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

Day 9: Tuesday 7th July 2009 | July 8, 2009

I discovered yesterday that Conditions and S106 are now going to be discussed this morning and not on Thursday morning. This appears on the surface to be a bit odd as those residents/interest groups who have registered to speak – on issues including the School, disability and transport issues (EPTUG) – will not yet have been heard.

At 9:00am sharp, the Inspector announced the recent appearance of two letters. One was from Ealing Fields residents’ group dated 21st June 2009 opposing the development, and the other was from the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) commenting on the Arcadia planning application. The MPA letter to Ealing Planning Services dated 25 November 2008 was of great interest generally to all objectors and to me very specifically. I had lobbied hard in my Proof of Evidence for a Police Station on site. The MPA said ‘the provision of a safer neighbourhood team base with a front counter, located in an accessible and visible area is likely to enhance the vitality and viability of the area’.

The Conditions dialogue didn’t last too long. As there are 84 Conditions this was a comfort. The opposers were concerned that so many of the Conditions opened with ‘Notwithstanding the details submitted within the application’ it would allow the developer/Council combo to post-approval do their own thing. Glenkerrin’s mouthpiece Austin Harris QC quoted two recent Secretary of State call-ins in which this form of words had been acceptable. Audience numbers were in single figures at 9:00am but rose to over 25 by 10:00am and then stayed around that level and above all day.

There was little further discussion on Section 106 issues. Mr Austin pointed out that many of the S106 monies were paid 50% up front and the balance after 300 flats had been built (occupied perhaps).

Councillor Phil Taylor was next to speak. He supports the application. His Ward is Northfields. He said his constituents were largely unconcerned with Arcadia. He thought the big plus was that 79 families would be housed in Affordable Housing on the site. He tore a strip of Professor Sir Peter Hall for his not being able to see the bigger picture. Mr Taylor thought Crossrail was the key factor. We‘d all like a smaller building, but life’s a compromise – he said.

Mr Engler, a local construction engineer, opposed the development and he cited pollution, traffic congestion, and the likely failure of the retail offering as his main concerns.

Mark Sheard was up next. He is Chair of Governors of Christ Church School. He delivered an impassioned speech which detailed governors, staff and parents opposition to the application. He quoted in detail their objections with regard to inappropriate traffic management, adverse environmental impacts, child protection and poor disabled access. They also believe that the process leading to the submission and approval of the plans was at very best inadequate. He chided Ealing Council’s Brendon Walsh for claiming that the Arcadia application had the support of the diocesan Bishop and church land owners. They had not expressed any support for the application he said. He finally expressed his astonishment that Ealing Council should be pressing the school on the one hand to somehow increase its pupil numbers by 33% by 2012 in a spatially very restricted area and yet simultaneously approve planning application for flats and shops just 20 feet away. Why there was no co-operation between the developer, the Council and the school to fit the school expansion into the overall scheme is totally beyond him.

Local resident John Hummerston spoke next, As chair of Ealing Arts and Leisure he bemoaned the paucity of arts facilities in Ealing town centre and traced the history of  Ealing Council’s support in demonstrating the need for such facilities. However successive Councils, for over 16 years, had failed to come up with a master plan for Ealing centre and consequently failed to produce a cultural component of this. The Applicant’s health club ‘cultural’ S106 contribution was just a hopeless gesture he said. Other London boroughs had gained arts centres as part of Planning Gain – Tally Ho in North Finchley being an obvious example – so why not Ealing? Tarting up the Town Hall as an arts centre was also not a viable solution he said.

Ms Warner spoke next. She lives in Haven Green and she found many parts of the Arcadia application wanting. We need an appropriate re-development of the site she pleaded, but this application is not it.

Sue New spoke next. She has worked and lived in Ealing for many years. Sue is registered disabled. The Applicant’s expert witness Professor Tavernor came in for some criticism by Sue. Mr Tavernor had quoted from the writings of Jane Jacobs. Given that one of Ms Jacobs’ recognised mantras is ‘..to listen and reflect local views’ Glenkerrin’s Arcadia project has just not done this at all. She also quoted from the works of Oscar Newman in bemoaning the lack of ‘defensible space’ for flat dwellers. She emphasised the complete unsuitability of tall buildings for family occupation. The steps in the public realm and platform lifts are not attractive options for the disabled, the blind, the elderly or for those in buggies. Finally she pleaded that Ealing had been built on a human scale and that this development would destroy it.

An ex-law Lecturer and local resident – Ms Fernough – spoke next and she very eloquently slammed many aspects of the application. She was unhappy with the shade and gloom the towers would inflict; the inadequate car parking arrangements; the retail offering – will residents and visitors actually shop here; and accommodation affordable to who actually? What was needed was a strong leisure offering in the town centre, and a safe and attractive daytime and evening environment. We don’t have that now and Glenkerrin’s Arcadia won’t deliver it either she concluded.

