Cromwell Road gets much-needed break as developers withdraw controversial Holiday Inn Forum redevelopment scheme

THINK are very pleased to hear that developers Queensgate and Rockwell have withdrawn their controversial (to say the least) plans to redevelop what is currently the Holday Inn Forum Hotel into a huge hotel and conference centre.

This “South Kensington saga” had been running for a few years, with the developers trying to push their plans through, despite the opposition of the vast majority of local residents, nearly all the residemts groups, local conservation societies, RBKC, most councillors on all sides, renowned architects, environmental campaigners, heritage experts, former Kensington MP ﹰEmma ﹰDent ﹰCoad, present Kensington MP Felicity Buchan – oh – and us

Complete unity in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is a complete rarity – but this deeply unpopular scheme, which would have brought years and years on disturbance, pollution (in one of the most polluted areas of the country), blighted heritage sites, ruined both the skyline and streetscape and would have completely ruined the character of the area; managed to bring local representatives – Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, alongside residents who both live locally to the hotel and those who live elsewhere in the borough; all together united against.

Here are a few of our old posts for further background on the matter:

Some good news for South Kensington residents – Holiday Inn Forum redevelopment plans rejected

Saga of the Mayor of London and the “Tower of Mordor”

After our last post (and a timeline of what has happened features on this)

Stop The Towers at Cromwell Road, plus RBKC Planning Committee takes a break from the norm

Deputy Mayor of London Jules Pipe ruled in favour. Both he and London Mayor Sadiq Khan have been completely tone deaf to residents and their decisions have flown in the face of this community and area we say shame on them.

We thought all was lost, but residents and local representatives fought on , and thanks to the efforts of the Stop the Towers campaigners, the local residents associations – especially ACGRA (Ashburn and Courtfield Gardens Residents Association), the Kensington Society, the local Courtfield councillors Greg Hammond, Janet Evans and Quentin Marshall, Johnny Thalassites, RBKC Lead member for Planning, Place and the Environment, as well as Kensington MP Felicity Buchan , the scheme was called in by Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick .

On Sunday, THINKers finally heard the fantastic news that Queensgate had decided to “check out” and withdrawn their application. We almost thought this was too good to be true but no – here is the letter.

We are so pleased for the residents and we thank everyone who foughr hard over this. We thank all the objectors, the Kensington Society, the former and present MPs Emma Dent Coad and Felicity Buchan , the council – particularly the local Courtfield councillors and Johnny Thalassites – other councillors who objected including Sina Lari and Linda Wade, and most of all, we thank ACGRA and the Stop The Towers campaigners.

We hope now that any prospective developers who are checking out the site, do think of the community and area first – and remember that the residents and local representatives will have their eyes firmly on what happens next

For now at least, the local community around Cromwell Road can have a much-needed break, content that their hard work fighting this has paid off and that the area is at least finally rid of what would have been a complete monstrosity and never ending nightmare for the South Kensington area and people

We say this ought to be a message for any potential developers to think, listen, look and learn. Please think carefully and listen to locals and also do look carefully at the area first. Please learn from what has happened here and never ever underestimate the power of communities.

Wringing the wrong numbers: A poor reception for Shaun Bailey

Conservative London Mayoral candiate, Shaun Bailey, is making a long overdue return to tbis blog today.

The Dame on From The Hornets Nest http://fromthehornetsnest.blogspot.com/?m=1 had this to say on him last December:

Over a sandwich lunch, the Dame endured an hour of Bailey talking incoherent rubbish. Not once did he ask a question. He behaved like a mobile phone salesman not the potential mayor of a super city. So we thought we would do the Photoshop honours….

Recently, THINKers received a copy of his election leaflet disguised as a magazine “London Life”

In this publication, Bailey seems very keen to play up his less privileged background in North Kensington …

Here’s what homes in the North Kensington street Shaun Bailey grew up in go for these days:

Rags to riches? But Bailey’s supposed answer to homelessness and the housing crisis in the capital was to ridiculously suggest encouraging London’s 62,670 homeless households (and that official figure doesn’t include “hidden homeless” – people “sofa surfing ” or living in overcrowded households) to apply for shared ownersbip!

No answers as to how cash strapped homeless bouseholds might somehow out of thin air, be able to get the £5,000 deposit together or acknowledgment of the fact at all that unemployed people, those on lower incomes and some who work but do not always have the guaranteed regular level of regular income, wouldn’t be accepted in the first place.

Rightly, fellow Kensington blog The Steeple Times was very scathing about this, calling Bailey “Moron of the Moment”:

https://www.thesteepletimes.com/the-fog/shaun-bailey-homeless/

Here’s more from Shaun Bailey’s political leaflet-disguised-as-a-magazine, an interview with Karren Brady:

Still on housing, he talks about building more supposedly “affordable homes” . Well we have a few of what are deemed as these , built by Catalyst Housing on the regenerated former Wornington Green Estate (now Portobello Square) – another part of North Kensington where Bailey used to live – they start at £600k and many are sitting empty, but hey, who cares, let’s just go and build some more! Like that’s going to solve the ptoblem….

Perhaps he could look into building more SOCIAL housing to help with the homelessness issue? Though it’s clear he isn’t even prepared to bother entertaining that thought and social housing is not mentioned ANYWHERE in this leaflet

Bailey does mention Sadiq Khan spending money on building homes to rent and that he will instead divert the cost for that into homes to buy – but who for?

Also, if Bailey doesn’t want to be “moron of the moment” he might just spare a thought for some of the Londoners who did buy into the dream of owning their own home under the shared ownership scheme, only for that dream to turn to dust, because of costs due to the cladding and fire safety scandal leaving them facing bankruptcy and homelessness (the Fire Safety Bill returns to the Commons today); but no, it appears Mr Bailey has absolutely nothing to say on this – he is merely aspiring to be Boris Johnson’s puppet at City Hall and is perfectly content to sit there while his “master” happily pulls the strings and sends hard-working people down the river…..

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/thousands-trapped-decade-london-cladding-scandal-b917899.html

As for crime prevention, for someone who has masses of experience as a youth worker , Bailey has previously made positive encouraging noises elsewhere about providing 62 new youth centres to help , but where is the money to do this actually going to come from? Who knows, he seems to have completely forgotten about that.

He also seems to have forgotten about this

http://fromthehornetsnest.blogspot.com/2020/02/bail-out-of-bailey.html?m=1

What little the magazine does say of his policies on crime is of him supposedly providing 8,000 more Police Officers. How? He just says he will cut bureaucracy such as offfice costs but fails to say anything more about that. He does mention that he will partly fund this with revenue gained from introducing corporate sponsorship of the tube lines and stations, but this also appears to be the only solution he offers to sort out the TfL financial crisis. Again, no costings, no further details.

As well corporate sponsorship of the tube being a much-loathed and vulgar idea in the eyes of many Londoners (“Coca- Cola Hill Gate Station” anyone? ), Bailey, despite the mentions of where he grew up, again forgets his roots and perhaps ought to be aware of the public outcry and upset around here that happened a few years ago when someone made the suggestion of changing the name of Latimer Road Station .

The outside of Latimer Road is currently about to be redecorated as part of a local arts project, but we guess since he hasn’t been here for years, Bailey doesn’t seem to know or care how offensive and upsetting it would be if green hearts and children’s artwork outside the nearest tube station to Grenfell, the site of our comnunity’s loss, were replaced by garish advertisement signs, billboards and disrespectful name changes. As it is, despite this leaflet/magazine being received right around the corner from Grenfell, there is no mention of Grenfell or any present day acknowledgment of his former community in it at all.

“You’re hired”? We wouldn’t hire Shaun Bailey to run a bath!

His wife Ellie Bailey isn’t standing of course, but obviously his party only just realised just how flimsy and daft Bailey’s supposed policies are, have given up and decided to desperately look for votes by going with the “nice guy” “family man” personality angle.

Just how “hugely passionate” about the environment is Shaun Bailey? His wife doesn’t say apart fron the obvious how bad London’s air is and neither does he. Nothing at all on a subject which many Londoners are genuinely ” passionate” about. .

As for Shaun Bailey in the classroom, it has been reported elsewhere that he was apparently described by a teacher as “gobby and dangerous” – make of that what you will….

Finally we get “9 Questions with Shaun Bailey” Disappointed THINKers saw no burning questions get put to Mr Bailey here, just silly small talk. We’re only surprised they didn’t ask him what his favourite biscuits were….

