The Grenfell Action Group was formed in 2010 to oppose the Kensington Academy and Leisure Centre development which we considered, and still consider, to be a gross overdevelopment of an inappropriate site that would involve the destruction of Lancaster Green, one of the few local green spaces, and the only residential amenity space available for the residents of the immediately adjacent Grenfell Tower.
We were, and still are, committed to defending the rights of the residents of Lancaster West Estate, a sprawling, inner-city, social housing complex of nearly a thousand dwellings, mostly working class, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic. Our community is located in North Kensington in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Our blog has recorded, and continues to record, our struggle and we hope will remain as evidence for future generations of how our community has been mis-treated by RBKC and its social housing management agents the Kensington & Chelsea TMO (KCTMO).
Since our formation we have worked in partnership/support with the following organisations and groups:
- Lancaster West Residents Association
- Grenfell Tower Leaseholders Association,
- Lancaster West Estate Management Board
- Planning Aid for London
- Green Westway
- UCL Community Project
- Sport England
- Open Space Society
- The Kensington Society
- From The Hornet’s Nest (website)
- The Radical Housing Network
- Earl’s Court Area Action Group
- Save the Sutton Estate
- Unite Community
- Focus E15
- Our West Hendon
- The Kill the Housing Bill campaign
- The Save North Kensington Library campaign
- Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group
- Architects for Social Housing
- Decolonising Our Minds Society
- Save Our Silchester Estate
- Save Wornington College
in addition to forging links with many other housing action groups across London.
March 2014 – THE RADICAL HOUSING NETWORK
The Grenfell Action Group joined the Radical Housing Network in March 2014 and has since worked hard at forging mutually supportive relationships with other communities and action groups throughout London who are experiencing similar problems to ours.
Our work has changed considerably over time. From originally opposing the Kensington Academy and Leisure Centre development and the associated loss of our essential residential amenity, we have now diversified our efforts to confront the managed decline of Lancaster West Estate and the widespread threat of ‘social cleansing’ throughout London.
We continue to campaign on important issues impacting Lancaster West Estate and our local area. We are currently involved with demanding better resident engagement from our landlord the TMO, and challenging RBKC plans for the largescale ‘regeneration’ of social housing in Kensington and Chelsea. We are also concerned over the issue of air-pollution from the Westway flyover, which impacts many areas of North Kensington and the Westway Sports Centre in particular, and are involved in challenging the new Academy to help address the marginalization of Lancaster West residents.
We believe that we can quantify the impact of our campaigning (either alone or in partnership with other local stakeholders) by our contribution to the following outcomes:
- Securing a grant of £10,000 from RBKC and producing a coherent and robust opposition to the loss of our residential amenity by working with local residents and Planning Aid for London
- Securing a £10 million investment from RBKC for the Grenfell Tower Improvement Works.
- Securing new double glazed windows for residents in Verity Close.
- Successfully lobbying RBKC to temporarily re-open local “rights of way” after they were illegally closed by the Council.
- Instigating an investigation by the Independent Local Government Ombudsman into RBKC’s conduct regarding the long term closure of Station Walk.
- Securing the provision of 6 construction apprenticeships by the Academy/Sport’s Centre building contractor.
- Lobbying the Westway Trust and RBKC to take action to address poor air quality at the KALC replacement sports pitches at the Westway Sports Centre.
- Securing an assurance from the Aldridge Foundation that they would pay the London Living Wage to all employees at the Kensington Academy and promote local employment opportunities.
- Organising the “Mock the Opera” and “Public not Private” demonstrations in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
- Influencing positive changes to the RBKC “Decant Policy” and obtaining transparency by securing the Silchester Estate “Financial Viability Assessment” through a protracted Freedom of Information application.
- We have recently been actively involved in the campaign to save the historic North Kensington Library building from privatisation via a backroom deal in which RBKC sold it to Notting Hill Prep School.
- We are also heavily involved in the Save Wornington College Campaign.
- We are fully committed to resisting the creeping gentrification of North Kensington via the sale of community assets to the private sector and plans for the largescale ‘regeneration’ of the social housing estates (ie the working class ghettos) of RBKC.
HOLLAND PARK OPERA
For a number of years RBKC has spent £1.5 millon a year of our Council Tax on subsidising the Holland Park Opera while refusing to spend their massive reserves (currently in excess of £240 million) on providing decent housing for residents in North Kensington. This is something that we are determined to challenge through direct action in the future. The Council is now proposing to end the HPO subsidy by donating a £5m lump sum to create instead an independent opera charity. We consider this to be completely unacceptable while they simultaneously slash another £13.5m from vital frontline services next year. This includes £3.9m from adult social care, £1.9m from children’s services, and £691,000 from the housing budget, including reducing services to homeless people by £150,000.
Spending £5m on opera while many of our residents are deep in debt, dependent on food banks and suffering major funding cuts to essential services is truly scandalous.
WE RE-ASSERT OUR SUPPORT FOR THE RADICAL HOUSING NETWORK’S PRINCIPLES AND WILL CONTINUE TO WORK WITH OTHER NETWORK MEMBERS, THROUGH DIRECT ACTION AND OTHER MEANS.