Anger as Tesco/Homebase Developments Approved

Council planning committee gives green light to two huge housing schemes

Location of the two planned developments


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The Hounslow Borough Planning Committee has approved the massive development of the Tesco and Homebase sites near Gillette Corner to the bitter disappointment of local residents’ groups campaigning against the schemes.

The combined project is thought to be the largest ever development in the borough and will lead to over 2,000 new flats being constructed.

The Homebase site at the junction of Syon Lane and the A4 will become a mixed-use development, comprising a large supermarket and associated car parking as well as 473 flats, 35% of which would be classed as affordable. The new housing will sit above a podium containing the supermarket and car park, in a series of tall buildings that range in height from 4 to 17-storeys.

This proposal is linked with the concurrent scheme for the redevelopment of the existing nearby Tesco Osterley site with a mixed-use proposal providing up to 1,677 flats, 35% of which would be classed as affordable, commercial uses and new public spaces. The Tesco Extra store at this site would be relocated to the Homebase site.

Four councillors voted against the Homebase proposal and three against the Tesco scheme at the virtual meeting which began at 5pm on Thursday, 8 April and lasted for five and a half hours. Borough planner officers had recommended approval for both schemes.

The two schemes had met significant opposition from groups such as the Osterley and Wyke Green Residents Association (OWGRA), Brentford Voice, the Isleworth Society and Historic England with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew also objecting.

During the meeting , the schemes faced much criticism with numerous speakers objecting to the proposals.

Cllr Richard Eason warned committee members the sites will be landmarks in this part of the borough for the next century and questioned if it is “best legacy” to be left for future generations.

Concerns were raised over a lack of family housing, needed to address overcrowding in the borough – three-bedroom homes or more would make up just 14 per cent of the Homebase site, and 19 per cent of the Tesco site.

Cllr Unsa Chaudri also flagged the lack of transport and infrastructure to support an increase in 6,000 residents to the area, and urged the developers to look at the scheme again.

And councillor Tony Louki added: “[You’re] being asked to approve schemes with scant benefit for local communities apart from a few pieces of play equipment in a neighbourhood across the railway line half a mile away.

“There’s no remedy for a lack of onsite recreational space for young people and its distance half a mile away in Syon ward ignores the need for new communities to integrate and socialise with existing residents.

“Community Infrastructure Levy will be too little to compensate for the shortfall in transport, health and recreational provision in addition to the meagre elements in the plan.”

Representatives from OWGRA also objected to the plans arguing that “irreversible harm” outweighs the benefits of the applications.

They added: “We need more good quality homes, not more homes at any cost. This is not a tick box matter, this is a matter of people’s lives.”

Objections were also raised on the change of character to the area which is made up of low-rise buildings, with dozens of existing homes to be hit by a 40 per cent loss of light.

Opposing residents and councillors agreed they would accept a development of up to six storeys in the area, but when developer St Edward representative Duncan Matthews was asked whether any compromises could be made, he said the 17-storey “headline” cannot be reduced as it reduces the number of homes and public benefits that can be delivered.

Mr Matthews said,“These two schemes represent true opportunity for a generation sustainable recovery and a catalyst for further investment in both the local area and Hounslow supporting the wider ambitions set out for the borough’s recovery.

“Our ambition is to deliver one of the best regeneration projects in London.”

Hounslow Chamber of Commerce boss, Sally Smith, also spoke in favour of the schemes as “such a good opportunity for the Golden Mile”.

She said, “Bearing in mind the downturn at Heathrow which is our major economic driver, the delivery of the Syon lane site will act as a huge stimulus for Hounslow, providing opportunities for local businesses and people over the next 10-15 years.”

Ms Smith said the construction work alone would create up to 4,000 jobs and bring in £11million to be spent by workers in the local economy, while a further £8million a year would be spent locally by new residents.

In deciding to vote against the proposal, planning committee member Cllr Shaheen said the area was a “transport black hole” and was not convinced “cramming” more people into the area will not cause problems.

Cllr John Todd also said the housing density was “packing them in like sardines” and leaving residents “isolated on a desert site”.

“I’m sorry, I can’t go along with this,” he said.

Following the Council’s decision, the application must be referred to the Mayor of London for him to determine whether he is content for the Council to determine the application, direct its refusal, or if he wishes to determine it himself.

Although his office expressed some reservations about the scheme, saying that it did not fully comply with the London Plan, it is thought likely by opponents of the scheme that approval will be given. The feedback of the Mayor’s Office to the consultation said it ‘strongly supported’ the building of housing on this site.

Visualisation of the new Tesco store on the Homebase site
Visualisation of the new Tesco store on the Homebase site

The planner’s report concluded, “The mixed-use, high density proposal is consistent with objectives promoting the regeneration of the Great West Corridor Opportunity Area through optimising use of previously developed land with new, high quality buildings and public realm including new and improved footpaths and cycleways. The high density scheme optimises the use of the existing under-utilised land with new housing and commercial uses that will help to meet the strategic housing need in the borough, including affordable housing, and will promote and sustain local economic activity and employment.”

The report acknowledges that ‘there are some harmful impacts to the significance of certain heritage assets through change to their setting, including some assets of the very highest significance’ but argues that this harm is ‘less than substantial’ and outweighed by the benefits of the scheme.

Objections to the scheme were co-ordinated by OWGRA which was supported by Brentford Voice, The Isleworth Society, The Kew Society and other local resident groups. Grounds for objection included inadequate consultation, over-density, the height of the buildings, transport issues, lack of public amenity space and the damage to heritage assets.

In making its objection the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew said, “Recent decisions relating to planning applications in the vicinity of Kew Gardens, such as the Chiswick Curve and Citroen site have ascribed a degree of harm to the Kew WHS as ‘less than substantial’. In our view the current application brings a similar or greater degree of harm as these other recent developments, due to the unspoilt character of the area affected.”

Historic England said with regard to Syon Park, “The presence of urban development rising above the treeline would disrupt in the compositions envisaged by Brown and runs counter to the notion of cultivated parkland merging with a romanticised countryside beyond. This is an essential characteristic of the style, normally achieved through carefully designed tree planting to the create impression of a rural idyll (whether it exists in reality or not).”

The planners acknowledged the validity of some of the objections made but argued that they were outweighed by the benefits.

Assuming approval by the Mayor and no further legal challenges, documents submitted by the applicant suggest it is hoping for completion of the Tesco site by 2025.

Written with contributions from Anahita Hossein-Pour - Local Democracy Reporter

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April 9, 2021

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