eric's daily blog - a very personal view of the arcadia public inquiry

Day 1: Tuesday 23rd June 2009 | June 24, 2009

Euphoria kicks at 8:30am when I see on Google News that the much rumoured English Heritage (EH) survey  on Conservation Areas (CAs) being at risk and threatened by ‘..neglect, decay or damaging change…’ has been launched.

Euphoria turns to anger, dismay and shame when on arriving at Ealing Town Hall at 9:00am when I’m told by my SEC colleagues who have scanned the survey that Ealing is not in the survey. Why? It appears that Ealing Council did not fill in the EH survey forms – consequently details on how Ealing CA’s might be under threat are missing. Incompetence or malevolence? I guess we’ll never know.

I pushed past a crowd of Police and PCSOs as I entered the building. However upon entering Victoria Hall, the venue for some on the Public Inquiry, I was pleased to see that Police were not stationed in the Hall – in contrast to various recent Ealing Council Planning Committee and Ward Forum meetings.

By 10:00am  around 100 local residents had taken their places sitting strangely some 25 yards from the Inspector, David Richards. Separating the residents and the Inspector were a rank of Rule 6 parties – SEC, ECS and Conservation Panels – to his right. To his left were Glenkerrin’s and Ealing Council’s troops. All these folks with formal speaking parts – some 30 in number – were 15 yards apart. Sean O’Gorman, Glenkerrin’s long haired almost Hippy looking UK boss, was in amongst his troops trying and trying to get a Wireless connection to work on his laptop.

We had an hour of housekeeping by the Inspector on proofs of evidences, core documents, common ground etc. Glenkerrin’s QC Russell Harris – a powerful Welsh Blunderbuss of a man– waded in about the lack of SEC proofs. Tom Harris, our Rule 6 Barrister, calmly quoted the date on which we couriered four copies of all the proofs to the Government’s PINS office in Bristol (which met the Inspector’s deadline date). It was confirmed that the ‘batting order’ for presentations was going to be Glenkerrin, Ealing Council and then Rule 6 parties and then anyone else. Morag Ellis QC, dressed all in black, introduced herself as Ealing Council’s representative, being instructed by Ealing Council’s Helen Harris.

The Inspector estimated that the Inquiry would last for 12 (working) days. Week 1 would be taken up by Glenkerrin’s  presentations; followed by Ealing Council’s spilling into week 2; and then Rule 6 folks and then local residents spilling into week 3; followed by Conditions and Obligations.

SEC confirmed its batting order is:
Will French – Planning
Robert Gurd – ECS
Anthony Lewis- CAs
Eric Leach – Social and Community Infrastructure
Tony Miller – Transport
Nick Woodward – Sustainability
James Guest – Retail

Glenkerrin’s order:
Hugh Stewart –Architecture and Design
Robert Tavernor – Townscape and Heritage
Mike Axon – Transport
Julian Carter – Town Planning and Control

Ealing Council:
Dick Johns – Planning Policy
Brendon Walsh – Regeneration
Neal Bleakly – Development Management

The Inspector asked the audience who else wanted to speak and 27 people said they did. They were Alex Engler, Mike Harlow, Audrey Jones, Sian Vasey OBE (Ealing Centre for Independent Living), Corinne Templer, Louise Sheard (Christchurch School), Councillor Ms Phil Greenhead (HobbayneWard), Susan New, Arthur Breens (Kingsdown Residents Association), Julian Edmunds (Central Ealing Residents Association), Bill Soper, Simon Rowley/John Beeston (transport – EPTUG), Peter Smith (BID Co), Colin Bradbury, Patrick Kennedy (CoC), Zeta Warner, Anthony Elley, Councillor Phil Taylor (Northfields Ward), Councillor Anthony Young (Ealing Broadway Ward), Councillor Ann Chapman (Walpole Ward), Councillor Jon Ball (Ealing Common Ward), Patrick Chapman (Walpole Residents Association), John Rhodes, Clive Whitcroft, Tony Palmer, and Penny Mason (Ealing Village).

