Comment from Westway Trust Board member Cllr Pat Mason, following the Tabernacle meeting on 11.11.15 that WT refused to attend:
“I advised the trust Chair and Chief Executive to attend the W23 Tabernacle public meeting saying they should not operate in a vacuum without the input of local people and without giving people the right to ask questions, scrutinise their actions, and to suggest what strategies the trust should follow for the future. Unfortunately, they decided not to attend because they are locked into the belief that local people should be commenting on and suggesting improvements to the trust’s proposals and strategies, rather than accepting that local people do not support what they are doing and have a completely different vision for their area. So any kind of strongly-voiced opposition to what is being proposed is experienced as unpalatable by trust directors who say they shouldn’t have to put up with abuse when they are at work.
This disconnect with the community is a historical problem born from the hijacking of the trust by Kensington & Chelsea Council from its inception and used as a vehicle to advance Council regeneration policies and to prevent real community representatives and groups, who were always branded as trouble-makers, from managing their own assets and making decisions beneficial to their communities.
For several decades, the trust has been run as if it were a castle bordered by a mote and peopled by the Council’s grandees who have ingrained their philosophy of neo liberal top down decision-making on the organisation which is a hard mould to break. The trust now has less Community representatives and elected Councillors, and more professional appointees on its board than it had a year ago. It was set up to go down the corporate route and that process will continue unless the local community backs up its wish for an alternative vision with real actions”.
Pat Mason, Councillor
Westway Trust Board Member
RBKC Labour Group of Councillors position statement at 13.10.15
The RBKC Labour Group of Councillors has been elected to represent residents who live around the Westway, and whose lives and livelihoods are affected by the presence of the road that sliced through their neighbourhood in 1970. The demolition of homes, the dislocating effect of the flyover on travel options, the pollution, and the use of space beneath the flyover – originally never planned for – has had many negative consequences. The Westway Trust was set up to compensate for and to address these consequences.
Regarding early plans for regenerating the 23 acres of land in the Trust’s care, the Labour Group believes the Trust must always remember its aims and responsibilities. We are concerned that the Trust’s aim of generating as much income as possible to pay for charitable works could paradoxically have a very negative effect on the communities the Trust exists to serve; some are already being forced out by rent rises and changes in policy. Some would go so far as to say that unless great care is taken the proposal for high-end independent shops, art galleries, restaurants and private housing would not help to build more solid foundations to support local business, employment and well-being, but instead would annihilate the local community.
We would support a more modest set of proposals that would put local needs first.
We consider that the Westway Trust began this process poorly but welcome signs that it is now beginning to learn from the responses from the community and from Councillors’ comments that there is a better way. We are pleased that the Trust has agreed to reconsider its previous timetable and plans and note that they have improved the consultation period.
We look forward to working with the Trust to ensure that any redevelopment by the Trust of the area that we are elected to represent maximises the interests of residents, traders and visitors and is not dominated disproportionately by the wish to generate revenue.
In summary the Labour Opposition Group of Councillors will campaign to:
- Ensure that future consultation is open, honest and inclusive, and takes the time it needs
- Require Westway to continue to engage, talk to, listen to and support the requirements of local people, businesses, traders and groups and insist they are considered first in future consultations and proposals
- Urge Westway Trust to disseminate their learning from Stage 1
- Question financial imperatives
- Reiterate our plans for Greening the Westway to include hanging gardens (green walls) and a full (not tokenistic) programme to tackle air pollution
- Question the marketing position of ‘Destination Westway’ which is clearly aimed at businesses outside the borough and does not favour local people
- Ensure that no existing ‘social and community use’ is lost, but is maintained and improved
- Ensure that Westway Trust has a meaningful consultation with neighbouring boroughs of Westminster and Hammersmith & Fulham
- Listen to any alternative visions or ideas, and support groups to find the expertise to bring these forward to viable proposals where possible
- Carefully watch the Planning timetable to ensure there is time for future stages to be properly scrutinised
- Update our position in line with the situation as it evolves
- Prepare a set of guidelines for any future planning application, to include policies from the SPD, Local Plan, The London Plan and national planning regulations.