Backed by Boris Johnson and conceived by some of his closest political allies, controversial plans to completely redevelop an expensive part of the British capital provide a vivid case study of modern, radical Conservatism in action
The plans of giant property developer Capital and Counties (Capco) and David Cameron's favourite local authority Hammersmith and Fulham (H&F) to clear 77 acres of prime west London land to make way for a new, high-cost, high density and largely high-rise "urban quarter" containing more than 7,500 flats and houses began emerging four years ago.
They envisage the the destruction of the world famous Earls Court exhibition centre, the relocation of a major London Underground maintenance depot, the forced removal of around 2000 people - many of them poor and elderly - from their homes on two estates and the bulldozing of those homes against the wishes of the great majority of those living in them.
This proposed redevelopment, one of London's largest, has also been approved by H&F's neighbour borough Kensington and Chelsea (in which part of the project area lies) and is enthusiastically backed by London Mayor Boris Johnson, a close political ally of his fellow Conservatives who lead the two boroughs concerned. Another prominent Tory, communities secretary Eric Pickles, who once described H&F as "the apple of my eye," has, like Johnson, declined to use his powers to block the scheme.
Transport for London, owner of the maintenance depot and the land on which the exhibition centre buildings stand, is also party to the scheme. The bulk it requires the TfL land and that containing the two housing estates to be unified under under Capco's ownership and control. Johnson, whose has designated the neighbourhood an "opportunity area" in his London Plan, is also chair of the TfL board.
Despite an array of objectors, which includes Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green Party London Assembly members, Johnson and H&F insist that the project will, if it proceeds, be of great benefit to inner west London, to the capital as a whole and, indeed, to the UK. The now former H&F leader Stephen Greenhalgh, who took a hands-on part in the project's evolution, has described it to the Guardian as "the best deal in the history of redevelopment in London."
Greenhalgh is now Johnson's appointee as deputy mayor for policing, but his successor Nick Botterill, faced by a determined campaign by residents of the 760 threatened homes to take the estates into community ownership and save them from demolition, continues to insist that those very residents would be the greatest beneficiaries of the Earls Court project.
Those who qualify - which won't be all of them - have been promised new, replacement homes within the redevelopment area as part of what H&F describes as "some of the best terms ever negotiated in any regeneration scheme in the country."
The council also promises that 9,500 "new permanent jobs" will be generated by the project through the building of "new shops, offices, leisure facilities" along with "new transport links" and various public amenities.
Yet, for all these promises, the Earls Court project continues to be controversial. It is, without doubt, a vivid and revealing case study of Conservative thinking on urban development, housing, planning powers and social policy put into radical effect at local government level, supported by regional (City Hall) and national government.
H&F's Labour politicians continue to oppose it, with Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter accusing the council of abusing planning processes and seeking to alter the borough's demographic make-up for electoral gain. The council has consistently refuted these claims. Even so, the effect of Capco, Johnson and H&F seeing their ambitions for the North Fulham and Earls Court area realised would clearly be the complete re-engineering of the neighbourhood.
This attempt to comprehensively "regenerate" a part of London through a close partnership between corporate wealth and the "local state" with allies in higher places focuses key questions about how London should meet the challenge of a fast-growing population - driven mostly by high birth rate - in urgent need of more homes, jobs and quick, reliable ways of getting around.
Would the Earls Court project deliver all its champions say? Would local people, notably those forced to move home, really be its greatest beneficiaries? Would the very small number of additional "affordable" homes promised - just 740 - really be affordable to local people on low to middle incomes, which the council says it is anxious to support? Would the new "urban quarter" really be a lively and interesting place to live or just another piece of London into which wealthy investors can safely sink their spare multi-millions, leaving most of it lifeless most of the time?
The longer I've followed this story, the more sceptical I've become about the great claims made for it by H&F, Capco and Boris Johnson. An archive of my coverage can be found here. The timeline below, which begins with the Conservatives capturing H&F from Labour in 2006, will be updated and improved as the story continues and further light is shed on past episodes. I hope you find it enlightening and a valuable point of reference. This saga still has a long, long way to go.
May 4, 2006 Conservatives win Hammersmith and Fulham council (H&F) from Labour, gaining 18 councillors to secure a 20-seat majority. The Tories had not controlled the borough since 1968.
May 25, 2006 Council leader Stephen Greenhalgh - later to become Boris Johnson's policing deputy - announces his first cabinet saying: "Putting residents first will be at the heart of everything we do."
February 2007 Greenhalgh and Greg Hands, then the MP for Hammersmith and Fulham (and now representing Chelsea and Fulham), tell Iain Dale on 18 Doughty Street TV about the "horrible contrast" between rich and poor in the borough, its high percentage of social housing and lack of options for local people wanting to move in to home ownership.
June 2007 Council publishes its "core strategy preferred options" document. The "core strategy" is described as "the overarching document of the LDF [local development framework] and sets out the long term strategic vision for the borough to 2017." The local development framework is the group of documents which outline the borough's planning policies.
The core strategy preferred options document emphasises (page nine) the borough's rapid population growth, soaring house prices and "significant pockets of deprivation." It also identifies (page 14) "lack of housing for households with incomes between £19,000 and £60,000," increase in social housing to £4% compared with London average of 25% and "strong correlations between high concentrations of social rented housing…and deprivation, where people's lives are blighted by crime, poor environments and low aspiration," adding that "approximately 70% housing tenants in Hammersmith & Fulham are currently workless and dependent on benefits." (although there doesn't seem to be a definition of "workless," which could include the infirm and the retired.)
On page 16 the document identifies "the challenge of encouraging redevelopment and regeneration in the borough whilst maintaining and extending the human scale of the Victorian streetscape." Section four on page 19 begins: "Our vision in the Hammersmith and Fulham draft Community Strategy 2007 is to create a borough of opportunity for all. This vision underpins the council's spatial strategy and the LDF." A "key priorities" list is topped by "promoting home ownership" followed by "maximising job opportunities."
On page 20 it says that "by the 2020s" there will be "significant reduction in areas with high levels of deprivation" and that "new developments will have reflected and extended the local Victoria street pattern." On page 23 it says the borough aims to exceed 4,500 additional dwellings between 2007 and 2016 and that "the council will seek 40% affordable housing in new developments" of which "10-15% will be social rented housing and 25-30% intermediate housing" and will expect "a proportion" of market housing to be "low cost market housing."
On page 27 the document says that it prefers spatial strategy Option One, which lays the greatest stress on housing. It mentions the Seagrave Road car park as "an under used site" that is, however, "essential for the functioning of the Earls Court exhibition centre...This site has the potential for residential use but its development for housing can only take place if alternative means are found to service the Earls Court Exhibition Centre."
July 2, 2007 Reports published of purchase by Capital and Counties (Capco), then a wholly-owned subsidiary of Liberty International, of a 50% stake in EC&O Venues (the Earls Court and Olympia group) to form a new joint venture to manage the two exhibition centre. Capco managing director Ian Hawksworth quoted as saying: "We are looking forward to participating in the future of EC&O and to enhancing its already excellent reputation whilst exploring opportunities to intensify use."
September 25, 2007 H&F "kick-started its drive towards urban renewal" by hosting a "landmark summit for developers" at the Walt Disney auditorium with a headline theme of Open For Business. Here's the video presentation. Note the lines: "Our planning policies are changing to attract development and to remove the uncertainty around planning applications."
In his speech Stephen Greenhalgh says:
Make no mistake, this is an ambitious council - a council that wants to transform large pockets of deprivation for the benefit of our residents. The one message we want you to hear loud and clear is that Hammersmith and Fulham is a borough very much open for business, and with your help we can make our vision become a reality.
Others speakers include senior figures from Westfield and Savills. One of the "regeneration profile" documents talks about "significant pockets of deprivation in northern parts of Fulham" and lists Seagrave Road under the heading of "opportunities," though again with the caveat that it is essential to the Earls Court centre and would have to be replaced if developed for housing.
February 11, 2008 H&F's "arms length management organisation" (ALMO) H&F Homes appoints former Bexley Council chief executive Nick Johnson as its interim chief executive. He is to be paid £950 a day through a consultancy firm called Davies Johnson Ltd which he has set up with his partner Kate Davies, chief executive of Notting Hill Housing.