The Inspector asked for press to identify themselves. Mathew Lynch of BBC Inside Out announced his presence. Jon Ball said that Ealing Gazette would appear at lunch.

Glenkerrin promised a copy of a signed Section 106 agreement at the end of the Inquiry. Tom Cross, for Rule 6 folks, asked for an early copy of the draft of this, especially in connection with new transport facilities and arrangements.

Glenkerrin’s Russell Harris then delivered (i.e. read) his opening broadside. His contention was that Arcadia met the needs of Ealing’s Metropolitan Centre status. He used flowery and emotive language about the proposal like ‘thoughtful’, ‘well considered and elegant’, ‘policy context’, ‘Ealing Metropolitan Gateway marker’ and ‘ no return to history’.

The Lady in Black was up next on behalf of Ealing Council. She basically said that the Arcadia proposals ticked all the Council’s Scrutiny boxes.

Tom was up next for our side;

‘Buildings need to be in the right place’.

His contention was that Arcadia might be fine somewhere – but not here in the centre of Ealing. The context had been misunderstood. The proposals don’t relate to their surroundings. It’s too big; out of keeping with its surroundings; delivers inadequate social and community facilities – which S106 will not compensate for; doesn’t provide an integrated transport hub; and will change Ealing centre for ever.

The harm is serious.

Glenkerrin then started stating their case and pretty soon Hugh Stewart, a Partner at Foster+Parners spoke for a long time on the Architecture and Design of the Arcadia proposal. His absent minded Professor-like demeanour; Ealing Council’s positively Medieval public address facility; and sun streaming directly into the eyes of the public audience; made for a torrid, challenging time for all. That being said it was the first time for many of us that we got any real sort of feeling for the external physicality of the proposals. He laboured the point about re-connecting The Broadway to Haven Green – a connection lost with the arrival of GWR in 1838. A £multi-multi-million  development of rafting supporting high rise residential tower blocks was seemingly the only choice when a million pound bridge(s) would have effected this re-connection was lost on Mr Stewart. He justified the tall tower (which to me looks like a stack of curvaceous office mail trays) as being a ‘symbol of Ealing’, a ‘symbol of the centre’, a  ‘marker’ and ‘.. (people) will know where Ealing is’. These are all valid English words and valid combinations of English words but their sense escapes me.

Then, our Tom tore Mr Stewart to shreads.

Mr Stewart, apparently, had only been involved in the ‘evolution’ of the design of the tower (from 40 storeys to 26 storeys). HKR, the designers of the Arcadia ‘master plan’, were not speaking at the Inquiry. Mr Stewart had presented himself as an expert on the whole scheme when in fact he had ‘inherited’ this whole scheme when he became involved in June 2007.

Tom then tortured him on the aspect of ‘..good design should be integrated into the existing environment’; PPG3 ‘..paying very close attention to respecting scale, height, massing and appropriate materials; site selection; post site selection; Conservation Area issues; and appropriate and missing views.

(We had in the middle of all this broken for lunch and as Ealing Council’s £1 billion annual turnover couldn’t run to providing facilities in-house to water and feed us, our team repaired to Poco Loco in the Broadway who did us proud with excellent fast food and drink).

Mr, Stewart began his presentation lacking a certain confidence. By the end, his confidence seemed to have deserted him completely.

The Inspector then took questions from the audience – some of which severely tested Mr Stewart and Russell Harris had to step in at times. The inspector also asked some questions, some of which were taken for objections and comments he had received.

We then had the spectacle of Russell Harris trying to recover Mr Stewart’s performance by questioning him with questions that he could answer successfully. To my untuned eye this process is entered into in order to head off a subsequent Appeal in the grounds that ‘we weren’t allowed to rebut’.

Proceedings closed at 5:00pm.


Posted in regeneration

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A local residents’ group – West Ealing Neighbours (WEN) - Also runs WEN Abundance. We pick unwanted fruit and turn it into juice, cordial, jam and chutney to sell in the local area. All profits are ploughed back into the project. Please email wenabundance@gmail.com If you are interested in volunteering, or have a fruit tree to pick!

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