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

Day 8: Friday 3rd July 2009 | July 4, 2009

An even earlier start again today – at 9:00am. I suspect that the Applicant’s QCs have other residents to fry somewhere else next week and want to get on to their next lucrative cases. Maybe we’ll be starting at 8:00am come Thursday next week.

Now some words of praise for the Government Inspector David Richards. Under some prevarication from all sides at times he has shown a cool, fair head under fire. I have not heard a bad word spoken against him by anyone and he has of course that oh so vital human spark – a well developed sense of humour.

The grilling of James Guest on Retail Issues by Glenkerrin’s QC continued in the Welshman’s relentless obsessive, compulsive head-down style. In a none too pleasant spectacle to watch, Russell Harris quite rudely bullied, interrupted and bludgeoned James with his now well known expert-based approach. He rightly pointed out that James was not a retail expert, which was not surprising as James had explicitly admitted that right at the beginning. The QC paraded expositions from retail experts AV Grimley, Experian and Jones Laing Le Salle.

James’ contention is that selective use has been made of the retail projections in order to justify the increase of retail on the Arcadia site. The retail data being used by the Applicant is now 18 months old and the survey itself (the West London Retail Needs Study) is flawed in that it is based in a number of overly optimistic assumptions.

A highlight for me in the Howitzer and Mortar exchanges was when the QC gave James the chance to identify Philip Green’s retailers – six of them – who were examples or retailers fleeing from the centre of Ealing. Mr Harris bragged that one of his experts said retailers were queuing up to come to Ealing Arcadia. Strangely though he couldn’t name one of them.

The country’s most eminent Town Planner – Professor Sir Peter Hall – appeared next in opposition to Arcadia. This for me was the pivotal presentation at the whole Inquiry. In a stunning address he said Arcadia ‘would fatally and permanently compromise the built quality of one of the most remarkable suburban environments to be found anywhere in England.’ Two other gems were:

‘There can be no doubt that right across these areas the scale of the Glenkerrin development, above all the height of the towers, would impinge almost everything as a kind of visual shock, destroying at a stroke the scale and massing of the houses and their relation to the streets, and the Arcadian calm that is the entire area’s quintessential quality. To put it succinctly, even starkly, this development would destroy the essence of what Ealing is’.

‘Thus the basic problem with the proposal under consideration, I would submit, is that it starts from the wrong premise, proceeding through a perverse logic, to a fundamentally mistaken solution’.

The round of applause at the end of this presentation was the loudest and longest so far.

Sir Peter’s paper is from my perspective the most important paper presented at the Inquiry so far. It can now be seen in full on WENs website. http://www.westealingneighbours.org.uk

Peter Smith was next up. Poor man. Even JFK or Obama would have struggled to top Sir Peter. And mere Peter didn’t. As a former owner of the existing Arcadia Centre (not that he mentioned this) he spoke in favour of the proposals. He is the boss of The Business Improvement District (BID) company, which comprises a group of central Ealing retailers. What he also just forgot to tell us all is that 40% of all the BID companies are owned or directly controlled by Glenkerrin. There is nothing inherently wrong with conflict of interest or bias – the error is always when people don’t declare and explain that interest or bias.

Conservative Walpole Ward Councillor Ann Chapman spoke next. Walople is one of the five inner area Ealing Wards. She very eloquently, I thought, listed and explained the objections that 100s of her Ward constituents had delivered to her and the Council.

She was followed by Labour Councillor Phil Greenhead of Hobbayne Ward in Hanwell – the town you come to when traversing west from Arcadia after passing through West Ealing. This again was a measured but also passionate speech. She quite rightly highlighted the chronic housing needs and shortages throughout Ealing; the paucity of social housing these proposals contained; and the urban degradation, which was likely should Arcadia be built.

Local resident Colin Bradbury was next up. He is an ex-Professor of Clarinet at the Royal College of Music. He regaled us with details on our many fine amateur orchestras and choirs. But to our eternal shame Ealing provides no even adequate musical rehearsal or performance facilities he said. He ridiculed Morag Ellis QC’s advocacy of St Barnabas Church in Pitshanger as a performance venue by stating that even Paddington Station would be clearly a superior venue. The St Barnabas Church acoustics are appalling – the musicians themselves can’t hear what they are playing! As for performing in Ealing Town Hall, Mr Bradbury describes this as a joke and added that Victoria Hall as a music venue is completely unsuitable. And this is music. What about all the other performing arts? There are no cultural facilities in the town centre and no S106 monies specified for any cultural facilities in the Arcadia proposals. We need to scrap the Arcadia scheme; start again; and begin by asking the local community what it is that they want in the town centre. (Given Anthony Harris QC’s love a of experts it was indeed quite surprising that he did not want to tangle with ex-Professor Bradbury).

Applause from the audience was inevitable and there was indeed plenty if it.

Local resident Arthur Breens was next to speak. He made it clear that he was not opposed to change if it was reasonable, debated and carefully planned. He said that these Arcadia plans and the undemocratic machinations which surrounded them failed his tests on all fronts and by a considerable margin.

West Ealing’s Tony Elley spoke next and could not help himself in listing and describing failures of process by Ealing Council with regards to the Arcadia proposals generally and the infamous 17th December 2008 Planning Committee Meeting in particular. The Inspector had to stop him in his tracks a number of times I think for fears of libel. Tony had lived in Croydon and despaired at the way the town centre towers in his any many peoples’ views had ruined the town. He did not want this for Ealing.

After lunch LibDem Councillor Jon Ball spoke. He is one of the three elected representatives in Ealing Common Ward, one of the five central Ealing area Wards immediately east of the town centre. He spoke in opposition to the Arcadia proposals and was also ticked off by the Inspector for questioning the legality and probity of the infamous 17th December 2008 Planning Committee Meeting. However he did manage to air the miscounting and misrepresentation of the nature and content of objection and support letters re Arcadia.

Local resident and Springbridge Road shop owner Patrick Kennedy spoke in favour of the proposals.

The Inspector then brought things to an end by announcing that the Inquiry would sit next Tuesday beginning at 9:00am but not on Wednesday as he planned to spend the day viewing for himself on the ground all the many Ealing ‘views’ submitted to him. Thursday would be for Conditions and Obligations and the QCs’ summing ups.

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1 Comment »

  1. Curses! Looks like I missed the best day of the lot!
    At last the Welsh Wizzard seems to have come up agains witnesses of great reputation he can’t ignore.
    It seems great that at last Councillors can be allowed to truly represent their constituents views and not be gagged by the previous planning processes.
    Tuesday looks like a compulsive visiting day!

    Mike

    Comment by Mike — July 4, 2009 @ 8:17 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 wenabundance@gmail.com If you are interested in volunteering, or have a fruit tree to pick!

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