March 11-14, 2008 H&F cabinet member for strategy Mark Loveday and three council officers attend annual MIPIM property trade summit in Cannes to have conversations aimed at "unlocking contentious development sites." Labour group leader Stephen Cowan later learned that the trip cost nearly £12,000.
March 12, 2008 Greenhalgh named "local hero of the year" by readers of the Conservative Home website.
May 1, 2008 Boris Johnson elected Mayor of London for the first time.
May 8, 2008 Mayor Johnson appoints Greenhalgh to four-person forensic audit panel to investigate City Hall financial management and controls. Veteran Tory leader of Wandsworth council Sir Edward Lister ( Johnson's future planning deputy) is also a member.
May 30, 2008 Writing at Conservative Home Greenhalgh introduces aims of new Conservative Council Innovation Unit, which Eric Pickles has appointed him to head.
July 15, 2008 Boris Johnson's forensic audit panel report published.
August 5, 2008 Boris Johnson goes against recommendation of his own planning officers to give green light to plans approved by H&F (on 15 July) for redevelopment of Bloemfontein Road site in White City which contains no social rent homes among its "affordable" percentage. Plans had been re-submitted to H&F in this revised form after Johnson's election as mayor.
November 19, 2008 In press release Greenhalgh says H&F have given cast-iron guarantees to residents of estates in borough who are subject to his regeneration ambitions that their interests will be protected, following "the spread of misinformation on some estates."
January 14, 2009 Greenhalgh makes presentation to Conservative Party director of policy and research James O'Shaughnessy called Reforming Social Housing. He argues that "social housing = welfare housing" and is "characterised by dependency, worklessness, poor education and health" and adds that "social rented housing has become a destination rather than a launch pad," with vast majority of tenants having been so for at least ten years, pointing out that "In H&F 45% of council tenants are in their 60s."
Under the heading "cost of welfare housing" he characterises social housing as "subsidised" and costing the country £6.6bn a year; he says that "the taxpayer" owns "£200bn in LA [local authority] stock and that registered social landlords (primarily housing associations) "circa £70bn in capital value of welfare housing" but that "we have a limited return circa 1%"; says that "vacant possession value of stock is £2.7bn" in H&F, with no "return" once annual "capital spend" and costs of running H&F Homes are subtracted from "£58m rental income." In other words, social housing isn't profitable for the council.
Under the heading "principles of social housing reform" Greenhalgh argues that social housing should be only for "those who cannot ever house themselves i.e. disability, medical or welfare grounds"; that funding for social housing should be switched to "supporting the incomes of lower income households" while at the same time all social rents should be increased to market rent levels; that councils and RSLs should be allowed to "manage their exisiting stock as they see fit" including allowing them to "borrow against their assets;" that councils should be able to put their homeless straight into the private rented sector; that a single, conditional tenancy agreement should be introduced "across both public and private sectors" along with "five yearly review for all for all exisiting tenants "requiring downsizing" to "maximise use of stock"; that housing benefit should be abolished in favour of a "tax credit system" and a "one cash payment" ("single personal subsidy") for all benefits, including housing costs based on local rent levels.
Details of this presentation were obtained by Hammersmith's Labour MP Andy Slaughter through a Freedom of Information request. The same request also yielded materials for a very similar (undated) presentation by Greenhalgh to Eric Pickles and to Grant Shapps who became, respectively, communities secretary and housing minister in the Conservative-led coalition national government formed in May 2010. Many of the ideas in Greenhalgh's presentations have ended up strongly informing that government's housing and benefit policies.
February 11, 2009 At Conservative Home Greenhalgh and chartered surveyor John Moss preview a pamphlet entitled Principles for Social Housing Reform which they have co-written for the think tank Localis. It begins by noting that high levels of social housing are a feature of many of the "target marginals" - parliamentary seats the Tories were hoping to win at the forthcoming general election - including Hammersmith. It quotes data obtained from the Commons library by Greg Hands. The remainder of the article sets out the arguments Greenhalgh had previously presented to O'Shaughnessy.
