Wednesday 10th November, 2021
At last we had our first physical AGM since the pandemic began, at St Philips Church, Earl’s Court Road. Aptly for November, the church is cosier than our usual, lush environs of Leighton House which is currently undergoing refurbishment.
The room was packed, minutes and reports approved, trustees duly re-elected and as Cop 26 was underway our guests were a panel of experts in local greening and planning, whom we invited to discuss and take questions on “Greening the Borough” , the principles of which we will all need to implement. Housebuilding and renovation - the latter more pertinently for our ward and indeed for our borough - will never be the same. Ancient materials such as lime and concrete will be in the mix with vapour closed or vapour open insulation, taping and air source heat pumps…it is no wonder that one of our audience asked that the council provide some guidance, and another in the audience commented that a conservation architect was what was needed.
Jonathan Wade, Jeremy Plester, Amanda Frame and Martha Grekos barely had time to discuss their views on the difficulties and essentials of transferring from offsetting to actually achieving zero carbon; of insulating solid walls in a conservation area, and of insulating floors in a retrofit whilst our members asked a variety of questions such as the lack of environmentally friendly practises, noise and air quality problems at the rubbish depot in Warwick Road;the depletion of independent shops in the ward, and that the lack of the cinematic hub of the borough is still being keenly felt. Five minute neighbourhoods were judged as important as 15 minute cities, “If you can’t do it in RBKC you can’t do it anywhere.” Insulating terraced houses in a conservation area, mansion blocks and the completion of the Conservation Area Consultation were thorny issues that were raised, and whilst greening is to be lauded it was felt that the council could do far more to prevent the egregious extent of de-greening that has contributed to problems such as the flood in July this year.
The good news is that developers are now being pressurised far more than previously to provide affordable housing instead of offsetting, as the number of empty units serving as cash parks is not considered an asset to the community, they are seen as financial nest eggs by their owners rather than homes. Large super prime units are not occupied most of the time. The Council and your local conservation associations do not underestimate the difficulties and overwhelming amount of seemingly disjointed and inapplicable techniques, materials and information of what we should but maybe cannot do to upgrade our homes for the greater, greener good. There is value in having examples of good practice and we look with interest to the council for positive and assertive action in this realm.