Over the past three months we have been in discussions with LendLease, owners of Empire House and the abandoned car park at the corner of Essex Place and Acton Lane, the small dilapidated triangle next to the entrance to the Sainsburys car park. The plan was to create a space which would enhance biodiversity and improve the current eyesore. It would have been a ‘meanwhile’ garden, one of the main conditions being an agreement to leave within a month of notice.
This was a big step up for Abundance London. We upgraded ourselves into a Community Interest Company (we were and are an organisation with charitable aims), we renegotiated our insurance to cover an open access garden, we set up a fantastic team with local traders and knowledgeable local people involved in the Gunnersbury Triangle, the National Park City, the RHS and Trees for Cities. We were all excited, grew loads of plants from seed, and even carried out some initial clean ups, removing broken glass and other debris from the area and surrounds. Heads of Terms for a lease were agreed and we believed we were about to start work.
However, at the end of last week the agents who are acting for LendLease wrote to inform us that “the strategy for this site has been reviewed and regrettably we are no longer able to move forward with offering occupation of any part of the site or shop units.”
This change also affects several other charities; at least two had been negotiating for pop up shops in the empty units within Empire House. They too had embarked on considerable preparations, applying for rates relief and preparing their plans.
What can we say? The boarded up frontage of Empire House affects the health of the High Road as a whole, and we were really hopeful that creating a small oasis of biodiversity, even if only for a short period of time, would have shown that developers can work productively with local community groups to create positive results. Guess we’ve learnt a tough lesson there.