Thursday 17 March 2022
During a significantly shortened day of presentation, Marcus Adams, lead architect for the developer was introduced by Rupert Warren QC, and cross-examined by Scott Lyness QC, legal counsel for Historic England, and by members of our very own OWGRA.
Mr. Adams’ responses to questions from Mr Lyness were often less than direct requiring Mr Lyness to repeat them. In those responses he put constant emphasis on his claim that Syon Lane provides an architectural character break between the typical 1930s suburbia to the west and the “heavily industrialised Golden Mile” to the east.
With Hounslow Council’s ‘Great West Corridor Master Plan’ covering the A4 between Chiswick roundabout and Gillette Corner, Mr. Adams was keen to assert the location of both development sites as being to the east of Syon Lane. His narrative was clear: many of the original Art Deco buildings that had formerly lined the ‘Golden Mile’ had been replaced with poorer quality buildings whose replacement by high-rise residential developments should not be mourned.
Mr. Adams was keen to identify the boundary to Osterley Place (the current Tesco site); each compass point representing a different feature of the site; to the north, the water feature in a previously underutilised area of the site and the focus for the tallest of the residential tower blocks. To the east, enhanced vehicular and pedestrian access to Grant Way and the Sky campus, despite the severe limitations on car parking in the development. To the south, town houses and 5-6 storey blocks to soften the impact for those residents living along Syon Lane north. Finally, to the west a representation of the widened MacFarlane Lane as a safer thoroughfare for the pupils of Bolder Academy.
Mr. Adams insisted that the process of pre-development planning had been a model exercise in creating a landscape-led approach to Osterley Place; a sensitive transition from a large retail outlet to a pedestrian dominated quality place to live.
According to Mr. Adams, other positive features of this exciting development include the 46,000 square feet of commercial space, the Water Gardens and the grassy knoll Meander. The aim is to increase biodiversity by 10% on what is essentially a supermarket and car park!
In summary Mr. Adams wanted to present a vision of a development where:
Existing edges were respected
Existing buildings were referenced
Existing spaces were celebrated
Local buildings were used as markers of new public spaces
Under cross-examination from Mr Lyness, this utopian vision began to unravel.
Claims of Historic England’s obsessive focus on a single vista from Syon Park were deconstructed as Mr Lyness sought clarification on whether local and wider heritage issues had been a predeterminant for Mr. Adams’ practice during the initial stages of design. Mr. Adams assured the Inquiry that height and massing had been reduced and redistributed across the site. But it soon became apparent that he considered the negative impact on Oaklands Avenue to be acceptable collateral damage in the process of delivering his vision of a sustainable future. Mr Lyness pointed out, the residents of Oaklands Avenue could look forward to obliterated vistas of local landmarks, approximately 18 metres between the property boundaries and the nearest blocks just across MacFarlane Lane.
Before Day 3 ended, clarification was sought from OWGRA on the proposed clean air route from the GWR to Bolder Academy via Harlequin Avenue and on the distances between various residential blocks on the Osterley Place development (in some instances as little as 11-12 metres). Mr Adams was far from convincing in his rebuttals of suggestions that, for those individuals residing on lower floors, the lack of direct sunlight would be highly detrimental to their health and wellbeing.
In response to a further question from Barbara Stryjak on the size and scope of the Water Garden, Mr. Adams stated that “In general in the UK, we often create public spaces that are too big.” Make of this what you will…
A flavour of the proceedings may be obtained by watching this three-minute excerpt when Barbara Stryjak asked a question about net zero carbon ambitions for the development.
When asked if the final design had acknowledged the criticisms by Hounslow’s independent Design Review Panel of the large number of single-aspect homes Mr Adams gave a long answer which amounted to saying “No, but this could be looked at later on under reserved matters”.
Many of OWGRA’s concerns were given an airing on day 3 but we still have a long way to go in this Public Inquiry. It is good that at last we are able to have these developments discussed in a detail far beyond anything considered by the Hounslow Planning Committee. You can judge how things went on day three by going to https://youtu.be/7AdJq89g4qM?t=188
We have prepared an index of the proceedings that will let you directly access individual contributions. You can access the index for Day 3 here