A new college and ~500 new homes for West Kensington

West London College in West Kensington has been planning a complete rebuild of their facilities for some time now.  They regard the current college buildings as not fit for purpose and want to build a new college on part of the site. This would be funded by new housing on the rest of the site.

At last the consultation is beginning and I strongly urge local residents to attend.  This development will have a major impact on the wider neighbourhood.

The consultation dates are: Wednesday 13 June 2.30 – 8pm and Saturday 16 June 10am – 3pm.  The college is on Gliddon Road, postcode W14 9BL, just north of the Barons Court tube station.

As you can see from the picture the plan is for a very significant “densification” of the site. The proposal includes approximately 470 new homes as well as public space that will be accessible by all residents.  What this will consist of I presume will be made clear at the exhibition – or options will be given.  For me a concern is that the residential blocks will be 10 – 12 storeys high at their highest.  In my view this is too high and represents very significant height creep.

The College plans to go for detailed planning permission in two parts: the college plans first, and then the detailed plans for the housing at a later date.  Our target as local residents should be that this becomes a development that we are all proud of, and are pleased to have seen happen.  I am a great fan of Fitzgeorge and Fitzjames Avenue – as well as the stunning and unusual St Pauls Court.  Our goal should be to make this new development “as good”.  How can we achieve that?  By working together.

I understand that the College’s target is to get the first detailed planning application in over July / August.  Of course many people will be away over part of this time so I suggest that residents – almost from tomorrow – ask the College and the Council to guarantee an extension on the 3 weeks, and to ensure that the response period goes through into September when more people will be around and “refocusing”.

If you are unable to attend the exhibitions “Your Shout” has provided this contact number – 0207 587 3049 – and have said that they will “send you further details on the proposals, including the exhibition banners”.

Avonmore & Brook Green needs a Neighbourhood Forum

Caroline ffiske writes:

When you are a councillor in Avonmore & Brook Green, you spend a lot of time talking about buildings: their architecture and appearance; and their use. So do local residents. One way to better harness residents’ energy and enthusiasm, and to ensure that local developments are a win-win would be to form a Neighbourhood Forum.

Four years ago, when I became a councillor, York House, a lovely Victorian building on Avonmore Road had just been torn down.  Local people were shocked at its sudden disappearance.

Soon after that the future of Leigh Court was being decided.  The now-empty, once-lovely mansion-block overlooking Avonmore School had been bought by a developer.  Residents fought for a refurbishment that respected the beauty of the building and the residential nature of the area.

The battle of FitzGeorge and Fitzjames Avenue loomed.  Unquestionably, the loveliest street in London, with highly decorative mansion blocks designed by Delissa Joseph.  A developer planned to pull out the gorgeous greenery and grounding base of the building to put basement flats along the entire frontage.  The beauty of this gorgeous street would have been destroyed. The passion and commitment of local residents came to the fore again as we battled this one through the planning system.

Across 2017, the pace quickened:

  • Olympia was sold to Yoo Group who promise a transformative makeover with the design element led by Thomas Heatherwick of Routemaster bus and Olympic cauldron fame.
  • New owners of 66 Hammersmith Road developed plans to pull down the not-much-loved glass-panelled building and replace it with a more attractive design but with greater bulk and loss of greenery.
  • West London College announced that its buildings are not fit for purpose.  They would like to build a new college funded by housing on part of the site.
  • The government announced that it would sell Blythe House – a stunning building with enormous potential.
  • To the west of the ward, the Hammersmith Society and others began alluding to outline plans for tower blocks within the gyratory.

So within this small area there is enormous potential for new housing, better education opportunities, new jobs, and new arts and leisure facilities. And yet, in the middle: local residents, neighbourly streets, gorgeous architecture, quiet heritage, precious green spaces.  How can local residents preserve the best of the past at the same time as making sure that new development is so good that it also becomes part of what future generations want to protect and preserve?

