Friday 25 March 2022
The second of the days of roundtable discussions started with a consideration of housing needs and mix. David Pavett, for OWGRA, argued that housing mix and needs were closely interrelated. He accepted that there were increased demands, and said that we agreed that the target for affordable homes had been met, however the Tesco/Homebase applications did not satisfy the well-documented need for larger family homes. He used LB Hounslow’s analysis showing that 57% and 43% of homes in the social and private sectors respectively should be 3-bed or larger.
OWGRA’s argument was based on four points:
LBH suffers from serious overcrowding,
LBH’s assessment showed that 50% of new homes should be 3+ bedrooms,
The Local Plan sets a strategic target for larger family homes of 30%,
Large scale developments need to comply with these targets.
Only 14% is proposed for Homebase and circa 19% for Tesco, resulting in a large shortfall.
Mr Smith, for LBH, said that the detailed requirements in the Local Plan should be regarded as a starting point for discussions to arrive at the final mix. There was a need for 3+ beds, but also other sizes, and there could be more 1-2 beds if the development was (1) in a town centre or (2) near to a station and good public transport!
The Inspector herself then referred to our concerns regarding poor public transport! Mr Smith replied that it was ‘either or’. David replied that neither condition was satisfied, and that the claims about a post COVID demand for smaller homes lacked any detail.
Mr Booth QC, for LBH, reiterated the argument that Local Plan policies were just a starting point for a discussion with developers. David said that its targets for homes were strategic and while not applying exactly to every development should do so overall and should certainly apply to very large developments such as Tesco/Homebase. He said that the claims of the applicant and LB Hounslow were a long way from meeting these targets.
Mr Roberts, for the applicant, said the housing mix of the proposed developments aimed at the ‘optimisation of the sites’. The QC, for the applicant, also spoke of ‘optimisation’. This blogger was left in no doubt as to what was being ‘optimised’ and for whom!
The subsequent sessions considered the impact of the developments under various headings.
Mr Roberts, for the developer, stated that the developments had been fully assessed against Building Research Establishment (BRE) standards and that despite some adverse effects the overall outcome was satisfactory bearing in mind the need to ‘optimise the sites’. A small number of adjacent properties would fall outside the minimum daylight reduction targets. Barbara Stryjak, for OWGRA, pointed out, as a lay person, that the number of properties in Northumberland Gardens, Syon Lane and Oaklands Avenue which would suffer moderate or major adverse effects was a cause of concern. She referred to a statement by an OWGRA member on the opening day of the inquiry. Mr Roberts insisted that there is good light for the majority, and that is just how BRE guidelines are implemented. Mr Warren QC, for the applicant, agreed and said that BRE is not the final test, but requires that experts come to a balanced judgement. Barbara responded that many residents will be affected, staring at a wall of tower blocks, and asked further detailed questions about individual properties. Mr Roberts argued that many problems resulted from existing conditions, such as overhang, etc.
Noise and Disturbance
Lis Guest, for OWGRA, spelt out the noise issues at Gillette Corner from traffic and planes. Residents either had to keep their windows closed or open them to noise and poor air quality. She expressed concern about noise and pollution during the proposed lengthy construction period. Mr Smith stated that LBH understood noise etc. concerns and would seek to minimise disruption. Lis noted that tower blocks require deep excavations which will be damaging to the environment. Mr Smith confirmed that there would be a construction/ environmental management plan for delivery/ construction vehicles.
Outlook for Existing Residents
The Inspector asked for clarification of the cross-section drawings showing angles of view from existing properties. These appeared to show differing angles. Mr Roberts and Mr Smith sought to clarify the issues, by stating that properties with a head on view of a tower block might have a view of the sky to one side or another! The Inspector noted that to the rear of 47 Oaklands Avenue the nearest new building appeared to be only 15 metres away (rather than the 18m minimum), and from the end of their 10m garden, only 5m away. This would appear to be uncontested.
Living Conditions for Future Residents
Barbara referred to the discussion about single-aspect properties (SAP) from the previous week, and the view of the LBH Design Review Panel that the number of SAPs was unacceptable. Mr Roberts stated that the constraining factors on both sites made the number of SAPs inevitable, but that design of the units minimised adverse effects and was acceptable. Barbara said that they had rejected the advice of the Design Review Panel. Mr Roberts replied that they had taken a balanced approach.
Overheating and Ventilation
Mohsen Zikri, for OWGRA, reaffirmed our concerns about SAPs. He noted that the London Plan policies pointed to ventilation problems in SAPs and said that they should be avoided where possible. Where unavoidable they should be adequately ventilated. He pointed out that the applicant’s energy statement discussed mitigation measures (reflectors, fans etc.), but made no commitments. Many bedrooms failed overheating/ventilation standards, with the recommendation that windows should be open during the day and closed at night! Mr Roberts claimed that design measures would be included, and when all is considered, the outcome would be satisfactory. The proposals were based on a planning judgement by energy consultants and was not a policy matter. Mohsen disagreed, saying that it was not good enough to rely on mechanical ventilation, which needed maintenance and consumed energy. Mr Roberts stated that mechanical ventilation was only part of the package, and that everything could be solved by design or passive and mechanical ventilation.
Amenity and Green Space
Barbara referred to the planning statements which showed that for both sites the podium/public accessible space was lower than LBH policy. Mr Smith argued that the policy sets benchmarks but had no fixed minimum standards. High quality design would be set against the constraints of the sites. Mr Roberts noted the need to look at such spaces across both developments, including balcony space, which were compliant with the London Plan. These standards were not a minimum requirement, but a balanced approach was needed. He went on to refer to – yes, you’ve got it – ‘optimisation of the capacity of the site’! Barbara repeated that there was a shortfall, and said that very few open spaces were accessible within 15 minutes’ walk (with reference to the ‘15-neighbourhood’ where amenities should ideally be within a 15-minute walking distance).
Barbara noted further that the planning statements showed a shortfall in play areas. Mr Smith said that the shortfall on the Homebase site would be offset by a financial contribution for elsewhere. Barbara asked, as a lay person, how a financial contribution could compensate for a lack of play space and referred to the statement by an OWGRA member on the opening day of the inquiry.
Mohsen raised the issues of noise, glare, privacy/intrusion, who would have access to the amenity areas, and sustainability. He noted that the architect, Mr Patel, in the first week had promised to provide examples of developments with similar podium/community spaces that were not in a city centre. Mr Roberts stated that plane and road noise had been assessed, and the issue of disturbance had been addressed in the design. Mohsen was not convinced by the reference to ‘areas of tranquillity’, and that design would not answer the intrusion/privacy issue. Such podium and public landscapes will need constant maintenance. Mr Roberts confirmed that the podiums will be accessible to all and will be well managed and maintained at no extra costs to affordable tenancies. Mohsen concluded by stating that high quality comes at a cost and that the proposals would not be sustainable.
So ended day 6.
You can watch the proceedings of this day on Hounslow Council’s YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/LBHounslow