In the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster attention focused on responsibility for the fire itself. Who was to blame for allowing the tower to be vulnerable to such a catastrophe? Soon, however, this question became connected to a wider set of concerns. What did the disaster—and the clumsy and confused response by central and local government in the days that followed—say about the attitude of the people with power towards the people in the housing estates of North Kensington?

Our report, A Community Led Future, is informed by a series of discussions with residents and other stakeholders in the Lancaster West Estate where Grenfell Tower is located. We suggest that the apparent failure of the authorities to heed the concerns of residents about fire safety reflects a wider and historic pattern. Over many years, the perception grew that those who managed the Lancaster West Estate were not accountable to residents but to a distant bureaucracy.

Our focus is not on the question of culpability for the fire itself, which is the subject of police investigation and the official enquiry established by the Government, but with the future of the estate and how its future can be shaped by the local community.

At the heart of our report is the principle that never again should residents be at the mercy of a system that can disregard their views and downgrade their interests (no matter how personally well-intentioned are those who operate it). The authors of the report, Nicholas Boys Smith and Danny Kruger argue that the community should be the decision makers about the future of the Lancaster West Estate.  

They suggest that the Community Land Trust model of collective ownership is a possible way forward for the estate. Community Land Trusts are a form of community-led housing, set up and run by ordinary people to develop and manage homes which are let at social rent (i.e. genuinely affordable) levels to local people.

Close to Grenfell Tower are the Walterton and Elgin estates in north Westminster. Walterton and Elgin Community Homes (WECH), is as a ‘mutual community-owned housing association’ which could be a model for the community of the Lancaster West Estate to follow.

In 2017, local people in North Kensington formed the Kensington Community Housing Forum, with the aim of setting up a Community Land Trust in the borough. Its convenor, Elizabeth Spring, says ‘At the Forum's first public meeting in October 2017, a central theme was agreed by everyone: "We want to take back control of our own lives"'.

Nicholas Boys Smith, a Fellow of the Legatum Institute and Director of the social enterprise Create Streets, said:

“No change in the governance or management of the Lancaster West estate can make good what happened on 14th June last year. But if the right decisions are taken for the future, the legacy for the community and for society can, in part, be a good one.

“This powerlessness of local people is not particular to RBK&C. Nor is it recent. It is an approach that has driven far too many regeneration and renewal schemes.

“It is clear that this can’t be allowed to happen again. The future of the estate needs to be place fully in the hands of the local community.  An approach that gives the community control about the future of the estate may make something positive for the future: a new model of community living that could inspire the rest of London and the UK.”

Danny Kruger, a Fellow of the Legatum Institute, said:

“While the council and government struggled to assemble a coordinated system of support following the tragedy, the community assembled its own. Charities, community centres, churches and mosques opened their doors.

“From my discussions with residents of the Lancaster West Estate it is clear that this community have the ability and should have the right to shape their own future.

“Examples such as Walterton and Elgin Community Homes show how communities in London can take control of their neighbourhoods and develop and successfully manage their homes.”

Philippa Stroud, CEO of the Legatum Institute said:

“The Grenfell fire was a tragedy that touched the whole country and raised searching questions about the reasons for the tragedy and decisions that may have precipitated it.

“At Legatum we are focused on providing evidence based solutions for those who would see free, just and flourishing societies.  

“Empowered and participatory communities are at the heart of healthy and prospering societies.

The model of community ownership for the Lancaster West Estate is a positive one which we hope will be considered as the local community decides on what they want for the future.”  


Nicholas Boys Smith

Nicholas Boys Smith is a fellow at the Legatum Institute and the founding director of Create Streets. Nicholas has published widely on the links between urban design, wellbeing and value and has worked for both communities and public-sector bodies on estate regeneration. He was a member of the Government’s Estate Regeneration expert panel chaired by Lord Heseltine.

Danny Kruger

Danny Kruger is a fellow at the Legatum Institute and the founder of two charities: Only Connect, working with prisoners and ex-offenders across London, and the West London Zone for Children and Young People, a partnership of statutory and charitable agencies, based in North Kensington. In 2017 he was awarded an MBE for services to charity.


Create Streets is a research institute that advises community groups and councils on planning and developing urban housing that matches how people want to live. Create Streets has a 15-year aim to change the UK planning system, and it's doing this by making the case for popular housing and co-design, and helping communities build capacity to fight their corner. 

Read the report here.

See how community ownership could be a way forward for the Lancaster West Estate