Andy Slaughter believes the article betrays a covert gerrymandering agenda behind H&F's "Decent Neighbourhoods" plans, a charge Greenhalgh has always strongly denied while the H&F has always pointed out that the pamphlet's idea are not council policy In October 2012 I revisited the article in order to test Slaughter's claims and invited Greenhalgh and Moss to comment.
Greenhalgh replied only with a link to an article he'd written for Estates Gazette, praising the scheme. Moss responded at some length, saying that when they wrote the article they expected to win the target marginals referred to and wanted those fellow Tories campaigning in them to argue for the reforms he and Greenhalgh had advocated. I wrote to Hands asking why he had sought out the data on social housing levels in the target marginals, but received no reply.
The link to the Conservative Home article itself stopped working at some point before the end of September 2013. The website has not responded to my inquiries about why this has occurred.
March 3, 2009 A round table discussion is held at The Ideas Space in Westminster under the auspices of Localis. Greenhalgh attends, along with council officers and Kit Malthouse AM, who represents H&F on the London Assembly. An adviser to Grant Shapps, shadow housing minister, also attends. Shapps himself drops in at the end. Later in the month Localis produces a discussion note summarising the meeting followed by a policy platform paper about social housing reform, which includes a contribution from Greenhalgh.
April 21, 2009 The pamphlet Principles for Social Housing Reform by Stephen Greenhalgh and John Moss is published by Localis.
April 29, 2009 At a public meeting in Greenhalgh acknowledges that "there will have been a bunch of discussions with many, many people who have land-holding interests" close to the Queen Caroline housing estate. He adds that "there have been discussions about opportunities to re-develop Queen Caroline estate," with property developers.
These exchanges were captured on film by Stephen Cowan, leader of the council's opposition Labour group.
June 2, 2009 H&F announces a 20-year planning programme called Decent Neighbourhoods, which envisages the substantial redevelopment of five areas of the borough under the rubric "borough of opportunity."
The plans include the "transformation" of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates and the creation of "an international convention centre" replacing the existing Earls Court centre buidlings.
Details are published in an updated local development framework consultation paper called core strategy options. A leaflet is distributed, Greenhalgh says: "We want to break down the barriers that lead to unemployment, poor health and worklessness," and "work with local residents in coming up with ideas on how we can improve their neighbourhood."
July 9, 2009 Responding to Decent Neighbourhoods, the Localis pamphlet and his discovery about Greenhalgh's presentations to O'Shaughnessy, Pickles and Shapps Andy Slaughter accuses the council of "social engineering" and seeking to "gerrymander" the borough.
July 13, 2009 H&F cabinet agrees to look into "teaming up" with Capco and Transport for London to redevelop the Earls Court centre and the Lillie Bridge London Underground depot and the possible "rebuilding" of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates. A study into the transport implications is commissioned.
September 2009 Labour government ministers John Denham and John Healey attack H&F social housing policies in speeches to party's conference.
October 2, 2009 Greenhalgh hits back at "Labour lies" in an article for Conservative Home. Argues that Labour-run Southwark, Hackney, Newham and Greenwich are pursuing similar policies on estates and says that tenants and leaseholders have been given "a cast-iron guarantee that they can stay in the local area in an affordable home of their choice."
October 6, 2009 Council, Transport for London and Capco sign a "collaboration agreement," with council saying it wants to see an international conference centre built and to "build new homes for "1,650 residents on West Kensington and Gibbs Green estate[s]." Greenhalgh attacks spread of "misinformation." The collaboration agreement can be read here.
October 23, 2009 Greenhalgh quoted defending himself against Labour's attacks in an article in Inside Housing about the escalating dispute between the council and estates' residents' anti-demolition campaigners. A spokesman for the H&F housing ALMO, H&F Homes, stresses that the ideas in the Localis pamphlet are not council policy and cannot be because increases in social housing rents are a matter for national government. However, important elements of the pamphlet will strongly inform coalition housing and welfare reform policies.
December 15, 2009 Greenhalgh responds with "surprise" to a proposal by the tenants' and residents' associations (TRAs) of the Gibbs Green and West Kensington estates that it should enable them to take ownership of the estates and run them themselves under powers the coalition had indicated it wished to activate in line with its localism and Big Society agendas. The powers potentially exist under Section 34a of the Housing Act (1985).
