A guest post by Celine Kuklowsky, from the People's Estates campaign to prevent the demolition of the West Ken and Gibbs Green estates in West Kensington
'No to demolition! Yes to community control!'
Last Monday, Hammersmith & Fulham Council agreed to a £105 million land sale to developer CapCo, giving the green light to a speculative property development scheme for the rich while railroading local residents' wishes. The land deal is part of an £8 billion Earl’s Court redevelopment project that, if passed, would demolish the West Ken & Gibbs Green estates – home to nearly 2,000 people – alongside the landmark Earl’s Court exhibition centres and the Lillie bridge rail depot. In their place, CapCo is proposing four 'urban villages' made up of 7,500 luxury high-rise flats, 90% of which would be for sale at market prices with no additional affordable housing.
Despite the Council’s assurances that the existing community would benefit from the development, the majority of residents oppose the scheme. Over the past three years West Ken & Gibbs Green tenants and leaseholders have been fighting to save their homes and to obtain community ownership of their estates. At the same time, the People’s Estates have pushed the government to implement working 'Right to Transfer' regulations that would enable council estates communities nationwide to take control of their homes and estates via resident-led housing organisations.
This battle is taking place as the public housing landscape is shifting dramatically: hundreds of thousands of poor and working class families are being forced out of cities due to housing benefit changes, councils nationwide are selling-off their public housing stock to private developers and changes to the very definition of 'affordability' are making it more difficult for middle and lower-income families to live in our cities. The People's Estates stands at the frontline of a struggle against the erosion of our housing rights and the progressive social cleansing of our cities.
This Wednesday, September 12 at 7pm, the Hammersmith & Fulham Council will vote on the planning permissions to demolish the West Ken & Gibbs Green housing estates, the Earl’s Court exhibition centres and the Lillie Bridge rail depot.
While we are expecting the vote to be passed, the fight is far from over. As residents told the Cabinet on Monday, 'We shall save our homes, so we can better our community; we shall protect our environment, so we can improve our neighbourhood; and we shall preserve our culture, so we can grow our economy. Make no mistake: we shall never surrender!'
Please join us in voicing our opposition to their plans this Wednesday, September 12 at 7pm at Hammersmith Town Hall.
For more information on the campaign, visit westkengibbsgreen.wordpress.com/
Sign the petition to save Earl’s Court from demolition here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/36680