Government Ombudsman Briefed Over Failures in Planning Process

Grove Park residents claim "bias, double standards and lack of consultation"

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A number of Grove Park residents have held a meeting to brief a Local Government Ombudsman Investigator over the handling of the recent Council planning application for the redevelopment of the Chiswick War Memorial Homes, located on Burlington Lane.

The briefing comes after the submission by the residents of an eight page letter written to Mark Gilks, the Chief Executive of Hounslow Council detailing irregularities in the decision to approve planning permission for the Burlington Lane site agreed at the Council’s Sustainable Development Committee (SDC) meeting held on 15 January 2007.

The letter requested that the Grove Park residents’ complaints be put through the Council’s official complaints procedure, and was copied to other officials including Local Government Ombudsman, Tony Redmond and Chiswick’s Riverside Ward MP Ann Keen.

This group of residents believe the council’s response has been unsatisfactory, incomplete and insufficiently researched and have now engaged with the Local Government Ombudsman to investigate the procedures leading up to the Council’s Sustainable Development Committee (SDC) meeting recommending planning permission be granted for the site.

Rishad Talyarkhan, who is coordinating opposition to the approval - which he says is "almost total" amongst residents surrounding the site – says an extensive list of issues for investigation that have arisen en route to a decision were presented to the Local Government Ombudsman’s Investigator at a recent 90 minute meeting attended by Grove Park residents.

In summarising their objections to the way Hounslow Council arrived at the decision to grant the application planning and Conservation Area permission, the residents believe the council has:

• Adopted double standards
• Shown bias in presenting evaluating committees with information
• Created a democratic deficit in ignoring local objectors
• Failed to meet its own guidelines on Conservation Areas, consultation and parking
• Failed to address all the prior reasons for rejection
• Failed to perform due diligence on the financial viability of the applicant

“We are not against the redevelopment of the Homes, but we do object strongly to the implementation and to the approval process which has resulted in a recommendation that threatens to destroy the local streetscape in the Conservation Area and that has serious other aesthetic, environmental and financial consequences,” emphasises Talyarkhan.

“The Council steamrollered this application through, ignoring the valid objections of local residents and taxpayers and tolerated a deliberate avoidance of consultation from the developer,” he adds. “We have witnessed what appears to be bias in planning process, clear double standards, and even `democratic deficit` involving a local councillor and the then Mayor of Hounslow promoting the development to the SDC despite overwhelming opposition in her local ward.”`

According to Talyarkhan, “These are substantive issues. Hounslow Council must ensure that democracy is respected, with proper adherence to planning guidelines and processes. Sadly over the last few months, on this and other proposed developments, the council has shown itself only too ready to ignore the concerns of Grove Park residents and that is why we have had to escalate this issue to the Local Government Ombudsman.”


July 3, 2007