January 5, 2010 David Cameron tells a public meeting at St Paul's church in Hammersmith that H&F "don't have plans to knock down loads of housing estates." However, the Decent Neighbourhoods proposals include plans to do exactly that. Video here.
January 15, 2010 The Financial Times reports that Capco's parent company Liberty International has bought full ownership of Earls Court and Olympia "as first step towards developing one of London's largest mixed use schemes." Also reports that the Earls Court centre "has been performing ahead of expectations."
February 10, 2010 H&F announces that Capco will be holding a series of drop-in sessions for residents to discuss "possible redevelopment of the site.
February 24, 2010 Asked about the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates at Mayor's Question time, Boris Johnson says his "revised London Plan" - then in draft form - is "categorical" that any improvements made to housing estates "should not incur the loss of affordable housing" and refers to policy 3.15 (page 83). The draft policy states:
Loss of housing, including affordable housing should be resisted unless the housing is replaced at existing or higher densities with at least equivalent floorspace.
During the MQT exchanges Johnson describes Greenhalgh as "the great man."
March 11, 2010 Greenhalgh assures estate residents: "We want to tackle overcrowding and build more affordable homes so that people living in the estate and their children can remain in the area. If plans come forward, we have issued a cast-iron guarantee that there will be no reduction in the amount of social housing and all existing council tenants will be offered new homes in the same area as they are already living."
March, 2010 A pamphlet co-authored by Greenhalgh, Wandsworth leader Edward Lister (later to become Boris Johnson's chief of staff and deputy for planning) and Westminster leader Colin Barrow entitled Magna Carta for Localism is published by the Centre for Policy Studies. It argues for more powers to be devolved to local authorities.
March 25, 2010 H&F is named Council of the Year by the Local Government Chronicle.
May 6, 2010 Election day. David Cameron becomes prime minister and the Conservatives retain control of H&F council, losing only two seats to Labour despite a swing towards Labour in the borough election held across the capital. However, Andy Slaughter holds the Hammersmith parliamentary seat for Labour, despite its being a Tory target.
June, 2010 Capco ask architects Farrell and Partners to draw up a masterplan for the main Earls Court project area (documented on page nine of this H&F cabinet paper from September 2012).
July 15, 2010 H&F cabinet agrees to spend a further £350,000 on preparing, jointly with Kensington and Chelsea and Greater London Authority, a supplementary planning document (SPD) to provide a necessary enhanced level of planning guidance required by Capco's Earls Court project. The officers' report says that this money will eventually be paid by Capco. It also says that Boris Johnson is to "consider adopting" the SPD as "an Opportunity Area Planning Framework."
September 21, 2010 H&F publishes its draft local development plan for consultation, billing it as the borough blueprint for the next 20 years. Describes Earls Court project as potentially one of the biggest in London.
February 8, 2011 H&F announces that estate residents have been "guaranteed new homes and neighbours kept together" if new development is built in Earls Court in the form of "draft assurances that will form the basis of legally-binding agreements" drawn up by "working with people living in the estates." The residents in question compromise a "steering group" that is receptive to the council's and Capco's plans. The official tenants and residents associations are opposed. The press release anticipates Capco's planning applications for the project. An information leaflet is issued with summaries of the "guarantees."
February 26, 2011 A Conservative Party regional conference is held in H&F. Its star speaker is Boris Johnson. Also on the bill is the election strategist Lynton Crosby, who ran Johnson's mayoral campaign in 2008 and is to run his 2012 campaign too.
March 18, 2011 Sir Terry Farrell masterplan for the Earls Court Project is revealed and put on display at Earls Court 1 exhibition centre building. It envisages the creation of "four villages and a high street" and the creation of "up to 7,500 homes" and "more than 10,000 permanent new jobs."
June 6, 2011 It emerges that Greenhalgh has been lobbying government minister Greg Clark - an old university friend - to alter the provisions of Section 34a of the Housing Act 1985 to make it less easy for "existing tenants groups to manage a [housing] stock transfer and too little on whether such a transfer is better for the whole community in the long term."
