning and we’re doing that very specifically, and through making sure that we have a new purpose built cardiovascular and respiratory center for adults at Hammersmith hospital.

And we’ve already launched an integrated children’s health care network so the western Children’s Health Care Alliance, which focuses on making sure that children have equal access at the time they need it to the full range of healthcare services from primary care right through to the specialist services that we access through the rural producten, and also a we’ve launched this year, a new academic center for child health through Imperial College which will help us to make sure that we’re really developing clinical services, hand in hand with research and educational focus. And it’s important I think in highlighting these three examples to identify that actually we already collaborate and hugely with real volunteers and colleagues in this space, whether that be clinically or academically and I think these examples highlight the depth of the collaboration that already exists within Northwest London, I think we view the collaboration between ourselves and the world Brompton as a highly valued and hugely impactful collaboration and if I focus on children’s there’s just one example of that. I think we can say that what we have in place is a highly sophisticated and really mutually beneficial network of care provision which has genuinely evolved over time directly to meet the needs of children that we serve. Within Northwest London. Others have already commented and I wish also to emphasize on the fact that the pandemic has served, simply to amplify the importance of that collaboration, and I think both patients and our staff would lose out in the absence of that continued collaboration. I think it’s reassuring that for to hear and commitments from colleagues both the Guys and St Thomas’ under the Royal Brompton ongoing collaboration. And in this context I want them to emphasize again our ongoing commitment to the provision of excellent care in northwest London for Northwest London patients, and to collaboration with Brompton colleagues, both now and I think worth highlighting very specifically this nuance and in the future. If and when Fulham Road Services relocate in such a way that the health needs of Northwest London patients can continue to be appropriately met, both with excellence and ease of access,.”

But Professor Jonathan Weber, Dean of Imperial College had this to say:”. My concern is over the very short, medium term. And the longer term, about the nature of loss of co-location, and this loss of collaboration, and my concern is that we will lose the research stuff, which have been generating, similar to this output. I believe that there will be a real challenge in maintaining this alignment over time. I’m particularly concerned respiratory medicine , cardiovascular medicine and this research is well funded in the UK. Respitatory medicine , despite. and I urge nhse to form the transition board, which was promised along the side of this merger of organizations to look at future patient services in West London in cardiovascular and respiratory medicine, and their alignment with research and to education.”

“This move is not going to make it better. It’s going to stretch, and I suspect demoralise the researchers, particularly in response to events, because of the uncertainty over the future location or co-location, and the removal, over time, of them physically from the Imperial College environment. And this is the risk. This is the risk to respond to research. So you’ve got something that’s excellent. And that’s what’s going to be disrupted”

After presentations had gone on for over an hour, Cllr Robert Atkinson had pointed this out to Cllr Elnaghi and aaked when others would get to speak.

RBKC councillors unite and fight

Our councillors are united on this issue and many of then spoke excellently at the meeting so and this is just a brief extract of what some of them had to say and our readers can here the meeting in full at this link here:

At several points during the meeting Cllr Ian Henderson raised points of order over some of the panel, Dr Grocott-Mason Dr Abbs and Mr Craig in particular referring to the acquisition as a merger:

“It’s not a merger; it’s an acquisition”

After the fourth time Cllr Henderson had raised this, Dr Grocott-Mason replied that it was a “merger structured as a statutory acquisition”

Cllr Robert Freeman:”I just like to make three points. One is, it’s fine to say there’s a public consultation. And it’s fine to say that everybody is getting into it with an open mind. But once the Brompton has been taken over its effectively, a subsidiary of Guy’s and St Thomas’ and it’s very difficult to take that consultation with ab open mind. Just a point I’ve made. Secondly, the question of research was brushed over to really go quickly by Ian Abbs in the contribution of respiratory medicine, that the Brompton has made is absolutely enormous. And that is the. Once that has gone, it’s, gone It hass been probably the leading researcher researcher in this country. It’s really sad to say that.” Cllr Freeman also took issue with what some of the panel had said earlier appearing to be:”associating the takeover of congenital heart disease at the problem with the problems of the Bristol Royal Infirmary in the mid 90s, not too short. impression but that became neither professional or personal. Royal Infirmary was one of the most disgraceful pieces of paediatric medicine that this country has seen it was arrogant. It was careless people suffered the loss of their children lives with terminated early. If you contrast that with the Brompton with its paediatric senior team had some of the best outcomes in the country and continues to” . I believe the algorithms and the problem is as good if not , better. So, can we please make absolutely sure that that misunderstanding is put to rest. Thank you.”

Cllr Walaa Idris: “Can someone tell me how is staff morale now that they know this is going on”

Cllr Charles Williams :”In the first wave of the pandemic. The Brompton played a crucial role in supporting seriously ill patients, partly through EPMO. And I wondered what ita contribution is at the moment. If it wasn’t there where would the capacity be? ”

Dr Grocott-Mason : the Brompton is continuing to work very closely with the Northwest London ICS, in terms of provision of critical care and EPMO services. So, the, number of EPMO beds, has been expanded to an askl of 30 beds, and this is compared to our original ask of five. currently running in the second wave of about a dozen patients on EPMO in the intensive care unit. So, we are still providing, this as we’ve said that the services are not going anywhere. And we will continue to provide the collaboration with not just Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospitals but other hospitals in northwest London”: “Around staff morale and engagement there’s been a, an awful lot of engagement with a whole load of events that have been going on for a long period of time where over the last two months we’ve been in the TUPE consultation and staff have questions, we’ve answered hundreds of questions from our staff quite appropriate questions about their employment about their job and everything. But what we have noticed is that actually there is a shift in mood to excitement around the opportunities that are provided by being part of a bigger organization that has more resilience has more support for some of the activities that are difficult to, to provide in a smaller trust. And one of the things that jointly we will be doing is to implement an electronic health record, and the investment in that will be something which again, has generated a lot of excitement from staff because that will be part of the, the enabler of transformation. ”

