Little Lord Rock Weilding Felon

gosford_house_near_longniddry_east_lothianThe 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.

Beckley Park - the Feilding-Mellens Tudor hunting lodge in Oxfordshire

Beckley Park – the Feilding-Mellens Tudor hunting lodge in Oxfordshire

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 losses of £17,000 in 2015 and £15,500 in 2016, most likely because all their machiavelian attempts to secure planning permission for the Mayhews and Meath-Bakers have so far failed miserably. This is despite, or perhaps because of, the extraordinary 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 have to 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?

http://www.barneymayhew.com/woods/

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.

http://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/henry-mayhews-london-labour-and-the-london-poor

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!

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2016/07/03/feilding-mellen-versus-longniddry/

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:

http://friendsofthorpewoodlands.blogspot.ie/p/owners.html

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, would be reason enough 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 greenspace, having less than any other London borough. Consequently 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 Council to these goals.

Given the record of Feilding-Mellen’s ‘Socially Conscious Capital’ and its associated shell companies, one has to seriously question whether this man 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.

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RIP – Tenants Consultative Committee

GaggedSad news has reached the Grenfell Action Group concerning the future of the Tenants Consultative Committee (TCC) one of the only forums that allowed true dialogue to take place between the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, their ‘arms-length’ landlord’s, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation (KCTMO), and representatives from many of the Borough’s resident associations.

Cllr Feilding-Mellen and RBKC cancelled the meeting scheduled for January 2017, and all further meetings for the forseeable future. This will deny tenants the opportunity to have their voices heard and their concerns addressed by those in authority. It is a great shame that Cllr Feilding-Mellen seems more motivated to travel to Cannes, France to attend the annual MIPIM conference (an event for the elite of the property development sector) than he is to engage with what should be his priority – addressing the concerns of those living in RBKC owned social housing. The Grenfell Action Group believes that this shows that he is more interested in looking after the interests of the 1%er’s than he is in making sure that the Borough’s tenants are listened to and their concerns treated with respect!

The Tenants Consultative Committee was comprised of nine councilors (seven majority party and two minority party) and two representatives from each of the Borough’s recognised tenants’ or residents’ associations. In addition, it was attended by high ranking Housing Officers from RBKC and also by members from the “top brass” at the KCTMO including CEO Robert Black. This forum has been a regular fixture between the Council, the KCTMO and residents for as long as anyone can remember and the Grenfell Action Group believe that its cancellation by the Council is unwarranted and indefensible.

https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/housing/social-housing/tenant-management/tenants-consultative-committee

The Tenants Consultative Committee did not receive widespread publicity but it was a vital forum and was much valued by resident associations as it allowed them to meet with the Council and the KCTMO to consider strategic housing documents and strategic housing policy matters. In addition, it provided a platform for the  discussion of annual draft budgets (including rent levels) and major work programmes and to consider any policy matters raised by individual tenants’ associations. In recent times the TCC has provided a valuable space for issues concerning “estate regeneration” to be discussed.tcc                    Under the previous TCC Chair, Cabinet Member for Housing and Property Tim Coleridge, the Committee met twice a year. When the new TCC Chair, Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regeneration, Rock Feilding-Mellen took office this was cut to once a year and has now been completely dissolved! It is rumoured that Feilding-Mellen does not have the same skill set as his predecessor, Cllr Coleridge, who (although not always popular with resident association members) always conducted the TCC meetings in a respectful manner. The word on the street is that Feilding-Mellen does not possess the patience, authority or poise to respond appropriately to the legitimate concerns brought to his attention at this forum. One can only speculate whether this may have something to do with the fact that he wasn’t educated at Eton, unlike the unflappable Cllr Coleridge!

The Council has provided the following statement in respect of the decision not to hold any further meetings:

“The original aim of the TCC was to consult on the annual rent setting. However, since the Government’s decision to reduce rents by one percent per annum for four years, the consultation process is no longer required as there is no decision for the Council to make”.

