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:
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
“There will be huge gains for the community aside from more modern homes as a result of this regeneration. There will be new community facilities, new public realm, and we’re creating a new green space in partnership with RBKC – that’s Athlone Gardens”
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 – something Mr McDermott says will cost the business “a lot of money”.
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:
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 complaints about the ALMOThe opposition Labour Group of councillors in Westminster had kept extensive dossiers of residents’
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 .