Development – the number one local issue

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.

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2 thoughts on “Development – the number one local issue

  1. There was something about trying to move large numbers of social tenants out to Peterborough
    http://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/news/politics/politics-news/city-council-leader-responds-my-housing-discussions-1-4833657

    RBKC have already moved social tenants to Manchester and Slough – tenants who were made homeless by Conservative changes to benefits.

    The hilariously named Orwell Mansions in N Ken saw agents going to the Far East specifically to sell “units” (we like to call them homes) to investors.

    My family have the choice of moving into a home that is suitable for a single person with few belongings, or a fuel-inefficient house because my 30 year old, efficient and beautiful home must be demolished so that a redevelopment can go ahead.

    We are being gentrified, on the basis of zero research into the benefits of mixing people from very different economic backgrounds. What we have found is that chichi cafes have sprung up everywhere selling a croissant for £2.50 and stale bread salad for £10. There are many more people on mobile phones bellowing as they stride up and down the pavement. This is supposed to civilise us poor, creeping slum-dwellers? It just alienates us.

    Find the evidence that this improves anyones life and I’ll feel better about gentrification and shipping poorer tenants away from their friends, families and schools.

    In our densely-populated borough it’s very difficult to create new housing. But when you have Cabinet members calling Golborne ward a “dunghill” there’s little hope that snobbery doesn’t taint any decisions about social tenants.

  2. At a residents’ meeting the other night, a handful of residents told me they hadn’t liked my use of the term troll in the above blog.

    I apologised to them for any offence caused. My comment was not at all directed at people who merely take a dim view of some, or indeed all, of the Council’s policies and conduct. My mailbag often contains critical post – but my correspondents never seek to hide their name.

    I was using the term in its modern electronic media sense; a troll is almost always an anonymous person who, when using online discussion forums, does some or all of the following:

    • ignores the issues and arguments
    • disregards fairness and balance
    • resorts to character assassination and personal abuse
    • puts the worst possible construction on events and
    • ascribes the basest possible motives.

    Look at any internet site where opinions start by attracting sensible comments and criticism. Once the pseudonyms are brought into play these rapidly degenerate into abuse and offensiveness. Somehow by seeking refuge in anonymity, the cyber-complainants opt to swap reasoned criticism for mindless offensiveness. Perhaps it is therapeutic… but even so I don’t care for it and that’s why I used the term.

    Cllr Nick Paget-Brown

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