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Residents fight to gain control of Earls Court estate

Residents are set to vote on a proposal that could see them take control of a significant part of a major development in west London.

Members of West Ken & Gibbs Green Community Homes are taking on developer Capital and Counties in a move that could hold up the progress of its £8bn Earls Court regeneration project.

The company was set up by residents in a bid to take over ownership of the estates, which form part of Capco’s Earls Court masterplan.

Last month, residents voted 100 to 1 in favour of serving a Right to Transfer notice on Hammersmith & Fulham Council, which would see ownership of the estates moved to a new landlord.

If approved, it would be the first time the Right to Transfer has been enacted..

The West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates in Hammersmith & Fulham lie in the centre of Capco’s proposed scheme. 

The developer has plans to build 7,500 new homes in phases, including the demolition and redevelopment of Earls Court Exhibition Centre, which has begun; the redevelopment of the two estates; and the office to residential conversion of the nearby Empress Building.

The redevelopment of the estates was only included in the area’s masterplan from January 2013, when the then Conservative-led Hammersmith & Fulham Council entered into a conditional land sale agreement with Earls Court Partnerships, a subsidiary of Capco.

Residents campaigned against the demolition of the estates and held meetings with the Labour Party in the months running up to the 2014 local elections, prior to the party issuing its manifesto.

Labour gained control of the council in May, having pledged to take immediate measures to protect residents’ homes.

Right to Transfer

Right to Transfer has been allowed since July 2013, after it was added to the Housing Act, 1985 under section 34a.

The measure aimed to give social tenants more say about who owns their housing stock, either by taking over responsibility for managing housing services, or by exploring options for transfer from their local authority.

There have been no stock transfers under section 34a to date.

The residents are yet to decide when to serve the council with the Right to Transfer notice, as final sign-off by the communities secretary is required before any decision is approved.

Campaigner Jonathan Rosenberg told Construction News the residents may wait until after the general election when a new secretary of state may be in place.

If the residents got the secretary of state’s sign-off, they would then need to conduct a viability test to see how the transfer would work financially, including how it would fund refurbishment work.

But a source familiar with the situation said: “There are many ways any section 34a application could be rejected by the secretary of state or the council, not least the significant detrimental effect it would have on regeneration.”

The residents would also need to decide which organisation would take over the management of the estates, with a community landlord offered as one solution.

Last month’s vote was the first of four required to establish that residents are in favour of the plan.

The next is due to take place this month.

Capco cited section 34a as a development risk in its latest accounts as potentially having a “negative impact on valuations and group’s returns or delay to works” as well as restricting “optionality in delivery of development”.

A Capco spokesperson said: “Inclusion of the estates is the right approach.

“Residents will gain from the investment, not just from new homes but also from new jobs, transport improvements, a new school, park, shops, and leisure facilities.

“There is planning consent and a binding legal agreement for the estates land which the secretary of state has approved.”

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