RBKC fail to learn from Grenfell: A former MP’s perspective

RBKC accused of deliberate obfuscations by former MP Emma Dent Coad and fellow councillors Pat Mason and Sina Lari

These deliberate obfuscations do not build trust. They are decidedly not in the spirit of post-Grenfell engagement, as an honest and open process, to which the Council committed.

Cllrs, Emma Dent Coad, Pat Mason and Sina Lari

The context

Last week I wrote a blog about my concerns that RBKC has failed to learn from Grenfell based on my personal experience of a consultation process, as a leaseholder in Trellick Tower.

This week, I share a letter from former Member of Parliament, Emma Dent Coad and fellow Golborne Ward councillors Pat Mason and Sina Lari write to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea about their concerns regarding the proposed developments of the Cheltenham Estate incorporating the (in)famous Trellick Tower.

The letter to the RBKC

(Highlighted paragraphs are my emphasis)

GOLBORNE WARD COUNCILLORS’ RESPONSE TO EDENHAM SITE PROPOSALS 20.8.21

In February 2020 the GLA, using Office of National Statistics data, stated that Kensal Town in Golborne Ward was suffering the worst multi-deprivation in the whole of Greater London.

This means that in terms of adult, child and elder poverty, health, income, education and employment, this neighbourhood of 500 households encompassing the whole Cheltenham Estate that includes Trellick Tower is still suffering the deprivation that inspired Erno Goldfinger todesign his most comprehensive ‘person centred’ cradle to grave project which is still admired around the world.

In 2008 the Council, despite huge protests from local people and architectural conservation groups, demolished the Edenham Residential Care Home that formed part of his project. This outrage inspired local people to pursue the listing of Edenham Way at Grade II, achieved in 2012.

Soon after a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) was written with community representatives for the site in front of Trellick Tower that encompasses the vestiges of the garage, the ball-court and the care home site; it was agreed in 2015.

We have been told that the 2010 Wornington Green SPD must be adhered to, no changes are permitted. We are told to put our faith in the 2020 SPD on ‘Community Housing’ to deliver social rented homes. But for reasons that have not been made clear, the 2015 SPD, that was agreed at a Full Council meeting and is now planning policy, is to be ignored.

It beggars belief that more than ten years after the demolition, with local deprivation worsening and highlighted in the updated Marmot Report, the Council seems prepared to turn its back on its own SPD. Instead of the 4-6 storeys proposed in the SPD, current proposals include a 14 storey block, the total demolition of the concrete garage block  – with associated huge carbon cost – and its replacement with ill-defined and windowless ‘community’ or work spaces, a ‘mews’ with a row of two-storey single aspect houses (private rented) with gardens, and another ill-defined residential block of six storeys which seems to be an after-thought, in front of Elkstone Road. All are designed in what can only be called ‘cod Goldfinger’ style, and will obscure essential views of the iconic Trellick Tower – unless viewed by drone as represented in the visual presentations.

The mix of tenure for the 110 now proposed at this stage is 50% ‘private rented’ and the rest a mix of intermediate and social rented. This equates to 56 private homes, 10 intermediate, and just 44 for social rent.

Sacrificing this precious site in front of the world famous Trellick Tower, for a ‘gain’ of just 44 social rented units, is indefensible. There would be little benefit to local people desperate for homes, improved health facilities, opportunities to improve their work skills and income, employment, and somewhere close by to house their elders if the need arises.

Good planning includes addressing local need; in an area of extreme deprivation this should be predominant. Instead, using Mayoral funding, which is ‘our’ money, plus Council funding, which is also ‘our’ money, the Council seems intent on turning its back on the 2,500 households in Temporary Accommodation, and a further 2,000 on the Council waiting list, and countless other very overcrowded families that have no hope of even getting on a list.

The proposals state they are addressing local need. They are not.

