The council’s new leadership says it is prepared to take a financial hit to renegotiate developer Capital & Counties’ plans, under which 7,500 homes will be built on the site of the estates and the Earls Court exhibition centre.
Capital & Counties has paid the council £15 million - of which £10 million is understood to be refundable - a conditional land sale agreement has been signed and planning permission was granted in November.
But Max Schmid, a Labour councillor, said: ‘Our policy is to stop the demolition of the council estates. We have begun consulting lawyers, and it is too early to say exactly where we stand.‘We are aware that money has changed hands and there will be consequences as a result of that.’
He said protecting the 761 homes on the estates from demolition would mean ‘starting [the planning process] from scratch’, and the council would seek a higher proportion of ‘genuinely affordable’ homes in any scheme that took place. Currently 20 per cent of the proposed homes would be affordable. Work on the scheme is yet to begin.There is scepticism in some quarters that the council will succeed.
However, Keith Jenkins, a consultant at Devonshires Solicitors who has been acting pro bono for the tenants, said the scheme could be overturned as council contracts cannot bind future administrations on issues of discretion. He added that all or part of the £10 million payment to the council - some of which has been spent - would have to be refunded.For their part, the developers of the scheme Capco have just stated the following:
‘We look forward to working with the new administration.’Time will tell if the new council will succeed in stopping or reshaping the development. If they don't it may well be because the compensation they would have to pay to Capco would be so high that it is unaffordable. But that is far from certain as things stand.
It should be said that whatever the outcome of the council's challenge to the current scheme, there is no indication at the moment that it would affect Chelsea FC's chances of incorporating a stadium on the site positively. As things stand, Earls Court remains an opportunity missed. But CFCtruth suggests that our readers all keep a close eye on developments. And no doubt the club will be doing the same.