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.