December 2015 – news remains good

At a meeting of the Council’s Public Realm Scrutiny Committee on November 25th, Councillor Tim Coleridge (Cabinet member for Planning) confirmed that the Council would be accepting all the conclusions of the independent examiner of the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Plan.

This means that the verdict that the land at Nursery Lane should be formally designated as Local Green Space will proceed, as part of the StQW Plan, to be voted on in a referendum in the New Year.  A provisional date of 18th February for the referendum has been suggested, but we have pointed out that this is half term week for state and private schools in the neighbourhood, so many people will be away.  We will liaise with the Council on a an alternative date.

News about the Westway Trust is less good.  The Trust held its 2015 AGM on November 23rd at St Helens Church, but the formal business of the meeting had to be abandoned as a result of strong opposition from the public over recent Trust decisions.

As a residents association, we have tried hard over the last 7 years to persuade the Trust that it needs to listen more carefully to the views of local residents in the area.  There remain many residents who lived here in the 1960s and 1970s and who remember the building of the Westway.  The formation of what was then called the North Kensington Amenity Trust was the result of a local community making clear that the strip of 23 acres beneath the Westway should be managed for the benefit of local people, with plenty of the land made available for community and social uses..

Too often in recent years, the approach of the Trust has been to act as a commercial developer of the land that it holds ‘in trust’ from RBKC as its leaseholder, and from Transport for London as the freeholder.  This is ultimately ‘public’ land and not for a body which remains a charity (but which many view as insufficiently accountable) to dispose of with no consideration of the public good.

The saga of the advertising towers at the Sports Centre, on land leased by the Trust to JC Decaux, was one of the first planning issues that brought this association together in 2008.

We will continue to try to work with the Trust and to influence it to think through more carefully its proposals for ‘Portobello Village’ at the junction of the Westway and Portobello Road.  Initial plans exhibited by the Trust were badly received, and the Trust has accepted that it needs to take several steps back.

We hope that the Trust will now make increased efforts to rebuild its relationship with local residents.  It has dug itself into a hole which is deep, but with good will on all sides the position is recoverable.