Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year!

A very Happy New Year to our readers and supporters. We greatly appreciate the encouragement and unflagging support you have given us since we formed. Some of you have been tireless in keeping us in-the-know by uncovering key information and you deserve our special thanks. You know who you are!

We also wish our neighbours on other estates in Hammersmith & Fulham all the very best for 2010. We are well aware of the commendable fights they are putting up to save their homes and trust that they will have the success they deserve. More of this in the New Year.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Market rents for council housing?

We've noticed a puzzling contradiction in what Stephen Greenhalgh, the by now infamous Leader of H&F Council, has to say about rents for council homes such as ours. On the one hand, in the midst of a rather incoherent speech captured on film by the Guardian he acknowledges the prohibitive cost of renting in the private sector in this area:
..."private renting's £300 or £400 a week ... getting on the housing ladder's bloody difficult unless you're a millionaire."
At last! Something on which we agree. But without the swearing, no need for that Councillor. We teach our children otherwise.

Surely then, this revelation must have led him to the obvious conclusion: in order to promote truly mixed communities it's essential to continue providing relatively low cost social rented housing.

Yet in the document that outlines his chilling vision of the future for social housing, one of Greenhalgh's central proposals is to move social housing rents to market levels. In fact, he's so carried away with his big idea that in a truly inflationary fashion he moves in the space of a few pages from 'near market rents' to 'market rents', which are then touted shamelessly throughout the document. Probably on the grounds that if you say something often enough people may mistake it for truth.

So, at risk of pointing out the obvious, Mr Greenhalgh would like to charge people on our estate a rent of £300 - £400 per week.

Who could afford that? In what way would that help to fix supposedly 'broken' neighbourhoods? It would decrease opportunities to study, train or work and effectively cause rent poverty along the lines of fuel poverty with tenants spending vast amounts of their income on rent. Many people would be trapped on benefits (i.e. the tax payer would foot the bill) or forced to move out of the area.

Oh yes, now we see it, that's actually what they want, isn't it?

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Fame at last

It's heartening to see that our story is getting out there and intelligent observers of the situation here in H&F are drawing their own conclusions, not only about our plight but about the questionable activities of the Council in general. We always enjoy the musings of Shepherds Bush blog and never more than here and here.

Have a look at this article in the Guardian. Do make sure to read the comments too - they seem to arise from a wide political spectrum, to put it mildly! You might also like to watch this film made by the Guardian. Sadly Stephen Greenhalgh refused to be interviewed and instead behaved rather bizarrely on camera. In contrast, residents from our estate made their case well. We've heard that Hollywood is showing an interest....

Friday, 25 September 2009

Business as usual

Hello folks. How's it going?

Normal service is resumed. We return refreshed and revitalised after our various summer sojourns in far flung Wales, Bognor, Paris and Ireland. The latter involved an impressively intrepid trek over land and sea with two children in tow. Carbon footprint? Barely a trace in the sand.

Okay, we didn't catch any planes this time round and only drove one car. But smugness is an unattractive trait. And just in case you get the wrong idea, we are not completely plane averse... if any of you jetsetters were thinking of whisking us off to Cannes in the South of France at taxpayers expense, go right ahead!

So what's new?

The footy season has started, the nights are drawing in, it's Strictly v X Factor, isn't tradition a wonderful thing?

And right on time the Council has honoured its tradition of ignoring H&F residents in favour of property speculators by pushing through a highly contentious planning application for the Goldhawk Industrial Estate.

To accommodate a new high density residential/commercial scheme, local successful businesses will be forced out, including Innocent Drinks and the Soundhouse Studios, one of London's busiest and most experienced recording studios and post-production facilities.

Residents put up a solid opposition, led by the Brackenbury Residents Association. They even employed a QC specialising in planning law to take apart the Council's dodgy case for pushing the application through.

But all to no avail, the considerable body of evidence and legitimate concern was ignored in favour of a planning report full of inaccuracies and bias. Read here for a thorough account of the whole sorry business - and note in particular that the standard allocation of affordable rented housing was cut to zero and the Section 106 funding was startlingly low. It seems the current economic climate is being used as an excuse to shaft anyone who stands in the way of this Council's blissful marriage to big business.

If they will do this, what chance for our council estates?

Tell us what you think. Is there anyone out there who still has the nerve to call this scaremongering?

There's more news but not tonight. Gotta go and practice that rumba before Match of the Day.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Queens Wharf Sold On

Queens Wharf, an empty office building on the riverside border of our estate, has been sold on.

This is troubling us because there are strong reasons to believe allegations that H&F Council offered our homes on the Queen Caroline Estate to the previous owner, Ira Rapp (Chief Exec of WestCity Plc) when he approached them about developing Queens Wharf. We have nothing against new homes being built but we would be foolish not to wonder whether any informal promises have sweetened the purchase of this site in mid recession. So our first two questions are:
1. What do A2Dominion mean when they say they are "working in partnership with the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham on the scheme"?

2. Have any of their partnership discussions involved the future of Queen Caroline Estate and if so, what exactly has been discussed or agreed?

On the A2Dominion web site they describe the Queens Wharf site as 'highly desirable', in an 'exclusive location' for their planned 'waterside apartments'. That's good to hear, we agree that this is a lovely location.

But wait a minute - their new partner has designated this neighbourhood as 'not decent'! Isn't that going to be somewhat confusing for prospective homeowners, especially as they will have to pass through our 'ghetto' estate to reach their new homes. Unless arriving by river of course.

