Council “runs rough shod” over Conservation Area

Rishad Talyarkhan claims Council has ignored their own planning rules

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This week’s meeting of Hounslow Council’s Sustainable Development Committee approved unanimously a major re-development of the Burlington Lane, Chiswick Memorial Homes site.

The development, in a well-established conservation area, breaches the Hounslow Council's own Development Plan guidelines and is vigorously opposed by local residents. 123 objectors from 100 households, almost all those in the surrounding area, signed two pages of objections to the revised plans. These Grove Park residents, who detailed 5 pages of objections to the proposals, packed the meeting. Yet in a tightly controlled forum residents were not allowed to speak save for a five minute presentation by me, the coordinator of the opposition to the proposed scheme.

My presentation highlighted how the plans propose to erect two bulky new blocks adjacent to the pavement, three stories high, destroying the historically important Conservation Area’s existing building line, while demolishing buildings which are in harmony with the local environment. Images illustrated this and the wanton destruction of mature and healthy trees protected by Preservation Orders. It stated how doubling housing density would inevitably exacerbate a flooding risk, increase pollution, and further aggravate traffic problems on the already congested Burlington Lane

During the meeting little substantial objection to the scheme was raised by councillors and I was astounded when chief amongst those actively supporting the proposal was Felicity Barwood, Hounslow Mayor and Conservative Councillor for the Chiswick Riverside Ward which includes the Chiswick Memorial Homes. The mayor had declined to speak at the earlier Chiswick Area Committee meeting at which the plans were reviewed, reserving the right to comment as a member of the Sustainable Committee. When she did speak, she completely ignored the reasoned objections of her local constituents, preferring to dwell on the irrelevant issue of rat runs between the site and the neighbouring tennis courts.

I have to assume from this that not only is the committee as a whole prepared to ignore the objections of its council tax payers but our elected representatives appear to treat the wishes of those that elect them with contempt. The Council, including the Mayor herself, has run rough shod over the Conservation Area’s residents’ desires and ignored its own planning guidelines in doing so.

Not just Hounslow Council but the developers themselves have thus far shown a total lack of respect for wishes of the local community. Consultations with the local community promised by the developers after the council rejected the initial plans in October 2005 and before new plans were submitted never happened. This decision is a green light to developers to submit the most outrageous plans for Conservation Areas and the Grove Park area in particular which is clearly under pressure as one of the least built up parts of Chiswick. This biggest development in the area since Barratt were given permission to build on the old Boy’s School site nearly 20 years ago. At least that respected the local streetscape treating magnificent Horse Chestnut trees as a constraint to development. Yet recently proposed developments in the Conservation Area as trivial as a 3G mobile telephone mast and a single poster site have been rejected by the committee.

I find it incredible that the first time the Hounslow Conservation Officer saw the revised plans was the day before the meeting, only after she had been contacted by one of us. Since her reservations on the previously rejected plans contributed to their rejection in October 2005, we wonder why the new Case Officer, Shane Baker, refused to consult her and took it on himself to address the Conservation Area issues which were such a significant element of our objections to the proposals.

Even the comparatively minor development of the Hartington Court flats on Hartington Road was also refused permission on second application. Why then has such a considerable development that contravenes both the spirit and the letter of development in a Conservation Area been waved through against the express wishes of the local community? This is a clear warning to all other residents in Hounslow’s so-called Conservation Areas.

Rishad Talyarkhan

January 26, 2007