Vandalising an Asset of Local Value

A Site of Importance

The history of Gunnersbury Triangle Local Nature Reserve is tumultuous from the start.

The Triangle started out as a plot of land earmarked for development by British Rail back in the 1980s. However there was a Public Inquiry, which ruled in favour of nature in a city.

Thus Gunnersbury Triangle was designated as a nature reserve.

Since then, the Triangle has been officially recognised as a Local Nature Reserve. It was also handpicked by the Mayor of London’s office to become a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation.

It is literally a very important plot of land.

A Site Always Under Threat

Astoundingly, rather than being carefully looked after, threats to the Triangle’s very existence are never far away.

  • Ongoing major developments at Chiswick Business Park.
  • Flood lights on surrounding plots.
  • Two big residential developments right on its border.

All this has already damaged The Triangle’s ability to provide safe habitat for local wildlife. Now a tiny scrap of land right next to the reserve has fallen prey to developers.

Species you can see at Gunnersbury Triangle

Take a look at the list of species that you can find in this sanctuary surrounded by tube lines. It is not difficult to see why it has been named as one of the most important nature reserves in Greater London.

Amphibians: Common toad, smooth newt, common frog
Birds: Green woodpecker, great spotted woodpecker, blackcap, sparrowhawk
Invertebrates: Speckled wood butterfly, orange tip butterfly, ivy bee, stag beetle, azure damselfly
Mammals: Hedgehog, field vole, wood mouse, pipistrelle bat, noctule bat
Plants: Hogweed, broom, ragwort, turkeytail bracket fungus

All the above means that the custodians of The Triangle should be treating it with the utmost care. Any doubts about this should be raised and discussed as a matter of priority.

Development at Gunnersbury Triangle Nature Reserve

A new five-story block of nine luxury flats is planned to be constructed on the scrapyard bordering the Gunnersbury Triangle Nature Reserve.

This may have caused concerns for the London Wildlife Trust (LWT), which manages the reserve and holds a portacabin at the entrance as their office space. However, any concerns have been assuaged by the promise of a brand-new permanent office facility that will be constructed alongside the block of flats. The London Wildlife Trust have therefore added their seal of approval to this venture.

LWT are even go as far as being ‘very grateful to London Borough of Hounslow for their support in these new and exciting plans’ .

Of course this ‘support’ from Hounslow is deeply embedded in the desire to generate a lot of money from this development. Adding a visitors centre for the London Wildlife Trust is a small price to pay for the developer.

Current London Wildlife Trust Office at Gunnersbury Triangle

The Planning Meeting

Ealing Council’s Planning Committee met on Wednesday 16 January 2019. The development of the Gunnersbury Triangle scrapyard was the only item on the agenda. For the Committee to meet over just one proposal is apparently highly unusual, as local councillor Andrew Steed (Liberal Democrats) remarked.

Mr Steed, along with the designated objector (Marijn van de Geer of the Ealing Green Party and local resident), raised grave doubts as to whether these plans should be approved.

These doubts centred around:

• The impact that the construction of the tower block will have on the delicate biodiversity that is preserved at The Triangle. Although the London Wildlife Trust has dismissed the risk as ‘negligible’, they cannot guarantee this.
• The effects two other recently constructed developments on biodiversity in the area. There are no reports from “before and after” these developments were built. However, local residents and regular visitors say that the decline of wildlife in the nature reserve is clearly visible.
• An incomplete Planning Application. There is no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), no Environmental Statement (ES), no official EIA Screening Report, and no Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP).
• Inadequate publicity was given to these proposals from the start. Also the Planning Committee Meeting was announced just a week before it took place. This appears to be common practice for Ealing, and no good reason has ever been given.

Finally there are major problems with the document that forms the basis of the Planning decision.

The Planning Officer’s report

There are issues with the Planning Officer’s interpretation of Policy 7.19 of the London Plan .

Policy 7.19 of the Plan states the following:

‘On Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation development proposals should: give strong protection to sites of metropolitan importance for nature conservation (SMIs). These are sites jointly identified by the Mayor and boroughs as having strategic nature conservation importance’ (Biodiversity and access to nature, Section D).

The Planning Officer’s report ignores this.

Policy 7.19 goes on to state:

‘… when considering proposals that would affect directly, indirectly or cumulatively a site of recognised nature conservation interest, the following hierarchy will apply:

  1. Avoid adverse impact to the biodiversity interest
  2. Minimise impact and seek mitigation
  3. Only in exceptional cases where the benefits of the proposal clearly
    outweigh the biodiversity impacts, seek appropriate compensation.’

    (Biodiversity and access to nature, Section E).

An Inconvenient Point

The Planning Officer decided to ignore point 1 above, which is to avoid adverse impact to the biodiversity interest. The reality is, as this is a hierarchical list, he should never even have moved on to points 2 and 3.