Note that A2Dominion only estimate that they will include 30% 'affordable' housing in the proposed 100 apartments (which will surely have to be high rise or high density to fit 100 in?). Est
imates are not the same as guarantees and often mysteriously change when it comes to final planning applications. And 'affordable' should not be confused with social rented. It almost certainly means shared ownership and in this costly part of London that is really not going to be an option for those of us who live here now.

When questioned by Dan Hodges of the Gazette as to whether social rented would be part of the equation, a representative of A2Dominion declined to answer on this (click on the newspaper to read the whole article). Yet other than that they seem to have a very clear idea of what they will be doing, even down to demolition and construction starting next year, despite not yet having gained planning permission. So, another question:

3. Will H&F Council require A2Dominion to include a reasonable proportion of truly affordable social rented housing in order to receive planning permission?

Just to illustrate why 'affordable' is a controversial concept, we went to A2Dominion's own Web site to work out the current cost of shared ownership properties in the area. We couldn't find comparable 'waterside apartments' so you'd need to add a fair bit to the following:

Example: One bedroom 4th floor flat in the Goldhawk Road area (resale) with a balcony but no garden:
£112,000 (40% share)
(Full market value: £280,000)
Monthly mortgage (estimate) £827.67

Monthly rent: £320.71
Monthly service charge: £75.35
That rounds up to a total of £1224 before bills, food, fares and other living essentials

+ legal fees, moving costs, council tax.
+ if a deposit is required by the mortgage company this could be 10% i.e. £11,200

For this property A2 Dominion stipulates:
Minimum single income: £32,046

Minimum joint income: £36,808
Minimum savings: £4,000

Yet more food for thought: we have also heard that it is difficult and pricey to obtain a mortgage for shared ownership properties. Indeed, it is not universally accepted that shared ownership is the best answer to the challenge of creating affordable housing, as highlighted in the Times.
Buyers coming in at a 25% share often find themselves stuck and unable to move on when they change jobs or start a family. If any of our readers have direct experience of this do let us know.

Our remaining concern with new development is of course the same as for any new build: what provisions will be made to help the infrastructure of the area cope with the needs and demands of 100 new households - schools, transport, health care, parking and so on?

Friday, 7 August 2009

Grubby Politics

Every so often people ask us which political party is behind our campaign. The answer is simple - none. There is no-one behind us, we are not hapless puppets manipulated by some shadowy Svengali. We are residents who have joined together to resist the threat to our homes.

The Council would love to portray us like that of course. It's just nasty old Labour manipulating the thicko working classes for evil purposes.

As if people's lives aren't difficult enough... Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh descended unannounced on our estate recently with wannabe politician Shaun Bailey and other acolytes. They knocked on doors to conduct what Bailey absurdly calls in his latest Conservative bulletin "a door to door survey session". Their purpose? Apparently "to reassure residents following the scaremongering by Labour Councillors and the MP for Ealing and Acton." There you go. It's just a Labour conspiracy. Phew.

Incidentally, aren't you meant to ask questions in a survey, not 'reassure' people? But let's not split hairs.

(Though someone really should have told Shaun that the 'scaremongering' accusations are a bit out of date since Mr Greenhalgh fessed up and some skilfully unearthed meeting notes confirmed the extent of Tory interest in his nightmare vision. Keep up Shaun.)

See the somewhat disturbing photo below of this intrusion into the peace of our 'not decent' neighbourhood.

CAPTION COMPETITION - please forward your caption for this photo. The best three will be published.

Lots of us were at work when they came so we were spared this alarming spectacle (though sadly not represented in their 'survey'). But we heard an amusing tale of one minion knocking on a front door only to have it slammed shut in his face by a resident furious with the plans to take away his home. They brought in the 'big gun', Cllr Greenhalgh, no doubt envisaging that no-one could refuse to talk to their Great Leader. Result? Door slammed shut again!

Not that we laughed of course...

But just to reiterate, as far as politics go we are not affiliated to any party. However, it's true that as the campaign has progressed it has become clear that an extreme right wing ideology lies behind the plans the Council has for us. It's not simply a question of money.

It's also true that we greatly appreciate the support and advice we have received from our ward councillors since we first approached them for help, after reading alarming headlines in local papers. Before anyone else was interested it was these Labour councillors who listened and gave us hope that at least somebody could treat us with respect. Okay, it's their job to do that, but we all know that some councillors don't do the jobs they are paid for.

In particular Stephen Cowan, leader of the opposition, has been tireless in his support. It was he who first gained evidence of the Council's shenanigans and details of the trip to Cannes via the Freedom of Information Act. This will not surprise the many borough residents that he has helped on all sorts of local issues that concern them, irrespective of their voting habits. I wonder if worried West Ken Estate residents are getting the same support from their local Conservative ward councillors?

So it was particularly grubby of Shaun Bailey to attack Labour councillors in his propaganda (sorry, bulletin) for their supposed 'abandonment' of us to 'hit the beaches'. Hard working people deserve a holiday with their families, for goodness sake.

Mr Bailey, have you any idea how ridiculous this petty point-scoring makes you look?

People on this estate know it's not the Labour councillors who have abandoned us.

The Devastating Story of the Ferrier Estate

H&F Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh is fond of referring to the Ferrier Estate in Greenwich as an example of a forward thinking large scale estate redevelopment. He clearly thinks that what has happened there is a good thing.

However, the Ferrier tale, as reported by Shelter's ROOF magazine in October 2008, is a heartbreaking story. Tenants and homeowners alike have suffered terribly and their community has been destroyed forever, a result of either cynical deception or extreme incompetence on the Council's part.

