Councillors Condemn St Margaret’s House Redevelopment

Plans represent 'gross overdevelopment' and were compared it to 'application for a poorhouse'

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More than 160 local residents filled Chiswick Town Hall this week as local Councillors attacked the development plans at the Chiswick Area Committee (Planning) meeting.

Councillors unanimously spoke out against Shepherd’s Bush Housing Group’s (SBHG) proposal noting a complete failure to properly consult the community.

Concern was voiced about the impact upon the local neighbourhood from poor quality design, over development and community safety worries relating to the 26 unit hostel for the homeless.

After the meeting Ed Stanley, for the Chiswick Save Our Streets (SOS) Campaign said “I can’t remember a local planning application that has attracted such public outcry. The Planning Officer received 111 written objections, a Councillor received over 300 letters and 160 residents turn up on a bitter November night to protest – I hope the Sustainable Development Committee are getting the message . This is a badly conceived development proposal that has tried to run roughshod over public opinion”.

At the meeting Cllr Peter Thompson, who was Council Leader in 2009 when the Executive decided to look at redevelopment options for the site, expressed grave concerns about the total lack of local public consultation by both Hounslow Planning Dept and the Shepherds Bush Housing Group.

Cllr Thompson went on to stress that the management of such facilities is crucial to their success and that other similar facilities for supported housing for homeless teenagers had created local problems in the Borough with neighbours suffering harassment and intimidation from groups of youths hanging around with nothing to do.

He said “the residents will get counselling for 5–10 hours a week, but what happens to them for the remaining time in the week? Chiswick already has a lack of amenity for young people we know there is precious little for teenagers to do. I now ask myself – “what is the wisdom of this scheme?”

Cllr Paul Lynch said “The rear elevation is as sad a sight as I have ever seen for a residential unit. It looks more industrial in nature. Any residents living there would think they are being locked up. I cannot support a ghetto where unwanted youngsters are dumped.”

Cllr Adrian Lee said that he “wholly and unequivocally rejected the proposal” citing such reasons as “the building being totally out of character”, “hideous”, “ugly”, and “looking like a barracks or poorhouse”. He said it represented an “over-development of the site” and was a “pack ‘em and stack ‘em job”.

Cllr John Todd agreed it represented a gross overdevelopment and also compared it to an “application for a poorhouse”. He voiced concerns about the impact on local residents. He expressed shock that, because the plans are for temporary accommodation, normal planning rules applicable to permanent residential development regarding did not seem to apply.

Charles Cohen who lives next door to the site said “SBHG have alienated the local community and raised real concerns about their ability to run such a large facility”.

Following the meeting Chiswick SOS has formally called on SBHG to withdraw the application and to work with Hounslow Council and the local community to work up a new plan for the site – pointing to the acute shortage of local accommodation for the elderly in Chiswick.

November 18, 2010