The Gurnell Project: Ealing Council is at it Again

A mock up of how the Gurnell Mega-Development will look

The Gurnell Leisure Centre, is situated on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) and forms part of the Brent River Park. The bank of the river is designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation of Borough Importance (SINC) Grade 1. Ealing Council have stated that the leisure centre is getting old and needs to be demolished and rebuilt. They have pledged to do so, and the project to make this happen is already at the proposal stage.

So far, so uncontroversial.

But now add not one, not two, not three… but SIX high rise blocks to accompany the new leisure centre. Six high rise flats that will tower over West Ealing – easily the highest buildings in the vicinity; high rise flats that will forever change the look of the neighbourhood, and trample on a green space SINC. The surrounding fields, playgrounds and residencies will be cast into permanent shadow.

Because of the scale of the proposed development, two approvals will be needed: from Ealing Council’s planning committee, and also from the Greater London Authority (GLA).

Mismanagement

The justification Ealing Council are using for this startling proposed change is that the money from the developers will be used to rebuild Gurnell Leisure Centre. But do they really have to approve such a dramatic development to raise the funds needed? And how much money are the developers paying towards the new leisure centre anyway? We are told that Ealing council are still ploughing at least £12.5 million into the cost of renewing Gurnell. And it is likely to be even more than that!

And it gets worse! The developers who were going to build the new leisure centre, as well as construct the two tower blocks that flank it (that is the left part of the development as you look at the mock up) have pulled out of this part of the project. That means at best Ealing will have to deal with two different developers going into one project. At worst the rebuild of the leisure centre, which is the reason all of this was happening in the first place, is at risk of being delayed or not going ahead at all!

It would have been so much easier for Ealing Council if they had just adhered to the concept of maintaining a “sinking fund”. That is, if they had put some money aside each year of the life of the Gurnell Leisure Centre in order to pay for future maintenance and refurbishments. However, they did not do this. And it has been this way over the last 30 years, during Labour and Conservative controlled local administrations. It goes on.

Irony

The two blocks that will be adjoining the new leisure centre (and currently have no developer to build them), will be the “affordable housing” part of the development in one block, and Shared Ownership in the other (the definition of “affordable” is still quite nebulous in London. Council houses? Forget it).

The other 4 high rises (that will go up to 17 storeys in height and comprise of 400 units for private sale) are to be constructed by a Malaysian developer. These will likely be marketed to, and snapped up by, foreign investors. And what is the name of this developer, you might be asking yourself?

Their name is EcoWorld.

Further Questions

The lack of concern by the current local administration for issues that have been raised by residents is again something that needs to be mentioned. Residents have been asked to leave scrutiny meetings when finances are to be discussed. Councillors have refused to answer questions during ward forum meetings. Labour candidates have even dodged the issue when they are out canvassing!

Surveys that have been issued asking the public questions about the proposed development have been criticised for the leading style of questioning they adopt. Questions are phrased in a way to make it appear as if the public are supporting this big development, though they might not be aware that they are doing this.

A sample from one of the questionnaires sent to local residents about the proposed development at Gurnell. Note the leading nature of the questions – they are asking “how important are the aspects of the scheme to you” rather than something like “are you happy with these aspects of the scheme”.

Finally, the design of the refurbished leisure centre itself has pressed ahead with very little consultation of what the public might actually want from their health space. As an example, the new exercise studios, including those used for yoga that could look out upon a panorama of fields and a river instead has a view of the main road!

In Conclusion

We see clashes between the residents and the council brewing all through the borough of Ealing. Whether it is in the controversial “Two Towers” development in West Ealing, the horrific plans for Warren Farm or the threat to an Asset of Local Value at Gunnersbury Triangle. It appears the wishes of the existing community are very much an afterthought in the minds of the council. And Green Spaces are very much things that are easy to compromise – for the right price.

And besides – what about the Climate Emergency?

What You Can Do

Article written by Jeremy Parker with assistance from Marijn van de Geer and Save Gurnell

Ealing libraries Threatened With Closure

Hanwell Library

The Situation

Ealing Council is proposing to make cuts of £1.14million. This means it will ceasing to manage Greenford, Hanwell, Perivale, Northfields, Pisthanger, West Ealing and Wood End libraries. Unless local groups come forward to manage these libraries, they will close.