Dr Abbs responded : “I mean, the first thing is, is 10 years is quite a long time in healthcare. And if I reflect back 10 years on how care is organised and delivered now, compared to 10 years ago it’s cery important. I mean my own feeling is that there will be healthcare delivery of some time on the Sydney street side of the Royal Brompton hospital for many decades to come. And one of the big things that happened was is a big investment in imaging diagnostics. I mean one of the things I would expect to happen. Fortunately for patients of the future is much more concentration on early diagnostics so patients are seen earlier, particularly for complex conditions cardiac respiratory cancer particularly. And I could well see that being built up because actually much of the healthcare the future will probably be based on diagnostics and In terms of the inpatient beds, which is one only various actually small component of health care much. Just to give you an idea I think we have about 200,000 inpatients a year and at Guy’s and St Thomases we have 2 million contacts with patients a year. So actually most of the care related to an inpatient is actually coming to the hospital to test – some of that will change given the types of technology we have now. ”

Many residents in and around our borough have been patients at the Royal Brompton and Cllr Linda Wade mentioned that both herself and some members of her family have been patients there.

Cllr Malcolm Spalding was rightly keen to pick the document apart and tell it as it is : “If you want to pick this document, and the presentations that we’ve had this evening. He had a recent kind of thread, which can be unraveled, and lots of our residents are clever enough to get the theme the historical theme that’s going on here, and I’ll have to be blunt about it. And it really involves three things. It involves the state, the fiscal and the estate. It involves the acquisition or the takeover. And it involves the reason why, which, which has been given for all this to happen. And all of these have got big doubts in our residents minds, we’re bombarded with these questions, and somebody has to say it’s an important question, and I will be putting it to leadership”

These are only a few extracts but this post would go in forecer if we listed all the councillors excellent contributions in full. We’re not known for being the biggest fans of RBKC (and sometimes we’re rather ashamed of them!) but contributions from councillors of all parties on this issur have been excellent and have done us proud.

Some points from us

When some of the NHS bosses made the case from the move to South London and the acquisition of the Brompton at the meeting, they seemed to assume that as the majority of patients treated at the Brompton were from elsewhere, that this reinforced their case. But we believe that some of the panel have greatly underestimated or disregarded the local need for specialist heart and lung services locally in time to come:

First of all the health effects on the local population of huge redevelopment schemes, and densification to consider wbich will bring homes, offices, and shops of course, but also increased levels of trafffic; therefore increased levels of pollution, and the effect of a vast increase in the number of tall buildings further trapping in the pollution with them.

There is Earl’s Court and the site of the former Exhibition Centre which is set for redevelopment – this is in an area where already, some residents” health is suffering because of the levels of pollution, which are the highest in the UK and are already at three times the WHO limit.

Then to the north of our borough, the Old Oak redevelopment scheme is ongoing. bringing with it more infrastructure and a projected very large population increase and inevitably, will bring increased pollution to neighbouring areas like ours, in which the Westway runs through and which have a high level of pollution (which is, at the timebeing, at the top end of the WHO legal limit) and is likely to increase.

On a separate but still local issue, we also have to mention the effects of toxic fumes from the Grenfell Tower Fire and the possible long term health implications on local residents. Immediately after the fire, some previously healthy residents suffered from respiratory problems and some still do. The wider and long term effects suffered by residents from the toxic fumes of the fire are still largely unknown.

Also while we are encouraged that services and treatements are advanced to where a large number of patients can receive these at home, its inportant to remember that inner London boroughs like ours have a high proportion of lone residents and many who are without any support at home and also that the quality of some home environments of some of our poorest residents (ie those in HMOs, temporary accommodation or those living in accommodation – such as overcrowded housing or small may not be suited to monitoring receiving treatment and medication at home. We worry about the impact of the move on the quality of life on these residents and we think that while the move may prove helpful to residents living near Guy’s and St Thomas Hospitals;, this could become yet another case of the NHS Lottery ‘with those losing out being residents in and around our communities.

The board meeting is today and we are sad to say that this is pretty much a done deal unless the Government intervenes. We agree with Ian Henderson when he says there should be a public inquiry into the Royal Brompton and Harefield Trust and their dealings.

We also have to say that we were very disappinted with the decision of Chair Cllr Marwan Elnaghi to not allocate sufficient time for the public to ask questions at the Special RBKC Adult Social Care and Health Committee meeting . After all, that was the only real oppotunity for many residents to do so. We are thankful to many of the other Labour councillors, including Sina Lari, Pat Mason, Pat Healy and of course, Ian Henderson who all spoke very well at the meeting . We do hope that the RBKC opposition benches undergo a reshuffle this Christmas – (while we usually have a high opinion of Cllr Elnaghi, we are not convinced he is suited to chairing this particular council committee).

Later, Ian Henderson had this to say to us:

“To claim this is an acquisition by St Thomas’s means the Royal Brompton do not have to consult the public.

After the Grenfell Tower disaster, for any organisation to think they can ignore Kensington and Chelsea residents is akin to acting like the old TMO

To consider removing the number one respiratory hosptial in the world at this time is nothing sgort og a betrayal of the legacy of the NHS and the 100 year support of the hospital by our residents ”

Yesterday there was a socially distanced protest held outside the Royal Brompton Hospital with Cllr Henderson, along with Cllr Robert Atkinson and Cllr Nadia Nail, the GMB Union and members of H & F Save Our NHS in attendance:

A consultation and two petitions

Our readers can sign and share the two local petitions to save the Royal Brompton Hospital here. We recommend signing both:

Ian Henderson’s petition:

The RBKC petition:

And have your say in the RBKC planning consultation by the 30th of December here:

We end by calling on Matt Hancock and the Government to intervene in this decision and stop this asset sweating by NHS management of our legendary world-class hospital as we fear for the wellbeing of our residents if this goes ahead , especially at a time when our communities really need it more than ever.

We also say a special thanks to Ian Henderson for campaigning so strongly on this and to fellow Kensington blog From The Hornets Nest, who have reported extensively on the potential sell off and the goings on at the secretive Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust for years . Check out their excellent blog here:

Covid -19: Community, councillors and carers (plus some help and information)

This is a blog post for everyone.

