Wednesday 20 November 2013

The Wrong Priorities: New £35m Town Hall Offices Approved After H&F Conservatives Gift £70m Of Public Land To Property Speculator And Set Aside £800k Parking Lot For Town Hall Officials

Flats for overseas investors on Nigel Playfair Avenue
Look at this photo of just some of the luxury flats about to be marketed to overseas investors and it is likely that the £70m price tag charted surveyors placed on the public land H&F Conservatives are gifting to their chosen property speculator is an underestimate. In return for this generous gift the property speculator is providing H&F Council with £35m of unnecessary Town Hall offices and £800,000 worth of private parking for senior bureaucrats.
H&F Conservatives could have used the council's planning powers to insist there would be affordable homes for residents to buy or rent but they voted not to do that arguing instead that the offices and private parking are a greater priority. That was negligent if you consider that Shelter says the likelihood of a Londoner in their 20s getting onto the property ladder during their lifetime is estimated to currently be at just 15%.
At least it wasn't the last scheme which local Conservatives
voted through in November 2011 despite
this residents' protest
But there is still a palpable sense of relief about this scheme. The type of relief one experiences when you're told something really bad is about to happen then something not quite so bad happens instead. That's because it isn't the scheme that H&F Conservatives argued for and then voted through at this meeting on 30th November 2011.
The residents behind stopping that scheme deserve our thanks. They ran a formidable campaign which ultimately had the advantage of getting thousands of people in south west London to pressurize the London Mayor just before the last GLA elections. He quashed their decision in the spring of 2012 and poured derision on the comments of H&F's Conservative councillors and planning team which had wrongly argued it was the only possible viable scheme.
Interestingly, at last week's planning committee aspects of this scheme were attacked by some Conservative members of the planning committee. They didn't like the design and some said they felt let down by the architects. People raised doubts that this was the best scheme to improve this part of Hammersmith but they all still voted for it anyway. Ravenscourt Park Councillor Lucy Ivimy (Con) turned up and spoke in favour of this scheme and I heard the property developer congratulating her on her speech on the way out. It was a different meeting to the last one in 2011.
My Labour colleagues and I think this is a waste of public money and land. Cllr. Mike Cartwright sums up our position here: “Residents will rightly question why their local Conservative councillors voted to gift £70m worth of public land to a developer to get £35m of worth unnecessary town hall offices and why the Conservatives set aside just short of another million pounds to ensure the most senior officials have somewhere handy to park their cars. The bigger priority should obviously have been build a good scheme that provides a good proportion of genuinely affordable homes for residents to buy and rent instead of the overpriced flats, targeted at overseas investors, that the Conservatives ended up voting to approve.”

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