Global: Dave Hill | Earls Court: wrecking balls and marmorino walls

The owner of a beautifully-decorated home on a west London estate fears that all the effort and he has invested in the property is doomed to demolition thanks to a Boris Johnson-backed redevelopment scheme

The West Kensington and Gibbs Green housing estates are sometimes called “council estates” but the term deceives. The former was initially the project of a private builder and 170 of the 760 homes are owner-occupied. The gentleman whose desk is pictured above is one of those homeowners and has lived there for about 15 years.

“I chose it because it’s in a complicated neighbourhood,” he says. “I liked the mixed-up quality, and still do.” He is proud of his home and it is easy to see why. In his own words he “gutted and rebuilt” it after moving in, renewing the electrics and heating and having the ceilings and walls gorgeously re-plastered in stucco marmorino , the Italian crushed marble technique best known from renaissance Venice.

The house is filled with handsome furniture, fine books and works of art. He’s a lawyer who specialises in arts-related matters, including literary estates. He’s also in delicate health – heart trouble – and worried about the future. “As far as I can tell, nothing will stop these people,” he says of the council and its developer partner Capital and Counties (Capco) who want both estates knocked down to make way for their massive Earls Court Project redevelopment scheme, marmorino walls and all. “I don’t know what will happen. It’s pretty scary.”

In an information booklet sent out in July, the council says that resident home owners will receive the “full market value” of their property plus compensation of 10% of that value, capped at £47,000. If they sign up early to accepting a replacement home offered in the redevelopment area, they might get a 10% discount. However, the booklet makes clear that every penny received for owned homes to be knocked down will need to be used to buy the new one and if it doesn’t cover the cost, the council will “hold the remaining equity.” It sounds as though the offered replacement will be more expensive and that unless you can find the difference somewhere, the new home won’t all be yours.

Our concerned homeowner has visited the council’s regeneration office at the edge of the estate, in Mund Street. “I told them I want a like-for-like house in Farm Lane.” The site in question, a few minutes south of the estates, currently contains the now former Tamworth support hostel for people with mental illnesses. The old buildings are temporarily occupied by a group of short-life tenants on low rents, pending an application by Capco to redevelop.

“Who knows if I’ll end up there? The woman at the regeneration office said nothing. I told her, ‘Well, you seem like a decent person. Let’s see if that’s true.'” He says the situation makes him feel terrible: “I’ll respond to their offer, but I have no idea whether I will respond politically and say ‘no’, or practically and say ‘yes'”.

His dwelling is one of those that became privately-owned because of Margaret Thatcher’s right to buy policy. It is a rich irony – perhaps “poor” would be a better word – that beneficiaries of that flagship home ownership policy are now in line to be penalised by her spiritual heirs in Hammersmith and Fulham.

Further reading: my timeline of the Earls Court Project and an archive of my coverage of the scheme. Comments are closed on this article. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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