Since these proposals were published, Golborne ward councillors have listened regularly to the views of local residents and have attended numerous meetings with groups including CoMMET, as well as the Council-run consultation sessions. If the Council genuinely intends to “put local people at the heart of everything it does” as demanded by its own Charter for Public Participation, it will come to the same conclusion as Golborne ward councillors. The overwhelming view of residents in Trellick Tower, Edenham Way and beyond is that these proposals for a 14-storey tower and over-densification will offer no improvement to an area struggling with deprivation, but will be a blight on residents and will damage the original intent of Goldfinger’s world famous Cheltenham Estate which was commissioned as integrated council housing by the LCC (later GLC). 

In a neighbourhood of extreme deprivation the Council has a duty to tackle this and improve the living conditions and lives of its residents. Instead current proposals provide just 44 homes for social rent, and 56 for private and intermediate rent. Meanwhile the Council is considering spending £40m to buy properties outside the borough for ‘permanent Temporary’ accommodation. This is little better than the Council’s outrageous plan of 2012 to spend £50m buying land and developing part of Peterborough to move homeless families into – social cleansing plain and simple.

While some of these issues are for another forum, we would like you to note that we object very strongly to the Council’s attempts at exclusion from information that was available to others. Councillors had to ask 25 times for confidential access to the financial viability assessment, that may or may not justify the number of private homes proposed to be built, against strong local protest. Cllr Emma Dent Coad was told over and over again that this information did not exist. When it was finally shared, in July, after requests dating back to March, the spreadsheets were dated 21.3.21. We also discovered that some of this detail had been shared with members of CoMMET, possibly because it was felt they would be more amenable to persuasion.

In the event, the figures that we are not permitted to share due to confidentiality show very clearly that the Council is hoping to make a profit, and that an alternative scheme providing 60 social rented homes only – that would obviate the need for the controversial 14 storey tower – would possibly risk a small deficit.

Part of the justification against this alternative is that the HRA cannot support a deficit. However, more than half the land to built on here – the entire site formerly covered by the care home – is General Fund land. We see a clear aim to socially engineer this neighbourhood of Golborne using the excuse of financial viability. 

We have also been subjected to constant claims that this planning application must be determined by the end of the year to attain the Mayoral funding. However we have discovered that this deadline has been imposed by the Council, and not by the Mayor’s office. The true deadline for commencement by ‘spades in the ground’ is in fact March 2023, and not 2022.

These deliberate obfuscations do not build trust. They are decidedly not in the spirit of post-Grenfell engagement, as an honest and open process, to which the Council committed.

We therefore ask the Council to withdraw the current plans and undertake a complete rethink of this site. They should work with the community to find empathic architects who understand the meaning of co-design and do not continually push their pre-determined ideas while treating residents with disdain. The starting point for this project should be to address the local need they appear to be ignorant of and appear to care about even less. The need is for: improved primary care facilities; a residential care home; a day centre for elders; outdoor gym; 60 homes for social rent; employment space; and improved community and social space, nothing above four storeys, and with passive surveillance over Elkstone Road. The 2015  SPD should be their starting point and not a target.

The Council has been the subject of comprehensive criticism in the past four years for a series of very expensive mistakes. We will not let them add the Edenham site to that list.     

Cllr Emma Dent Coad, Cllr Pat Mason, Cllr Sina Lari

How you can you help

Trellick Tower by Natalie McKenzie

Local residents of the estate are calling on the RBKC to go back to the drawing board and work with residents to select an architect and authentically co-design something we will all be proud of and that is a demonstration of what is possible through collaboration

Please sign this petition set up resdients of the estate

https://www.change.org/p/the-royal-borough-of-kensington-chelsea-save-trellick-tower-and-cheltenham-estate-from-cultural-vandals

And this one to protect the art and open space

https://www.change.org/p/royal-borough-of-kensington-and-chelsea-council-protect-trellick-tower-s-art-and-outdoor-space-and-say-no-to-more-luxury-flats/sign?original_footer_petition_id=22830462&algorithm=promoted&source_location=petition_footer&grid_position=3&pt=AVBldGl0aW9uADZ6gQEAAAAAYC0QOZmd9EgxNTUxN2JhMQ%3D%3D

And follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

If you want to participate in our campaign to hold the RBKC to account for working with residents, please get hold of us.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Join the enquiry...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.