Point 1 alone clearly demonstrates that the development should not go ahead. Otherwise the development would not be in line with the London Plan’s Biodiversity and access to nature.

The policies of the London Plan take precedent over anything else, because the site is of Metropolitan Importance. This means it is important not just for Ealing but for all of London. By approving the development, the Planning Committee goes against the Mayor’s biodiversity policy.

A proposal to defer the planning decision due to these many concerns was firmly rejected by all Labour councillors present.

Currently wildlife can exit The Triangle via the scrapyard: it is the only way they can get out (closed in by buildings or tube lines on all the other sides). Once the new building is up, the scrapyard will be blocked, and so will this bit of wild greenery next to it which sits in between the scrap yard and the railway line. So wildlife will be forced to enter and leave the Triangle via the railway.
Wildlife corridor Next to Railway Line – soon to be blocked off.

An Asset of Local Value

There is another significant point to note. The proposal to designate Gunnersbury Triangle an “Asset of Local Value” will be considered in early February.

Many feel that the scrapyard development proposal appeared before the Planning Committee very abruptly, showing that there was a rush for the proposal to be approved. Was this to avoid the issue of an Asset of Local Value putting a spanner in the works for the developers?

Questions for London Wildlife Trust

So what have the London Wildlife Trust got to say about this? Obviously, it is great that they will get enhanced office and visitors space, but did they really need this development to take that desire forward?

It has been mentioned that £800,000 in Section 106 money has not yet been officially accounted for from the previous developments on the border of The Triangle. Why didn’t they push this point harder?

One of Labour’s councillors argued that the London Wildlife Trust’s open support for the development must be a deciding factor (“they would hardly support the destruction of their own nature reserve”). This ignores the fact that LWT is a tiny, overstretched, understaffed and underfunded charity with its back against the wall.

Whether they had much option other than to support this development remains to be seen.

A Concerning Lack of Concern

When it came to the vote to approve the proposal at the Planning Committee meeting, all 10 Labour councilors voted in favour. The Labour members of the planning committee evinced an air of detachment throughout the proceedings.

They were uninterested in biodiversity. They were uninterested in the other developments that had already adversely affected wildlife in the area. They were uninterested in the timing of this meeting and arguments for the decision to be deferred.

Labour had come in to do one thing: push this development through. And such is their power in local government that nothing was going to stop them.

Article by Marijn van de Geer and Jeremy Parker

Manifesto: 2018 Council Elections

We love Ealing, and we want to keep it wonderful for you by adding a Green voice to Ealing Council.

You have three votes.  Make one of them Green where you live on 3 May to get a collaborative, innovative councillor in your area.  If elected, we promise:

  • Green spaces: 

    We will protect, enhance and grow our green spaces, both parks and natural habitats.  We want a pesticide-free Ealing, with big plans to reduce plastics and fossil fuel use.  We will do everything we can to keep Warren Farm and all Metropolitan Open Land for the common good.  London can truly be a National Park City.

  • Democracy and transparency:

    We will always listen, and put residents first in everything we do. We work for you and will publish all the data, minutes and decisions we can.

  • Housing:

    We have bold ideas that are an alternative to runaway development and high rise flats.  We will be a voice for residents.  We will provide resident-led, genuinely affordable housing on existing developed land, with holistic planning.  We’ll change the Council Tax rules to make sure homes are for people to live in, not empty shells for investors. We endorse and will deliver Community Land Trusts.

  • Cinema:

    We will actually deliver a cinema.

  • Safety:

    We will make our streets and public open spaces safer and more pleasant for everyone, with reduced traffic. Walking and cycling must be safe and accessible.  Uxbridge Road and other roads need a Healthy Streets rethink.

  • Health:

    We must save Ealing Hospital as well as the rest of the NHS. Read more here.

  • Security and wellbeing:

    We will keep you safe and healthy, working with police and voluntary groups to help the most vulnerable.

  • Air pollution:

    We will make Ealing and Hanwell more beautiful and tranquil, with less noise and air pollution.  We will divest Ealing’s fossil fuel pensions.

  • Poverty:

    We promote dignity, equality, social justice and human rights for all. Nobody in Ealing will be homeless.

  • Local business:

    We will champion and revitalise local businesses and good jobs, listening to what support local entrepreneurs need while working nationally to prevent a hard Brexit.

  • HS2:

    We will make the redevelopment of Old Oak Common a ‘people’s’ development, fighting to mitigate pollution, disruption and noise from HS2 and its construction for local residents.

  • Heathrow:

    We will genuinely oppose Heathrow expansion and the noise and pollution that would bring, while protecting local jobs and making the existing airport a better neighbour.