It is partly about the great work that some of our RBKC councillors are doing in and around our community (because we felt it was time to share something positive about them for once! ) It is partly to share information and useful help links with our readers – both for those who can help others in need and others who may be more in need of some help themselves, it is also partly for us to share a few thoughts, and also to show our deep gratitude and appreciation for the NHS real life heroes who get up and get on and whose work it is to put everyone first and save lives.

As we reported yesterday, the Covid-19 hub has been set up for clinically vulnerable people living in our borough. This has been set up in our borough distributing food and essentials for clinically vulnerable RBKC residents under 65. See this KCSC link for further details:

There is further information of other help available at the RBKC website here:

Here are Colville Labour councillors Ian Henderson, Monica Press and Nadia Nail helping out – both for the council hub , and below – for Covid C-19 Mutual Aid.

Residents living in Colville, Notting Dale or Norland Wards (C-19 Mutual Aid Zone 2) who are self isolating and need shopping, collecting prescriptions or dog walking, can call Mutual Aid for help on 020 3287 9928

Here are some other Labour councillors: Golborne Cllr and Leader Pat Mason, Dalgarno Cllr Kasim Ali, and the two St Helen’s councillors Mo Bakhtiar, and Portia Thaxter delivering and collcting food and shopping for those in need around North Kensington recently.

Our local Kensington and Chelsea Foodbank is running low on donations, so if you can, please make a small donation to help them keep supplies of food and basic essentials for people in our community who need them most.

You can do this fron home by making a donation via the website here

Local residents can also leave items on Mondays and on Fridays between 10am to 3pm at Notting Hill Methodist Church, 240 Lancaster Road, W11 4AH

Here is an up to date list of items the foodbank urgently needs:

The Age UK Foodbank for vulnerable residents over 65 based at Al Manaar the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre in Acklam Road is also in need of donations and supplies.

If you can help or donate food , please contact them here

Al Manaar have been continously outstanding in their help, support and care for many North Kensington residents of all faiths both in the aftermath and devastion of Grenfell and right to this day.

Ramadan began last Thursday and while the Mosque may be closed to the public due to Lockdown, there is a livestream of services and sessions here on their website.

Local residents and friends of this community can donate to Al Manaar here

Every Friday between 10am and 12pm there are free food parcels available for those in need or to collect for others, on a stall outside All Saints church, Clydesdale Road, W11 1JE

We send our thanks to all the local volunteers, community groups and religious organisations for their help as well as big thanks to Khalsa Jatha, the local Sikh Gurdawara in Queensdale Road for preparing and donating cooked meals for residents in need and The SPACE and Bikeworks and all others who have been out delivering food to residents of RBKC, LBHF amd Brent recently

It’s not just Labour councillors in North Kensington who have been volunteering:

Courtfield Conservative Cllr Janet Evans has been out and about helping people in her ward too

And fellow Courtfield councillor Greg Hammond has been helping out as an NHS Response Volunteer

We say a big thank you and take off our THINKing caps to all these councillors and the many incredible volunteers around the borough helping out.

Tbis is a very difficult time for everyone right now and some of us may be very limited as to how we are able to help out.

Some of us are also finding Lockdown a struggle – either mentally (lack of work and routine, not seeing friends and family has been personally hard for us)

Others sharing space 24/7 with family members or flatmates are also not finding things easy.

Dr John Green, chief psychologist at Central North West London NHS Trust has some helpful advice on coping with stress, anxiety and boredom during lockdown in this My West London article

If things really do become too much for some residents, here are some emergency numbers of organisations that can help with advice and support too:

And here is something most of us can do; show our support gratitude and heartfelt respect for our NHS Professionals and carers who are right there on the frontline.

This Tuesday we held a minute’s for the NHS workers (over 100) who have passed away from Coronavirus. Our thoughts are with their loved ones, families and friends.

However difficult some of us may be finding things, it’s important for all of us to think of the people whose job it is to save lives and put others first, sometimes at a cost to their own health and wellbeing too. They are putting their lives on the line to save others and to help keep this country going.

So this evening at 8pm, and every Thursday , let’s give our incredible NHS professionals a big round of applause together. Open your windows or doors, make some noise and Clap For Our Carers


Happy New Year, new decade and all that (and why our blog is taking a break)

We wish our readers a very Happy New Year and we hope all had a good Christmas.

Following what has truly been the “Winter of our discontent” – well for us and many North Kensington residents anyway – our blog is taking a break from things.

2019 has actually been a very difficult year for us (we’ll just briefly mention election results, Grenfell, scrutiny and housing here) finishing with fallouts aplenty – sometimes things can just get all too much.

THINKers are also personally dealing with a lot on our plates right now and we don’t mean festive leftovers .

We are feeling drained and worn down from everything and there is no point in us going on autopilot and blogging just for the sake of it.

There are a lot of issues we are concerned with and perhaps we really ought to be to be doing more , but maybe this is a good time for others to become more involved in local issues?

THINK are not sure when or even if our blog will be back, but if not, we’d like to thank our friends, supporters and all the many incredible campaigners who have inspired us over the past few years.


GRENFELL, SCRUTINY AND THE SUMMER OF OUR DISCONTENT Part 2: Grenfell Committee gets the chop as RBKC lose their heads

(Our thanks to OG for the title picture)

So we look back to July’s Full Council meeting in which the abolition of the Grenfell Recovery Scrutiny Committee and other unpopular and unwanted changes in our part of the borough, were voted through, amid booing, heckling and shouting from many unhappy residents.

North Ken residents speak out

At the end of the first part of the meeting ( the “Democracy Hour”, in which local residents address the council), the final resident to speak, North Kensington resident Leearna Oliffe (pictured above) made two separate but relevant points in her speech.

