Appeal by developer to build luxury riverside houses in Hartington Rd turned down

Image above: 17 Hartington Rd

Planning Inspector finds their proposal would have detracted unacceptably from the character of the area and the risk of flooding was too great

Developers hoping to build four new luxury houses beside the river on Hartington Rd in Chiswick have had their appeal turned down by the Planning Inspectorate.

Councillors on Hounslow Council’s Planning Committee turned down the application by Residence One Hartington Ltd to build the houses in the garden of an existing large Victorian house at 17 Hartington Rd in January last year.

The developers appealed against the committee’s decision and an appeal hearing was held in July. Planning Inspector Jeremy Sargent heard from the developers’ team of experts on why they considered it safe to build there, and from local residents opposing the development, who engaged their own experts to argue the case for why the proposed development should not be allowed.

At issue were whether the development failed to preserve the character or appearance of the Grove Park Conservation Area, whether it would give rise to an unacceptable risk from flooding, and the effect on ecology and biodiversity of the site.

The inspector decided that even though there were different styles of housing along Hartington Rd and the appearance of the road was not uniform, the housing that was proposed would be  ‘appreciably at odds with the extensive area of gardens that runs from No 17 northwards.

‘This would result in it ‘detracting unacceptably from the semi-rural nature of this area and diminishing the contribution it makes to the status of the houses to the front and, in the case of No 17, its historic context’ he found.

He also decided the risk of flooding was unacceptable, which may have a knock-on effect on other riverside development proposals.

Mr Sergeant accepted the evidence that ‘if there were to be a tidal or fluvial flood’ [caused by excess water in the river from rainfall rather than the tide] and there was an inundation, given the existing ground levels the water could be up to 2.59m in depth on part of the site.

Government guidance states that ‘inappropriate development at areas at risk of flooding should be avoided’, he said. ‘To this end, ‘more vulnerable’ uses such as buildings used for dwelling houses
should not be permitted in Flood Zone 3b.’

Much of the argument during the appeal hearing in the summer was about whether the site had been rightly designated as a ‘functional floodplain’. Rather than rely entirely on evidence about historic flooding, Mr Sergeant took into consideration also the potential for future flooding because of the changing conditions of Climate change.

He considered the effectiveness of the river wall along the boundary of the property, and also the effectiveness of the Thames Barrier, but concluded:

‘The effects of climate change are increasingly expected to be more pronounced. As a result, the nature of the defences at this point into the future cannot be certain.’

Even if the land had been wrongly designated and the risk of flooding was, as the developers claimed, less than it appeared, he concluded that there were other, better sites which the developer could choose to build on, which were not at such a risk of flooding, so the proposed development conflicts with the Local Plan, which it is supposed to abide by.

He did not think the development would have affected ecology and biodiversity ‘unacceptably’, though he accepted that a lot of the vegetation and therefore the habitats for wildlife currently there would have had to be removed if the project had gone ahead.

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