Kensal House resident Elizabeth stands here in solidarity beside Ladbroke Grove wheelchair user Ella. She gestures down the estate’s steep stairs, revealing what a challenge it is for Ella to reach the bottom.  Elizabeth is a member of community charity SPID, who run free activities in Kensal House’s basement Community Rooms, while Ella attends the estate’s disability charity Full of Life.  Thanks to residents’ short film and local support, SPID has permission for £2.4m publicly funded works to improve access for the Grade II* listed Community Rooms and restore its heritage.

We are now calling on the council to play their part in the refurbishment by fixing the estate’s leaks. The film SPID made with residents highlights the safety hazards: rusting pipework, blocked ducts, roof problems, damaged ceilings, deteriorated waterproofing, temporary patching, damp concrete. Carrying out emergency works to urgently stop these leaks and floods is the council’s statutory duty.

SPID have campaigned for fifteen years to restore the dilapidated Community Rooms. It was only after the nearby Grenfell Tower fire that the case for investment was heard.  When delays and disagreements set in, SPID appointed a Kensal resident as chair and another to chair the Refurbishment Project Board. During Lockdown, residents came together in spirit to save the shared space. The plans offer hope at a time when youth provision, inclusive access facilities and community work is threatened by the recession.

The refurbishment of the Community Rooms will provide access for all, disabled or otherwise. A new lift and sloping corridor will save wheelchair users from having to go through the car park or round the back of the estate. New cameras, gates and fencing will maximise security for the estate. A new bin store entrance further from flats will improve hygiene and privacy. There will be no extension into the residents’ garden, whose greenery will be increased to become larger. Ancient electrics will be replaced and heritage features reinstated. Backstage will be equipped for new activities, including free drama, heritage, sports, filmmaking, homework clubs, paid work placements, new jobs, and free business mentoring.

Kensal resident and SPID Chair Ivor Flint said: SPID has championed our historic community rooms by pulling in an incredible £2.4m. We appreciate the council’s commitment to fixing the whole estates leaks and call on them to swiftly fulfil this statutory duty.

Naomi  Israel, Local Youth Ambassador and SPID Trustee, said: SPID stands for solidarity, which is something North Kensington desperately needs. At a time when so many youth centres are closing, young people like me simply cannot do without them.

Kensal resident and Refurbishment Project Board member Omar Sabbagh said: We are all pulling together to make this work in these unprecedented times. If we start addressing the leaks in this area then the council should make fixes in other areas of the building and that will be beneficial to everyone. 

Kensal resident and Refurbishment Project Board Chair Catherine Gray said: I’m so excited for the refurbishment. This opportunity means such a lot to Kensal. It will finally show how valuable the building is both socially and historically.