Warwick Road Estate – The Last Castle!

We recently received the correspondence below from the Secretary of the Warwick Road Estate Leaseholders’ Association (WRELA). We hope it will be of interest to our readers:

Some of you will already be aware that our estate is under threat of regeneration by RBKC and that we have lived with this threat hanging over our heads for over 4 years now (we first received the letter making the announcement on March 18th 2013).

It is very clear that RBKC are intent on redeveloping our estate and that they will soon opt for the most radical of the options on the table: namely, completely demolishing the 2 parts of the estate, Broadwood Terrace (with 24 units) and Chesterton Square (with 92).

We formed our Leaseholders’ Association in 2015 to counter this threat (and last year, we also formed a sister organisation and resident association, WRERA).

Recently, RBKC published its draft Leaseholder Policy (which is now out for a 10 week consultation ending on 7th June).

This is a very poor & cynical document, which ensures that any resident leaseholder hoping to return to the regenerated site (akin to a “right of return” for secure tenants) will be unable financially to do so, given all the caveats attached to their shared equity offer.

We are of the opinion that any leaseholder subject to an involuntary and forced sale under a compulsory purchase order (or the threat of one) should be able to return to the regenerated site, no worse off than they were before.

Unfortunately, the lease terms of such a deal are not equivalent to the pre-existing leases that are being unilaterally torn up and violated, and would mean in practice that leaseholders would be very much worse off, having far more onerous terms and losing rights and freedoms they currently enjoy.

I appreciate many readers of this piece may be tenants rather than leaseholders, and you may feel that this does not concern you. But I would disagree as this is about establishing precedents by RBKC in how it deals with all its residents on those estates it chooses to “regenerate” and the issues at stake are universal ones that revolve around power, and authority, and legitimacy, and concern issues of fairness, rights and decency.

One would like to think that these are qualities those in power in RBKC would also respect and aspire to; unfortunately, it isn’t always evident. And in this case, quite the reverse is true.

Please find below a letter written by our Chair, Behzad Seyf to the Leader and Deputy-Leader of RBKC and the Councillors in our borough.

Best wishes,
Hervé
Secretary, WRELA

Letter from Chair of WRELA to RBKC

The context within which the fate of the Warwick Road Estate will be decided – and the reason why we have chosen to subtitle this piece ‘The Last Castle’ – is the scorched earth redevelopment of most of the surrounding area that has completely designed out social housing and provided instead an excess of exclusive luxury homes for the very wealthy.

This all began with the redevelopment of the old Charles House site several years ago, on the corner of Warwick Road and Kensington High Street. The result was the construction, by St Edward Ltd (part of the Berkeley Group) of a complex of seven luxury apartment buildings, complete with fitness studios, swimming pool, sauna, steam rooms, treatment rooms, gym, private cinema, secure underground parking and 24 hour concierge services.

The same developers then spread their tentacles along the west side of Warwick Road. The result was the ‘Kensington Row’ development, a massive extension of the St Charles House complex, offering ‘a world of opulence and privilege’ in luxury apartments priced from £1.5 million to £8.5 million. Given its proximity to the Charles House/Kensington Row complex the destruction of the Warwick Road Estate is almost certainly designed to facilitate yet more of this obscenely opulent and exclusive luxury accommodation.

https://www.berkeleygroup.co.uk/new-homes/london/kensington/kensington-row

This orgy of redevelopment, in the Warwick Road area and beyond, whether still underway or already complete, is remarkable on two counts, firstly for the sheer massive scale of it, and secondly for the fact that it is all high end and obscenely opulent luxury housing. This is not ‘Regeneration’ in any meaningful humanistic sense. On the contrary it is ‘Social Cleansing’ pure and simple, with all of the worst negative connotations that phrase conjures up in the darker recesses of the human mind.

So far in North Kensington we’ve seen nothing on the scale of what has befallen the Warwick Road/Earls Court area, but make no mistake, a similar apocalypse is planned here too. The big question is whether the social housing estates here will be replaced by the extreme opulence of the Warwick Road area, which seems unlikely, or whether they will be replaced by the so-called  ‘mixed communities’ of private, intermediate and ‘affordable’ housing we have all heard of so often. The answer to this question is unknown.

However,  we do know that the Wornington Green Estate has already been transformed into a soulless gulag, famously exposed and condemned by Emma Dent Coad for the appallingly shoddy quality of workmanship both during and after its construction. The so-called ‘regeneration’ of North Kensington has only just begun and local residents, whether leaseholders or tenants, would be well advised to remember Hervé’s warning above, which we have paraphrased again below, because it is well worthy of repeating:

Many readers of this piece may be tenants rather than leaseholders, and may feel that the plight of Warwick Road Estate leaseholders does not concern you. But I would disagree as this is about establishing precedents by RBKC in how it deals with all its residents on those estates it chooses to “regenerate” and the issues at stake are universal ones that revolve around power, authority and legitimacy, and concern issues of fairness, rights and decency. One would like to think that these are qualities those in power would also respect and aspire to. Unfortunately quite the reverse is true.

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