CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Duke of Westminster is told: ‘Hands off our homes!’

‘There is already a community here’ residents tell would-be developer

09 August, 2019 — By Briony Pickford

CAMPAIGNERS leading the battle against the Duke of Westminster over plans to force them out of their homes say they are not afraid to stand up to the mega-rich landlord.

The Save Cundy Street and Walden House group are fighting to stop plans to force hundreds of ­residents out of their homes in Belgravia.

Melanie De Blank, who lives in Cundy Street, has been leading the campaign that has been boosted this week by a raft of new members and social media interest.

She told the Extra: “I’m just really thrilled with how many people got involved, I get so many ­people saying thank you for what you’re doing.

“They are a bit scared of Grosvenor. But I’ve been through enough so I don’t give a stuff. I’m the ideal person to be the kicking-boy in this fight, I don’t care.”

Ms De Blank, who works part-time for an art gallery, took over the lease of her flat after her husband died from Parkinson’s in 2013. Justin De Blank was a well-known restaurateur and grocer credited with transforming the country’s gastronomic taste in the 1970s. He ran the Justin de Blank Bar and Restaurant in Marylebone Lane, and a joint venture in Victoria.

Ms Le Blank said that she started the Cundy Street campaign because she had “felt very strongly that the residents should be involved with what was going on”.

The Duke of Westminster owns the Grosvenor Group and is one of the richest men in this country with an estimated net worth of £10billion.

Grosvenor agreed not to knock down Walden House, which includes 40 flats, some of which are leased to Westminster Council for council housing tenants, until 2023. This was allow the council more time to find replacement housing for tenants.

However, residents in 111 homes in four blocks in the Cundy Street flats – Lochmore, Laxford, Kylestrome and Stack – are facing having to leave in 2021.

Ms De Blank said: “I think that they should do a much better job by keeping the buildings. The environmental damage of this redevelopment would be huge.

“Just think of all the old trees we will lose. I admit the car park should be developed but it could be a vegetable garden, we could make it into an example of how to make a 1970s building right for the modern time and a prime example for fighting climate change.”

Residents are due to get £6,500 to help with the move but Ms De Blank said “these are our homes, it’s not about money, it’s a moral decision”.

She said she had been shocked by the first advertisement for the redevelopment that Grosvenor put up as it said they would be creating a new community.

“There is already a community here,” she said.

Grosvenor has said its redevelopment plan is a “rare opportunity” to deliver more affordable and open market homes, new amenities and “improved public spaces”.

The site in Ebury Street, Cundy Street and Pimlico Road in Belgravia, has been branded the “Cundy Street Quarter”.

Grosvenor said its “ambition is to create a new inclusive neighbourhood” that will “stand the test of time”.

Plans were initially launched in February but designs are yet to be submitted to Westminster Council.

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