The Curve rears its ugly head again

The developer of the Chiswick Curve has announced that it is appealing against the London Borough of Hounslow’s refusal to grant planning permission for a 32 storey tower and three enormous digital advertising hoardings at Chiswick roundabout.

Residents in Chiswick thought they’d seen off the tower block threat when Hounslow Council Planning Committee turned it down unanimously in January on the advice of their planning officials. Now the fight will have to begin all over again if the council is to win its case.

Public Inquiry

It’s not yet known on what grounds the developers are appealing. West Chiswick & Gunnersbury Society, who have been leading the opposition to the Curve, has been taken somewhat by surprise by the appeal, as they thought the developer would make a few changes and resubmit their application with amendments.

Chairman of the WCGS, Marie Rabouhans told me they now find themselves in the novel position of supporting the council, whereas historically they have usually found themselves in opposition.

The Government’s Planning Inspectorate has written to Marilyn Smith, Hounslow’s Chief Planning Officer, to advise the council of the appeal and that it will be the subject of a Public Inquiry, which is expected to last at least three days. Marie will be asking for West Chiswick & Gunnersbury Society to be represented at the Inquiry and for permission to speak against the development.

In order for the council to defeat the appeal, it will need public support in the form of written objections, for which the deadline is 19th September (see below).

A blot on the landscape

On what grounds does Hounslow Council and local residents oppose the Curve? The Chief Planning Officer advised the council to refuse planning permission primarily on the grounds of ugliness. The skyscraper was just too tall and would stick out in the surrounding landscape, blighting the view for miles around and most notably changing the aspect from the river and Kew Gardens. The ‘substantial harm’ would outweigh any public benefit and it would ruin the skyline.

It was not just residents’ and community groups who opposed the development. Opposition was cross party and included institutions such as English Heritage. West Chiswick & Gunnersbury Society also argued that the Curve would increase traffic congestion and put added pressure on public transport and Chiswick’s infrastructure as well as increasing air pollution. For more details of the case against the Curve, go to WCGS website.

Or watch the interviews I recorded last year at the public meeting organised to galvanise opposition, with Marie Rabouhans

Barbara Weiss, the architect and founder of the Skyline Campaign

And Andrea Lee, campaigner for clean air.

Now write a letter

Opponents of the Curve now have until 19th September to write to the Inspectorate. Marie says:

“If these Appeals are to be defeated, it is essential that as many of us as possible write to the Planning Inspectorate explaining why we support the Council’s refusal”.

The easiest way to send your comments is to e-mail them to the Planning Inspectorate case officer, Elizabeth Humphreys:

Put the Appeal reference as the subject. The reference for the main appeal for the building is APP/F5540/W/17/3180962; you can include comments on the linked appeal for the media screens (APP/F5540/Z/17/3173208) within the same document provided you indicate this clearly. Give the address of the appeal site [Land at Chiswick Roundabout, London W4 4QB] and provide your name and address.

Meet the Chiswick in Pictures artists

Chiswick in Pictures

I have spent a happy few days drawing squares and rectangles on graph paper, cutting them out and incessantly rearranging them. Why? Because The Chiswick Calendar is organising an exhibition.

Since its inception our website has featured the work of local photographers and artists with a different picture of Chiswick on the home page each day and for the best part of three years I’ve been thinking about drawing some of that work together for people to see on display. With the collaboration of the Clayton Hotel Chiswick this idea is now coming to fruition.

Called ‘Chiswick in Pictures’ the exhibition will run from Thursday 7 September until Saturday 28 October at the Clayton Hotel Chiswick, 626 Chiswick High Rd, W4 5RY and will feature the work of 16 local artists and photographers, including that of some of Chiswick’s best known artists, Francis and Jason Bowyer and Liz Butler.

The Bowyers are a well-known family of artists. Jason Bowyer P.P.N.E.A.C., R.P, P.S is a member of the New English Art Club and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. Born and bred in Chiswick, he went to Chiswick School before training at the Camberwell School of Art and the Royal Academy. As well as teaching and exhibiting, he has been artist in residence at Fulham Football Club and Championship artist for Wimbledon. His TV appearances include ‘Watercolour Challenge’ with Hannah Gordon for Channel Four and ‘Britain and the Sea’ with David Dimbleby for BBC1.

Francis Bowyer P.P.R.W.S., N.E.A.C.​ studied at St Martin’s School of Art and Chelsea School of Art. He too is a member of the New English Art Club and exhibits regularly at the Royal Watercolour Society, where he served for three years as president. Winner of The Arts Club Prize at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 1994 and the Turner Watercolour Prize in 2014, his work is held in the Royal Collection and H.R.H. The Prince of Wales Collection, so we’ll be in good company looking at his pictures. Both brothers did a stint at Count Bastion in Afghanistan as War Artists with REME, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

Liz Butler, MA, RWS was born in Cumbria and educated at Liverpool College of Art and the Royal College of Art. She is well known for her miniature paintings of gardens and her use of pure watercolour. She has been a member of the Royal Watercolour Society for more than 20 years and her work is in several major collections including the Government Art Collection, the Royal Collection, Harewood House and the National Postal Archive.

Their work will appear alongside that of other local artists whose work is regularly shown in galleries and open studios: landscape artist Joanna Brendon MBE, MA, watercolourist and illustrator Christine Berrington, mixed media artists Jane Price and Jenny Price, print makers Rachel Busch and Rennie Pilgrem, landscape artists Natalia Bobrova, Patricia Wyndham and Arabella Harcourt-Cooze who paints river landscapes in oils, and Jill Meager whose superb birds and animals are drawn in charcoal and pastels.

The photographers’ work you will recognise from The Chiswick Calendar website. Jon Perry is well-known in Chiswick for his artistic landscapes. His picture of a fox having a fish and chip supper on Chiswick High Rd won him a place in last year’s British Wildlife Photography awards.

Anna Kunst is better known for her portrait photography, capturing moments of emotion and turning them into evocative images, but she also places those moments of human interaction in the setting of familiar Chiswick landscapes. Barbara Chandler is known as a street photographer through her prestigious shows in the West End, her book Love London and her prints and textiles which have sold worldwide from London to New York, Paris, Milan, Dublin and Tokyo.

Twenty percent of the sale price of all the work on show will go to Great Ormond Street Hospital. The exhibition will be in a public area in the hotel and you can just wander in and have a look at any time during the show, not forgetting that your Chiswick Calendar club card will get you a ten percent discount in the bar and the restaurant.

Get out of your cars and pedal your bikes!

Guest blog by Ruth Mayorcas

Even small increases in physical activity among those who are the least active can bring great health benefits. As the former Chief Medical Officer noted:
“The potential benefits of physical activity to health are huge. If medication existed which had a similar effect, it would be regarded as a ‘wonder drug’ or miracle cure”.

Cycling not cyclist

I gave a short presentation to the Chiswick Area Forum a couple weeks ago at which I called on the Councillors to support measures which are to be introduced by both the Local Council and the GLA to improve the Air Quality and the Street Scene in Chiswick. This is how I prefaced it.

Air Pollution in Chiswick

We know that Air Pollution is at an all-time high in the London Borough of Hounslow as a whole and not least in Chiswick. This is in part because we are close to Heathrow Airport but also because the main A4/M4 corridor all the way from Wales continues through here, effectively cutting Chiswick in two and making getting across from Grove Park to the High Rd for local residents a huge headache; traffic flows from the A316 which use Sutton Ct Rd as a main route through to the High Road and beyond compound the problem.

Increase in Diabetes & Obesity

Along with Pollution which is killing thousands of Londoners year on year there is an increase in obesity and diabetes brought about by inactivity. Walking and cycling in traffic calmed and quieter roads would improve the health of so many, thereby saving the NHS millions of pounds each year.

This photo shows the result of all this traffic and how the High Road looks on a Sunday – note how the cycle lane is totally covered in parked cars and how a bus is stuck west bound. Instead of a pleasant space making walking, cycling and eating al fresco an enjoyable experience it is one of Pollution – both air and noise.

Increasing congestion

I have lived in Chiswick for forty years, since 1976 and have always cycled – in the 70s and 80s it was a normal thing to do. As time went on car ownership increased along with school choice meaning the school run came into being.

In 2002-3 I was part of a team of parents at both Belmont Primary School and Chiswick Community School working with the teachers on the ‘Safe Routes to School’ scheme which had been introduced by the Government of the time and to which every school had to sign up. Surveys were carried out with the pupils and up to 70% said they would like to cycle if they could. Unfortunately very little progress was made before the scheme was disbanded in 2010. In spite of the reintroduction of the scheme recent efforts have been unsuccessful. Amusingly, my son who was cycled to school every day as a child once asked if I could be a ‘normal’ mother and drive!

Unfortunately there is push-back from locals who defend their right to drive to school, to have parking very accessible and also from businesses who believe that they only survive if people can drive to shop. The result is that very few parents cycle with their children to primary school and very few pupils cycle to secondary school unaccompanied. It is very noticeable that in school holidays the roads are so much quieter, proving that much of the traffic is the school run. The health of our young people is very poor compared to their European counterpoints because effectively they rarely walk or cycle.

Shopping trike instead of a car!

Whenever cycling is mentioned as a means of getting about and reducing motor vehicle capacity is mooted in favour of safer cycling and walking infrastructure the word ‘disabled’ pops up as an argument against any such measures I’m always told that ‘not everyone can cycle’ and ‘what about the disabled?’. Well here is an example of how a mobility impaired person finds cycling infinitely the best way to get about and to shop locally.

