Tag Archives: Battersea Power Station

A hanging matter

In light of all the news we see, from North Korea who is gracing the planet with tectonic shocks to HSBC who now heralds “the deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) entered into with the Department of Justice (DoJ) had expired – lifting the threat of further penalties“, yes these are the parties you simply care about. But the fact is that the issues seen should be regarded as trivial, even as most board members of HSBC should be hung from a lamp post by the neck, mainly because the Guardian (at https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/may/05/hsbc-chairman-douglas-flint-interview-profile-profit-growth-scandal) states that the bank that is ‘too big to manage, too big to fail and too big to jail’, could be instantly solved by 19 pieces of rope each around 15 feet in length (about $175 in total). Yes, some solutions are actually that simple. Yet in all this, how does this go over for those who survived Grenfell? That is the actual issue. Jeremy Corbyn might take advantage on the matter with “failure to rehouse Grenfell Tower survivors a disgrace“, yet if his party had done a lot more between 1990-2010, the disaster might have been less. In this the conservatives have been equally guilty, because after the Iron lady (Thatcher 1979-1990) the housing matter had been going downhill. We see the news on all these over the top events of buildings, investors and places that are impossible to afford, the people end up not having any kind of housing option and that is where the people of Grenfell are. In nowhere land, with nothing to look forward to and no one is picking up the axe to chop down whatever is set against them. Yet HSBC with its $4.6 billion pre-tax profit is up and surging to surpass its $13 billion annual profit and they no longer have to fear further penalties. Yes, the jurisprudential engine is failing the people to the largest degree at present.

So when we look back to September 14th (at http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-41262914), did we get answers? As the investigation did split we get “Sir Martin said the inquiry would be split into two phases – with the first examining how the blaze developed and the second looking at how the building became so exposed to the risk of a major fire.

The fact that the report is still well over three months away does not help. Even as the media focusses on what is happening now (makes perfect sense), the Guardian gives us (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/dec/11/homeless-because-of-a-tragedy-struggle-to-rehouse-grenfell-survivors-continues), ‘‘Homeless because of a tragedy’: struggle to rehouse Grenfell survivors continues‘, this is truly an issue in these days as we go towards the festive season and there is no real solution for this. The politicians that short changed the need of the people from 1990 onwards is showing to be a centre piece in all this. Yet at http://newlondondevelopment.com/ we see that 1318 projects are in play with the quote “New London Development showcases significant commercial and residential development across London“, yet how much of that falls in the affordable living category? So consider the Battersea Power Station. In May the amount of affordable houses as stated under the initial deal got cut by 40%, there is a larger issues and as councils rubber stamp options for developers as they cry to the song ‘losses in my life!‘, the larger issue is that this might be the most visible one, it is not the only one. In all we do know that a lot of the 1318 projects are commercial and corporate projects, plenty of them are housing and how many others have been slicing affordable houses on the list? In all this the quote “However, the project headed by a Malaysian-led consortium is on course to make profits of £1.8bn” and that is the larger problem, Lord Mayors past and present had done too little to stop councils from proceeding the way they did in regards to the Battersea Power Station. We see this in the quote ““If these numbers are accurate, they seem to suggest that the council have had the wool pulled over their eyes – allowing themselves to be hoodwinked into cutting affordable housing while the developer’s profits remain strong,” Khan told the Observer.” As I personally see it, they treated their ego as it was their penis and played for it slightly too long, instead of getting the guidance they needed. They weren’t hoodwinked, they were merely ego driven and they got played as stupid people tend to get played. That latter part is seen in the quote “the council failed to provide us with this information before deciding to send the application to planning committee for decision“, in my view it shows intent, it shows that they valued their ego above all else and as such they should not be allowed to be in the position that they are in. The fact that they have no short-list of houses for people like those facing the Grenfell issue is further evidence still. This is not new information, these are details that have been known for 5 months, in all this, the Grenfell people are in hotels, or better stated close to 80% of the survivors are. In this the papers give us “from Theresa May’s unachievable commitment, made in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, to get them into new homes within three weeks, to the current promise that everyone will be rehoused within a year“, which might have been realistic, yet with councils catering to developers profit, there is a decent indication that housing them all within a year might not be achievable at all. Yet it could have been worse. Grenfell could have been without victims and 71 additional houses would be needed. Can you imaging the coldness of this statement? This is seen in “There’s something about the language that feels transactional, that feels like the local people are consumers” and that is just the larger issue. The councils have become mere spread sheet users where the budget is the bottom line. From cladding savings to developer catering, the bottom line is profit and the ‘mishap’ called Grenfell towers is not an acceptable situation for any of them, yet for them it is not about the victims, or the aftermath, it is about the spread sheet needing to adjust for houses that are not there, not foreseen and not anticipated. In all this to help these people councils should be less emotional and in that regard the transactional pose might apply or be acceptable to some, yet the hardship cannot be set in some value, it is set in the heart of the matter and that heart is bleeding. Now that we see ‘Human rights commission to launch its own Grenfell fire inquiry‘, we need to ask different questions. You see, I get it, it needs to be done, yet when there are two enquiries and as one is published a lot sooner, will they hinder one another, or more important, will the official investigation get hindered in all this, because that could enrage the population in the UK at large.

