BY YANN TEAR
Plans to put ownership of two huge West London housing estates into the hands of the people who live there have been blocked by the Government.
Residents on the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates, with more than 7,500 homes, have lived under the threat of demolition since 2009.
Their hope is to save the homes, but a group they formed called West Ken Gibbs Green Community Homes, has been rebuffed in an application for a stock transfer of the estates from developer Capital and Counties (Capo).
Using a little-known piece of housing law, the transfer would have seen all the homes given to a non-profit organisation set up in the residents’ group’s name.
They would also have taken charge of maintaining and managing the estates. Capo bought the estates off Hammersmith and Fulham council.
At the heart of the rejection is the Government’s desire to regenerate the Earl’s Court area with new estates, following the demolition of the famous exhibition and concert halls nearby.
Housing minister Kit Malthouse MP wrote: “There is sufficient ground to conclude that the proposed stock transfer will have a significant detrimental effect on the regeneration of the area.
“[It would] create considerable uncertainty over the wider deliverables of the Earl’s Court regeneration masterplan.”
Donna Isaac, 51, who lives with her husband David, who is blind, said: “It feels like they just want to get rid of us and go ahead with the scheme.
“If David and I have to move house again it would be debilitating for him, because he would have to re-learn the area. He would be housebound again.
“We were given a house here four years ago, after living in a hostel. I joined the campaign when I found out this place was going to be demolished. I just couldn’t believe anyone would want to tear this community down. We love it here.”
Ms Isaac added: “It seems like while there’s a lot of talk about change since Grenfell, this report made us feel like we’re just not worth anything. They just want to bulldoze us out and build luxury flats.”
The residents dispute the minister’s claim that regeneration in the Earl’s Court and West Kensington Opportunity Area, as it is called, is making concrete progress.
Housing campaigner Andrew Ward, who works with the residents, said Capo had not put any plans into action and might yet sell on to new developers anyway, leading to changes in plans.
The original designs show 7,583 homes could be built, including 1,500 social and affordable rent homes, with 760 of these replacing the homes of the West Ken and Gibbs Green estates.
Capco has always said it would re-house all social tenants and resident leaseholders. But there is an ongoing dispute over whether its plans fulfill the promise of giving residents new homes that are like-for-like.
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