Ealing’s Local Development Framework, 27th October 2009

Last night I attended a well run and well attended Hanwell Community Forum (HCF) meeting. The only item on the agenda was Ealing’s LDF and Ealing Council’s Steve Barton was in attendance as main presenter. Steve, an Ealing resident, is Interim Planning Policy Manager for the Council.

HCF’s Carolyn Brown opened the meeting with a short overview on Ealing’s LDF draft Core Strategy. This was most useful to the audience and was sadly lacking from the four previous Council organised LDF Public Consultation meetings. Also well worth noting is that HCF, a volunteer run organisation, managed to attract over 40 resident attendees. This was in contrast to the resident turnout at the Council’s organised meetings in Southall (20 residents) and Greenford (32 residents) – both much larger towns. It does lead one to wonder exactly on what the Council spends its annual £3 million publicity budget.

Steve’s presentation has really moved on since his first stab at this on 9th September 2009. His speech was peppered with references to how the draft LDF Core Strategy would be rejected by National Government in its current state. However the irony of this failing document set being seemingly suitable for 240,000 Ealing adults to review is seemingly lost on him.

He still bangs on about it being a short strategy document at 150 pages what in fact it’s over 300 pages long. He still continues to be confused about the development sites for the 10,000+ flats 800 metres from Crossrail Stations being already ’approved’. Take the central area of Ealing. Here we have 19 acres of putatively ‘approved’ development sites at Dickens Yard, Arcadia and Green Man Lane Estate (GMLE). Of this 19 acres less that 5 acres is ‘approved’ – at Dickens Yard only. Arcadia is the subject of a Government Public Inquiry and GMLE is at least 4 months away from an initial Planning Application.

His line on existing housing estates was to ‘knock’em down before they fell down’. This is an interesting concept and one that residents can’t easily challenge. GMLE, for example, is only 31 years old and Copley Close is even younger. One can certainly a say that over the years the maintenance at these estates has been poor. My house like 1,000s of others in Ealing is 100 years old.

The failure to include any details of social and community infrastructure to support the new 25,000+ residents was explained away by saying that a background paper on the topic would be published on the Council’s web site in Spring 2010. He said later in the meeting that there is no Local Government cash available (see below) and made the laudable commitment to not build on open green space (see below). One is then left with a large slice of unbelief about the prospect of new schools, healthcare centres, Police Stations, sport, culture and community facilities in general ever being built.

Only 45 New Homes in Central Hanwell by 2026
However the elephant in the room soon made its presence felt. Ealing’s draft LDF Core Strategy is primarily about new housing in the so-called Uxbridge Road/Crossrail Corridor. Well Hanwell gets away almost completely unscathed with just 45 new homes being built in and around Hanwell Station/Hanwell centre.

Questions were raised about social housing and the answers from Steve were a bit wishy washy. He was very explicit about there being no Local Government money for almost anything and that all the money would have to come from property developers or National Government. (With the National Debt at £824.8 billion I kind of rejected the latter option and with property developers laying off 1,000s of staff and declaring big losses the former option doesn’t look great either).

Crossrail Might Be Delayed
He was a bit iffy about Crossrail – feeling that it might be delayed and confirming that if it was then housing developments would be similarly delayed. Complaints were made about only two Crossrail trains /day stopping each way at Hanwell Station. Not all Ealing Council’s fault but after all they are supposed to represent our interests so they must shoulder some of the blame.

There were some statements made about ‘designated frontages’ which appeared to be about confining retail to specific areas. There was some colourful geographic language about Hinterlands and north/south transport improvements but Steve cold showered the latter with ‘..but who will provide the funds’.

There seemed to be some consensus about the viable transport future being all about public transport, cycling and walking. Another elephant came into the room at this point – Peak Oil – but its name never got mentioned. A resident called for a Cycling Superhighway but Steve attempted to duck that one.

Climate Change was batted into The London Plan corner as though it wasn’t a local issue.

A retired Park Ranger resident described his dislike of ‘land swap’ deals, whereby public land is ‘swapped’ for possibly less valuable/usable private land. He quoted examples and said that the net loss had not been mitigated. Steve was silent on this point. The resident was also critical that Ealing Council was already one year late in carrying out its promised footpath survey.

