Monday 1 December 2008

H&F Council Argues Property Developer’s Profit Hopes Over The Needs Of Local Residents

“We need to consider the needs of the developer to generate a satisfactory profit on this scheme…” Surprisingly, these words were spoken by a H&F Council official who last Tuesday night was advising councillors on the Planning Committee to grant permission to Linden London for their multi-million pound Glenthorne Road project in Hammersmith. You can view the official planning application by clicking here and going to page 128.

My colleagues and I argued that the scheme needed to be postponed by at least a month. We suggested that the Council would lose any leverage to negotiate once permission was given. Not only was there, unusually, a complete lack of clarity on the Section 106 sum which the developer is meant to pay to benefit local residents but, the Council report recommended that the councillors back the property developer's request to radically cut the numbers of affordable homes available for residents to buy or rent. If agreed the amount of affordable housing would be cut from the London minimum of 50% to 21%.

Some of my constituents were attending from the Cambridge Grove and Leamore Street Residents Association. On the 17th September, they had also been to the Full Council Meeting to ask if the Council would use the Section 106 monies from this scheme to remedy the long-standing traffic problems in their area and fix the badly deteriorating railings that date back to 1856. At the time Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh (Con) the Leader of H&F Council, told them “We certainly will make sure that it’s one of our priority projects to sort out.” As these were the only monies identified by the Council, since the Conservatives' £1,633,000.00 cut to the highways budget, residents had become hopeful that many of their problems would be addressed with this new sum.

I reminded the committee of Cllr. Greenhalgh’s commitment and handed out the attached photo of the everyday traffic problems residents have to put up with. I suggested that one point that we could all agree on, despite party political differences, was that we were there to represent local residents and not property developers. The Conservative members of the panel looked uncomfortable. It seems that they didn’t agree. The Chair called for a vote. It split down party lines with the seven Conservatives on the committee voting to grant permission to the property developer without further negotiation and the two Labour members voting against.

My constituents said they were astonished. I thought the Conservatives had made a mistake as last October, my fellow ward Councillors and I worked with residents to force H&F Council to negotiate an extra quarter of a million pounds in Section 106 money from the developer of the Hammersmith Grove Armadillo - just three days prior to the planning meeting. The Council could have used a similar strategy with Linden London. Instead, on page 148 of the report, they simply wrote that “Approximately £100k for highway/environmental improvement works (subject to detailed surveys and estimates for the various works) to improve the sites vehicular and pedestrian accessibility, including crossovers and reinstatement of the footway in vicinity of the site in accordance with the Councils street smart guidance and a contribution to the repair/renewal of the railings in Cambridge Grove”. The officials were unable to explain why there wasn’t an exact sum in the report concerning the Section 106 agreement, what problems would be addressed or what the eventual contribution would be. The Tories clearly didn't care, despite this all being quite unusual.

I’m not sure what Cllr. Greenhalgh’s role has been in this situation. It appears that the Leader of the Council either has little influence on his own officials, that he couldn't be bothered to follow up on his promise or he didn’t mean what he said to residents on September 17th. Either way, the local people who attended weren’t impressed. A classic case of “putting property developers, not residents, first” one later told me.

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