The Grenfell Action Group believe that the above statement is highly disingenuous and the decision was taken without any consultation with Resident Associations. We believe that it completely ignores the fact that the Tenants Consultative Committee’s remit was far wider than the subject of rent setting. The myriad different topics discussed at the TCC are clearly evidenced in the minutes from their 2016 meeting that can be accessed via the following link showing the wide range of issues considered by the panel members:

https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/pdf/TCC minutes 15 January 2015.pdf

The Council are making spurious claims that the TCC is not needed as there are alternative means for resident associations to voice their concerns to those in authority. The Grenfell Action Group  strongly disagree with this assertion and we challenge the Council to provide evidence of alternative forums where the voices of tenants are as fully considered, minuted and responded to. To suggest that the KCTMO’s annual general meeting or the Area Review Boards serve this purpose is entirely misleading and we believe that the Council knows this full well!

The dissolution of the only form of direct two way communication between RBKC/ KCTMO and the Borough’s resident associations is a complete travesty. It appears to the Grenfell Action Group that Cllr Feilding-Mellen is acting like the notorious Donald Trump and ruling by diktat, having decided to treat Council tenants and their concerns with utter contempt. Council tenants and their representatives deserve to be treated with more respect than this. The dissolution of the Tenants Consultative Committee is a severe blow to the rights of residents and shows only too well that RBKC have no interest in communicating with the very people that they are elected to serve.

It seems to us that the RBKC Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regeneration prefers to spend his time organising private business deals for his own property development company at MIPIM rather than engaging with his constituents in his own backyard. We predict that this is a decision that will come back to haunt Feilding-Mellen sometime in the near future.

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Silchester Financial Viability Assessment

icoCllr Feilding-Mellen and his quislings at RBKC (the likes of local boy “made bad” Martin Mortimer, the “cultural tourists” from West London Citizens, and ex Lambeth and Hammersmith and Fulham Council “serial regenerator” Saddiqa Islam ) are pressing on relentlessly with their misbegoten and heartless plan to “socially cleanse” the Silchester Estate by demolishing existing residents’ homes, scattering a settled community and enclosing the open green spaces like it was part of the vicious Highland Clearances of the late 18th and early 19th century.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highland_Clearances

Part of the RBKC Council’s current mantra is that they want to be open and transparent with tenants and leaseholders on the Silchester Estate by allowing them to have a real voice in the future of their community by involving them with the planning process.

Those of us who know better understand that the Council despises the poor, the low waged and other working class people and has absolutely no intention of listening to or taking on board a single concern that local residents might care to highlight. In 2012 the community on Lancaster West learnt this lesson the hard way when our legitimate concerns regarding the imposition of the Kensington Aldridge Academy at Lancaster Green on our Estate, were submitted to the Council on our behalf  by ‘Planning Aid for London’, only to be totally ignored and dismissed by the powers that be in Hornton Street.

The fact is that Cllr Feilding-Mellen and RBKC have no real interest in allowing Silchester residents any meaningful involvement in the future of their much loved homes and this is evidenced by the manner in which they have denied the local community access to the  Financial Viability Assessment that would help them to be more involved in the planning process. It is the understanding of the Grenfell Action Group that the Council has already decided on the nuclear “Option 5” and that current Silchester residents can now look forward to the total destruction of every square inch of their existing community to be replaced by a horrendous over-development of new properties that will mostly benefit the 1%ers and the “buy to leave” market.

It is only through the work of members of the Grenfell Action Group and a prolonged battle with RBKC that the Financial Viability Assessment has been made public after the formal Decision Notice at the top of this blog was issued against the Council in favour of disclosure by the Information Commissioners Office in November 2016. The Financial Viability Assessment can be viewed via the following link:

silchester-report-confidential

It took the Grenfell Action Group a total of nearly nine months to secure the Financial Viability Assessment for public scrutiny and the RBKC made us go through every stage of their internal complaints process until we were finally able to refer our original request for independent arbitration via the ICO. The Grenfell Action Group are sick and tired of having our legitimate requests for information constantly frustrated by the Council’s internal procedures and, in particular, the predictability of “refusals to disclose” from RBKC’s Chief Solicitor and Monitoring Office, Le Verne Parker.

