“Guilt by Association” #2: Catalyst Housing

Part 2 of our “Guilt by Association” series of posts on housing associations

Meet Ian McDermott, the Chief Executive of Catalyst Housing.

Catalyst Housing are one of the founder members of the G15 Group of housing associations and are responsible for over 32,000 homes.

They formed out of Kensington Housing Trust (once based locally, at Portobello Road), who merged with Ealing Family Housing Association and Northcote Housing Association.

In 2019, Hertfordshire-based Aldwyck Housing Group (which has homes in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire ) joined the Catalyst fold and Mr McDermott, from Aldwyck, took the top job.

Ian McDermott might have some 30 years or so in the business but as he may not be familiar with our local area. we’ll just alert him to how environmentally destructive his organisation’s regeneration at the Wornington Green Estate in North Kensington is, so here are our previous two posts about it:

Wornington Green: Green no longer? North Ken residents fight to save 42 trees

And

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

Yes, even the RBKC council Leadership disapproves of Catalyst chopping down so many trees

In fact a total of 167 mostly mature plane trees will be lost to the scheme.

We also wonder if Mr McDermott approves of his employees using misleading terms to describe Catalyst projects? Like this, (taken from the RBKC meeting) from Fearghal O’Hara, Regeneration Manager for Wornington Green and who is responsible for overseeing the new builds at Wornington Green
‚ÄúThere 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‚Äôre creating a new green space in partnership with RBKC ‚Äď that‚Äôs Athlone Gardens‚ÄĚ

Oh dear. Replacing an existing green space – Athlone Gardens – with a smaller one isn’t really creating a new one is it ? Nor is replacing existing community facilities at the Venture Centure – “creating new community facilities”.

We’ll also go back to what RBKC Labour Cllr Judith Blakeman said at that RBKC Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting regarding courtyard gardens and the part of thr Silchester Estate that was redeveloped (no, not by Catalyst but it’s relevant): She ponted out that the courtyard at the Silchester does not get enough light, all the trees and plants die and residents there are left with a mud bath. Now we’ll point out that similarly sized courtyards, are what Caralyst plans to provide at Wornington Green and unlike the Silchester, these will be at basement level. Good luck growing anything there….

No doubt Mr O’Hara or another one of his colleagues will probably pop up to tell the Wonrington Green residents that they now have a mud wrestling facility for the community or something. It’s the sort of behaviour residents have come to expect from them – and none of this – is in any way, shape or form, any sort of replacement for the mature London plane trees which help fight pollution and mean so much to both the Wornington Green residents and their neighbours in the North Kensington area.

Today we have heard the news that heartless Catalyst Housing have shamefully disregarded the overwhelming views of residents and the local council and have told residents that they will cbop down 37 trees beginning next Monday, right in the midst of Covid -19 when residents are staying at home trying to get some peace and quiet.

Catalyst have won several awards before (actually we think the ritual back-slapping housing sector awards are a complete joke; our own failed defunct ALMO – the disgraced KCTMO has been the recipient of at least one in the past), so here’s another one to add to Catalyst’s collection that they really well and truly deserve:

For pretending that inferior replacements for a park and a community centre are additions, and for having the nerve to say this to people who live there; for assuming our residents are stupid by trying to placate them with darkened basement courtyards and a few saplings and making out that they are in any way an acceptable replacement for plane trees and a healthy outdoor communal green environment – we can only call what they have done and are still doing in North Kensington ecocide ; and for sticking two fingers up to their residents, our council, North Kensington and the environment in general, THINK proudly present “Callous Housing” with a Piglet-Pie Award – and here’s “Mr Shifty” O’Hara to collect it:

Catalyst Housing are in fact the very first housing association to win one of our not very coveted awards, tbough somehow we don’t think they’ll be boasting about tbis “accolade”….

Further afield, Catalyst have been a partner in the South Kilburn Regeneration. In 2019 , residents in Merle Court there (former lifetime tenants and leaseholders of Brent Council who were transferred to Catalyst under the regeneration) had to be moved because the flats were covered in ACM flammable Grenfell-type cladding.

This is what Inside Housing reported in May 2019 : “Residents are now in the process of being moved out, but the association has said there is no guarantee that they will be able to come back. As part of the outline agreement, Catalyst will have to pay compensation to residents and buy back the properties from shared owners ‚Äď something Mr McDermott says will cost the business ‚Äúa lot of money‚ÄĚ.

We think it is utterly disgraceful that this giant housing association supposedly worth ¬£3billion are punishing others for their mistakes and wouldn’t guarantee that all their residents would have a right to return back to their home and community after their ordeal.

But recent reports say that the association has been financially downgraded and as the association has homes all over London and the home counties so theoretically residents could end up anywhere – which could all be a very worrying prospect for Catalyst residents living in more expensive parts of our city who may have to be moved “decanted ” away from faulty properties ….

As for more controversy further out, we have heard that cash-strapped TfL are going into partnership with “Callous Housing” and are planning on building blocks of flats on suburban tube station car parks.

One planned scheme in Rayners Lane, Harrow, is for 126 homes on and around the site of the station car park

They haven’t just stopped there either, they are planning to stick 11 storey tower blocks containing 227 homes by Stanmore Station and 118 homes by Canons Park Station.

While more homes in London are needed, the levels of density, the loss of some trees and greenery – plus obvious beauty – in the areas and the effects on the communities there; are highly concerning, as are parking (in areas where many residents still are dependent on car use) along with the obvious vast increases of pollution and congestion these developments will bring .

Understandably most residents in all three of these locations are opposed to the plans and they have our support . Have a look at this :

Our blog has signed and shared the petition from the residents of High Worple Way to Harrow Council to stop the Rayners Lane development and we urge our readers to join us:

https://www.change.org/p/harrow-council-stop-building-140-flats-at-rayners-lane-car-park-which-is-already-an-overdevelopment-area

We think it is inappropriate and wrong to overdevelop green suburbs with tower blocks, packing in high density flats like sardines in such locations, and we warn the residents there, that if Harrow Council gives this and others the green light, there will be no stopping these schemes.

As for the Wornington Green masterplan in our local area , that was approved by RBKC 10 years ago. It wouldn’t be approved now ; but our council’s hands are tied and legally they have no power at all to halt it.