First of all she spoke about Adair Tower, a council block in North Kensington, the tragic double murder of two elderly residents there Back in May, the media frenzy afterwards (which reminded some of the days after Grenfell ) and RBKC failing to provide vulnerable residents there any form of support despite offucers being in full knowledge of the situation. Thankfully Sue Duggins, chair of the newly formed RA there got in touch with the Grenfell NHS Outreach Team and they were on hand to provide much needed support to residents there who had been in need of it

RBKC did not respond until June and them dismissely said that it was a “Police matter” . No referrals to victim support

We’re sadly not surprised by this as RBKC has form over many years, of neglecting the needs of residents in social housing – particularly those in North Kensington (we would be amazed however if Elizabeth “never been in a tower block” Campbell actually had any clue where Adair Tower was).

Leearna : ” I would therefore ask do the council have a policy in place regarding serious incidents that affect residents that has a reference to ensuring their mental and physical welfare is safeguarded? And if not, would you please seriously consider putting this in place as you seriously have a duty of care over your residents. And as this example demonstrates, you are dramatically failing in this ”

Leearna in her second point also referred to RBKC’s Grenfell Recovery and the Government Taskforce Report and asked RBKC for a 6 week legal deferral on the decisions: “The motion which is being considered which would effectively bring an end to Grenfell Scrutiny need to be deferred until such time an effective consultation with the community has been considered. I would remind you that you are here to serve us and we therefore deserve to be considered in any decision. We are no longer prepared to be done to but rather want to be consulted and worked with”

A Rotten Borough response

Then the response from Elizabeth “Dizzy Lizzy” Campbell: “I really hope you feel you’re not being done down”( Residents:”WE ARE”)

Cllr Campbell: “We accept what the Taskforce says and that the bar they have set us is very high”

“We hope to be making progress with the community…..”


Dizzy Lizzy: “We think that by improving scrutiny, we will be able to scrutinise the recovery and strategy more carefully. It will be split across all council scrutiny so it will be in our DNA so that all councillors will have to learn from it….”


Of course Elizabeth Campbell was not at the administration committee meeting (which she was supposed to have been chairing) and Leearna said this was a “very decent respectful request to allow people to read the document before the changes went through” and that most people did not have enough time to consider the changes before voting them through. Leearna – not Dizzy Lizzy – received a huge round of applause.

Elizabeth Campbell finished by disputing the time that residents had to be consulted with as saying “I think you’ve come in at the tail end of it – the consultation was around six to nine months” But she missed a vital point then about the document only being made available for a short time before the administration committee meeting and this full council one, and also what scope of consultations the council undertook.

She also completely ignored Leearna’s questions regarding Adair Tower . So that’s North Kensington residents being ignored again; the tail end of this upside down borough.

And yes, that above screenshot is actually of Cllr Campbell bizarrely smiling while she was giving her response.

Then it was over to Cllr Pat Mason (Leader of the Labour Group)

Dizzy & Co (wrongly think they) know best

Pat Mason (above) said, addressing Elizabeth Campbell, “They (residents) – not you – know best as to what North Kensington needs. You should know that. They know best and you need to shut up!”

Cllr Mason did say that at the admin committee (which he is a member of), he had asked if anyone had read the document, and nobody said they had – appalling.

Pat Mason also is a councillor for Golborne Ward, where Adair Tower is situated, and said that “we (the Labour Golborne councillors) had fought vociferously month after month, year after year to get the council the former TMO and Police to do something about the problems in the block they were found wanting. It’s all on record. This is par for the course. This is not meant to happen in this new era of change at the council”

As for the scrutiny panel recommendations and consultation, he had to say this to Dizzy Lizzy “You’re telling them “you should have read this” or ” you should have understood” They elect us we’re supposed to be representing them. ”

Dizzy Lizzy then went in to make her Leader’s statement: “Tonight I want to speak positively” (pass the sick bag) “I believe the council is listening and not only listening it’s taking action” (Residents: “YOU’RE NOT!” )

Dizzy Lizzy had tried to take credit for the council over the new lease on Wornington College well they had to sign that (that’s thanks to the campaigners and thanks to former Government minister Anne Milton actually) citing this as a positive example of where the council was supposedly listening.

She ran though a list of things including “an extra £18 million for Lancaster West refurbishment and reinstating lifetime tenancies” Good; about time. “We agreed an economic strategy which takes us away from the sleepy borough that residents think we are” (Residents: “YOU ARE!” )

Elizabeth Campbell then deliberately selected more favourable feedback from the Government Taskforce Report stating that the taskforce had praised the council’s rehousing efforts in an unprecedented situation. But said ” the taskforce said the quality of work on homes and the personalisation is unprecendented and unprecedented is where we are. The bar has been set very high. In just 24 months we have been expected to rebuild trust and transform our relationship with our communities ” Residents: “YOU HAVEN’T!”

Dizzy Lizzy: “In my view the timescale was unrealistic. Recovery and trust will take generations. We’re trying to achieve change by giving the community an even greater voice” (Shouting from residents in background) “Scrutiny of the council is being strengthened” (Residents: “IT’S NOT”) “We will be putting our communities first” (Residents: “THIS IS A JOKE” )

Dizzy Lizzy finished by saying that “a new Government is beimg formed as we speak” (cue A LOT of shouting from the gallery!)

Selective community engagement

It had earlier been revealed by Cllr Pat Mason in the meeting that Nabil Choucair who lost 5 members of his family in Grenfell had not been allowed to speak at this meeting – absolutely disgraceful. Cllr Mason made points regarding the council not listening to the community, the bereaved and the survivors who were all against these changes.

Elizabeth Campbell, at one point in the meeting, brandished a letter purporting to be from a resident (just the one who she chooses to listen to?) “I received a letter from a resident this week outlining why Grenfell Scrutiny doesn’t work ” and then read out her own reasons! (She also did not say which ward this “resident” was from). Our “Leader” then said the council had consulted with 348 residents’ associations (we know that’s a fib) and 29 voluntary organisations (we’d like to know which ones and if they are based in RBKC ; she did not say ). Residents in the meeting however, reacted by shouting “YOU BLOODY HAVEN’T!” “YOU NEED THIS TO STOP!”and “THIS IS NONSENSE!”