Read for yourselves by clicking in turn on the pages below.

Friday, 31 July 2009

The Truth is Told in Parliament

MP Andy Slaughter has given a resounding speech in parliament highlighting the misinformation that has been peddled by the Council about their plans and exposing the extent of their nightmare vision.
"We are talking about something that was designed by the leader of Hammersmith council, who is the head of the Tories’ local government innovation unit, as a blueprint for the rest of the country. How do we know that? We know it because he published a document earlier this year called “Principles for Social Housing Reform”. We also know it because, at the council’s expense, he held a round-table discussion with Tory Front Benchers, other senior Tory politicians and, shamefully, local government officers on 3 March that agreed to the most extraordinary blueprint for the future. Market rents for all housing; no security of tenure; no right to buy; no duty to house the homeless; no capital investment at all in social housing—is this really the future for housing under a Tory Government?"
Click here for the full speech. Note that he challenges the Tory front bench (i.e. David Cameron) to either support or reject the plans for social housing that Stephen Greenhalgh has recommended for the whole of the UK.

See Dave Hill's Guardian blog for further comment. He too wonders about the secrecy involved and David Cameron's position in all this. Thank goodness for the Freedom of Information Act and enterprising members of the public.

Well, Mr Cameron? Now is the time to make good on your speeches about the importance of community.

You've Been Frameworked

Recently Hammersmith and Fulham Council published a Local Development Framework (LDF) document, outlining extensive plans for the borough including plans to turn estates like Queen Caroline into 'Decent Neighbourhoods'... apparently we are currently not 'decent'. Thanks for that.

They will use this as justification for demolishing our homes.

I'll go back to that in a minute. But first, the LDF. Comments had to be in by 17th July. No doubt lots of you who live or work in the borough sent your comments in. What's that you say? You didn't? Why was that? Could it be that....

a) You didn't know about the consultation because it was poorly publicised?

b) You managed to read about the LDF consultation in the very tiny writing on the back of one of the Council's self congratulatory leaflets and dutifully went as they instructed to the Library to get a copy of the LDF. But the Hammersmith Library staff knew nothing about it. You tried again. Same result. You retired home, defeated. (Was somebody secretly filming? Are they sitting at home laughing uproarously at your misadventure?)

c) You went online to try and give your comments but found the procedure of registering and then finding your way through a lengthy, jargon-ridden document and a tortuous, ill-designed comments process both baffling and exhausting. You gave up, humiliated, after a couple of hours. (Did a family member film you sliding off your chair and make a few bucks on the sly?).

d) You don't care about the borough and they can bulldoze it if they like. (Ah, the hysteria as your home crashes to the ground).

Three of the above happened to interested, sensible people who really did want to pass comment on the L
DF. People who know how to use computers, find out information, stand up for themselves. So how much harder will it have been for those with no Internet access, mobility problems, sight impairment or communication difficulties? Those of us who went to the library were going to pick up copies for neighbours but you know how that went. (Even Harry Hill couldn't find anything to laugh about there.)


If you'd like to r
ead the LDF + comments please click here.

So where was I? Oh yes, I don't live in a decent neighbourhood. The Council says that a series of 'decent neighbourhood principles' are not achieved here. These are quoted below with comments.

The Council says we are

1. "A clean and safe neighbourhood located in an area rich in opportunity." What? Have they been here? This is a pleasant, easily accessible area between the riverside, transport and local shops. Non-residents walk, jog and cycle through the estate all the time. We are a clean neighbourhood (though the recent cutbacks by the Council of the caretaking services have had an impact) and close to businesses, shops, transport, leisure etc. i.e. an area rich in opportunity.

2. "A housing mix by type, size and tenure to attract people on a range of incomes." This already exists. A large proportion of leaseholders complement the tenants. There is a mix of young and old and a large proportion of working residents (both paid work and voluntary work). The one thing that we need more of in the local area is larger family properties but knocking down other people's homes is hardly a reputable (or decent) way to achieve this.

3. "Residential development that is predominantly low or medium rise (e.g. 3-6 storeys), with gardens and shared amenity space in street based layouts." All but two of the buildings here are 3 - 4 storeys. All either lead directly onto streets or onto paths within a few feet of streets. There are very well used childrens' play areas and green spaces.

4. "Well designed buildings with active streets, that respect their surroundings." What does this mean?? Where is your plain English? Our buildings are solid and afford a fair amount of privacy because they are not too high density. The flats are a reasonable size. We simply need the Council to finish the Decent Homes programme, for which they have already received Government funding. Are the streets active? Well people use them a lot and stop to chat on them a lot, I suppose this means they are active.

5. "A range of shops, local services, leisure and other facilities within walking distance that meet the needs of a mixed community at different stages of peoples' lives." See Point 1 above. M&S, Primark, Kings Mall, the Broadway Centre, 3 tube lines, bus station, Riverside Studios, Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith Apollo, primary school, churches, restaurants, GP surgery, riverside pubs, after school centre.... all within a 5 - 10 minute walk or less. Add to that Charing Cross Hospital, all the services on Fulham Palace Road and Fulham Football Club all just 15-20 minutes walk away.

"Employment & training opportunities for a range of skills and attainment levels." There are plenty of employment opportunities in all the above mentioned amenities and businesses. As a working person I don't know so much about training opportunities locally. I'm sure it would be good to provide more though. It would do more for unemployed people locally than turfing them out of their homes.