Part is seen in the independent (at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/grenfell-tower-fire-latest-updates-police-manslaughter-misconduct-charges-criminal-hearing-deaths-a8103346.html) where we see a mere 17 hour ago: “Police considering manslaughter, corporate manslaughter and misconduct charges“, which is interesting as I voiced in agreement the term ‘corporate manslaughter‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2017/06/27/betrayed-by-government/) like the Labour Tottenham MP, David Lammy. Yet I went a step further. Is there enough evidence to consider murder? If the evidence shows ‘cutting costs at any expense‘, does that show reckless intent? Can we go from Manslaughter to full scale murder? Would that constitute a larger scale of targeted killings and as such there would be no defence for the accused?

In the end we will see what was and what should have been, yet in all this, the HSBC link should be clear to all ‘too big to manage‘, London housing is beyond normal managing and the 1318 projects in London are further evidence still that a massive overhaul is needed to get a much better view of all of the building and overhaul projects. The coffers are empty and such an overhaul as would be required might be wishful thinking from the current Lord Mayor, the direct simplification of reality is that such changes will take too long and will be too dramatic to be allowed to happen as such. ‘too big to fail‘ shows us that the status quo will be partially maintained and the influx of investors is crucially important and as such proper change is even less likely to happen. Finally there is ‘too big to jail’, in this there is a need to get it done, but in the end will there be enough evidence to allow for serious prison time? That will soon be the matter at hand and as the most senior QC’s in the business will oppose one another in the fine print of the law, we need to realise that this would in the end amount to an institutional failure and as such the likelihood of any of these senior players going to jail is less and less likely. It is within the law and we need to adhere to the law. The played ones become the players to not go to jail. I have no idea if it happens, whether they escape the noose or escape the ridicule, what is a clear given that it could have been settled with one piece of rope per neck. Should we do so, than we would be breaking the law, which is something we do not want to do, but in the end, the most likely outcome is a fine, just like with HSBC, it would be a large one, so the council would try to get some kind of deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), which would be the delay they need to get some kind of expiry date after which no one is held liable or accountable for the entire mess. In the end, whatever fine is paid, is paid from the empty coffers of government. Implying that the next wage freeze for nurses and Emergency Staff, the staff of the London Fire Brigade and the London Metropolitan Police will in the end pay for the stupidity of the local council and Grenfell building management.

I wonder how correct I will be in the end. If I end up being 100% correct, I feel sorry for whomever will have to deal with the rage of the public, because this could still get really ugly over the next 4-5 months.

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Sex Driven Developers

There are always ways to find weaknesses in government; there is a decent chance that we find them on a daily basis. Yet, how must we react when the foundation of those making the decisions are now in a runt of enabling? What happens when the government first decides on cyber rules for the safety of all whilst opening a bordello around the corner so that those in dire need of affordable housing are getting screwed over?

