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"We're Just In The Way": Tenants On The West Kensington Estate Speak Out

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 18 months ago
"We're Just In The Way": Tenants On The West Kensington Estate Speak Out
Homes on the West Kensington Estate. Photo by Rachel Holdsworth.

760 homes are going to be demolished in the redevelopment of Earls Court — if you don't know what's going on there, catch up with the excellent overview Dave Hill wrote for us recently. It's hard to visualise what that means on an individual level, so we went to talk to some of the people affected.

"We're just in the way, really," says Linda Sanders, who's lived on the West Kensington Estate with her family for 15 years. Her home, a large, bright three bedroom maisonette in excellent nick, will be one of the first to be demolished. Her street, and a few others like it, take up the largest land footprint and developers are keen to get started.

Linda can see the exhibition centre being taken apart from the upstairs windows; the building shakes at weekends from the heavy machinery used on site. It must be like living with a countdown clock outside your front door, we say to her. She agrees, adding that everyone on the estate is "living with stress, and fear for what might happen".

But surely, some will say, the council has agreed that everyone on the West Ken and neighbouring Gibbs Green estates will be rehoused? This is true; but it's worth digging into what that means in reality. Residents were promised 'like for like' replacements based on a 'snapshot' that was done several years ago. But all this really means is that people who needed a two bedroom property when the snapshot was done will get a two bedroom home in the new development. A household with a maisonette with garden and parking space may be moved to a two bedroom flat on the seventh floor.

Earls Court exhibition centre being demolished. Photo by Rachel Holdsworth.

What about space for the kids to play out? Who's going to keep an eye on the car, needed to get to that late night shift job? What about pets? We can't imagine Linda's friendly tabby cat being happy staring out at former stomping grounds from a fifth floor balcony. Compensation is being offered for the loss of outside space, but some residents would rather forego the cash and keep their gardens.

Elderly people have been promised ground floor homes, but Linda told us of neighbours who are devastated that they'll have to leave the homes they've lived in all their lives. Tenants who rent privately (around a third of homes initially bought under Right to Buy are now let out) have no rights under the scheme, and will likely be evicted when the wrecking ball comes.

Let's also not forget that many of these homes have been bought under Right to Buy. Imagine being a homeowner, investing your own cash in making the place nice, only to have the council come along and tell you it's going to be demolished. Residents complain the compensation being offered is inadequate — a common issue with these kinds of development, and one that Aylesbury Estate leaseholders are battling — though the council says they will be offered full market value, plus 10%. Whether that will be enough to buy a replacement home in the new development remains to be seen. According to the Telegraph, flats in Lillie Square start at £595,000. Here's a one bedroom flat for sale at £789,000, in line with sales blurb advising prices of £1,400 to £1,500 per square foot.

The one bright spot? Unlike other regeneration schemes across the capital, tenants won't be 'decanted' elsewhere while building takes place. New homes will be ready for residents when they have to move out — whether they want to or not.

Last Updated 24 September 2015

Mrs MARGARET SPECTOR

Think of it happening to you then you may understand how devastating it must be for all these families. The worst is that Boris Johnson our so called MAYOR FOR LONDON is doing this to hundreds of families in London.. The RIGHT TO BUY with no guarantees afterwards. All those families who bought their Council homes will now have to live in fear and yet they are reinstating the RIGHT TO BUY. It is misleading the buyers as the Council, once they have got their money, can just come along, turf out the buyers and sell off their homes, to be demolished by developers. I hope no-one is thinking about buying a Council property as it is really not theirs when the time comes and we have a Boris Johnson who sells out his Londoners to Property Developers. I am now living in fear as my property is ex Council and I have spent a lot refurbishing it. Earls Court was a flourishing neighbourhood which will be replaced with luxury homes uninhabited by their owners and will destroy the Social mix of our great city. It will never again draw in the crowds with the wonderful, Iconic Exhibition Centre destroyed. Regeneration of an eclectic neighbourhood into a shadow of its former glory. This is Greed in the disguise of Regeneration. How sad for all those who still live here and those turfed out of their homes and how unjust that our lawyers don't prevent this. We need a PM who cares about the people.

hostile_17

While I can't say I'm enamoured with this all... you keep saying at Londonist build more homes. You were linking to t-shirts that said "build more bloody homes". Well they're taking 750 homes and turning them into 7500. They have to be built somewhere.

HeartbrokenLondoner

This breaks my heart. Londoners being pushed out of their homes and being replaced with overpriced flats for people who only live in them 50% of the time.
This Happened to my Grandparents, they had lived in that house Their whole married lives, they'd raised there Children in that house and even raised some of their Grandchildren. 3 generations just to be shoved out by to council. The Heart and Soul is being taken out of the city. All the things that make London what it is are being pushed out of the City.

J.G. Bollard

When the bulldozers come we'll simply occupy until they fuck off. Chain myself to the radiator.