Residents of a North Kensington estate are furious as Kensington and Chelsea Council has refused to intervene to protect a popular children’s skate-park from demolition. Wornington Green estate, currently undergoing an unwanted re-development, has already lost precious play-space since the Council gave the developers – Catalyst Housing Group – permission to build on half the local park. This latest outrage – which came without warning or consultation – will see the skate-park replaced with Portacabins right at the start of the summer holidays.
At the same time as spending £1 million on a nine-day party in Exhibition Road to celebrate the Olympics, the Council is presiding over the loss of sporting facilities for under-privileged children just when they are most needed. As demolishing the skate-park without providing replacement facilities is not part of the approved construction plan, the Council could have intervened to save it.
Local Councillor Emma Dent Coad said:
“It would be disgraceful to demolish a children’s playground at any time; to do so just before the summer holidays is an outrage. The irony of destroying sporting facilities for young people in the opening week of the Olympics makes this doubly sickening. The Council is spending £1 million on a nine-day booze-fuelled bender for tourists in Exhibition Road, but turning its back on poorer residents.
“Catalyst Housing Group says that residents should understand that demolishing a skate-park and nearby mature trees just before the summer holidays is for their benefit. However, there are other sites, currently used as temporary car parks, that are available instead. Sadly, both the Council and Catalyst are riding rough-shod over opportunities for healthy play by young children in favour of staff car parks and a mega booze-fest in Exhibition Road. Frankly, we’ve had enough.”
A shock result in the Tory ward of Brompton, covering Knightsbridge and South Kensington, saw Conservatives lose 9.3% of their vote in one year, as some life-long Conservative supporters voted Labour for the first time. This signifies a 4.8% swing from Conservative to Labour in a single year, since the June 2011 by-election.
Labour candidate Mark Sautter met dozens of residents and business owners who are furious at the complacency of the Council and the inaction of their ward Councillors. As Mark said:
‘It’s all about local issues. We heard again and again that the Council does not listen to residents’ concerns or take them seriously. The Council paved Exhibition Road with £20m of taxpayers’ money, yet they ignore local concerns. We were totally shocked at some of the stories we heard, where residents had been turned away, ignored, or even felt insulted by Councillors.’
Mark and the Labour Action Team quickly identified several issues that were not being addressed in Brompton. These include:
· Road safety at Exhibition Road and at Pelham Street, where a pizza delivery man died
· The battle between café owners and casual seating areas near South Kensington station
· Filthy streets and paving
· Accessibility for those with mobility or visual problems
· Anti-social behaviour from clubbers
· Proposed overdevelopment of the station and its potential effect on Thurloe Square conservation area
· Very high pollution plus road racing around Knightsbridge and South Kensington
· Advice for older people in social housing, and for home owners struggling with bills
Mark added: ‘We worked in Brompton as we work in any ward. We talk, we listen, we publicise concerns and we act. This is evidently not how Brompton Councillors are used to working. It is lazy to assume that because of the area it is full of very rich people with no problems; this is far from the case and Councillors must reach out to those who need them. Complacency must end here.’
Labour Deputy Leader Cllr Emma Dent Coad, who supported Mark, said: ‘I know the area well and was genuinely shocked at some of the stories we heard. Several life-long Conservatives told us it was refreshing to be able to air their views, and that they would vote for Mark as the ‘listening candidate’. Cllr Barkhordar has a lot of work to do if he wants to impress his new constituents.’
The final result was-
Liberal Democrats Conservative Labour UKIP
101 650 103 71
(up 1.5%) (down 9.3%) (up.2%) –
North Kensington residents and local Councillors met on 17 May in the North Pole pub to start the fight to stop Sainburys turning it into yet another outlet.
The cross-party team including Councillors Pat Healy and Bob Mingay from St Charles Ward, and Cllr Todd Foreman from Notting Barns where the pub is located, met a huge and angry group of local residents at the pub to kick off the campaign. Concerns range from the threat to other local convenience stores, loss of a highly valued local amenity, to increased parking problems from ‘drive-by’ shoppers. Various ideas were discussed and will be pursued: a petition to Council demanding they refuse a change of use class is being organised.
Cllr Foreman said “The North Pole pub is a landmark in North Kensington and its loss would be a huge blow to the community. To make matters worse, if the premises turned into yet another chain supermarket outlet then the survival of nearby small businesses would be threatened.”
Cllr Healy said : ‘I have been approached by many local residents and shopkeepers who are outraged at this threat to the community. The degree of anger was palpable at the meeting as scores of people crowded into the pub to have their say.’
Cllr Mingay said: ‘The loss of the last remaining pub in this part of the Borough to an unwanted supermarket would breach RBKC’s Core Planning Strategy. We will pursue every avenue in Planning Law to stop what local opinion clearly regards as an outrage.’