Ever since the Grenfell Action Group joined the Radical Housing Network in 2013 we have been warning our readers about the sinister going’s on at the MIPIM property fairs held in both Cannes and London. We believe that no good can come to the besieged working class communities of North Kensington while our futures are held hostage to the highest bidder at MIPIM. The Grenfell Action Group are proud to have been part of a direct action that targeted the MIPIM conference at Olympia in November 2014 which led to the temporary closure of this sordid gathering of mercenary predators and property sharks.
The Guardian newspaper recently commented that;
“Events such as Mipim raise the flag on the land grab that eventually leads to thousands of people being kicked out of their homes – and in many cases out of London. It is a forum that relies on invitation-only lunches, secret talks and the public being kept well away. In a shamefully undemocratic development system, this is one of the most untransparent forums of the lot”.
Our readers might also like to check out the following article from the Independent, in August 2016, containing details of the kind of people who typically attend MIPIM and the kind of debauchery they indulge in while there. The article described the MIPIM fair in Cannes as ‘a nonstop party where estate agency professionals and wealthy investors cavort around five-star hotels and champagne receptions, while ruminating about the housing crisis many of them benefit from directly’. In our view this is a MUST READ :
We have previously made it our business to highlight what we regard as an unhealthy and abusive relationship between senior Councillors from the RBKC and MIPIM and we have published a number of blogs that have exposed these shady goings on :
We had hoped that, by calling into question the legitimacy of the relationship between local councillors and MIPIM, we could shine a light on how this Property Fair, notorious for its excess and licentiousness, is designed to serve only the vested interests of the ruthless speculators and other vultures who frequent these gatherings, and we had hoped we could discourage the attendance of RBKC Councillors and their poodles at future MIPIM events. It was, therefore, a severe disappointment for us to discover that rather than curbing the cancer of MIPIM in our community we are instead witnessing its rapid growth. More recently it is not just local councillors that we have discovered living the high life at MIPIM but also the Head of the now infamous Westway Trust.
A recent tweet from Angela McCoville, Chief Executive of the Trust, alerted us to the fact that she had probably attended the most recent MIPIM event at Cannes. Ms McConville, who receives a stipend of approximately £120,000 per annum as CEO of the Trust, is almost Trump-like in her love of Twitter. We can’t help but wonder how she ever finds time to do any actual work as she appears to be so busy tweeting all the time.
We believe that McConville’s twitter feed shows very clearly how far detached she is from the real world of North Kensington and the lives and concerns of the community whose interests she is employed to represent. It appears that the Chief Executive of the Westway Trust is more interested in indulging her apparent fetish for wealth and the wealthy by constantly tweeting about the time she spends at this or that exclusive restaurant or society event than she is working to better manage the Westway Trust property portfolio on behalf of our community and striving to ameliorate the toxic effects of the polluted Westway flyover that rips through it’s heart:
We wrote to Ms McConville asking her to confirm her attendance at MIPIM, whether she was there to represent the Westway Trust, and how much her attendance had cost the Trust. We received the following rather tart reply from her a few days later: We recommend that our readers follow the link provided and digest the contents of the blog:
Yes, I attended MIPIM on behalf of Westway Trust. I attended because as a development trust we need to build relationships with a diverse range of organisations including the Mayor’s Office, Transport for London, neighbouring land owners, housing providers and political decision-makers – all of whom come together to share ideas at this conference. My attendance on behalf of the Trust was agreed with the Chairman, Alan Brown. We did not have a stall at the event. I’ve written a brief blog about the visit, you can read it here:
As she had neglected to inform us how much all this had cost we wrote again seeking this information. In her subsequent reply she was less than fully forthcoming about how much this little jolly had cost. She did reveal that the Trust had paid for a single MIPIM delegate pass at a reduced (charity) rate of £1530, but failed to disclose how much she had spent on travel, accommodation and whatever, which would most likely have been charged to her expense account. So much for full transparency! We fail to understand why she felt it appropriate to spend copious amounts of Westway Trust money on flights, accommodation and other expenses attending this conference when she could have met any of the “decision makers” she claimed were so important right here in London.
If meeting with Transport for London, the Mayor of London or other members of the Greater London Assembly was so important then there was nothing to prevent her from simply picking up the telephone and setting up a meeting with the relevant parties at City Hall. The same applies to meetings with representatives 0f the various other London based organisations which she referenced in her blog, such as London First, the Westminster Property Association, Imperial College and various London boroughs.
We do not believe there was any need for her to fly to Cannes to attend this morally bankrupt, decadent and elitist property fair to forward the ambitions of the Westway Trust. In fact, we find it totally sickening that charitable Trust money should be spent on anything to do with MIPIM. The Grenfell Action Group do not believe that the champange guzzling property sharks who frequent MIPIM have any interest in the largely working class communities Ms McConville is employed to represent and, instead, they seek to steal our land and exploit our resources for their own personal greed and self aggrandisement.
In her Westway Trust blog Ms McConville speaks highly of ‘Urban Splash’ which she describes as ‘…an innovative developer of modular housing, keeping costs low, using exciting designs and allowing owners the opportunity to customise layout so that each home has its own character’. She suggests that the concepts put forward by ‘Urban Splash’ at MIPIM, although relating only to their housing regeneration projects, could help to solve ‘issues concerning lack of community space and a need for more responsive working spaces’ in North Kensington.
The Grenfell Action Group would question her judgment in seeking to cosy up to companies such as ‘Urban Splash’, the owners of which were described by the Daily Mail in 2013 as belonging to ‘the wealthy clique of professionals who dominated Liverpool’s social scene’ and were known as ‘property royalty’. Urban Splash was founded in 1993, and was for several years at the forefront of property development in the North-West, renovating decaying former industrial mills and warehouses as exclusive loft-style apartments and executive homes way beyond the budgets of ordinary workers. Maybe this is what attracted Ms McConville to want to rub shoulders with such ‘property royalty’.
She seems willfully oblivious of the following critique, which appeared in the Guardian in August 2011, of a flagship Urban Splash ‘regeneration’ of Park Hill Estate in Sheffield :
“Two-thirds of the original 1,000 council flats will, with the help of public subsidy to the development, now be for private sale. The council says that it’s better to have a mixture of tenures than to remake a ‘ghetto’ of council tenants. This follows the current orthodoxy and might be entirely reasonable if the homes were being replaced elsewhere in the city. Instead, there has been a demolition derby of council flats, leaving cleared sites which ‘haven’t been built on as fast as we would like’. This problem is not the size of Park Hill, it’s the size of Sheffield.”
She seems equally oblivious of the fact that Urban Splash took a hammering in the banking and real estate collapse of the noughties and, according to the Manchester Evening News, racked up debts of £242 million in 2013. In 2014 they were baled out by the Pears Group, a major player in the UK property market, who bought up £135 million worth of the Urban Splash debt, thus saving them from bankruptcy. The Pears Group has a £6 billion property portfolio centred around London and the South East and it would seem highly likely that Urban Splash lost its independence as a result of this bale-out and became just another subsidiary of one of the UK’s biggest property conglomerates.
We do not see how the values or influences of such predatory property giants can bring any tangible benefits to the North Kensington community. Let us hope that Ms McConville will carry out proper due diligence checks on those she seems so keen to cosy up to before she invites them in to redevelop and further privatise and gentrify the Westway Trust property portfolio, ie the 32 acres entrusted to her management and care for the benefit, and not for the ruthless exploitation, of the North Kensington community.