Also Ellie Bailey might want to send the makers of this leaflet/magazine back to school as they managed to get the year of the election wrong; it’s this year – the 6th of May in fact.

And no, we don’t think he will win.

We think that, with his constant gaffes like this recent one –https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/downing-street-refuses-to-say-stand-by-shaun-bailey-sarah-everard-comments-b923546.html which has appeared to alienate some of those on his own side, the absence of genuine policies and his lack of knowledge over most of the serious issues this city faces, that Shaun Bailey might struggle to scrape second place.

That phone sbop beckons……

City Hall and Property PR firms: Too close for comfort

Front: Jules Pipe , Back l to r Nivk Kilby (Cratus) Sir Merrick Cockell (Cratus) Donal Mulryan (Rockwell) & Jason Kow (Queensgate)

This blog is no stranger to posting about property PR firms, developers , and their worryingly close relationships to our authorities..

See our London Trilogy from 2018 (and yes, a follow up series of posts are coming soon) :

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/24/who-really-runs-london/

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/24/david-lunch-lunts-the-mr-creosote-of-the-gla/

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/more-terrapins-in-the-tank-at-the-city-hall-of-shame/

And see our previous posts about Cratus :

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/05/cockell-and-his-connections-are-still-wreaking-havoc-all-around-the-rotten-borough/

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/06/cratus-communications-creeping-out-from-under-the-curtains/

Well it is no sectret that Rockwell Property (the developers together with Queensgate Investments , who are behind the redevelopment plans for the Holiday Inm Forum Hotel in Cromwell Road) are clients of Cratus.

Tomorrow at the hearing, it will be one of Sadiq Khan’s Deputy Mayors, Jules Pipe making the decision.

But we do not think it is right or fair that Jules Pipe is making the decision, especially since we have heard about his associations with Cratus , – last month on September the 3rd, he hosted a webinar for them.

This is supposed to be a democratic and fair process? Really?

It does from reading the papers, look like City Hall will override our democracy and approve this monstrosity….

Our readers can see the papers and tune in at 1:30pm tomorrow on tbis link:

https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/planning/planning-applications-and-decisions/public-hearings/kensington-forum-hotel-public-hearing

And of course, there is another property PR firm that have been used by Rockwell and that is Terrapin Communications.

Here again, is Peter Bingle of Terrapin Communications getting cosy with Sadiq Khan:

As said before, we totally fail to see the point in having a London Mayor and GLA if it is developers who are really the ones pulling the strings.

Stop The Towers at Cromwell Road, plus RBKC Planning Committee takes a break from the norm

In the Summer of 2018, residents and campaigners living south of Kensington alerted us to the plans to redevelop the Holiday Inn Forum Hotel in Cromwell Road, South Kensington and we heard a number of concerns raised – both from residents in the immediate area affected. and others from nearby.

Residents whose lives would be blighted and who would suffer from severe loss of light, disruption, long lasting negative changes to the locality as a result of this scheme, and increased levels of pollution, were the Mayor to permit this proposed monstrosity .put their cases and they have our full support in their fight to stop this.

This “South Kensington saga” continues and a number of changes have taken place (and not largely changes for the better) to the scheme and the decision making process and we thought we would fill our readers in as to what has been happening since then.

At the end of last month at the RBKC Planning Committee there was quite a departure from the usual meetings of Committee members deciding to approve or reject applications; instead the committee members were deciding on what representations to make to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan over the controversial – to say the least – plans — the hearing is in just under two days.

Unwelcome guests

Unfortunately the developers are determined to get their way, and as we previously predicted, have fought to get this through and Sadiq Khan appears to be in their side, and he has interfered in what ought to have been a matter for the RBKC Planning Committee. So now the final decision over the scheme rests with him.

Anyone wondering what the possible motivations of Mayor Khan could be for favouring these hotel plans, interfering and continuing to override council decisions and the vast majority of residents may wish to see this post of ours :

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2020/06/23/saga-of-the-mayor-of-london-and-the-tower-of-mordor/

Checking in

Here, first of all, is a timeline of what has happened so far:

– In the Summer of 2018, residents and campaigners living south of Kensington alerted us to the plans to redevelop the Holiday Inn Forum in Cromwell Road, and we heard a number of concerns raised – both from residents in the immediate area affected. and others from nearby. THINKers went to two residents’ meetings, one, on the 8th of August 2018, at St Mary the Boltons, which we posted ahead of to here and another, on the organised by ACGRA (Ashburn and Courtfield Gardens Residents Association) and the Stop The Towers campaign at Baden-Powell House on the 7th Sepember 2018 . We saw that on both meetings, local residents were unanimously opposed to the scheme.

– On the 27th of September 2018, the RBKC Planning Committee refused the initial application. We posted ahead of the meeting here – “Judgement Day is also here for South Kensington and the Holiday Inn Forum” ( with details of the original plans included in link in the blog post) , and we reported the meeting a few days later in tbis post: “Some good news for South Kensington residents – Holiday Inn Form redevelopment plans rejected”

– On the 5th of November 2018, London Mayor Sadiq Khan issued a direction under Section 7 of the Town and Country Planning (Mayor of Lomdon) Order 2008 that he would take over the application and act as the Local Planning Authority for the purposes of determining the planning application.

– On the 14th of December 2018, RBKC filed a claim for a Judicial Review seeking to quash the Mayor’s decision on the basis that the GLA Officer’s report, recommending the Direction, had erred in its calcultion of performance against housing targets.

– On the 19th of March 2019, the mayor filed a consent order agreeing that the Direction of the 5th of November 2018 should be quashed and this was approved the following month

– On the 21st of June 2019, there was a public representation hearing at CIty Hall and the Mayor granted planning permission , issuing the decision on the same day.

– RBKC filed another claim for a Judicial Review, the consequmeces of which were the Mayor eventually filed a Consent Order, on the basis that the decision to grant planning permission was made for an improper purpose.

On the 13th of March 2020, the High Court approved the Consent Order. The Mayor must now redetermine the application and is consulting on the application again given the passage of time and changes to the development plan and the submission of updated documents by the applicant to address these changes of policy .

(The scheme consists of three buildings – two of which would be towers – one at 30 storeys high and the other at 22 storeys.)

Housekeeping

The five members of the Planning committee sitting were : Cllr James Husband (Conservative, Abingdon Ward) – Chair, Cllr Charles O’ Connor – Deputy Chair (Conservative, Holland Ward), Cllr Mo Bakhtiar (Labour, St Helens Ward), Cllr Tom Bennett (Conservative, Redcliffe Ward) and Cllr Walaa Idris (Conservative, Brompton and Hans Town Ward)

Derek Taylor, RBKC Deputy Head of Planning Management made a presentation including pictures of the existing Holiday Inn building and pictures of the proposed new development, as well as going through RBKC’s main reasons for objection,

“The task this evening is to reaffirm the position of the council as a key consultee and just to remind the Mayor of the updated objections that the council has to the proposals” –

Which are:

– The height and massing of the proposed development, including an additional tower,would cause more than substantial harm to the character and appearance of nearby heritage assets, especially in nearby views. The elevational treatments would be of an insufficiently high design quslity to have a wholly postive impact on the character and quality of the townscape, and the relavant tests for tall buildings in the Building Height SPD have not been undertaken. The benefits of the development would not outweigh these harms. The proposal is therefore contrary to Local Plan policies CL1, CL2, CL3, CL4, CL11 and CL12 and the Building Height in the (Royal Borough) SPD.

– The revisions secured by the GLA subsequent to taking over the application in April 2019 worsen the negative impacts of the proposal and weaken the design rationale for the original development.

– The public benefits are insufficient to outweigh the harms caused to the character and appeaance of nearby heritage assets, and character and quality of the townscape

– The changes to the policy environment and guidance since the last consideration of the proposals in June 2019 do not fundamentally alter the council’s original position that this development fails to comply with the development plan.

– There are no material considerations that indicate a decision should be made otherwise than in accordance with the development plan.

All inclusive

Complete agreement between different political parties in RBKC is a real rarity, but these proposals have united all sides of the political spectrum locally in their opposition to them..The scheme has had cross party oppostion from local Courtfield councillors and other Conservative councillors, through to the RBKC Leadership, Labour councillors and also Lib Dem Cllr Linda Wade. Former Kensington Labour MP Emma Dent Coad opposed the scheme and present Kensington Conservative MP Felicity Buchan has objected to it.

