Wednesday 16 March 2022
You can watch a recording of the proceedings via this link:
We have prepared an index of the proceedings that will let you directly access individual contributions. You can access the index for Day 2 here
The first session of the second day of the public inquiry on the proposed Tesco/Homebase redevelopment opened with Mr Patel, the architect responsible for the Homebase site. He was taken through his firm’s approach to the design of the proposed Homebase development by Mr Warren QC representing the developer. He characterised the proposal as a “gateway development” that ‘regenerated’ the area, complementing the needs of both residential and commercial sectors while reconciling the ‘two grains’. The exact meaning of this was unclear but seemed to refer to the proximity of buildings to roads, in this case usually the GWR; a positive ‘grain’ was close to the road and tidy. The upshot was that it almost seemed as if Homebase was being demolished because of its car park’s negative ‘grain’.
Mr Patel argued that the construction details would give the new development an Art Deco feel to match the character of the Golden Mile, and that the ‘stepped back’ design would permit views of the Gillette Building from Syon Lane, acknowledging the ‘pre-eminence’ of this famous building. He also claimed that the good quality of the homes would be ‘tenure blind’, with a great outlook and sufficient sunlight. The level 4 podium would provide green space for leisure, community and play, while some green areas nearby would be upgraded, under the section 106 agreement, to cater largely for the needs of older children (aged 12+).
Scott Lyness, a QC for Historic England, questioned Mr Patel about how heritage issues had informed key design principles, and to what extent they were modified in response to feedback. The discussion focused on the massing and height of the buildings, the impact this was likely to have on nearby communities, the coherence of the Art Deco corridor, and the likely impact on the line of sight from Kew Gardens and Syon Park. Mr Lyness commented that there was ‘nothing to indicate that heritage issues were at the heart of the typology’. Mr Patel replied that heritage was ‘implied in the design’ even if it had not been explicitly mentioned. When questions were repeated he sometimes gave different answers. At one point the Inspector advised Mr Patel that he ‘couldn’t have it both ways’.
Mr Lyness suggested that the Gillette Building already provided a gateway function: ‘you don’t need 17 storeys to achieve a gateway function’. He added that there was an abrupt change of scale from Building B (the 17-storey building that would be next to the Skoda garage) to the buildings to the east. Mr Patel said he had assumed that the latter would ‘come up for regeneration’ which would reduce the abruptness. Mr Lyness’ questioning lasted for over two hours during which Mr Patel often seemed to have difficulty answering the questions put to him.
Barbara Stryjak for OWGRA followed with a question on the 2017 planning permission for the Access Storage building. LBH denied planning permission when 11 storeys were proposed so why then did Mr Patel propose 17 storeys for the Homebase site? “Context” was Mr Patel’s response; this is a regeneration area and it is proposed to set the new buildings away from the boundary. Mohsen Zikri, also for OWGRA, continued with questions about renewable energy to which there was no clear answer. He also asked about the podium level, its location on the 4th floor and vulnerability to noise from the Heathrow flight path, and winds. The Inspector advised that these issues should be addressed at a roundtable discussion dealing with environmental impacts and scheduled to take place later in the inquiry. She did however question Mr Patel on the nature of these spaces. If the podium was designed for the under 5s, where were the quiet spaces for older people? Mr Patel responded that the plans ‘fulfil all GLA requirements for space for all users.’
Mohsen also questioned the sustainability of the planned facades and the risks of glare, and possible light pollution. Mr Patel was confident that none of these issues were problematic and even claimed that glare only arose from concave glass facades.
Tuesday 15 March 2022, Hounslow House
The first day of the Inquiry was held in person. The remaining sessions will all be virtual and live-streamed.
You can watch the proceedings here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPokIIJe3Pc
We have prepared an index of the proceedings that will let you directly access individual contributions. You can access the index for Day 1 here
This session was opened by the Planning Inspector (Mrs Jennifer Vyse) explaining how the time would be organised and how she wanted things to be presented. She made it clear that it was a public inquiry and not a public meeting so she did not want expressions of support or opposition from members of the public in attendance. The session was held in the Council Chamber on the top floor of the six-storey council offices, Hounslow House.
