Tuesday 15 March 2022, Hounslow House
This first 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. This first day of the Inquiry was held in person. The remaining sessions will all be virtual and live-streamed.
The Planning Inspector 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.
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