West Ealing Neighbours fully supported the efforts of the Stop The Towers campaign to halt the proposed Manor Road tall tower next to West Ealing station. In October 2020 the Council’s planning committee rejected the proposal but the developer took it to appeal and in October 2021 it won. Most of the area of the site is now fenced off though the computer repair shop seems to be holding out.
One of the key factors in the developer winning its appeal was the Council’s failure to provide proof it was meeting its annual housing target and had an adequate pipeline of housing supply for future. The developer’s legal team made much of this lack of information. Yet, just a few months later the Council was able to supply these figures having been made to by the Local Authority Ombudsman. Why did it take a referral to the Ombudsman to force the Council to fulfil its statutory duty? Have a read of the response from Stop The Towers below and make up your own mind:
‘Was information withheld from the inquiry?
work about to begin on the controversial Manor Road tower, Stop The
Towers (STT) has discovered that key evidence supporting our case, which
Ealing Council said didn’t exist, is in fact available, but
inexplicably wasn’t presented at the inquiry.
At the inquiry an important issue was Ealing’s housing supply figures; not just evidence of what had been built in the past five years but also anticipated five year land supply figures. If Ealing Council had met its annual housing targets and could prove that there was adequate supply in the pipeline, then there was little justification for the Manor Road tower. But if Ealing Council couldn’t show it had met its target, there’d be a presumption in favour of development(known as the ’tilted balance’) so planning permission would be granted – a point seized on by the developers and their lawyers.
Prior to the Manor Road planning inquiry, STT repeatedly requested these figures from Ealing Council’s leadership / head of ‘Good Growth’. The Council should have already published them in an Annual or, recently renamed, Authority Monitoring Report (AMR) which all authorities have to produce. But unbelievably Ealing Council have failed to publish any AMRs since 2014 and despite STTs attempts to obtain information, Ealing Council repeatedly claimed the figures didn’t exist. In fact conversations were had with senior Cabinet personnel who implied that were STT to force the issue, then any figures may show that the Council couldn’t meet their targets (currently 2,157 units per annum).
Local residents group, Ealing Matters reported Ealing Council to the Local Authority Ombudsman who ruled that Ealing Council had failed to fulfil their statutory duties and that these figures MUST be produced IN FULL by December 2021. In response, the council published an ‘Interim Authority Monitoring Report’ covering the five year period 2014/15 – 2018/19.
Shockingly this interim report proves that Ealing Council met its housing delivery test results for 2018-2020 with up to 135% over delivery *. Not only have they consistently exceeded targets (which isn’t surprising given how many cranes that are visible in the skyline over the last few years), but over 11,000 new units have been given Planning permission that are yet to be built. So even without the 2021 planning approvals or any new pre-application discussions, this should meet the five year land supply figures.
Why were the figures withheld, and what does this mean?
Ealing council had a statutory obligation to correctly record these figures, which it failed to do. It also had a moral obligation to disclose them to the inquiry, again which it didn’t do. Was this incompetence, or a deliberate ploy?
Whilst not a silver bullet, had our barristers had these figures it would have greatly improved our chances of succeeding at the inquiry. But as a result we lost, and Ealing council has to pay the developers huge legal bill, possibiy circa £250,000**. So not only has this incompetence caused the Manor tower to be approved/built, it’s also cost taxpayers wasted legal fees.
Whilst the failure to record the AMRs was during Julian Bell’s time as leader, the person at the helm of housing from 2018-2020 was none other than Peter Mason, now council leader. He has been in overall charge of the Council since May 2021. He and Cllr Shital Manro (Cabinet lead for ‘Good Growth’) refuse to explain the reasons behind these failures. The Interim AMR still lacks figures relating to a five year land supply and the full report has not been published in time to meet the Ombudsman’s ruling.
Such incompetence needs to be called out.
WHY DID EALING COUNCIL LEADERSHIP NOT DEMONSTRATE A FIVE YEAR SUPPLY?
WHAT IS THE COUNCIL LEADERSHIP’s EXCUSE FOR FAILING TO DEFEND THEIR OWN PLANNING COMMITTEE DECISION IN AN ADEQUATE FASHION?
WHY HAVE THESE DECISIONS NOT TO PUBLISH BEEN ALLOWED TO COST EALING COUNCIL TAX PAYERS AN UNNECESSARY HUGE LEGAL BILL?
Questions we will ask the council leadership. If we get answers, we’ll let you know.
Thanks again for your help and support.
Stop The Towers’
To donate click here
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* Figures taken from Housing Delivery Tests published within LBE Interim Authority Monitoring Report Click here
** A Freedom of Information request has been made to Ealing Council asking them to reveal the amount awarded to cover the developers costs in full.