Here are just a few of those initial objections to the proposals :

Cllr Janet EvansCourtfield Ward Proposals too ambitious for Courtfield Ward and have will intolerable environmental impact for residents, including air and noise pollution, overlooking privacy and increased traffic congestion. Proposals should be built within parameters of the present site and offer other added benefits to the surrounding area. Object to the addition of another tower on site and further constraints on infrastructure.

Queen’s Gate Ward councillorsCllr Maxwell Woodger , Cllr Max Chauhan and Cllr Matthew Palmer: Object to height and scale; its harm to existing local architecture and does not meet Local Plan policy.

Emma Dent Coad: Object to height, bulk and massing and its impact on the skyline; impact on the transport infrastructure; impact of demolition amd construction impacts; impact on conservation areas; does not accord with London Plan and Local Plan policy.

Cllr Charles Williams – Redcliffe Ward: Proposals by being larger than the existing building fail to comply with local building heights policy

Kensington and Chelsea Liberal Democrats: Proposals are contrary to the Local Plan, are out of scale with the local area, could put off visitors, likely to increase air and noise pollution

Cllr Greg Hammond – Courtfield Ward: Object to replacement of one tall building with a taller bulkier structure; increased height would loom over conservation areas; fire risk and safety concerns; object to massing; is a lost oppotunity to redevelop the site for more housing and object to separate residential entrances; access arrangements; strongly support proposed garden square; support public realm improvements although require further details; water and drainage infrastructure concerns.

The vast majority of residents also share this oppositon to the towers. the local Local resident and conservation groups who objected included: Ashburn and Courtfield Gardens Residents Association (ACGRA), The Kensington Society, Cornwall Gardens Residents Association, Nevern Square Conservation Area Residents Association, The Boltons Garden Enclosure Committee, South Kensington and Queen’s Gate Residents Association, Earl’s Court Gardens and Morton Mews Residents Association, Orpen House Residemts Association, Kempsford Gardens Residents Association, Earl’s Court Society, Cornwall Mews South (West side) Residents Association, The Boltons Association, Victoria Road Area Residents Association, Grenville Place, Southwell Gardens and St Stephens Walk Residents Association, Courtfield Gardens West Garden Committee, Onslow Neighbourhood Association, Thurloe Owners and Leaseholders Association, Cromwell Mansions Residents Association, Elm Park and Chelsea Park Residemts Association, The Chelsea Society, Ashburn Garden Square Garden Association, Courtfield Gardens East Garden Committee, Princes Gate Mews Residents Association.

Star rating

The current Holiday Inn Hotel on the site has a four star rating but we would give these plans for the hideous new supposed “luxury” Kensington Forum Hotel a 0 star rating if we could….

However, the “stars of the show” were the people who spoke at the meeting to air their objections and points to the Committee:

🌟 Greg Hammond is a Conservative councillor for Courtfield Ward, where the hotel is located: “I don’t think that any of us, whether the ward councillors, the residents or colleagues who were on the Planning Committee at the time will actually forget the meeting two years ago when the Committee voted to refuse what planning permission to what one of our colleagues poetically called ‘the twin towers of Mordor’

That decision to refuse was the right one, but we were all dismayed when the Mayor of London overrode our local democracy amd tried to ram the proposal through in a second attempt. Thanks to the council, for twice taking the decision to a Judicial Review and won both times, but unfortunately we do face this third attack by the Mayor.

The report presented by the council officers is in my view the right strategy for the Mayoral hearing on the 22nd of October. The reason for refusal in the first place were the harms that would be cause by the excessive height and mass of the proposed buildings to the adjacent conservation area that we all value so much. These harms would be made worse by the amendments thay have been made to the proposal since 2018 in increasing the Courtfield Road end of the development by two storeys.

In addition, as the officers mentioned, RBKC now has a good story to tell on affordable housing – in fact much better than at the time of the last Mayoral hearing and as we’ve heard, if an increase in hotel rooms becomes an argument, then not only the one in Notting Hill mentioned, but also the Harrington Hall Hotel is about to come back online with 201 bedrooms after many years of vacancy.

So in sum, the officers paper that we’ve heard Mr Taylor set out, sets out the arguments that we should present as a borough on the 22nd of October in much more detail than I could do in two minutes. I fully support that paper and I fully recommend it for adoption by the Committee and I’m also asked to say that the Ashburn and Courtfield Gardens Residents Association also supports that paper”.

🌟Michael Bach from the Kensington Society:”We’re not an objector, we strongly support the (RBKC) report but have made some positive suggestions for enhancing that report. The question of the affordable housing delivery was crucial as far as the Mayor was concerned, and he certainly lambasted the council, because its past immediate record was very small, but I think the report should go further then it has done and recognise that the council actually has got a program of affordable housing units, in addition to the ones that have been granted planning permission already.

With regards to the scale and location new hotel accommodation, this is a very intensely developed area as far as hotels are concerned, and the London Plan as intended to be published, recognises that in areas of high concentrations, further intensification is not necessarily a good idea.

You’ve (RBKC) dealt with the employment, its over-estimate; what you haven’t dealt with is that our grouping of residents’ associations has undertaken a townscape study which has really criticised the attempts by the applicant to say it really doesn’t have much impact – you’ve seen the diagram so you’ll understand.

We are concerned about the treatment of children’s play space on the tenth floor – in other words the roof – of the housing.

What we want really is for the comments of the addendum report to be fully reflected in the decision of the letter, because its not just the comments in the addendum report that need to be fully substantiated. So we’re hoping that will happen and we’re looking forward to seeing it.

The council’s case must be strong, challenging and must look forward ahead to a potential public inquiry.”

🌟 Laure – resident from Earl’s Court: “I just want to add five more points and suggestions to your report. The first one is the consideration of traffic management of this project given the number of beds and service apartments. At the moment if we’re looking at what is planned for that the number of parking bays allow for about 6 cars and 3 buses and I don’t think it’s sufficient for an events space that can host 1,500 people, which will result in cars idling in the street and disrupting traffic with a wide impact of the community.

The second point is relating to the air quality in this area – it’s one of the most polluted in London wbich actually exceeds the legal limits im terms of air polllution, and I’m just surprised that any increase in traffic and any pollution can be considered as negligible, which is what the applicants have stated.

The third point is that any health impacts have been omitted from the assessment, so physical health and mental health are not accounted for, which means the cost on health is assumed to be zero.

The fourth point is relating to all the net zero guidance from the Mayor for any new builds and I believe this new project is not net zero.

And finally the last point is related to the health and economy crisis that we are facing and we know that the forecast in terms of the number of beds have been revised and significantly reduced; so a lot of people believe that these changes are permanent , people have changed the way they work from home and the way they travel and these impacts are likely to last for decades.”

🌟 Kevin Christensen – Courtfield resident: “How much, if any consideration, has been given to the effect a 1,500 person conference centre will have on the neighbourhood? This is a looming disastrous problem that will include crime, crowd, prostitution, rubbish, traffic disorderly conduct, damage to the conservation and a general strain on the neighbourhood and I suspect it has not beem addressed at all. I work in the meetings and events industry and I can assure the impact will be a disaster”.

🌟 Craig Crawford – resident: “Has the impact of the restricted capacity of South Kensington tube station due to its planned refurbishment, been considered to the Gloucester Road tube station during the proposed Kensington Forum Hotel redevelopment?”

Room service

Then it was time for Committee Members to ask questions and make points:

Cllr Mo Bakhtiar (to Michael Bach) : “What would you like to add to the letter to the report on the representation if you could be specific? What have we missed ?”

Michael Bach: “Well all the things that were in our representation on this we’d like to see explained rather than just – I think the addendum report contains a comment we have put forward, but now I suppose we’re looking to the council to take ownership of the issue and to express it strongly in the letter they send to the GLA . So it’s got to look like it’s coming from the council rather than the residents and it’s got to be forceful because this really counts’

Cllr Walaa Idris (to Derek Taylor):”Two points: the first one is what is the Mayor’s criteria on playgrounds for children? Does he have any specific criteria where they should be, how high they should be, how big or is it just having playgrounds scattered everywhere?”

Derek Taylor: “Well essentially the Mayor’s criteria are quite high criteria because in the Mayor’s own SPD, the Mayor talks about provision of high quality for children’s playspace and similarly to our own policy in our own Local Plan, I dont think anyone is really envisaging a high quality playspace as being on the 10th floor of a building.

I mean there are buildings in many countries and other parts of London that do have high level playspaces but that’s normally because in that’s the only solution. An interesting way to look at it is that our policy in the Local Plan relating to play space is also in the same part of the plan that deals with open spaces and gardens and I think that is that the message is very clear that a high quality play space is not a hard space on top of a building but should actually be a ground level space, something much more amenable than a hard space at that height”.

