Image above: Beaconsfield Gardens in bloom in the spring
Residents and community leaders unite against proposed changes
Chiswick residents and environmental campaigners have voiced their concerns over Ealing Council’s proposals to alter conservation areas and introduce a telecommunications tower in the heart of Beaconsfield Gardens.
The controversy has prompted a strong response from various groups, in the hopes the Council will abandon their plans.
Abundance London founder Dr. Karen Liebreich MBE has vehemently opposed Ealing Council’s plans. Abundance London, the environmental and educational project founded in 2010 to make the most of Chiswick’s public spaces, has been at the forefront of environmental conservation efforts in the area for the past 15 years.
In a letter to Ealing Council in August, Dr. Liebreich highlighted the community’s substantial investment in planting Beaconsfield Gardens, while protesting plans to construct the 20m high fibre-connection ‘monopole’.
More than 60 residents, along with local councillors, have participated in community initiatives including planting thousands of bulbs and maintaining the green space, challenging the characterisation of Beaconsfield Gardens as a mere “grass verge.”
“It seems ominous that exactly when the open space, enjoyed by so many people, as shown not only by the appreciative emails that Abundance receives, but also by the fact that so many have been willing to give up their free time to work in the space, is coming under threat from construction of this large intrusive building proposal, there should also be a proposal to remove Conservation Area status from the neighbourhood.”
Jen Thorndycraft, Abundance Co-ordinator, who lives in Ealing Chiswick, close to the existing conservation area, and who has taken the lead on its regeneration said:
“It would be heartbreaking if the loss of conservation area status resulted in any damage to this increasingly loved and important green space.”
The organisation’s concerns about the proposed telecommunications tower in Beaconsfield Gardens centre on the potential impact on biodiversity and the degradation of a green space that has become a template for successful council-community cooperation.
Image above: Karen Liebreich, An example of a monopole telecommunications tower in Newcastle
Attention drawn to Historic England guidelines
Abundance London say Historic England’s perspective on conservation area designation is crucial in understanding the broader implications of the proposed alterations. Conservation areas are seen as providing general control over demolition and forming the basis for planning policies aimed at conserving all aspects of character and appearance, including landscape and public spaces. The organisation’s stance, critics say, reinforces the importance of thoughtful consideration in any changes to conservation areas.
Historic England notes:
“Conservation area designation introduces a general control over the demolition of unlisted buildings and provides a basis for planning policies whose objective is to conserve all aspects of character or appearance, including landscape and public spaces, that define an area’s special interest.”
Ealing’s Liberal Democrats, including the Leader of the Opposition on Ealing Council and Southfield Ward Councillor Gary Malcolm, have added their voice to the growing dissent. The party argues that conservation areas play a vital role in protecting the character and heritage of neighbourhoods. Cllr Malcolm told The Chiswick Calendar:
“Liberal Democrats say that conservation areas help protect areas and buildings from being downgraded. This, like other examples recently from the Labour run Ealing Council, are an attempt to downgrade Acton and Chiswick. There is a risk that future improvements might not happen.”
Meanwhile the Victorian Society, based in Chiswick, told us they welcomed the other change to conservation areas which affects Chiswick, the inclusion of several more roads in the Bedford Park conservation area.
Connor McNeill, Conservation Adviser at the Victorian Society said:
“The Victorian Society welcomes the proposed extension of the Bedford Park Conservation Area to include more historic buildings, this will ensure the preservation of the special character of this important example of Victorian planning.”
Ealing Council is conducting a public consultation on possible changes to Conservation Areas across the borough. The consultation deadline is 31 January 2024 and written responses should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Public consultation deadline approaches
As the public consultation deadline of January 31, 2024, approaches, residents, community groups, and stakeholders are mobilising to provide their input on the proposed changes.
Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar