The BBC recently reported that:
Peter Deakins drew up the master plan for the Grenfell estate (more usually called Lancaster West Estate) in the mid 1960s, a scheme that was hailed at the time as a “spectacular surprise” by the Architects’ Journal because of its scale and ambition. He was horrified to see its centrepiece, the tower, burnt out….
…Although Peter Deakins was not the designer of the individual buildings on the Lancaster West estate – which includes Grenfell Tower – he worked on the estate as a whole and as an architect on many others, including the now-listed Golden Lane council estate and the Barbican.
Deakins has just seen one project he oversaw that was designed to produce superior social housing destroyed with many lives lost by a cost-cutting refurbishment at Grenfell Tower; and he’ll soon see another in the form of the Golden Lane Estate damaged if Taylor Wimpey’s over-scaled development on the site of Bernard Morgan House goes ahead. Some flats on the Golden Lane Estate will lose as much as 70% of the light coming into them if Taylor Wimpey’s Gerrrymander Mansions is built. The main architects of the Golden Lane social housing complex were Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, who went on to design the Barbican. Both the Golden Lane Estate and Bernard Morgan House lie within the boundaries of the City of London.
Since it consolidates the power of those currently controlling the City of London council when they increase the amount of social housing they maintain outside the borough and decrease the number of council tenants they have within it, few will be surprised they want Bernard Morgan House – which until recently provided social housing to around 100 key workers – replaced with Taylor Wimpey’s luxury apartments. There is no social housing or affordable housing provision within the proposed new development. Instead current plans are to provide more City of London social housing outside the borough, including a proposed tower block a few minutes walk from Gerrymander Mansions, which will lie just over the boundary with neighbouring Islington. Needless to say, tenants living beyond borough boundaries are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to the politics of housing, and they are effectively disenfranchised on this issue in local elections. Which is just the way the paternalistic City of London likes things.
In this context, the 21 June 2017 announcement that the City of London was to rehouse families from the burnt out Grenfell Tower in flats it would buy at 375 Kensington High Street was both good PR and fitted its existing policy. Before this, and within days of the Grenfell Tower fire on 14 June 2017, John Barradell – The Town Clerk and Chief Executive of the City of London – was picked to head the Grenfell Response Team by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid. On 5 July 2017 Sajid Javid decided not to call in in the Gerrymander Mansions planning application despite all the problems associated with it; which are detailed on this blog and elsewhere. By 10 July City of London councilors were informed the developer Berkeley had decided to sell the social housing units at 375 Kensington High Street to the Peabody Trust but that they would still be used to house victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
We understand that the City of London is still looking to buy properties outside its borough boundaries in which to house those displaced by the Grenfell Tower fire. John Barradell will continue as Head of the Grenfell Response Team until the Grenfell Taskforce is able to take full control – and presumably remains more than pleased that Sajid Javid decided not to call in the Gerrymander Mansions planning application. Meanwhile an opportunity to stop the Taylor Wimpey development in its tracks – with the accompanying mass degradation of community resources including social housing, three schools and a park – has been lost; and the anti-democratic and vote rigging practices of the City of London council remain unchecked.
NOTES: BBC ‘Grenfell planner’s shock at burnt remains’: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-40571856