Questions raised after St John’s Wood council blocks sale

Questions have been raised after the freehold of the Abercorn estate in St John's Wood was sold to a

Questions have been raised after the freehold of the Abercorn estate in St John's Wood was sold to a private firm by Westminster City Council. Picture: GOOGLE - Credit: Archant

A Labour councillor has called for an inquiry after council homes in St. John’s Wood were transferred to a private company.

Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg made the call after discovering the freehold of the entire Abercorn Place estate – known as the Cricketers because its three blocks Bradman, Warner and Verity, are named after famous pre-war test sportsmen – was in the hands of Kunta Kinte Ltd, registered at an address at the site.

The blocks which sit at the junction of Abercorn Place and Hamilton Terrace were built by former St Marylebone council in the 1950s following bomb damage to the area in World War Two.

Now almost all the 34 leasehold interests are in the hands of one individual, according to the Labour councillor.

Cllr Dimoldenberg has written to the council’s planning and housing chief Ed Watson to ask how the firm got hold of the freehold and what Westminster did to make sure it got a good price out of the deal.

The councillor also asked how Kunta Kinte Ltd bought up enough leaseholds to trigger a tenant buy out of the estate.

In housing law tenants can acquire a building’s freehold as long as 50 per cent of them opt in. Tenants are barred from doing so if they own more than two flats.

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In a blog post Cllr Dimoldenberg said: “These flats were built for people in housing need. Now all 34 are in the hands of a private company and residents have no chance of a decent flat at a rent they can afford. This sums up all that is rotten about Conservative housing policies.”

In a post Murad Qureshi, Little Venice Ward candidate in next May’s council elections, said: “When the great and the good built this estate, they could never have imagined this could happen.

“What makes this incredible is almost all the leasehold interests are now in the hands of one person. On many council estates in central London, you often find over 50pc of flats and houses owned by leaseholders, but almost completely by one individual via his companies, is very unusual.”

A Westminster spokesman said: “We are aware concerns have been raised. The blocks were sold to tenants through ‘right-to-buy’ between 1991 and 2010 at the full and proper price. This was a statutory sale through enfranchisement, meaning we were legally obliged to sell.”

Kunta Kinte Ltd were unavailable for comment.