Capital & Counties is looking to revise its Earls Court masterplan to make it more economically attractive, increasing the volume of housing delivered, which might mean the controversial inclusion of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates could be reversed.
Reports suggest Capco wants to increase the number of homes from 7500 to 10000 across the 77 acre site. Outline consent was granted in 2012 for the Sir Terry Farrell masterplan based on the concept of ‘Four Urban Villages and a 21st Century High Street’, but it is now clearly believed that scheme would not realise the return that a different scheme might, given the change in economic conditions.
The site includes the two council owned estates, but now it has emerged that council leader Stephen Cowan has written to the residents of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green housing estates to say that the council is planning to retake control of the estates as part of the process of approving a new masterplan. See Cllr Cowan’s letter on the website for the campaign to retain the two estates.
Campaigner Jonathan Rosenberg issued the following statement from the three residents organisations: “At £18 billion, the Earl’s Court scheme is the most valuable on-site urban redevelopment in the world outside of China.
“For nine long years, residents have been fighting to save their homes and preserve their community. Our campaign has been through some very dark times. But right now there is a tremendous wave of excitement sweeping across the estates.
“The Council Leader is working very hard to get the estates out of the land sale contract. We believe that our campaign is on course for victory and we look forward to finally lifting the curse that has so sorely afflicted our community.”
Rosenberg, as seasoned regeneration practitioner Jackie Sadek reminds us, was also instrumental in the campaign against Shirley Porter when she was leader of Westminster Council.
Sadek describes the possibility of the estates returning to council control as “a commercial and moral victory”. She also notes that since residents have stated a desire to take control of the estates themselves, there is the possibility that ownership could transfer to them.
She says: “The interesting thing to watch now is whether the two estates return to council control, or whether they migrate to some sort of community-owned structure such as a community interest company…. after the horrific Grenfell Tower disaster, there just has to be more appetite for the community taking charge of its own destiny”.
Capco released a statement noting the reports and confirming that it is in discussions with Hammersmith & Fulham Council to “bring forward an enhanced masterplan for the Earls Court Opportunity Area.
It said “an enhanced masterplan would seek to deliver an increased number of homes across all tenures throughout the wider Earls Court Opportunity Area, and could involve LBHF taking the lead on future plans for the West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates”.
It added that in the event that an enhanced masterplan did not progress or agreement was not reached, it believed the conditional land sale agreement transferring the two estates to Capco’s ownership would stay in force.