Local residents' groups respond to Club's 'PR offensive'
Local residents' groups have claimed that if planning permission is granted to Brentford Football Club's scheme for development on Lionel Road, it would cause irreversible damage to the character of the area.
The groups have formulated their response to the Planning Application submitted by the Club which is due to be determined by the Planning Committee on December 5th.
The matter will be discussed at the next meeting of the Chiswick Area Forum on Tuesday, Nov 19th. The current proposal is to build a new football stadium and an enabling development of flats, houses and a hotel. Chiswick residents are opposed to the density of housing proposed, as well as concerned about pressure on infrastructure and public transport.
Open letter from local residential societies in response to Brentford Football Club’s Lionel Road development PR leaflet
Some of you may have seen a leaflet produced by a PR Company employed by Brian Burgess of Brentford Football Club (BFC) seemingly addressing concerns raised by local residents regarding the proposed Lionel Road Housing Development and Sports Stadium. It is true that BFC has met local groups but, contrary to their claims, the multiple concerns raised by us regarding the over-development have not been adequately addressed by their insignificant modifications. The following is a response to the points made in that leaflet.
BFC claim local groups and heritage bodies accept studies showing visual impact on key heritage sites is limited.
- We do not accept that the visual impact of the development will be ‘minimal’. A dense cluster of tower blocks, up to 16 storeys high, will adversely impact several listed sites, conservation areas, the riverside, and dominate the skyline. The abrupt change in scale and character disrespects residential streets and the communities who live there and will be a permanent eyesore. This negative visual impact remains one of our major concerns.
Gunnersbury and Kew Bridge Station
BFC claims it will work with Network rail and Transport for London (TFL) to improve local transport and that as a ‘large local organisation’ they can help US press for improvements at Gunnersbury Station.
- No actual funds are being offered for these changes. Current improvements at Gunnersbury station do NOT increase capacity. Removal of the central handrail has, in practice, reduced the capacity of the staircase by removing the previous well-defined lanes of pedestrian flow.
- No plans to further develop the station; it does not have capacity for thousands of passengers arriving/departing at once.
- No plans to solve issues arising during mid-week fixtures with thousands of commuters leaving Chiswick Business Park, one of the biggest in Europe, at the same time as arriving spectators.
- TFL have raise concerns regarding the transport plan on a number of points including, how thousands of spectators can be marshalled from Gunnersbury Tube across Chiswick roundabout safely and without causing traffic problems.
- TFL noted that assessment of platform capacity does not account fornon-spectator use of the station. What if we want to use the trains/tubes on match days?
Kew Bridge Station
BFC claim improvements will enable disability access to the up platform.
- This is only for the London bound platform, how will disabled people make a return journey?
- No changes being made to the platform size to accommodate large numbers of people.
- The gap between the train and the platform, approximately half a metre, currently poses problems with access for many members of the community including disabled users and is not due to change.
BFC - Flow of spectators will be controlled outside the stations and allowed in when the facilities can cope.
- At Kew Bridge station supporter will be held on-site crammed in by tower blocks and slowly filtered onto the existing 4 trains per hour.
- TFL have raised concerns for Gunnersbury Station, there is no obvious ‘holding site’ for this volume of people without restricting access to residential properties and businesses along Chiswick High Road.
Traffic impact on Kew Bridge, Chisiwick roundabout, residential streets and surrounding area
BFC claim an increased number of spectators travel by public transport.
- Currently around 50% of BFC supporters arrive by car. Extrapolate this to the projected 20,000 supporters and there will obviously be an impact on the roads and parking.
- The original traffic assessment was carried out on a Saturday. It does not take into account:
- Increased traffic generated by other frequent events in West London; Rugby games at Twickenham, events at Kew, music festivals…etc.
- Disruption to traffic flow between Chiswick roundabout and Kew Bridge caused by large numbers of spectators crossing the roads. TFL have raised this as a real concern.
- The knock on congestion when there is a minor accident/incident in the area.
- The impact on Chiswick roundabout of closing Lionel Road, presently used to access the M4.
- Local residents and anyone using the north/south circular and M4 know this is already an extremely congested area and regularly backs-up traffic throughout the surrounding areas. These problems will all be amplified, especially on mid-week match days
BFC claim - detailed discussions have been held with TFL about traffic management. These will continue before and after stadium opening in order to monitor and respond to actual circumstances.
- It is a guess what the impact will be or how we are going to manage all these people but we do know that we, the local community, will have to adapt our lifestyles and adjust our lives accordingly.
Match day parking
BFC claim they will cater for the ‘minority’ of supporters arriving by car by ‘planning to’ arrange match day parking at offices and commercial premises along the A4 Great West Road.