At least part of the answer comes in the form of a Neighbourhood Plan and Neighbourhood Forum. Neighbourhood Plans give communities significant rights around developments in their areas.  They enable local communities to say where homes, offices, and shops are built.  Residents can have a say in the design of new buildings and they can influence the height and massing that is allowable. Residents can also have a say in the use of buildings – for example empty shops. Neighbourhood Plans become legal documents that need to be approved via a local referendum.  Once in existence they must be used by local Councils to make decisions on local planning applications.

Nick Boys-Smith from the charity CreateStreets says:  “We encourage Neighbourhood Forums to be as ambitious as possible. If you don’t allocate sites and say what they should look like, you’re not really going to achieve much…  Neighbourhood Plans need to confirm with the Council ‘Local Plan’ but that still gives plenty of scope.”

Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it?  Creating a Neighbourhood Plan is clearly a huge amount of work.  But sometimes it’s the start of a process that makes 90% of the difference.  The creation of a Neighbourhood Plan starts with the formation of a Neighbourhood Forum.  A coming together of local people who care and who have a bit of time to be involved.  ABG has a wealth of people who are passionate about their area and well-experienced in participating in Tenants Associations, Residents Associations, Friends Groups, and Leaseholder Associations.  If they came together to start pooling ideas and establishing a collective voice, that in itself would be very powerful.  The Council, as well current and future developers should want to listen and to collaborate from the start.  The goal should always be win-win.

It can only be in everyone’s interests to design additions to our built environment and community assets well.  We all want to make the world a better place.  Putting beauty and community at the heart of local development is a great place to start.  Who’s in?

Poor council gardening maintenance attracts fly-tipping

I wrote the other day about the deficient standard of municipal gardening at the back of a small block of council flats in Ashchurch Park Villas.

Here is another example. This time from St Peter’s Road. The poor maintenance makes it an eyesore. The barriers put up to discourage fly-tipping just makes it look more grim and so has the opposite effect.

As I said with the earlier example there would be a case for having a properly maintained garden. There would be a case for building a cottage – if it was attractive with a traditional design and materials.  Either way there would be something beautiful to look at.

What can not be justified is the current situation.

Under Labour in H&F the number of council homes failing to meet the “decent” standard has doubled

First the good news. In recent years the number of council homes that fail to meet the “decent homes standard” nationally has been falling. As on the 1st April 2014 there were 145,737 “non-decent dwellings” owned by local authorities in England. See Section F of this dataset.  As of April 1st last year, the latest figures available, it was down to 83,440 “dwellings”. The dataset for that year is here.

In London the number has fallen from 72,885 in 2014 to 47,232 last year.

But in Hammersmith and Fulham it is a different story. On April 1st 2014 there were 536 “non-decent” council homes in the borough. The next month the borough was under new management. Labour won the council elections after promising council tenants a better deal. What has been the reality? By April 1st last year the number of “non-decent” council homes was 1,095. That is more than double. These are the official figures based on the Council’s own returns.

Now the “decent homes standard” isn’t a perfect measure. It includes the perverse requirement to replace sash windows with PVC.  But those cold statistics do give a pretty clear measure of the extent of Labour’s mismanagement and neglect. Anybody who goes canvassing on a council estate can see it for themselves – frankly the figures sound like a gross underestimate. 605 council homes in Hammersmith and Fulham are categorised as “not in a reasonable state of repair” (up from 147 in 2014). 92 are “without reasonable modern amenities and services” (up from nil in 2014). There are also 499 “without a reasonable degree of thermal warmth” (up from 392).

As a percentage, the “non-decent” council homes has risen from four per cent of the council’s housing stock, in 2014, to nine per cent last year.

Other councils have made great progress during the same time. In Kingston the number of “non decent” has fallen from 1,596 to 91. Havering has seen a fall from 1,929 to just 40.

By contrast when the Conservatives were running the Council the number of “non-decent council homes” was reduced. In the last four years of the Conservatives running the Council the number fell by more than half. In 2010 it was 1,322. As noted above by 2014 it was down to 536.

I wrote earlier about the amount of new affordable housing being slashed under Labour.

