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

Day 2: Wednesday 24th June 2009 | June 24, 2009

I walked into the Inquiry at 10:10am with LSE Professor Robert Tavernor in full swing on the subjects of Townscape and Heritage in support of developers Glenkerrin. This guy’s qualifications and credentials filled up four pages of A4 in his Proof of Evidence.

I soon began to glaze over – partly because he spoke in an unenthusiastic monotone and partly because he was attempting the impossible i.e. trying to talk about architecture. The latter is as impossible as people trying to speak about performances of music or art. I soon got irritated by his bizarre use of language e.g. calling the tall tower a ‘Lantern’; ‘sinuous balconies’;‘stable anchor’; and ‘..can be held in the mind as representing place.’

He made great play of the tall tower being a landmark and how it needed to be the landmark of Ealing Metropolitan Centre (EMC). It did occur to me what ‘harm’ would be done to the EMC if it didn’t have a landmark. He also made great play on the fact that it was a residential landmark. The latter could have a smaller footprint than an office landmark he said (oh really what about Centrepoint in W1?). Also Ealing’s creation was a result of the massive Victorian/Edwardian residential villas, semis and terraces building programmes following the railway and underground’s arrival in Ealing. Hence a residential landmark of 26 storeys?

I was yearning at this point for someone in the audience to jump up and yell ‘this is all bulshxt’ – but folks were much too polite for that.

He made it clear that the final (of four) different iterations of the tower design in the Planning Application was thrashed out by the London Mayor, Tavernor, the Fosters+Partners team, and CABE. This seems completely intuitively wrong. Why weren’t immediately adjacent residents, residents groups (GRASS, CERA, WRA), and Ealing Town Centre/Haven Green Conservation Panel representatives involved in this ‘final’ or indeed the initial designs?

The Professor lost the plot completely at one point and referred to our town as Epping!

He also said that the Arcadia tower was great because it was designed by the world’s leading architects. This is a bit like saying this painting is by Picasso therefore it must be a great piece of art.

Views, renditions and images were endlessly described by the witness for what seemed like an hour.

After lunch, SEC’s barrister Tom Cross began cross examining the Professor. He began with a factual question. How high is the tower? Tavernor didn’t know, and none of the Glenkerrin and Ealing Council teams knew either. Just how sloppy and arrogant is that? Eventually someone on his team came up with a height which was soon corrected as the original height given was height above sea level (Above Ordnance Datum – AOD – in architectural jargon).

The Professor then got progressively irritated as Tom asked him to comment on the vast differences between the Arcadia proposals and what existed around the site re materials, heights, solids to voids, shapes, colours and look and feel. He also forensically went through the details of the recent Conservation Area Character Appraisals  and Tavernor was clearly not happy with this.

At the end of this, Tom actually raised his voice slightly (for the first time) and said that ‘..Arcadia will effect radical change to the character of both Ealing Town Centre and Haven Green Conservation Areas’.

The Professor’s parting shot to Tom was that Arcadia was ‘great architecture’

The Inspector then asked the audience to ask questions.

Val Clover, a local resident raised the terrorist angle – tall ‘landmark’ tower; on top of a major rail route; next to a major station; close to shopping and residential areas. The inspector made small attempts to curtail her point – but she got it out anyway. He said the Professor was the wrong formal witness to deal with this. He said someone else subsequently would answer her question. However I personally doubt that the subject is dealt with at all by any of the Statutory or Rule 6 witnesses.

Sue New wanted Tavernor to tell her how a community was going to be created in Arcadia; why we’d had four tower designs – two in one month alone; and she wanted the public to have access to the top of the tower. I didn’t detect she got any of these questions answered.

Julian Edmunds then asked 10+ questions mostly on views and many that had already been dealt with.

By this stage I was hot and sticky in the unchilled room on a hot day. Russell Harris QC for Glenkerrin had his rebuttal against Tom’s and other’s points. Before we slipped away into the hot Broadway air we received the joyous news that we would have to switch rooms within the Town Hall for tomorrow’s sessions. Tomorrow it’s Glenkerrin’s Transport witness Mike Axon.

Government Inspector David Richards deserves some praise here for the very fair way he’s conducted the proceedings so far. He’s given everyone ample chance to speak, respond and do research.

Posted in regeneration


  1. Thank you Eric. Thank you Thank you. I was holding off my next session until the Council speak but how can we resist not going on Thursday? We know the place its about our town, we are experts,we can judge but if we have to go to work then thank you again Eric. Arthur

    Comment by Arthur Breens — June 24, 2009 @ 10:05 pm

  2. Thank you so much for this informative and entertaining blog, Eric. I would like to know whether Arthur intends to take his scale model of the Tower into the enquiry with him when he speaks. I thought it a most eye-catching prop when he was leafleting in the snow earlier this year.

    Comment by Allison Franklin — June 25, 2009 @ 7:15 am

  3. Excellent reporting Eric with a nice mix of fact and observation. Keep going if you can as it will provide us all with a valuable reference in the future.

    Comment by Will French — June 25, 2009 @ 8:00 am

  4. Brilliant, very ‘vivid’. Like being there but without the ‘sweat’. Thanks Eric

    Comment by Gillma — June 25, 2009 @ 8:09 am

  5. Makes me think of To Kill A Mockingbird and Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil – important formal procedures taking part in hot, uncomfortable conditions.

    Comment by Allan — June 25, 2009 @ 11:29 am

  6. i am surprised not to see any of the following phrases in relation to day two of the inquiry…
    “slippery as a fish”
    “sold his soul to the devil”
    “nasty piece of work”

    Thank you Eric, keep up the good work.

    Comment by unknown — June 26, 2009 @ 1:13 pm

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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 If you are interested in volunteering, or have a fruit tree to pick!







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