For the last few years, residents of the Wornington Green estate at the top end of Portobello Road, have been fighting plans by Kensington Housing Trust to knock down 538 socially rented homes, before building 500 private and 538 socially rented homes on the same site. Effectively doubling the population density. Tonight, Conservative Councillors decided to give the housing trust permission to go ahead with the development, which will displace almost 1,000 residents over the next 12 years.
Leader of the Labour Group Judith Blakeman and Colville Ward Councillor Kieth Cunningham stuck to their guns, and made powerful arguments which swayed 3 Conservative Councillors to oppose the plans and vote with Labour. Unfortunately, the majority of Conservative Councillors voted with the housing trust’s plans to knock down the estate.
Critical issues that Labour raised during the hearing, included questions over: (a) how extra frontline healthcare and primary school places will be provided to accommodate the doubling in the population (the housing trust couldn’t answer); (b) why the square meterage of green and community ameinity space provided is effectively being halved on a per person basis (the housing trust couldn’t answer); (c) whether the housing association could fulfill its commitment to allow social housing residents to come back to the estate, if the number of bedspaces and floorspace is being cut (the housing trust couldn’t answer).
When it came down to the vote, it was 5 in favour of the development and 5 opposed. But it was the Conservative chairman of the Committee that used his chairperson’s casting vote to allow the plans to go ahead.
We believe that a housing development affecting around 1,700 residents is too important to be left to the casting vote of a chairperson. Not after a hung vote, and certainly not after so many residents’ objections. We believe that power must remain with the people, not with property developers. We need to make sure estates all over North Kensington are protected, and are not just seen as fair-game for development.
So, what’s the next step? What can we still do? Well, Labour doesn’t give up that easy. We’ll be contacting the Mayor of London tomorrow morning (although technically, it already is ‘tomorrow morning’). He’s the only person that can put a stop to it now… Don’t hold your breath though, a Tory is a Tory.
We’ll keep you posted..
Written by Amir Akhrif. For more information, you can read his blog at http://amirakhrif.wordpress.com