Council Hits Back at West Ken Residents' Claims

Leader denies "orchestrating" campaign by steering group

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Residents Accuse Council of "Abuse of Power"

EC Properties' My Earls

Outline planning application

Hammersmith and Fulham Lib Dems

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Hammersmith and Fulham Council have hit back at claims by reidents of West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates that they orchestrated a "bogus" residents' campaign to support its plans for the estates.

The accusation was made by Jonathan Rosenberg, Community Organiser with West Kensington and Gibbs Green Tenants and Residents Associations after the council's Cabinet approved controversial plans involving the redevelopment of Earls Court, including the demolition of the estates.

Members of the associations, which say they represent at least two thirds of residents, turned out to protest against the plans at the town hall meeting to find another group of residents supporting the plans.

These residents say they belong to the West Kensington and Gibbs Green Steering Group, who are working with the council to look at the benefits of re-development.

Jonathan Rosenberg claimed that the council had "orchestrated" what he called a "bogus" campaign, and said:
" Having produced and circulated a notice on its behalf, Hammersmith & Fulham council officers assembled an unrepresentative and unelected group in the local hotel, issued them with T shirts and instructions, finalised and printed their deputation statement, packed them onto a minibus (presumably also hired by the Council), took them to the town hall where they organised them to pose for a photo, and then accompanied them into the meeting."

The council has responded by denying its involvement. Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh says: " Council officers did not meet anyone at a nearby hotel, nor did they provide t-shirts or leaflets. They did not brief residents on what to say. All of the campaigners in favour were estate residents. They knocked on the doors and delivered the leaflets themselves.

" Maureen Way and the other residents who came last night spoke very passionately, organised their own support would take great offence at any suggestion that the council orchestrated it. While the Council understands that there are a large number of residents on the estate who remain unconvinced about the merits of regeneration, there are also a large number of people on the estate who want to see change and want to see new homes built."

" Residents on the estate have established their own independent steering group. The Council will provide funding to enable them to represent and negotiate on behalf of other residents. Membership of the steering group is open to anybody who lives on the estate who wants to be part of the negotiation."

The council says any future land agreement with EC Properties will be on the condition that a series of council tenants, leaseholder and freeholder guarantees, negotiated with an 80-strong resident steering group, can be met. These include:
* Brand new, modern homes in the development area for all secure council tenants
* Council tenants will be moved with neighbours where possible and will only have to move once
* Compensation for tenants, leaseholders and freeholders
* Discount schemes for resident leaseholder and freeholders who want to buy back into the scheme
* Early buy-out clauses for resident leaseholders and freeholders

Stephen Greenhalgh added: "I have said all along that the council will not agree to anything unless, first and foremost, redevelopment benefits people living on the estates, followed by the wider area and then the borough as a whole."

The agreement approved by the council will grant an exclusive right for EC Properties - a subsidiary of developer Capital and Counties, or CapCo - to continue negotiations with the council "around a possible conditional land sale agreement for inclusion of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates in a comprehensive redevelopment scheme", according to papers presented to the authority’s cabinet.

In order to enter into the agreement, EC Properties will pay the authority a non-refundable deposit of £5 million and £10 million, which would be refundable if a deal is not agreed within a one-year time frame.

The West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates are earmarked for demolition under the plans contained in the Earls Court masterplan. The developer applied last month for outline planning permission for the plan, which sees the redevelopment of the 77 acre Earls Court Opportunity Area, including the Earls Court exhibition centres, the West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates and the 7.5 acre space on Seagrave Road currently used as a car park.You can see all the details of the plans, drawn up by renowned architect Sir Terry Farrell, at My
Earls the website produced by the project team.

The scheme, says the site, will represent a multi-billion pound investment in London, and the project has a total estimated value of £8 billion. More than 7,500 new homes and 12,000 new jobs will be created by the Masterplan (pictured below) which together with Seagrave Road involves 11.4 million square feet of development. In addition to the new homes, the Masterplan includes offices, leisure, hotel and retail space, as well as a new primary school, library, an integrated health hub and 23.5 acres of public open space including the 5-acre ‘Lost River Park’.

The application for the Seagrave Road site replaces the existing 7.5 acre car park with a scheme comprising 808 new homes ranging from townhouses to apartments, and centred around a 90 metre garden square.

The planners assure residents of the exisiting estates that their futures are safe, saying: " Good progress is being made on a land agreement between the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham and EC Properties which, if approved by the relevant parties, could pave the way for residents on the council-owned estates to be included in the development and receive new modern homes in the same area as they are already living.

"The Leader of the Council has stated today that he is convinced that a comprehensive approach to the Opportunity Area, including all of the three main landholdings, represents the best way forward. Secure tenants, leaseholders and freeholders on the estates have negotiated a set of legally-binding guarantees for new homes with the Council should planning permission for redevelopment be granted, which would be reflected in any agreement between EC Properties and LBHF."

July 25, 2011