Local politics can be a nasty business and rarely more so than when activists try to pin an ugly caricature or stereotype on their opponents.
An attempt is underway right now to pin just such a caricature on Kensington and Chelsea; it goes something like this:
• we are in cahoots with developers to help them make money
• we are a soft touch and don’t negotiate hard enough for residents
• all we are doing is building homes for rich people from overseas
• we have an agenda of ‘social cleansing’.
Of course, there isn’t a single shred of credible evidence to support any of it but when did that ever worry the trolls?
Development, especially for housing, is the number one local issue right now. So it’s important that residents know where the Council actually stands.
In Britain we have an open economy and the rule of law. When you add in the fact that property prices in parts of central London outstrip most other forms of investment, and that we have a lot of politically and economically unstable regimes in the world; it’s no surprise we have billions in global capital looking for a secure berth here in the Royal Borough. As a result, our property prices have soared relentlessly.
That’s not something the Council can do very much about but we welcome signs that the Government is taking it seriously.
And because prices are so high, developers will naturally look to exploit every available opportunity for development. As our national planning system is essentially a permissive one relentless development has been the result and it is affecting the quality of life for our residents.
Here the Council can do more and we are doing so.
We are no soft touch but what we can demand from developers is a highly regulated area. However, we have not been shy about demanding planning gain, very far from it. There are many examples of which this is just one.
We are fighting hard for tougher controls on basement developments, super prime flats and for more affordable housing and our new policies – fiercely contested by some developers – are soon to be the subject of a public inquiry.
And we have beefed up our enforcement team so that we can take a much firmer line against people who think that planning law is for the little people. You can find examples of that firmer line here. But the really big question is whether we can turn the Royal Borough’s high octane property market to residents’ advantage? Can we use the value tied up in our own property estate to build new affordable and intermediate homes, giving tenants a guarantee that they can return to better homes whilst building an improved public realm? Crucially can we replace poor quality 1960s council homes, with brand new ones that will improve our residents’ health and well-being? We will be saying more about all this in the near future.