Empire House Development Gets the Green Light

Council planning committee vote to approve controversial Lend Lease scheme

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View showing the refurbished Empire House from Chiswick High Road (Lend Lease)

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Major Development Planned For Chiswick High Road

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Hounslow Council's planning committee have voted to approve a plan for a major development in the centre of Chiswick, to the disappointment of local residents' groups and Sainsbury's supermarket, who opposed the project.

The scheme by Lend Lease was given the go ahead Thursday (29th January) after winning a majority of Councillor's votes at the Hounslow Civic Centre. A report from the Council's planning department had recommended approval. Councillors voted 4-3 in favour of the project, with Chiswick councillor John Todd one of those voting against.

Lend Lease said after the decision that it planned to start selling the apartments from March, with construction on the rest of the project starting later this year.

Local groups said today, "We find Hounslow Council's continued claims to value community engagement to be bogus, as all local groups and councillors were against this insensitive proposal."

The plan is to redevelop the former Empire House into flats, and to build a 7/8 storey tower block and four townhouses in Essex Place, and a 5-storey block on the corner of Essex Place and Acton Lane. Overall the project would create 137 new residential units in Chiswick on the CHR opposite Turnham Green and the two smal carparks behind Empire House.

The existing office block of Empire House is to be enlarged by two further storeys of penthouse apartments to make 13 storeys and protruding balconies. Lend Lease also plans the introduction of "high-quality design shop fronts which complement and add to the charm of the existing retail on the High Road."

The scheme was opposed by a coalition of residents' groups who argued that the buildings in the scheme was too high, the project was too dense, had too small a proportion of social housing and was not in accordance with the Council's local plan.

There was also opposition from Sainsbury's whose Chiswick store is adjacent to the site. They argued that the development was incompatible with the 24 hour depot nearby. Planning agents acting for Sainsbury's have also stated that the Lend Lease plan would be detrimental to development of the large car park outside their store.

The supermarket group pointed out that the Council's Local Plan 'Site Allocations Topic Paper' notes that the residential capacity should be restricted to 35 units and that "careful consideration should be given to a holistic approach to ensure the Sainsbury’s site . . . can be integrated in the future.”

The site allocation policy in the Council’s revised Local Plan was submitted at the end of August 2014 and the target for adoption is March 2015.  There is a meeting to discuss this particular Site Allocation on 5th March.

A statement from the local groups said,: "Chiswick High Road Action Group, Friends of Turnham Green, West Chiswick and Gunnersbury Society, Acton Green Residents Association all worked together to oppose the plans for the redevelopment at 408-430 Chiswick High Road. While very keen to see a good development on an important area of the High Road that has been deliberately blighted for some time, we strongly opposed the proposal to increase the height and width of Empire House, and to create three new high rise blocks of 8, 7 and 5 storeys behind it.

"We strongly felt - and still feel - that the development is over-dense, too high, with no public realm benefit, and impacts negatively on the conservation area. Local businesses were afraid to speak up against this powerful developer, apart from Sainsburys, who also spoke firmly in opposition.

"We find Hounslow Council's decision to ignore its own Local Plan for the area, which clearly states that buildings should be of 3-4 stories, and sensitive to the local area and conservation status, perverse. We find Hounslow Council's continued claims to value community engagement to be bogus, as all local groups and councillors were against this insensitive proposal."

The Council report recommending approval says: "The combination of the buildings creates a new sense of place, bringing and linking Essex Place into the High Road. The same post-modern contemporary style has been approved at the Acton Lane site."

Drawing of Empire House building on High Road from Lend Lease scheme

February 1, 2015

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