Trustee resigns over lottery project

Architect claims regeneration will result in unacceptable damage to Chiswick House

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Robert Shaw, a Chiswick-based architect, resigned this week as a Trustee of Chiswick House Friends.

Mr Shaw, who specialises in historic buildings and conservation, believes that the massive redevelopment project for Chiswick House, of which the first phase has just received funding approval from the Heritage Lottery Fund, will eventually result in unacceptable damage to the Grade I Listed Palladian Villa from over-use for commercial purposes.

He told that the Chiswick House Friends have been misguided and ineffectual in their approach to the Lottery bid and have failed to explain the dangers inherent in the longer-term development project sufficiently to its membership. "Chiswick House Friends run the risk of being seen to acquiesce in, or even worse, to support, the dilapidation of Chiswick House by over commercialising." he said.

Shaw agrees that much improvement and better maintenance is necessary to Chiswick House Grounds. "However, covering the walled kitchen garden in car parking, upgrading roads and access for commercial vehicles, erecting a semi-permanent tented village to service 44 weddings or other commercial events per year, presumably all concentrated in the Summer months; not to mention imposing draconian restrictions on dog walkers, are just not acceptable."

Shaw also stated "What has not yet been adequately clarified by the consortium behind the new “Trust” is the condition precedent to this vast expenditure on the Grounds, is to build the second phase, namely commercial alteration and extension to the House itself. It is essential to raise the money necessary for funding the ongoing maintenance and staffing costs of Chiswick House and Grounds. There will be a new, 2-storey building added to the Villa, housing a lift, a main staircase and lavatories, presumably together with administration offices, retail, catering facilities and storage space. Can Chiswick House, with its small rooms and its delicate surfaces survive being turned into a conference centre and wedding palace?"

Mr Shaw is urging locals to oppose the planning application process, expected later this year saying "This application must be called-in by the Government as it is unthinkable that Hounslow Council should be allowed to decide an application for a project of which they are 50% sponsors of the application."

In response to Mr Shaw's resignation, a spokesperson for Chiswick House Friends said "We were aware that Robert Shaw didn’t share the view of the Friends and are therefore not surprised that he has resigned”.

They went on to say that The Friends are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has approved the bid and that Chiswick House Grounds will receive a very necessary capital investment in its regeneration. We see this capital investment as a vital factor in the future existence of Chiswick Grounds and House. The Friends look forward to being involved in consultation and dialogue with the Chiswick House and Grounds Trust as plans for the grounds and their management evolve during this spring and summer."

February 9, 2006