Further to the Coalition-as-executive-arm-of-the-property-interest theorising about Hammersmith & Fulham, Earl's Court, TfL and changing the planning laws comes another data point courtesy of this Guardian piece about Chelsea FC moving onto the (currently part-owned by TfL, prop. Boris Johnson) Earl's Court site. Key passage:
Discussions have been kept secret because the move could torpedo a plan by the leading architect Sir Terry Farrell to transform Earls Court into a new residential enclave with more than 8,000 new homes. The scheme enters the latest phase of public consultation this week and is being undertaken with fellow landowners, Transport for London and the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.
Just fancy that. Also:
The emergence of Chelsea's renewed interest in Earls Court is awkward for Capital and Counties, which has launched a public charm offensive for its housing project employing Edelman, the international public relations company. It is promoting the "four villages and a high street" vision for the area and declined to comment on negotiations with Chelsea.
Given that this is such an obviously planted story, there's something going on in the background to all this.
Meanwhile the Coalition flagship council of Hammersmith & Fulham is in the news for a couple of reasons - first unveiling their 14 storey 320 luxury flat masterplan for the Town Hall area with a lovely subtle threat to the locals to shut up and accept it or pay £18m, and the protesting librarians at the (Westfield shopping centre funded) new library who are seeing a characteristic libertorian direct attack on their pay and conditions - evidently these book-reading subversives are another group to add to the list of unpeople the Conservatives think caused the financial crisis. Fahrenheit 451, anyone?
Inevitably, since part of the Westfield deal is that the library surroundings are private land, their protest attracted the attention of 'security' goons employed by the shopping centre, and things got a bit overzealous. Unfortunately for the goons two notable Twittering London bloggers were present - Chris '@chris_underwood' Underwood of the excellent Shepherd's Bush blog and Kate '@hangbitch' Belgrave of, well, any number of places, Liberal Conspiracy for one, and the resulting instant social media storm turned the tables to such an extent that Chris was on BBC London tonight and Westfield have a PR headache of their own making. In fact the whole issue of the privatisation of public space in London is beginning to germinate as a political issue partly as a result of overzealous private security goons menacing the citizenry and it may (hell, should) end up a talking point in 2012's Mayoral election.
Now, Westfield isn't run by the Conservatives and one can argue that they're just doing what comes naturally when someone uses their property without permission in their own personal fights. Well, up to a point. As Chris points out, at least one local organisation gets to use the library to make political points without any menacing at all - to whit, the same organisation the librarians are protesting against. Funny that. The irony is that if Westfield's staff hadn't behaved in the inevitable privatised public space way approved of by the likes of LBHF's Harry Phibbs et al the industrial dispute at the library would have remained obscure and unnoticed.
P.S. Long-memoried types may remember a certain Nick Clegg getting shanghaied while visiting LBHF (in the company of council leader Stephen 'Sheriff Fatman' Greenhalgh, no less) shortly after being elevated to his current position. Boy did he not look happy. LBHF politics is not a place for those of unstable principles.
Update - Chris has blogged about his BBC interview and the wider private/public space issues here