So the facts are stark. Labour uses class war rhetoric about being “on the side” of council tenants while portraying the Conservatives as the enemy. But the truth is that council tenants have lost out more than anyone else as a consequence of Labour running the Council.


Making it easier for Flora Gardens residents to get on their bikes

While the hugely expensive “Cycle Superhighway” proposal for King Street is flawed there are plenty of more practical and less costly ways to encourage cycling.

For instance one resident in Flora Gardens asks me if a bike rack or shelter could be provided on his estate. Many council tenants keep their bikes chained to the railing in the hallway, but this is against the terms of the tenancy agreement and a potential hazard. On the other hand cycling is something that should be promoted – as a way of reducing pollution and traffic congestion and improving health and fitness.

The Head of Resident Involvement & Improvement in the Council’s Housing Department replies:

“The Resident Involvement Team is already working with the Flora Gardens TRA to look at secure bike storage. This was discussed at the TRA’s general meeting on 15 March 2018.

We’ll be looking at the possibility of carrying out works under the Neighbourhood Improvement Fund (NIF), subject to the TRA consulting with their residents and making a bid. A bid can be made for funding for up to £25,000. We would need to look at the suitable locations for secure bike storage, as well as the level of demand to understand the feasibility of this.

More information on NIF can be found at:


Those who would like to get in touch with the Flora Gardens TRA, can contact the Resident Involvement Team on 0208 753 6652 or email getinvolved@lbhf.gov.uk.”

So that is encouraging.

H&F Council’s gardening is not up to scratch

I have written before about Hammersmith and Fulham Council owning 423 empty garages on its housing estates.  Many of these could be replaced with homes – as could derelict or unused buildings on council estates across the borough. I have also noted the Council’s very poor performance on affordable housing in recent years.  An average of just 87 new “affordable” homes a year since Labour took over – compared with an average of 194 a year under the Conservatives.

When it comes to finding room for new homes on council estates any loss of green space would obviously be a more sensitive issue than the loss of some eyesore redundant building. But is all the green space properly maintained? This photograph is of the communal back garden of a small block of council flats in Ashchurch Park Villas. There is a case for providing a well maintained pleasant garden.  There is a case for building a cottage or two on the site – which I think if they were beautiful and traditional would be acceptable to existing residents. Perhaps there would be space to do both.

What I find impossible to justify is the current use of the land.

New homes in North End Road

Please to see that new homes at available on 308-310 North End Road. This is the site of the Old Barrow Boy pub which had been closed for years. a new Italian restaurant Rigatoni has also been opened.

The Barrow Apartments are being delivered by London-based developer Setha, which was founded 10 years ago by Italian property developer Manuel Alsoni. The company has since gone from strength to strength, building a portfolio of properties across London and the south east and a positive reputation for delivering style and elegance synonymous with Italy.

This development includes studio, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom properties, all of which have been designed to the highest specification, offering contemporary interiors and bespoke furnishings inspired by Setha’s Italian roots. This high-quality finish is most certainly what sets the Barrow Apartments apart from larger developments, though the prices are comparable.

CEO and Founder of Setha, Manuel Alsoni said:

“Setha are pleased to build on our growing London property portfolio with the delivery of six elegant homes in the heart of the popular Fulham area. Quality design is at the forefront of our offering and we believe that this approach shines through in the beautiful interiors and high-quality finish of the Barrow Apartments.”

The properties are a great option for first time buyers, who are expected to jump at the opportunity to acquire a Fulham property with the assistance of Help to Buy. Buy-to-Let landlords are also expected to be drawn to the development, owing to Fulham’s continued popularity.

The apartments are available for purchase from Dexters. Prices starting at £450,000.

Why do councils and housing associations throw away good quality curtains and furniture?

An interesting report from Orbit Housing Association. They have undertaken a pilot where “all furnishings, flooring and window coverings” in good condition left behind by old tenants are
offered to the new tenants.

Orbit says this saves money for them as well as the new tenants.

