Proposed Development at Reynard Mills Angers Residents
Action Group Speaks Out About Brentford's Future
What does Brentford mean to you? For many it is defined by its football club, which has entertained fans and families for over a century. For others, it is the M4 flyover and the glass and chrome skyscrapers which dominate the skyline along the Great West Road. For those of us who live here, Brentford is a network of redbrick Victorian and Edwardian houses, built around churches, schools, pubs and parks. Within these mostly terraced streets exists a strong sense of community, which many locals describe as ‘village-like’. But in recent years, rampant over-development has threatened to overwhelm this vibrant community and undermine its spirit. From the Paragon Building and Great West Quarter on the A4, to the Kew Bridge development along the river, thousands of new, mostly high-rise, homes are being built, placing extraordinary pressure on local infrastructure and services. A 45% increase in population is projected for the Brentford area by 2018.
The Reynard Mills planning application, submitted by the real estate management company, Invista, is the latest example of greedy developers putting profit before the needs of the local community. Up to 315 new homes, including five apartment blocks up to 7 stories high, are planned to replace the existing low-rise business park on Windmill Road. If approved by London Borough of Hounslow, it will bring up to 1,000 new residents to the Brentford/Ealing borders area. From school places to GP services, traffic congestion and an over-burdened Victorian sewage system, the impact on the local community, infrastructure and environment will be devastating. Significantly, only 293 parking spaces have been allocated within the site for 315 homes. This will create a massive over-spill of cars parking on streets surrounding the development.
The scale, massing and density of Reynard Mills, in a predominantly low-rise neighbourhood, has caused widespread horror among local residents. The planned apartment blocks are out of character with surrounding churches, schools and housing and do not reflect the architectural heritage of the area. The developers have used the unsightly Paragon Building as a precedent, ignoring the fact that while this may be in scale with some commercial buildings along the Great West Road, it is massively out of context with other low-rise residential buildings in the area. There is real concern that, unless the Council takes action to control the amount of apartment blocks currently being built, Brentford will become a high-rise ghetto with all the visual, spatial, social and environmental problems that this brings.
While there is a recognised need to build new homes in London, Reynard Mills does not address the urgent requirement for good quality, affordable, family-sized houses, of which there is a critical shortage in Brentford. Only 82 units, or 26% of the proposed 315 homes within Reynard Mills, have been allocated for families. The remainder appear to be designed for young, urban professional single people and couples. Yet the reality is that because of the shortage of family houses, many Brentford families are being squeezed into unsuitable, over-crowded apartments – witness the toys on the balconies in the GWQ development bordering Ealing Road! There are strong links between poor quality housing, academic under-achievement and childhood obesity. With more than 40% of ten year olds in London Borough of Hounslow either overweight or obese, town planners must ensure that any new residential development gives sufficient provision for family houses with gardens and safe open spaces where children can play. Families need houses, not apartments. High-density, high-rise apartment blocks do not promote long-term social cohesion. Brentford must remain an attractive place for families to live if the community spirit – of which residents are rightly proud - is to continue to survive and thrive.
Three weeks ago, the Windmill Road Action Group was formed to raise awareness of the planning application and generate a coordinated response in opposition to the proposals. The Action Group is a coalition of residents from Brentford and the South Ealing / Northfields area, which will also be adversely affected. A public meeting took place on Monday, 20 June, attended by up to 140 local people. Brentford Ward Councillor, Matt Harmer, was present to witness the overwhelming opposition and anger at what is being proposed. Some residents expressed concern about the change of usage from commercial to residential, highlighting the potential loss of much-needed jobs to the area. Others expressed alarm at the environmental damage and health and safety issues that a development of this scale will create during the construction period, and pointed to evidence of contamination on the site. Significantly, the meeting took place at Our Lady and St John’s School on Boston Park Road, Brentford, which will be directly overlooked by the apartment blocks, causing serious concern among parents and teachers.
To join the campaign against the Reynard Mills development, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the Windmill Road Action Group on Facebook. We will advise you on the key points you need to raise when you register your objection to the London Borough of Hounslow’s Planning Department. We can also provide further information about the proposed development, including visuals which will show the scale of the development. Posters are available to place in your windows as a show of opposition against Reynard Mills. The deadline for submitting your response to the proposals is Wednesday, 13 July, so it is vital that you act fast.
Brentford and Ealing have a long and proud community heritage. It is time now to collectively raise our voices to ensure that this part of West London remains a good place to live and that the community spirit continues to thrive for future generations.
The developers of Reynard Mills will be presenting their plans at Brentford Community Council tonight, (Thursday, starting at 7.15 in the Methodist Church at Clifden Hall. You can also read the BCC's draft response on their website and send in any comments. Please do come along and voice your opinion.
June 30, 2011