Cllr Idris: “My second question is on fire safety. What is the Mayor’s position on that? Does he have criteria? Or is it just kind of understood as opposed to being a specific item by itself? ”

Mr Taylor: “Well, in terms of fire safety, the Mayor has basically set out to address the Mayor’s own policy – which is policy D12 of the London Plan – that didn’t exist at the time the Mayor considsred this originally, but is now part of the intended to publish Lomdon Plan. D12 is a slightly curious planning policy, in the sense that it does rather overlap with the buulding regulations.

As you’ll be aware, the primary suit of framework for dealing with fire safety requirements are the building regulations, and they’ve obviously been beefed up significantly since the Grenfell fire and may be further expanded of course

Policy D12 does overlap with that but it also by definition as being part of the development plan, it then brings fire safety into the whole sphere of planning as well and how it would apply is that the Mayor needs to require a fire statement, which basiclaly explains everything to do with the physical structure ands its resistance in terms of fire, it needs to explain the layout of the building and how people would be safe within it and means of escape.

The fire statement brings all of those things together in one document and one hasn’t been prepared here yet, but part of the council’s position should be clearly that a fire statement should be prepared and needs to be scrutinised fully by the Mayor.”

Cllr Tom Bennett referred back to Cllr Hammond’s point on hotel rooms, Notting Hill Gate and the Harrington Hall Hotel . Cllr James Husband also pointed out that , RBKC had also approved a hotel in Pavilion Road as well.

Cllr Charles O’Connor asked about the hearing and whether the council just sends representations or if a council representative can speak at the hearing as well and Derek Taylor said that as a key consultee, the council can do both.

Checkout time

We know that some officers at City Hall do read this blog so we’ll just end with a few points of our own and respond to a few queries and points that others have made in the hope that Sadiq Khan sees this:

Some people have written to us and pointed out that other parts of London have barely raised an eyebrow to such large scale developments being permitted elsewhere

Well we have to say that just because some other local authorities do not raise too many objections to having their neighbourhoods filled with lots of tower blocks; that doesn’t make it right or acceptable – and what is also completely unacceptable is the noise, disruption and increased pollution that residents would face if this were to be permitted.

We especially thank the Stop The Towers campaigners and many of the the residents from ACGRA who first opened our eyes to what was going on back in 2018. Some of these residents would also face being shrouded in darkness and a complete loss of privacy as well as peace and quiet were this plan to be approved.

Yes, the existing Holiday Inn building dominates the skyline there and doesn’t exactly have too many fans of it.

But have a look at these pictures to show how much worse things could be with its proposed replacement dominating the streetscape as well as the skyline from all directions :

We support more social housing – and yes the “62 units of affordable housing” would be for social rent (and we would also like to see more social housing provided in this part of the borough and not just North Kensington), but developers Queensgate Investments and Rockwell Property are determined that this would come at a price – and that particular price appears to be the ruination and detriment of the streetcape and skyline of the South Kensington area and the wellbeing of its residents, because they are determined to get their supersized hotel and conference centre.

Also, given the Covid-19 pandemic , do we really need too many more hotel rooms and luxury serviced apartments? After all we’re hardly expecting a huge influx of tourists to come here anytime soon, and it is impossible to predict what could happen in these unprecendented times, which calls into question the particular target figures.

But if we do look forward past the pandemic, it is worth remembering that what attracts tourists to this area of our borough besides location in town and transport , are heritage assets, history, character and beauty – all of which would be substantially diminished were this to go ahead. Let’s be honest here; it’s an ugly inferior building design. If it belongs anywhere other than the bin, it would be a dull and depressed suburb or dead end town.

If this is supposed to be a luxury hotel, the design certainly does not say “luxury” – designed with care and consideration in looking that extra bit special . Instead it says “pile ’em in and push it through ” and that too, is part of the problem. This scheme has lack of care and consideration written all over it – for the surrounding area and environment, for the local community, for children , – and apart from the social housing which the developers threw in to get this past the Mayor, considers very little other than the huge potential profits to be made out of this hotel site in (what used to be before Covid-19) an area with a high influx of visitors.

There are many occasions on which we do have our disagreements with the council of course , but this time they do have it right – this scheme is wrong and the height, density, and mass of the proposed development is unacceptable in the eyes of local residents , to our local political representatives, and to us.

Whatever opinion Sadiq Khan (or anyone else for that matter) may have of RBKC, it is not right or fair to people living here for him to play either party political or developer-led games with a scheme that would blight residents’ lives and change South Kensington and the borough as a whole for the worse.

The council’s representations

were submitted a day after the meeting and residents will know the good or bad news when the Mayor decides this Thursday, 22nd of October at 1:30pm. Our readers can view the papers and also

tune in live via this link:

https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/planning/planning-applications-and-decisions/public-hearings/kensington-forum-hotel-public-hearing

Peter Bingle: Still a threat to our communities

Pictured above, is Peter Bingle of property PR lobbying firm Terrapin Communications.

It’s hard to get a list of Terrapin clients in part because Peter Bingle does not want to share this information with the public and in part because nobody is compelling him or his organisation to do so.

Back in 2009, the late, great campaigning Labour MP Paul Flynn at an inquiry into Parliamentary lobbying asked Bingle if the public has a right to know who is lining the pockets of lobbyists anf Bingle showing his contempt for the public, outrageously replied:

“No I do not. The public have no right to know who our clients are”

Well, THINK have to strongly disagree with Peter Bingle and we have some further information on a few of Bingle’s clients and connections that is of real interest to many residents here.

We have already revealed developers Rockwell Properties behind the unpopular Holiday Inn Forum Hotel redeveopment plam in Cromwell Road are a client of Terrapin in our previous post – here.

We can also reveal that another client of Terrapin Communications is Notting Hill Gate KCS Ltd – behind the comtroversial Newcombe House redevelopment plans that our London Mayor is so in favour of foisting upon residents of Kensington and Notting Hill.

As well as the Kensington Odeon – featured here – not only was Minerva a Terrapin client , but Lodha are too. We have posted about Bingle’s friend. former RBKC coucillor Daniel Moylan – who called the Kensington Odeon a “flea pit” before too here. Moylan’s last meeting with Bingle when he was still a councillor was just a week before Grenfell.

It was only the Grenfell Tower fire – that put a stop to regeneration of North Kensington’s Silchester Estate and it was Peter Bingle who was involved with this and Lendlease meetings with Rock Feildng-Mellen and Haringey councillors. This post from the Grenfell Action Group back in 2017 is well worth a read again and so is this

Jailhouse Rock has crawled back under a rock (hopefully to next be seen answering questions at the Grenfell Inquiry) but Daniel Moylan is still a presence in Kensington, even though he quit as an RBKC councillor in 2018 (let’s hope the rumours of Moylan planning a comeback aren’t true).

But not all Bingle’s connections to RBKC may necessarily be in the past as we have been informed that a senior planning policy officer at our council with the initials CT has links to Terrapin clients.

Over the river at Wandsworth, where Bingle was once a councillor, a number of planming officers and councillors might as well be Bingle’s pet terrapins

This article on Bingle’s business in Wandsworth and his frimed and former flat mate Wandsworth Leader Ravi Govindia is very interesting reading indeed.

Here is an old picture of Edward Lister, Peter Bingle and Paul Beresford when they were all at Wandsworth together

We think Wandsworth council will need a new logo soon:

As for anyone saying that these activities are providing much needed homes – let’s see how many are for social rent and how many are genuinely affordable to people on low and medium incomes and let’s see how many are for buy to leave and land banking investment opportunies for overseas investors while ordinary residents struggle to find a place to live in their communities.

We accept the need for new developments to be financially viable, but rather than explore possibilities of how to make developments acceptable to the local community by working together with residents and businesses , the greediest developers are putting making a quick buck out of flogging luxury flats overseas before anything else.

This blog is not “anti development” but we firmly believe that decisions over developments must be made in a way that is open, transparent and accountable and that the needs of surrounding communities have been taken into account.

Of course Bingle is not the only lobbyist with friends in high places and with roles in carving up communities – but he is a prominent example of why we need to clear the swamp if we can still consider ourselves any sort of democracy – but given his behaviour and his former firm Bell Pottinger’s history, we don’t think Mr Bingle has a lot of time for democracy…..