We were wondering if Catalyst have become less of a housing association and more of a property developer? Things are very cosy indeed between Catalyst and developers Taylor Wimpey – they are not only partners in several schemes , but In 2019, Rachael Dennis, Chief Operating Officer at Catalyst Housing , left to become Regional Managing Director at Taylor Wimpey. Richard Smith, Managing Director at Catalyst Housing since last year, was previously Development Director at Taylor Wimpey Central London.
Philip Jenkins, Group Development Director of Catalyst joined from Taylor Wimpey, Central London where he was Managing Director.

Some of our neighbours in Westminster may remember Philip Jenkins; before he was at Taylor Wimpey and Catalyst he was Executive Director, Property and Development at City West Homes between 2014-17.

City West was Wesminster Council’s troubled ALMO responsible for the management (or not) of its 21,000 or so council bomes¬† and was notorious for poor service, poor repairs and complaints and following concerns over poor performance over a number of years. It was taken back “in house ” in 2018, with Cllr Andrew Smith, Westminster’s Cabinet Member for Housing saying : ‚ÄúI believe there is no option now other than to bring the management of council housing under the council‚Äôs direct control. The opposition Labour Group of councillors in Westminster had kept extensive dossiers of residents’ complaints about the ALMO

https://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/nightmare-stories-of-westminster-citywest-homes-problems-revealed-3584686

So, how do Catalyst residents rate the services they receive?

Not very bighly it appears. Here’s just a taster of the various negative reviews and postings we found:

Plus this from a former Catalyst employee which just about says it all;

We say Catalyst Housing are “guilty” of being destructive to the environment (not just in our community) , dishonesty, having extremely poor communications,poor repairs,poor standards of maintenance, poor responses to their residents and poor relations with the communities in which they intend to build their developments – shame on them.

Ian McDermott in interviews, seems to want to portray himself as a housing association “Mr Approachable Nice Guy” but the conduct of his association tells a very different story.

We warn other residents and local authorities who may be easily swayed when Catalyst comes promising redevelopments with affordable housing as the “cherry on top” ; their “affordable’ homes here start at ¬£600,000, relations between Catalyst and the community are at an all-time low and their redevelopment scheme in North Kensington has come at a price of environmental devastation , plus noise, nuisance, and misery for residents – which has gone on for the past decade and is only set to get worse .

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 witg 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.

Infighting, local trolling, bullying and a few words

It will come as no surprise that as a local North Kensington blog, as members of the immediate community around Grenfell, that THINK has had quite a lot of trolls over the two and half years we have been operating. Now we can be outspoken, we can poke harmless fun at some people in power and not everyone will like our blog and will agree with what we have to say – and that’s totally fine.

THINKers are used to opening our inboxes and seeing unpleasant things from trolls from a long way outside our community (usually Grenfell- related). Occasionally, the “crime”of being female can get us quite a few unpleasant emails and comments too. We probably shouldn’t be, but are, used to it- part of being a campaigner and blogger is also growing a thick skin.

We often deal with this by simply skimming through our emails, not engaging and discarding any bonkers or hostile ones and also making comments on our posts subject to approval before they appear. That usually stops any nuisance as we are depriving these morons of attention and their five minutes of “fame”

But in recent times, we have also received some comments to our blog which have clearly been made by locals and some comments in person which have offended and undermined us. We will not let them win. THINK are not bullies, and also recognise that some of these people are traumatised and even (supposedly) on the same side of us so THINK will not be personally naming and shaming here.

When we covered the fire at Markland House. One THINKer received, in person a few local people and friends of theirs from other areas (no they don’t live in Markland House or anywhere else on the Silchester Estate either) amusing themselves by making distasteful comments that we were using this just to boost viewing figures for our blog. But we have also kept receiving nasty comments and emails over the past month with comments to that effect.

So let’s just clear matters up shall we? The THINKer who reported on the fire lives in Notting Dale Ward down the road from the Silchester, and knows a number of people living both in and nearby the building. That afternoon when she heard someone in the street mention there was a fire there; she dropped everything and ran down there to find out what was going on, and also in fear of what she might find there. She also lost friends in Grenfell and some of her friends are survivors by the way.

On fortunately finding out that nobody was hurt and that the fire hadn’t been more serious, she talked to a number of residents and to Cllr Mo Bakhtiar outside about it to report their concerns in the blog. A number of residents recognised her and welcomed a local person reporting the issue.

One reason why our THINKer is a familiar face to some on the Silchester Estate is because before this blog started, she supported the residents’ campaign against its (thankfully cancelled) regeneration.

Back then, NOT ONE of these people who made the offensive remarks actually was seen to support the campaign or had previously joined the residents at meetings or on demonstrations to save it!

As the later comments and emails we received were anonymous, we do not know for a fact if these were the same people but let’s just say that some of the wording rather gave things away.

We sometimes attend more Town Hall meetings than have hot dinners. We support many other campaigns outside our area too. And as for local campaigns, where were some of these people when our Library and our College were under threat? Nowhere to be seen……

Fine – some people don’t like each other and we can’t all get along – but we can be grown up enough to stand on the same side with some we do not personally like without making trouble without good reason or else walk away.

Of course this sort of thing happens to many other locals. We will not go into individual examples – but it doesn’t help anyone and needs to stop. We are all entitled to our own opinions but let’s be sensible here Let’s not undermine someone publicly, lets not spread silly rumours and let’s not pick on people. Differences of opinion are inevitable but we can be grown up about this? Sometimes if someone’s negative opinions are based purely on personal grounds, it’s usually best to keep them that way.

Some also need to remember that having big spats that others get drawn into (we’ve have to stop doing this one ourselves in the past!) , sniping and bullying is very hurtful to many who are completely blameless in the matter – and please no more fake rumours about people either – hasn’t our community been through enough?

So here is our message to the snipers, the bullies and the armchair critics in our North Kensington community:

Some people do writing, some do art, some do history, some do music, some do campaigning, some do volunteering, some do theatre, some do politics, some do gardening, some do sports, some do film, some do media, some do teaching, some do caring and some just do. If you can’t do then leave it and find something else rather more productive that you can do – and leave others in peace to get on with trying to do some good in this community.

