Redevelopment proposals will only be popular if what is provided is more beautiful than what was there before. Capco’s scheme for the Earls Court and West Kensington Opportunity Area must be judged on that basis. That must include not just more homes, and replacement homes for those who live in the area, but better homes.
Knocking on doors in the tower blocks of the West Ken estate – Fairburn, Churchward, Desborough, Lickey and Sharnbrook – residents often tell me they don’t like living there. There are still lots of concerns about what the alternative offer will be. What will it look like? Among leaseholders particularly whether they will be able to afford it. How long it will take? How disruptive the process will be? There is generally a wish to continue to live locally. But most people living in tower blocks would rather they were not living in tower blocks.
So there is a case for change. But it was never intended that the redevelopment should include demolition of the attractive cottages in Empress Place. Yet this now seems to be threatened. An online petition says:
“Designate Empress Place and the Prince of Wales pub as local Buildings of Merit and add them to the Council’s Local Register. Reject developer Capco’s application to include Empress Place in the Earls Court and West Kensington Opportunity Area.
Why is this important?
Empress Place (1864-5) is one of the few remaining, visible buildings by noted architect John Young. These Victorian workers cottages with their gardens are highly desirable homes left empty at a time of housing shortage. Capco’s plan is to replace them with luxury flats. The Prince of Wales pub which has been made an Asset of Community Value thanks to local residents campaigning to save it, now stands boarded up and empty. Furthermore, the ACV protects the use of the building not the building itself, which Capco wants to demolish and rebuild. We are losing London’s architectural heritage and replacing it with bland, characterless environments that do not meet the housing and social needs of our communities.”
I have asked the Council for a response.
People live very happily in tower blocks all over London and in many other major world cities. What is the specific problem with these tower blocks which makes the residents there not like living in them?
I only ask because there is an endless tendency to blame the shape of buildings for various social ills and lack of personal happiness. We demolished terraces in the 1960s to build towers, now we want to replace the towers with traditional streets. Perhaps we are misdiagnosing the illness.
Don’t worry, during the last council elections Stephen Cowan promised he would block this entire development.