St Helens letter to H&F planners

A copy of our formal objections to the Imperial West planning application can be seen at this link SHRA to LBHF on Imperial West application.V6

The application was submitted in December 2011, but has yet to be decided.  Submission of a report to the LBHF Planning Applications Committee has been deferred twice.   The latest expected date for a decision is 10th July 2012.

Our earlier letter of objection

Below is the text of the October 2011 letter sent by the St Helens Residents Association to the Director of Environment at Hammersmith & Fulham Council. We received a reply, but it simply asserted that the planning approval was ‘rigorous’ and did not answer our questions about the 2004 White City OAPF.

Dear Mr Pallace,

White City OAPF and Woodlands development

I am writing on behalf of the St Helens Residents Association.  As you will be aware, we are strongly opposed to the height and scale of proposals for Phase 2 of the Imperial development at the Woodlands site.

The more we look into the detail of the planning process for Phase 1, the more we are concerned that the Council acted in breach of its own planning policies.  We appreciate that the planning context for Phase 2 will be changed, given the adoption of the new Core Strategy.   But in the meantime we are seeking an explanation from the council on the following facts.

1. The report to the Planning Applications Committee on October 13th 2010 states clearly (para 3.1 on Planning Considerations) ‘The Woodlands site is located within the wider regeneration area subject to the White City Opportunity Area Framework for Development adopted as supplementary policy guidance (SPG) in 2004.’

2. The 2004 White City OAPF states equally clearly (para 4.2.4) ‘North of the A40 building height and massing must respect the adjacent residential area’

3. The Woodlands site is the only site in the White City OAPF which lies north of the A40.

 4. The committee report of October 13th makes no mention of this key feature of the planning context.

An ordinary person reading the statements in 1 and 2 and having knowledge of 3 would reasonably assume that the words ‘subject to’ and ‘must’ mean what they say, i.e. that the planning context for this site has a firm inhibition on the construction of very tall buildings.

The new version of the White City OAPF may well say something different on the subject of building heights.  The first draft consulted on in the summer did so, and resulted in objections/petitions from very many local residents.  We wait to see the second draft.

In the meantime, we would like a formal explanation of why the committee, when determining the Phase 1 application in October 2010 was not advised of the council’s own SPG policy, adopted in July 2004 and specific to this site (this being the only piece of land in the OAPF to which the policy statement applies).  Surely this was a material consideration which the committee should have taken into account?

As far as we can see, there may be two reasons:

a) it was inconvenient to remind councillors of this aspect of SPG guidance, when it was in conflict with the officer recommendation to approve the scheme.

b) the report author was unaware of, or did not check, the wording of the 2004 OAPF and instead relied on the planning context material provided in the Environmental Statement which accompanied the application.  This too makes no mention of the policy statement in 2) above, although it chose to include a quotation from the very same paragraph which gave some support to the idea of tall buildings in the OAPF.

We are very unhappy that the developer’s consultants (Jones Lang LaSalle) chose to quote selectively from the 2004 SPG when preparing the Environmental Statement.  We might accept that this sort of behaviour is typical of consultants trying to push through approval for a project, but we would have expected it to be picked up and remedied by the council as planning authority, when giving advice to committee.

At present, we are unable to explain to local residents why it was, given the statements in 1 and 2 above, that the council went ahead and approved 10 storey buildings which manifestly do not respect the neighbouring Oxford Gardens/St Quintins Conservation Area.   (We are even more at a loss as to how to explain proposals for a 34 story building in Phase 2 of the development, but that is a separate issue, yet to be decided by the council).

We have been advised recently that little material weight is now given to the 2004 OAPF, given the deletion of UDP Policy E1 on Employment Zones.   We find this a very unconvincing argument.  The 2004 OAPF dealt with many issues other than employment.  The passage in the document quoted above is not related to Employment issues, but to building heights (and is policy consistent with PPS-5).  Para 1.8 of the document states ‘It is also intended that the framework will form part of the new Local Development Framework for the whole borough when that is prepared in accordance with the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004’.   It seems clear to us that the 2004 OAPF remains relevant until replaced by the new version – yet to be formally consulted on.

We await your response as to whether a) or b) above gives the answer to our question, or whether there is some other explanation. 

We will also be studying the Environmental Statement submitted by the developers for Phase 2 with great care.  The scoping application submitted recently (on which we have submitted comments) shows every sign of similar economies with the truth, in its description of the site surroundings and the planning context.

 Yours sincerely

 Clare Singleton, Chair SHRA

5 thoughts on “St Helens letter to H&F planners

  1. Surely this is simple NIMBYism – except that the development is hardly in your particular backyard – any more than it is in every West Londoner’s backyard. If a criterion for major developments in London was that they should not be visible from a Conservation Area, then nothing much would ever get built. Personally, I am pleased that the concept of high rise residential dwellings is being resurrected – as someone else has commented, it’s clearly the way to go.

    • If this is nimbyism, the local community would be against any proposed development on the site. All that is requested is a development that is sympathetic to the surrounding area.There is no need for such a monolithic and brutalist design with 15 – 35 storeys, unless it is a money making concern.

  2. The reality is that at some stage, we have to build upwards. London is too crowded to continue to exist with only 2 storey housing. This is the future and we have to adapt.

  3. I support wholeheartedly the campaign by St Helens Residents Association to try to bring Hammersmith and Fulham Council to its senses. The H & F “mission statement” to “put residents first” is utterly hypocritically: putting developers first, first and first is actually their “mission”!

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