An Open Letter to the Planning Committee of Ealing Council

Ealing Council Chamber

To the Concerned Parties of the Ealing Planning Committee,

On 18th February 2018 a meeting of Ealing’s planning committee was convened. The first item submitted for approval at this meeting was a proposed residential tower block to be constructed in North Acton on the site of a former Art Deco wing of the Imperial College: the “Perfume Factory”.

A Powerful Objection

The proposed development was controversial because of its height and because of the density of its living spaces, which inspired a strongly worded speech from the designated objector, Mr Jonathan Notley, a local activist. There followed an equally strong debate, and by the time the vote came it was clear that at least two of the committee intended to vote against the motion, one of them citing the phrase “rabbit hutches in the sky” with reference to the 20 studio apartments that were well below what the new London Plan considers a “liveable space”.

The vote then took place, and this took the traditional form of the raising of hands of all those who approved of the application, and then the raising of hands of all those who objected. The Chair, Steve Hines, counted 6 votes in favour and 6 votes against the application. This meant that he could bring his own casting vote into play. He chose to wave through the motion, and thus the Perfume Factory development was, for the moment, approved.

An Extraordinary Mistake

It took an eagle eyed and bold member of the public to spot what had happened during the decision making process: and this member of the public, thankfully, took action by having a message sent down to Mr Hines from the public gallery. It transpired that a mistake had been made by the planning meeting’s adjudicator; a mistake that was missed by the 3 people who sat next to him (including the Planning Committee’s legal advisor) and faced those who took the vote.

The voting numbers had been miscounted!

There were a few moments of confusion, as this incident appeared to be without precedent. However it was eventually decided to take the vote again. Upon a second time of asking, it was seen that the application for the Perfume Factory had in fact been rejected by 7 votes to 5.

Footage of the meeting, including the two votes was recorded by Mr Notley, and can be seen in this humorous montage:

Upon viewing the footage, and in hindsight, it does not seem difficult to see that the hands of those approving in fact numbered less than those raised against. However, mistakes do happen.

But the vital question now is how do we take this forward? How can we ensure this does not happen again?

A Plea for the Future

What makes this doubly important now is the issue of trust. Because if there is another close vote, especially upon a contentious project like the Perfume Factory, then questions may be asked about the veracity of the decision. And even if they are not explicitly stated, this memory will be there.

It is clear that more transparency is required: with twelve members of the planning committee, votes should be taken one by one and then formally recorded. This would provide more accountability, and of course greater accuracy. Also, why is the recording or filming of planning meetings considered such an unusual step?

The level and style of development being seen now, not just in Ealing but across London and other major cities in Britain, has become a prominent and controversial issue. The public are, understandably, angry and mistrustful. The way to assuage this mistrust is with greater openness and democracy.

Yours Faithfully

Mr Jeremy D Parker
Ealing Green Party

2000 Ealing Communities Face Ten Years In The Centre Of HS2 Old Oak Common Construction Site

Ealing Green Party is working with Amanda Souter, community advocate and local Old Oak Common HS2 campaigner, to help mitigate the devastating effects of HS2 on Ealing communities.

2,000 residents who live close to the HS2 Old Oak Common station will face some of the worst impacts of any community along the length of the HS2 line. Click on the below link for an illustration of what the residents will face in the coming years.

HS2 Map of Old Oak Common

  • The construction will take eight years and starts this year
  • The massive construction sites at Old Oak Common will take construction waste from Camden and Hillingdon
  • The waste will be carried across the area by a combination of up to 700 two-way HGV journeys per day and a vast conveyor belt that runs behind gardens in Midland Terrace and Wells House Road
  • Some of the work will take place 24/7
  • Residents will live through noise, air and light pollution, massive disruption and visual impact of viaducts the height of homes and new rail lines running at the end of gardens that currently have natural views of woodland
  • A massive tunnel will be bored under homes
  • Woodland will be destroyed and wildlife displaced
  • Some gardens are being subjected to compulsory purchase orders without compensation
  • Buildings of character are being demolished
  • 70 businesses in Park Royal are being displaced with hundreds of local jobs lost
  • Traffic is already gridlocked around this part of the borough and when work begins and roads in the area close, congestion is likely to increase across much of Ealing

The impact of the HS2 station will have permanent impacts on residents

  • When it’s completed, Old Oak Common station will be about the same size as Waterloo, with 250,000 passengers passing through it a day
  • What was once a quiet sleepy area will become one of London’s major transport hubs with vast increases in road traffic

Greens will take every opportunity to vote against HS2
The Greens support high speed rail in principle because it can improve Britain’s transport systems, reduce road and air traffic and cut carbon emissions. But this HS2 project causes too much damage to local communities and to the environment.

Unlike Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, the Green Party is opposed to HS2 at both a national and local level.

To achieve HS2’s high speeds, trains are expected to use up to 50% more fuel than Eurostar and so carbon emissions will not be reduced.