June 22, 2011 Capco subsidiary EC Properties Ltd submits two planning applications to H&F and one to the neighbouring borough of Royal Kensington and Chelsea (K&C). Two of the three applications are "outline" plans and relate to the main Earls Court Project development area, which falls into both boroughs. One outline application is therefore submitted to each of them.
Application number one, submitted to K&C, is here. Application number two, submitted to H&F, is here.
The applications include a community engagement report, which asserts that while "no single clear vision" has emerged "a number of shared aspirations" have, and that the four villages and a high street "descriptor" has "captured people's imagination." It describes the estates steering group as having been established by the council as a result of differences of view among the estates' residents.
A simple diagram of the application areas can be seen here. Both applications arrived with a covering letter from the Pall Mall planning consultancy DP9.
The third application, submitted to H&F, is a smaller and detailed one to redevelop the Earls Court centre car park site on Seagrave Road for housing.
July 1, 2011 Construction News reports Capco saying that work on the project could begin as early as "next autumn."
July 18, 2011 H&F cabinet resolves to sign a one-year "exclusivity deal" with Capco for negotiating an agreement to sell it the land the estates stand on (a "conditional land sale agreement"). Capco will have to pay the council £15m, of which £10m will be funded of the agreement is not reached.
July 22, 2011 Boris Johnson's replacement London Plan is published. This confirms the Earls Court/West Kensington neighbourhood as an "opportunity area" for redevelopment (see Chapter Two, from page 59).
September 14, 2011 Seagrave Road application is referred by H&F to the Greater London Authority for Boris Johnson's "stage one" consideration (which takes place on October 17). London boroughs are required to consult with the London mayor about planning applications that might be defined as of strategic importance. Such applications must be compliant with the London Plan, and London's mayor has the power to tell the borough to refuse the application or else take over its determination.
October 11, 2011 Boris Johnson opens the Place West London developers' summit, held at Olympia, where he meets representatives of Capco and discusses the Earls Court Project (a link to coverage of this on the developers' website no longer works).
October 19, 2011 H&F council adopts local development framework core strategy (see also here) for guiding development in the borough.
October 27, 2011 The two outline applications for the main Earls Court Project area are referred for the GLA for Boris Johnson's "stage one" consideration (see page three here).
November 4, 2011 West Kensington estate resident Harold Greatwood launches a bid for a judicial review of H&F's decision of 18 July 2011 to sign an "exclusivity agreement" with Capco. He claims that the council failed to consult residents when it should have, failed to conduct an equalities impact assessment, failed to consider other options for the management of the estates, and did not follow the rules for obtaining "best value" for the land.
November 11, 2011 Inside Housing reveals that H&F has given £38,000 to the residents' steering group that backs the demolition of the two estates. Most of the money is to cover legal costs. Jonathan Rosenberg, organiser of the anti-demolition campaign, accuses the council of orchestrating unrepresentative backing for the scheme.
November 11, 2011 H&F council announces "next stage of consultation" into the supplementary planning document for the Earls Court Project - a revised draft of the document. Council says that this move comes in addition a "separate economic study" showing that comprehensive redevelopment of the area would being "significant benefits for local people" in terms of jobs and other benefits. This is a reference to an economic appraisal by property investment specialists Jones, Lang, LaSalle.
November 16, 2011 A written answer by Boris Johnson to Labour London Assembly member Nicky Gavron alluding to the estates is aligned with Greenhalgh's plea to Greg Clark that the power of residents
representatives to take ownership of estates be limited.
November 29, 2011 GLA assistant director of planning, Greg Dolphin, tells the London Assembly planning committee that its was H&F's idea (rather than Capco's) to have the two estates included in the development. He also says that when the Earls Court opportunity area was first being looked at for inclusion in the London Plan it was believed that only 2,000 homes and 7,000 jobs could be created there, but that the boroughs and "major landowners" successfully lobbied at the examination in public, persuading the panel that it could be 4,000 homes and 7,000 jobs. The actual submitted plans, of course, are for over 7,000 homes.
