The council that brought us the Grenfell disaster is being called out once again

Demonstrators against luxury flats in Earl's Court
Mohamed Elmaazi

UPDATE: This article was updated at 2.15pm on 1 March to include a council spokesperson’s response.

Around two dozen people protested outside the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) Town Hall on 27 February. They claim that RBKC has been privatising public land to sell-off for ‘luxury accommodation’. Meanwhile, thousands remain homeless, along with a total of 71 households displaced by the Grenfell Tower disaster who still have no permanent accommodation. The public land in question is a 22 acre plot that was home to the world-famous Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre.

The demonstration was called by Save Earl’s Court Campaign and the Save Earl’s Court Supporters Club. The Radical Housing Network (RHN) and National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) also supported the protest. Protesters said there were private discussions being held, at the time of the protest, with the property developer Capital & Countries (Capco) about the fate of the site.

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Privatising public land

According to a statement from RHN:

calls for a development that includes genuinely affordable social rent homes, community facilities, and a replacement multi-purpose green venue, have been dismissed.

Continue reading below...

Shockingly, the RHN says that under current proposals:

there is not one social housing unit to be built on…the site that falls within Kensington and Chelsea’s boundaries, out of 7500 planned new homes“.

Campaigner Desie told the crowd that “the absolute destruction of Earl’s Court Exhibition hall was the destruction of our heritage”.

Developers calling the shots

Protesters said that their councils have excluded them from the decision-making process for six years.

David told The Canary it was unacceptable that the council won’t build any social housing on site. He also said that the 22 acres are just “lying there idle” and so:

in the short term we want them to have ‘meanwhile use’. As an example, at White City, they’ve got what we call a pop-up theatre. They’ve got three years that they’re allowed to have a theatre.

Jacqueline said:

I don’t think [the Council and developers] have been terribly good so far…and like David I am very much worried about the fact that there’s no affordable social housing. There is also very little of community space planned. And it’s rather vaguely defined.

A spokesperson for RBKC told The Canary:

The planning decisions for the Earl’s Court development have been made previously, but we understand that discussions are ongoing between the developers and Hammersmith and Fulham Council as to the mix of affordable housing that will be provided on the site.

Tories and Labour

Desie told The Canary that she has lived in the area and worked for social services for 43 years until she retired last year.

She said:

The ideology of these types of councils [is] right wing. They want this land and want people like us out of it.

Significantly, The Canary was told that Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has the ability to intervene because at least some of the land in question is owned by Transport For London.

For example, the Mayor’s office reportedly paid Capco developers approximately £240m to save the Empress State Building that houses police headquarters.

Protesters hold Evict Capco sign - Kensington and Chelsea on Earl's Court

 

“We’ll fight till the end’

Carlos, the RMT chair for the Piccadilly & District West Branch, was there with a colleague.

He told The Canary that Lilly Bridge Depot is where train and track related maintenance is done. It’s a “state of the art depot” with sophisticated machinery that will all be scrapped if the depot is closed.

He said:

all our staff there have the Sword of Damocles hanging over them because they don’t know whether they’re going to be there or not…. They’ve no idea where they’re going to be in the next couple of years. The people on the estates have no idea where they are going to be in the next couple of years. My mum and dad both live on West Ken estate so I have a joint interest in that.

He also said:

This is all ultimately so that someone can make a quick buck, on the back of everyone else. That’s why were are here. We are not having  it. And we will fight ’till the end.

 

RMT Union - Kensington and Chelsea on Earl's Court

Gentrification is a process that will affect most of us sooner or later. The sooner people organise to protect their communities the better.

Featured image via Mohamed Elmaazi

Get involved

  • Learn More about The Radical Housing Network
  • Support the work of Save Earl’s Court Campaign and the Save Earl’s Court Supporters Club.
  • Sign the petition if you want to tell London Mayor Sadiq Khan to intervene and build green housing and the world’s greenest venue in Earl’s Court.

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  • Show Comments
    1. The council that brought us the Grenfell disaster is being called out once again
      ///
      Again accountability, taking responsibility FULLY ,not happening in Tory Govt here for bad decision taken at Govt level by housing Minister of the time of Fire
      by Tory Govt minister of Housing is failing all the fire victims now.
      ///
      Around two dozen people protested outside the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) Town Hall on 27 February. They claim that RBKC has been privatising public land to sell-off for ‘luxury accommodation’. Meanwhile, thousands remain homeless, along with a total of 71 households displaced by the Grenfell Tower disaster who still have no permanent accommodation. The public land in question is a 22-acre plot that was home to the world-famous Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre.
      ///
      How long will the suffering go on here for the Grenfell fire victims?
      Some of the Cllr their and a few Tory Minister should all be in prison now!
      ///
      “I will again ask Tory Govt Housing Minister where is all the Public millions of pounds donated to the Grenfell fire victims money pot ONLY?
      Not for Tory Govt to use or Doggy Cllr in that area.
      As millions of pounds was donated to the Grenfell fire victims,
      NOT Tory Govt or Cllr it was collected to help fire victims ONLY.
      “I tweeted a lot of Tory M.P. live on T.V. in the H.O. Commons on the debate of Grenfell fire tower block problem NOT one Tory M.P. + Minister reply to me.
      Question “I put to them all at the debate live.
      (Not many Tory M.P. at the debate in H.O.C “I should say )

      Where is all the millions of pounds of public donated cash gone,
      that belongs to Grenfell fire victim ONLY not Govt or local area Cllr
      Not one Tory replied to “my tweets including most front bench Tory Minister
      WHY! what are you hiding from the Grenfell fire victims?
      Tory Govt Minister + M.P.s plus the area Cllr.
      ///
      WHY still no closer on the Grenfell fire rehoming plus cash payment,
      to them all out of our public donated cash we collected for them ONLY!
      Not you lot in Tory Govt or for Cllr to use in that area.
      A lot of money was collected so where the HELL is it all Tory Govt.
      “I do Hope you are not using it to subsidies Tory pet projects like
      Train line refits to help Transport Minister to complete his tasks
      (which he fails in doing miserably now should be sacked Ms May?)

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