Friday, 30 September 2022 Location: Hounslow House CLOSING STATEMENTS
The last day of the public inquiry involved the four parties delivering their closing statements which summarised their cases and the relevant points that came out during the inquiry. These were delivered in the opposite order to the Opening Statements, so we/OWGRA were first, followed by Historic England, then Hounslow Council and finally the Applicant (Berkeley/St Edward Homes). Each statement took over an hour and took us to the end of the inquiry. OWGRA’s closing statement was delivered by 6 residents, and the other closing statements were presented by the barristers/KCs acting for other three parties. Here are the main issues raised:
The form, height, scale, massing and density of the proposed developments of 2,150 homes, with up to 16 blocks, some reaching 17-storeys, are totally out of character with the area and would dominate the nearby low-rise buildings. This fact was demonstrated by OWGRA’s 3D model and professional photos and corroborated during a 2-day accompanied site visit led by the Planning Inspector. Many of OWGRA’s concerns were echoed separately by the Council’s own body, the independent Hounslow Design Review Panel. We also referred to the 800 letters of objection submitted to the Council and a petition with almost 4.5K signatures of objection submitted to the Mayor of London and Secretary of State.
We have never opposed development on these sites. We said that redevelopment must provide housing that fits in with the area’s residential character and heritage, and also meets Hounslow’s known housing needs. Hounslow requires considerably more larger family homes (3 & 4 bed homes), not more studios, and overcrowded 1 & 2 bed flats. The make-up of these developments would be that over 80% of the flats would be studio and 1 & 2 bedroom.
Residents should be guaranteed access to adequate public transport and the necessary local infrastructure and utilities, as required by planning guidelines and vital to a healthy and happy existence. Public transport provision in the area is already way beyond its capacity. How public transport will serve and support the needs of these developments has not been adequately demonstrated.
These developments would cause permanent harm to local heritage assets, primarily Gillette (the Grade II listed building), and create irreversible harm to strategic views from Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Syon Park and Osterley Park.
We say that a suitable replacement for the Tesco site would be a 21st century equivalent of the local Wyke Estate, with plenty of houses, and low-rise blocks of flats with generous open spaces. Our limit is 6-storeys to match the height of the nearby Grade II listed Gillette building.
We totally concur with the Secretary of State’s comments from spring 2022 when he announced the five principles to be at the heart of the new approach to housing, namely “Beauty, Infrastructure, Democratic control, Environmental enhancement and Neighbourhood protection… They can ensure that we have the right homes in the right places where people welcome them. Local people will be partners in making the places they love better and more beautiful, not pawns in a speculative game. You’ve had dormitories, not neighbourhoods. People have been resistant to developments because far too often you’ve had numbers plonked down simply to reach an arbitrary target. Too many new homes have been ugly, shoddily constructed and of poor quality. Identikit creations plonked down without regard to the shape and character of existing communities. Many new developments have not been accompanied by the investment in infrastructure required alongside. So schools, GP surgeries and roads have become increasingly under pressure and existing residents' quality of life suffers. And all of this has meant that instead of creating and enhancing neighbourhoods we have seen dormitories planted in the wrong place in the wrong way. So we are giving local communities the ability to prescribe the design of new homes, and I will use my powers to enforce high aesthetic standards on new developments. Some of our big housebuilders, used to imposing their wishes on communities, may baulk.”
The harms would outweigh the benefits. For all these reasons, we ask these applications be refused planning permission.
Our full closing statement can be viewed by clicking on this link https://www.owgra.org.uk/_files/ugd/7eb8f0_b5d97d9aa44f4c078766df48da745fe1.pdf
Historic England (HE)
These proposals would cause harm to Kew Gardens (World Heritage Site), the Grade I Registered Park & Garden (RPG) at Syon, the Grade I Syon House, the Grade I Lion Gate at Syon, the Grade II* RPG at Osterley Park, the Grade II Gillette building and other listed buildings along the Golden Mile/Great West Road (former Nat West building, Coty Factory/Syon Clinic). The level of damage to these heritage assets would be cumulative.
No evidence was presented to justify the heights of the proposed developments.
No evidence was presented to the inquiry to satisfactorily address the concerns of the Hounslow Design Review Panel.
Hounslow Council (LBH)
The Council fully supports the planning applications, while acknowledging the large scale and high density.
To meet its increased housing targets Hounslow needs these 2,100+ homes to be built.
35% of the properties would be affordable housing.
Harm to heritage assets is very limited, and HE’s position is overstated.
The design is of high quality.
TfL and Hounslow Council consider that transport infrastructure with minor improvements (an additional bus route to Ealing Broadway) is adequate.
Impacts from the proposed developments will cause insubstantial or no harm.
There will be some impact of daylight/sunlight, particularly on homes in Northumberland Gardens.
The methodology adopted by HE’s Expert Witness to assessing heritage harm is not appropriate, while that of the Council’s Heritage Witness is correct.
The benefits outweigh the heritage harms.
Berkeley/St Edward Homes
The schemes would cause a modest degree of harm to designated (and undesignated) heritage assets.
Meeting the needs of the future is every bit as important, in principle, as conserving the significance of the past.
Long discourse on the methodology and assessment of level of harm to heritage assets.
The developments would be seen from parts of the Thames Path but would not be visible from Kew Gardens.
Criticism of HE’s evidence on heritage harm.
Reference is made to the fact that the GLA did not have any major concerns about the developments, and any that were had been adequately addressed.
There are no issues with transport and other infrastructure.
The benefits of 2,150 homes on the two sites would outweigh the harms.
[It should be noted that both Hounslow Council and the Applicant took some unnecessary swipes at OWGRA in their closing statements, trying to belittle and dismiss our well evidenced and professionally presented objections. We assume that the Planning Inspector will not give such comments any credence.]
The Inspector then closed the inquiry.
We will not hear anything now until the Secretary of State makes his decision on whether to approve or refuse these planning applications, and is not expected before spring 2023.
You can watch the proceedings of this day on Hounslow Council’s YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/LBHounslow