Peak Oil Seemingly Not an Issue
Steve eulogised about the Ealing Tories’ commitment to retaining and possibly enhancing Ealing’s green space. Quite where new schools, health centres, Police Stations, cultural and sports facilities were to built – if not on green space – was not mentioned. If we have already reached Peak Oil I can see people suggesting parts of Hanwell’s large green spaces being converted to allotments to grow food well before 2026.

Local historian David Black was disappointed that Heritage considerations had not even been mentioned. This was especially unfortunate given the amount of Heritage in Hanwell. All Steve could do was apologise about this.

Finally, there weren’t any MPs, prospective MPs; regeneration Directors or Councillors at the meeting. Maybe these absences reflect Ealing Council management team’s level of interest in the future of Hanwell.

Feedback on the draft Ealing LDF Core Strategy will still be considered but it must arrive at Steve’s office by Friday 6th November.

Eric Leach
28th October, 2009

Ealing’s Local Development Framework, 22nd October 2009

West Ealing Neighbours (WEN) made its LDF submission on 16th October, 2009. You can read it on our Local Development Framework web page. There’s also a summary of our main points on our News web page. I submitted my own personal submission on 10th October 2009. The 159 questions and options I answered in hard copy form, as I couldn’t work out how I could submit my answers, option selections and comments on-line and at the same time generate my own copy. I delivered my response by hand to Perceval House. Twelve days later I still have not received an acknowledgement that Ealing Council Planning Policy has even received my response – never mind read or responded to it.

My free form text submission is just 10 pages long and if you’d like a copy just email me at eric@leachet.demon.co.uk.and and I’ll email you a copy. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have copies of the LDF responses from Kingsdown Residents Association, Save Ealing’s Centre and Ealing Transition. It doesn’t surprise me that all of these responses are very critical of the Ealing LDF draft Core Strategy and the LDF Public Consultation process as a whole.

Although we have passed the official deadline for Ealing LDF draft Core Strategy responses, Ealing Council’s Steve Barton is ever willing to talk to residents about the strategy. To this end, Hanwell Community Forum has organised for Steve to address Hanwell residents on Ealing’s LDF. The meeting is open to the public and if you haven’t yet attended an LDF meeting, try and get along there. It’s taking place on Tuesday 27th October 2009 at St Thomas the Apostle Church on 182, Boston Road, Hanwell W7 2AD starting at 7:45pm. I hope to attend and write up my notes on the meeting.

Ealing Council’s draft LDF Core Strategy got a boost on 7th October 2009 when Mayor Boris announced that he wouldn’t interfere in the Dickens Yard housing estate planning application that Ealing Council approved on 5th November 2008. Yes…. governments often work very slowly. So 698 flats (and 20 small shops) can sometime be expected to appear behind Ealing Town Hall and in the ‘Uxbridge Road/Crossrail Corridor’ so beloved by the Ealing Council planners and regeneration suits. So…only 13,417 more homes to build by 2016! One wonders whether property developer St George has the money (or can borrow the money) to build the 105 metre wide and 15 storey high housing monstrosity.

Eric Leach
22nd October, 2009

Ealing’s Local Development Framework, 6th October 2009

Ealing Civic Society’s (ECS) Judy Harris has just pointed out to me that there are two Comment Forms in the LDF document set. I’ve just downloaded the second ‘one’. It’s a feedback form on the Core Strategy itself (which LBE confusingly calls its Development Strategy. It’s 18 pages long.

So we now have in total 326 pages in the LDF document set and 159 questions to answer and options to review. Judy told me that it took her TWO WEEKS to complete the two Comment Forms. Quite extraordinary.

I attended a meeting today in Perceval House with ECS, WEN, Rydon (builders), A2Dominion (property developer) and Conran (architects). The meeting was about the regeneration of the 10 acre Green Man Lane Estate (GMLE) in central West Ealing. No-one from LBE’s elected or salaried Regeneration teams attended this meeting. Maybe they were worried that one of us would ask them to explain the comment about GMLE regeneration on page of 25 the LDF Development Strategy document – ‘…. contributing to the regeneration of the West Ealing Broadway’.

