Harry Phibbs stood nervously facing a crowd of four hundred and fifty of his constituents. “I’m here to…” he began. But the resident next to me interrupted. “Listen!” she muttered - guessing his ploy - just moments before Cllr. Phibbs (Con) uttered that word too. A quiet laugh rippled across the immediate quarter of the room. This incident captured the mood at last night's meeting. Nobody believed that their concerns were being heard. H&F Council’s consultation on the new Town Hall development is a cynical affair.
I was a member of H&F’s cabinet when officials first brought forward a smaller scheme for this site six years ago. Cllr. Mike Cartwright (Lab), ex-Councillor Chris Allen (Lab), others and I argued against it and it was quashed. I recall being shocked at the officials’ unseemly enthusiasm for the shiny new Town Hall offices it would provide. When in 2005 I became Deputy Leader of the Council, I told officials to halt all work on the project and that the demolition of the cinema and Pocklington Trust flats would not be given the go-ahead on my watch. It was therefore a surprise when, one year later, the newly elected Conservative Administration embraced a bigger scheme with such energy. They had vigorously campaigned against demolishing those buildings just months before.
Secondly, I think the Administration needs to recognise that significant numbers of local people will continue to object to these awful plans. I recall one senior Administration member dismissing scornfully “the poxy number of objectors” when only forty or so residents attended another planning meeting. That same Conservative Councillor was pale with anxiety when over two hundred and fifty local people came to demonstrate their objections at a different planning meeting. Last night, there was almost twice that number of residents attending the Save Our Skyline meeting. On previous occasions there have been over a thousand people attending other public meetings. In short, this Administration needs to see and understand that its current plans for the Town Hall redevelopment are completely unacceptable to very large numbers of Hammersmith and Fulham’s residents. Possibly, and only then, they may actually begin to listen… We are, after all, living in a democracy.
If you would like to join the residents' campaign you can email Save Our Skyline directly by clicking here.