Grove Park residents “outraged” about handling of developers’ appeal over 17 Hartington Rd

Image above: The Victorian house at 17 Hartington Rd

Developers appeal against Hounslow Council planning committee’s refusal to let them build luxury riverside houses

Residents of Grove Park described as “outrageous” that key documents supporting a developer’s appeal against a planning decision have only been published a few days before an important hearing with the Planning Inspector.

Last January LB Hounslow’s planning committee turned down an application from Residence One for the development of four luxury houses in the riverside garden of 17 Hartington Rd, despite the recommendation from their planning officers that they should accept it.

Local residents persuaded the committee of the case against the development, arguing that new residential housing should not be built in a conservation area which was also liable to flood. They raised 545 signatures on a petition against the proposed development.

Residence One’s appeal will be discussed at an informal meeting with a Planning Inspector (a member of the executive agency the Planning Inspectorate, independent of Hounslow Council) at Hounslow House on Tuesday 27 June at 10am.

Image above: Mukti Jain Campion representing Grove Park residents at last January’s planning committee meeting, with Cllr Sam Hearn and independent consultant Adam Gostling

Hundreds of pages of documentation supporting the appeal

Members of the public with an interest in the development are entitled to attend the meeting but Mukti Jain Campion, who represented Grove Park residents at last year’s planning committee meeting, told The Chiswick Calendar she had discovered the additional documents only by accident over the weekend.

She spotted them on Hounslow’s planning website when she was looking for something else, ploughing through several hundred pages of the developers’ case. She received about 40 calls and messages on Monday morning as word got round.

“I say what everybody around here in Grove Park is saying: it’s outrageous. If you look at the guidelines, any additional late information should only be considered if interested parties have had a chance to look at it.

“We have raised money to get professional advice. Every time they change the procedure we have to get new advice, which costs money. We’re talking about thousands of pounds.

“We are doing the work which the Council’s planning office should have done.”

The residents have known about the developers’ appeal since January and a timetable was set out for the delivery of documents. The developers submitted additional documents setting out their case to the Planning Inspectorate in April but these were only published by Hounslow Planning on 22 June.

“Even then they did not inform interested parties such as local objectors” said Mukti. “The late documents are substantial and we should have adequate time to review them in advance of the hearing.”

Image above: Back garden at 17 Hartington Rd

Development turned down as the site is at risk of flooding, planning committee found

The development was turned down in January 2022 after the committee spent several hours discussing a number of problematic issues with the proposed development.

Arguments against the application were that the development would be inappropriate within a back garden; that it was in contravention of the Council’s own policy as set out in the Local Plan; the scale and design were unsuitable for a Conservation area, and that it would be harmful to biodiversity as the garden contained well-established wildlife habitats.

It would do nothing to help the housing crisis, as these would not by any stretch of the imagination be described as ‘affordable’ flats.

Most importantly they argued that the site is at risk of flooding. Opponents demonstrated the site was at risk of flooding both from the river and from surface water. The land is designated as ‘3B’, the category most likely to be affected by river flooding.

Independent expert Jonathan Cage, Managing Director at Create Consulting Engineers Ltd, submitted that it would be “irresponsible” to build there.

In their appeal, Residence One disagrees with all these points, except the point about the development not meeting the Council’s goal of building more affordable housing.

Cllr John Todd asks for the meeting to be deferred so residents can have a fair hearing

Cllr John Todd

Cllr John Todd has contacted the Leader of the Council Shantanu Rajawat, the Chief Executive Niall Bolger and Executive Head of Planning Phil Creswell, asking for an explanation for this ‘unacceptable delay’ in publication and requesting they ask the Planning Inspector to defer the date of the appeal to allow residents to respond adequately.

Campaigners against the development say this delayed publication is patently unfair and places them at a serious disadvantage at the hearing as they and their expert advisers will have little time to review the new information.

Hounslow Council apologises for late publication

Hounslow’s Director of Planning and Buildings Vincent Lacovara has replied to Cllr Todd saying:

‘We have processed the application/ appeal correctly insofar as the notifications are concerned and the appeal statements are publicly available.

‘However, although the Statements of Case submitted by both the Local Planning Authority and appellant were made publicly available there was a rebuttal submitted by the appellant that was not added to our online website.

‘Upon discovering the issue the case officer took steps to remedy the situation and added it online, but this only took place last Thursday 22nd June 2023. I can understand that some parties would feel at a disadvantage with this and would like to apologise for this on behalf of the Council.’

He goes on to say the Inspector will be informed of the issue, but it would be up to the Planning Inspectorate to decide whether to defer the meeting.

‘The decision to refuse the application was made by the Local Planning Authority, in this case by members of the Planning Committee. It is now for officers to defend this decision at appeal which they will do to the extent of their abilities.’

Specialist planning consultant working for the developer used to work for Hounslow Council

The developers are represented in the appeal by DP9, a specialist planning consultancy where Sunny Desai is one of the directors. Mr Desai worked previously for Hounslow Council, for ten years as Deputy Planning Manager before he was promoted to Team Leader Strategic Projects in 2014. Although no wrong doing is alleged, opponents of the development are uneasy about the link.

The Chiswick Calendar has asked the Council’s Leader whether he was aware of this and whether this was not even more reason for care to be taken that the planning process was transparent and inclusive.

In his reply to Cllr Todd, Vincent Lacovara adds:

‘We are aware that the agent for the appellant worked at the London Borough of Hounslow up until 2015. It is not for the Council to object to any agent working on behalf of the appellant and it will not alter how the appeal scheme is processed by the authority.’