Because it could be your own battles some of us are fighting next…….

Fire at Markland House, a 20 storey block of flats opposite Grenfell Tower

Today, a fire broke out on the 13th floor of Markland House, a 20 storey block of flats on the Silchester Estate opposite Grenfell Tower in North Kensington.

We are very relieved to hear the Fire was soon contained and that no one was hurt and we thank the Fire Brigade for putting out the blaze and for their prompt response and presence at the scene. We also thank both the Fire Brigade and the local Police for securing the scene and ensuring that residents were evacuated from the building.

This has been truly upsetting and traumatising for our local community two years and two months on since Grenfell and especially for residents of Markland House, which is located just across the road from Grenfell

We do not have any details of the causes of the fire, but we spoke to some residents of the building outside.

A resident of the 16th floor had been with her husband and smelt smoke at around 11:30am. Initially her husband had thought the smell was cigarette smoke coming from the balcony. She told us “We were there a little longer before we realised that’s not cigarette smoke and looked out to see smoke billowing out from the 13th floor. We got out of the flat, alerted our neighbours and left the building straight away.”

Some residents praised the caretaker of Markland House who had also helped alert residents and evacuate the block.

Other residents expressed their concerns that RBKC had not installed a fire alarm in the building. One resident who lives on the 7th floor who arrived back to find the flats cordoned off, told us “there hasn’t been a fire alarm installed in the hall, all the council did was to repaint the stairs two days after Grenfell and that’s all”. The resident also expressed his relief that the block had not been refurbished like Grenfell and that the block did not have cladding on it.

We spoke to Cllr Mo Bakhtiar (pictured above) , former RBKC Deputy Mayor and Labour councillor for St Helen’s Ward the neighbouring ward to Notting Dale, where Grenfell Tower, the Lancaster West Estate and the Silchester Estate are all located.

He told us “I am saddened and remember everything that happened on the 14th of June , since lost their lives in Grenfell l two years ago. I was anxious and worries but I am relieved that nobody was injured but this is shocking for the community.”

Cllr Baktiar also expressed his concern that about how access for the Fire Brigade to the buildings was made more difficult by the 2014 redevelopment of part of Frinstead House and the buildings to the rear of it if another such fire was to occur of a more serious nature.

For those unfamiliar with the area, the Silchester Estate has four 20 storey blocks of flats – Markland House, Dixon House and Frinstead House on the west side of the estate and Whitstable House on the east side of the estate.

Last year, in July, a fire broke out on the 16th floor of Whitstable House (pictured below) , the nearest tower to Grenfell and on the same side of the road ( known as the tower next door”). Fortunately this fire had been easily contained and nobody had been hurt in But today, some nearby residents, expressed their concerns that there are still no sprinklers, fire extinguishers or fire alarms provided in the communal areas in their blocks.

To mark the 2nd anniversary of Grenfell in June, Grenfell United projected a series of messages on to a series of buildings around the country to draw attention to lack of safety in tower blocks. One, below, projected on to Frinstead House said “2 years after Grenfell this building still has no sprinklers”

Back in March 2018, we posted this about lifts in Dixon House not working:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/03/02/down-the-road-from-grenfell-lifts-in-20-storey-tower-block-not-working/

Today we briefly saw one RBKC Cabinet member outside Markland House today – Cllr Sarah Addenbrooke, Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, outside who kindly asked asked how we were. We asked her for a statement and she suggested that we contact the RBKC Communications Team.

So we will ask them here (and we will post their response of course)

THINK join local residents in querying why there have been no sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers or fire alarms fitted in any of these high rise blocks of flats more than two years after Grenfell. We also ask Elizabeth Campbell, Leader of RBKC and Kim Taylor-Smith, Deputy Leader as well as member for Grenfell, Housing and Property, to respond to us and to the concerns raised above.

But above all, we believe that action speaks louder than words and remind them that mere statements to the media will not alleviate residents’ very real concerns about fire safety provisions (or lack of) by this council in and around their homes here – so we ask RBKC to listen to this community and act on this now.

…………………………………………………………..

For anyone feeling distressed by today’s incident, the NHS Outreach Service can be contacted on 020 8962 4393

UPDATE: RBKC has posted this with a statement from Kim Taylor-Smith on their website :

https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/newsroom/all-council-statements/information-today%E2%80%99s-fire-markland-house-and-support-those-affected

More Terrapins in the tank at the London City Hall of Shame

Part 3 of our “London Trilogy”

Peter Bingle (pictured as the terrapin “on top”) the property lobbyist and his firm Terrapin Communications are no strangers to this blog, or indeed no strangers to some former RBKC Tory councillors.

We posted about Terrapin Communications before:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2017/09/04/a-rocky-road-well-travelled-and-a-terrapin-in-the-tank/

And about their dealings with former RBKC councillor Daniel Moylan who was former deputy chairman of Transport for London, former chairman of the London Legacy Development Corporation and was chief aviation advisor to Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/cllr-daniel-moylan-smoke-and-mirrors/

In fact, hearing of Peter Bingle’s meetings with RBKC councillors opened THINKers’ eyes to some of the goings on behind the scenes over property developers and regeneration . But as some have seen from our previous two posts we are becoming increasingly concerned as to what property dealings are going on at the GLA, who is influencing them and the dreadful consequences of frankly letting moneyed property development companies who do not have Londoners’ best interest at heart and their lobbyists pull the strings here.

So let’s have another look at the GLA register of gifts and hospitality and go Terrapin spotting at the City Hall………

Juliemma McLoughlin (pictured as the other Terrapin in our main picture) is the Chief Planner, Development, Enterprise and Environment at the GLA. She had dinner with Terrapin Communications on the 22nd June 2017, attended a concert at the Barbican with Terrapin Communications on the 19th October 2017, and this year she was at a Terrapin and Greystar dinner on the 26th March and on the 2nd of May she attended a concert performance of Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony – tickets provided by Terrapin.

Ms McLoughlin has featured on our previous post about the GLA before. Well many residents and local businesses are very worried as to whose plans she could possibly favour here.