Ealing Council’s Solution

The Council expects local groups volunteering to run the libraries to provide ‘community offers’ such as story times for children, opening for a specified number of hours and doing an enormous amount of fundraising. The consultation suggests local groups would need to raise around £15k – £30k per year to meet annual running costs, though the exact figures are unclear.

Our Concerns

Ealing Green Party is concerned this is not feasible and libraries will close. Libraries provide a safe space for children and adults to read and study. They offer free access to computers and the internet which is critical now that even many public services are ‘digital by default’. They also draw people to local town centres which benefits the shops, cafes and other businesses in the area.

West Ealing Library

What you can do

The Ealing Green Party is opposing the cuts and would urge you to do the same by:

More details to follow!

Article written by Jane Humphreys

Northfields Library

Ealing Council and the 3rd Runway

While other councils, including Hillingdon, Richmond and Hammersmith & Fulham are strongly and publicly opposed to a third runway, Ealing’s Labour council has always been equivocal. Council leader Julian Bell has said, when pushed, that Ealing does not support a third runway.

But there has been no clear public opposition.

Motion to Oppose

Because Ealing seemed to be sitting on the fence, the Conservative group tabled a motion at the full council meeting on 18th Dec:

“This Council states that it is opposed to a third runway at Heathrow Airport. This Council therefore pledges to support those organisations and local authorities who are taking legal action against the plans to expand Heathrow Airport.”

The motion was supported by the LibDems.

Prior to the debate on this motion, a member of Ealing Green Party was allowed to ask a ‘public question’. He asked the question on Heathrow expansion and climate change, referring to the extra £2.9m tonnes of CO2 pa that would be emitted. This was referred to by the Conservatives and LibDems.

Labour Respond

The Labour response was, broadly:
* This is a national government decision and therefore there is little that Ealing can do.
* With severe cash constraints the council cannot justify spending money opposing it.
* Ealing seeks to get the maximum compensation/mitigation

There were a couple of speeches from Southall Labour cllrs supporting expansion. This included one from Cllr Rajinder Mann which, as pointed out from the public gallery by said Green Party member, sounded like a script provided by Heathrow.

We know it was because it quoted economic benefits from Heathrow’s propaganda, which is completely at variance with the official government estimates.

The Art of the Compromise

When it looked as if the motion would be voted down, the Conservatives adroitly amended the motion to the first part only:

“This Council states that it is opposed to a third runway at Heathrow Airport.”

It was then passed unanimously.

Written by Nic Ferriday

We love local businesses!

Local businesses in Ealing

When you think about the natural political party of business, you might not think of the Green Party straight away.  We want to change all that.

Ealing has some incredible local businesses, and we want everyone to know about them.

Over the coming months, we will be championing local businesses, particularly those who are doing something cool for sustainability.  As a sneak preview, we have lined up:

  • A florist selling plants that literally suck pollution out of the air;
  • Food shops stocking loose produce to cut plastic and waste;
  • Eco-friendly cleaning products;
  • Local restaurants and cafes that are going organic;
  • An estate agent reducing energy usage;
  • Furniture sellers upcycling some stylish and amazing creations.
  • A council contractor saving us money by processing the wood he harvests to resell it locally; and
  • A local coffee merchant taking on the giants.

Do you run, use or know an amazing local business and want to tell the world?  Please tell us about them now!

Green policies

In the meantime, with local elections coming up on 3 May 2018, you might be interested in some Green policies you can vote for right now.  These are:

  • Scrap business rates (they are unfair)
  • Set up a small business resilience fund to help small firms get through major events like floods or fires
  • Ensure Ealing Council has a designated councillor to be a ‘Small Business Champion’, giving local businesses a voice
  • Helping small businesses to identify available support to take on apprentices, such as financial assistance and guidance
  • Increase in the number of council contracts aimed at micro and small businesses
  • Review the Business Improvement Districts and make them work for the local businesses rather than the multi-nationals
  • Ensure that prime contractors pass on the payment terms of the council to their subcontracted suppliers – by building this into their contracts and monitoring if this has been fulfilled
  • Increase the number of networking and training events provided by Ealing Council to allow small businesses ‘punch above their weight’.

People who live and work locally reduce their footprint, boost their local economy and help our local town centres thrive: the Ealing Green party want to help create the next generation of local business heroes.

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

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