Rumours of Canalside House’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. By the building’s owner, Kensington and Chelsea council…
At the December 3rd Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee meeting at Kensington Town Hall, RBKC planning officers stated that the “demolition” of Canalside House that Conservative councillors had been pushing for is not necessary.
The admission at the scrutiny committee came less than a week after planning officers from the Kensal-Canalside Opportunity Area Delivery Team visited Canalside residents, informing them that the building “does not need to go to deliver the site” and “we basically do not need to demolish the site”.
This was news to the 14 resident organisations, who had been told in September by deputy leader of the council, Kim Taylor-Smith, that “part or all of the building will require demolition” to “maximise the density on the Kensal Gas Works development“.
Taylor-Smith’s was the council’s third attempt in recent history to remove the mix of charities, CICs and other third sector groups from the community hub. In 2016 RBKC told residents that they would be moving to a building on Latimer Road, judged by the Canalside organisations to be “wholly inappropriate”. Only the Grenfell Tower fire and its political fallout prevented the forced relocation. In January this year the council set its sights on Canalside again, but residents and activists fought off the attempt to sell the building and turn it into private flats.
The fact that Canalside need not be demolished had apparently been known to planners for months, following surveys of the area. The planning officers expressed frustration that senior councilors had failed to communicate this to Canalside residents, who were left with uncertainty about their ability to deliver their services in the medium and long terms.
This third u-turn by RBKC raises questions about whether senior Conservative councillors are taking care to equip themselves with facts before pursuing actions on autopilot that would have a profound affect on North Kensington. In creating uncertainty and insecurity around one of the area’s few remaining community spaces, the council has done nothing to change its reputation for being on the side of property speculators at the expense of the local population.
Despite all the cynicism that the council has aroused, it has the chance to use Canalside House to come good on its promise of “change”. The development will transform the site, effectively creating “a new council ward” as one councillor put it. The Mayor of London’s website states that redeveloping Kensal-Canalside has the potential to create 2,000 jobs and a minimum of 3,500 new homes.
At their meeting with the residents, planning officers outlined two viable options: for the organisations to stay in an upgraded Canalside House or to move to a state-of-the-art building on the Gas Works development. Either option could ensure that diversity, history and culture are retained in the area. The residents are interested in exploring both. It remains to be seen whether or not the council will engage with them in earnest or if they will remain in the shadows before come round for a fourth raid on Canalside.
By Tom Charles @tomhcharles
Our previous articles on Canalside House can be found here