It is worth us showing this picture again too (Not seen: Bingle pulling Khan’s strings.) Could their friendship explain why Sadiq Khan is so keen on Newcombe House? It certainly raises some questions over Khan’s behaviour the Forum Hotel Scheme in Cromwell Road.

Some readers may have not seen our London Trilogy from 2018 so here are the posts again:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/24/who-really-runs-london/

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/24/david-lunch-lunts-the-mr-creosote-of-the-gla/

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/more-terrapins-in-the-tank-at-the-city-hall-of-shame/

Deputy Mayor for Housing and residential development Tom Copley has been partial to Bingle’s company before and Khan and Copley have approved a £50million loan of GLA public money to developers Mount Anvil – who are clients of Terrapin.

This blog is doing a follow up to the London Trilogy but really we wish we weren’t – it’s just such a dreadful shame to see that little has changed since then and we are yet again banging our heads against a brick wall – well, before Bingle’s developer clients knock down the brick wall and redevelop it into more absentee luxury flats that is.

We have also found out that another client of Terrapin is Pinnacle – who left residents of a 20 storey block of flats Dixon House, on the Silchester Estate in North Kensington just over the road from Grenfell without working lifts in March 2018, and here are the Grenfell Action Group back then on Pinnacle as reposted here

As Bingle appears to view the Silchester Estate and its residents with contempt (how dare people live in social housing on expensive land in North Kensington when he and his pals could make loads of dosh out of it ?!), we thought we would just leave this video below – of local people protesting against the Silchester regeneration outside his friend “Jailhouse” Rock Feilding-Mellen’s former home, back when their homes were under threat, to show him the feeling is mutual:

https://youtu.be/Vb1uvhexndI

Who knows where Bingle’s terrapins will pop their heads up next? Local residents hope it won’t be around here again anytime soon.

Saga of the Mayor of London and the “Tower of Mordor”

THINK are going on a journey down memory lane – or rather, Cromwell Road in South Kensington and to the Holiday Inn Forum Hotel:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/27/judgement-day-is-also-here-for-south-kensington-and-the-holiday-inn-forum/

Hardly a soul in this borough supported this development – most of the councillors regardless of which political side they were on – certainly didn’t. From the then Labour MP for Kensington, Emma Dent Coad and her party colleagues – notably Sina Lari (who is a resident of South Kensington) also Lib Dem Cllr Linda Wade and Conservatives – particularly the local Courtfield councillors Greg Hammond, Janet Evans and Quentin Marshall – and also Cem Kemahli (pre-cabinet when he was on the Planning Committee)

Most agreed and listened to the residents – there were over 800 objections after all – who would be facing years of noise, dirt and disruption to an already severely polluted part of London, their skyline and streetscape ruined and a loss of light that the developer’s supposedly flattering computerised images and salesman patter could not disguise.

We covered RBKC rejecting the proposals back then in this blog post:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/10/01/some-good-news-for-south-kensington-residents-holiday-inn-forum-plans-rejected/

After that long and gruelling meeting of the Planning Committee at the end of September 2018 in which the council roundly rejected the plans, we warned people at the end of the post that this would likely not end here.

How right we were; sure enough, they came back as we predicted, using the housing issue – there were 62 “affordable” (we’re getting sick and tired of this misleading term) to put this through to the Mayor of London, who called in the scheme just over a month later.

Queen’s Gate councillor Maxwell Woodger had referred to the scheme in a Full Council meeting as ” replacing the most unpopular tower with the Tower of Mordor” , which might sound dramatic to some, but Cllr Woodger is a local councillor to some of the communities affected and we had previously seen evidence from residents which showed that nearby streets would indeed be shrouded in darkness from the two towers – one 30 storeys high and the other 21 storeys.

But City Hall and the Mayor of London fell for developers Rockwell Properties and Queensgate Investment Ltd and their scheme and had already decided they were going to force this on residents come what may and in June 2019, Sadiq Khan approved the scheme (having called it in the Autumn before after RBKC rejected it) citing the number of “affordable” homes provided in the scheme and the shortage of “affordable” homes in our borough.

This was not the end of the matter however and our council, with Johnny Thalassites, RBKC Cabinet Member for Transport and Planning and its Legal Team at the helm as well as local Residents’ Associations – 30 of them objecting to the scheme – went to the High Court and applied for a judicial review and also for full documents to be disclosed to the RBKC Legal Team

This was granted and during the judicial review earlier this year , it turned out that Sadiq Khan had deliberately not provided relevant documents to our council and had tried to bypass Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Govermment.

The Judge quashed the Mayor’s approval decision and agreed with RBKC that he had acted improperly. Khan conceded to the judgement and admitted that his purpose had been to frustrate the Government. His office was ordered to pay RBKC legal costs of £90,000.

Whatever some may or may not think of Sadiq Khan policywise, there is no debating the fact that he is a highly intelligent and accomplished statesman . So the mystery to some was why the Mayor would behave in such a cavalier, arrogant and dishonest way over this.

Khan’s actions over this have damaged whatever credibility he may have had with voters here and we certainly do not envy Kensington Labour Party campaigners who will be in for a very hard time from residents on the doorsteps next year – that’s if they can find enough local Labour members who will happily defend Khan’s behaviour that is….

So was the Mayor of London just overly keen to engage in a pointless game of party political ping pong with the Government and RBKC ? Or did he just have something against Kensington locals and assume that people who didn’t want this here were just being a bunch of nimbys or snobs?

Possibly neither as THINK might have a possible answer to this, as we can reveal that developer Rockwell Property are not just clients of PR property lobbying firm Cratus , they are also clients of Peter Bingle and Terrapin Communications, who have featured in this blog several times before, notably here and here.

This picture below shows just how close Bingle gets to Khan. We wonder if he treated him to a few nice lunches with a side order of some “helpful” suggestions on-behalf of his Terrapin clients? Nothing mentioned in Sadiq’s entry in the City Hall gifts and hospitality register about this either – the shame of it.

Fishy Business : MIPIM UK Summit in London

Yesterday and today the MIPIM UK Summit came to town and was held at Old Billingsgate (the original site of the fish market from 1875 to 1982). We sense a theme coming on….

What is MIPIM? Some basic background

For those unfamilar with it, MIPIM stands for “Le marché international des professionels de l’immobillier” (that’s the international market of real estate professionals in English).

This luxury international property fair is not some harmless nice little event with a fortunate few wealthy individuals looking to buy and/or build their dream holiday home abroad and having a glass of wine and canapės whilst meeting and greeting professionals and touring the stands – this is an event held annually in Cannes centred around large scale planning, development and regeneration matters, populated with many types of architects, house builders, international property developers, real estate corporations, quangos, local government representatives and housing professionals with big plans, big ideas big deals and with big price tags for potential developments and redevelopments in many cities around the world – particularly London.

As these people are having fun in the sun brokering deals that may appear to be investments – some of the arrangements and connections made at these conferences could be the beginning of the end of some communities. For some residents living in social housing this is no beach holiday.

MIPIM turned 30 years old this year, but it has aged rather more like fish than wine, and has gained a rather a sleazy reputation in other ways too. We found this posted on one site:

Before setting off to the conference it is best not to leave your copy of Private Eye lying around the house for a partner to see when it describes MIPIM as a ‘booze and hooker fest’.

Also this from the Guardian:

The organisers of MIPIM, the property industry’s annual “champagne, yachts and fun” bash in Cannes, have repeatedly warned delegates to “respect all individuals” and reminded the 25,000 attendees that “under no circumstances does MIPIM register prostitutes”.

“What other industry on the face of the earth in 2018 needs to remind businessmen that they can’t bring prostitutes to an industry conference,” asked Jane, a 29-year-old delegate from Manchester. “That alone tells you how backward property is.”

No trawling in our backyards!

MIPIM started hosting summits here in London in 2014. In fact the first one was in Olympia – rather too close to home for us.

MIPIM events have served as networking opportunities for the London Authority, local councils (and housing associations have become a more frequent player in these goings on ) brokering deals and seeking money for their area, but this comes at a price – and the price to pay usually means a vast reduction in the number of homes for social housing included in the replacement development – and sometimes even none at all for social rent as the big fish chase after maximum profit.

Many of the shiny new replacement “affordable” homes on regeneration schemes that have gone ahead that some residents had been initially misled into thinking they would be living in, have instead been unaffordable and in some cases ended up in hands of “buy to leave” investors, while residents end up either being priced out of or displaced away from their communities, which are all too often carved up or completely destroyed as a result of these projects

Man overboard

The above picture is of current Prime Minister (Mayor of London back then) is of Boris Johnson speaking at the opening of the first MIPIM UK summit at Olympia in 2014.

