Anger At Area Forum Over 'Revised' Plans For Lend Lease Scheme

Local councillors and residents' groups make feelings clear to developer

A view from Turnham Green - Lend Lease

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There were heated exchanges last Tuesday night (8 March) at the Chiswick Area Forum as the developers of the Empire House/Essex Place scheme gave a presentation on their revised planning application for the site. One councillor described the company's attendance at the meeting, as "an audacious propaganda exercise."

Cllr Adrian Lee told the meeting that the presentation made by a team from Lend Lease was "a cheat" because they were presenting their revised planning application as a major revision when it was in fact not.

Mr. Richard Cook, Head of Residential, Lend Lease started a presentation to the meeting by stating that the company dealt with quality projects and this would greatly revitalise a part of the Chiswick High Road that was in need of regeneration.

He said there had been a lot of negativity in the past fifteen months about the scheme and images which had been published in the media of how the scheme would look were not accurate.

Clearly annoyed by the reference to the area as now being run-down, Cllr Adrian Lee asked if Lend Lease owned the parade of shops which were now closed and he was told 'Yes'.

He said, "You could let them out if you wanted. It's your responsibility."

Councillors and resident's groups who are opposed to the development at Empire House/Essex Place closely questioned the details of a revised application for the scheme, which includes minor amendments such as extra interior storage space, an increase of about a foot (300mm) of one of the blocks and a minor adjustment to a refuse store.

They claim the company is effectively trying to sideline the legal process by putting in a second application, while a local resident is currently seeking leave to appeal against a High Court refusal of a Judicial Review into the planning process. They say the company is taking advantage of delays in that legal process.

Lend Lease say the revised application responds to the London Borough of Hounslow’s new Local Plan and will run concurrently with the Judicial Review proceedings.

Councillor Robert Oulds said it seemed the company were trying to sidestep the legal process and they should be "ashamed" of themselves.

Rebecca Frayn of the Friends of Turnham Green said her group and other resident's groups remained opposed to the scheme which would "blight Chiswick". Submitting a revised application was "transparently opportunistic" while the Judicial Review process continued.

Marie Rabouhans, chair of the West Chiswick & Gunnersbury Society, said Lend Lease was "ticking the box" on community engagement by attending the meeting when in fact neither she nor several other interested parties had received any notification of the revised planning application. Given the level of local opposition to the scheme, the company could have listened more closely and made some concessions, she felt.

The team from Lend Lease denied an allegation from one councillor that the flats in Empire House would be sold to overseas buyers who would not live in them. In fact, of the 12 apartments sold, (known as the Opus Collection), ten were sold to people who lived within a five mile radius.

They had also reached an agreement with Sainsbury's over the issue of traffic and service deliveries next to the residential development. There would be sixteen affordable housing units and a provider was ready for the scheme. The development would create a safer, more usable public space in the area, four times the number of trees would be planted, green roofs used, and jobs would be created for local apprentices.

Cllr Lee said that he believed the 'affordable housing' would in fact be Council/Housing Association and he was told this was the case.

The meeting heard that the planning application might come before the May meeting of the Council's planning committee but this had yet to be confirmed.

Mr. Cook said Lend Lease welcomed continued dialogue.

The Opus Collection is set to provide 137 new homes for Chiswick across three buildings: Empire House, Essex Place and Acton Lane.

The refurbishment of the existing Empire House building intends to provide 66 one, two and three bedroom apartments and will be 12 storeys in height. Part of the refurbishment works will include the replacement of the top two floors of mechanical plant space with two floors of residential accommodation. As such, the building height will increase by 2.4m to allow acceptable ceiling heights for residents.

Essex Place is proposed for the site of the existing car park for Empire House, adjacent to Sainsbury's and will comprise 46 apartments in a new building that steps from six to eight storeys along with four, three bedroom townhouses.

Acton Lane is set to be a new five storey building situated on the corner of Essex Place and Acton Lane providing 21 apartments including 16 affordable homes.

Lend Lease says in their own planning statement; “Notwithstanding that the Applicant is confident that the claimant's judicial review challenge will be unsuccessful, this application is therefore made to seek to provide an implementable planning permission, in the event that the claimant's judicial review claim remains in the Higher Courts throughout 2016.”

Simon Kverndal, (the local resident who is seeking Judicial Review) and his supporters claim that the decision to allow the Lend Lease project planning permission was unlawful because of the failure of Hounslow Council Planning Officers to properly consult, and their failure to take into account and apply important local planning policies before granting permission.

The Judicial Review has the backing of four residents’ groups: Friends of Turnham Green, Chiswick High Road Action Group, West Chiswick and Gunnersbury Society and Acton Green Residents’ Association.

A Lend Lease spokesperson commented: “The new application for 408-430 Chiswick High Road responds to London Borough of Hounslow’s new Local Plan and will run concurrently with the Judicial Review proceedings. The new application demonstrates our continued commitment to regenerating this underutilised block and delivering high-quality homes and new shops on the High Road for local residents.”


March 12, 2016


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