The bike on the left is mine – often seen up and down the High Road as I do my shopping. The trike on the right belongs to a woman in her late 60s who has had back surgery and can only walk with two walking sticks and with great difficulty. She uses the trike to shop – her shopping was seriously heavy – and her cat basket when she needs it, fits on top of the cage. She told me that she mostly uses the pavement because drivers are very impatient and the biggest difficulty she encounters is when people park across drop down kerbs preventing her from crossing the road. A recent tweet from a trike user said: “I have bilateral hip dysplasia and four years ago I bought a tricycle and it has changed my life”.

Mayor’s Transport Strategy

The GLA has just published a list of measures for consideration by London Boroughs with some ‘high priority’ actions. These measures appear within the Council’s own document ‘Hounslow’s Air Quality Action Plan. Initiatives such as Very Important Pedestrian Days (eg. no vehicles on certain roads on a Sunday), ‘Reallocation of road space; reducing parking at accessible destinations and/or restricting parking on congested high streets and busy roads to improve bus journey times, cycling experience and reduce emissions caused by congested traffic.’ To see the Mayor’s Transport Strategy click here.

Too Many Cars

Car ownership and driving has increased in this part of the Borough contrary to current trends in London. The new breed of 4x4s are so big they are wider than the newly widened parking bays making streets incredibly difficult for those who walk and cycle to navigate. The massive increase in Uber, PHVs and Delivery vans using Satnav and Waze now proliferate in small residential streets as the drivers endlessly try to find quicker ways to get from one end of Chiswick to the other. All this can deter people who would like to walk and cycle and creates an unpleasant environment instead of that which could be such an attractive High Street and all the streets beyond.

Holland streets ahead

Chiswick benefits from having three tube stations, two Overground stations and one mainline station, not mention at least eight regular bus routes and a night bus negating the perceived need for car use.

These photos of people cycling in Holland show what can happen where streets are traffic calmed and space is given over to walking, cycling and al fresco eating spaces.

It could be so wonderful if only we are prepared to give it a go and to realise just how dirty, noisy and polluted our High Road is currently and how it could be transformed.

Ruth Mayorcas is a member of the Hounslow Cycling Campaign and Labour activist

Inspiring Women at Chiswick Book Festival

On the day Jane Austen appears on the new £10 note in September, marking 200 years since her death, the Chiswick Book Festival will open, presenting many inspiring women speakers on a wide range of subjects. Clare Balding, Jo Malone, Maggie O’Farrell, Sarah Outen, Martine Wright and many others will be speaking, and there will also be timely sessions on Austen herself and Queen Victoria.

Tickets for the Festival are now on sale at, where the full programme is available.

The life and work of Jane Austen will be celebrated at the Festival’s opening event on Thursday September 14th in the glorious surroundings of Chiswick House & Gardens, with the House’s curator Dr Esme Whittaker of English Heritage, Paula Byrne (The Genius of Jane Austen) and Helena Kelly (Jane Austen, The Secret Radical).

On Friday 15th, Clare Balding, a tireless champion of women in sport, will introduce her new book, The Racehorse That Disappeared, the second brilliant adventure story about her inspiring young heroine Charlie Bass.

On Saturday 16th, Martine Wright (Unbroken), who competed in the Paralympics after losing her legs in the 7/7 London bombings, tells her own inspiring story in an interview with sports journalist Sue Mott.

Sarah Outen

On Sunday 17th, fragrance entrepreneur Jo Malone (My Story) and athlete and super-adventurer Sarah Outen (Dare To Do) will discuss what it takes to keep going when things don’t quite go to plan. And Somerset Maugham and Costa Prize winning novelist Maggie O’Farrell will talk about her writing and new memoir, I Am, I Am, I Am, with acclaimed author and journalist Cathy Rentzenbrink.

The role of women in war will be discussed by Anne Sebba (Les Parisiennes) and best-selling novelist Elizabeth Buchan (The New Mrs Clifton); and that of women in Ancient Greece by Radio 4 broadcaster and comedian Natalie Haynes, whose second novel is The Children of Jocasta.

And one of history’s most powerful women, Queen Victoria, will be the subject of ‘Victoria & Abdul – and a Game of Thrones’ as the new film opens starring Dame Judi Dench. Shrabani Basu is the author of the book which inspired the film – Victoria and Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant. Deborah Cadbury’s new book, Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking, describes the Royal marriages that shaped Europe and how seven of Victoria’s grandchildren came to occupy Europe’s thrones.

Jeremy Vine

But there is no shortage of men at this year’s Chiswick Book Festival – and there is also a full Children’s Festival programme and a series of workshops for aspiring writers. Male authors speaking will include Oz Clarke, Hunter Davies, Peter Hennessy, Robin Lustig, Harry Mount, John O’Farrell, Craig Oliver, Laurence Rees, Marcel Theroux and Jeremy Vine.