Kensington & ChelseaNews

Council warned against selling community centre

By Ben Lynch, Local Democracy Reporter

An Independent councillor has warned against selling off a community centre as part of a proposed redevelopment scheme.

Canalside House, which sits towards the northern end of Ladbroke Grove in Kensington and Chelsea, is a council-owned hub home to a range of voluntary organisations, including housing cooperatives and mental health charities.

It is also situated in the corner of the Kensal Canalside site, for which a major planning application, known as ‘Project Flourish’, is live on the council’s planning portal.

Developer Ballymore and Sainsbury’s, which occupies part of the land, are looking to turn the brownfield site into a space delivering 2,519 homes, a new park, shops, cafés and restaurants, as well as a new Sainsbury’s supermarket.

Documents from the submission noted that the applicants are proposing buying the land owned by the council.

Canalside House was built in 1929 and sits towards the northern end of Ladbroke Grove (Picture: LDRS)

Both Canalside House and the Boathouse Centre, which sits in the same corner of the site will then be demolished to create a new public space. The submission adds that “existing residents and tenants be rehoused in new accommodation within the new development.”

Emma Dent Coad, Independent councillor for St Helen’s Ward and an Independent candidate for Kensington and Bayswater in the upcoming General Election, expressed concerns about the centre’s future: “The value of a voluntary sector hub such as Canalside House should not be underestimated. The numerous groups housed there work together for community members often forgotten about.

“They reach out to thousands of residents in need every week, whom the council are barely aware of and indeed don’t seem to care about.”

Cllr Dent Coad added tenants in Canalside House have been ‘let down’ by the council, and claimed they are now ‘afraid to speak out’ to avoid any financial repercussions.

A ‘Stop Project Flourish’ banner across the road from the site. Permission to use for all LDRS partners (Picture: LDRS)

“In the last Census it emerged that Golborne ward just across the road is the poorest ward in London for multi-deprivation,” she said. “The council is silent in their failures to improve that shameful fact. They have no plans to ‘level up’, they want tenants and those they care for to ‘shut up’.”

A Kensington and Chelsea Council spokesperson said there are no immediate plans to sell the building, and that all repairs reported to the local authority are acted upon. They added at the end of 2022, when the heating stopped working, two portable heaters were provided, with two new boilers purchased and installed since.

“Canalside House is home to fantastic voluntary and community sector organisations,” they said. “There is now a live planning application for the construction of over 2,500 much-needed homes in the immediate area and we are keen to see it delivered. Housing is the number one thing residents tell us the borough needs.

“We understand the developers are focused on a safe, planning compliant, and high-quality scheme, and have indicated they are committed to working with organisations in Canalside House, including offering alternative and high-quality workspace.

Pictured top: Cllr Emma Dent Coad warned the value of hubs such as Canalside House “should not be underestimated” (Picture: LDRS)

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