December 12, 2011 Stephen Greenhalgh stands down as council leader, to "pioneer plans for a Neighbourhood Budget for the White City Opportunity Area." David Cameron leads ensuing tributes.
December 22, 2011 Meeting takes place of a "landowners board" comprising representatives of Capco, DP9, Transport for London and H&F. Document from meeting notes that delays in the borough considering the scheme applications is partly due to the "political environment."
January 6, 2012 H&F begins its formal consultation of estate residents and others in the surrounding area about whether the estates should be included in the redevelopment area. An information pack is distributed along with documents outlining the "offer" the council intends making to tenants and for leaseholders and freeholders.
January 17, 2012 Earls Court landowners board meets. Minutes say those attending include Capco chief executive Ian Hawksworth, Gary Yardley and Richard Powell form the Earls Court Project team and Melbourne Barrett, H&F's executive director for housing and regeneration. Apologies are noted from "N.Johnson, LBHF." Minutes note that "GLA are satisfied with the amendments to the planning applications and will be issuing a revised Stage 1 report in February."
February 3, 2012 Melbourne Barrett writes to local residents saying that due to the concerns of some of them about "the reliability of assurances that the development will proceed in full, and about the timescale," the consultation about including the two estates in the development area will be extended until 12 March 2013. The letter augments information previously circulated. The February newsletter to estate residents includes a four-part consultation feedback section.
February 16, 2012 H&F planning applications committee approves Capco's application to build 808 homes on the Seagrave Road site (the car park site formerly serving the Earls Court centre), subject to the approval of Boris Johnson. Council says that 200 of these homes are "earmarked" for residents of the two estates if the Council's desire to sell the land they stand on to Capco is permitted. Officers report says "these 200 would be provided for the Council as social rented units." (para 1.21).
March 15, 2012 H&F Conservative councillor Harry Phibbs defends Nick Johnson and his employment by H&F.
March 19, 2012 H&F approves the supplementary planning document, jointly produced with Kensington and Chelsea, required for the Earls Court Project. Press release repeats again the assertion that no decision to go ahead with the project will be taken unless the council is convinced that residents of the two estates would be better off.
April 16, 2012 H&F announces in advance that council cabinet will look at "draft terms" of CLSA and "preliminary findings" of consultation of residents about inclusion of estates in the redevelopment area. Admits that resident "opinion is divided." Greenhalgh acknowledges that "while some people on the estates are clearly in favour, many more have concerns," but claims, "it is clear that the majority of people living on the estates have yet to tell us either way or simply do not know."
April 23, 2012 H&F cabinet agrees that CLSA is "suitable for recommendation" and will be considered at a future meeting.
May 10, 2012 Councillor Nick Botterill is nominated as Greenhalgh's successor as council leader and Greenhalgh is nominated as Boris Johnson's policing deputy, to head the new Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC).
May 22, 2012 Landowners Board meeting, attended by Hawksworth, Yardley, Powell and Barrett and chaired by Anthony Bickmore of TfL. Matters arising include "thanks to Nick Johnson for his valuable contributions as Board representative for LBHF."
Documentation from the meeting shows that the valuation office agency, a part of HM Revenue and Customs which provides the government and other public bodies with advice on property values, is expected to advise H&F and K&C to seek the inclusion of an "affordable housing review mechanism" in the planning applications. Such mechanisms oblige the periodic reassessment of the amount of affordable housing developers will include in housing projects.
The "process of the Valuation Office concluding their advice to the boroughs," is described as "the biggest programme risk to the planning applications," and "will obviously affect land values." Meeting notes also say, "Capco will speak to Sir Edward Lister at the Mayor's office to try to remove such a requirement so as not to frustrate investment in the scheme."
Under the heading of communications, it was "agreed that it is necessary to make a stronger case for the proposed investment to senior politicians including Kit Malthouse, deputy mayor for business and enterprise." (As well as being part of Boris Johnson's mayoral team, Malthouse represents both H&F and K&C on the London Assembly).
June 20, 2012 The two estates residents associations seek a judicial review of H&F and K&C's adoption of the supplementary planning document for the Earls Court Project area was unlawful.
