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

Day 4: Friday 26th June 2009 | June 26, 2009

Cooler today – thank goodness and the microphones worked well at least 90% of the time. Between 12 to 16 residents attended today.

Up first was Ealing Council’s Regeneration supremo Brendon Walsh. Brendon’s demeanour was somewhat humourless and robot like. He tried to sell to everyone in the room the quality, robustness and consistency of the Council’s regeneration activities and plans. The Council first articulated a rendition of site development plans in 2002.

Brendon came up with a phrase which he first used on me in a meeting with him in January 2007.

‘Ealing is not punching its weight’. My 2007 and my here and now (unspoken) reaction to this sporting aphorism was/is ‘well lose some weight, and fight in a lower weight division’.

He said that Section 106 contributions would be used for social and community and sports and leisure facilities. He didn’t say what size these contributions would be or what or where such facilities would be provided. One did begin to wonder where a new school, police station, health centre, community centre, five-a-side football pitch, basketball courts, snooker hall and skate board park would be located in the Ealing Metropolitan Centre. Locating them in Northolt, Greenford or Southall might not actually bring water to the central Ealing social and community services ‘desert’.

He also said that many (unnamed) retailers and developers were waiting with bated breath so see if the Government accepted or rejected the Arcadia planning application. If it was approval it would persuade these folks to invest in Ealing centre. It’s an interesting opinion, but my sources tell me that many developers are pre-occupied with surviving; have great difficulty raising finance for new projects; and may not still be in business when the Inspector announces his decision in November 2009.

Mr Walsh was positively apocalyptic when contemplating the Inspector refusing the application. He said it would be ‘devastating’. It would lead to piece-meal development; ‘disaggregation’; the ‘Gateway’ would be diminished; and we’d have a town centre unfit for purpose. I chewed on this for a while. If Arcadia were to be refused the sky would not fall in; the roads would not collapse; and we wouldn’t be visited by locusts, famine and pestilence. In fact our poor quality of Ealing centre life would continue but we’d still get by more or less as usual.

However were Arcadia to be refused it could be devastating for Ealing Council’s Regeneration Team. Regeneration plans in South Acton, Acton centre, and Green Man Lane Estate are getting a hammering in the press and by local residents. The Dickens Yard planning application hasn’t reached The London Mayor yet and is still ‘stuck’ in conflict with developers St George at Perceval House seven months after Ealing Planning Committee blessed it. If Arcadia is lost surely the expensive Regeneration Team cannot survive on just cosmetic ‘restyling’ of paving stones, park entrances, flower beds and the like. So that could be where the devastation actually occurs.

Brendon assured us that the country would emerge from Recession. He also, without any supporting evidence, stated that those living close to Arcadia like the GRASS (Gordon Road) folks were objectors, but those that lived ‘further out’ were ‘very supportive’. I live ‘further out’. But the biggest bit of hubris came when he decided to comment on Public Consultation results. He said that it was important to hear what residents wanted but consultants’ views were more important….

It crept out that almost £1 million S106 money would be spent on an Arts Centre. (I’ve just been part of a team that has spent around £500,000 on a smallish tennis clubhouse and I can assure you that you can’t build much of an Arts Centre for 300,000 people with £1 million). Brendon talked about re-purposing the Town Hall as both a seat of Local Government and a Conference Centre/Community Centre/Arts Centre.

The Inspector was concerned about the large number of residents who wrote objecting to Arcadia and the retailing risk given current voids and the rise of the very accessible Westfield, along with Oxford Street.

Ealing Council’s Dick Johns witnessed next on Planning Policy. Dick is an eminently likeable and honest man. I say this even though in his presentation he tried to destroy my Proof of Evidence!

I found myself pinching myself at 12:05 pm as Dick began discussing details on how able-bodied/disabled bodied/parent:bay combos would move around the housing estate. So…after around 20 hours or so of the Inquiry …..we were actually – for the very first time – discussing human being issues concerning actually living in Arcadia.

As yet formally unconfirmed, more S106 figures and details began to emerge:

£180,000: Shopmobility Scheme
£924,000: Arts centre/Community Centre/Sports Facilities/Concert Hall
£986,000: Schools
£400,000: Healthcare
£1,262,125: Parks Improvements

In my Proof of Evidence I describe the centre of Ealing as a ‘desert’ with respect to social and community facilities. Dick surprised me when he critiqued this whole section. Later in the day Ealing Council’s QC Morag Ellis announced that she would not be interrogating me on my proof. I then realised that by Dick attacking me in his so called ‘Chief’ submission, during which I could not interrogate him. Now that Morag isn’t going to have a go at me I won’t be able to respond directly! I guess that’s why the QCs are, allegedly, on £500/hour!

I could here on this blog give my response to Dick’s critique, but because SEC wants to ‘win’ this Public Inquiry I want to share my response with our barrister Tom over the weekend and no doubt we’ll get my response into the Inquiry next week (kick-off 10:00am Tuesday) in Queens Hall this time. BTW those residents who registered to speak on Day I of the inquiry will almost certainly be asked to speak on Friday 3rd July – so you should attempt to be there on that day.

But saving the best to last….

DICK  JOHNS  EFFECTIVELY  SAID  THAT  EALING  COUNCIL HAD  NO TALL  BUILDINGS  POLICY

Have a nice weekend everybody.

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Posted in regeneration

3 Comments »

  1. I was there all today and, as you say Eric, the whole day seemed to be about Ealing’s overall plans (or lack of) for the whole borough rather then Arcadia.
    The only light was the disabled access discussion (no mention of how the proposed open-air chairlifts would survive the English weather/vandalism/lack of maintenance or how disabled passenger carrying vehicles would negotiate the overcrowded underground car parking to get to lifts) and confirmation that one could descend into the bowels (SIC) of the earth to cope with the calls of nature.
    Brendon’s comments that a huge faceless series of blocks and a bleak outlook onto the broadway would be more attractive and more iconic than an existing mixture of historic and varied buildings were interesting to say the least.
    Lets hope next week gets down to more of the ‘nitty gritty’ subject of Arcadia itself!

    Comment by Mikey — June 26, 2009 @ 9:46 pm

  2. Forgot to say that I understand Dick John’s comments about the untidy/tacky rear views of Broadway buildings presented to Haven Green but I am sure we would all prefer a nice line of trees to screen the view rather than a series of tower blocks blocking out the sun and making it feel enclosed.
    I also note that the Bus Interchange on Haven Green was mentioned as being about to be resurrected and that even The Inspector suggested it would actually allow more open space – nothing about the pollution and degraded outlook to the shops on the East side.
    It is all skirting around the need for a proper interchange where it belongs – over the station.
    Much was made of improved and triumphal access from the station into the Arcadia site – a new pedestrian crossing – WOW!

    Comment by Mikey — June 27, 2009 @ 8:41 am

  3. A very entertaining and enlightening read again, Eric. Thank you for keeping us up to date. The first week sounds turgid if all it has been is the batting backwards and forwards of legislative interpretations but I guess that’s how planning inquiries work – it’s about who can triumph in the theoretical debate, not who has the best nuts-and-bolts ideas for living on a human scale.

    Onwards and upwards.

    Comment by Allison Franklin — June 28, 2009 @ 7:49 am


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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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