The Opposition hits back

Citing the Taskforce Report, Emma Dent Coad pointed to ” strategic – weaknesses – which we (the opposition) have been concerned about for some time.” Concerning Grenfell Recovery Strategy , Emma highlighted the report saying “communication hasn’t been effective, a lot of the program has yet to be developed in detail (the report was made only a month before this meeting) the council is struggling to convert a high degree of social capital inta positive force (“social capital” meaning us – the community)”.

Cllr Dent Coad also mentioned senior people turning up at community meetings, making promises and then disappearing (yes we’re unfortunately very familiar with examples of that – both from some council Cabinet Members and from certain members of senior council staff).She finished by saying “we (RBKC) don’t have the leadership we (also RBKC) don’t have the skills and we need to work on our social capital like the Taskforce has said. This is the Royal Borough moving backwards – shame on you”

Cllr Judith Blakeman: “These recommendations are so wrong, I don’t know where to begin!” Scrutiny should focus on what matters most to residents. The themes, at a resident’s conference of 15 people from a population of over 160,000, indicated that what matters most are environmental matters such as litter, car parking, traffic congestion, dog mess – NOT Grenfell, crime, community safety, housing and homelessness – the things that matter most to people in North Kensington.”This is another case of this council wishing to go back to business as usual as soon as possible”

And so does Julie Mills!

Cllr Julie Mills (above) is a Conservative councillor for Norland Ward (in North Kensington, less than 10 minutes walk from Grenfell) ” The reason I’m going to abstain is because I find Recommendation 11 quote difficult to accept both legally, judicially and indeed as an elected member ”

For the benefit of our readers, we’ll just post this again : Recommendation 11 : That the Overview & Scrutiny Committee be responsible for all Grenfell-related matters, including recovery, and delegate to the relevant Council Select Committees issues where detailed scrutiny is required”

“Note the word delegate. Now Mr Mayor, that indicates to me that there are no checks and balances on what the Overview Scrutiny Committee is going to dictate to all the other sub committees and what they will actually scrutinise. I find it quite unpalatable; I think it is probably unlawful. ” I don’t understand why Mrs (Heather) Wills, who is the architect of this, is advising the councillors ”

(Yes – very good point from Julie Mills here – Heather Wills is neither a legal professional nor an elected councillor.)

“We’re told to “suck it and see” that’s unfortunate term Mr Mayor, because believe that a responsible authority shouldn’t suck and see what happens. Either you are statutorily constituted and scrutiny is part of that, or not? What is the statutory status of this council at the moment?” ”

But Julie Mills was not the only Tory rebel, as to the surprise of some, Cllr Malcolm Spalding also abstained.

Mills Vs Rossi

Conservative councillors, Marie-Therese Rossi – former Mayor and chair of this new Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Julie Mills (also a former Mayor) ended up having a disagreement at one point when Cllr Rossi was speaking.

Cllr Rossi : “I’ve heard what you (residents) have all said this evening when you have been crying out when members have been speaking. It is not the case that Grenfell will be forgotten or that we are taking away your voice, that will not happen as long as I am chair of the Overall Scrutiny Committee. As such I will have overall responsibility for Grenfell-related matters and also responsibility for allocating work to the other four select committees, though I have to say to Cllr Mills that I do not see my position as that of a dictator”

Julie Mills then got up and raised a point of order objecting to this .

Present Mayor – Cllr Will Pascall: “Cllr Mills will you please be seated? Cllr Mills!”

Cllr Julie Mills: “Can you correct that for the record? I did not call you a dictator!”

Marie-Therese Rossi: “Ok I would just like to say that the way I would work would be to open up discussions with the other scrutiny chairs and myself” (Hang on a bit – so the councillor responsible for overseeing the new committee arrangements over scrutiny appears to be confused as to whether the four select committees are scrutiny committees or not?!)

Cllr Mills (still standing up): “Can you please withdraw that? I did not call you a dictator!”

At this point amid the disagreement and heckling from residents in the. background, the microphone clearly picked up Mayor Pascall muttering aloud “oh for goodness sake! Sit down!!”

Marie-Therese Rossi: ” I did not say you called me a dictator!”

Mayor Will Pascall: “Please can we calm down?”

Cllr Rossi: ” I think you said something Cllr Mills… no, I tell you what you said – you said “delegate” You didn’t like the word delegate”

At this point even THINKers were becoming confused!

Mayor Pascall: “Councillors, can we move forward please? ”

Cllr Rossi: “I apologise if I have caused you any offence”

Maybe all that Mayoral bling has some sort of effect on them or something?

Let’s try and clear this up: We have quoted what Cllr Mills actually said with regards to dictating and/or delegating above. Cllr Rossi, while seeming to be determined in her new role, appears to be unsure of what exactly the official roles, remits and protocols of the select committees actually are in full detail – and this is no offence to her – so are most people, including us!

Anyway here is some of the rest of what Cllr Rossi (just heard amid much heckling and shouting from residents) had to say regarding her role: “I have to say to all the residents who came to listen to this that my door will always be open. You can come and speak to me or I will come and speak to you. I am very concerned to meet with Grenfell United survivors and also to ask you if you will give me a bit of time. I will ask you to judge me therefore not on what I’m saying tonight, but what I actually do in the weeks and months ahead.”

“One of the reasons we decided to change the scrutiny arrangements was to increase public involvement” Oh really Marie-Therese? Less scrutiny, fewer public committees and meetings and completely ignoring the wishes and protests of survivors, bereaved and North Kensington residents by abolishing the Grenfell Recovery Scrutiny Committee equates to greater public involvement? We would be laughing if we weren’t so near to crying. Tellingly, she did not go into any of the other supposed reasons

Linda Wade has her say

Lib Dem Cllr Linda Wade was the lone opposition councillor on the Scrutiny Panel and she had this to say: “In a way the Scrutiny Panel was handed a poisoned chalice. I feel that the problem was it become more review of classification of scrutiny rather than how the Leadership Team could be held to account. More time seemed to be spent on allocating Leadership Team (Cabinet) Members to a reduced amount of scrutiny groups which was in some cases awkward and at other times unsatisfactory whereas the development of a more robust plan to be able have a have more effective scrutiny of the Leadership Team was harder to achieve”.

