It is a fascinating story alright, and more than somewhat reminiscent of the Coin Street Community Homes campaign or the Battle for Tolmers Square (still worth a read btw). And, whatever the outcome, I think it is one of those campaigns that students of urban regeneration will be taught as a case study 10 years from now.
I have written of this before (see blogs 9th May and 10th June 2011, 15th May 2012). And it provides a powerful insight into the status and development of community empowerment at this point in time. And in this latest instance, of course, the residents are somewhat reinforced by the recently implemented policies of localism and neighbourhood planning, (and specifically supported by Section 34A of the Housing Act).
But as we now know, the planning committee were unmoved, and voted to approve CapCo's planning applications. It's a bit too early for CapCo to pop any champagne corks though, as the scheme still has to traverse a number of hurdles. In October, Deputy Judge Straker QC will decide whether to proceed to a full hearing of the residents' Judicial Review application for the high court to declare as "unlawful" the council's planning policy underpinning the scheme. And then, of course, it will have to go to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to approve the demolition of the Exhibition Centres. After that it still needs to go to Boris to decide whether to approve the applications. And the Council does not expect to apply to the Government for consent to sell off the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates before March 2013.
All this is well documented out there. But in a new and somewhat explosive development the police are now being asked to investigate evidence of "Misconduct in Public Office". Apparently, there are allegations that certain residents were promised new homes in Seagrave Road in exchange for them supporting demolition. The logical extension of this misconduct action is that it could lead to criminal charges. And this could have some ramifications for Raymond and Thomas Kwok, the Hong Kong investors, who are somewhat crucial to the scheme (and who themselves are currently facing trial by the Hong Kong authorities for bribery and corruption allegations from their property developments over there).
This latest allegation has only served to strengthen the resolve of those 80% of the residents opposing the scheme. The People's Estates' website asserts "as the recession's grip holds firm, and the property and financial speculation that caused it is further discredited, the markets will wonder. Should they take us on? Can they beat people power?". And you do have to wonder.
Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, the body language of Transport for London, the landowner of the Exhibition Centres, seems to have shifted somewhat. News coverage at the end of last week was that while "TfL expected the sale to CapCo to conclude", they were also "assessing" how they could take forward their own land holding at Earls Court separately. Due diligence? Or hedging their bets? Perhaps both.