Plans for asylum seeker hostel in Grove Park

Developers accused of "taking revenge" on objectors to their plans for luxury residential units

Residents of Grove Park Road received a surprise through their letterboxes this week when London Borough of Hounslow sent them notice of revised plans for the old RAF building at numbers 41-43.

The original plan submitted by Crossleigh Developers had been to turn the former RAF Association offices in the Victorian building 41-43 into luxury one and two bedroom apartments. However, residents of Grove Park Road and surrounding roads lead by Penny Dodd, objected to this plan on the grounds that the number of planned flats and the size of the new extension would swamp number 39, and increase traffic on the road.

The Grove Park Road Residents went to the Chiswick Area Planning committee on January 14th after which they received a letter stating that Crossleigh had revised their plans, but the changes were only very minor, so they objected again. They claim that they was no mention of the plans for an Asylum Hostel at that time and that this new plan, which was submitted at the beginning of this month, was a shock to them all.

As the plans are classed as a "major" development the Committee was only allowed to pass comment on them; the final decision will be made by Hounslow Council's Sustainable Development Committee. At the meeting on the 14th the committee members generally felt that the plans would represent an improvement to the road although concerns were expressed about the number of units and possible parking problems.

Richard Ackland, Chief Executive of Crossleigh, has denied that the application is the company's revenge against the campaigners, saying “This building will be either residential or a hostel. We were concerned that we would be left with a large empty property. There is a pent up need for hostel accommodation, both London wide and in Hounslow's UDP. We are still in discussions with the hostel developers, but the demand is for a half-way house. This is not revenge. Its not in the interest of the community for the building to sit empty. Its purely for an alternative use which would be in accordance with the need of the borough.''

According to Ian Pattiee, the scheme’s architect, the building would be turned into either 17 or 18 bedrooms - most of which would be under double occupation but some would be under triple occupation.

He said: the scheme is intended for care in the community - and/or people with refugee status. Local residents had mounted a campaign against our other plan and the developer then felt they had to find another use for it. The residential market has also fallen and they needed to find a commercial use - there is a demand for hostel accommodation by both the council and charity organisations. ''

Residents have been quick to speak out about their concern, some believing that Grove Park Road is an inappropriate location for refugees. One local reasoned “The Grove Park Area is a residential area and in my view, refugees should be located near to the centre of a community - for example Chiswick High Road. That way they can become part of the community.'' Others have argued that the asylum seekers would cause less noise and parking problems than residents of luxury flats and that the hostel would help to preserve the character of this quiet leafy street.

March 13, 2003

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