July 17, 2012 Meeting of landowners board, with Hawksworth, Powell, Yardley, Bickmore and Barrett among those listed as attendees, indicates shift in TfL's position regarding the inclusion of the Lillie Bridge depot land in the Earls Court Project area. Documents say that TfL has "returned to the concept of extracting value for their interest upfront," and that there is "some uncertainty" over inclusion of Lillie Bridge depot lands. Under communications heading, documents express satisfaction that a recent BBC report on the future of the estates had focused on disagreements among resident' rather than on Capco or other landowners.
September 3, 2012 H&F cabinet agrees to enter into a conditional sale agreement with Capco, paving the way for the two estates to be demolished by the developer in return for £105m.
Council press release again speaks of "thousands of new homes and jobs" and says steering group members have "drawn up their own legally-binding contracts" for estates residents, but reports only the consultation responses of secure council tenants rather than all residents' responses, which showed a larger majority against the scheme.
Botterill says: "We have made this decision after weighing up all arguments, looking at the economic studies and the views of our residents. We know that many people living on the estates want new homes, while many other people have concerns. If the CLSA is signed we will continue to listen to people and do our very best to address those concerns."
September 12, 2012 H&F planning applications committee approves outline application for the part of the main part of the scheme that would lie within its boundaries.
October 12, 2012 Estate TRAs secure a "substantive hearing" of their judical review claim, lodging in June, that the two councils' supplementary planning document was unlawful.
October 24, 2012 H&F full council meeting gives go-ahead for asking Pickles, now the communities secretary, for his blessing to sell the estates' land under the terms of the CLSA.
January 14, 2013 A complaint against Greenhalgh, now Boris Johnson's policing deputy, is referred by the GLA to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). Supporting documents assembled by Jonathan Rosenberg and the anti-demolition campaign argue that during his time as H&F leader council officers had been guilty of misconduct in public office by telling estate residents that if they showed their support for the inclusion of the estates in the Earls Court project area - effectively backing their demolition - they would be given preferential treatment in the allocation of replacement homes. It is alleged that such residents' names were compiled in an "early movers list".
January 21, 2013 Judge Mitting rejects West Kensington estate resident Harold Greatwood's application for a judicial review of the CLSA consultation. H&F celebrates.
January 23, 2013 H&F and Capco sign the CLSA. Botterill insists that "the residents living on the estates have negotiated the best deal of any regeneration scheme in the country" and that "residents, their current and future children will be living in an even better, safer neighbourhood environment with access to new leisure and community facilities. Most of all local people will benefit from the thousands of new job opportunities that will be created."
February 14, 2013 H&F audit, pensions and standard committee considers a council-commissioned "stage one" report by investigators from Deloitte into the early movers' list allegations. The report said that no evidence had been found of such a list existing although there was a perception that one did, and that more could have done to correct this. The committee decides there are no grounds for a "stage two" of the investigation to go ahead, which might have involved speaking to many more residents.
March 7, 2013 H&F housing options director Mike England sends estates residents a consultation draft of the council's local lettings plan, which sets out how the promised replacement homes would be allocated.
April 18, 2013 Eric Pickles gives his consent for the CLSA to go ahead.
April 23, 2013 Harold Greatwood is unsuccessful in his appeal against January's rejection of his judicial review bid over the CLSA process.
May 23, 2013 IPCC decides it will not investigate Greenhalgh over the alleged early movers list.
July 3, 2013 Boris Johnson gives green light to H&F and K&C approvals of main project area outline planning applications.
July 17-18, 2013 High Court hosts "substantive hearing," secured in October 2012, of judicial review claim that H&F's supplementary planning document for Earls Court Project area is unlawful.
July 18, 2013 Capco and TfL agree to pursue joint venture for redevelopment of Earls Court exhibition centre site, entailing the demolition of the two buildings. Capco expected to own 63% and TfL 37%. Graeme Craig of TfL says the arrangement represents "a new approach, [working] with leading developers whilst retaining our interest in our properties."
August 23, 2013 Eric Pickles declines to order a public inquiry into the Earls Court Project.
October 9, 2013 High Court rejects residents' legal challenge to H&F and K&C's planning process.
Earls Court project
theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds