White City development – workers finally move onto site.

Architect model: White City health care centre

The Janet Adegoke leisure centre in White City was torn down in August 2003 leaving behind nothing but rubble and a large hoarding around the site. For almost a decade, little has changed since the bulldozers departed.  The site has lain in limbo, because of political infighting, changes in government and the economic landscape.

Redevelopment plans were finally approved in February 2012 and White City residents now expect to have a cutting-edge GP “super-surgery” able to treat 10,000 patients and a mini-supermarket by 2014.  There will also be 170 homes on the site – but controversially, none there will be social housing for local residents.

Clare Cornock is a disabled woman who has lived in social housing on the White City estate for 50 years.  But her accommodation is on the third floor and she was hoping for a ground floor flat in the new development. The places that they’re building are not for ordinary people like me to rent,” she says.

Harry Audley, chairman of the White City residents association, said in December 2011 that there was a “significant amount of local cynicism about the amount of time taken” to get the redevelopment off the ground.  But it “appears that it will now be completed in the next two to three years, with a number of health benefits for local people,” he added.

In March 2006, after a series of public consultations, Labour councillors sought planning approval from the then-London Mayor Ken Livingstone for a £30 million seven-storey complex designed by the celebrated architect Richard Rogers. It would house a 4,000 sq m healthcare centre with GP rooms, dental facilities and services from district nursing to minor surgery, affordable housing with underground parking, office accommodation for social services, a mini-supermarket and an IT café.

The application also included a £1 million regeneration package for the adjacent Wormholt Park, and training programmes for local people.  But residents of White City are still waiting.

Artist sketch: White City health care centre

“There is a long and sad history to this site.  It should have received planning permission in 2006 and a new health centre should have opened in 2008 as the first UK polyclinic,” says Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter. “When the Tories won the council in May 2006 they insisted on removing social housing from the development and a battle ensued with the mayor.

“In 2008 Boris Johnson allowed it to go ahead without housing for local people but it will not open for another two years at least, with many of the innovative health and community projects stripped out.”

Meanwhile 8,000 people in Hammersmith and Fulham are on the housing waiting list and “25 per cent of homes in White City are overcrowded,” according to Mr Slaughter.

“We just want it through as quickly as possible now, it’s not a point of contention,” says Labour councillor Stephen Cowan. “But it’s a point of contention that it hasn’t been done earlier with the health consequences for people in that area.”

In 2010 Hammersmith Primary Care Trust (PCT) said that “despite having high levels of health need, White City is poorly served by health services”.  The trust referred to lack of breast screening facilities in the north of the borough, patients, often in pain, having to “travel to receive care” and residents having to make up to seven separate appointments for their “annual health check”.

The “polyclinic” concept is still highly controversial, with opponents arguing that they will lead to the closure of local GP practices, forcing patients to travel further afield to seek help.  Some PCTs have also been accused of restructuring health care provision to accommodate polyclinics without enough discussion.

Before the wrecking ball hit the Adegoke leisure centre, councillors discussed its redevelopment on 29 January 2003.  “The centre was jerry-built and the roof was falling in,” said Mr Slaughter. Oposition councillors Amanda Lloyd-Harris and Antony Lillis called on the Labour administration to “withdraw its decision” to close the centre but it was demolished in August 2003.

The council approached Building Better Health Ltd (BBH), a private sector property developer, in 2005 to discuss the possibility of constructing a healthcare and housing complex on the land.  The developer was told that the project would “meet many of the objectives and aspirations of local residents”.

Council meeting 2003: The future of the Adegoke site para 156.

On 19 April 2006 Mr Livingstone told Hammersmith council that the planning application was “supported in principle” but he wanted clarification on the amount of social rented accommodation. If a council wanted to build affordable homes, the Mayor encouraged them to achieve a split of 70 per cent social rented and 30 per cent intermediate housing (above social rent but below market price or rent) within the amount of affordable homes.  But councillors wanted a 50-50 split as White City had an “above London average” proportion of social rented accommodation.  Mr Livingstone eventually accepted the 50-50 split.

Councillors tried to obtain planning before the May 2006 local elections. Officials were told that a covenant affected a strip of land required by the developers so planning officers decided that it would be a risk to give approval. “It meant it was dead and wouldn’t be resurrected until after the local elections,” said Cllr Cowan.

But after the Conservatives won the local election, they set about revising the borough’s housing strategy.  The new council leader, Stephen Greenhalgh, sat alongside Cllr Ian Clement, the future deputy mayor of London, and Kate Davies, chief executive of Notting Hill housing association and said that the new policy should be developed around the “abject failure of social housing”.

By January 2008 Tory councillors asked Mr Livingstone to comment on a revised application with less social housing unit. “When the Conservatives proposed removing low cost housing Ken said ‘No’, so effectively what they did then was sit on their hands until the mayoral elections in May 2008,” Mr Slaughter says.

Initially the Greater London Authority (GLA), now under the new Mayor Boris Johnson was unhappy with the “zero approach to social rented housing”, But Mr Clement granted approval in December 2008. “Things change,” he said. The GLA planning officers were on “Ken mode, they had prepared the pie to the Ken recipe and I said I don’t agree with the Ken recipe”.