"Low levels of crime, fear of crime and anti-social behaviour." I don't know the crime figures but I do know that I and my neighbours do not feel afraid to leave our homes at any time of day or night and judging by the amount of non-residents that walk through the estate at all times, neither do they.

8. "A street pattern linking one place to another, encouraging walking routes through areas." There are interlinked paths and roads throughout this estate, all well used and enhanced by trees and areas of greenery.

9."Satisfaction with the local townscape, public realm and environment, and its upkeep; no wasted or uncared for land." We are pretty happy with how it is apart from the impact of the Westway, but that is not going anywhere no matter what. What exactly is meant by wasted land? I worry that this actually means'not built on' when in fact the combination of residential property and open space is what makes this such a pleasant area in which to live and work. Of course it could be improved and we'd love the chance to participate in that - as residents we know better than anyone what's needed.

"Does it matter what the ruling Councillors think about the estate?" I hear you ask. Sticks and stones and all that...

Unfortunately yes, because they will use it as an excuse to raze our perfectly good, decent homes to the ground. They say they want to create a 'mixed community' in a 'decent neighbourhood
'. It won't include us. NONE of the plans talk about moving residents out temporarily and then moving them in again. This is a chilling omission because in other parts of the LDF they do at least express an intent to do this on other estates (though only in part). But here - no.

We are decent people living in a decent neighbourhood. Please help us save our homes.

Friday, 24 July 2009


"There's gold in dem dere hills!" used to be the cry of prospectors in Gold Rush America.

It seems that the call has now gone out once again.

Over the last few years there has been so much development and proposed development in this small borough of ours it's almost impossible to keep up with it.

Of the 32 London Boroughs we are one of the smallest but also one of the most densely populated. So with that in mind it would be foolish not to have a well thought out, clear vision of how best to balance the needs of those people and businesses that already reside here in Hammersmith and Fulham and those who want to come here, considered against the issue of limited square footage.

Unfortunately it could be seen that the planners are less sympathetic to existing residents and their desire not to have major developments right in their backyard than to the prospectors coming over the hill guns a' blazing. For example:

The Council gave the go ahead for 10 homes to be squeezed into an area between Percy and Boscombe Road.

Planning permission has been sought to build 56 houses and 11 business units on the small business park on the corner of Brackenbury Road and Goldhawk Road. Residents have argued that the proposed buildings will directly affect their light, not to mention the fact that there will be a considerable increase in traffic and noise in that area.

Again, there's the Armadillo or Strawberry or the Great Big Ugly Glass Structure (whatever you want to call it) that is planned for Hammersmith Grove. Those that opposed the site were called 'Nimbys' by a Conservative Councillor.

It seems like every week there's an annoucement of yet another major development in this tiny borough. Last month transformation plans were announced for the tower blocks on the Edward Woods Estate. Coincidentally, these tower blocks overlook the new multi-billion pound Westfield Shopping centre.

Residents have been complaining for years about the condition of the estate with no response from the Council. Suddenly, not only will new cladding be added but penthouse apartments will be built on these tower blocks, selling for the modest sum of £675,000. Bet the lifts will always be working once they are built.

I spoke to a friend who lives on the Edward Woods Estate, she knew nothing about it. But I bet there was 'extensive consultation' with residents.

No wonder the prospectors - sorry, property speculators - have moved in, there's millions to be made in this here borough.
  • In 2008 Prupim and Hammersmith and Fulham Council sold the Broadway Chambers in Hammersmith Broadway for £12.5m to Sapcote Developers.
  • Development Securities recently won permission for the aforementioned Strawberry scheme in Hammersmith Grove expected to cost £250m.
  • There's the £180m revamp of King Street by Grainger and Helical Bar.
  • Westcity Property fund in a 50-50 partnership with Byrne Estate purchased Queens Wharf for a reputed £32m, that's where the threat to my home comes from.
  • Not to mention the whopping 1.5bn it is said to have cost to create the Westfield Shopping experience.
And where there are property speculators there are 'The Consultants', a shadowy group of people, highly trained in the ways of consultin'. They ride into town known by none, except they usually turn out to be the wife, husband, brother-in-law or old school friend of the head of department that needs the consultin'. But I'm sure they must be worth every penny.

Why just the other day it was revealed that Hammersmith and Fulham Council were going to spend £300,000 on consultants to consult about how best to move in the bulldozers into the West Kensington Estate and how best to get away with it... or did they say 'transport consequences' and 'legal advice'. £300.000! But don't forget it's only a 'proposal'.

It seems that 'stack 'em high' is no longer just the phrase used by a certain US supermarket chain, it seems to be the byword for housing developments in this borough. Unfortunately this council has forgotten the rest of the phrase 'and sell em cheap'.... or even reasonably priced.

The speculators are in town and coming to an area near you. The wagons are circling.

The recession seems to be doing the job that those in the planning office should have done. But this is a game for these guys - they know when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em, they know when to walk away and they know when to run (courtesy of Kenny Rogers) and trust me they are just sitting this round out, waiting for a better hand or in other words an upturn in the market.

Please support us. Hands Off Our Queen Caroline Homes.

Keep an eye on your local papers, look at the planning applications, Hammersmith and Fulham is up for sale, bit by bit, estate by estate, road by road, property by property, brick by ... (okay you get the picture). Property speculators know it, the Council knows it, the property media know it. Don't believe me?

'In recent years, under Stephen Greenhalgh’s leadership, Hammersmith and Fulham has become a beacon council that is most definitely open for business. '....... Steven Norris (Former Conservative MP) 27.3.09 Property Week.Com

"Hi-yo, Silver, away!"