- This arrangement is not part of the planning applications. No commercial premises have actually agreed to this and nothing has been confirmed. ‘Planning to’ is meaningless. Spectators will park in residential streets, around Kew green and in the Kew Gardens car park or wherever they can.
- There will be limited parking spaces in the residential development so where will these new residents park?
BFC has accepted that ‘in principle’ it will contribute to the cost of consultations to arrange controlled parking zones.
- ‘Agree in principle’ is not a commitment to do anything or contribute any funds.
BFC accepts ‘in principle’ to make contributions towards social infrastructure, in this case schools.
- Again ‘in principle’, but in practice the development will add further strain on local schools.
Health BFC will provide ‘climbing wall’ and ‘cycling proficiency’. BFC will also develop fitness programs with The Fountain Leisure Centre and develop public health initiatives.
- Not exactly the additional Health facilities needed in the area and nothing planned over and above this. Fountain Leisure Centre already has fitness programs, they need more facilities.
- Due to overdevelopment there is minimal outside space for the families who will supposedly be moving into the tower blocks, maybe a vertical climbing wall was all that they could fit in.
BFC claim the funding gap for the scheme will be underwritten by the owner of the club.
- BFC can’t afford to build a 20,000 seat stadium; currently they only average around 6,000 fans. The over-development pays for a substantial part of the stadium build but it’s not enough so the private owner of BFC will justly have to contribute some of ‘his’ own money for the new stadium which will become ‘his’ clubs asset.
BFC claim it is absolutely untrue to say that the owner is seeking to make lots of money for himself.
- As the 96% shareholder of the club the stadium will become his direct asset and, should he choose to sell the club, that stadium will vastly increase its value. Rather like getting an extension on your house built for free, though you don’t directly profit from the building of the extension the value of your house increases substantially and you would make profit on any subsequent sale.
BFC has proposed ‘a mechanism to contribute to affordable housing if the projects economics turns out better than expected’. It is sharing its financial model with the Planning Authority.
- There is NO ‘affordable housing’ planned. In fact, the financial viability statement for this scheme remains opaque despite our and MP Zac Goldsmiths repeated attempts to get BFC to clarify their numbers. It is impossible to know when this mechanism or any other profit based promises would come into effect. In reality, it means little.
BFC suggest first time buyers will get on the property ladder and local elderly residence will move to the development freeing up larger homes for families.
- The final pricing for the flats is unknown. Any developer will seek to maximise profits and, considering the surrounding area, it will likely price at the high end of affordability. Current trends indicate many will be bought as buy-to-let investments.
- As for old people downsizing to spend their retirement years above a football stadium and dodging 20,000 fans for access to their homes on match days, maybe this is for Alex Ferguson but we’re not sure who else. Is this really the best argument they can make for sustainable housing.
BFC - The tower blocks will be developed over the next 6-10 years minimising infrastructure impact over time.
- No amount of time changes the density or appearance of the final development nor is it possible in this area to widen roads, improve traffic flow or increase transport infrastructure significantly. It also sets a precedent for other high rise developments further saturating the area. Adding this development to others planned in the area would result in an additional 12,000 residents, a 40% increase in population, with only minor infrastructure improvements.
- The overall density remains three times that permitted under current planning policy.
- Visiting the Stadium will be visiting a building site for the next ten years.
Brian Burgess is keen to point out the so called ‘benefit’ to the community of building a 20,000 seat stadium with 16 storey tower blocks round it. However, this remains disputed. He also claims to have listened to local residents concerns and made provisions for them. They have not listened; we still have serious issues with the proposal and do not accept that any real attempt has been made to mitigate any of its major impacts.
- There is insufficient information available regarding the financial aspects of the scheme as part of this supposedly transparent process. Independent assessments based on other developments show large potential profits for developers and BFC; these are not community/fan owned businesses. In its present form this looks more like a property development with the Stadium being used to justify bending of planning guidelines under the banner of community benefit. This application would not even be considered under normal circumstances.
To conclude, if planning permission is granted for this scheme, the irreversible damage to the character of the area would result in West London losing much that is precious. The desperate lack of infrastructure and the direct impact of putting a 20,000 seat stadium with enormous housing development on top of one of the busiest junctions in London will ripple throughout the surrounding area and effect residents, visitors to the area and spectators alike for generations to come. Build first and hope for the best is not an adequate Twenty First Century response to City planning and this is not how London has become one of the greatest cities, to live and visit, in the world. It should not be granted planning permission; in its present form the scheme remains totally unsuitable for this area.
FOSH, Strand on the Green Association, West Chiswick and Gunnersbury Residents Association, Brentford Community Council
November 20, 2013