RBKC’s Secret Deal to Sell Canalside House

Kensington & Chelsea Council (RBKC) has struck a secret deal with an international property developer to sell the North Kensington community hub, Canalside House. There has been no democratic oversight of the deal, no consultation with the affected communities and the tenant organisations have not been informed. Information on the sale was provided by an unimpeachable source who told us that by this time next year “Canalside House will be gone”.  


RBKC’s deal follows years of uncertainty in which the council has swung between two polarities: imposing a sale against the wishes of the community and vowing to work with tenant organisations to upgrade Canalside House.  

The buyer, Ballymore, will demolish the building, which sits next to, but not on, the Kensal Canalside Opportunity Area site. Our source explained that ahead of making the deal public, the council is actively seeking to reduce the number of organisations utilising Canalside House. The terms of the sale will obligate RBKC to provide temporary space for the evicted organisations, so the fewer groups using the building, the less work there will be for the council.

This aspect of the deal is borne out in RBKC’s refusal to rent out the biggest and best offices in the building. Those enquiring about using the large first-floor office, rented until last year by Portobello Business Centre, have been informed they can use that space free of charge on an ad-hoc basis, but no long-term tenancy will be possible.  

The large ground floor office, vacated by the Volunteer Centre in 2016 during a previous move by the council to sell, was converted into a cheap hot-desking space but is barely advertised or used. Our source told us that RBKC has categorically ruled out any groups using that space for ongoing service provision to ensure the number of tenant organisations is kept to a minimum.

Following a period in temporary office space provided by RBKC, the deal sees the council hand responsibility for housing the Canalside organisations to Ballymore, a private company with no expertise in providing vital services such as the ones available at Canalside House.

Ballymore’s wish to own everything next to their Gas Works site is further evidenced by their offer for the converted water tower next to Canalside House. The tower’s owner turned down the offer.

image from ballymoregroup.com


Built in 1929, Canalside House sits at the top end of Ladbroke Grove. Less than a mile from Grenfell Tower, the centre was a hub of community support during and after the 2017 fire and is one of North Kensington’s last remaining spaces for charities, the voluntary sector, small businesses, and other local enterprises. Tenants include representatives of local African communities, housing cooperatives, care organisations and mental health charities.

RBKC has sought to dispose of Canalside House for years. In a plan initiated by the council’s disgraced former deputy leader, Rock Feilding-Mellen, Canalside was one of the targets of the Conservative authority’s asset strip of community buildings, part of an ideological crusade by Feilding-Mellen and his colleagues to permanently change the face and demographics of North Kensington.  

As with other community assets and housing estates, a council tactic at Canalside has been managed decline, including the turning down of a £100,000 grant secured by resident organisations from Tudor Trust to install a lift to improve disabled access.

In 2016, the organisations of Canalside House were invited to ‘consultations’ at the Town Hall at which they were informed they would be moved to a converted industrial site on Latimer Road. Half the size of Canalside, the hot desking space offered zero privacy and no storage. 100 percent of the organisations were unhappy with the plan, but the council told them: “take it or leave it.”


In Summer 2017, following the Grenfell Tower fire, community buildings that had been targeted in the asset strip were suddenly saveable. With the Canalside organisations playing a crucial role in supporting a devastated community amid countless council failures, RBKC leader Elizabeth Campbell agreed to “pause” the sale of the building.

The reprieve was short-lived and RBKC issued an executive decision to press on with the sale in early 2018. Feilding-Mellen’s successor, Kim Taylor-Smith, said that opposition councillors questioning the decision were engaging in “a banal conversation”. Read full details of the 2018 attempted sale here.

Faced with a backlash from local people and members of the government’s Grenfell Taskforce, RBKC performed an overnight U-turn, making a public commitment to Canalside House’s future.


But by October 2018, RBKC had revived its plan, with Taylor-Smith claiming that “part or all of the building will require demolition” to “maximise the density on the Kensal Gas Works development.“

Canalside tenants attended RBKC’s Housing & Property Scrutiny Committee to object to the council’s approach and accused Taylor-Smith of not following through on his promise to work with the community to upgrade the building.

The council re-committed to refurbishment, with Cllr Taylor-Smith claiming they had “no plans whatsoever” to sell.

That November, the Kensal-Canalside Opportunity Area Delivery Team visited Canalside residents and informed them the building “does not need to go to deliver the site” and “we basically do not need to demolish the site”.

In December 2018, council planning officers told a Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee meeting that the demolition of Canalside House was not necessary for the Kensal Gas Works development.

image from ballymoregroup.com


The lack of serious investment over the past three years has left resident organisations in a chronic state of uncertainty and insecurity. The council fitted new windows but has otherwise remained content to oversee the deterioration of their building.

Since November, the Canalside organisations have worked without central heating, and some have been forced to use other local buildings to deliver services. North Kensington does not have many of these community-use spaces left.

Unless this secret deal is brought into the light and challenged by the public and politicians, another vital community asset will be stripped from North Kensington. The plans to sell and demolish Canalside House are an existential threat to the organisations operating there, and to the vital services they provide to hundreds of vulnerable people in the local community. Without a serious challenge, by 2024 “Canalside House will be gone.”

By Tom Charles @tomhcharles  

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