This is what is on the goose feather of Julia Kollewe as she dipped it into the ink jar and gave us ‘Battersea Power Station developer slashes number of affordable homes‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/21/battersea-power-station-affordable-homes-almost-halved-by-developer). She is trying to wake up pretty much everyone with this and it should wake us all up. You see, the next decade is about the dire need of affordable housing, London is in danger of alienating the very population that is the means for its survival. You see, in my mind, greed is not a ‘technical issue‘. Greed merely is and never goes away. A technical issue is when you get the cement batter wrong in one shipment, a technical issue is when you are looking at a square and you calculated for 5 corners. When you have a £9 billion project and you have to redesign 40%, you are in my humble opinion screwing people over for your need of greed and profit whilst ‘putain‘ the 250 people now left outside in the cold (pardon my French). So as we see that someone clever from these Malaysian investors, are now trying to maximise profit by slashing the affordable housing part as we read: “The affordable home proposals amounted to 15% of the total 4,239 homes planned, which included luxury pads ranging from £800,000 for a studio atop the former power station to £4m for a four-bedroom flat (the three penthouses have yet to be priced).” there is no other option but to fight back. In this there are two options left to the government. One is to get the list of investors and they are to be banned from any other real estate investment in the UK for 5 years. The second option would be that if the apartments are uninhabited for over 40% of the time, there must be a large service surcharge to the building services. Once that these investors have to report these surcharges in the upcoming sales bill, they might have to let slip some of their expected profits. In all this, the ‘compensation‘ of mentioned “build the 386 affordable homes three years earlier than previously envisaged, which means residents will receive their keys in 2020. They will be located in apartment blocks near the power station“, is only a small band aid, because it is not just about time, it is about space and location, the space of 250 apartments is now gone! We sometimes state that no man is an island, but the UK kind of is, so that means that once the space is gone, it is definitively gone. We also get the quote “an assessment of the profits the developer expects to make. Independent adviser BNP Paribas advised the council that it is “very unlikely” that the 250 homes will materialise“. So when we see this ‘independent’ party. Have they been on this project from the very beginning? You see, if that is true than we see a feigned level of incompetence. From my point of view, BNP Paribas is not just the largest bank in France; it is one of the largest banks in the world, so when they make an £9B ‘oopsie’, something else is going on. From my speculated view is that they had made for whatever plan they could offer so that they could get the project, whilst down the track they adjusted the view to get the results their investors needed and submitted the new plans so that they end up getting what they wanted in the first place. I cannot tell how deep BNP Paribas is into this as ‘Independent adviser‘ implies that they could have been called in down the track, not initially. In support of this view the article also gives us: “Keith Garner, a local architect who has campaigned against the Battersea project for years, said: “Underlying it, the financial model is all wrong. A developer-led project to conserve, repair and bring back in to use a famous London landmark is turning in to a predictable disaster“. This now gives us two parts. The first is that this is not just coming to view and even as the lord Mayor Sadiq Khan is only now coming into view, his administration as well as the previous one, will now need to show clearly that due diligence was maintained throughout the project including the view and calculations before approval was given. This puts Boris Johnson equally on the hot chair as his team comes under scrutiny. If we are to maintain the push for affordable housing, we cannot accept screw ups of this magnitude. Because once the cashable buildings are gone, it is over and no other option remains. It is the curse of sitting on an island. Keith Garner has been vocal in the past, going back even before January 2015, yet from this point onwards we see Keybridge House in Vauxhall where only 4.5% became affordable (19 out of 419), it seems to me that when we tally that part the failure is a lot larger than most realise. Even then there was a list for the PowerStation with a setting of ‘3,444 new homes at the power station 560, or 16%, will be affordable‘, so the list got slashed before and it got slashed again. Actually, the numbers changed as 3,444 became 4239, so there has been more ‘revamping’ it seems that a project this much in flux implies that certain elements were either never set or set in a questionable way. Now, we get that things change, there are always details that need ‘alteration‘ yet when you ‘suddenly‘ add 795 apartments (which under normal conditions seem to be 2-4 additional towers, we should agree that ‘questionable‘ is very much the better word to use (without getting to rude and rely on the ‘putain’ word).

Another issue is seen in “Officers appreciate the level of stresses a scheme of this size and complexity has and that the main priorities of the scheme have been the conservation and redevelopment of the listed power station building, the delivery of the Northern Line extension and new underground station and the jobs to be created as part of the new town centre“, you see, as investors are always happy to sue the pants of any official, the mention of ‘delivery of the Northern Line extension and new underground station‘ is not a problem to the Malaysian investors, so if the UK government had impeded the development of an agreed project, the government get the invoice. So there is now the implied issue that there was a mere trade off and 250 affordable homes were scrapped. Is that not a view you would envision? In addition ‘jobs to be created as part of the new town centre‘ sounds nice, but how is that part of the powerhouse building project? So as this all comes to heads in “A report by the Wandsworth council planning officer recommends that the proposals be approved, ahead of a meeting of the planning committee on Thursday evening“, there is the speculated issue that the Wandsworth council made a right mess of things and they are trying to appease the situation so that they keep their jobs and possibly avoid the wrath of parliament, there was just the need to scrap housing for 250 people who desperately needed them.