“At a time when we say we are a listening council, that we seek increased transparency, that we’ve changed our culture; the brief handed to us was in fact, to reduce the number of scrutiny committees and reduce the amount of time that they met – something which appeared to be contrary to the different aspirations of the council to be open, transparent and listening. ”

“The Leadership Team have failed to comprehend the necessity to continue with the Grenfell Recovery Scrutiny Committee at this stage. The very issues that are closest to the lives of residents are being fractured into different committees, making it harder for residents to navigate but perhaps easier for the council to administer” “It fails to address the humanity of the situation. It is essential for the credibility of the council that the Grenfell Recovery Scrutiny Committee is retained”.

Karaoke performances?

The phrases “every committee should be a Grenfell Scrutiny Committee” and “Grenfell is our number one priority” and its variants have rang out on the Conservative side like some sort of catchy but trite and meaningless pop song on the radio and we had a few repeat performances that evening.

We will try to be fair to Cllr Anne Cyron, her speech wasn’t a bad speech, she is new in her post and at least she is one member of the RBKC Leadership Team who has worked very positively with some members of our community. Her project of a Grenfell Community Assembly is not a bad idea but that in our view should never be considered as an adequate replacement for the GRSC (our leader didn’t get the memo!), but we could really do without endless choruses of “Grenfell is our number one priority” (after hearing several different interpretations of the Taskforce Report that evening) . But other councillors did have “cover versions”…….

Cllr Hamish Adourian: “Every committee now needs to be a Grenfell Recovery Scrutiny Committee “. (Though he did attempt to make some sort of half compromise by suggesting a Grenfell Recovery working group that would supposedly attend this new assembly and give feedback back to the select committees. )

Actually Cllr Adourian (who sits for Earl’s Court Ward but lives in North Kensington) and Cllr Cyron are two Conservatives who have shown some understanding of our area and have positive community relations with some residents here – which made their attempts to defend the indefensible all the more frustrating to listen to.

Carry on, don’t lose your head!

Pictured above, is Cllr Greg Hammond . He was Chair of the Scrutiny Panel that produced the recommendations which included abolishing the GRSC ). Some of the gangway had been cordoned off by security so protesters could not hold up signs behind Cabinet Members anymore, and Cllr Hammond just happened to be in the right (or wrong?) place at the right time! The camera moving well as the sign behind him moving to keep in shot, provided the only light relief in what was a very difficult meeting.

Greg Hammond (who is usually well prepared) wasn’t prepared for the sign behind him, and stumbled at the beginning “I spoke to the councillors when they accepted the offer to give them my views – give me their views on the report” and “we did have residents – erm – erm at the conference” (All 15 of them Greg? We actually think a larger number of residents were laughing at the protest sign “comedy moment” during your speech!)

Interestingly, he did say the consultation on this was 1 month; earlier at this meeting Dizzy Lizzy had said the consultation was 6-9 months! ( make of that what you will but we’d sooner believe him).

Referring to the GRSC he spoke of receiving responses such as ” some felt it was positively harmful and should be abolished as soon as possible – others felt it should stay in perpetuity and these views are incompatible”

Well no prizes for guessing which views the Leadership of our council preferred to listen to and act on – but perhaps some should also know actually quite a few people did feel that the GRSC should stay in place for now and perhaps be subject to review a few years down the line?

A tough call for Greg “Action Man” Hammond, but he made it through defending the indefensible relatively unscathed by heckling residemts (though we’re guessing that he and some of his colleagues may want to change places or draw straws to see who doesn’t get to sit in the back row next time!)

Dizzy Lizzy gets in a tizzy

Referring to the new “Grenfell Community Assembly Cllr Campbell said “Scrutiny is a separate issue” but is it? Because she then right away referred to the Assembly as a “reason to improve scrutiny and to give residents the opportunity to ask questions in a forum which they believe meets their needs”. Make up your mind Dizzy Lizzy! Maybe she couldn’t hear herself think with all the heckling jeering and booing from residents who very much felt the need to retain Grenfell Scrutiny.

Also we noticed this from her earlier on in the meeting when she was demonstrating her considerable knowledge of environmental issues: “improving air quality – that thing to do with the environment” !!

A legal question regarding scrutiny

Pat Mason said “The assembly does not have any formal powers to subpoena anybody” (meaning unlike scrutiny committees) So THINK are wondering if the same is the case with the new Select Committees? If not , this cast a very bad light on the council if they are changing the setup from Scrutiny Committees with these powers. to other committees without. Perhaps someone with more legal knowledge than ourselves can answer this one?

Some thoughts at the end of the night

After the votes for the changes went through, many residents felt angry, others depressed but we will fight this. We will support each other and not let our council get away with kicking the needs of this community into the long grass. Most of us did not vote for the councillors who voted for this.

Many of us see and have always seen Cllr Campbell’s position, given that she served in previous administrations of this council, as a severe obstacle to Grenfell Recovery in the first place,

Looking around the chamber at this meeting , we saw a few dissatisfied looks on some faces of councillors on her own side (and not just at this meeting).

After the revelations in this meeting and in the Admin Committee before of what the the full number of responses from the consultation and the consultation efforts were – we are utterly disgusted and feel cheated.

We do not lay any personal blame for on this on the councillors who sat on the panel and submitted the document (they all sit for wards in the south of the borough some distance from Grenfell and some were “merely following instructions”) .

We do lay considerable blame for this however, at the feet where ultimate decision was taken to do this was – that means Dizzy Lizzy as Leader, the RBKC Leadership Team, some former and also some senior council staff – Heather Wills in particular for their rubbish non-efforts to share this with the community and have meaningful discussions in full regarding the recommendations first, long before these were ever put to a vote and for their conduct in this exercise.