Pauline Mason, Chair of Ealing Village Residents’ Association, spoke next. She represents some 400 people who live in the Grade II listed 1930s Dutch Colonial Baroque style estate 250 yards due east of Arcadia. She said that Arcadia would directly and negatively impact her village and quality of life. Block F will overlook the village and overlook the flats, grounds, clubhouse and swimming pool – breaching the listed status and residents’ right to privacy.

Ealing resident Pauline Gerosa was up next. She brought much needed levity to the proceeding by likening Block F to something one might find in an Ann Summers catalogue! She felt a better re-design of Ealing centre would be the creation of a pedestrian precinct and the re-routing of Uxbridge Road traffic to the north around Haven Green. What was needed, she said, to attract visitors to the centre was a mixed development of leisure, residential, commercial, and a conference centre/hotel.

Corinne Templer spoke next. She described herself as the dinosaur in the room. An Ealing resident for almost 50 years, she fought at a Public Inquiry in this very same room 30 years ago when property developers came to Ealing with completely insensitive tower block and concrete retail centre proposals. That Inquiry took five weeks and the developer lost. What finally emerged in 1985, when the Queen opened Ealing Broadway Centre, was a retail centre designed in sympathy with the red brick, Victorian/Edwardian residential heritage.

The Mayor’s Ealing Metropolitan Centre concept was fatally flawed she said – just as its predecessor GLC Ealing Strategic Centre concept from the 1960s was flawed. Ealing town centre and West Ealing town centre are very different communities; they act independently; are not even spatially adjacent; and are separated by a significant office alley.

She traced the history of the Dickens Yard sell off going back to 2004; along with the various Glenkerrin ‘offerings’. Corinne was the progenitor of Save Ealing’s Centre (SEC) which came into being to fight Glenkerrin’s Leaf development in late 2007. SEC – 26 local residents’ and community groups working together – has lead the fight against inappropriate town centre developments ever since. 1,000s of residents have written objecting to Arcadia on four separate occasions. It appears that very few substantive support letters have ever been submitted. The 17th December 2008 Ealing Council Planning Committee meeting which approved Arcadia involved no public debate and a shocked local residents’ audience was appalled.

She described the Arcadia plans as unimaginative and bland, a gross over development, and featuring an ugly tower. We need quirkiness and humanity to return to Ealing centre she said. SEC represents the views of over 12,000 Ealing residents. 350 residents have given donations ranging from £5 to £1,000 to pay SEC’s legal costs. This shows the depth and width of support – and it’s not just town centre residents who have given and continue to give. She urged the Inspector to follow the lead of his colleague 30 years ago and recommend refusal of this application.

Applause was inevitable and fulsome.

Simon Rowley spoke next. He is co-founder of Ealing Passenger Transport Users Group (EPTUG) in 2001. He also lives close by to the Arcadia site. He said that EPTUG objects to Arcadia because it has missed opportunities to improve transport, and if it goes ahead , it will probably serve to prevent the improvements we are looking for from ever happening. These lost opportunities are prevention of railway expansion, making a transport interchange, and providing safer access to Ealing Broadway Station.

Sian Vasey was the next speaker. She is Director of the Ealing Centre for Independent Living, which represents the interests of mobility impaired people. She is registered disabled. She pointed out that there are 27,000 registered disabled residents in Ealing. New developments need to design-in facilities for the disabled. Uxbridge’s Chimes and White City’s Westfield has done this. Arcadia does not do this. She then proceeded to describe in some detail how variously the design and location of steps, lifts, disabled parking bays, and disabled toilets in the application were seriously wanting.

Central Ealing Residents Association (CERA) presented next. Julian Edmunds described the planning process and the proposal itself as fatally flawed. CERA finds the massive cost of building huge structures over the railway unacceptable, and the scale and density of the development a price not worth paying. On the retail front residents want a supermarket and a major ‘comparison goods’ store (John Lewis, Debenhams) and individual/independent shops. Arcadia will provide none of these.  Damage to Haven Green would be significant. It would be walled in to the south; its spaciousness eliminated; ringed by yet more traffic; suffer raised levels of pollution; and be overshadowed by day and polluted by light at night.

 CERA’s John Rhodes then took over. The major feature of his presentation was a very visual representation of year-round, substantial shadowing of Haven Green post Arcadia – which could be found nowhere in the Arcadia proposal. Further Mr Rhodes demonstrated that the Arcadia shadowing plans for Spring and Autumn are misleading and the extent of shadowing has been misrepresented. Glenkerrin refused the opportunity to challenge Mr Rhodes’ evidence, which presumably meant that they did not dispute it.

Bill Soper of CERA was up next. As both a qualified and practising architect and town planner of many years standing his comments on the Arcadia plans carried some natural authority. He questioned the ‘authenticity’ of some of Professor Tavernor’s computer enhanced Arcadia-added pictures. He questioned various Arcadia daylight measurements. His assertion that the space between the high-rise towers in some places was as narrow as 14.5 meters drew gasps from the audience. He quoted the relevant space gap standard as being 21 metres. He explained how the north facing residential tower dwellers will not enjoy any daylight in their living rooms. He also was certain that the Fire Service would have difficulty in signing off the development with regards to Building Regulations.

