Tuesday 27 September 2022 Location: Hounslow House HERITAGE EVIDENCE, BERKELEY HOMES/ST EDWARD
The day entailed:
· Presentation by applicant’s Heritage expert Dr Miele
· Cross examination by Scott Lyness KC (for Historic England)
· Cross examination by OWGRA’s Barbara Stryjak
· Re-examination by applicant’s KC
Presentation by applicant’s Heritage expert Dr Miele
Syon House & Park
· Dr Miele started with the point that the vegetation and trees at Syon Park would be enough to screen most views of the development on the Homebase site, at least from sensitive areas, a point he would return to later.
· He admitted that since the 1865 ONS map of Syon Park and the surrounding area, a number of trees had been lost.
· Dr Miele then produced various slides and film showing how the blocks on the Homebase site would only be very partly visible in his eyes, including from the river bend at Syon Reach next to Kew Gardens, but the blocks would still be apparent in a way they are not now, and thus the view would be ‘moderately harmed’.
· He pointed out that the white stone of Syon House gives the building a strong 3D presence.
· In his opinion, the “Canaletto” view of Syon Park would not be harmed at all by the blocks on the Homebase site.
· Furthermore Dr Miele said that, standing at the front of Syon House in the drive, the Lime Tree Avenue and other trees would virtually obscure the view of the blocks on the Homebase site. Further down the drive towards the Park Road Gate, the blocks would admittedly be slightly more visible, and would ‘catch the eye’.
· Syon Park is situated in what is now indubitably an urban area, and thus a degree of development must be expected.
· The view from Syon Park through the Lion Gate would show the blocks significantly impacting on the skyline. However, said Dr Miele, this part of the park is private and thus this view would rarely be seen from within the park. Furthermore, the main point of the Lion Gate is to provide a view into the park from the A315 road, and not the other way round.
· The final point that Dr Miele made is that although Syon Park contributes to the UNESCO Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) in the area, it does not wholly define it.
· Dr Miele began by saying that Osterley Park is steeped in its rural setting, with the original house the key focal point, plus the woodland belts around the house.
· The view across the fields in the direction of the blocks on the Tesco site would show the undulating height of the blocks fitting in with the trees.
· The blocks would be very evident from the bridleway looking towards Wyke Green Lodge.
· However, Dr Miele concluded that the damage to Osterley Park views would be of ‘low order’.
· This is partly because the urban setting of the parks must be considered compared to out-and-out country estates like Petworth and Blenheim.
Gillette Tower & Relationship with Homebase
· Dr Miele started with the key point that the Gillette building was intended as a type of eye-catching commercial advert for the Gillette brand, with the frontage of the building along Syon Lane at an angle to the rest of the road.
· According to him, the development proposed for the Homebase site would be a ‘high quality’ piece of architecture compared to the current Homebase building and car park.
· Despite the apparent massing of the Homebase proposals, this is broken down by the actual design.
· Gillette Tower is sufficiently prominent to remain so, despite the massing of the proposed developments on the Homebase and Tesco sites, which would ‘enhance’ it.
· No harm to the setting of the other blocks on the site such as the old Nat West bank building either.
Cross Examination by Scott Lyness KC
· Good start as Mr Lyness got Dr Miele to agree that there would be harm to all heritage assets – applying NPPF means that considerable weight must be given to any harm to these Grade 1 assets.
· However, Mr Lyness could not get Dr Miele to admit that the proposed blocks are of unsympathetic quality, going on further to say later that the blue and grey colour of the blocks fitted in with the sky.
· No real conclusion on whether the creation of an Opportunity Area made heritage harm more acceptable, but the concept was raised.
· When challenged, Dr Miele would not agree that Syon Park was one of the most important landscapes in the UK.
· Under questioning, Dr Miele reiterated that having heritage assets like this in suburban London was not like walking by the Tweed in the Scottish countryside, where you could be unaware of the modern world, and in any case Syon House would remain prominent despite the development on the Homebase site. Furthermore, the ‘Arcadian landscape’ of the estate stops at the border like St James’s Park in Central London.
· Dr Miele said that the OUV connection between Kew Gardens and Syon Park was weaker than suggested by Mr Lyness as there was very little view of Syon from Kew due to Kew’s surrounding trees, not counting the towpath on that side, and that the concept of ‘harm’ to Kew Gardens was purely theoretical.
· Dr Miele denied that Gillette would be harmed by changes to the skyline due to its commanding nature.
Cross Examination by Barbara Stryjak (OWGRA)
· Barbara began by quoting the conclusions of Hounslow’s Independent Design Review Panel (DRP)about how the Gillette Tower could be protected from the overbearing nature of the towers on the Homebase site. Dr Miele responded by saying the DRP did not say what aspect of Gillette’s siting would be harmed, and despite admitting the desirability of more views of Gillette from the development on the Homebase site, said he didn’t accept the DRP’s heritage expertise, nor that there would be a bad effect on the Syon Clinic (former Coty factory) either.
Mrs Vyse, the Planning Inspector, asked whether Homebase should be identified as a non-designated heritage asset.
Hounslow Council’s KC then asked whether there was less than substantial harm and thus the impact would be ‘low to moderate’ to Syon Park/House from the modelled points and Dr Miele agreed. There then followed some other clarification questions.
After Dr Miele had finished, proceedings broke up for the day.
You can watch the proceedings of this day on Hounslow Council’s YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/LBHounslow