War rages over demolition of West London estates as tenants launch High Court bid

War rages over demolition of West London estates as tenants launch High Court bid

Two tenants and residents associations have launched legal proceedings in the High Court against the planning policy underpinning the Earl’s Court redevelopment which could see the demolition of more than 760 social homes.

The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (H&F) wants to push on with a masterplan for the Earl’s Court area – produced by Sir Terry Farrell – which imagines a future of four villages and a high street, with up to 7,500 new homes and more than 12,000 permanent new jobs.

But it involves the demolition of more than 760 social homes on two estates – West Kensington and Gibbs Green – a move that has sparked uproar and led to some tenants looking to seize ownership of their homes through the formation of a resident-controlled housing association.

The consultation on the future of the estate – held earlier this year – revealed that the majority of people who responded to the consultation on the estates were opposed to redevelopment, while the majority of people in the wider area were in favour.

The council says all homes on the estate would be replaced within the redevelopment area and people would only have to move when their new home is ready to be occupied. The council added that resident leaseholders and freeholders would receive the market value of their home, to be independently assessed, and an extra 10% of that amount in compensation.

Despite the opposition to the redevelopment, the council’s cabinet in April agreed that a Conditional Land Sale Agreement (CLSA) – to include the two estate estates in wider plans for the area – would go to a future cabinet meeting, subjected to no major issues emerging in remaining negotiations between the council and developer Capital & Counties.

If the CLSA is agreed all 760 homes on the two estates would be rebuilt in the redevelopment area.

However, residents allege that the adoption of the Earl’s Court/West Kensington Supplementary Planning Document by the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham and by the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea was “unlawful”.

They want the court to declare the adoption unlawful and to quash the decisions.

The claim was served also on Interested Parties: EC Properties; Transport for London; and the Mayor of London’s Office/ Greater London Authority.

The claimants have requested a Judicial Review on several grounds, not least the claim that the councils designated a planning document as a supplementary planning document, instead of a development plan document, which would have required Secretary of State approval.

They also argue that the plans breach the equality act due to an alleged failure to consider the impact on protected groups, particularly, black and minority ethnic individuals and that it conflicts with adopted planning policy.

They also claim the councils failed to consider the need to replace the social housing lost to the estates’ demolition in breach of the H&F council’s core strategy.

Michael Webster, a partner at Webster Dixon, representing the claimants, states: “The Defendants have failed to follow the correct procedures in adopting their regeneration plans despite receiving several warnings from residents and others that their actions were unlawful. There is an overwhelming objection by the residents   to the demolition of their homes for the sake of a private development. The protection of family homes and the welfare of individuals, many of whom are vulnerable, should not be sacrificed for the profits of a billion pound developer.”

An H&F Council spokesman said: “We have just received notification of this claim and the matter is currently being considered by our lawyers.”