Wednesday 30 March 2022
This was a day of round table discussions about planning conditions and obligations that would apply if the Secretary of State approved the applications.
Conditions and obligations are drawn up by the Council and applicant and run to hundreds of pages and many appendices. The Inspector had already gone through them in great detail and made many comments and asked many questions.
Councillor Tony Louki, with his many years of experience as a Ward Councillor and member of the Planning Committee, helped us with many very useful additional questions and comments. He pointed out that he had many cases on his books of conditions and obligations being agreed which years later he was still trying to get properly implemented.
Homebase Site - Demolition and Construction
Councillor Louki was insisting on site access to the proposed Tesco supermarket being solely from A4 and restricted to between 09.30 and 15.00, to protect existing residents of the Northumberland Estate from the prospect of 5 years of an average of 47 vehicular visits per day, two thirds of which will be HGVs, and two-thirds of those 32-tonne tipper trucks. There was a long discussion about what restrictions a local authority is able to apply.
Landscaping on site to be implemented at the earliest possible time, to enable maximum maturity when the first residents move in; trees adjacent to the site to be protected.
Waste from the demolition needs careful logistical planning to be agreed between the contractor and LBH, and all “Considerate Contractor” policies followed.
Neighbouring homes and the Syon Clinic to be given prior notice when noise and vibration caused by piling is expected to occur. Operators must comply with monitoring and control regulations.
Councillor Louki made a strong a demand for a continuously monitored help-line at the Council for the whole period of demolition and construction, so that all harmful impacts to the neighbourhood would be dealt with promptly.
Homebase site (‘Syon Gardens’) – once completed
Discussion was held on our concerns about likely future air quality, internal and external noise, adequacy of both grey and foul water drainage, car park management, EV charging points and store operating hours.
Councillor Louki and the OWGRA group remained unconvinced by the applicant’s claim that future traffic volume would decrease, resulting in improved air quality; they strongly criticised the prospect of retro-fitting mechanical filtered ventilation to exposed units if the planned air quality monitoring proved it to be necessary. This contravenes the Local Plan and the London Plan because this site is notoriously polluted and dangerous, thus building homes here is knowingly exposing more people to more harm than previously, when there is uncertainty of improved safety in the future.
OWGRA raised the issue of gas boilers being used to boost the energy from the proposed air source heat pumps. They were told that a new document had been added to the Inquiry Library in which it was now claimed that the gas boilers would only function as a backup in case of failure of the heat pumps.
The out-of-character built-height and density, plus the failure to include a much-needed new health centre on this site, as well as the shortfall of amenity and open space, remained a continuing theme from the objectors. “Optimising the capacity of the site” remained the mantra from the applicant and LBH.
Current Tesco site - suggested conditions in outline
There were discussions about parameter plans, as well as the main access point to the site on Syon Lane, the 105m height limit imposed by Heathrow, and the fact that delivery and servicing will be less challenging than on the smaller Homebase site.
Despite supposedly more space, there still appears to be a shortfall in provision of publicly accessible open space, as well as significant loss of daylight and overshadowing of neighbouring properties.
As with the Homebase development, 10% of units will be wheelchair accessible.
Both sites: planning obligations (s106 and CIL):
Detailed discussions covered s106 and CIL funding took place during the afternoon sessions.
s106 agreements are designed to mitigate or compensate for the harmful impact of a development on an area or community by providing funding for such things as construction skills-training, education, improving public transport, cycling and pedestrian facilities, parking management, and contributions to local greenspace enhancement.
Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is effectively a development tax on floor space which developers pay to the Local Planning Authority for permission to build on an agreed site. This money can be spent wherever it is needed in the borough.
Councillor Louki expressed considerable disappointment in the amounts of s106 payments being proposed, the uncertainty of future healthcare provision, and surprise that the CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) had not pressed for more commitment. A new health centre would be best provided at the Homebase site (rather than at the current Tesco site), as the Homebase site has better public transport and parking availability. But there remains uncertainty that any sensible healthcare provision will be forthcoming.
