An Open Letter:
At Chesterton Square and Broadwood Terrace, ‘People count, Homes are precious, Community is essential’.
I have been talking to many people on Chesterton Square and Broadwood Terrace about ‘the review’ that is being undertaken. The announcement of it has caused, quite simply, a great deal of ‘alarm and distress’.
You emphasise that no decision has been made – apart from ‘to hold a review’. However in today’s economic climate you would hardly be spending money on a review and then doing nothing with it!
I would be disingenuous if I said that I have no concerns about my own situation. I am living in Chesterton Square because I lost my home and a business in the early nineties. Having experienced the loss of a home, I know the impact it can have. It is not just the loss of the home itself, but the loss of friends, neighbours and a community. The damage it can cause should never be underestimated. I had hoped never to move again!
And that is why, I am sticking my head ‘above the parapet’ and declaring my intention to fight for the communities of Chesterton Square and Broadwood Terrace – and for everyone in those communities – no divide and rule here!!!
The Warwick Road is already dominated by major developments, both existing and prospective – from Kensington High Street down to Earl’s Court. The thought of yet another major development just across the road from them is a horrific prospect. But it is the sheer destruction of ‘community’ that is the most serious aspect of this.
The wealthy overseas investors who tend to acquire properties in the ‘new developments’ do not seem to understand ‘community’ – or care about it. We know, we understand its importance and care.
For reassurance, I would appreciate confirmation that the three options outlined in the letter of 18 March are not the only options that would be considered? This is a time for creative thinking and recognition of the importance of people and community.
Let me bring Chesterton Square and Broadwood Terrace to life for you. Either side of me are very elderly people – a 100 plus years old man with his wife in her nineties in one household. And in another home, a lady on her own in her eighties who, after a fall near the rubbish chute recently, is too nervous to go there, and so neighbours help her. The impact of a move on those individuals would almost certainly be catastrophic.
There are people who own their homes. They are settled in the community. Some of them have children, who are happy in local schools and also have friends here. In many cases the leaseholders have spent a considerable amount of money on their homes – and gardens as well in some cases, providing pleasure to all who live here.
They have had some very high ‘maintenance charges’ imposed on them in recent years. And, there is still resentment over the way these charges were arrived at and imposed. The idea that market rate plus ten per cent might be fair recompense to them is ludicrous. It would not allow them to buy a similar size property in this area. It is the welfare of their children that is paramount. And, children need schools that suit them and communities too.
Uncertainty is most stressful and I have seen the impact that your letter has had on numerous tenants here. Whilst helpful, ‘the visits’ suggested a sense of urgency – thus adding to the ‘alarm and distress’.
The owners of properties that have them rented out are able, with the value of the properties as they ‘have been’, to let them, for example, to students at Imperial College. They are a welcome addition to the community here. The properties are close to their college enabling them to live and be educated in Kensington and Chelsea.
Let there be no misunderstandings. This is a vital matter to and for us all. It would be an excellent way for the Council to prove it values people, cares about its communities and understands the impact that just the ‘notice of holding a review’ has had already. Isolation and loneliness are two of our greatest challenges today. Demolition of homes, splintering a community and yet another major development would exacerbate these problems further.
We understand the Council’s need to seek a return on one of its assets, but with creative thinking and planning, there is no reason why the needs of the people could not be accommodated, alongside a benefit and a return to the Council obtained from the partial development of the site.
It is not a good image for the Royal Borough, to be seen to seek profit before the needs of its people.
I look forward to hearing from you.
80 Chesterton Square
London W8 6PJ
Tel: 020 7373 2605
Mobile: 07973 907203
The above is the text of a letter addressed initially to senior politicians and officials of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in early May 2013, and reproduced here by kind permission of the author. We fully support her appeal for the protection and nurture of diverse communities thoughout the Royal Borough, in the face of the multiple threats posed by heartless and ill-considered development, and particularly by large-scale ‘regeneration’, which we consider to be an alias for, and an attempt to justify, the ‘social cleansing’ of working class communities. In our view we need to work together to form strong alliances and a broad front against these multiple threats to our communities.