Anger As Council Jumps the Gun On Dukes Meadows Plan
Application to redevelop area submitted before public consultation ends
There has been an angry reaction after Hounslow Council pressed ahead with a planning application for major changes around the Dukes Meadows area before a public consultation on the proposals had ended.
Hounslow Council submitted their application for the plan on Thursday 23 November in advance of the deadline for comments in the consultation leading to accusations that they always intended to ignore the outcome.
Kathleen Healy of the Dukes Meadows Trust said, "The planning application for the new facilities having been submitted prior to the consultation closing, suggests that the consultation will have little impact on the plans, whatever people say. The council will be expected and required to carry out a consultation to show due process. It appears though that it may be a box ticking exercise rather than a genuine desire to seek input into the plans."
The Trust has criticised the plans saying that they created their own Masterplan for the area 12 years ago and they feel it is 'odd' that it has been ignored. They say a Parklife facility in Sheffield similar to the one proposed for Dukes Meadows attracts 80,000 visitors and there is no proper provision for improving the roads around the area.
Ms Healy added, "If there is a great increase in traffic and no improvement to the roads, it could potentially damage the other clubs that have invested so much in their facilities and make the park more difficult and unappealing for informal visitors. We welcome the proposals for a pedestrian bridge under Barnes bridge and very much hope that that part of the plan will happen. It would connect the Thames path and improve public transport access to the clubs, which would relieve car traffic."
The first stage of the consultation on the masterplan ends this Monday (27 November) and at least one local sports club has said they do not support the proposals in their current form. Originally the planning application was supposed to be submitted towards the end of December.
Dukes Meadows is home to a number of sports clubs in the borough, Old Meadonians Football Club (OMFC), Hounslow and Barnes Hockey Club, Chiswick Rugby Club, Thames Tradesmen Rowing Club and is used by clubs and organisations across the South East.
A redevelopment of the facilities on the Dukes Meadows playing fields and the site of the Thames Tradesmen's Clubhouse is being proposed. The existing rowing club house would be demolished along with the redundant public toilets on The Promenade. A new two storey club house would be built at the site which will include a café on the ground floor which would have views of the Thames.
Currently OMFC share changing facilities with the rowing club but a new single storey football clubhouse on the playing fields comprising team changing rooms and social /coaching spaces is to be built. There would also be an extension to the existing rugby club comprising additional team changing rooms for both rugby and hockey together with a groundsman's dwelling.
The natural grass pitches for football and rugby would be reconfigured and floodlit and two 3G fenced artificial grass pitches for football would be added. There will also be a floodlit, partially enclosed, rugby artificial grass pitch.
The masterplan has been developed in partnership with the Rugby Football Union, The Football Association and the Football Foundation, British Rowing, London Youth Rowing, England Hockey, Sport England. FA Parklife would see an investment of £3.5million to transform the development of football on the site. A new Chiswick Boathouse for Thames Tradesmen Rowing Club would become the West London base for London Youth Rowing.
OMFC have voted to not support the proposals during the Public Consultation process having been heavily involved in discussions with the Council and their consultants Continuum over the last 18 months. They currently have a LBH Management Agreement in place to manage and maintain Riverside Lands Playing Fields and hire pitches at discounted rates to Chiswick Meadonians Youth and free of charge to Chiswick School.
The club, which currently regularly fields 10 adult 11-a-side teams, has serious concerns over the proposed project costs and the uncertainties regarding the available funding. They are concerned that, although the facilities to be provided under the current plan are adequate for their needs they will be later cut back to make up any financial shortfall. Old Meadonians are a local success story, both on and off the field, being one of the largest and most successful amateur clubs in the London area.
Artist's impression of the planned Bandstand area of Dukes Meadows
Derek Barnett, Chairman of Old Meadonians FC said of the facilities, “No assurances can be given that these will not be cut back in the final plan resulting in a situation that the club will have access to fewer facilities than those currently available. In addition, even as a Partner Club, Old Meadonians are likely to pay a pitch hire charge which is significantly more than the club can afford. This is coupled with the fact that the club will have less security of tenure than under the current arrangements. The ‘leap of faith’ requested by Parklife is deemed to be too high a risk for the long term future of a well-managed 88-year old-club.”
The club says that there is on-going dialogue between the club and Hounslow Council to consider an alternative solution that is a better fit for Old Meadonians FC.
The Chairman of Chiswick Rugby club said, “We are responding positively to the current Public Consultation that is in progress. The improvements to the whole of Dukes Meadows mean our club is in a better setting and ties in with our own improvement plans. The RFU has supported these improvements by investing £1.3 million to lay the artificial pitch and also added additional funds , meaning we can play on it more often and share with other rugby clubs to expand the game. We are also increasing our changing facilities in line with this. We have been hugely impressed with the support that we have received so far from the RFU, and the ongoing support they have promised for the future in helping CRFC make a success of the Project and its own future growth and success.”
Outside the sports pitches a new bandstand area, improved pedestrian and cycling facilities are planned for the area. The Council has said it is responding to public feedback which highlighted a number of issues for pedestrians and cyclists, such as constrained bends along Dan Mason Drive and restricted passing places, pedestrian safety, informal parking concerns, safety concerns of the tunnel and overgrown vegetation and general disrepair of Dan Mason Drive and The Promenade. There is also a long term aim, separate from this work, to install a footbridge to sit underneath Barnes Bridge, which would connect the two riverside sections of the towpath and take pedestrians off the road completely.
Kathleen Healy said, "We were surprised when almost two years ago, with no prior contact with us, the council announced it was creating a master plan for Dukes Meadows. We had ourselves created a master plan for the meadows 12 years ago and implemented a large part of it will £1 million of funding we raised. So to not involve us seemed odd.
"As this long process rolled on however, it became apparent that the plans were mainly around creating new sports facilities on Riverside lands by tapping into sort bodies money. The sports plans are developed to a detailed stage and funds are in place or in process of being applied for to realise them. Our concern is that there seems to be no commitment of the council's own funds from planning gain monies to remake the roads and other key public infrastructure."
It is anticipated that funding for the project will be finalised by the Spring of 2018 . The amount required is estimated to be over £10 million and there is likely to be a shortfall.
We asked the Council for a comment on the early submission of the planning application but have yet to receive a response.
November 25, 2017