Since our recent post warning of a possible threat to the future of the Kensington and Chelsea College at Wornington Road (Crisis – is Kensington and Chelsea College Under Threat?) we have acquired additional information confirming that there is indeed a very real and serious threat to the future of this vitally important, well loved and much respected adult education centre. We managed to locate the relevant RBKC Cabinet Key Decision Report dated 20th April 2016 which can be downloaded from here.
The wording of the report is unclear on crucial details – perhaps deliberately so – and it is therefore difficult to be sure about some of the detail of what the Council is planning . However, from our study of this document we can confirm that the Council intends to buy the freehold of the entire KCC Wornington campus. They then intend to obtain planning permission to redevelop the whole site as housing. Once planning permission has been obtained they will sell the site to a ‘Private Rented Sector’ developer, subject only to the requirement that some token quota of ‘affordable housing’ is included, as well as reprovision of an educational element, the extent of which is described only as ‘of a decent scale’. It is also clear that the housing development planned for the site will be of a significant scale, further suggesting that the reprovided educational component will be of a relatively insignificant scale when compared with the existing college.
The Council has offered sweeteners to KCC in the form of much needed investment in the Carlyle Building in Chelsea, home to the English National Ballet School, which is in a poor state of repair, and an offer of alternative accommodation adjacent to the Carlyle Building. It is unclear from the report what the purpose of this alternative accommodation will be, but it is hard to imagine how the Wornington site could accommodate a new housing development of sufficient size to be profitable for the developers while reproviding an educational complex of the size and scale of the existing Wornington College. We strongly suspect, therefore, that the intention may be to relocate the adult education provision from Wornington to Hortensia Road in Chelsea, while retaining some token provision for younger students on the Wornington site.
The Wornington Road campus has served the North Kensington community for many years as a vital adult education institute, and is well loved and respected. However, in recent years some additional classes for younger (ie teen) students have been introduced. If our assumptions are correct, and only the youth education component is retained at Wornington, this may well mean the end of adult education in North Kensington. In our view this is very bad news for North Kensington and should be strenuously resisted.
There is a section of the report (section 7) that we find especially interesting and that starkly reveals the cynical attitude of the RBKC administration towards its own policies:
What the synopsis above clearly shows is that, when faced with advice from their own legal team that goes against their ambitions and informs them that what they are planning is in breach of their stated policy, the typical reaction of this Council of Mafiosi is not to back down and respect the limits they themselves have set to safeguard the best interests of their constituents, but to do the exact opposite. Instead they invariably contrive, with the collusion of the same advisors, to exploit the most tenuous of loopholes and perform whatever tricks and contortions they can to bypass the problems posed to them by the policies in question, thus denying the public the protections supposedly guaranteed by those policies.
The sad reality is that the administration at RBKC, and the senior officers who advise them and implement their decisions, have little or no respect or regard for any policies in the Local Plan that are supposedly intended to guarantee the protection of vital community assets such as greenspace and cultural social and educational institutions, particularly those in the voluntary sector and especially, but not limited to, those that serve working class communities throughout the borough. The current RBKC administration, like its tory predecessors, is arrogant, chauvinistic, mercenary, and manipulative, and in our view, is entirely unfit for office.