In 2011, the Earl’s Court Masterplan had been showcased at MIPIM by developers Capco (Capital and Counties) in Cannes. The redevelopment (spanning both RBKC and LBHF ) had proposed most ly luxury homes and only including just 11% homes designated as “affordable” and none for social rent at all.

At the time the Government’s District Valuer Service had questioned the viability of the project, but Boris Johnson along with RBKC and the former Conservative administration at LBHF approved it afterwards without question.

Capco (a company experienced mainly in retail- based developments) suffered financially from the downturn in the luxury homes housing market, the world famous Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre was demolished (causing small businesses in the area to suffer), the site is currently worth only half its original value.

Troubled Capco back in 2014 owned Olympia – they sold it in 2017 to a consortium of German investors and this year Gary Yardley has jumped ship citing “health reasons” (seasickness?!)

When Johnson approved the redevelopment he hailed the scheme as a “landmark” . Well, here for him, is a sobering picture of that “landmark” taken by us just the other day:

Maybe Bozo and his pals had been knocking back too much champagne at too many of these shindigs when they imagined all this would be a good idea?

The tide might be turning

We have heard some recent good news regarding the West Ken and Gibbs Green estates, located within the Earl’s Court redevelopment area, many of whose residents have been fighting against the regeneration from the start. LBHF (under Labour control since 2014) has given the go ahead for a compulsory purchase order on their estates.

This could potentially further throw the Masterplan into more doubt.

We do remind people unfamiliar with the area however that this does not necessarily guarantee a future for all 77 acres of the site – which is jointly owned by Capco and TFL. 22 acres of the site are in RBKC and now Capco are now looking for another developer to purchase their share.

But this is more than very encouraging for the outstanding campaigning residents of West Ken and Gibbs Green – and we wish them every success with tbis – plus it gives others facing regeneration a glimmer of hope.

Rotten fish, rotten boroughs and bad memories

We are guessing that Olympia is too near Grenfell for some of these slippery creatures to carry out their networking unnoticed. Yesterday was the 14th of October and exactly 28 months since 72 members of our community lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire. We guess most of the people behind MIPIM do not have consciences let alone memories, so we will remind some that MIPIM is where some at RBKC networked with Rydon. – the firm that carried out a lot of the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower.

Yet still today, the rotten stench of developers fishing around at these events to make financial capital out of selling up, selling off and ultimately doing urban areas out of social capital (the communities who live there) gets ever worse.

“Who’s going to MIPIM?” (Ft L to R: Sir Merrick Cockell, Peter Bingle , Rock Feilding-Mellen, Daniel Moylan, Adam Jogee, Claire Kober, Nick Paget-Brown, Angela McConville & Alan Strickland

Some familiar big fish

No representatives from RBKC there this year (as far as we know) but they have attended MIPIM in the past . Long before us, our friends at the Grenfell Action Group were on the case back then:

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2016/10/04/rbkc-snouts-in-the-mipim-trough/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2016/11/13/rbkc-supping-at-the-property-developers-table/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/rbkc-and-mipim-the-search-for-the-truth/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/01/02/paget-brown-and-mipim/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/rocky-mipim-and-the-lobbyist/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/paget-brown-digging-his-own-grave/

Also Angela McConville, former Chief Executive of the Westway Trust had an all expenses paid (our expenses) trip to Cannes:

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/04/24/mcconville-at-mipim/

And here is a rogues gallery ( by no means complete) list of some other London local authorities that have sent representatives to MIPIM over recent years :

– Southwark

– Ealing

– Newham

Enfield

– Waltham Forest

Greenwich

– Barking and Dagenham

Hounslow

Harrow

Westminster

– Kingston

Croydon

Havering

– Bexley

Lambeth

Haringey

Lewisham

Hillingdon

Housing associations, moving increasingly further away their once commendable and charitable origins have also been a presence at MIPIM. Here are just a few of them:

– L & Q

– Clarion

– Catalyst

– Notting Hill Genesis

– Peabody

A2Dominion

– Swan Housing

– Places For People

– One Housing

Swimming further out (and some further reading)

With regards to regeneration projects elsewhere in London , we recommend excellent South London blog Southwark Notes to our readers. This timeline of the Elephant and Castle/Heygate Estate regeneration is a must-read:

https://southwarknotes.wordpress.com/heygate-estate/heygate-timeline/

Radical Housing Network have plenty of very informative and interesting articles on MIPIM. We highly recommend paying their website a visit

https://radicalhousingnetwork.org/tag/mipim-2/

Hook, line and sinker

The “net” apoears to be cast wider every year, with many more communities outside London in recent times also facing an uncertain future. Still, regardless of Brexit or any other factors, the big boats still go trawling for big business there with no signs of stopping.

The event also brings councils and councillors and others who might be not all come with bad intentions, but could find themselves out of their depth and end up making deals which sell communities down the river. If we were residents in parts of Birmingham or Liverpool for example (big attendees tbis year) that have been earmarked for regeneration we would be sleeping with one eye open. “Opportunity Areas” usually translates to “money making for developers opportunity areas”

All at sea

Boris Johnson was not there, but he has provided MIPIM with a letter of endorsement. Here it is:

Note the lack of reference to social housing anywhere in his letter. And as for communities “having more power” in these huge corporate developer-led regenerations – is he taking the p-?

But two of the “special guest speskers” at this year’s MIPIM UK are Government ministers. One is Esther McVey. Minister of State for Housing for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The other is Graham Stuart, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Trade.

A sea of protesters

Since MIPIM summits were held on our shores, the number of people from communities under threat of regeneration has grown vastly and so has the number of protesters.

The unwelcome reception and bad publicity they get can means that not too many elected public figures are not necessarily too keen to be seen turning up to MIPIM these days.

Unsurprisingly most residents and small businesses in communities facing regeneration regardless of whether they happen to live in social housing or not, do not welcome this here.

And while Boris’ successor as Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has made little noises here and there – he has actually done nothing to go towards redressing the problem. In fact, a number of senior figures at the GLA are big approvers and collaborators in these schemes, as our “London Trilogy” last year pointed out.

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/24/who-really-runs-london/

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/24/david-lunch-lunts-the-mr-creosote-of-the-gla/

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/25/more-terrapins-in-the-tank-at-the-city-hall-of-shame/

The many housing campaigners and residents groups protesting have ensured their disapproval of this event and the despicable practices of the big players in this have registered loud and clear by all attendees. Above is a picture from the protest yesterday.

Even when there is a real crisis regarding the lack of social and genuinely affordable housing, it appears that unscrupulous developers and politicians are putting the “price of fish” over the priceless real true value of our communities and the residents and local businesses who really make them work.

Happy 7th Birthday to the Save Earl’s Court campaign and a call for action!

The Save Earl’s Court campaign are celebrating 7 years of campaigning today and to show our support. above, is our special birthday card for the campaigners. We thank them for their inspiration, their friendship both to us and to many and their dedicated and original work.

Dressed in Comic Con cosplay costumes – remembering some of the colourful character who used to visit Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre are : (left to right) RBKC Liberal Democrat councillor for Earl’s Court Linda Wade, Kensington Labour MP for Kensington and RBKC Councillor for Golborne Emma Dent Coad, Green Party London Assembly Member and Chair of the Environment Committee and Islington councillor Caroline Russell, Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member and Deputy Chair of the Transport Committee Caroline Pidgeon and last – but by no means least – Co Leader of the Green Party their Mayoral Candidate in the 2020 elections and Camden councillor Sian Berry.

All have shown their support for the Save Earl’s Court campaign but Linda “Wonderwoman” Wade is the amazing founder of this campaign – her work for the Earl’s Court community is beyond outstanding – she is a real life “superhero”.

Earl’s Court is just two and a half miles from us and it is a place that is also close to THINKers’ hearts as we have many friends there and also have fond memories of times there.

22 acres of the site are in RBKC and currently lie as wasteland awaiting redevelopment into luxury flats – this is unacceptable. The Save Earl’s Court Campaign agree and we have written about their alternative plans for the world’s greenest venue there two years ago :

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2017/08/03/think-special-post-from-earls-court-a-new-beginning/

And followed their campaign with updates – here are a few:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/02/18/could-there-be-good-news-for-earls-court-at-last/

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/03/02/earls-court-masterplan-debated-at-westminster-hall/

The Earl’s Court Masterplan is not just failing residents and businesses in the area; it is failing London as a whole This scheme, with no replacement for exhibition centre is in our view, unworkable, is out of place with the surrounding area and mostly consists of densely populated luxury flats with no homes for social rent at all.