We are currently using Data Protection Act legislation to help us collate enough evidence to send to the Law Society with the intention of showing that Le Verne Parker is prejudiced against the Grenfell Action Group and has never once reversed the Council’s original decision to withhold information from us during the complaints process. This is despite the fact that we have a right under the Freedom of Information Act 2006 to view the documents we have requested from her employer the RBKC and on every occasion, when we have had a Freedom of Information request considered by the Information Commissioner, the Commissioner has invariably found in our favour.

Members of the Silchester community are currently having the Financial Viability Assessment forensically analysed by independent experts with a view of having the findings legally challenged by pro bono lawyers who have volunteered to help the community. One of the aspects of this matter that the legal experts are looking at is the charge against the RBKC that they are engaged in an exercise of “gerrymandering” by using planning law to alter the voting pattern of a Council Ward. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to see the likes of Cllr Feilding-Mellen and his ilk standing in the dock trying to defend the indefensible?

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North Ken Library Planning Application.

14854223715889bf23862a66.66205331.400x300.png

Ugly is as ugly does!

The Grenfell Action Group have always taken the time to lodge our objections to local Planning Applications that we believe will have a negative impact on the local community. Time is running out for submissions to oppose the Council’s plans to demolish the Youth Centre in Lancaster Road and use the vacant site to consruct a new municipal centre.

The proposed new building will then be used to house a new North Kensington Library the existing listed building having been leased to the Notting Hill Prep School Ltd in a private business deal. The new building will also re-house the existing Youth Centre on the second floor while the top two floors will, we believe, be leased to private education providers, most likely Chepstow House. It is the opinion of the Grenfell Action Group that it is  immoral of the RBKC to use tax payers money to refurbish this building, not for community use, but only for the children of the economically privileged.

We are urging our readers to take just a few minutes to write to the Council using the link below and to register your objections to this unjust plan. We understand that the closing date for submissions is offically Friday 17th Febuary but that RBKC will continue to accept residents views up until towards the end of the month.

https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/planning/searches/details.aspx…

Below is the Grenfell Action Group’s objection to the Council’s plans:

“We are writing to you on behalf of the Grenfell Action Group to object in the strongest terms possible to the planning application regarding the proposed new North Kensington Library building in Lancaster Road, W11.

The Grenfell Action Group believe that the proposed development will have a serious adverse effect on the residential amenity of neighbours to the site and the local community in general. We believe that the adverse effect on the residential amenity will impact through increased noise, disturbance, loss of privacy, overshadowing of neighbouring buildings, environmental and traffic management concerns.

The Grenfell Action Group believe that this particular area of Lancaster Road is already severely overdeveloped and has a very high density of people. This is due, in part, to the location of two private schools whose users clog up the surrounding area every morning and evening when picking up or dropping off their children at school in large 4 wheel drive cars. The parents of school users also frequently park their cars on yellow lines (with seeming impunity) and we believe that the proposed additional use of the top two floors of the new library building for educational use will only increase this problem. The Notting Hill Prep School also use yellow lines to park their coaches that frequently take pupils to and from external activities and already cause serious danger for other road users and pedestrians alike. The Notting Hill Prep School already employ a steward to marshal their pupils from one side of Lancaster Road to the other and we believe that this places the children at serious risk and any further increase in traffic will only increase the danger to these infants.This arrangement is already an accident waiting to happen!

The Grenfell Action Group believe that there is already a massive loss of open space in North Kensington and we strongly oppose the loss of the old Issac Newton School playground space on the site. We raise serious concerns about the health impact on the users of the proposed multi use games area (MUGA) that the architects are proposing to locate on the roof of the new library building and we draw attention to the nearby location of the heavily polluted Westway arterial highway. The Grenfell Action Group believe that children have a right to play at ground level and not to be forced to spend their leisure time hidden away on a rooftop MUGA next to a polluted motorway!

