Residents of the Grenfell Tower area don’t need to be told that all their open space and residential amenity space has now disappeared behind a ten foot wall that marks the boundary of the KALC site. This ten foot wall also has the effect of isolating the entire western half of Lancaster West Estate from Ladbroke Grove and the rest of North Kensington. The only remaining way out is via Station Walk, one of our estate’s traditional, much used and much loved rights-of-way between Silchester Road and Bramley Road. Without this last remaining corridor everyone, including small children, the old and the infirm, will have to go the long way round on a long cross-country hike to reach civilization.
In mid December the Council began posting notices, signed by Councillor Coleridge, the Cabinet Member for Housing, and Councillor Blakeman, the most senior of the local Labour councillors, which claimed that the Station Walk right-of-way, the only remaining pedestrian route out of the Grenfell Tower area, was subject to an Extinguishment Order and could be closed with just a weeks notice from the Kensington Academy and Leisure Centre contractor. We can expect a number of these temporary closures over the coming months.
Both Councillor Coleridge and Councillor Blakeman owe a duty of care to the Lancaster West community and their support for the KALC project represents a fundamental betrayal of that duty of care. Denying our right-of-way is just the latest piece in this jig-saw of betrayal.
However, some of the detail in the formal notice has subsequently proved to be fictitious and provides evidence of the confusion the Council quisling’s have clearly got themselves into.
Acting on advice from the Open Spaces Society (www.oss.org.uk), the Grenfell Action Group has recently managed to delay the closing of our right-of-way along the aforementioned Station Walk until the contractors have obtained the necessary Temporary Closure Order under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
Before the Council can close a public right-of-way they need to obtain an Extinguishment Order, if the closure is to be permanent. For a temporary closure the Council can issue a Temporary Closure Order (TCO), but only if the closure is for a period of less than six months.
To temporarily close a public right of way for longer than six months an order by the Secretary of State is required. In this case the application should normally be accompanied by details of whatever alternative provision has been arranged, and the provision, or non-provision, of an alternative right-of-way should be a material consideration in the Secretary of State’s decision making.
To make matters worse for the Local Authority, it now transpires that the Council planners may not have obtained a TCO for the main north/south right-of-way that was our community’s major pathway off the Estate and has traditionally allowed Lancaster West residents access to Ladbroke Grove and North Kensington.
This right-of-way runs right through the heart of the KALC site, and disappeared behind contractors hoardings during enabling works in the run up to Christmas. No prizes for guessing that the temporary closure of the north/south route is scheduled to last much longer than the six months that the Council itself can authorise, and we believe this closure should have been referred to the Secretary of State for his consent. We believe that the Council/contractors are therefore acting outside of the Law and we are questioning if they have a right to remove our public thoroughfare without the proper legal procedure being adhered to.
Obviously, it will be highly inconvenient, embarrassing and a show of complete incompetence from the Council’s planners if this proves to be the case.
Local residents have a right to expect that if the Council have yet to secure the necessary permissions to remove our traditional north/south right-of-way, construction will cease immediately and our pathway will be reopened to allow community access until a Temporary Closure Order has been obtained.
This is the LAW, after all