Many residents of the Rotten Borough, not least those living in areas targetted for ‘regeneration’ such as the Silchester Estate in North Kensington, will be appalled and dismayed to learn that Rock Feilding-Mellen, the man responsible for overseeing the redevelopment of the estates on which they live, has lodged an application, as Director of ‘Socially Conscious Capital’, for ‘Planning Permission in Principle’ to develop an area adjacent to the village of Longniddry in East Lothian. The development will feature 450 new homes plus associated employment and community facilities and infrastructure. The site, owned as absentee landlords by Feilding-Mellen’s own family, the Wemyss and March Estate, has been allocated in the East Lothian Local Plan for a development of this size, but is also earmarked for a potential future expansion to accommodate up to 1000 new homes. http://www.longniddrydevelopment.com
According to ‘Socially Conscious Capital’ the prospect of a new development at Longniddry is ‘typically contentious’ with local residents. They’re certainly not wrong about that as there has been considerable organised local opposition in Longniddry to the proposed development, notably from the ‘Listen To Longniddry’ group according to whom:
“The only thing that will be sustained in this “sustainable urbanist” development is the rate of profit to the Wemyss and March Estate. If this application is approved it will lead to permanent loss of Grade 2 agricultural land (some of the very best in Scotland, according to a professional agronomic analysis commissioned in 2013). How the enthusiastic obliteration of this farmland and its replacement with concrete could ever be seen as “sustainable” is beyond us. We have articulated our concerns about this development many, many times since 2013 (not to mention the way the so-called “community consultation” was undertaken)…..the consultation was undertaken with a very deliberate intent to avoid the crucial question of whether this development should even happen. Instead, it steered the community towards infrastructural and design questions, and falsely took community engagement with those questions as evidence that the community supports the proposed development.
The vast majority of housing in this particular development will not address genuine housing need as it will not be truly affordable and there are approximately 25,000 empty homes across South East Scotland, calling into question how much we need to rip up essential farmland and green space to build new housing. If the Scottish Government is serious about “sustainable urbanism”, then it will see the staggeringly unsustainable idiocy of ripping up some of the best arable land in Scotland and replacing it with concrete.” https://www.facebook.com/ListenToLongniddry
So much for any environmentalist credentials Feilding-Mellen might wish to claim. It is interesting to note also that the only other attempt we could find at a major development project by Feilding-Mellen’s ‘Socially Conscious Capital’ involved plans to build 800 new homes at Thorpe Woods near Norwich, on land owned by the wealthy and aristocratic Mayhew and Meath Baker families. The original development plans were torpedoed by a highly successful local opposition campaign which succeeded (in 2011) in having the greater part of Thorpe Woods designated as ‘ancient woodland’ and therefore entitled to full protection, along with its unique biodiversity and rich wildlife habitat.
In this regard John Hiskett, of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, commented that:
“Due to its size and location adjacent to other County Wildlife Sites, Racecourse Plantation forms a key link in the green infrastructure of north east Norwich and the retention of the whole area as natural green space will be especially important in the light of large scale housing proposals for the area”
Faced with this adverse decision the landowners, rather than accept and respect the ecologically sensitive nature of the site, instead entrusted the onerous task of securing planning permission for a new version of ‘Norwich’s most unpopular ever development’ to a friend and neighbour from RBKC, Rock Fielding-Mellen. Rocky and his mates commissioned a new ‘masterplan’ for a smaller development of about 300 dwellings, which they are likely to submit for planning permission sometime in the near future.
According to the ‘Save Thorpe Woodlands’ campaign Feilding-Mellen and his company specialise in such difficult and unpopular planning applications. They claim the aristocratic Feilding-Mellen and his ‘democratically oblivious and environmentally blind’ old Etonian chums squandered prodigious sums of pocket money hiring compliant consultants and again proposed saving and improving the woodlands by building on them – astonishingly on a smaller site but still right in the middle of the woodland area.
It also strikes us as rather strange, and more than a little suspicious, that ‘Socially Conscious Capital’ has, according to Feilding-Mellen, so far secured planning permission for over 10,000 new homes and has worked on many significant development and regeneration projects, but is registered at Companies House only as a small company and declared, in its last published accounts, capital and reserves of a mere £681, net assets of only £3,699, and no profits whatever ( SCC accounts 2015). Also, the only public record we could find of development projects involving this company, are the two featured in this blog, and these were apparently gifted to Feilding-Mellen either from his own family’s Scottish estate or courtesy of his wealthy friends the Mayhews. In our view none of this constitutes credible evidence of his much vaunted and self-publicised business acumen, nor indeed of his claims to be socially and environmentally aware and responsible.
From all of the above it seems clear to us that Feilding-Mellen has a significant conflict of interest as the RBKC Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regeneration, as he is one of the chief officers of a company the financial status of which is as clear as mud, and the business model of which, according to its website, is ‘to work in partnership with landowners to get the best value from their land’. Many would argue that this ideology is incompatible with his duties as a public servant in the Rotten Borough, and that working for landowners to maximise profits for them is the hallmark of the regeneration policy that he has pursued, and continues to pursue, in public office and that has contributed greatly to the erosion of communities and of social and affordable housing in RBKC.
Given what we already know from experience of Feilding-Mellen’s character and attitudes we think there is little doubt that he enthusiastically applies the same view of regeneration (ie environmentally and socially reckless) to his actions at RBKC as he has done in his private business interests. As Director of ‘Socially Conscious Capital’ he clearly views land and buildings solely as opportunities for monetarisation, and the reason that he is so committed to this process is clear. He crows on the company website that ‘the more money we make for the landowner, the more money we make for ourselves’. Amazingly, but not surprisingly, this jumped up spiv opportunist sees no conflict of interest between his position as the RBKC Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regeneration and the self-serving mercenary ideology he espouses as Director of ‘Socially Conscious Capital’.
Given his history and current form it is clear to us that Feilding-Mellen is as mercenary, unprincipled and manipulative as they come, with little or no regard for the social or environmental consequences of his actions. We therefore consider him to be entirely unfit for the position of power and influence he now enjoys overseeing the so-called ‘regeneration’ of huge swathes of the Rotten Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.