The report says:

  • Retain good quality flooring and window coverings in properties and gift them to incoming customers at the time of re-letting
  • Provide furniture packs for those who are struggling financially
  • Promote affordable and accessible alternatives to high street lenders and weekly payment retailers
  • Ensure all properties are secure, including access to and from communal blocks and communal areas are well maintained

Poverty leaves many people living in social housing little means of buying decent, essential furnishings for their home. Across the UK, less than 2% of social housing stock is furnished despite furnished tenancies topping tenants’ priorities for social landlords to tackle their financial exclusion . Research shows that 47% of social tenants want landlords to provide furniture directly and a further 36% would like help with furniture in some way.

Historically across the sector, all furnishings, flooring and window coverings are removed from a property regardless of quality when a customer moves out and the property becomes void.

In January 2017, we ran a pilot project in Stratford-upon-Avon, which tested the process and impact of leaving good quality floor and window coverings in our properties. This included carpets, laminate floors, tiled floors, blinds and curtains.

Under the pilot, a visual inspection was undertaken by the Property Services team and if they deemed the item to be in good condition, customers were given the choice as to whether they would like to retain them. If the answer is yes, Orbit would ensure that the items were professionally cleaned and left for the incoming customer. The customer was asked to sign a form gifting them the items. Positive impact Over the course of the 12 month pilot, 47 customers benefited from gifted items, with the median replacement value in the region of £500.

Here’s what some of our customers had to say:

  • “Nice gesture of Orbit and makes you want to look after the place and take care of it.”
  • “When the housing officer said that we could keep furnishings it was a huge weight off our shoulders.”
  • “I am pretty chuffed…it makes a huge difference and [moving in] a lot less stressful.”

There are clear cost and time savings from a reduced workload on the Property Services team. For a typical three bed property, the savings amount to around £200. There has also been no negative impact on void turnaround times. Following its success, this process has now been rolled out across all Orbit operating areas. This is a small change in process which has a huge, beneficial impact on both customers and the business.”

I have asked Hammersmith and Fulham Council if we could follow this example.

Of course it is something for other housing associations to pursue as well. I remember that when Shepherd’s Bush Housing Association had some flats in Hamlet Gardens residents were dismayed with the frequency with which virtually new mattresses were dumped outside whenever a tenancy changed.

Labour cancel housing meeting “due to insufficient business”

Housing is a huge political issue locally and nationally.  On Hammersmith and Fulham Council the official mechanism for scrutiny of this subject is Economic Regeneration, Housing and the Arts Policy and Accountability Committee. The next gathering was due to take place on March 19th. But I was surprised to be sent the following announcement from the Council.

“Please be advised that the Chair of the Committee, in consultation with the Chief Whip, has cancelled this meeting due to insufficient business.”

I have responded as follows:

“I am concerned by this decision.

You say it is due to “insufficient business”.

However as you know the Work Programme had four items for March 19th:

1. Resident Involvement – Daniel Miller To consider the Council’s work to involve Council tenants and leaseholders in the management of their homes. The report will include an update from each of the residents groups on their work to date.

2. Tenants and Residents Halls –  Glendine Shepherd To discuss the council’s work to try to get tenants and residents halls used more.

3. The Council’s home energy strategy and measures to tackle fuel poverty – Nick Austin / Justine Dornan To review the work of the Council to make homes as fuel efficient as possible and how vulnerable residents will be protected during the winter.

4. Communal Heating Charges – Kath Corbett To consider whether improvements could be made to the way in which residents with communal heating are billed.

There were also another seven  “Potential Future Items” – Industrial Strategy, Housing for disabled people, Aids and Adaptation, Mitie Health and Safety Compliance Checks and Culture Led Place Making.


Many of these are already long overdue. Are all the officers due to be giving reports on holiday on March 19th? Please may I have an explanation.

The Chairman of the PAC, Cllr Alan De’Ath, is paid a £5,000 a year in an Special Responsibility Allowance to chair six  meetings a year. Now it will be five meetings.

 The Council’s “Governance and Scrutiny” department employs 10.6 full time equivalents. It has an annual budget of £486,100.

In that context the decision seems difficult to justify.”