Anthony Harris QC fulminated about just a few of these points, catching Bill out on details in documents he hadn’t seen. He was positively triumphant is telling us all that the Fire Service had ‘signed off’ the planning application. Subsequently it became obvious that Bill’s Fire Service point was about Building Regulations and not the planning application itself. Significantly Mr Harris did not challenge Bill’s evidence on the accuracy of many of the submitted Arcadia skyline views or on the worrying failure in meeting minimum space distances between tower blocks.

Councillor Anthony Young spoke next. He’s an Ealing Broadway Conservative Ward Councillor and has been so for an incredible 30 years. He opposes the planning application. His concerns are the effect on Haven Green; the need for more open space (but where); the flawed retail offering (the boarded up new Daniels would-be department store can’t be ignored); and the educational impact in an area with an ever increasing baby population.

Walpole Residents’ Association Chair Patrick Chapman was up next. He delivered an emotional speech. He said in essence that the planning brief for the site was all about regeneration. However the proposal fails to meet this simple requirement and 1,000s of local stakeholders can see this, but have been ignored.

 Local resident and internationally acclaimed documentary film maker Tony Palmer was up next. He immediately launched into an acclamation of Russell Harris QC’s achievements and star status. He correctly identified Mr Harris as the public face of Glenkerrin at this and other Public Inquiries. This found much favour with much of the regular attendees at the Inquiry as we’d all watched over many days of the Inquiry Sean O’Gorman Glenkerrin’s UK boss shuffle in; sit at the back of his pack of consultants and Ealing Council ‘partners’; checking his emails on his laptop; and taking no public part in the proceedings.

Tony then launched into an attack on Mr Harris by revealing the somewhat shocking fact that Mr Harris sits on the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. (CABE). As Mr Harris had many times during the Inquiry gone to great lengths to extol the virtues of CABE’s support for the application – but at no time revealing his ‘interest’ in CABE – his credibility, for me and others, hit an all time low.

Mr Palmer warmed to his subject and took Mr Harris to task yet again on the subject of a Norman Foster tower block designed specifically for Ealing. Tony said that he knew that Ealing was the FOURTH place in the world that this tower had been ‘sold’ too – the other three had turned it down. Mr Harris at no time refuted this fact. Tony said that Foster’s should be ashamed of themselves and that Russell Harris QC should also be ashamed. At this point the Inspector warned Tony that his comments were too personal in nature and that he should tone them down. Tony said he’d try. (We had this same Inspector intervention two more times).

Tony then delivered a passionate denunciation of retail based regeneration, saying it’s not working elsewhere and it won’t work here. Ealing Council is touting Arcadia as the only show in town and that the world will end if Arcadia doesn’t go ahead. But where’s the reasons for people to come to the centre? Where’s the cinema, concert hall, conference centre, and hotel? We have some of the best orchestras and choirs in the country but these folks have nowhere locally to rehearse in or perform in. Ealing deserves better he demanded.

£5,000 S106 for some public art is a joke he said. Look at what Newcastle has done with its new arts centre and museum. Look at the new concert hall as part of the removal of the 1950s Bullring in Birmingham. The Sydney local authority didn’t want the Sydney Opera House – it was residents that demanded it and now it’s world famous.

Network Rail say that Ealing Broadway Station (EBS) is the third worst rail station in the country. Would Brunel have settled for the dump that EBS currently is?  Crossrail is only about the railway. We need some imagination in repurposing the whole transport hub. Look at the stunning remodelling of St Pancras, Westminster tube station and Tottenham Court Road tube station. Why can’t we have similar innovation here in Ealing? Ealing Council haven’t even appointed someone to liaise with Network Rail with regards EBS redevelopment.

Refuse this application; seize the chance; and give alternative ideas a chance – he concluded.

Clapping and cheering immediately followed and was sustained.

Then up popped Councillor Potts another Conservative Ealing Broadway Councillor and Chair no less of Ealing Council Planning Committee. I’d not seen him before at the Inquiry. He launched into a tirade about how he’d voted against the application and that the planning application process had been above board and ‘legal’. This was met with mostly a stunned silence. Mr Potts decided to keep the reasons for his objection to Arcadia a secret – as he had done for the last six months. Patrick Chapmann stood up to respond to Mr Potts but the Inspector was having none of it as this ‘process’ debate was not within the scope of the Public Inquiry.

The Inspector then finalised his arrangements for accompanied and unaccompanied walks around the town centre on Wednesday. We all re-convene again at 12:15 pm on Thursday for final statements, Conditions nitty gritty and Section 106 sign-off.

 

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1 Comment »

  1. Thanks very much for this informative and lively account of the proceedings. It’s a great public service for those who aren’t able to attend in person.

    Comment by Isabelle Clark — July 9, 2009 @ 12:56 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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