Monday 25 April 2022
You can watch the proceedings of this day on Hounslow Council’s YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/LBHounslow
Experts for the applicant and for the Council presented evidence on how the proposed developments comply with policies in the London and the Local (Hounslow) Plan. The Local (Hounslow) Plan was adopted in 2015, but a new plan is in preparation (known as the ‘emerging’ plan), and also needs to be taken into account when considering planning applications. However, it was unclear how much weight should be given to the emerging plan, especially since, under cross examination, Mr Roberts for the developer acknowledged that the extent of growth for the area had not yet been determined for the emerging plan.
Many of the subjects that had been covered previously during the public inquiry were revisited with reference to specific policies.
Mr Roberts, for the developer, listed the public benefits of the proposed developments and gave a weighting to them. Top of the list was the provision of housing and affordable housing, then regeneration, “high quality design” (!), economic benefits and employment opportunities, public open spaces, infrastructure improvements, greening.
Mr Roberts’s assessment of the “low level of less than substantial harm” to heritage assets was based on Dr Miele’s expert evidence on heritage for the developer, which will be presented to the inquiry on 27 September. Mr Roberts was cross-examined about his claims in great detail by Mr Lyness QC, for Historic England. Mr Lyness covered many policies relating to harm to heritage assets, including the weight that should be given to each policy and the number of heritage assets affected (Kew Gardens, Syon Park, Osterley Park and the Gillette building). The fundamental question seems to be whether the public benefits claimed by the developer outweigh the harm to heritage assets, the conflict between various policies, how these policies are interpreted and the weight given to these policies. All very confusing for Joe Public!
Mr Lyness also spent some considerable time questioning Mr Roberts on the current and emerging policies on tall buildings and how they related to the proposed developments and their locations. The heights/number of storeys and number of units on both sites exceed those in the Hounslow Masterplan and Capacity Study for the Great West Corridor (October 2020) and Mr Roberts had to agree that the developer had not explored alternative proposals to comply with the heights in the Masterplan and to remove the harm to the heritage assets.
Dominic West, for OWGRA, questioned Mr Roberts on the prematurity of the proposals, considering the emerging Local Plan would not be finalised for some time, and that the employment benefits would be small. David Pavett, for OWGRA, asked for the evidence that the developments would meet Hounslow’s needs for larger family homes, as none has been provided. Olga Szokalska, for OWGRA, asked about the inadequate provision of green space.
The Planning Inspector, Mrs Vyse, asked for clarification on heights of other new developments in the area and about land supply,
After lunch Mr Smith, for Hounslow Council, gave evidence from the Council’s perspective on the weighting to be given to the various benefits of the developments. Not surprisingly they were very similar to those presented by Mr Roberts for the developer. Mr Smith referred to heritage evidence which will be presented to the inquiry on 28 September by Mr Froneman. It will be very interesting to hear Mr Froneman’s evidence, who appears to have changed his mind since submitting his evidence in February 2022, that there would be no harm to some of the heritage assets where he had previously stated that there would be some harm.
Mr Smith repeated a number of times that the benefits of the developments would outweigh the various harms, including the living conditions of existing residents, and that the heights and numbers of units of the proposed developments were justified.
Mr Lyness QC, for Historic England, then repeated the questions to Mr Smith he had put to Mr Roberts about the heights and units of the proposed developments being in excess of those in the Hounslow Masterplan and Capacity Study for the Great West Corridor (October 2020). Mr Smith had difficulty in answering these questions.
Dominic West, for OWGRA, asked about the suitability of the sites for such large developments given the poor Public Transport Accessibility Level (PTAL) of the sites and that the London Plan stated that sites for such large developments should be well-connected. Mr Smith tried to downplay the importance of PTAL ratings, and stated that the Homebase site is “well-connected” and the necessary infrastructure either is in place or would be in place with the legal agreement!
The Planning Inspector posed some questions to Mr Smith on tall focal buildings proposed in the Great West Corridor eg near the proposed new Golden Mile station for the Southall Rail Link, but no such allocation is included for the Tesco & Homebase sites. Mr Smith was unable to provide an answer.
And so ended day 10 of the public inquiry.