The Lone Ranger

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Spielberg, are you out there?

We have had lots of support via email and comments on our blog and we'd like to say a big thank you for that. Our support comes from within our community and from outside too. It is very heartening to read some of the comments people have left - and moving too. A particularly poignant message was left by Janice, whose family and neighbours were forced to leave a 'close knit and caring community' many years ago. Read it for yourself: click on the link and scroll down to 'Comments'.

It got us to wondering, do any of you lovely readers have film making skills and equipment that you could help us with? We plan to use film to show the reality of life here in our community. It's time we busted the myth that it's not a decent neighbourhood (according to our charming Council) once and for all.

Just to give you a taste of what a great place this is to live, here's a photo across the estate to Hammersmith Bridge, taken in the February snow. Okay, it's a bit unseasonal. But lovely, isn't it?

Get those creative juices going - get in touch by phone 07505 982526 or email us if you'd like to help us tell our story.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Blurred Vision?

We promised that we would provide a summary of the policy paper co-authored by the Council Leader, Stephen Greenhalgh: 'Principles for Social Housing Reform'. The paper proposes draconian changes to housing law and to the future of social housing.

It makes highly contentious blanket statements about social housing, when it must be clear to any right minded observer that there is no one 'truth' about such a broad topic. It declares social housing, and estates in particular, to be a blight on local neighbourhoods and a drain on taxpayers' resources. This is at a time when the biggest blight on all of us has been the greed of wealthy bankers and their associates!

The paper is based on two major assumptions:

1. That social housing is a problem.

2. That tenants, i.e. those who rent, contribute less to an area than homeowners:

"Residents with a stake in the place where they live, however small, will care more about what happens to their homes and in their neighbourhoods."

What?? Where is the justification for such an outrageous statement? A credible policy proposal should present sound evidence for such prejudicial assertions but we see none. It illustrates, yet again, the blinkered views of the man leading a Council that is meant to serve us. It is, yet again, deeply insulting to the thousands of council tenants who take pride in their homes and their neighbourhoods. Who could possibly think that a mortgage is the only thing that gives people a stake in their homes and communities?

It is impossible for us to know whether Cllr Greenhalgh really believes in his distorted view of social housing tenants or whether this is simply a cynical exercise to discredit and disenfranchise us. And it's hard to say which would be worse - a misguided, incompetent Council with unintentionally warped views of a large sector of its residents or a Council intent on carrying out policies deliberately designed to exclude this same sector of the population. In many ways, though, this is irrelevant as the outcome will be the same for us no matter what the intent.

To the non council tenants reading this I would ask you this: please use your intelligence to discriminate between unsubstantiated opinion and well evidenced fact. Don't just believe what you are told, you are better than that. A lot of you will have parents or grandparents who have lived in Council housing. Did they not look after their homes and their neighbourhoods? Were they work-shy burdens on society or people of integrity, doing the best they could for their families and their communities?

This Council is using the language of empowerment whilst plotting to dispossess people of their homes and their communities. If they succeed it will herald an era of social division that we have not seen since before the Second World War.

Of course there are council estates around the country that need radical rebuilding and a complex array of interventions. But not ours. Undoubtedly there will be some people on our local estates (much as anywhere else) who need focused support and encouragement to enter the job market. So provide it. Provide adequate child care and training opportunities. In what way does kicking people out of their homes and depriving them of their rights empower them or help them into work?

The only thing wrong with Queen Caroline Estate is the Council's neglect. They have been sitting on the Decent Homes money (already provided by central Government) for years now - and incidentally have made a tidy profit. They have left half of us with leaking, draughty windows and astronomical fuel bills as a result. Many residents view this as a cynical exercise to run down the estate and demoralise us. Not to mention the carbon footprint! Come on Councillors, it's happening on your watch. Do your job properly - it's what you are paid for.

The Greenhalgh paper argues that in the long term the Government should:

1. Restrict the number of social homes that are built and reject a duty to house anyone but the most vulnerable.

2. Abolish secure tenancies in social housing.

3. Allow councils to move to market rents.

4. Abolish the right to buy and hand power back to local Councils to decide who is given permission to buy their own home. (Well hello Big Brother!)

5. Change the law so that Councils can discharge their duty to the homeless by housing them on short term contracts in the private rented sector.

These solutions to the perceived 'problem' of social housing would ensure that ultimately social housing would all but cease to exist, in order that:

"ultimately, Council and RSLs (registered social landlords) should be able to repay any Government debt and move to a situation where they operate their housing portfolio at a reasonable profit."

There we have it. Profit. Knew we'd get there in the end.

Monday, 13 July 2009

More Media Coverage

Good news, our plight and the wider implications of the Greenhalgh approach have been highlighted in the media. See the coverage in the Evening Standard, the Guardian and the Mirror.

It is also worth having a careful read of the NewStart article which highlights some of the discussions that have taken place. Note that Stephen Greenhalgh (the Council Leader) is quoted as saying that "We want to attract people who are very rich."

Note also the final paragraph:
"The redevelopment of the Ferrier estate in Greenwich began earlier this year. Social housing residents there were initially promised replacement housing on the estate, but in the final development plans the majority of new homes are private."

It is always worth reading Guardian writer Dave Hill's blog. He is an incisive and intelligent writer. Also worth signing up for his newsletter Metropolitan Lines.

What is noticeable is how many commentators are making links with the Dame Shirley Porter 'social cleansing' scandal of the 1980's.