The enormous sums involved – £56 billion and rising – could be better spent improving transport for everybody.

OBJECT HERE: Development Overdrive in Hanwell: We Need to Speak Up Now

Did you know…?

There are 457 new units proposed in one square mile of Hanwell right now.  Sites like Wickes/Nissan, the so-called “Marshall” site next to Gold’s Gym and the former Peugeot Garage site are due to spring 6-9 storeys high!  What has been happening across London is coming to Hanwell: intensive, inappropriate, high-rise flats.

Parking hell on the way

Under the guise of sounding “green”, many of these developments offer zero or limited parking.  But people have cars, and they will have to park them on our roads and traffic congestion will increase.  A Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) will not resolve this.

No solution to the housing crisis

For sure, London needs more homes.  But these developments are not the solution.  They will be unaffordable for people most in need of somewhere to live.

We need real homes for local people, not overseas investors

Many of these proposed flats are really rabbit hutches: low ceilings, cramped rooms and virtually zero green space. These are being developed for maximum profit, not as places for people to live.

Wrecking the community

Hanwell is a wonderful place because people can live, study, work and shop here.  Flats like these will overwhelm our overstretched hospitals, schools and public transport.

Who is Ealing Council working for?

Ealing seems to be working only for the big landowners and developers, not for local people.  The Labour-dominated council needs a Green voice to hold them to account.

Hanwell needs to speak up for what it wants

The people of Hanwell need to pull together to develop a vision for what we want our community to be.

What can I do?

You can object to several of the developments illustrated on the map above, which are currently in the Council’s consultation process.  Below are links to take you directly to the relevant part of the planning portal.

We need a strategy for Hanwell, and we’d like to hear from you.  What is your vision for our neighbourhood?  Do we need flats or community facilities?

Links to the Ealing Planning Portal

To comment on the Wickes/Nissan development of 283 units in units ranging from 5 to 7 storeys, go to this link.

To comment on the so-called “Marshall” building of 59 units in a structure 9 storeys high with no parking provision, go to this link.

To sign the petition against the Marshall building go to this link.

To comment on the 9 unit (5 flats and 4 townhouses) development at 16 Boston Road, go to this link.

To comment on the 6 unit redevelopment of the former Horseshoe Cafe at 68 Boston Road, go to this link.

To comment on the 4-5 unit extension and redevelopment of the building at 3 Westminster Road, go to this link.

Ealing needs a Green Voice

Image: Map contains information from https://opendatacommons.org/licenses/odbl/1.0/ under the Open Database License (ODbL)

Marshall Development in Hanwell

What is being proposed?

A large new development of 63 flats in the middle of Hanwell.

Marshall west elevation.jpeg

What is wrong with it?

It’s far too big. At 9 storeys, it is badly out of character for the small town of Hanwell and far greater than the density allocated to the area in the London Plan.

Local services will not be able to cope. Waiting times for GP and emergency services are already badly overstretched. The NHS is forecast to face its worst winter ever. This development has no plan to include school places or a doctor’s surgery.

Traffic is already very heavy on Uxbridge Road, leading to stress, wasted time and air pollution. It is already impossible to squeeze onto the skeleton train service from Hanwell station at peak times. Even with Crossrail coming, trains are impossibly crowded.

Plans like this risk turning Hanwell into a dormitory as local employment is chased out by development. Our community will suffer as people are forced to travel long distances for work, unable to find a job where they live.

Don’t we need housing in Hanwell?

Yes, but this won’t solve anything. The cost of these units is well out of most people’s price range.

They represent poor quality ‘rabbit hutch’ accommodation built to suit developers instead of providing a decent place to live. Low ceiling heights and cramped rooms make these unsuitable as family homes.

What should be on the site instead?

You tell us! Draw a picture, write a poem or describe what you would like to see. Then take a photo and send it to us at kramdenial@gmail.com or tweet it at @EalingGreens.

What do you think? Do we need community and leisure facilities, like a local cinema, more green space, or something that will create good local jobs?

What can I do?

Ealing Council is due to consider the planning application soon. Please give your comments here.

There are a limited number of criteria that the Planning Committee of Ealing Council will actually consider.  These are:

1.  Design and layout of the development
2.  The external appearance and materials
3.  Provision of facilities for the disabled
4.  Loss of daylight and/or privacy
5.  Noise
6.  Traffic and parking
7.  Loss of a particular type of land (retail, green space, etc)

Please consider saying the development is too high, the external appearance is out of character for Hanwell, it has inadequate public transport provision (as Hanwell station is poorly served with an infrequent service), will cause parking issues (since the surrounding area does not have a Controlled Parking Zone), will lead to loss of daylight and privacy for the surrounding area (particularly the church next door), and is a strain on existing community facilities.

What does Ealing need?

A Green voice on the Council to make sure local people are listened to and properly

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