King Street Withdrawal: The Fallout Continues
H&F Council at odds with Mayor over "gargantuan mess"
There are demands for resignations from Hammersmith and Fulham Council and an enquiry into the cost of the council's scheme to redevelop King Street, which was withdrawn last week after Mayor Boris Johnson said it breached planning rules.
The scheme was referred to the Mayor after H&F Council approved it on November 30, despite massive opposition from local people. The Mayor was reportedly angry at being forced to deal with this issue just five months before the next mayoral elections in May and according to his office, persuaded the council to withdraw it after "intense discussions".
The Mayor then released a strongly worded statement saying: " This proposal caused much anger in the community and I am glad that common sense has prevailed. We must protect historic buildings, precious green space and the views of our great city. I am sure the council's decision will be welcomed in Hammersmith and beyond."
The council followed this with a statement saying: " "We understand that the Mayor and a number of local residents have concerns about the height of the proposed buildings and their impact on views from riverside properties.
" Hammersmith & Fulham Council has agreed to work with the GLA on a further independent rigorous assessment on viability to determine whether there is scope to reduce the height of the buildings again. At the same time the council will continue to progress the S106 planning obligation agreements."
However the council added: " The stage 2 referral to the GLA has been withdrawn for the time being. However it does remain a live planning application."
This makes it clear that the council are still intending to go ahead with the project, and it has been speculated this will now happen after the mayoral elections in May.
However, simply reducing the height of the two tower blocks, which were to be 15 and ten storey high, in no way meets the demands of campaign group Save Our Skyline, who are warning supporters that the council's decision only means the project is "on hold".
Meanwhile Stephen Cowan, Leader of H & F's Labour Group of Councillors has labelled the situation " a gargantuan mess".
" H&F's Conservative Administration needs to rip these plans up, drop their £35m office project and agree to protect the cinema, the park, the skyline and the homes they were going to demolish. They should use this opportunity to start fresh talks with residents about what might work best. That's what I will do should Labour win control of the Council on 1st May 2014 - assuming H&F Conservatives haven’t been allowed to grant a further planning permission by then.
" There also needs to be an enquiry into the money that's been wasted on this scheme. Senior Conservative councillors and their officials have been working on it since 2006. They have spend millions of tax pounds on consultants, trips abroad to meet property speculators and time putting it all together. On top of that, they were in the process of offering property speculators well over £70m of public land to make this scheme go through.
" Anyone that attended the planning committee on 30th November would have got a strong whiff of the weakness of the Administration’s case. This is a gargantuan mess. We need to understand how they got it so wrong and how that was allowed to happen consistently during the five years they all worked on it.
" And when we do, maybe there will be some resignations from the Cabinet Members and senior officials that were behind this projecct as well as the Planning Committee members that voted this scheme through. "
Melanie Whitlock of the Hammersmith Society says the council's decision is "more like winning a skirmish" rather than a total victory and adds:" If they could work towards a really good redevelopment scheme that respected its surroundings and offered something unique and special to Hammersmith, all local groups could get behind it and support it. That would really be an achievement.
" In the meantime, the decision is a vindication of all the local and national groups who wrote and campaigned, and all the 8,000 people who signed petitions and wrote to the Council opposing the scheme. And as for the application - we confidently expect it to go very quiet - until safely after the Mayoral election."
This is not the only occasion when Hammersmith and Fulham - considered a flagship Tory Council - have clashed with Mayor Boris Johnson. They have fought a lengthy and sustained campaign against the Thames Tideway Tunnel project, otherwise known as the super sewer, while both the Mayor and Tory leadership have both given it their support.
December 19, 2011