Our Council's logo says "H&F, putting residents first".


Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Welcome to Our Ashcroft Square Neighbours

We were delighted to notice that our neighbours on nearby Ashcroft Square are also making their voices heard. Have a look at their blog.

A big welcome to you all on Ashcroft Square Estate - we must do lunch!!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

See For Yourself

You can now view the coverage of our story on the BBC2 Politics Show of June 14th. Watch it and see the discrepancies and misinformation in the Council's story.

The first part shows worried residents being interviewed on our estate.


The second part shows our local Labour Councillor, Stephen Cowan, and Nick Johnson, Chief Executive of H&F Homes, being interviewed. Members of the the ruling Conservative Council were 'unavailable'.


See for yourself and make your own mind up as to whether we are 'scaremongering'. Ask yourself this: in our position, would you feel safe?

Monday, 29 June 2009

A Lesson in Manners?

On the evening of June 24th a number of residents attended the Council Meeting at the Town Hall, having heard that one of the Labour Councillors, Lisa Nandy, would be proposing a motion censuring the views expressed about council tenants by Stephen Greenhalgh in his chilling proposals for the reform of social housing, published by right wing think tank Localis. It was an illuminating but depressing experience.

The special motion was as follows:
"That this Council:

Rejects the offensive, damaging and false portrayal of social housing tenants in the paper 'Principles for Social Housing Reform' published by right wing think tank Localis.

Firmly rejects proposals which seek to deny decent, secure homes to those who need them.

Further condemns such a crude attempt to disguise deeply unpopular proposals to demolish local homes and communities by using the language of rights and empowerment.

Agrees with Shelter that people are empowered by genuine choice and security and asserts that people are disempowered by ill-thought out, stereotypical and stigmatising papers such as this.

Resolves that funding Localis £8,000 a year at a time when Hammersmith and Fulham Council is cutting vital services to local people is a shameful waste of public money that will cease with immediate effect."

We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

(£8,000? That was something we didn't know about before. Is that why they've started charging for home care? They've emptied the coffers supporting right wing think tanks?).

In support of the motion, Councillor Jean Campbell (the only council tenant on the Council) spoke movingly about the sadness she feels to hear people like her neighbours on White City Estate so grossly mis-represented and stigmatised by Stephen Greenhalgh: described in his paper as living in "broken neighbourhoods" and "ghettos" where a "dependency culture and culture of entitlement predominates". In contrast Jean Campbell described her community thus:

"My community on the White City is a vibrant one. My neighbours include people working in health care, people working as police officers or people who are simply doing their best to bring up their kids and look after their families."

What was notable about Jean Campbell was not just what she said but how she said it. She challenged the views of the Tory Councillors but spoke to them with respect. She persevered with dignity despite shameful behaviour from the other side of the chamber, reminiscent of school days (though with touches of Animal Farm).

Stephen Greenhalgh in particular spent his time ostentatiously misbehaving: noisily banging papers on the table, whispering and sniggering behind his hand to his chum Nicholas Botterill, closing his eyes in feigned (or perhaps real??) sleep. He behaved like this whenever members from the Labour Group were talking and seemed wholly proud of himself.

Others were as bad. When Labour Councillor Stephen Cowan, supporting Jean Campbell, pointed out that White City is already a mixed community with BBC workers amongst its residents he was heckled by Conservative Councillor Jane Law, who declared with a look of absolute disdain that "People from the BBC don't live on White City!" Clearly this concept was too horrific for her to contemplate. Poor thing, she looked like she'd had quite a shock.

Worst of all was the smugness, posturing and political point scoring at every opportunity, to the exclusion of intelligent debate. Even in full knowledge that members of the public were present these Conservative councillors did nothing to acknowledge us and our genuine concerns except by deliberately repeating the insulting language of the Greenhalgh report.

Yes, they knew we were there and yes, they seemed determined to show their contempt.

Are they really so certain of the electorate that they can afford to behave in this way?

Jean Campbell finished by asking Stephen Greenhalgh to look her in the eye and answer three questions:

  • Does he intend to lobby for an end of secure tenancies?

  • Will he provide a legal guarantee that all the social housing he demolishes will be replaced like for like - no catch?

  • Will he apologise to me and the thousands of council house residents like me for his simple caricaturing of our lives?

He made no attempt to answer despite repeated requests. Why was that, Councillor Greenhalgh?

Instead Councillor Lucy Ivimy was chosen to give a long winded, meaningless answer. She may be Cabinet Member for Housing but was nevertheless an odd choice to reply to a motion opposing the stigmatisation of council tenants, given her history. Few people have had the dubious honour of being outed by the Daily Mail over allegations of racism towards tenants, but she's managed it.

Thankfully we did not witness the same level of braying contempt for the political process from the Labour Group. If we had we might have lost all faith in the idea of decent people in politics. (We are not making a party political statement here, simply reporting what we observed on the night).

We are grateful to Lisa Nandy, Jean Campbell and their colleagues for standing up in that hostile environment to speak for ordinary people like us.

The motion was voted down, of course, but the words that were spoken remain.

If you think there is even the slightest exaggeration in this article do go along to a Council Meeting to see for yourself. It won't be the happiest evening of your life but it will be an education.