So, feel free to object and oppose my way of thinking, but that is how I see it. I understand that the UK needs economy, it needs houses and it needs jobs, but when a limited resource is wasted to this degree we need to ask questions loudly and there needs to be the revision of policies to make certain that affordable housing remains at the top of the list, and remains the top priority of the list of achievements. Yet in the last 2-3 years, there is additional evidence growing that what was a desperate need is ignored by those, because it does not really impact them.

Yet the 2015 article also gives some opposition. We see this in “Tony Travers, director of the Greater London group at the London School of Economics, says: “In fairness, the developer is being required to pay for a lot of other things. The land has to be used very intensely to produce enough yield to pay for the things that the government used to pay for.”“. OK, this is fair enough. My response would be: ‘I agree, but that is the assessment of an investment opportunity. The numbers are done and in the end it is either feasible or it is not!‘ So the investor could have walked away from it. If the government had found the £9B, it has the option to do it themselves, with a very different balance, and perhaps with only one penthouse, the other 2 could have become 3 3-bedrooms apartment each. In addition, as it is now less about profit, there could have been 900 affordable houses instead of the 636 initially envisioned. As I read the articles over time and the sources given, it seems to me that orchestration might have been at the centre of things from the beginning. That feeling is gotten from ‘The land has to be used very intensely to produce enough yield to pay for the things that the government used to pay for‘, you see, like some naval projects, where voting for adjustments is often much better than being the messenger on a failed project, because those investors would sue, and the eagerness of the Wandsworth council implies to some degree that there would be a case and a court settlement of £9B might not be the best way to go forward. And as we see in the past “Many flats were sold off-plan and, still unbuilt, are back on the market at higher prices. Just before Christmas one unbuilt studio flat in the power station, which had sold for close to £1m, was back on the market for £1.4m. Last week, estate agent Chestertons was reported to have other unbuilt flats on the market for £865,000 – £150,000 more than their original asking price” implies that investors are getting rich fast, so the entire drop of 250 affordable apartments is becoming more and more of a debatable issue.

Yet the final issue not seen in the latter article is most damning on both the houses of Sadiq Khan and Boris Johnson. The quote “the lack of a master plan for the area” is damning because it implies that the area could lose its identity, and I am willing to buy either a coffee with a cream cheese bagel with Salmon if they can clearly oppose the drop of value for the loss of identity validity. Those who truly move to London want to be in an area. They want to be part of Islington, Hammersmith or Chelsea. Some will prefer Southwark because of Hay’s galleria, yet in reality they might just do it because the hookers give much better value in that borough. Whatever reason we hear the identity of the place matters. And this requires a clear master plan. to some degree when it is in the hands of foreign investors, things go into flux, yet a clear master plan is essential the prevent London of becoming an anonymous place of chaos.

In this we remain at minus 250 apartments. You see, no matter how grand it all looks, the immediate need for infrastructure is simple. When the people have to travel too far to work, the job will no longer be a feasible solution. Even as some are pointing to an extension of the Northern Line, the simple truth is that it is an additional 15 minutes, meaning that some people will travel 90 minutes each way to get to (or from) a place where they can afford to live, on top of that travel costs are rising too. So the new place ends up being a ghost town without infrastructure. How is that an interesting investment when some could go in and out of this ghost town to burglar it into heaven as they get to do that unopposed? How many paintings and electronics need to be removed before the investors seek another place to go to?

All elements that seem to have been missed, all part of a master plan not in place and all linked to investment and economic plans that might have been dubious from the beginning. As I personally see it, a lack of long term oversight, checks and balances all cast aside for the quick profit and the marketable view of mentioning, to merely look good. And now Lord Mayor Sadiq Khan has the mess on his plate and he gets to see what might be salvaged, because when I see ‘A report by the Wandsworth council planning officer recommends that the proposals be approved‘, I wonder what has not hit the light of day yet and what else has to be sacrificed (or additional costs received) in the next upcoming year. Would you not wonder (read: worry) about that very same thing?

 

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