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Friday, 13 May 2011

Holland Park School: Chickens home to roost...

At the Campden Hill Residents Association AGM recently, shocked residents were given a progress report on Holland Park School and the rebuild that is currently under way.

Readers will remember that Cllr Cockell became fixated with this Trophy project hoping that it would buy him entry to the House Of Lords. He pushed, shoved and bullied until the £100 million project (which started out as a £33 million project in the first communication to residents from the Council) to knock down and rebuild a perfectly good school was approved by the Planning Committee of RBKC. Unfortunately not one extra school place was created - just a brand new high rise building financed by the sale of the school playground.

The preoccupation with ramming through a Trophy project blinded the Council Leaders to changes in Government policy for education Holland Park School is a comprehensive catering to 1400 students. This was the educational vogue in the 1960's when these schools were specified. But current Government policy is for small schools that can deliver good pastoral care. Cockel's "Trophy" is unfortunately a White Elephant.. It is also strange that the Mayor, who had previously announced that he would never allow school playing fields in London to be sold off, refused an application to call in the proposal and block the sale. Residents were stunned by this. But then a few months later Cllr Cockel returned the favour and backed the Mayor's bicycle scheme in Kensington and suppressed opposition from councillors, officials and residents.

Of course these complex projects are never straightforward and when they involve a joint venture with property developers, BEWARE. The council cooked up a deal whereby the project was given the go ahead as soon as the playground was sold. The wise men in Hornton Street considered that the best offer available (buy now, pay later) was from G C Campden LLP (a special purpose vehicle set up by the Duke of Westminster's Grosvenor Estates and Native Land) which paid over a £10 million deposit and a promise to pay the balance when the land is released for housing development in 2013. Part of the deal was a painstakingly approved scheme for housing and flats on the site plus new "affordable housing" to be built next to a railway line in North Kensington. In the meantime the Council is using £90 million of reserves (built up by over taxing hard pressed residents of K&C) to rebuild the school in the hope that the money will be repaid when the property developer coughs up.

It was reported at the AGM that the property developer has decided that it wants fewer and bigger flats and is no longer prepared to proceed with the agreed scheme. Fewer flats also means less "affordable housing". Maybe this change of heart has something to do with the recession? But regardless, the developer has the council over a barrel. The council admits that it may have to re market the land. And of course the clever developer could let the special purpose vehicle go into administration and re tender at a much lower market price for the playground. In the meantime the reserves are on the hook for this crazy £100 million project and there is only one way that the costs will go. UP......

Our business dabblers in Hornton Street, with not an ounce of commercial ability amongst the lot of them, have committed four cardinal sins:
* they sold the land without a bank guarantee to cover the agreed price
* they exposed council tax payers to an open ended commitment
* they are subsidising the project by making taxpayers money available to finance the project (this is equivalent to an £8 million plus subsidy at commercial rates)

* they signed a development contract with a planning obligation for new "affordable housing" that is not worth the paper that it is written on

The Duke of Westminster and the Duke of Buccleuth (Native land) have our boys in Hornton Street by the short and curlies. The tax payers are picking up the tab for building the school. Life for a whole generation of schoolchildren is hell. And Pooter never made it to the Lords.

It is ironic that Buccleuch, a descendent of sheep stealers, will find himself in sympathetic company.


  1. Hornet, many thanks for this story. It goes a long way towards explaining the debacle of the North Kensington Academy And Leisure Centre project, and the Council’s total indifference to the plight of the residents of Lancaster West. The site chosen for the academy is totally unsuitable, and the only thing to recommend it is the fact that the Council already owns the land (and hence won’t have to pay for it). They are now planning to deliver the academy on the cheap, and recently published a list of proposed economies that will rip the guts out of the project and will deliver, not the centre of excellence that was promised, but a cheap and nasty travesty instead. There are also signs that they may be preparing to abandon, or at least postpone, plans to replace the Leisure Centre. Anyone could see that they were having money problems. We just didn’t know how serious the problems were or how deep the hole they had dug.

  2. Is this not a case for Pickles and Shapps to look at?
    It also looks like gross maladministration so one for the DA.

  3. Holland Park School when it was built, was an ugly design which didn't work. However over the years it has been improved in many ways, including the adding of brick facades with the result that the buildings are not unattractive. Now these morons wish to replace the school with a monstrosity which looks worse than the original 1960's design!

  4. I went to holland pk school in 1960 because the grammar school I was allocated was too far (Highgate). I went from being consistently top of the class and finishing the 11plus in half the time to leaving H.P.S. without one G.C.E. The other lads I know of in the so called Grammar Stream went on to be a dustman, a newspaper seller, an alcoholic dead by 50 and a prison escapee (after stabbing a guard and passer by). My own life has been largely aimless though I've probably had more self realisation this side of a tibetan monastery. It's about time those in government subjected their own children to their engineering experiments and stopped using the working class as cannon fodder or at least be properly held to account.

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