Monday, 22 June 2009

The Greenhalgh Vision of the Future

The Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Stephen Greenhalgh, has written a policy paper for the right wing think tank, Localis, that starkly outlines his draconian vision of the future for social housing. We will shortly publish a summary of this paper. In the meantime read it carefully and don't be fooled by the glossy attempt to present supposedly inclusive housing solutions. If he has his way our hard earned legal rights will be swept away to afford unprecedented power to landlords. Security of tenure will be replaced by a two month notice period. And any right minded person will understand that in London, with sky high property prices, few real opportunities for secure and affordable housing will be open to ordinary working people. More likely we will be bussed in from the suburbs to service the privileged minority in the City and bussed off out again at the end of the day!

Councillor Greenhalgh's questionable intent and starring role in the video of his confrontation with angry residents has drawn the attention of the Guardian writer Dave Hill's blog.

The Greenhalgh paper states that:
"Today social housing has become welfare housing where both a dependency culture and a culture of entitlement predominate."
How insulting to those of us who strive to work hard and provide for ourselves and our families - and likewise to those living through difficult times that are thankfully made a little easier by the kind of help that we would all hope for at such times.

One of our group was featured in the Shepherds Bush and Hammersmith Gazette on June 12th in the 'My Hammersmith' feature. Click on the article to read it. You'll probably notice that she sounds like an ordinary kind of person - hard working, community minded, motivated, football-loving - not the dependent, work-shy caricature they'd have you believe us to be.

Undoubtedly there are estates around the country that need drastic improvement and communities that need change for the better, supported by possibly radical but equally compassionate interventions. However the answer is most definitely not to sweep the good ones away. Ours has been described as 'prime real estate' by commentators - can this really be coincidence?

Stephen Greenhalgh supposedly believes that:

"A decent neighbourhood is a place where people want to live and they have pride in. At the heart of a mixed and sustainable community is a mix of people with different income levels, at different life stages and with different occupations who occupy their homes on a mixture of tenures but where no single tenure predominates."
This is us. So why blow us apart? What could possibly be in it for you?

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Media Coverage

We are pleased to report that local and national media have picked up on our plight.

On Sunday 14th June the BBC Politics Show reported on our situation with the Council and highlighted the considerable discrepancies in the Council's message about their plans e.g. last week the Council’s press office told the BBC that there had been "Absolutely no discussions with any developers about the site" yet there is video of the Conservative Leader of the Council, Stephen Greenhalgh, admitting on 29th April (under pressure from residents) that there have in fact been talks (see link below). Likewise the property speculator in question confirmed to the BBC last week that he has indeed been in talks with the Council and would be 'very interested' in getting involved in 'rebuilding' of Queen Caroline - in other words, demolition of our homes. And (worryingly) they expressed confidence in this going ahead at some point.

One of the most noticeable omissions in all of this is that there has never been any mention of rebuilding the estate for the current residents. We are absolutely certain that we are not the intended recipients of the supposed 'opportunities' that Councillor Greenhalgh refers to when trying to wriggle out of the corner he has backed into!

After all, we all know that property speculators are not philanthropic businesses. They will want to maximise profits and we know who gets hurt....

Three residents from Queen Caroline were interviewed on the Politics Show and expressed their deep distress and concern about what is being planned for us and about the lack of transparency and honesty in the process. They talked about the impact on their lives of the current threat to their security. One, whose child has recently been diagnosed with autism and needs stability even more than all children, explained just how negative an impact this kind of uncertainty is having on her child.

Our local Labour Councillor Stephen Cowan (who strongly supports our cause) was interviewed live on the Politics Show but regrettably none of the ruling Conservative Councillors (i.e. those responsible for secretly planning to sell our homes) made themselves available. Our understanding is that one of the Councillors was meant to represent their side of the story but became mysteriously unavailable. The very least they could have done was turn up to be held accountable to the public. Or perhaps they don't view themselves as public servants? You can draw your own conclusions as to why neither the Conservative Leader of the Council, Stephen Greenhalgh, nor the Cabinet Member for Housing, Lucy Ivimy showed up.

Instead they sent along Nick Johnson, the Chief Executive of the Managing Agents, Hammersmith and Fulham Homes. This poor man seemed woefully ill-informed and probably felt somewhat compromised by the situation he found himself in. Even though he had just seen the video of Stephen Greenhalgh admitting to talks with developers and refusing to allay fears of residents he could do nothing but toe the party line and say there are "No firm plans".

Will they still be saying this when the bulldozers come?

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Our First Open Meeting

On Wednesday 27th May we held our first open meeting in the community hall. It was well attended and we are grateful to everyone who turned out on such a humid mid-week evening. It was a pleasure to meet so many of our neighbours and to discover how united we are in our concerns and in our determination to fight for our homes.

We had some useful discussions and exchange of ideas about next steps and many residents stepped up to volunteer for an active role in our campaign. One thing that became clear is that we are not alone in facing this threat to our homes and our community. Similar perils are being faced by neighbourhoods like ours all over the borough and more widely across London. We would like to hear from others who, like us, are fighting for survival: please spread the word!

One thing that we are committed to is that this struggle will draw us even closer as a community and that we will be as inclusive as possible of everyone who lives here. We know that there are some residents who don't find it easy to get out to meetings and may worry about opening their doors to strangers. We hope their neighbours will talk to them and let us know how they would like to be involved. Similarly, we would be grateful for assistance in communicating with our neighbours who do not speak English as their first language. If you would be willing to act as an interpreter or translator please get in touch.