Having seen the plans for the new library building we believe that the architecture and style of the building is not in keeping with the local area. The proposed building is very ugly, has no architectural merit and could have been better designed by a 6th Form student. We object to the fact that the building is all square and pays no respect to the style and grace shown in surrounding buildings. We were told that the new library would be “better” that the existing North Kensington Library but this is definitely not the case in terms of architectural design. We believe that the design of the new library building will have a detrimental visual impact on the surrounding area and that the there will be a strong negative impact as a result of the development on the character and aesthetics of the local neighbourhood.

The Grenfell Action Group have examined the architects plans for the new building and we believe that the proposed development is over-bearing, out-of-scale and out of character in terms of it’s appearance compared with other existing developments in the vicinity. We believe that the Planning Committee should consider very carefully the loss of existing views from neighbouring properties that would adversely affect the residential amenity of neighbouring owners. We do not believe that the architects or the RBKC have taken this matter into calculation.

The proposed library building is in a Conservation Area and the Grenfell Action Group believe that the modern, ugly and unstylish character of the proposed new building will have an adverse effect of the development on the character and appearance of the Conservation Area.

The proposed library is close to a much loved Listed Building (namely the existing North Kensington library) and the Grenfell Action Group believe that the new construction lacks style and grace and will have an adverse impact on the setting of the Listed Building.

The Grenfell Action Group believe that the plan to knock down the existing youth centre and re-locate the service into the new building places the future of the youth service at serious risk and that this has not been considered by the RBKC or the Planning Dept. The rental value for the current youth centre building is set at a peppercorn rate but this will be set to increase dramatically when the service relocates to the new building. Who will be responsible for meeting the increase in rent and will the Council guarantee that they will finance these additional costs and ensure that the youth centre has a long term future in the new library building?

We believe that the existing Children’s Library set in the basement of the current building is part of the culture and heritage of North Kensington. The new library has no separate location for a Children’s Library and it’s users will be forced to mix with the general library population. We believe that this is greatly detrimental to the experience currently enjoyed for young library users and that the Planning Committee should ensure that a separate Children’s library space is provided within the new proposals. Without such a space we request that the Planning Committee refuse the application.

In conclusion, the Grenfell Action Group wish the Planning Committee to consider all the points that we have raised above and take on board our serious objection to the proposed new North Kensington Library building and turn down the application”.

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North Kensington Library

imgres.jpg

RBKC-Pulling the wool over our eyes!

The Grenfell Action Group would like to draw our readers attention to a rather puzzling document concerning the North Kensington Library that has recently come into our possession. The document is a “Briefing Update” compiled by Sweett Group (now named Currie & Brown) for Mike Clarke (Head of Library services RBKC) and appears to have been commissioned, in the Summer of 2016, by the Project Board overseeing the construction of the new North Kensington Library building .

The “Briefing Update” looks at three different options regarding the funding needed by the RBKC to keep the much loved North Kensington Library building in it’s present use and how “to make the current library a modern fit for purpose facility”

One really has to wonder what motivation the RBKC had for commissioning this study, in the Summer of 2016, as it is a well established fact that the Council had already entered into a PRIVATE BUSINESS DEAL with the Notting Hill Preparatory School in 2015 to dispose of the library building, via a long term lease, into the hands of this private school.

It seems most disingenuous of the Council to then commission an exercise into the viability of keeping the library open as a public service when the buildings future had already been decided. We can only assume that the Council are fearing some sort of legal challenge and that they needed to have evidence that they considered other options for the future of the library building before leasing our much loved library building to their friends at Notting Hill Prep.

