In a recent Grenfell Action Group blog we highlighted our concerns that high ranking Councillors from RBKC have been sticking their noses into the filthy trough of property development by supping at the MIPIM table.
For the benefit of the uninitiated MIPIM is the world’s biggest property fair, where our cities and our land are grotesquely put up for sale to the highest bidder. It takes place annually in Cannes, France and at Olympia in London, bringing together about 20,000 investors, developers, local authorities, and banks to figure out how to carve up our cities and sell off our land.
The Grenfell Action Group well understand that the companies which attend MIPIM, and the local government “representatives” who share their champagne, are responsible for the eviction of communities, the gentrification of our neighbourhoods, and the housing crisis itself. We believe that the representatives of any local authorities present at MIPIM will be seeking to sell our public land and infrastructure and that they will be approving ‘regeneration’ plans that respond to the interests of speculators: hotels, offices, luxury housing, shopping centres, etc. Ordinary people who will be affected will know nothing of these deals until it is too late. An example of what can be expected by delegates attending MIPIM can be found in the shocking article from The Independent newspaper (below) that clearly shows that the interests of working class communities are simply non-existent:
In August 2014 the newly elected Leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, Cllr Paget Brown was asked by the Grenfell Action Group if anyone from the RBKC organisation was attending the forthcoming MIPIM event at Olympia and, if so, what benefit they may gain by taking part in the property fair? We were informed by Cllr Paget Brown that “unfortunately I am unable to provide an accurate assessment on what people do at MIPIM as I have never personally attended” and he went on to state that “with regard to RBKC I can confirm that no members of the Housing or Property Departments are planning to attend”.
It was, therefore, very upsetting for the Grenfell Action Group to discover that Cllr Cockell (Pooter) the newly replaced Leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was subsequently spotted attending MIPIM in 2014 . As the ex-Leader of the Council and still a serving Councillor it is fair to assume that Pooter still had great influence among his colleagues at RBKC and that this influence extended to both the Housing and the Property Departments at the Town Hall. We have no idea who Cllr Cockell was talking to at MIPIM in 2014 or who he was claiming to represent but we can be pretty sure that his presence at the property fair was not in the best interests of the constituents of North Kensington. Below is photographic evidence of Cllr Cockell pictured outside the entrance to MIPIM in 2014:
When the Grenfell Action Group challenged Cllr Paget Brown in September 2016 about Pooters motives for attending MIPIM he responded by stating “Sir Merrick Cockell did not attend MIPM in 2014 as a representative of the Council. He stood down from the Council in 2015”. We believe that this response poses more questions than it answers and leaves us wondering why the ex Leader of RBKC would attend MIPIM if he was doing so on a purely personal basis? We have now written to RBKC to seek clarification about this matter and we have submitted a Freedom of Information request to ascertain who paid for Cllr Cockell’s entrance fee to MIPIM, if he was a guest of any particular company and whether he declared his attendance at MIPIM on his list of interests?
Next we come to Cllr Paget Brown himself. For a man who claimed in 2014 that he was “unable to provide an accurate assessment of what people do at MIPIM as I have never personally attended” he sure learned quickly! Fast forward to September 2016 and Cllr Paget Brown has been forced to admit that “last year (2015) I attended a MIPIM dinner in order to hear about some of the London-wide examples of estate regeneration which are underway”. So in 2014 the present Leader of RBKC claims to have no knowledge of MIPIM and a year later he is supping at their table. Again we have no evidence of what matters were discussed at the dinner Cllr Paget Brown attended but we can be fairly sure that they would have been of little benefit to those residents of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea who find themselves lined up in the sights of estate regeneration as faced by those currently living on the Silchester Estate! We shall be writing to the Council using Freedom of Information legislation to check that Cllr Paget Brown declared his attendance at this dinner and whether the cost of the dinner was paid for out of Council funds or was provided to him by a private property developer?
Finally, we turn our attention to the odious Cllr Feilding Mellen, the current Deputy Leader of RBKC, Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regeneration and a property developer in his own right by virtue of his involvement with a company called Socially Conscious Capital. The Grenfell Action Group do not believe that a RBKC Cabinet Member with responsibility for the regeneration of housing estates in North Kensington should also double jobbing as a property developer and when we received a tip off from the excellent Hornet’s Nest website that Cllr Feilding Mellen had been spotted attending MIPIM in Cannes earlier this year we contacted Cllr Paget Brown to find out whether there was any truth to this rumour.
We received the following tetchy and defensive response from the Leader of the Council who stated that “Cllr Feilding-Mellen is the director of a property company which has no interests in this Borough. This is properly and publicly declared on the Members’ register…….Decisions relating to the Council’s housing stock and estate regeneration are taken by the Cabinet collectively and in public. Key decisions are all subject to public scrutiny……We have a rule that no Councillor needs to travel abroad on Council businesses. Cllr Feilding-Mellen attended MIPM at his own expense to explore matters of relevance to his own company. Are you suggesting that this is irregular?”
Well, the Grenfell Action Group have no idea whether the attendance at MIPIM of Cllr Feilding Mellen was irregular or not as we have no idea who he was actually claiming to represent within the confines of MIPIM, who he had meetings with and what was discussed at these meetings. What we do know is that Cllr Feilding Mellen uses his Socially Conscious Capital website to boast that “in his spare time, Rock is a local government Councillor. He is now the Deputy Leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea in London, where he is leading on some major regeneration projects” and that those he had contact with at MIPIM would have been well aware of this fact if they had taken the trouble to read his company’s freely available publicity or if Cllr Feilding Mellen had taken an opportunity to directly inform them of his position on the Council himself.
Despite Cllr Feilding Mellen’s claim that he “has worked as a property developer since 2003, giving him hands-on experience in the financing, planning, delivery, and marketing of development projects” and that “in that time Rock has managed private development projects with a combined gross development value of over £200m.” There is no evidence from Socially Conscious Capital’s financial records that there is any truth in his claim to be a successful property developer and we have to wonder if he is using his position as RBKC Cabinet Member for Housing Property and Regeneration to try and further the aims of his own private company or if he is using the pretext of Socially Conscious Capital as a cover for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s ambitions to socially cleanse large swathes of North Kensington. We have written to RBKC to demand a full explanation as to his conduct in this matter and only then will be able to judge whether Cllr Feilding Mellen has acted in an “irregular manner”. In the meantime, we can simply observe that it does not look good for our Local Council representatives to be seen splashing about at MIPIM in Cannes with no accountability and no record of public transparency!
In conclusion, the Grenfell Action Group believes that MIPIM promotes an unsustainable business-as-usual approach to housing and land use that is privatised and profit-driven for the benefit the richest 1% whilst destroying our working class communities and keeping ordinary tenants and leaseholders, such as those facing regeneration on the Silchester Estate in North Kensington, in miserable uncertainty and poverty.
It is most worrying and disappointing to us that ex-Cllr Cockell, Cllr Paget Brown and Cllr Feilding Mellen have all attended this seedy property fair and that they could possibly believe that the inhabitants of North Kensington will benefit from their association with MIPIM. On the contrary, the Grenfell Action Group suspect that Local Authority Councillors that attend MIPIM are on the lookout for potential business partners and corporate interests who’ll collaborate on yet more ‘regeneration’ plans that will lead to the “social cleansing” of existing working class housing estates. We don’t want more boutique hotels, offices, luxury housing and shopping centres, we don’t want our neighbourhoods to be gentrified and entire communities evicted. We simply want honest and straightforward representatives whose objective is to provide quality affordable housing for all their constituents.