An idea we will be taking forward is to use this opportunity to tell our Queen Caroline Estate stories, past and present. If you would be happy to be interviewed by us and tell your story of your life here, to be published on this blog, we'd be delighted to hear from you. Likewise if you have photos of the estate or local area that we can copy do get in touch. The photograph above is of Hammersmith Bridge at sunset, taken from the edge of our estate in January 2009.
We also intend to make sure we have some fun together along the way. What we are facing is difficult and distressing but if we support each other, work together but also play together we can do it. In the spirit of this our first meeting ended with a prize draw - congratulations to the three lucky winners!

We appreciate that our three local Councillors accepted our invitation and came along to our meeting to pledge their support: Lisa Nandy, Mike Cartwright and Stephen Cowan. At a time when politicians are at an all time low in public opinion and all too easily dismissed as 'all the same' it was refreshing to see some tangible evidence that perhaps they are not. In response to questions the councillors (currently in opposition) gave assurances that should the Council return to Labour control our homes will be safe.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Cllr. Greenhalgh Admits He's Talking With Property Speculators About Knocking Down Our Homes

On Wednesday, 29th April we took Tory Council Leader, Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh, to task after he admitted his Conservative run Administration was in talks with property speculators to knock down our homes.

We attended his self styled 'Leader Listens' meeting at St. Paul's Church Hammersmith. This meeting was poorly advertised and made inaccessible by a requirement to 'register an interest' ahead of time. But some of us found out about it and turned up anyway.

A number of residents stood up and questioned Cllr Greenhalgh about his plans for our homes. They described the levels of distress, fear and anger amongst residents and were impressively dignified and polite, given the strength of their feelings. But they were also resolute and well informed and under the pressure of a continuous barrage of questions Cllr. Greenhalgh came clean and admitted what was happening, having previously denied this was the case.

He did say that we would be not be made homeless. But we all knew that as it would currently be illegal under national law and no matter what happens the Council has a legal duty to house us. We have never said that the Council intends to make us homeless but that they want to take away our homes and destroy a thriving community. Cllr.Greenhalgh refused to say where we would all be moved to and failed to explain how he could house thousands of people in our borough if he knocks down estates, sells off street properties and has stopped building any new rented social housing. One resident picked up on this and said that she didn't want to be moved to Barking or east London.

Click on the attached picture to read more. We will report more on this meeting and how we intend to fight to SAVE OUR HOMES.

Monday, 4 May 2009

The Story So Far

1. Autumn 2006 – Conservative Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh and Greg Hands MP go on 18 Doughty Street TV to be interviewed. During the interview they say that it is their policy to reduce the amount of social housing in Hammersmith and Fulham.

2. March 2008 - Two Hammersmith and Fulham Council officials and Cllr. Mark Loveday (a senior Conservative Councillor) fly to Cannes on the French Riviera (at tax payer expense) to go to the MIPIM property conference also attended by Mr Ira Rapp, the Chief Executive of Westcity Plc.

3. August 2008 – Property magazine the Estates Gazette reports that the Council approached the owners of the Earl’s Court exhibition centre and offered to demolish 800 homes in West Kensington. The Council and Conservative councillors initially deny this then admit it is true six months later.

4. November 2008 – Allegations emerge that the Council has offered Mr. Ira Rapp of Westcity Plc the opportunity to demolish the Queen Caroline Estate during negotiations to develop Queens Wharf, which is currently an empty office building situated next to the Queen Caroline Estate.

5. February 2009 – Conservative councillors say all allegations that they are in talks to knock down the Queen Caroline Estate are “scaremongering”.

6. February 2009 – While being questioned about plans to demolish the Queen Caroline Estate and Ashcroft Square at a council meeting on Wednesday 23rd Councillor Stephen Greenhalgh, the Conservative Leader of the Council loses his temper and goes on record to say if his administration wants to start “knocking houses down we will”.

7. February 2009 – The Hammersmith Gazette contacts Mr Ira Rapp and asks him if he is involved in talks about knocking down the Queen Caroline Estate. It reports Mr Rapp saying he “would be very interested in being part of developing such a “key site” after the economy has recovered from the global downturn”.

8. March 2009 - Hammersmith and Fulham Council hold a "drop in" meeting in the Queen Caroline Estate Residents' Hall. The Council now admits that they have been talking with property speculators about demolishing the Queen Caroline Estate but try to explain that this may not happen until 15 years time.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Why We Formed

On the 19th March, Hammersmith and Fulham Council held a "drop in" meeting in the Queen Caroline Estate Residents' Hall in which they said that they have been in discussions with the property developer who owns Queens Wharf. We understand that in fact senior personnel in Hammersmith and Fulham Council have offered our homes to the developer - who would knock them down and replace them with apartments for the rich.

The Conservatives and council officials initially denied that they were talking to any property speculators about destroying our homes and actually wrote to all residents to say that these allegations were just "scaremongering". However, the Council now admits that they have been talking with a Mr. Ira Rapp, the Chief Executive of West City Plc but say that these plans are only for the next "fifteen years". We find this impossible to believe. Most property businesses need to make an immediate return on their investment and most property speculators usually operate on a two to four year plan. We therefore believe that the Council's proposals to demolish our homes will come to fruition over the next 3 to 4 years.

We have also learnt that Mr. Rapp actually met a Hammersmith and Fulham Conservative Councillor and council officials in Cannes on the French Riviera to discuss proposals for Queens Wharf. On 27th February Mr. Rapp told Hammersmith Gazette that he would be very interested in being part of developing such a "key site" when asked about the development of our estate.

We are not prepared to give up our homes. We have set up a campaign committee and will fight any such plans. You can click here to email us directly. We will keep you in touch with what's happening and what we are doing. Please also click on any of the newspaper articles to expand them and view to read.