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.
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. Continue reading