Friends of Earth Write to Local Candidates
Perception that borough is being ‘stitched up’ by planners and developers
I hope you are aware that there is a public consultation on the Borough of Hounslow Local Plan (LP). The significance of the LP can hardly be over-estimated. Its contents underpin the decision on every planning application and the Plan is a major determinant of how the borough will develop in future years and the sort of environment the residents of the borough will enjoy.
The more active residents’ groups have been expressing grave concerns about the draft LP. The dominant feature is a plan to erect thousands of new housing units, mainly blocks of flats, with a very small proportion being ‘social’ or ‘affordable’. This will greatly increase the population (because many people occupying the new blocks will not originate from the borough) in what is already a crowded borough.
The other concern, for at least for some of the groups, is the aim to erect large numbers of commercial blocks, particularly along the ‘Golden Mile’.
While there have been a couple of opportunities provided by the officers to outline the Plan and take comments, residents’ views have, in practice, been ignored. The planners talk about “evidence” to support their plans, as if what local people want and how the plans will affect their lives are not evidence.
Meanwhile, the residents’ groups have become aware of meetings behind closed doors between developers and planners, such as those between Brendon Walsh and developers at the international fair at Cannes.
As a result, there is a strong perception that the borough is being ‘stitched up’ by planners and developers, with local people sidelined. Local people feel there is nothing in it for them and a good deal to lose. Apart from a more ugly borough, filled with blocks of soulless flats, there will be more traffic, more congestion, more crowding on public transport, more air pollution, more pressure on school places and pessures on every other form of infrastructure. Planners ‘hype’ such as “regeneration” and “investment” do not disguise the reality of the proposed ‘town cramming’.
These concerns were reflected at the recent hustings for Brentford and Syon wards, where the issue that came up from the floor far more than anything else was planning. Strong disagreement with the draft Plan was expressed by at least two candidates who are currently councillors, while others seemed to know little about the process.
This leads on to one of the most concerning aspects of the LP. There seems to have been very little comment and involvement from councillors. As a result, the Plan has reached this stage of final consultation based almost entirely on what the planners and their associates have decided, without any real input or support from representatives of the people affected.
We raised this issue with the Cabinet and Cllr Ellar responded. He took the view that there would be big differences between and even within parties and it would have therefore not have been possible to obtain consensus on the draft Plan. He referred to the current statutory consultation process and noted that the Plan will have to be adopted in its final form through the Cabinet and possibly full council.
Given that councillors and other candidates seem to have had little exposure to the Plan to date, could we urge you to make any representations forthwith. (You may be told by the planners that the consultation has closed, but that is not an impediment. Councillors’ comments can hardly be ignored, especially as it is councillors who have the final say on consultation dates.)
It is vital that you comment now and not wait until the final adoption phase. By that stage, all comments will have been examined by a planning inspector and new comments will therefore not be entertained. In any case, the Plan may well not go to a full council meeting, so councillors will then get no chance to comment.
Do please contact me or your active local residents’ groups if you wish to discuss this matter. I think it will be a matter of great interest for your constituents or potential constituents to know what your views are on the Local Plan. We therefore invite you to let them know, before as well as after the local elections.
Nic Ferriday, Hounslow and Brentford Friends of the Earth
May 16, 2014