The stately home pictured above, Gosford House near Longniddry in East Lothian, is one of three piles owned by his wealthy aristocratic family that Cllr Rock Feilding-Mellen, the RBKC Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regeneration, can retire to when he takes time away from his £50,000 per annum “part time” role as Deputy Leader of the RBKC Council. Cllr Feilding-Mellen is currently setting about the “social cleansing” of the Silchester Estate in North Kensington very close to where he also happens to have purchased a somewhat more modest abode for a mere £1 million.
In his other role as director of ‘Socially Conscious Capital’ Rocky continues to plot and scheme on behalf of his snooty friends the Mayhews and Meath-Bakers to build a housing development which will severely impact protected ancient woodland at Thorpe Woods near Norwich. It is noteworthy that Gail and Henry Mayhew lived until recently in the uber-posh Portland Road, just round the corner from Lancaster West. Given his wealthy aristocratic background as heir to the massive fortune of the Wemyss and March Estates we have to wonder why Rocky would choose to reside (if only temporarily) in a modest terrace house next door to the working class Lancaster West Estate and almost adjacent to the soon to be ‘regenerated’ Silchester Estate, rather than buy a property in Portland Road like his posh pals the Mayhews, and others of his kind, have done. We can’t help but wonder if Rocky’s house in Bramley Road is merely a short term investment, from the resale of which he expects to make a killing after property values in the Silchester area are forced upwards by the ‘regeneration’ and gentrification of the area resulting from his own executive actions as RBKC Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regeneration.
Unfortunately for the Mayhews, Thorpe St Andrew Town Council in Norfolk recently opposed their latest planning application for the development of Thorpe Woods and this decision has now been passed to Broadland District Council who will also consider the application and decide whether to reject it. So far the joke has been on Rocky and his pals in ‘Socially Conscious Capital’. The shell company they set up to handle the Thorpe Woods development plan, ‘SCC Norwich’, has declared modest losses of £17,000 in 2015 and £15,500 in 2016. This is most likely because their machiavelian attempts to secure planning permission for the Mayhews and Meath-Bakers have so far required only modest investment, mainly on glossy publicity materials, because it was predictable that they would fail miserably. This is despite, or perhaps because of, the propaganda campaign waged by Rocky and his clients to de-legitimise fierce local resistance to the Thorpe Woods development plans.
Natural England, the government’s official advisory body on ecological and environmental issues, has already designated 32 acres of Thorpe Woods as protected ancient woodland and therefore off-limits for development. At least one of the Mayhews, Barney, has challenged this ruling, citing the (alleged) opinion of a leading ecologist, the late Professor Oliver Rackham of Cambridge University, that Thorpe Woods are not ancient woodland and date only from the second half of the 19th century. How much creedence, we must ask, should this claim be afforded, or does it merely demonstrate the increasing desperation of the landowners in their ruthless ambition to profit from the development of the site, regardless of the environmental impact or consequences of such development?
It seems deeply ironic to us that the current generation of Mayhews are directly descended from an earlier Henry Mayhew (November 1812 – July 1887) a Victorian journalist, social researcher and champion of London’s poor. He was one of the co-founders of the satirical magazine Punch in 1841, and was the magazine’s joint-editor in its early days, but he is perhaps best known for his work as a compassionate social researcher, publishing an extensive series of newspaper articles in the Morning Chronicle that was later compiled into the book series ‘London Labour and the London Poor’ (1851), a groundbreaking and highly influential survey of the city’s poor that greatly influenced reform-minded politicians of his day and the writings of his more famous contemporary Charles Dickens. We think the Victorian Henry Mayhew might just turn in his grave at the mercenary and self-serving antics of the current generation of Mayhews.
Meanwhile, events at Longniddry, near Edinburgh, continue apace. We very much regret that, despite fierce local opposition, Rocky’s ambitions for a housing development on greenbelt land owned by his own family appear to be making good progress. Another of Rocky’s shell companies, ‘SCC Longniddry’, has declared assets of a mere £2695, which probably reflects his confidence that his application for planning permission is likely to be approved by East Lothian Council and will require only the bare minimum of lobbying from his side.
Unfortunately, the Local Development Plan for East Lothian was approved in September 2016 and sets out a Spatial Strategy describing provisions for Longniddry South that specifies an allocation for development, on the land in question, of about 450 new homes, plus associated employment development, community facilities and infrastructure. A glossy 75 page ‘Design Statement’ has since been published, on behalf of Socially Conscious Capital and the Wemyss and March Estates. Consequently, there appears now to be little to prevent the granting of planning permission except local resistance to the planning application, and laudable and courageous as that resistance may be, we in the working class communities of RBKC have learned the hard way how futile local resistance can be under such institutionally prejudicial circumstances. We wish the good citizens of Longniddry well in their resistance to the proposed development but we fear, at this stage, that their battle may already be lost!
We also wish the ‘Friends Of Thorpe Woodlands’ well in their future battles with Rocky and his posh chums. Feilding-Mellen’s involvement with the Mayhews and Meath-Bakers is revealing in a number of ways, as illustrated on a page from the the website of ‘The Friends of Thorpe Woodlands’ that we believe is especially revealing in this regard:
It illustrates brilliantly the exclusive subculture of wealth and privilege to which these aristocratic families belong and which informs the ruthlessly self-regarding and self-serving attitudes and beliefs they share. Feilding-Mellen’s narcissism, his utter disregard of any and all opposition to his schemes, and his total inability to understand or empathise with the needs of those he considers to be his social inferiors, should be reason enough to disqualify his plans for Thorpe Woods and are more than enough reason to disqualify him from weilding power over the working class communities of Kensington and Chelsea.
However, in addition to the above there is another trait that he shares with his aristocratic friends, the Mayhews and Meath-Bakers. This is his complete lack of scruples when it comes to promoting development schemes that are environmentally reckless and destructive. In his private business activities he demonstrates a reckless disregard for enivronmental and/or ecological concerns. This is strikingly apparent with regard to his involvement in both the Thorpe Woods and the Longniddry development proposals.
Further to this, it is a matter of record that RBKC suffers from a severe shortage of green space, having less than any other London borough. Consequently, although the protection and augmentation of local green spaces, and other open spaces, is strongly supported in the RBKC Local Plan (Policies CR5 and CR6) which absolutely commits the RBKC Council to these goals, we fear that such considerations may be totally disregarded when it comes to the prospect of the massive profits to be had from the gerrymandering and social engineering of large swathes of Kensington and Chelsea and the displacement of the working class inhabitants of council housing estates in the areas earmarked for redevelopment and ‘regeneration’ by RBKC.
Given the record of Feilding-Mellen’s ‘Socially Conscious Capital’ and its associated shell companies, one has to seriously question whether Feilding-Mellen can be trusted with the ecological and environmental protections to which the RBKC Council is supposedly committed and whether he is fit to manage the so-called ‘regeneration’ of the social housing estates of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.