If anyone is deluded enough to imagine abolishing the Grenfell Recovery Scrutiny Committee could ever improve things here – we just have to point out again, that RBKC’s Grenfell Team is now the only council department now without a real committee dedicated to overseeing it as a whole. Perhaps someone suitably qualified can also answer our legal question here? Many of us in this community believe RBKC ‘s Grenfell Team to have severe shortcomings and so it appears, do some in the Taskforce, going by the criticisms made in the report.

It doesn’t help the credibility of local democracy if some councillors vote through changes they themselves appear to be confused about.

What most of us in the north of the borough can see coming will be worsening relations between this council and residents, and both a Leadership Team and a Grenfell Team, which is already failing in many respects, further allowed to carry on doing so with many more things going unchecked.

The culture that has long existed at this council that played a part in Grenfell, which undermined us and did not listen to our community still exists – in a more muted and less apparent form and everyone knows that Elizabeth Campbell, who served in RBKC Cabinets pre-Grenfell, was and still is, very much part of that culture. If this council truly wishes to make drastic changes, then it is time to start at the very top. There will be nowhere to hide if the new arrangements descend into shambles – a real possibility when some are confused as to what they actually are and do – Grenfell Recovery falls by the wayside and the next Taskforce Report recognises this. The early signs are not good – not good for our North Kensington community, not good for local democracy and not good for the borough as a whole.

Notting Hill Carnival 2018: Tropical Avenue, Green For Grenfell and a community together

Notting Hill Carnival was back and we thought we would share a special blog picture we made above, giving a special THINK “Carnival makeover” to some local Labour councillors in North Kensington! (Left to right: Cllr Pat Mason, Cllr Emma Dent Coad MP, Cllr Sina Lari and Cllr Monica Press).

Sunday was rainy but the weather did not dampen people’s spirits and it was wonderful to see so many people out enjoying themselves and taking in the sights and sounds of Carnival. Thankfully yesterday the rain had gone and on both days a great time was had by many.

(Sadly our photography skills do not quite match up to our photoshop efforts, but thankfully some friends allowed us to share some pictures!)

Our special thanks to local residents and friends Melanie Coles, Norma Buddle and Carmen Puget for sharing their wonderful pictures of Carnival with us and to everyone who took part and made this a special day despite the rain.

We thank the organisers for a wonderful Carnival and also Sophie Lodge and everyone who helped turn Ladbroke Grove into a Tropical Avenue for the Carnival too.

Our thanks also to Toby Laurent Belson who helped to turn some of our local buildings Green for Grenfell and all who helped maintain and ensure others respect the quiet areas around Grenfell Tower and the memorials.

At 3pm on both days, a 72 second silence for Grenfell was held.

Of course, these positive and powerful pictures that show people coming coming together to celebrate Carnival should also serve as a notice to some who do not have the best intentions for this community that this blog and our many friends in and around here will do everything we can to campaign for this area and all that is positive, diverse and special about North Kensington.

THINK are back after a short break and feeling positively energised by the happy, creative, and fun atmosphere radiated by the Carnival, we will do everything we can to support our wonderful, vibrant and multicultural community – and campaign and blog and defend the interests of North Kensington, Ladbroke Grove and our friends in neighbouring communities with full force.

RBKC the Government , developers , consultants and any other forces of potential destruction be warned!!


RBKC cleaners are a powerful voice and show of strength at the Town Hall

Above and below are some scenes of the cleaners’ strike at Kensington Town Hall.

THINKers came down to the Town Hall to support them. We believe that this culture of contracting out of our services with an end result of contractors like Amey cashing in and making millions at the expense of the lowest paid workers

Our local Kensington MP and. RBKC Labour councillor for Golborne, Emma Dent Coad was supporting them too.

Here is an article she wrote for the Huffington Post:

Labour councillor for Golborne Cllr Pat Mason was also at the Town Hall to give his support. Here is a picture of him giving a television interview outside:

Labour group leader Cllr Robert Atkinson had sent THINK a statement :”Labour Councillors and supporters have campaigned for decent wages and conditions for all who work for the council for many years. Initially the Tory Councillor supporters of the unbridled free market treated our concerns with scorn and ignored the evidence under their noses that many of our workers could not live off the wages paid by the council. But as even Tories like George Osborne gradually realised the justice and benefits of paying the Living Wage , RBKC dragged their feet. Last year they bowed to our pressure and finally agreed to pay the London living wage to the few people the council directly employs . But stubbornly the new Tory Council has washed its hands of the starvation wages that its subcontractors (such as Amey)continue to pay. This is why we must all support the current strike action and all Trades Union activities to secure for everyone wages that allow all people to live decently of the fruits of their labours”.

Well this is very good to see and hear from the Labour side of RBKC – but of course they are the opposition! As for the Conservatives, Emma’s article says back in 2011 former Tory councillor and then- cabinet member for finance (who held on to nearly £300 million council reserves) Warwick Lightfoot said “it is the role of national Government through the social security system to top up earnings in relation to family circumstances”

So Mr Lightfoot expected taxpayers to pick up the bill for greedy multinational companies underpaying their workers? But of course the low paid could never expect much support from him anyway. Here is an old video of then leader Nick Paget-Brown and a seemingly “well refreshed” Cllr Lightfoot overturning a Labour and Lib Dem motion to fund a new foodbank in RBKC after the borough’s existing one was closed :

“Liquid Lunch” is no longer on the council (he was deselected) but he is sometimes around North Kensington by many locals (usually staggering around Portobello Road and Ladbroke Grove ) . Here is our mock up picture of this shameful soul;

Labour councillors’ attempts to introduce motions in support of the cleaners have also previously received this response from former Tory Mayor and former Tory councillor for Abingdon Ward until 2016 , Joanna Gardner:””There are good reasons for believing that a London Living Wage could have a negative impact on the levels of employment which are critical to our national recovery” Gardner had also argued that many of the cleaners may have a second job or have family members bringing in additional wages – that’s right Joanna Gardner, they’re really raking it in and living in the lap of luxury!

