Judicial Review On Empire House Moves A Step Closer

Local residents group back challenge to the development

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The row over London Borough of Hounslow’s go-ahead to the Lend Lease proposals for Empire House on Chiswick High Road looks set to escalate.

Backed by local community groups, local resident Simon Kverndal QC last Friday( 24th April) served a judicial review pre-action letter on the London Borough of Hounslow. The council’s response to the letter is due by next Friday, 8th May 2015.

The project director for the Lend Lease scheme, Janet Kidner said; "We are aware that Hounslow Council has received a Judicial Review Pre-Action Protocol letter in relation to the planning approval of Lend Lease’s scheme at 408-430 Chiswick High Road.

"As this complaint relates to an alleged matter of the planning process, as opposed to the merits of the scheme itself, the Council as the recipient of the letter will be responding. Lend Lease has followed all correct procedures in relation to the planning process, including around consultation ahead of its final submission."

Prior to the issue of the letter to Hounslow Council by Mr. Kverndal, Lend Lease, in an interview with chiswickw4.com spoke about the development.

Local groups had formed a coalition in their opposition to the proposed development, with Chiswick High Road Action Group,(CHRAG) Friends of Turnham Green, the West Chiswick and Gunnersbury Society and Acton Green Residents’ Association joined by Sainsbury’s, who, together with British Land own the adjacent site, all rejecting Lend Lease’s proposals which they found "unacceptable".

Simon Kverndal, QC said: “I have launched this action because there is little doubt that the decision to grant planning permission for this scheme was wrongly made and I believe that this development would be terrible for Chiswick and terrible for the people of Chiswick. Raising Empire House still higher and adding another out-of-character modern high rise block will damage the historic vistas from Turnham Green and its lovely church. It would set an ominous precedent for over-dense high rise investment property apartment blocks up and down the High Road and its vicinity.”

Rebecca Frayn, chair of Friends of Turnham Green said : “Whilst Friends of Turnham Green welcome sustainable development of this site, the scale and density of Lend Lease’s plans completely contravene Hounslow’s own Local Plan. Lend Lease not only seek to add a further 2 floors to the already ugly imposition of Empire House but will also add a further 2 new high rise blocks on either side, while offering only the bare minimum of Affordable Housing. We shouldn't be rail-roaded by an opportunistic developer carving up our sky line in order to create investment opportunities for overseas buyers. Not only does it offer no benefit to Chiswick but if Hounslow Council are allowed to flout their own Local Plan in this way, it opens the floodgates to further high rise tower blocks along Chiswick High Road.”

Aerial view of the proposed scheme- Lend Lease

Chris Stobart, Chair of the Acton Green Residents’ Association said: “We remain strongly opposed to the development, its excessive height and density and the dangerous precedent it sets for our area, including the adjacent Sainsbury’s site which is ripe for development. The further encroachment of high rise development aimed at wealthy foreign investors is not welcome and puts unacceptable pressure on local amenities. We welcome and support the challenge to the planning decision that is now being launched.”

A view from Turnham Green - Lend Lease

Marie Rabouhans, chair of West Chiswick and Gunnersbury Society, commented : “The Lend Lease scheme neither adequately respects nor appropriately responds to the established character of the area, especially the Turnham Green Conservation Area in which Empire House stands. It rides roughshod over several key components of planning policy, both current UDP and emerging Local Plan. While the developers make much of their engagement with local amenity groups, it is to be deplored that this did not result in a more considered design approach reflecting local feedback or in substantive amendments to the scheme.”

We have asked Hounslow Council for comment.

May 5, 2015