David Lunts above) is the Interim Head of Paid Service and Executive Director Housing and Land and the GLA’s Mr Creosote (as people can see from our previous post. David “Lunch” had dinner with Terrapin Communications at Quo Acadia on the 16th June 2015, attended a Mahler concert at the Barbican and had dinner at Smith’s of Smithfield with Terrapin Communications on the 19th of May 2016, had lunch with Peter Bingle at the Blueprint Caf√© on the 7th June 2016 and lunch with Peter Bingle at Kai Restaurant on the 24th January 2017.

Len Duvall is the leader of the Labour Group on the GLA and represents Greenwich and Lewisham. He is also Deputy Chair of the Budget and Performance Committee, Deputy Chair of the Budget and Performance Sub-Committee, Deputy Chair of the GLA Oversight Committee, Member of the Confirmation Hearings Committee and a Member of the Police and Crime Committee.

Len Duvall had dinner with Bingle’s former firm Bell Pottinger on the 13th May 2009, and the 14th of September 2009, Dinner with Peter Bingle at Roux Restaurant on the 17th January 2012, received a ticket for a performance of Iolanthe at Greenwich Theatre from and had dinner with Terrapin Communications on the 26th July this year and received dinner and tickets to the Proms on the 28th August this year from Terrapin Communications.

Tom Copley is a Londonwide Labour GLA member and is Deputy Chair of the Housing Committee a Member of the Confirmation Hearings Committee, a Member of the GLA Oversight Committee, a Member of the Planning Committee and a Member of the Transport Committee.

Tom Copley goes on Twitter a lot and tweets largely about housing. We thought he was a member who appeared to show a good understanding of social housing.

But impressions can be deceiving, as he had lunch with Peter Bingle at Magdalen in Tooley Street on the 10th February 2014, lunch with Peter Bingle at Le Pont De La Tour in the 9th July 2014, lunch with Bingle at Magdalen again on the 28th October 2014 and attended a regeneration dinner provided by Terrapin Communications on the 12tv November 2014.

We have also noted that he has dined with Pocket Living too (clients of Cratus) and no, Tom we do not think that offering Londoners cupboards to live in provides a good solution to the housing problem. The people you are dining with are making the housing crisis worse,

THINK have come across Leonie Cooper before here

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2017/05/18/lets-clear-some-air-rap-23-meeting-part-2/

She is a Labour GLA member for Merton and Wandsworth and a Deputy Chair of the Environment Committee a Member of the Budget and Performance Committee a Member of the Environment Committee, Member of the Fire, Resilience and Emergency Planning Committee and a Member of the Housing Committee

Leonie Cooper impressed us when she spoke at the Rap23 Let’s Clear Some Air public meeting in Acklam Village last year .

What we are less than impressed with is the fact that she has had lunch with Terrapin Communications on the 18th of May 2017, received a ticket to the Proms from Terrapin on the 6th September 2017, had lunch with Terrapin on the 27th September 2017, had dinner and a concert from Terrapin Communications on the 19th October 2017, lunch with them again on the 13th December 2017, dinner with Terrapin on the 11th of May 2018 and a ticket to the Proms again and dinner from them on the 20th July 2018.

And here, are a couple of Terrapins who have since left the murky depths of the London City Hall tank:

Richard Blakeway was Deputy Mayor and in charge of Housing, Land and Property at the GLA from 2008-2016. He was a Board Trustee at the Chartered Institute of Housing from 2011-16, a board member of the London Enterprise Panel from 2013-16, a commissioner of Crossrail 2 Growth Commission at TFL from 2015-16 and a special adviser to the Prime Minister’s policy unit in 2016.

Richard Blakeway was provided with an “evening of hospitality” ; dinner and a trip to the Proms by Bell Pottinger on the 10th September 2009, lunch with Bell Pottinger on the 21st May 2010, a ticket to a Mahler concert provided by Terrapin Communications on the 24th September 2015 and dinner with Terrapin Communications on the 26th January 2016.

In fact Mr Blakeway’s entry in this register is as exhaustive as that of David Lunch!It includes engagements with Capco, LendLease, Delancey, and Wilmott Dixon – who he is now a “Strategic Advisor to – we’re not exactly surprised.

He is also an advisor to EcoWorld Ltd, chair of BexleyCo the developers owned by the London Borough of Bexley (residents there in social housing might be concerned about this) , an advisor to JLL and chief adviser to the Housing and Urban Regeneration Unit at Policy Exchange and a Board Director of Homes England. With all those jobs and treats on the side you can bet Mr Blakeway never has to worry about his home!

Here is his entry in the GLA register (So many lunches and dinners, THINK have got indigestion just from reading it!):

https://www.london.gov.uk/people/mayoral/richard-blakeway-past-staff/gifts-hospitality

Stephen Greenhalgh will be a familiar face to many as he was Boris Johnson’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime from 2012-2016. Before that, he was Conservative Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham. The Tories may no longer be in power there and Greenhalgh left ages ago but he remains a controversial figure there largely because of regeneration plans for West Ken and Gibbs Green Estates under the Earl’s Court Masterplan there. See this from Get West London seven years ago :

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.getwestlondon.co.uk/news/local-news/fury-greenhalgh-pleads-help-bulldozing-5985451.amp

And this from SW Londoner:

http://www.swlondoner.co.uk/former-hammersmith-

fulham-leader-cleared-of-criminal-wrongdoing/

Residents on the West Ken and Gibbs Green Estates have fought a strong campaign against this. See their website here:

https://westkengibbsgreen.wordpress.com/

The Conservatives lost control of Hammersmith & Fulham in 2014 and Greenhalgh left City Hall along with Boris Johnson. We would still be concerned as it appears (as some can see on our previous post) that some in the GLA still have strong links to Capco and Sadiq Khan has not called for a review of the Earl’s Court Masterplan.

Stephen Greenhalgh is not immune to Peter Bingle’s “charm” because on the 5th March 2013 he also had lunch with him.

Oh dear, so it seems there will be no “brandy and cigars” afterwards for many Londoners who had hoped that when Sadiq Khan became Mayor of London, we would see some real positive change here.

Perhaps some of these people can try to offer us a perfectly innocent explanation for their meetings with Bingle? Maybe some just can’t resist the lure of an all expenses paid slap-up meal in a fancy restaurant or something? PR Week said of Bingle ten years ago: “What is for certain is that Bingle is a not a man who is accustomed to spending lunchtimes slumped over his desk with a sandwich and a copy of the FT”.