The “Briefing Update” document opens with the investigators doing their level best to find reasons why our much loved and 125 year old library is no longer “fit for purpose” and why it should no longer be used as a public building. As part of their propaganda exercise they list the following issues (while failing to provide a list of any of the advantages that the current building provides):

“The difficulties of staffing and managing a library over a number of floors, where the ancillary/ staircase cores sqm makes up a high proportion of each floorplate;

Insufficient WIFI, data and power access throughout the building;

Accessibility including disabled access issues throughout the building – including insufficient door entry widths, circulation space, turning space for wheelchairs in most parts of the building which require building/ structural alteration throughout;

Current lack of ancillary support spaces – refreshments, catering provision, toilets and baby changing, buggy storage”.

The Grenfell Action Group and current library users would have no problem in challenging each and every one of these assertions most of which appear to be based on opinion and prejudice rather than any factual evidence. For example, we challenge the assertion that the library building is difficult to staff and manage simply because it is spread over three separate floor levels. One member of staff on each level is all that is required to facilitate the smooth running of the library building and we believe that a library service that has over 15,000 users per month deserves at least this level of staffing. The reports claim that the spacious and ornate stairwell is a detriment to the library building shows that they are really little better than philistines and have no idea about what makes a building aesthetically beautiful and so loved by the local community.

Current users of the library challenge the reports findings that highlight a lack of WIFI, data and power access throughout the building. We believe that the computer facilities in the North Kensington library are entirely sufficient,  act as a hub of community activity and help make the current library such a valued and treasured resource. We cannot believe that in the 21st Century it is not possible to increase WIFI, data and power accessibility throughout the building at a comparatively low outlay. What makes this issue even more toxic is that there is virtually no provision for computer services to be provided at the new library building. The Council have informed the local community that there will be no designated computer space and, as a result, we will be expected to borrow laptops from the library and work from home. This approach signals a complete misunderstanding of the importance of the current computer provision at North Kensington library and that both the Council and their quisling architects have no real understanding of what is important and what specific services are actually needed by local residents many of whom cannot afford WIFI at home.

Furthermore, the only research that has ever been carried out into disabled access of the North Kensington library has found that there are no issues with accessibility and made no mention of concerns regarding wheelchair use inside the library building itself. It is a shameful fact that the RBKC has not had the sense or good manners to engage the advice and input of Action Disability Kensington and Chelsea (located just up the road in Whitstable House) and chooses to make assumptions about disabled people’s access of the library space based on opinion and not fact. We challenge the report to provide evidence of these findings and that manoeuvring a wheelchair about the proposed new library building will be any easier than in it is in it’s current location.

The local community has been using the North Kensington library for a total of 125 years without needing the use of ancillary support spaces – refreshments, catering provision, toilets and baby changing and buggy storage. We challenge the Council to explain why they are, therefore,  not closing the Notting Hill  Gate library or Chelsea library both of which lack many of the facilities listed above. If the Council care so much about providing public toilets then why did they close down the public conveniences in Portobello Road a few years ago. If the Council had not been in such a rush to dispose of the Westway Information Centre to the same Prep School who are leasing the library then many of these facilities could surely have been provided there!

The report explores three options for upgrading the current library building and the cost associated with each option. Option 1 comprises a minor refurbishment with no major changes. Option 2 comprises a major refurbishment with the addition of a Mezzanine floor plate at 79sqm. Option 3 comprises a major refurbishment, remodelling and extension with the addition of Mezzanine floor plate and an extension of 267sqm, providing an extra floor at the upper level. The above options are costed as follows;

Option 1     £3m+,

Option 2    £7m+

Option 3    £10m+

The report concludes that none of these options would be feasible:

“Summary analysis: The project team has reviewed the existing location and identified that there are limited options in terms of extending the existing building, with adjoining buildings on both sides. Option 3 therefore allows for an additional floor at upper level, but in terms of listed building consent and statutory consultation, this option may not be feasible. In terms of meeting the brief requirements, none of the options properly address the issues fully”.

The Grenfell Action Group believe that the report by Sweett’s Group sets out to find added costs and a myriad of spurious reasons why the current library building cannot be made fit for purpose to carry on as a public building. We believe that they have only looked at and analysised all the negative issues to do with the present North Kensington Library building while totally ignoring the positive attributes that maintaining the library would bring.

