Council Lawyers Mount Robust Defence at Tesco/Homebase Enquiry

Deny planning officers' report was influenced by 'sweeteners'

Protest held on first day of inquiry at Hounslow House. Picture: OWGRA


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The public inquiry into the Tesco/Homebase twin developments was opened by the Planning Inspector, Mrs Jennifer Vyse, on 15 March after a protest had taken place outside Hounslow House by opponents of the schemes.

The inspector began the meeting by making it clear that she did not any want expressions of support or opposition from members of the public in attendance. The session was held in the Council Chamber on the top floor of the six-storey council offices.

The Parties to the Inquiry are the developer St Edward Homes) and Hounslow Council who are arguing in favour of approval and, on the other side Historic England and the Osterley and Wyke Green Residents’ Association (OWGRA) . In addition, some members of public and representatives of other organisation were invited to speak including Cllr Tony Louki and Kew Gardens.

In the opening statement each party to the enquiry laid out the outline to its case.

The council’s lawyers have mounted a robust defence of the planning officers involved in the decision in the face of implied criticism from some objectors.

When a representative of a neighbourhood group said that some had raised the issue of ‘sweeteners’ from the developer in the form of planning gain had influenced the decision, Alexander Booth, QC, for Hounslow Council, said, "That suggestion is not only wholly unjustified, it is entirely improper and constitutes a very real slight on the hard working public servants who serve as planning officers who prepared a detailed report of the merits and the harms of this proposal and it also constitutes a slight on the good faith of the democratically elected members who sit on that planning committee. Your proposition is fundamentally and robustly rejected by this council."

The inquiry has also heard from the architect for the Homebase site who told the inspector that the proposal was a gateway development designed to regenerate the area. It was argues that the buildings would complement the Art Deco feel of the Golden Mile and retain iconic views of the Gillette Building as it was stepped back from the A4.

This view was questioned in detail by Scott Lyness, a QC for Historic England, who said it was unnecessary to have 17 storey for a gateway function and this was already provided by the Gillette Building.

A visualisation of how the buildings would look viewed from the A4. Picture: OWGRA

Barbara Stryjak representing at OWGRA asked why if permission had been denied for an 11-storey building proposed by Access Storage in 2017 was a 17 storey building being proposed now. The architect for the scheme said that this was due to ‘context’ and that the building would be stepped back from the road to reduce their impact

Mohsen Zikri, also for OWGRA raised a number of issue including the possibility of glare from the facades and light pollution but the architect said it was not thought likely that, given the nature of the design, these would present any problems.

A visualisation of the development viewed from Rothbury Gardens. Picture: OWGRA

The first day of the Inquiry was held in person. The remaining sessions are all virtual and will be live-streamed.

You can watch the proceedings here.

If the inquiry decides in their favour the applications would see 16 tower blocks built with the tallest 17 storeys high. These would include over 2,000 flats and are expected to increase the population of the area by over 6,000.

There were over 800 objection received to the proposals and over 4,000 people signed a petition asking the Mayor to block the application which he declined to do.

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March 18, 2022

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