Some may like to portray Peter Bingle as some sort of fun bon viveur with lots of stories and anecdotes but there are other concerns and it is not just his involvement with controversial regeneration projects which rings alarm bells here, below is an article in The Drum by director of SpinWatch and campaigner for the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency, Tamasin Cave about Bingle’s former company Bell Pottinger and some of their “work” in South Africa:

https://www.thedrum.com/news/2017/08/17/bell-pottinger-has-been-hot-water-the-south-africa-scandal-wont-be-its-end

And back to London , with this from The Guardian about Bingle’s work in Wandsworth – we certainly don’t think he is entertaining the GLA just for fun :

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/sep/13/home-builders-lobbyist-pushed-council-leader-to-sort-and-speed-planning

We’ll finish with a short video which is a trip down memory lane for us – or rather a “March to Frestonia” in Bramley Road North Kensington, outside Rock Feilding-Mellen’s House where local Save Our Silchester campaigners against the (now thankfully cancelled) regeneration plans for the Silchester Estate were protesting – many of the residents there were instrumental in inspiring us to start this blog – so we will end with going back to the beginning. Who will be dining with Peter Bingle next ?

This is the final instalment of our “London Trilogy”, but we don’t happen to think it will be the last time some of these people make an appearance in this blog. Business at City Hall done by an elected authority and by an elected Mayor should be accountable and transparent to the electorate, conducted in a way that is fair to all and important decisions over planning and development of our city should not be made behind closed doors or over lavish meals with property developers and their clients. Londoners deserve better.

Down the road from Grenfell: Lifts in 20 storey tower block not working 

This is Dixon House, it is a 20 storey block of flats located on the West side of the Silchester Estate in North Kensington, minutes away from Grenfell Tower.

THINK have just heard from residents there that the two lifts in the building are not working. This is disgraceful and we particularly feel for residents there who are elderly, disabled or have small children  who really need these lifts to be in working order.

Despite residents of the building phoning to report the fault,earlier. it seems that nothing has still been done about this.

Some would think that the Grenfell Tower fire and the loss of 72 lives there  Рyes we have  recently heard the very sad news that one resident there, Pily Burton who had been in hospital since the fire has sadly passed away Рwould be enough for a local authority to spring into action and make sure all their other buildings are safe Рbut not RBKC.

THINK say they should get these lifts repaired at once and also make sure that all high rise flats like Dixon House in the borough have sprinklers fitted and also have a  fire alarm and fire extinguishers provided for the whole building.

We expect some at the Rotten Borough to ignore this completely and instead  try to portray themselves falsely as a caring and responsible local authority which clearly they are not.

We note that their Director of “Communications and community engagement”, Michael Clarke, is still in his post despite our calls for his resignation.

More on him here:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/01/19/michael-clarke-should-resign-now/

Their mishandling of the Grenfell Scrutiny, their hiding Grenfell in ther newspaper back pages and their total indifference to many here living with trauma and grief ought to be more than enough for Mr Clarke to step down.

We were sent an email about this petition from Mahad Egal, a Grenfell survivor calling for Mr Clarke to resign. We have signed and shared and we fully recommend that our readers do too.

https://www.change.org/p/royal-borough-of-kensington-and-chelsea-michael-clarke-former-head-of-press-of-grenfell-tower-inquiry-to-resign-immediately?recruiter=731926697&utm_source=share_petition&utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_message.nafta_milestone_share_ask_victory.control&utm_medium=whatsapp&utm_content=whatsapp_share_content_2:control

Yes, some on the council appear to be more concerned with the upcoming Local Elections than good communication with residents, the survivors and bereaved from Grenfell as well as  basic fire safety measures in their buildings.

It is a  truly dreadful and terrifying thought, but we really cannot face another disaster of this magnitude. We urge RBKC to take urgent action over Dixon House and to check the fire safety (or rather send the Fire Brigade or a fire expert like Stephen Mackenzie to check as we have zero trust in this local authority) in ALL their buildings.

Is the Grenfell Recovery Scrutiny Committee a farce? THINK  scrutinises some of  the scrutinisers

There is a meeting of the Grenfell Recovery Scrutiny Committee tonight at 6:30pm at Notting Hill Methodist Church, Lancaster Road, W11 Forgive us for the amusing picture – many issues that need to be raised at this meeting are very serious but we have questions about a few who sit on that committee.

Take Cllr Daniel Moylan,, Cllr Mary Weale, Cllr Malcolm Spalding and Cllr Catherine Faulks – they are Conservative councillors who had senior positions at RBKC at one time or another in the run up to Grenfell.

Daniel Moylan is no stranger to appearances on THINK.

Here:https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/cllr-daniel-moylan-smoke-and-mirrors/

Here: https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2017/09/04/a-rocky-road-well-travelled-and-a-terrapin-in-the-tank/

And falling asleep in this very committee here:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2017/12/06/daniel-moylan-asleep-on-the-job/

Yes as well as showing our community utter disrespect by sleeping in part of the last Grenfell Recovery Scrutiny Committee – we say he should resign from that as well as the council – he was involved in secret meetings with property PR firm Terrapin Communications

He served as Deputy Leader of RBKC from 2005 to 2011. He was also Member for Planning Policy and Housing Policy from 2009-2011.

Here from a few years ago, posted by the Grenfell Action Group, is the Notting Barns South masterplan, also know as the Latimer masterplan :

https://grenfellactiongroup.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/notting-barns-south-masterplan.pdf

Yes, it has plans for the demolition of a lot of social housing – including Grenfell Tower, as well as whole streets in North Kensington. We question Cllr Moylan’s part in planning and housing policy in shaping these plans.

The flammable cladding was put on Grenfell Tower to apparently make it look more attractive to the new privately built homes on the other side of Kensington Leisure Centre (which are still under construction) and for the homes that were due to be built for the once-planned Silchester Estate regeneration.

There are many other serious questions about the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower and the power surges that occurred there before the fire. We believe that Cllr Moylan, considering his alleged regeneration kingpin role – he was once nicknamed “the king of planning” should not be anywhere near this committee.

