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.