Tag Archives: Balfour Beatty

A Borough Of Opportunity? Only For Developers, Tories And Other Parasites

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.

12 Hammersmith Grove. Built for Pernod-Ricard, who decided to move to Chiswick park

10 Hammersmith Grove. Built for Pernod-Ricard, who then decided to move to Chiswick Park instead

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?

The ground floor units with uberposh Byrons Burgers and Bill's café kind of place thing...

The ground floor units with uberposh Byrons Burgers and Bill’s café kind of place thing…

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.

It's a former car park, you divvy.

It’s a former car park, you divvy.

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.

Empty office block on Glenthorne Road being prepared for redevelopment

Empty office block on Glenthorne Road being prepared for demolition

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 Capital One building being prepared for redevelopment.

The One Building still looking for tenants. Will it be next on the demolition list?

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.

Le Hammersmith Palais est non plus

Le Hammersmith Palais est non plus

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.

McKenzie Trench House will be bulldozed

McKenzie Trench House will be bulldozed

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. IMG-20140411-00071 IMG-20140411-00072And 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.

IMG-20140411-00073The 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.

Hammersmith and Fulham-20140411-00074

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.

Hounslow-20140514-00085

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.

Charing Cross Hospital has the country's leading stroke unit.

Charing Cross Hospital has the country’s leading stroke unit.

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.

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Will anything ever be done about the blacklisting of trade unionists?

Whenever I hear someone tell me that we live in a “free country”, I laugh and I laugh long, loud and hard. Britain is a country in which people are spied on for being environmental activists and blacklisted if they are members of trade unions. The democratic process is corrupted by right-wing politicians who abolish county councils because they oppose government policy and they gerrymander constituency boundaries to stay in power. Those who speak out about abuses in high places are shut down or marginalized.

This is a country in which you cannot say what you like, even though you know it to be true, because some fat bastard with a fat wallet is going to threaten you with a libel/slander suit. This is a country where members of trade unions are blacklisted and denied employment opportunities because their union activity.

We may not live in what could be officially described as a police state but it’s pretty damned close. The roles that would be carried out by the official repressive apparatuses of the state are carried out, perversely enough, by private institutions like the defunct Economic League, which was succeeded by the Consulting Association. One could say that the Economic League, which was formed in the 1920s, never went away and simply changed its name. It also enjoyed close ties to the Conservative party. Indeed, Ian Kerr, a private investigator who had been hired by the league, worked for both groups. Kerr ran a illegal secret database of 3,200 workers in breach of privacy laws. Kerr died last week, Solfed reports,

His £50,000 a year salary + bonus + BUPA + Mercedes company car lifestyle, funded by the major UK construction firms including Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, Skanska, Carillion, Kier, BAM, AMEC and AMEY came to a halt

Building.co.uk tells us that Kerr

had been set to be a key witness on behalf of more than 80 former workers who are preparing to sue Sir Robert McAlpine in the High Court as part of a major compensation claim mounted by the Blacklist Support Group.

Sir Robert McAlpine, along with Balfour Beatty and Skanska, operated a blacklist for the 2012 Olympics.

Seumas Milne, writing in The Guardian last week says:

It’s now clear that workers across Britain have been systematically and illegally forced into unemployment for trade union activity – often on publicly funded projects and in collusion with the police and security services – by some of the country’s biggest companies, using secret lists drawn up by corporate spying agencies.

Liberty has equated blacklisting with phone hacking, insisting that the “consequences for our democracy are just as grave”. Keith Ewing, professor of public law at King’s College London, calls it the “worst human rights abuse in relation to workers” in Britain in half a century.

But would there be an inquiry? Not on Lord Snooty’s watch.

But whereas David Cameron ordered a public inquiry into hacking, he rejected any investigation of blacklisting out of hand. And while a mainly anti-union media has largely ignored the scandal, all the signs are that it’s continuing right now, in flagship public projects such as the £15bn Crossrail network across the south-east.

We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that blacklisting is a recent phenomenon because it’s been taking place for the better part of 90 years. Indeed we can go back to 19th century classical liberal Britain, where early trade unionists were rounded up on trumped up charges and transported to Australia.

The role of the so-called radical Right should not be underestimated. The forerunner of The Freedom Association also had a close relationship with the league.

In the early 1970s there was an expansion and consolidation of the Radical Right. Amongst its new members was the Freedom Association, which had grown out of the “Private Army” movement associated with the conspiracies of the early seventies. Originally it seems to have been a demobilised version of Major General Walter Walker’s army – “Unison”. NAFF’s subsequent activities have been well documented; it specialises in maverick private prosecutions, and encouraging and funding legal actions.

The “maverick private prosecutions” included taking Greenpeace and the Labour Party to court in an attempt to eliminate them.

For the chinless right libertarians, this equates to “freedom”. It’s the freedom to make a profit at great human cost. It’s the freedom to to restrict the freedom of others to work or to seek work.

Reference

Hughes, M (1994), Spies at Work.
Available at: http://www.1in12.com/publications/library/spies/spies.htm. Accessed 15/12/12

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