Cllr Mary Weale served as Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health from 2013 to 2017. She presided over the disgraceful closure and selling off of the much-loved Thamesbrook community residential care home in Chelsea, which has left some vulnerable adults now placed in homes outside the borough a long way from their families and communities.

Cllr Weale is also a cousin of Rock Feilding-Mellen’s stepfather – but she is most well known for telling people “we hear residents but we don’t listen” She is presently Cabinet Member for communities. Well a major factor over Grenfell is this council not listening to the community. Not least the residents of Grenfell Tower who gave RBKC countless warnings over the building. Some, like our friend Edward Daffarn of the Grenfell Action Group, have lost their homes, others are sadly no longer with us.

THINK believe Cllr Weale’s political career should go straight in the wheelie bin and she should not be serving on this committee and on the RBKC cabinet too..

Catherine Faulks has appeared on the THINK “stage” before:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2017/08/17/cllr-catherine-lady-false-faulks-the-shaming-of-the-shrew/

And on this very committee appearing to fall asleep too

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2017/12/10/not-only-daniel-moylan-but-catherine-faulks-also-appears-to-be-falling-asleep-in-the-job/

She also was Cabinet Member for Education and Libraries for a short time last year.

Yes she might have only been in the RBKC cabinet for a very short time, but was prepared to go ahead with plans to lease North Kensington Library to Notting Hill Prep School (where Rock Feilding-Mellen had places booked for his children) on the cheap.

Cllr “Lady False” Faulks was also vice chair of the Family and Children’s Services Scrutiny Committee from 2013 to 2017. This is around the time when the Maxilla Nursery and Family Centre was closed. When Labour put a motion to reopen this much-loved and needed Centre, Lady False did not appear to actually know where it was! We wonder if she also dozed off while serving on that committee when the Maxilla came up for discussion – if she finds our issues so tiresome then she should go too.

Malcolm Spalding has also made a few appearances on our blog too.

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/hustings-victoria-does-a-theresa-may-and-so-do-most-of-her-colleagues/

And :https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2017/08/03/cllr-malcolm-spalding-bananaman-and-the-disasterplan/

Yes Cllr “Bananaman” Spalding putting his foot in it may amuse us, but he also served as chair of the Public Realm Scrutiny Committee back in 2014. One of the remits of that committee was to scrutinise the “preservation, enhancement and protection of the built and natural environment”

Well Grenfell Tower certainly wasn’t “enhanced” during that time and the residents were certainly not “protected”.

We accept that Bananaman may have had a lesser role than the others we have mentioned but he is a Tory councillor for Earl’s Court and a supporter of the terrible Earl’s Court Masterplan. According to many of his Ward constituents who have been in contact with us, Cllr Spalding also has shown a very dismissive attitude towards social housing and the residents living in it. Not exactly ideal to be serving on this particular committee with the issues raised in it then.

One member of this committee who is not a councillor is Sheila Durr. She was appointed Director of People and Communities last November.

It has been pointed out to us that Ms Durr has failed to answer many questions put to her after 6 weeks. One alleged decision of hers was to close the night service provided locally to residents in our community in the run up to Christmas. There was only two days notice of this apparently and many vulnerable and traumatised users of the service were not informed.

The planned closure was due on the 30th of November, not long before the Inquiry Hearings and not even six months after Grenfell. The alleged decision was swiftly reversed after news of this was leaked and publicised. Still many in our community have questions to ask over this.

We do realise that Sheila Durr is new to her position but this simply is unacceptable.

As for the RBKC Tories on the committee that we have mentioned above, in the words of local campaigner ond friend of THINK Niles Hailstones, they were part of the culture here that brought Grenfell.

We agree with Niles and say that anyone who played a part in the in the run up to the Grenfell Tower fire and the many other issues in our community around it, should not be playing a part in scrutinising the aftermath in our community after Grenfell The last thing we need is an encore of their “performances”.

The Rotten Borough and their attitude towards Grenfell  РYou would think it never had happened

Here is the latest edition of what THINK call “the Rotten Trumpeter”, aka “Royal Borough ” -RBKC’s own in-house newspaper. This is the front page: do you notice anything missing?

Let’s try the next page:¬†

No – not anything either, let’s try the next page:¬†

Is anyone also feeling like this local authority exists in a parallel universe yet?

Then finally on page 7 (seriously we’re not joking):


Honestly somebody would think there would have never been an entirely preventable disaster in which at least 71 people lost their lives – if they didn’t have to live with the consequences ¬†plus the many bereaved and the traumatised locals who ¬†saw it happening and now live seeing sight of ¬†so much loss in ¬†a now burnt out shell of the Tower around the corner on a daily basis. It says it all about the Rotten Borough’s attitude if they would rather bury Grenfell in the back pages and forget about all affected just to save face.

On page 12 there is a “Leader’s editorial” titled “The Power of Community” – ¬†by Elizabeth “Dizzy Lizzy” Campbell , the leader of RBKC ¬†– yes, that refers to our community ¬†– ¬†that stepped in when this ¬†local authority wanted to sit on its cushy ¬£274million reserves and couldn’t be bothered until the rest of the country and the media began to take notice of this councils’ ¬†continual neglect of Grenfell survivors, bereaved and other local residents in North Kensington.

In it she says “my message to people in this borough is to be patient” ¬†well it is rather too late for that Dizzy Lizzy. Don’t ¬†bother your tiny head with ¬†the glaring social inequalities that existed in the borough before the fire, just pretend they didn’t exist either.

With only 42 of the survivors permanently rehoused ¬†and Dizzy Lizzy and her cabinet cohorts attempting to make out that it is because they can’t decide on their housing ¬†– let us point out that RBKC only built just 10 homes in the last 28 years, and in an attempt to make up for the huge shortfall after the media storm that rightly happened after their “Grenfell non-response”, ¬†they paid ¬£40million to Notting Hill Housing in complete ignorance of the fact that housing association will only provide new tenants with new tenancies under the law as it stands now and the terms of their rules.

That means that Grenfell survivors who previously had lifetime ¬†secure tenancies (which were abolished by the previous coalition Government) will under other terms have fewer rights only receive a “flexible” fixed term five year tenancy under a housing association – which ¬†is ¬†a key reason why so few offers ¬†are being taken up.

We suppose RBKC  are at least now buying properties outright but may of us were saying that they should be doing this and offering like for like tenancies from the start.

