21 February 2010

H£F plc up for sale

It's official – control of the borough of Hammersmith & Fulham has been passed to developers.

Last week CapCo, the owners of Earl's Court and Olympia, began a roadshow around West Ken presenting their plans to build 8,000 homes and a massive commercial centre straddling the border between H&F and Kensington & Chelsea. This is triple the density allowed for in the London plan.

The scheme was dreamed up by H&F's Tory leader Stephen Greenhalgh as a site for an international convention centre and a way of demolishing the homes of 763 families in council and housing association homes on the West Ken and Gibbs Green Estates. Branding the estates ghettoes and the people who lived there too poor, he ordered them out.

But last week the developer rejected Cllr Greenhalgh's grand plan. They can make more money by putting 30-storey blocks of luxury flats in the middle of the site, offices along the A4 and Kensington-style mansion blocks where the estates now are.

Tory H&F council no longer pretends they are making decisions on planning and development issues. The elected representatives have handed total control of local neighbourhoods to unaccountable multi-national businesses.

Since Cllr Greenhalgh declared H&F 'open for business' three years ago, the following has happened:

Not one but three massive 'Opportunity Areas' have been designated at West Ken, White City and Old Oak. 3,500 affordable homes will go and the scale of development will mean gridlock and inundation of local services. The borough will mimic Westminster as a destination for visitors and workers alike and both its distinctiveness and residential character will be destroyed.

Medium-sized sites are earmarked for over-development: the Olympia aparthotel, the 'squashed strawberry' in Hammersmith Broadway, the Goldhawk Industrial Estate, 282 Goldhawk Road, Stowe Road Depot, Shepherds Bush Market.

Community resources are sold off, privatised or left to rot. The latest to be marked up for sale is Palingswick House in King Street, home to 22 community groups. But it follows: 13 homeless hostels, Peterborough School, the Castle youth club, High Master’s House, the Hut Association. And will soon be joined by the old Wormholt library, and, according to leaked budget papers, Sands End and Baron's Court Libraries.

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