She deserves an appropriate picture from us for that:

Yes both Lightfoot and Gardner may no longer be on the council – but we will remind people that some of the councillors who voted against the Labour motions and who contracted out services are still here -and that our leader Elizabeth “Dizzy Lizzy” Campbell has past form over this

Local Elections: Hustings – A community ignored by the ruling Conservatives 

Yesterday some  THINkers were present at local election  “Your Voice Your Vote” hustings. The event was held at Al Manaar and was held by Migrants Organise – an organisation which campaigns for, helps and celebrates refugees and migrants  here. Please check out their website here:

There were plenty of Labour councillors and candidates present – Emma Dent Coad (pictured, far left) out local Kensington MP and also councillor for Golborne Ward, Cllr Pat Mason (pictured, fourth from left) , Cllr Monica Press( pictured, second from right)  and Cllr Judith Blakeman were all present. Liberal Democrat Cllr Linda Wade (pictured   second left) was there. So were Annabel Mullin(pictured on the far right) , Valerie John-Baptiste, Melvyn Akins (pictured – third left)  and Claire Van Helfteren from Advance.

So what about the Conservatives, you may ask? Well only Cllr Eve Allison bothered to turn up! (She is in our picture, third from right) .We had memories of a certain hustings before the General Election in Earl’s Court back in June when most of the local Tories failed to turn  there up too (giving the lame excuse of a “school meeting”!) See our old post about it here:

Anyway, many subjects were discussed, with residents, local campaigners and politicians giving their opinions on social housing, crime, education and the local area.

Linda Wade was particularly good in mentioning the academisatuon of schools and that many teenagers being expelled from these local schools end up drifting into a life of crime.

This was also mentioned by Pat Mason (who has a background in youth work) and by Emma Dent Coad,and all three  also mentioned the importance of good provision of youth services locally.

THINK strongly agree with Linda, Emma and Pat and we are very concerned about the rates of knife and gun crime among young people in London – there is one person stabbed to death in London every three days in fact – we believe that it is vital that politicians both locally and nationally, seriously take this on board and have some reconsideration over the policies of some schools and also do not make any cuts to youth and community facilities.  We also strongly feel that there should be no more cuts to policing.

Melvyn Akins, a  well-known local North Kensington resident  and candidate for the newly-formed Advance party, also spoke well and mentioned his own experiences and called for change.

One resident at one point made an impassioned plea for both residents and politicians to get more involved with community and youth work. He lifted up his top at one point to show scars from knife wounds that he had received in the past.
Some at the meeting did not appear to be very familiar with politics and how the system works. Some were so upset and frustrated after suffering years of cuts and neglect by both RBKC and the Government, not to mention also being traumatised after Grenfell.  that they vented their frustration on Emma Dent Coad and Labour opposition councillors.

We at THINK point out to these residents that we have had  a Conservative council in Kensington and Chelsea, that has been in power for 117 years, and that we have a Conservative Government. So Emma , in her role as both an opposition Member of Parliament and councillor, is very limited in her powers as to what she can do and does not have any role in shaping the policies and cuts that have been inflicted by both national and local governments. The same goes for the other opposition councillors at RBKC

We say to all frustrated residents that to change the system, you have to vote for change and then be the change in holding those who  you vote for to account. It is no use to sit on one’s  hands  and blame a system if you do not play  an active part in trying to to bring about change.

The deadline to register to vote is in just four days time. If you are not registered to vote, or have changed address, name or nationality, please do fill in the form on here (it only takes five minutes) :

THINK also believe that lifelong provision of education is vital to the wellbeing of all residents and we remind all candidates of all parties that keeping KCC Wornington College in North Kensington open and also extending provision of courses provided there is crucial to this local community.

Grenfell was discussed, with Labour’s Judith Blakeman speaking about our council’s less than adequate response and that they are buying properties  without bothering to find out what survivors actually need first.

Most of the local representatives who spoke were very impressive, particularly Linda Wade from the Lib Dems  and  Labour’s Monica Press.

We also heard some excellent impassioned speeches which were straight from the heart by Labour candidate for Norland Ward , Mona Adam, and by Labour candidate for Colville Ward, Nadia Nail. Both Mona and Nadia come from refugee backgrounds and have real knowledge and insight into the issues that many refugees living here face. Labour candidate for Golborne Ward, Sina Lari, also spoke well about his parents’ background as immigrants.

THINK stand with Mona, Nadia and Sina and as people who have  migrants  in some of our own family  backgrounds, we believe that it is vital that local government in RBKC reflects the make up of the local population and fully takes on board the issues its residents have.

The lone Conservative councillor there, Eve Allison is the only black Conservative councillor and  was the only Tory  present at yesterday’s event.

She spoke strongly about her being alienated from the local Conservatives, talked of her deselection and the fact that she had to go to national government to be reinstated. Cllr Allison also  spoke about her own background and the fact that she lives in social housing. She made the case that her own party needs to be more representative of the local population and to include persons like herself. We agree with Eve,  about the Conservative Party  needing to include more people like herself but know that the policies of this council and Government   have alienated so  many in our community.

As for the other  local Conservatives, who did not even bother to turn up, THINK believe that their non-presence speaks volumes about their attitude towards not only North Kensington and Grenfell, but also young people, community groups, migrants and refugees. It says it all if not even one member of the RBKC Tories’ leadership bothered to attend.

Eve Allison has a majority of only 1 vote in St Helen’s Ward and we are not banking on her to hold on to it, so maybe some senior local Tories may be relieved  to not have her speaking out against them in public as a local councillor after the elections , but we thank Eve for speaking out and we say to the  other RBKC Tories (who come from overwhelmingly white upper and upper middle class backgrounds) – shame on you.

There is also hustings, presented by local campaign group Westway23 at Acklam Village, Acklam Road, W10 on Tuesday the 17th April. THINKers will be there of course and we fully expect local representatives from ALL the parties to be there.

THINK urge our local readers  to do the right thing at the local elections and vote the RBKC Conservatives out of power.