We believe that Dizzy Lizzy and her Rotten Borough colleagues have thrown £40 million down the drain and will now have to attempt to push these  housing association properties and tenancies  on to those already  on their waiting lists before Grenfell. Their level of incompetence is beyond belief.

All because they expected to carry on with “business as usual”, that the glare of the nation’s media would go away and hoped that many survivors would just give up and just take whatever there was on the table.

THINK have nothing but admiration for those who have lost everything but still fight and stand up for their rights and nothing but contempt for those who to try to suppress and condemn others to suffering.

RBKC did have plans before the Grenfell  Tower disaster to socially cleanse most of Notting Dale Ward (the council Ward that Grenfell   Tower is in ) . The flammable cladding that was put on the Tower  was meant to make  it look more aesthetically pleasing to the private homes that are still being built in the other side of Kensington Leisure Centre and for the ones that had been planned to go on the Silchester Estate.

Grenfell survivors have more reasons than most to distrust housing rules and local authorities Р and who can blame them?

“Jailhouse” Rock Feilding-Mellen: A man on the run…..

 

IMG_1857

This is RBKC former Deputy Leader and cabinet member for housing, regeneration and property, Rock Feilding-Mellen. He is a man on the run, on the run from the very communities he once claimed to represent.

Many in and around this community have  various questions to put to him regarding his role in the regeneration of North Kensington: including  the Westway, Wornington College, North Kensington Library, the Silchester Estate and Lancaster West Estate Рwhich included the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower which as we all know by now, played a part in why so many people needlessly died in the fire.

But what did Feilding-Mellen do? When many in our community ran to assist and help all who were made homeless, bereaved and traumatised, Rock ran the other away and fled his home (located very near to Lancaster West and Silchester estates) , blaming local residents!

So where is Rock now? This is a question that was shouted out from many members of the public in the gallery at the last council meeting Рhe has been a complete no-show,to the Town Hall  along with former leader Nick Paget Brown.

It is also a question asked by several of his Ward constituents as he is not answering letters or doing council surgeries either. Well we can answer that – clearly Rock Feilding-Mellen hasn’t learnt any lessons in humility because this boastful scoundrel has posted his address on business networking sites – he is residing in Chelsea Embankment.

Here is the website for his property development company – Socially Conscious Capital:

http://sociallyconsciouscapital.co.uk/

It has a pittance of a turnover, clearly his “third eye” cannot see ¬†the staring irony of this preposterous name, ¬†and he for some unknown reasons, also ¬†appears to have ¬†interests ¬†in Lithuania:

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/06973713

Maybe some with better expertise in tax than ourselves would like to enlighten us with knowledge of tax (or tax avoidance) schemes, or his possible dreadful plans for social cleansing there – someone really needs to tell him (whose parents have drilled holes in their heads to stay permanently “high”)to put the drill down!

As it is, both his fellow Conservatives all try to defend his and Nick “Piglet-Pie” Paget-Brown’s position by only stating that they are stepping down from the council in May. They have consistently failed to answer residents with regards to how much in taxpayers’ money these (in our view) white collar crooks are continually being paid for not doing councillors’ surgeries, attending meetings or voting. We say they are nothing but a pair of lowlife scroungers.

We have been informed however that “Jailhouse Rock” did attend a private meeting of Tory councillors in Kensington Town Hall on Monday; we hope they told him and Piglet-Pie to resign now. They in our opinion, deserve a lengthy spell behind bars.

If things do not sound bad enough, let us inform everyone that some of the Notting Dale Labour councillors (whose ward Grenfell Tower is in) are not just  traumatised by Grenfell and have an overload of people needing their help, but some are now having to do the councillors surgery work for  the absentee Rock Feilding-Mellen on top of that too. Beyond disgraceful.

 

 

 

THINK are officially big cats of the Kensington jungle!

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We are now up to 62,000 visitors. Clearly the RBKC Tories couldn’t care less about North Kensington, so we’d better remind them that more people have read our blog than have voted for them!!!

We have to thank Edward Daffarn and Francis O’Connor of the Grenfell Action Group, Piers and Tanya Thompson and many others of Save ¬†Our ¬†Silchester and Jacob Rety ¬†and Eve Wedderburn of Friends of North Kensington Library and all the Library campaigners, also to Westway 23. We wouldn’t ¬†be here without your amazing contributions and help for our community, particularly all at the Save Wornington College campaign. We will also thank all the other local campaign groups and campaigners¬†, especially Save Earl’s Court.

We are now the third biggest blog in the borough behind the Grenfell Action Group and From The Hornets Nest both are excellent reads and if you haven’t already do so, we more than recommend checking them out.

Grenfell Action Group:

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/

And From The Hornets Nest :

http://fromthehornetsnest.blogspot.co.uk/?m=1

And Save Earl’s Court here:

http://www.saveearlscourt.com/

Now we are not indulging in boastfulness to polish our egos – THINK are giving those in charge of our council a dire warning here – the less you listen to communities and campaigners; the more opposition you will face and the less relevant to your citizens’ ¬†lives you will be.

We only started out as a local community noticeboard-type blog for campaigners. But then Emma Dent Coad won Kensington and four days later the Grenfell Tower fire disinter occurred. So this has been both the stuff of dreams and nightmares. We once got excited about over 1,000 viewers in less than 3 weeks!

Some councillors and others may meet some of us and see us as lap cats – but be warned, we don’t meow – we roar!

Our purpose (and has always been so) is to serve the North Kensington community and other neighbouring communities that are put through utter hell by the sheer incompetence of our local authority and Government – so be warned – we will fight our campaigns and make our voices heard – for our social housing, our public assets (such as Wornington College) and our small businesses.

The whole point is, we are a community blog and this isn’t about personal interests or goals, it is about the collective interests of North Kensington and people in this community. A while ago, somebody ¬†sent us an email pointing out that members of our group did not go to or teach at Wornington College for example . That may be true, but we know many in this community who have and know what a real benefit this College and the courses provided there provide to many here – so we have every reason to campaign for it!

We could tell this pedant that we do not live on the Silchester Estate or that we do not run a business or organisation in Portobello or Golborne either – but hopefully they get the drift – community interests are where it is at for us and shame on our Rotten Borough and various corporate entities for failing to understand this.

