In a recent blog ‘The Facts About Regeneration’ we quoted a press release issued by RBKC on 25th June, the main point of which appears to have been to reassure residents that the Council’s regeneration plans were limited to a small number of named ‘low density estates’, and that residents of other estates, which were not on the accompanying list, had nothing to fear. We quote below the last few lines of the press release:
“The estates that have already been selected for work to begin on include: the empty Edenham site under Trellick Tower, the Warwick Road Estate, and part of the Balfour of Burleigh Estate together with Barlby School (referred to as Barlby-Treverton).
As and when the Council starts looking for similar opportunities on other estates it will let residents know at the earliest opportunity. Therefore, if residents have not been contacted by the Council, they should assume that their estate is not being considered for redevelopment at this time.”
We can now report that the Director of Housing Laura Johnson has since written, on 3rd July, to the residents of a large swathe of the Notting Dale area warning them that the Council is now launching a ‘study’ to explore options for redevelopment of this massive area. The map above shows the targetted area, encompassing the entire Silchester Estate and all of the properties eastwards from Bramley Road to the Silchester Road and Kingsdown Close areas. We have reproduced below the main body of this letter:
There are a number of conclusions that may be drawn from this latest move by the Council, and a number of questions it raises. In terms of conclusions we believe that any reasonable person could conclude that the deliberate inference in the 5th June press release, that the Council’s regeneration ambitions are limited to a few named estates, and that everyone else is safe, should not be taken seriously, and should be read with extreme caution. We believe, and we think this latest plan clearly shows, that RBKC is intent on a massive regeneration programme of all social housing estates in the borough. We strongly believe that this particular ‘study’ of the regeneration potential of the so-called Silchester area will inevitably materialise into a plan for largescale demolition and rebuilding consistent with the ‘new model’ described in the press release.
We strongly believe that the Council intends to gentrify the area beneath the rail viaduct from Latimer Road Station to the Kensington Academy, and probably beyond. It follows that all of the small businesses in that location, especially the motor repair and servicing workshops that have occupied the arches area for many years, will be ruthlessly displaced and have no future in the area.
Another issue that concerns us is that of ‘decanting’. When largescale regeneration is implemented in this area we think it unlikely that the Council will be able to decant large numbers of residents from their homes. They simply don’t have the necessary number of empty properties into which to decant these residents. We therefore think it far more likely that they will implement the ‘regeneration’ programme piecemeal, working around sitting tenants rather than removing them to a safe distance. This means, of course, that many, or most, may find themselves surrounded by demolition and redevelopment sites and may be forced to endure the kind of noise, nuisance and toxic air pollution so familiar to Lancaster West residents who were forced to endure three years of hell living adjacent to the recent Kensington Academy and Leisure Centre site, from demolition to completion.
Another serious concern we have regards the future fate of the residents of the sheltered housing complex at Whitchurch House, which stands between Silchester Road and Kingsdown Close. This is a complex which houses some of the borough’s most vulnerable elderly residents. Typically these are residents who would have great difficulty adjusting to major changes in their living environment, the community in which they live, and their normal routines. The shock of sudden change and disruption to such communities typically causes great distress and frequently results in a sudden rise in mortality in the affected population. This must be avoided at all costs by handling any redeveopment of Whitchurch House, and the surrounding area, with the utmost care and sensitivity to the needs of the elderly residents.
We do not believe that RBKC can be trusted with this duty of care. We also believe that Whitchurch House will be a prime target for redevelopment and that, despite Laura Johnson’s claims that RBKC are merely launching a ‘study’ of possible redevelopment options, the fate of this entire area is as good as sealed.
Lastly, Johnson’s letter contains the statement below which is clearly meant to reassure, and appears fairly straightforward:
“It is important to stress that right now we do not have any development proposals for your area. We are simply carrying out a study to understand if there are viable options for the sort of redevelopment that would deliver on the Council’s objectives of providing better homes for existing and future tenants, delivering additional affordable housing, tackling the root causes of deprivation, and improving the urban design and built environment of the area”
This statement is, however, far more deceptive and disingenuous than it appears. In 2009 the Council commisioned consultants ‘Urban Initiatives’, to conduct a masterplanning study of the whole Latimer Area (ie the Notting Barns/Notting Dale area) exploring the options for largescale regeneration. The picture above is an illustration which appeared in the final version of this document showing exactly the kind of ‘new model’ higher density street based residential building design to which both Ms Johnson and the earlier Council press release refer.
The 2009 Masterplanning Study included the exact area shown on Laura Johnson’s map, but also the entire Lancaster West Estate, and a number of nearby smaller estates to the south of there, including Allom and Barlow Houses, Nottingwood House, Hesketh Place and Runcorn Place.
The 2009 study was called the ‘Notting Barns South Masterplan’ (also called the Latimer Masterplan). It detailed and recommended a phased ‘scorched earth’ regeneration of the entire Notting Barns area.
We believe the Council declined, at the time, to implement this entire programme only because of the international banking and economic crisis which erupted in the same year and effectively scuppered their plans. We always knew that they would resurrect this programme as soon as the economic climate and the property market again proved favourable to their intentions.
The new study, of which the above letter letter warns, is therefore no more than an upgrading of the first phase of the greater Latimer project recommended in the Urban Initiatives Masterplan of 2009. We would therefore caution all residents of social housing, especialy those in the Notting Dale area, to be extremely wary of any reassurances offered by councillors or council officers, or any attempt to minimise the significance of the new study which is about to begin. These people are sharks, and to them the social housing estates of North Kensington, and the entire Rotten Borough, are no more than a giant shark tank.