Of course this ignorant Council, who will have been responsible for the briefing of this report, know the price of everything and the value of nothing so it is obviously too much for us to expect them to understand the importance and worth of heritage and culture the present North Kensington library brings to the local community. It goes without saying that RBKC never even bothered to consult with local people about what the library means to them before handing the building over to an elitist Prep School!

To illustrate the underhand way the Council approached this Budget Estimating exercise they asked Sweett’s Group to add the estimated cost of installing a Multi Use Games Area (MUGA) to each of the three options. Remember that option 1 was supposed to represent a “minor refurbishment with no major changes” so the inclusion of a MUGA seems a grand departure from this brief. Anyway, anyone who is familiar with the current library building will know that it is not suitable to house a MUGA and, therefore, it’s inclusion in any of the proposed budgets seems entirely arbitrary and designed to inflate costs and make the quotes appear more expensive. The Grenfell Action Group believe that the inclusion of the costing for a MUGA  (that was not referenced anywhere except in the small print) may have been designed to mislead the public in that it added £130,000 to the budget and represented approx 20% of the whole cost for option 1.

Finally, what no one has yet explained is how the Notting Hill Prep School are going to be able to finance the improvements that they will need to carry out to make the library building fit for their own purposes. It stands to reason that they will be obliged to address and remedy many of the same issues highlighted in the “Briefing Update” including improving power supplies and making the building disability friendly. The Council estimate that the cheapest option available to renovate the building and make it “a modern fit for purpose facility” is in the region of £3 million+.  Realistically, however, it seems more likely that Notting Hill Prep School will need to employ one of the more expensive options, either option 2 or 3, to make the building really fit for purpose as school premises. We question whether they have the necessary finances to carry out this work themselves (even with a helping hand of £365,000 from Council Tax payers to assist them). We also believe that the figures provided in the “Briefing Update” may have been highly inflated to justify the Council’s ambition to dispose of the North Kensington library building in what amounts to a rather shady looking private business deal.

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When They Go Low, We Go FoI!

NHS manager as cuckoo chick.

The Grenfell Action Group have contacted the RBKC to raise our concerns that a senior Council Officer may have a serious conflict of interest by virtue of being employed by the Local Authority while occupying a place on the Board of Governors of the Kensington and Chelsea College, at a time when the Council was negotiating the purchase, for demolition and redevelopment, of the Wornington Road campus of the KCC:

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/01/22/save-wornington-college/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/saveworningtoncollege

The Town Clerk, Nicholas Holgate, did not disappoint us after we predicted that he would respond to our concerns by claiming that there was no conflict of interest and that the Council, and the officer in question, had both behaved properly. We have decided to publish Mr Holgate’s response to us below:

From: Nicholas.Holgate@rbkc.gov.uk
Sent: 16 January 2017 10:34
To: ********
Subject: RE: Complaint regarding RBKC and K and C College.

Dear *******,

Tony Redpath joined the Board at the College’s request. They sought his membership because they valued his knowledge and experience. It is not unusual for officers to take on such roles. But conscious of the possibility of conflicts of interest arising, before joining the Board, Tony met the then Principal and the College’s Clerk on 25 February 2014 at which they reached a clear understanding that he would not act on the College’s behalf on any matter concerning the Council.  Accordingly, he played no part in discussions about the Council’s purchase of the Wornington Green site.

As further evidence of the care with which he has managed any possible conflicts of interest, he suspended his membership of the Board in February 2015 because he was involved, as a Council officer, in the London Area Review of Further Education. The Review has now concluded and, after taking advice from the Head of Legal Services, he has agreed to re-join the Board from the start of this year. Coincidentally, he was therefore not a member of the Board during the period when the College and the Council agreed the sale of the Wornington Green site. Nor did he play any role in advising the Council on the purchase: that was a matter for the Corporate Property department.

In short, we have taken care to ensure that there has been no conflict of interest.