Just 10 days to go to the feedback deadline. I wonder if anyone else will answer/review all the 159 questions/options?

Eric Leach
6th October 2009

Ealing’s Local Development Framework, 1st October 2009

Last night the fourth and final 2009 Ealing LDF Public Consultation meeting was held in the hall of the Parish Church of St Mary’s in the centre of Acton. Around 40 local residents attended. Councillors Cameron, Millican, Seemar, Kumar and Rose attended. Angie Bray, who is highly likely to be Acton’s next MP, was also there. However the LBE big gun who surprisingly attended and participated was the Director in charge of the Property, Regeneration and Planning teams – Berkshire resident, Brendon Walsh.

LBE’s Steve Barton admitted to the whole audience that if the September 2009 Ealing LDF Core Strategy document set as is were to be submitted to the National Government’s Planning Inspectorate in Bristol, it would be rejected. He accepted that the lack of evidence and details on the new social and community facilities to support the 20,000 to 30,000 new residents over the next 17 years would trigger this rejection. (Later in our group session I pointed out the irony of the 308 pages being not fit for National Government but fit for Ealing residents to review).

The three groups of residents came up with similar conclusions to virtually all the groups at the previous meetings in Ealing centre, Greenford and Southall:

Residents are clearly uncertain as to why and how Ealing should entertain more residents. In fact why does Ealing have to house many more than Harrow, Hammersmith & Fulham and Hounslow? If this immigration into Ealing has to be imposed by Government why house these incomers in tall residential tower blocks in the heavily built up areas around Acton, Ealing, West Ealing and Southall stations? Residents don’t want these tower blocks. If new residents have to come to Ealing, build residential communities for them with social and community facilities built either before they arrive or as the homes are being built. Families need houses not flats. Shouldn’t Climate Change, Peak Oil and sustainability issues be at the heart of this Core Strategy – not something tagged onto the back of it? Why no definition of the height of ‘Tall Landmark’ buildings? Re-use empty properties instead of knocking them down. Why no evidence of alternative strategies having been entertained – and why no audit trail as to why these alternatives were rejected?

Acton issues highlighted include:

No mention of the 25 metre Green Corridor along both sides of Western Avenue. The car parking chaos caused by large numbers of Carphone Warehouse staff parking in residential streets fanning out from Gypsy Corner. The existing and likely worsening pollution for residents living close to Park Royal. Some of the plans for Park Royal look suspiciously just like what the Park Royal Partnership (of industrialists) want. We have plenty of landmark buildings in Acton – there’s no need for any more. Our GPs and schools are up to capacity already – there’s no way we can take more residents in Acton.

LBE’s Steve Barton admitted that LBE had failed to give residents who participated in the 2007 LDF consultation any feedback at all. He promised that this would not happen with this 2009 exercise. He conceded that the publicising of these four Public Consultation meetings had not been good.

As I appear to be that only Ealing resident to have attended all four of these meetings I’m well placed to make some observations. Even accepting that some residents attended more than one meeting, the total number of residents who attended these meetings is around160. Out of an adult population of 240,000 this attendance is very poor. We’ll never know just how many residents would have attended if publicity had been good. But let me give you all a local, recent metric to compare it with:

In 2006 the newly formed Save Ealing’s Centre (SEC) alliance organised and publicised a public meeting on town centre development In Ealing Town Hall on the 29th November. Over 300 residents came to that meeting.

If a bunch of volunteers can organise one meeting with 300 attending and a £billion public organisation can’t get half that number to four meetings – you begin to ask yourself whether the public organisation actually wanted lots of residents to attend these public meetings……

Soon we’ll publish on this blog my own personal set of comments on the 2006 Ealing LDF Core Strategy Public Consultation. I hope you get chance to read them and find them useful.

You still have till 16th October, 2009 to submit your comments. I’ll sure Steve still has some copies of the documents for you to purchase.

Eric Leach
2nd October, 2009