What is more, something badly needs to be done to address the severe pollution issue there – which affects all of us. Earl’s Court has the highest pollution levels in the UK – with levels of NO2 over three times the World Health Organisation legal limit. See this Daily Express article from “the UK’s most polluted road”:

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwj7vreGueTkAhW-A2MBHYnIA_cQzPwBegQIARAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.express.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fuk%2F1111938%2Fmost-polluted-road-uk-earls-court-road-west-london-ulez-sadiq-khan&psig=AOvVaw1Dq_F4775j3gRiQiZeFde6&ust=1569242246115432

In a week that saw climate action strikes across the world, it is time to take action here. It is time for not just a rethink but also action on regeneration sites and developments.

Filling an already severely polluted area with densely populated luxury flats will only make things worse. What is needed there is green space, a replacement for the Exhibition Centre and environmentally friendly housing for all.

Fortunately the Save Earl’s Court campaigners really have come up with some fresh thinking and are calling for action – we urge our readers to sign and share this petition from them to Sadiq Khan to intervene to build green housing and the world’s greenest venue on the site here:

https://www.change.org/p/sadiq-khan-mayor-khan-intervene-to-build-green-housing-and-the-world-s-greenest-venue-in-earl-s-court

It is time for others responsible for these decisions to seriously consider regeneration sites and developments and how they affect not just housing and businesses but our health and the planet too. Many of these short sighted short term financial gain- led developments already ruin local communities they are beneficial and only usually finally beneficial – to the developers and to the people who can afford to purchase them as an “investment” Any new developments in our view, should be beneficial on every level – to EVERYONE.

We need to be thinking locally as well as globally and we urge RBKC, Sadiq Khan and the Government to take action now – and with their ingenuity and initiative , the Save Earl’s Court campaigners are showing a way forward. Developers need to take note and politicians need to take action.

Who REALLY runs London?

Part 1 of our “London Trilogy

We bring our readers a few pieces of important local news that should give both local residents and Londoners as a whole, great cause for concern.

Our first news concerns Newcombe House that we reported on in our previous post. These redevelopment proposals were rejected by RBKC three times – only for the plans to be called in by Sadiq Khan.

Sadly we can report that Mr Khan overturned the decision last week. Read about it and the responses from residents here:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.standard.co.uk/news/london/newcombe-house-latest-monstrosity-tower-will-be-built-after-london-mayor-sadiq-khan-overrules-a3939766.html%3famp

Kensington Labour MP Emma Dent Coad had been unable to make the hearing at a City Hall, but she had this to say to us:

‘It is a total mystery to me as well as a genuine disappointment that the Mayor has overruled experienced elected representatives on the Newcombe House planning application.

We were scrupulous in our determinations and assessed the application in the light of The London Plan and RBKCs Local Plan policies. The application fell far short on many of these policies and we listed them all in detail.

It was a cross party decision to protect our conservation areas from this and future inappropriate applications.

This project will open the doors to higher and greedier plan in the future. A disaster for a beautiful borough.’

Maybe not so much of a mystery now as THINK can reveal something about London Communications, a PR firm used by developers who have many clients in lots of sectors, including the Metropolitan Police and RBKC, – a few of their other clients have particularly caught our eye:

One client is Brockton Capital who are the developers behind the redevelopment plans for Newcombe House

We can also reveal that GLA chief planner Juliemma McLoughlin., who was sitting a few seats away from Sadiq at the hearing, has had dinner with London Communications, before, as has James Murray, one of the Deputy Mayors. Coincidence? We don’t think so….

Another client of London Communications are Cadogan Pier Limited.

Cadogan Pier Limited and the greedy Moffats are threatening to evict some of the Chelsea Houseboat Community and have featured in our blog before too:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/05/cockell-and-his-connections-are-still-wreaking-havoc-all-around-the-rotten-borough/

Lots of different property developers seem to get a foot in the door at City Hall – Jamie Ratcliff is the assistant director of housing. On the 4th of September this year he dined with Andrew Simpson and Dominic Lawson of Bespoke Planning – no, not that one – this one:

Who is he, some may wonder? Well he is also a business partner of “Jailhouse Rock” Feilding-Mellen and the other third of Socially Conscious Capital – the other one is Giles Cherry, who had a drink thrown over him by an angry resident after he partied outside the Maxilla Club (opposite Grenfell Tower) on the 14th of September after the Silent Walk:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/09/15/some-people-have-no-shame-jailhouse-rocks-business-partner-makes-an-appearance-in-north-kensington/

Jamie Ratcliff has also had engagements with Savills three times, Lovells four times and has also had engagements with Orbit Homes three times (who apart from one development in New Addington, best Croydon, appear to have most of their properties outside the capital; some people living on London estates who are facing regeneration may want to take note of this).

Ratcliff has also had dinner with Steve Douglas of Altair – we have posted about Chris Wood from Altair before ;

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/08/23/the-rotten-borough-rotten-regeneration-plans-on-the-quiet-and-a-cat-out-of-the-bag/

Regular readers of THINK will also know that we have posted about Earl’s Court and the Earl’s Court Masterplan before:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2017/08/03/think-special-post-from-earls-court-a-new-beginning/

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/03/02/earls-court-masterplan-debated-at-westminster-hall/

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/05/10/anyone-hear-the-one-about-malcolm-spalding-earls-court-and-the-dead-parrot

Things really didn’t look too good for Capco (or “Crapco” as we call them) and this ill-judged scheme, as was reported in by the Evening Standard back in May:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.standard.co.uk/business/capco-takes-a-52-million-knock-on-earls-court-scheme-a3895836.html%3famp

THINK had to take a trip down memory lane to recall when this was said when Sadiq Khan was standing for Mayor of London:

“Sadiq will review the Earl’s Court Masterplan as he has serious reservations about the overall direction the scheme is taking.”

At THINK , we were wondering whatever happened to this review. Because we haven’t seen or heard anything and neither have many residents and local businesses around Earl’s Court who are suffering from this utter failure of a disasterplan.

So what now for Earl’s Court? Well we have found out that this was going on: London First holding a reception at the Labour Party conference, sponsored by Capco!

https://www.londonfirst.co.uk/news-publications/events/the-london-reception-at-labour-party-conference

We are very pleased that Emma Dent Coad, our Kensington Labour MP refused to go to this event on principle.

Some may also note that joining Sadiq Khan the Mayor of London (the shame) as a special guest speaker there, was Peter John, leader of Southwark Council and chair of the London councils. John is a controversial figure because of the regeneration social cleansing schemes such as Elephant & Castle, the Ledbury Estate and the Heygate Estate (Peter Bingle on behalf on Lendlease had a vital key role in this!) in his part of town. Southwark Notes and the Ledbury Action Group have been on the case there :

https://www.google.com/amp/s/southwarknotes.wordpress.com/2017/12/13/what-a-joke-979-new-homes-33-affordable-this-is-social-cleansing/amp/

https://www.ledburyestate.com/

Some at RBKC remember Allison Flight, who was once strategic development manager at RBKC and was seen celebrating with Capco back in 2012 when our council approved the masterplan. From The Hornets Nest posted about this then:

http://fromthehornetsnest.blogspot.com/2012/11/rbk-planner-makes-flighty-old.html?m=1

Where is she now? That’s right- she has been appointed Deputy Head of Development at the GLA!

A resident commented:”who the hell made that decision. We saw how she cozied up to Capco in Earls Court , so once confined to allowing luxury developers to cause havoc in just one borough RBKC. Now she will be able to help developers in their reign of terror across all of London . God help us all, well everyone check out those well loved buildings when you go to bed, with Alison ( and her colleagues who are also pro developer ) in City Hall’s corridors of power they may not be there in the morning.”

David Lunts, the Mr Creosote of City Hall, has also had five engagements engagements with London First and other engagements with Grosvenor Development, whose chief executive is Richard Powell, who was formerly the director of planning and development in Earl’s Court for Capco.

Others at City Hall who are partial to London First’s company are Juliemma McLoughlin (again) , Simon Powell, assistant director of strategic projects and property, Fiona Fletcher-Smith, executive director of development enterprise and environment (who has also been to MIPIM),

Other London First attendees include James Murray – a Deputy Mayor of London who is responsible for housing and residential development and Jules Pipe, who is a Deputy Mayor and is responsible for regeneration, planning and skills.