Nicholas Holgate

Town Clerk

The Grenfell Action Group do not accept the Town Clerk’s explanation of Mr Redpath’s involvement with the Board of Governors at Kensington and Chelsea College and we have responded to the Council’s assertion that they “have taken care to ensure that there has been no conflict of interest” by writing back to the Town Clerk and to the Council’s Information Governance and Management Officer to raise the points below and request the following information:

Dear Mr Holgate,

Thank you for your response to my concerns regarding Tony Redpath and a possible conflict of interest in regards to his involvement with Kensington and Chelsea College.

I wrote to Robin Yu on 13th January requesting the following information from the Council:

“Under legislation contained in the Freedom of Information Act I would like the Council to provide me with any information held by RBKC concerning any matters relating to the Kensington and Chelsea College going back to January 2013 .

I would expect to be provided with any documents, minutes of meetings, written reports, email correspondence, records of telephone calls or any other information that relates to the purchase of the freehold of Kensington and Chelsea College in Wornington Road between the period of January 2013 and the present (13/01/17). 

In particular, I would expect to be provided with any documents, minutes of meetings (including Cabinet Meetings Part A and Part B), written reports, email correspondence, records of telephone calls or any other information that could have involved Tony Redpath in his role as Director of Strategy and Local Services that are, in any way, related to the purchase of the College’s freehold. 

I would also expect the RBKC to provide me with any documents, minutes of meetings, written reports, email correspondence, records of telephone calls or any other information that relate, in any way, to Councillor Feilding Mellen, Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regeneration and the purchase of the College freehold.

I would also expect the RBKC to provide me with any documents, minutes of meetings, written reports, email correspondence, records of telephone calls or any other information that relate to Richard Egan, Interim Head of Corporate Property Services and matters that relate in any way to the purchase of the College freehold.

I would expect the RBKC to provide me with any documents, minutes of meetings, written reports, email correspondence, records of telephone calls or any other information concerning the Council’s involvement, in any way, with the purchase of the freehold of the Kensington and Chelsea College in Wornington Road that took place between the following individuals Cllr Feilding Mellen, Richard Egan and Tony Redpath. 

I would expect the Council response to my Freedom of Information request to contain the above specific information that I have requested but not to be limited by it. 

As I have stated previously I am requesting that the Council provide me with any information held by RBKC concerning any matters relating to the Kensington and Chelsea College going back to January 2013 . In addition to the above information, I would like to use Freedom of Information legislation to request that the Council provide me with details of all Council Officers who occupy similar positions on any external Boards or Committees or any such independent positions of influence in RBKC.

 I would like to request that the Council provide me with any information, details of meetings, copies of minutes, emails, written reports, record of telephone conversations or any other communications that relate in any way to Mr Redpath joining the Board of Governors at Kensington and Chelsea College, his leaving the Board of Governors between February 2016 and his recent reinstatement.

I would expect to be provided with details of the communication that invited Tony Redpath to join the College Board at their request, minutes of the meeting held between Tony Redpath and the then Principle and College Clerk that took place on February 25th 2015 and copies of any correspondence relating to any legal advice regarding his membership of the Kensington and Chelsea College Board that the RBKC issued to Mr Redpath during this entire period.

I would like to remind the Council that it is not only necessary for Councillors and Council Officers to avoid a direct conflict of interest but it is also incumbent upon them to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest.  I would suggest that the explanation that you have provided me with falls far short of satisfying this later condition.

I would like to repeat that I fully intend to refer this matter to the Independent Local Government Ombudsman if I am not entirely happy with the outcome of my formal complaint.”

The Grenfell Action group do not believe that it is appropriate for a senior Council Officer to sit on the Kensington and Chelsea College Board of Governors, especially at a time when it was known that the KCC was in financial difficulties and RBKC had an interest in buying the Wornington Road campus, with a view to its demolition and redevelopment as a housing complex. We do not accept the Town Clerk’s assurance that Mr Redpath has no conflict of interest and we intend to use the Freedom of Information Act to uncover any evidence that indicates our suspicions are well founded. 


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