BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Thursday, 11 April, 2002, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
Earl steps into 'working class' dispute
Crowds in Woolworth's, London c1930
Does the term "working class" still mean anything?
One of the richest men in Britain may be an unlikely champion of the working classes, but the eighth Earl of Cadogan is prepared to go to the High Court to argue their very existence.

Lord Cadogan, whose estimated 1.35bn personal wealth puts him eighth on the Sunday Times rich list, owns a swathe of land across Chelsea, where houses regularly sell for 2m.

The area has long been loved by the rich, famous and arty set. Michael Caine has a home there and celebrity snappers still patrol the fashionable Kings Road.


Is working class someone who works for a living or is it someone who wears a cloth cap and lives on social security?

Leslie Allen-Vercoe
Dano Ltd
The 65-year-old earl, whose family motto is "He who envies is the lesser man", is London's second richest landlord after the Duke of Westminster.

It is said that he can walk from the Peter Jones department store in Sloane Square to Harrods in Knightsbridge, without stepping off his land.

But not everyone living in Chelsea has a multi-million-pound roof over their head.

More than 70 years ago, the Cadogan family sold off and gave away parcels of land in the area, putting in place legally-binding covenants that they were only to be used for "housing the working classes".

Now, property company Dano Ltd has bought up part of one such site at 60-62 Chelsea Manor Street and has planning permission to build four luxury homes on it.

But the move is being blocked by Cadogan Estates Ltd, the firm set up to manage Lord Cadogan's land and property, which says the houses would break a 1929 covenant for working class homes.

Rat and Parrot pub

However, the spot has never had a home built on it - luxury or otherwise.

It has always been a public house, starting life as The Rat and Parrot in 1930 and ending up as the now derelict Beehive.

Managing Director of Dano, Leslie Allen-Vercoe, said this meant the site was always in contravention of the covenant - with the full approval of Cadogan Estates.

Dano bought the site in 2000 and Mr Allen-Vercoe said his lawyers tried to negotiate the removal of the covenant with Cadogan Estates but to no avail.


The need for affordable housing in Chelsea is as great at the turn of the 21st Century as it was at the turn of the last century

Stuart Corbyn
Cadogan Estates
So the firm issued a writ, contesting the covenant and seeking damages for delays to building the 1.5m three-bedroom homes.

The writ also seeks a declaration that the term "working classes" is no longer capable of any legal definition and therefore cannot be used to restrict the construction and sale of properties.

"My legal team advised that the terminology of the covenant was unenforceable," Mr Allen-Vercoe told BBC News Online.

"What is working class? Is it someone who works for a living or is it someone who wears a cloth cap and lives on social security?

'No class champion'

"As far as I can see, this isn't Lord Cadogan standing up for the rights of the working class.

"He is standing up for the rights of the Cadogan Estate because there is a financial benefit for him in retaining the covenant."

But Lord Cadogan is prepared to defend the covenant in court, and his team insist they are acting for socially responsible reasons.

Cadogan Estates' chief executive Stuart Corbyn said: "The need for affordable housing in Chelsea is as great at the turn of the 21st Century as it was at the turn of the last century.

"The use of the words 'working class' were very much part of the terms of the time," he told BBC News Online.

Housing 'squeeze'

Nowadays, "social housing" or "affordable properties" are used to describe land sold with such restrictions.

With spiralling property prices, many key workers, such as nurses, bus drivers and entry-level teachers, are finding they cannot afford to buy a home in inner London.

Housing charity Shelter said there was a "chronic lack of affordable housing" in areas such as Chelsea.

"It is squeezing those people on low incomes, regardless of class, out of the area," a spokeswoman said.

"This comes at a time when Shelter is campaigning for the building of more affordable housing particularly in London and the South East, where the problem is most severe."

The dispute is likely to come to court at the end of the year.

See also:

04 Apr 02 | Business
19 Mar 02 | England
05 Mar 02 | UK Education
29 Nov 01 | Business
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes