Updated: May 13
The residents of Osterley, Isleworth & Brentford have just experienced probably one of the worst Planning Committee meetings ever in Hounslow. Planning applications were approved to build 2,150 homes on the Tesco and Homebase sites at Gillette Corner on the A4, in 16 tower blocks across the 2 sites, with heights up to 17 storeys, only 25 houses, and only 18% of the total units would have 3 or more bedrooms.
We are not NIMBYs and would welcome developments appropriate for the area. Surrounding local homes are mainly 2-3 storeys. Our red-line is 6-storeys. The developer said it would be “unviable” to go below 17 storeys.
The Council received over 800 objections and less than 30 letters of support. Yet the developer tried to tell the Planning Committee that the objections were a minority view and that the results of their on-line surveys suggested support, but their dubious surveys were never made available for analysis.
The residents’ evidence-based objections were swept aside. What swung the decision was the need to meet the Mayor of London’s housing targets (irrespective of quality) and the £30m CIL contribution, whereas we need £500 million for 2 rail connections to improve the current poor PTAL rating of 2. Improved public transport is vital for the additional 6,000 residents, and we had been asking to be involved in discussions with TfL since autumn 2019, but this never happened.
The virtual Planning Committee meeting on 8 April was bizarre. The objectors had to speak before the developments had been introduced to the meeting, which was not the format that we had been told about two days before the meeting!
We need a revolution in the planning system. One that treats the local community as equal partners to the developer. The judgement of Planning Officers should be professional and independent whether or not it coincides with the Council’s aims. The current opaque system encourages behind the scenes deals and this in turn encourages Councillors to respond to strategically important planning applications on political rather than planning grounds.
We asked our local GLA candidates how they would approach the failed planning process in Hounslow to build some level of trust and transparency into the system. Here’s what they said:
Conservative candidate Nicholas Rogers believes there is a need for neighbourhood planning and says this would have allowed residents to understand the scale and implications of development in Hounslow, and given a platform to find a compromise with developers. He says councils should go to where the residents are - including local Facebook groups.
Gareth Roberts, leader of Richmond Council and LibDem candidate, highlights the limitations on authorities once a development is brought forward to them - a development may have 800 objections, he says, “but usually they are not relevant under planning policy for a council to reject”.
Green party candidate and Richmond Councillor Andree Frieze cites her direct experience on planning committee and points out the limitations of planning authorities, but adds that change is possible by creating bodies such as citizens assemblies which are needed on things like the London Plan.
Candice Atterton, Labour party candidate and Hounslow Councillor, agrees that there are problems with planning law, but offered very little on solutions to these.