Some Conservatives may be also be interested to know that Shaun Bailey also had dinner with Gary Yardley of Capco back in July.

Local Earl’s Court resident and Labour candidate there at the local elections, Bruno de Florence had this to say: : “If the current Mayor asked me for my opinion re the Capco site, my reply would be: No Change Without Consent.”

Liberal Democrat councillor for Earl’s Court, Linda Wade had this to say (originally posted on Nextdoor and reposted here wth her kind permission):

“Mr Khan’s manifesto pledge when he was standing as Mayor was to deliver more social affordable housing, which is a worthy sentiment but harder to deliver.

Personally, homing people and building stable communities is of primary importance, construction without consideration of context of how people live, work, get about, where their children play and above all in a mixed tenure environment.

One of my main criticisms of the Earl’s Court Masterplan was that it did not integrate into the existing Earl’s Court, that architecturally it set itself apart, that the profile of the accommodation was for the buy-to-leave market rather than providing a range of housing options that reflected the wonderful multi-layered demographic that we have in Earl’s Court.”

We thank both Linda Wade and Emma Dent Coad – they are two local politicians who care deeply about the communities they represent and speak up when it matters most to residents and as disaffected and disheartened as we are feeling about what appear to be the murky goings on both locally and around the wider London area, we are grateful to them and to the local residents and campaigners like the Hillgate Village Residents’ Association, the Pembridge Association , the Save Earl’s Court campaigners, Bruno and many others -it is good to hear that some people will stand up for their local community against the onslaught from property developers .

THINK have to ask the question as to who the Mayor, some of the GLA members and some of the City Hall senior staff are working for really?

Because we are failing to see the point of having a London Mayor and assembly if property developers are the ones pulling the strings.

Newcombe House redevelopment : For or against?

This is Newcombe House in Notting Hill Gate – an eyesore of a building once described by journalist, author and Kensington resident Simon Jenkins as a squalid 1960s block “that would discredit a Soviet suburb”.

Today at 2pm, there will be a hearing at City Hall over this to decide over the redevelopment plans for the building, – which been strongly opposed but also have divided the local community deeply – and the Mayor of London has “called it in” after RBKC rejected the proposals for the third time – he will now make the final decision.

Residents unable to make it to City Hall can watch the live stream webcast here:

https://www.london.gov.uk/media-centre/mayoral#

More about the proposals here:

https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/planning/planning-applications-and-decisions/planning-application-search/newcombe-house-0

This might be a controversial redevelopment but there are powerful arguments being made on all sides by residents here both for and against . The Kensington Society, , the Ladbroke Association and the Campden Hill Residents Association to some peoples’ surprise, have backed the plans. Divisions over this have also crossed political party lines, with supporters and opposers on all sides of the political divide.

The Kensington Society have made their reasons clear for supporting the scheme here:

http://www.kensingtonsociety.org/why_we_support_newcombe_house/

On the opposing side, the Skyline Campaign have said :”“It will establish a precedent and that’s hugely dangerous for London on the whole, and especially this particular part of London, which is one of the most revered places in the “If they allow 18 storeys there, when they’ve said you’re not allowed to do that, the next developer will come along and say they want 18 storeys, or 20 storeys, It will be incremental.

“The existing building looks very tired and it is an eyesore. It is completely wrong and shouldn’t be in Notting Hill Gate. But the new design is very mediocre. They need a better design and to not build higher that what it is now”.

The Hillgate Village Residents Association have said the proposed development is “too tall and overbearing for the area”.They have also said “The proposed public benefits do not outweigh the harm likely to be caused to the surrounding heritage assets and the community by a much taller Tower which the Council found to be of “insufficient high design quality”.

Letting one developer build an excessively tall Tower could create a precedent, opening the floodgates for other Towers on Notting Hill Gate and elsewhere in west London. ”

The Pembridge Association have said:” The Pembridge Association is a conservation society for the Pembridge Conservation Area which borders the north side of Notting Hill Gate. The proposal is for a large building which will set a precedent for subsequent developments of the surrounding area. The scale will affect the whole of the historic environment of this part of Notting Hill Gate. Whilst there have been improvements to some aspects of the proposal, the design of the façade remains poor and the low quality offer of public amenity is not enough to justify the proposal as it stands. It should be rejected in its current form and improvements, both in the design and in the public amenity offered, required for any future, successful application”

Others opposing the scheme include the Georgian Group, ADKC (Action Disability Kensington and Chelsea), the South East Bayswater Residents’ Association and Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad.

THINK have received emails asking us to make our position on this clear (including someone accusing our blog of sitting on the fence!) , so here it is:

We are against, but if the plan was reconsidered to reduce the height and to include more social housing (not so-called “affordable” – around 80% of the market rate-) and the proposed GP surgery did not come at the expense of other nearby surgeries closing – we could be open to persuasion, but we think that 23 units of affordable housing (the developers increased this from 9 units ) is a pathetic amount and will do nothing to help the housing crisis.

We also believe that the increased height of the proposed redevelopment will make the building even more of an eyesore and that it is out of keeping with the character of the area. Loss of natural light to nearby residents caused by the height of the proposed building also has to be taken into consideration.

The one thing everyone seems to agree on over this is that the building is in a state and really does need some work, and that step free access to Notting Hill Gate underground station is important. We believe there should be step-free access to the station on all sides and the proposals are only for step-free access on one way only – this is not acceptable.

We just happen to believe that there are better ways forward and that what is on the table simply isn’t good enough – not for the area, not for nearby residents, not for better accessibility to the station and certainly will not do anything to help the housing problem. We hope Sadiq Khan listens to all sides but ultimately that he rejects it and instead asks the developers Brockton Capital to go back to the drawing board. There has to be a better way forward in our opinion – and this is not it.

Whatever does happen to Newcombe House, we strongly feel that there must really be something done about the lack of step free access to Notting Hill Gate station and the Mayor and TFL should also do something about improving access to all the other stations in the borough, including Ladbroke Grove and Latimer Road in our locality.

We’ll remind both RBKC and Sadiq Khan that this city , particularly our area of London, is desperately short of social housing and that both our council and our London Mayor do not have a great track record of doing much to resolve this problem.

Greg Hands – get your hands off our Carnival and our constituency!

IMG_2266

Greg Hands, Conservative MP for Chelsea and Fulham who is also minister of state for international trade and also minister for London, back in July this year wrote to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan asking that the Notting Hill Carnival got re-routed citing Grenfell Tower  and his fears of crime  as a reason.

This was met by criticism from many including Yvette Williams from Justice For Grenfell who pointed out that ” the Carnival route does not go that near Grenfell” and from  rapper Stormzy, who in fact is from Chelsea who called Hands a “scumbag”

We should point out that Greg Hands’ constituency isn’t even on or  near the Carnival route  – unfortunately for Mr Hands,  Sadiq Khan has more sense and  ignored his rude intervention in another constituency’s affairs.

Greg Hands frequently puts his foot in it on Twitter like this nonsense about a kebab shop chain:

His stupid joke was met by these responses:

And then he stood in front of a piece of graffiti that said “Jeremy Corbyn is” for a photo and invited people to complete the sentence too.

Recently he blamed deselection of Labour councillors in Haringey on the “loony left” . Well no actually, – let us mention the HDV regeneration scheme  (which amounts to social cleansing ) and that those who have been deselected were either proponents of or supporters of it!

We have also heard reports that Greg Hands is one of the people behind the smear campaign that some of the Tories have mounted against our Labour MP Emma Dent Coad too.

Some have also pointed out to us that while Mr Hands is busy in his ministerial role negotiating trade deals, he has refused to renounce his US citizenship (he was born there). He also has a German wife and while he is busy negotiating away our freedom of movement when leaving the EU – his own children will retain their rights as they have dual UK/German citizenship and the rights to become US citizens too.

THINK say Greg Hands and many of his Tory friends do not understand our community and our isssues, we also question his position as a trade minister too. The deadline for submissions to the boundary commission  regarding  merging Kensington with Chelsea as a constituency ends tomorrow. We suggest any readers who share our concerns about having Greg Hands  as our MP  and  Labour-dominated North Kensington being completely ignored,  please make their voices heard and submit their views here:

https://www.bce2018.org.uk/node/6485?postcode=W105UQ

We also say that Greg Hands after such a series of gaffes on social media is in no place to criticise Emma Dent Coad and her blog posts past or alleged comments in the first place!