The derelict site

Shortly afterwards, Hazel Blears, then the Local Government Secretary, considered  intervening but eventually decided that the decision was up to Hammersmith and Fulham council.  Then the downturn in the property market prompted councillors to voice concerns about the scheme’s viability.  The developer was asked to increase the discount on some of the low-cost housing units but said they could not do this without “adversely affecting the financial viability” of the development.

Hammersmith told the GLA that it was “minded to grant planning permission” on 25 March 2009 but Ms Blears then said she was considering a public inquiry, believing the application raised “potential conflicts with national policy”.  But weeks later, she backed down and gave her approval.  Tory councillor Antony Lillis described her  intervention as a “disgraceful act of political vengeance”.

A revised application was eventually  put to the council planning committee in October 2011.  Cllr Michael Cartwright examined an artists’ impression of the development said: “When I first saw the building elevation I thought of Eric Honecker.  It seems to me to be very East Berlin 1970.”

Artist impression, revised design

In February workers finally moved on to the site of the old Janet Adegoke leisure centre, felled trees, prepared new hoardings in anticipation of work beginning.

According to a recent LBHF council press release the first brick was laid on 9 May

When asked why the scheme has taken so long to come to fruition, Mr Clement said: “I think the development crossed the rubicon. It is a little bit of a cause célèbre, that’s why, with the social housing, the nature of the development and the mixed communities.”

It has been a very long journey for the residents of White City and it is not over yet.


Slashed budgets will deny vulnerable youngsters support

Labour MP for Hammersmith, Andy Slaughter, feels the cuts will have huge implications on frontline policing. Photo: Pete J

Hammersmith and Fulham Council will slash the budget of its young offending team by 63 per cent over the next three years.

Critics fear that the cuts, full details of which were buried in official statistics, will leave vulnerable youngsters without desperately needed support and lead to an increase in youth crime, with more youngsters in detention centres and out of school. Police in the borough fear a fall in incidents involving young offenders could be reversed.

Spending on young offenders in 2010 was £689,306. By 2013 it will be 63 per cent lower at £255,173. Figures published in November gave details only of a 26 per cent cut over the next two years to £510,346. But calculations show that the third year projections reveal an even larger cut of 37 per cent for 2012-13. The council says that only administrative tasks will be affected.

In the past seven months incidents involving the under 18s, have fallen by 33 per cent in Hammersmith and Fulham, against a London average of an 8 per cent drop.

Professor Bill Whyte, director of the Criminal Justice Social Work Development Centre for Scotland, said that the severity of the cuts would leave young people who are “prolific” offenders without vital support.

“The consequences could be catastrophic – more young people in detention centres or in care or excluded from school – which is already too high and is very costly. Unless some of the work is picked up by social services these offenders will be even less likely to receive the support they so crucially need, and that is horrifying.”

Inspector John Ballard, who is in charge of integrated offender management at Hammersmith police station and works with the youth offending service, fear that his team’s work will be undermined by the cuts.  “At the moment we are the second best borough in the capital when it comes to preventing youngsters from committing crime. In the last four weeks we’ve convicted six young offenders.

“But with these cuts we’re going to have to fill gaps. We’re constantly looking of ways to change the behaviour of these offenders. With a lot less people we have to be realistic – crime will increase.”

Youth offending teams were set up under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to cut the risk of young people offending or reoffending, and to support offenders and the cuts come only five years after an official inspection of the council’s service found that it only met bare minimum requirements.

The report said: “Despite the quality assurance system in place in the young offending service, the inspection found that a number of cases that had been reviewed by managers had not met basic requirements.

“The young offending service had an underdeveloped approach to evaluating the impact of its work with children and young people.”

Andy Slaughter, the Labour MP for Hammersmith and Shadow Justice Minister, said: “Cuts of this scale will inevitably lead to reduced frontline staff and a reduction in service quality.

“If judges in youth courts don’t have confidence in youth offending programmes, they’ll be forcing offenders in to custodial sentences where a community sentence might usually be appropriate. Cutting prevention teams, which helped to drive cuts in the number of young people first committing a crime by 43 per cent over the last Parliament, is simply counterproductive.”

The council is cutting spending in an attempt to reduce its £122 million debt, which means that it has to pay more than £4 million a year in interest payments. Councillor Greg Smith, the Conservative cabinet member for residents’ services, denied that crime will increase because of the cuts: “It would be overly simplistic to argue that spending less results in a worse service or an increase in crime. There are many examples where this council has cut wasteful spending while delivering a much better service through innovation and modernisation.”

But Inspector Ballard, a police officer for 28 years, said that it was illogical to suggest that cutting the young offending team budgets would not have an adverse effect on crime rates.

He said: “We will be doing everything we can to fill those gaps but we are going to be doing a lot more with less people. We have to be realistic, there will be more administration done by staff. A logical person would argue that point when you are trying to reduce the budget by such a large amount.”