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Tesco/Homebase Public Inquiry - Day 13

Wednesday, 28 September 2022 Location: Hounslow House HERITAGE EVIDENCE, HOUNSLOW COUNCIL, CONDITIONS & OBLIGATIONS

Mr Booth, KC for LBH, opened the session by introducing Mr Froneman, Expert Witness on Heritage for Hounslow Council. Mr Booth summarised Mr Froneman's position as “fundamentally disagree(ing) with Mr Stroud's on a number of issues” and “not entirely consistent with those of Dr Miele, but your judgement aligns more with those of Dr Miele than Mr Stroud.”

The subsequent conversation examined nuances of meaning as they were presented in Mr Froneman's written evidence on Kew Gardens and Syon Park, and Osterley Park to a smaller degree.

Kew Gardens

a) Mr Froneman confirmed that the proposed development would 'probably’ not be visible from Kew Gardens, that the AVR “shows no view, or a minimal view”, therefore there was no harm. He explained that there were 'limited views' from the tow path, but this was outside the World Heritage Site; he described Kew as “inward looking”, having little relationship with the tow path, so it did not affect the OUV within the boundary of Kew.

b) Mr Booth asked about the Management Plan, its significance, and its evaluation of the tow path, which Mr Stroud said had 'implicit references' to the value of the path, which would be undermined by the proposed development. Mr Froneman acknowledged the importance of the Management Plan, but denied the presence of implied references.

c) Returning to Mr Stroud's evidence, Mr Booth asked if Mr Froneman agreed with the assessment of low levels of harm, when the heritage asset is viewed 'in the round'? Mr Booth cited precedents that “impact on what would be affected”, that is, elements that would be adversely affected? Mr Froneman rejected this view, citing the allotments decision. He said that it was important to view the whole setting and how elements may be calibrated to relate to the significance of the heritage asset.

d) Mr Booth asked how Mr Stroud could have “got it so wrong” from Mr Froneman's point of view. Mr Froneman repeated his view that the Mr Stroud's estimate of mid spectrum harm, “less than substantial”, failed to take into account the richness and complexity of the setting; a focus on the tow path did not account for context.

A further judgement from Mr Stroud on the Isleworth ferry gate as suffering from a medium level of substantial harm was also rebutted by Mr Froneman. The presence of yew branches screened the view he believed.

Syon Park

a) Mr Froneman summarised his opinion of Syon's significance as the “fabric of the building”, the physical presence containing the Adam interiors rather than the surrounding Park. Mr Stroud had commended the Arcadian landscape of the Park, but Mr Froneman found only a limited justification for this judgement; he agreed that the eastern side was preserved, but other views were already undermined by aircraft noise (not mentioned by Stroud) and existing modern development, particularly views from the lime tree avenue, (sight of double decker buses).

b) Mr Froneman concluded that Mr Stroud's judgements were 'exaggerated', indeed he felt that they “beggared belief”.

Osterley Park

Mr Froneman made a similar evaluation of Osterley Park. He judged that the nineteenth and twentieth century developments surrounding the Park meant that there was no longer an 'illusion of a rural setting'. The proposed development would continue existing large-scale development, particularly the Sky campus.

Mr Lyness, KC for Heritage England, cross-examined Mr Froneman.

The discussion focused on some legal precedents that identified the importance of setting in terms of planning decisions. It was agreed that setting mattered, but the degree of impact was the issue. Mr Froneman felt that 'quality not quantity', was a useful measure; a small aspect could still be important in terms of its impact on the setting. It was a matter of 'calibrating' harm, of evaluating how far a new development contributes to the overall significance of an asset.

The discussion moved to cumulative levels of harm, or additional harm to use Mr Froneman's preferred term. He described this as 'proposed harm' added to 'baseline harm'. He said that he had found “no interaction between baseline harm and proposed harm that elevates harm” in the settings examined. Mr Lyness asked if the baseline was neutral. Mr Froneman said that there was no guidance on this issue. He continued, “setting is not an idealised version, nor can it be traced back to a certain point in time . . . it is the surroundings in which a heritage aspect is experienced.”

Mr Lyness suggested that Mr Froneman had discounted the impact of harm in Syon Park. Mr Froneman denied this and the extent of impact in Osterley Park. He agreed that there would be harm to the Arcadian aspect of Osterley Park, from a wider area, but this did not substantially add harm as existing suburban development and taller buildings, such as Sky, had already undermined the Arcadian ideal and the proposed development would simply create a 'layered' effect. Mr Froneman stated that there was 'nearly altogether negligible harm” at Kew. He agreed that there was some cumulative harm from the Thames Path view.

The Planning Inspector, Mrs Vyse, confirmed that the Homebase building is a 'non designated heritage asset, not on the Council's list'.

In re-examination by Mr Booth, Mr Froneman spoke about the lack of comment from Dr Miele and Mr Stroud on cumulative harm. He concluded by saying that none of the three witnesses had adopted “this eccentric approach”.

Conditions and Obligations

Some points that had been raised during the day on Conditions (day 9, 30 March 2022), were returned to

Barbara Stryjak, for OWGRA, underlined the importance of having a trolley management plan for the new Tesco store. With more people living in the area, and less parking available, there was likely to be an increased problem with abandoned trolleys. Barbara requested that a condition be put in on this point.

Barbara also asked for a condition to cover lighting surrounding the site, where crime rates are rising. There was particular concern with the subway at Gillette Corner and that the £135,000 budget for underpass improvement was not sufficient.

You can watch the proceedings of this day on Hounslow Council’s YouTube channel


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