We hear people singing this Bob Marley song at protests sometimes –

“If you are the big tree, then we are the small axe, sharpened to cut you down, ready to cut you down”

There are many more “small axes” in our community than ever before. ¬†THINK say to RBKC – know what you are doing and saying and whose lives you are changing before you not only ¬†make yourselves even more unpopular than you already are now. ¬†You have damaged and risk destroying ¬†the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable in our community. ¬†We will do everything in our power to not let that happen and we have a large public remit as do many of our campaign groups and friends to stop you!

 

 

 

The Rotten Borough and their possible rotten plans for our social housing…..

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The building pictured above is not Trellick Tower, but is in fact Balfron Tower in Poplar, east London, which was also designed by Erno Goldfinger in the 1960’s for what was then the London County Council and was constructed a few years before Trellick Tower.

In the late 1990’s, Tower Hamlets council (in which Balfron Tower is situated) set up a housing association called Poplar HARCA (Housing and Residents Community Association).

As a primary example of brutalist architecture in social housing, Balfron like our very own Trellick Tower is a listed building and ¬†there was no chance of it being demolished. Instead, Tower Hamlets and Poplar ¬†HARCA had other plans……

Residents of Balfron Tower were duped into voting for the responsibility ¬†over the management of their housing to be passed over to Poplar HARCA. They were promised that their homes would be renovated. Yes, Poplar HARCA did indeed keep the promise to renovate people’s homes, but what ¬†they neglected to tell residents was that they would not be returning to them as this association was selling the building off!

Of course, not all brutalist social housing buildings have been fortunate enough to acquire listed status. One such example is Robin Hood Gardens, also in Poplar, east London (near the Blackwall tunnel) which was designed by Alison and Peter Smithson in the 1960’s. It is now under demolition, despite a campaign from residents, noted architects, such as Richard Rogers, Simon Smithson, the son of the architechts, and the Twentieth Century Society to save it.

The Estate had fallen into “managed decline” (an all-too familiar term for us) and many residents there had long fought to have their homes renovated, to no avail.

As it is the plans by Swan Housing Group for what will become of what was Robin Hood Gardens will have “1,575 homes; 698 of them affordable”. Of course we know that “affordable housing” means up to 80% of market rate, which is far from affordable to the vast majority of former residents.

As for the fate of the residents there, so far, only  around a third have been rehoused nearby. These residents have now had to take up housing association tenancies with Swan Housing (which for some, spells the end of the lifetime tenancies they previously had). Many  are now having to pay increased levels of rent and some are struggling financially. Most of the new flats that have been offered are smaller, which has meant that some families with grown up children have had to break up. Many homeowners there have been offered derisory compulsory purchase orders (around 40% less than their properties were worth) so are unable to afford to continue to live in their local community.

Phase 2 of this development is now underway, and out of the 242 homes included in this – just 36 are for social rent. The irony of “Robin Hood” is not lost on THINK as we see this as actually taking from the poor to give to the rich!

THINK express our solidarity with the former residents of both Balfron Tower and Robin Hood Gardens and  also to anyone else in London whose housing is under threat of regeneration.

We recommend that anyone concerned about regeneration schemes and demolition of social housing reads this blog post by Anne Power, Professor of Social Policy at the LSE:

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/sink-estates-demolition/

Just in case anyone was wondering what a North Kensington community blog was doing writing about regeneration in east London, let us point out that we believe that there is a very strong possibility of something similar happening here. The language and speech of RBKC clearly points towards ballots over handing responsibility to housing associations. They are not ruling out bringing back responsibility for social housing to be brought back “in house” , but do not exactly appear to be enthusiastic about this. We believe that they will ¬†adopt a very similar approach and we also will warn residents of Trellick Tower that they are at risk of a worse fate than the residents of Balfron Tower ¬†as concerns over the cost of maintenance of the building have been raised and RBKC has tightened its rules regarding social housing and time limits, housing points and placements – making it all but ¬†impossible if you are not very old or very ill, to get housed in the borough now.

We believe that all social housing, particularly estates, such as North Kensington’s Silchester Estate ¬†(which has also been under threat of regeneration before) and Chelsea’s World’s End Estate (there has long been talk – ¬†and we hope these are just rumours – about World’s End possibly being under threat of regeneration too) would be highly attractive to a housing association hoping to make a nice profit from such a scheme.

In fact concerns about maintenance in World’s End were raised by Chelsea Riverside Conservative Cllr Maighread Condon-Simmonds, at last week’s housing and property scrutiny committee who also did tell the council to “f*** off!” (We kid you not!)

Anyone interested in Brutalist architure further might want to check out this excellent TV programme with Jonathan Meades:

Jonathan Meades mentions World’s End in Chelsea in the south of our borough briefly in this article “The A to Z of Brutalism” (under W) here:

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/feb/13/jonathan-meades-brutalism-a-z

But getting back to the subject of our council and its social housing, THINK believe that if the TMO is disbanded, it will be replaced with a similar model to Tower Hamlets and Poplar HARCA, with people being similarly tricked into voting to hand over management of their housing to something like this or another housing association. ¬† tWe strongly urge anyone who hasn’t voted yet to go to the TMO AGM ¬†tomorrow – 6:30 pm at Kensington Town Hall, Hornton Street, W8 and vote NO to resolutions 5 and 6.

We think that what has happened in Tower Hamlets  (and yes this is a Labour-run council we are talking about here) should be of  concern  to  all TMO tenants and leaseholders, particularly those living in both Trellick Tower. We will also point out that concerns regarding the cost of maintenance of the building were raised at the Housing and Property meeting and we believe that it is more than likely that this landmark building is sold off.  The realities of what many tenants and leaseholders in Poplar and also many other parts of London undergoing regeneration are going through echo the concerns expressed to us by residents of the Silchester Estate when the (now supposedly dropped) plans for regeneration were made there. Now many in our borough do not feel safe or reassured that their homes will not be sold off to developers and neither do we.

LATE NEWS: We recommend all attending the TMO AGM read this from the Grenfell Action Group and vote to adjourn the meeting for 21 days:

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/10/16/kctmo-chaos-and-incompetence-still-rule/