The Parties to the Inquiry are on the one side, (1) the developer/applicant (St Edward Homes), (2) Hounslow Council, both arguing why the developments should go ahead.
On the other side we have (3) Historic England and (4) OWGRA. In addition, members of public had been invited to speak along with representatives of organisation not party to the Inquiry.
Preliminaries over we heard opening statements. These contained no surprises and neither were they meant to. Each party to the Inquiry made a statement summarising its overall position on the developments. The lawyers representing (1) and (2) above explained that the development conformed to the Local and London Plans, would do no substantial harm and that the benefits largely outweighed any harm by providing much needed homes with 35% of them “affordable”.
In its opening statement, Historic England said that on the contrary the developments would cause considerable harm to the historical heritage over a wide area. This extended from the immediate vicinity to Osterley Park, Syon Park and Kew Gardens. As well as pointing in great detail to the harm caused from various viewpoints. Historic England pointed out that even so-called “less than substantial harm” to a number of sites could cumulatively amount to substantial harm. The case for OWGRA was put by Barbara Stryjak, Mohsen Zikri and John McNulty. They went over OWGRA’s main points (over-development, incompatible with the surrounding built environment, lack of local amenities, poor public transport rating with no prospect of improvement, inappropriate housing mix, and poor design).
If there were any surprises then they came from the non-party speakers (residents and representatives of organisations and ward councillors). These cannot be detailed here but you watch them, and indeed all the day’s proceedings, on line at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPokIIJe3Pc
Here there is only room to state that residents spoke with passion plus detailed knowledge through their own lived experience of the area. They spoke from the heart and explained how their lives are affected by the infrastructure already struggling to cope with the current population size. Cllr Tony Louki did the same. Then we heard from Kew Gardens, the Gardens Trust and several others. It is safe to say that all spoke very well and if you have time, it is well worth dropping into the recording of the afternoon session. We hope to put up transcripts of what they said as these become available.
All in all, it was a day in which the objections to the development were conveyed loud and clear, aided by supporters who were outside Hounslow House throughout the meeting, getting the message across as to why these developments should not see the light of day.
Monday 14 March 2022
Welcome to our blog, where we plan to give you the day’s highlights from the Public Inquiry into the Tesco/Homebase developments planned on Syon Lane at Gillette Corner. The inquiry starts tomorrow, Tuesday 15 March.
It started 3 years ago, in April 2019, when we were informed of plans to demolish the Homebase and Tesco sites, build a new Tesco store on the Homebase site with parking and flats above and around, and to build blocks of flats on the Tesco site. There would be 16 tower blocks of up to 17 storeys across the 2 sites, with 2,150 homes, of which only 25 would be houses, the rest being flats. This is one of the biggest developments currently planned in London.
We held our first public meeting in Nov 2019 to inform residents of the plans, and a small group of concerned residents has been campaigning and working since then to stop this development. We have never opposed development on these sites, but have argued all along that we want developments that provide housing that fit in with in the area’s residential character, meet the real housing needs, and respect the area’s heritage. It is essential that future occupants are provided with a healthy living environment and have guaranteed access to adequate public transport, roads and utilities as required by planning guidelines.
The inquiry is due to last about 3 weeks. Tomorrow’s opening day is held at Hounslow House and will include:
1. Introduction from the Planning Inspector
2. Opening statements from the four parties:
- Berkeley Homes and Hounslow Council who support the developments
- Historic England and OWGRA who oppose the developments
3. Representations from interested parties/local residents
Local residents will gather to show their support for OWGRA and its objections to these proposed schemes tomorrow, Tuesday 15 March, at the start of the public inquiry, outside Hounslow House.
From Wednesday, 16 March, the inquiry will be held virtually.
The whole public inquiry will be livestreamed and available for everyone to watch on https://www.youtube.com/c/LBHounslow