Added: 10 February 2021
HOUNSLOW COUNCIL’S PURCHASE OF “OFF-PLAN” HOMES ON THE HOMEBASE SITE
A. AFFORDABLE HOUSING COMMITTEE (AHC) MEETING, 23 Dec 2020
This meeting, called at short notice, was chaired by Council Leader and Syon Ward Councillor, Steve Curran, agreed that the Council should purchase (for council housing purposes):
50 homes from Network Homes in Fern Grove, Feltham.
55 homes from Barratt Homes at High Street Quarter, Hounslow.
164 homes from Berkeley/St Edwards at the Homebase site in Syon Lane, Brentford.
There was a widespread concern that the AHC decision could act as a form of pressure on the Planning Committee when considering the developments.
A number of Councillors (including 4 out of the 6 Councillors representing Osterley and Spring Grove and Syon wards) had a range of concerns about the way the meeting was organised and run. This led to a call-in of the decision by our own Councillor Unsa Chaudri and 11 others.
Video of 23 December meeting Affordable Housing Committee - 23 December 2020 - YouTube
B. OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (OSC) MEETING, 27 Jan 2021
The OSC discussed the call-in at this meeting. The Council Leader defended the AHC decision and argued that adequate information had been provided. After a long meeting the OSC agreed that:
“There was no consultation with Ward Councillors. It would be good practice to do so”.
That there was “inadequate evidence on which to base a decision. In the report to the AHC, more background reports should have been provided …”.
The OSC agreed to refer the decision back to the AHC for reconsideration within 5 days.
It was noted in the meeting that most of the questions were directed to Councillor Curran as Lead Member for Planning and that in the majority of cases he declined to answer, often stating that he did not know the detail. Instead, he passed those questions to Council Officer Peter Matthew. It was also noted that many of the issues involved required a lot of detail, yet papers for the 27 January meeting were only circulated less than an hour before the meeting and only to Councillor Chaudri.
Video of 27 January meeting Overview and Scrutiny Special Call-in Meeting - Wednesday 27 November - YouTube (this is the correct meeting, despite the wrong date)
C. AFFORDABLE HOUSING COMMITTEE (AHC) MEETING, 1 Feb 2021
The AHC met again to consider the recommendations from the OSC. It accepted that it would have been a good idea to discuss major development proposals with Ward Councillors and agreed to do so in future. On the second ground for the call-in (inadequate information) the Committee was told by Council Officer Peter Mathew that they were all well versed in the issues but that perhaps this was less so for others. Apparently satisfied with this praise, the AHC did not even consider the detailed points on the information shortfall made by Councillor Chaudri. The AHC then went on to reaffirm in full its decision to make the “off-plan” purchases.
Video of 1 February meeting Affordable Housing Committee - 1 February 2021 - YouTube
OWGRA’s Conclusion: We are concerned by the lack of transparency in these Council meetings. We are grateful to our Ward Councillors for stepping in to make sure that Council Committees are run properly and are held to account for their actions and decisions.