Tory-controlled Hammersmith and Fulham’s slogan is the “Borough of Opportunity”. It’s a slogan that’s proclaimed from lamp post banners in the borough to its new glossy magazine. But it’s gloriously misleading. Hammersmith and Fulham is a borough of opportunity but only for property developers. Anyone who lives in Hammersmith and Fulham will have noticed the number of building projects popping up around the borough. It’s a boom time – and I mean that most sincerely, folks – in Hammersmith and Fulham. Interestingly, all of these developments are in Hammersmith and White City, while in Fulham and other leafier parts of the borough not a single tower crane is anywhere to be seen. Is this a coincidence? I don’t know. You tell me.
I’ve taken a tour of the borough and photographed many of the current developments and those that have just been completed. Many of us in Hammersmith already know of the fabulous structure on 10 Hammersmith Grove that faces onto Beadon Road. Look at those lines! Look at its shininess! Shame its upper floors are completely empty.
10 Hammersmith Grove was built with the intention of housing the offices of Pernod-Ricard, but they had other ideas and decided to move to the ever-expanding Chiswick Park instead. The ground floor is occupied by a couple of posh eateries. Fancy an artisan burger? How much dosh have you got to splash out on one?
Do you fancy living in a former multi-story car park next to the District and Piccadilly Lines and the moderately busy Glenthorne Road? Well, now you can. Here’s the sales office for St George’s rather posh-sounding Sovereign Court development. Stupid name if you ask me. Flats here will set you back upwards of £950k. The question is: where are shoppers going to park their cars? The council has no answer to this and other questions.
You see that crane in the background? Well, here it is again just above this empty office block on Glenthorne Road. This is a pretty big site.
This office block on Lyric Square once had loads of occupants when I first moved here, but I’ve no idea what happened to them. As far as I can make out, it’s been mostly empty for a few years.
The Hammersmith Palais was a legendary music venue and former dance hall that was immortalised in the The Clash’s White Man In The Hammersmith Palais. Here it is before it was demolished.
Within a year of the Tories taking control of the Council in 2006, it was announced that the Palais would be demolished and replaced with expensive student accommodation. In the distance there’s another development next to the Laurie Arms pub. This is what stands on the site of the Palais.
This isn’t a new development, rather it’s a curious development. This is Mackenzie Trench House, a 60s council block on Lillie Road that’s been “acquired” by Cherwell, a property development company. It’s going to be demolished to make way for a “part 4 / 6 storey building of 30 flats (Class C3) comprising 5 x one bed, 20 x two bed and 5 x three bed; Excavation to provide basement car park for 14 cars with vehicular access from Purcell Crescent and associated landscaping”, according to the Council’s website. Of course it is entirely possible that the residents of MacKenzie Trench House were leaseholders and they were ‘made an offer they couldn’t refuse’, rather than being lowly tenants… and we all know how H&F Tories feel about council housing and council tenants.
I’ve already tweeted about the Fulham Reach or, should I say, the Fulham-out-of-the-Reach-of-ordinary-people Development. Here it is in all its monstrous glory. And don’t you dare go near the jetty. That’s for landing crooked Russian oligarchs, Singaporean gambling moguls and bloodthirsty Bahraini princelings who have come to gaze upon their assets.
The sales office for this monstrosity, well, looks a little like the sales office for Sovereign Court (you’re still serious about that name? excuse me while I split my sides). It’s a brand, you see. St George are part of the Berkeley Group of companies and many of those companies have saints’ names. Don’t ask me why. St Edward, for example, has built a huge swanky development on the former site of Charles House, a local tax office on Kensington Road. Behind Charles House there once was a wonderful little pub that sold Everard’s Ales. It was called the Radnor Arms and I may be wrong, but it was the only Everard’s pub in London. It is no more.
More student accommodation, this time sandwiched between John Betts Primary School and a council block on Dalling Road. This is a Balfour Beatty development. Balfour Beatty is the company that was implicated in the Potters Bar rail crash along with Network Rail. The company is also member of the Conservative Property Forum.
New planning laws make it easier for companies like Balfour Beatty and St George to influence local planning decisions (the Tories refer to this as “cutting red tape”). In Hammersmith and Fulham, these companies have a sympathetic Tory council that is more than willing to please them. According to the Government website, the new planning ‘reforms’ are supposed to give communities a say in local planning decisions. What we actually tend to find is that developers and councils alike use a great deal of PR muscle in an attempt to win over people. In some cases, such as the ongoing Earl’s Court gentrification plan, the Council or PR company in question will use all the tricks in the property playbook, including the manipulation of statistical data, rigged surveys and so forth, to produce ‘reports’ that appear to suggest a consensus.
If the Tories win the council election next week, Charing Cross Hospital will disappear and will be replaced with luxury flats and a GP’s surgery. There will be no A&E. You’ll have to travel miles through heavy traffic to get to one. Anyone who knows Fulham Palace Road will tell you that the traffic is often bumper-to-bumper from the Lillie Road junction to the one-way system.
The Tories have also been making noises about demolishing the Queen Caroline Estate. Yet, when anyone suggests that the issue of social class plays a part in their ‘thinking’, boy do they howl with indignation. But this is what we’re witnessing in Hammersmith and Fulham: a class war that is being waged by powerful interests, aided and abetted by the Tories, against the working class, the low-waged and the vulnerable. They can tell you that the idea of social class is “outdated” but they would be liars, because they are the biggest class warriors of all and they will fight tirelessly for the interests of their class.
Vote out the Tories next week.