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Housing Grenfell borough's Earl's Court gentrification plan in crisis after Tory U-turn

A WIDELY opposed £8 billion regeneration scheme in west London is falling apart following Kensington and Chelsea Council’s decision to meet developers to “consider the site’s future.”

Conservative deputy council leader and property magnate Kim Taylor-Smith, who was appointed after his predecessor quit over the Grenfell fire last year, said he did not believe “continuation of this development under current terms is right” and that “facts on the ground have changed” following the deadly blaze.

The Earl’s Court master plan stretches across West Kensington, with developer Capco’s initial plan proposing to demolish 760 homes across two council estates, with just 11 per cent new “affordable” housing even with “affordable” defined as 80 per cent of the market rate. The proposed “village” areas would contain no affordable homes.

Liberal Democrat councillor Linda Wade, of the cross-party Earl’s Court Area Action Group, said: “The Grenfell disaster highlights the need for [the council] to take a strategic view on housing.”

Labour candidate Bruno de Florence, who would represent Earl’s Court on the council, added: “As a resident, I share concerns that Capco’s current scheme is undeliverable. This Tory folly should never have seen the light of day and affordable housing should be a basic right.”

The master plan has also attracted fierce local opposition on heritage grounds, including the demolition of the globally renowned Earl’s Court exhibition centre.

Following talks with London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Labour-controlled Hammermsith and Fulham council, which is also affected, Capco agreed to “rethink” the scheme in November.

With Cllr Taylor-Smith now offering “complete support” to Hammersmith and Fulham, the U-turn will increase pressure on Capco to deliver a palatable proposal.

Commenting on the council’s shift, Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad, who is also a local councillor and housing campaigner, said: “We all hope this means it’s back to the drawing board for the Earl’s Court site.

“Let’s start again and listen to the community rather than overseas investors. Some social-rented housing plus an exhibition and music venue might be welcomed to boost the area with residents who will actually live there, plus new jobs and trees to clean up the filthy air.”

With continuing fury over the council’s handling of Grenfell Tower and Labour’s challenge mounting after Ms Dent Coad’s shock general election victory, the Conservatives are under growing pressure to address housing concerns.

Last year, they backed a Labour motion to pause regeneration schemes across the borough.

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