The combined effect of increasing population density and loss of car-parking space will necessitate extra spending on consultations for more CPZs for existing residents to use (and presumably pay for), though residents of the new development would be barred from their use.
At the expense of failing to adhere to Hounslow’s pledge of becoming “carbon neutral” by 2030, the drive to “optimising site capacity”, involving carbon-intensive building methods and materials like concrete, steel and glass, will result in large amounts of embodied carbon on both sites. In addition, when Syon Gardens is occupied, carbon emissions are unlikely to show as much of a reduction that could have been achieved if there had been more of a commitment to emissions reduction from the outset. Large sums will be paid to the Carbon Offset Fund in compensation, but hopefully these will be spent to the benefit of Hounslow’s residents.
A revised draft of the planning conditions and obligations is awaited from the applicant and Council.
We are grateful to the inspector for raising so many questions in detail from the hundreds of pages on planning conditions obligations.
Tuesday 29 March 2022
Today’s site visit with the Inspector took in the area around the proposed sites starting at 09.30 from Syon Park, winding our way around the area between there and Osterley Park, taking in many viewpoints along the way as can be seen on the map.
We stopped many times to look at the printed views that had been prepared by the applicant and by OWGRA to show what the developments would look like from various viewpoints. The most important views from our standpoint were those from the footbridge over the A4 near Currys PC World, from the lake in Syon Park looking across at Lion Gate, from the Trees Estate, from Rothbury Gardens on the Northumberland Estate, Grasshoppers car park and Osterley Park. It was also instructive to walk along MacFarlane Lane and imagine how 12 terraced houses are going to be squeezed into the gap between the pavement and the end of the gardens in Oaklands Avenue.
Because we did a lot of looping in and out of Syon Park, Osterley Park and the various residential areas eg Trees Estate (south of the railway line), the Northumberland Estate, the Wyke Estate, Oaklands Ave, up and down the Great West Road both sides of Gillette Corner and round the back of Tesco to Goals, we covered about 16 kilometers and finished at 15.00. The weather was not as good as on the Monday, but we were grateful that the rain held off.
It was interesting to compare the thorough manner in which this public inquiry is being held compared to the way these planning applications were handled by the Council in the run up to and during the Planning Committee meeting last April 2021. Two very detailed site visits over these two days compared to no site visits before the Planning Committee meeting, despite us inviting all the members of the Planning Committee to a site visit, yet none attended. The way major planning applications are handled by our Council has to change and improve drastically in future.
Monday 28 March 2022
This was the first of 2 days of site visits. The inspector carries out an unaccompanied site visit, which our inspector did in February, before the start of the inquiry, and an accompanied site visit during the planning inquiry, before the report is written.
The inspector cannot hear representations or discussions about the case during the site visit, but it is permissible to point out particular aspects of the area to the inspector.
Representatives of the four parties taking part in the inquiry were present: the applicant (Berkeley Homes) and Hounslow Council supporting the planning applications, and Historic England and OWGRA objecting to the proposals.
The site visit took in the all-important views from the Thames tow path and Kew Gardens. We set off at 13.30 from Richmond station, walked down to the Thames tow path and along the river, past Syon House and Syon Park, stopping to look at the views across the river, to assess the impact of the proposed developments on the local views. The inspector was shown printed photographs by the applicant and OWGRA that had previously been submitted to the inquiry. The applicant’s views suggested that not much of the developments would be seen, while Historic England’s and OWGRA’s views (prepared by our expert witness, Mike Spence) suggested that the towers would be quite visible from various important viewpoints along that route, including the historic view depicted in the Canaletto painting of 1749.
We then entered Kew Gardens at the Brentford Gate and walked up to the view point where the Syon and Cedar Vistas meet opposite Syon House to consider the potential impact of the proposed developments on this all-important historic view which is described as the finest panorama in Kew – and depicts Capability' Brown's famous Arcadian Thames.
We then walked through part of Kew Gardens and the walk ended at the Palm House at about 16.00. We clocked about 10 kilometers. We were very lucky with lovely warm spring sunshine for the walk, and we saw the daffodils and blossom at their very best in Kew Gardens.