High Court upholds decision not to build the Curve

The High Court has upheld the decision by former Secretary of State James Brokenshire, to refuse planning permission for the Chiswick Curve, a 32-storey mixed-use tower at Chiswick roundabout.

Marie Rabouhans, Chairman of the West Chiswick and Gunnersbury Society said: “The Chiswick Curve is dead. Long Live Chiswick”. Marie was one of those who spoke out against the sky scraper proposed for Chiswick roundabout at the Public Inquiry in the summer of 2018.

The month long Inquiry heard arguments from Historic England, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew and local residents groups that the proposed building was an eyesore and would stick out like a sore thumb in the surrounding landscape, towering over everything and blighting the traditional view from the River Thames.

Planning Inspector Paul Griffiths advised the proposal should go ahead but the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Goverment disagreed. Developers Starbones were hoping the High Court would quash his decision, in line with the Planning inspector’s advice. He expressed himself “enthusiastic” about the proposal, describing it as a “landmark building” and “beacon” which showed refreshing architectural “verve”.

The High Court held that the minister was entitled to reach a different conclusion from the inspector in assessing the scheme’s harm to nearby heritage assets, including Kew Gardens. Dismissing Starbones’ challenge to the Secretary of State’s decision, Mrs Justice Lang said she could find no flaw in his planning judgment.

She rejected arguments that James Brokenshire had failed to take proper account of the fact that the site already had already been granted  planning permission for a 13-storey office building, known as “The Citadel”, which could still be implemented.

Starbones maintained the Chiswick Curve, a mixed residential and office development, would be vastly superior in terms of design than the Citadel, but the judge said the inspector had also observed that the Chiswick Curve would “detract to a degree” from the setting of Kew Palace, the Palm House and other heritage assets at Kew, whereas the Citadel would not appear in any important views.

Computer generated images of the Chiswick Curve

Marie told me she and others who’d fought a long fight against the development were delighted.

“We should really be encouraged that our council fought the fight”.

So often the residents group has found itself opposing Hounslow Council on planning matters. This time they were on the same side. The Council opposed the development from the outset on the grounds that Chiswick roundabout is just the wrong place to put a residential development of that magnitude, with poor air quality right by the motorway and nowhere for people to use for rest and relaxation

“The fact we’ve won means it is worth fighting and keep up the fight” she said.

“The decision of the Secretary of State on the Chiswick Curve and the cases made by these parties will, of course, have relevance in relation to other large-scale developments currently under determination. These include the L&Q Citroen site (Public Inquiry held in January/February 2020) and the B&Q site (application currently under consideration). At both Public Inquiries the tensions between a conservation area adjacent to an Opportunity Area in a world city were debated.

“While regeneration of the Great West Corridor is important, the corridor is not, and must not become, the defining feature of the wider area. The big attraction of this area for visitors as well as those who live and/or work here is that, while easily accessible from Central London, it has significant heritage landscapes and a beautiful stretch of the Thames which, together with its predominantly low-rise buildings give much of it a generous, open, almost rural feel. This is complemented by its compact townscape of predominantly Victorian and Edwardian terraces, providing homes to its well-established, thriving residential communities. The special appeal of both is that they provide respite and retreat from the urban environment”.

Computer generated images of the Chiswick Curve

The victory prompted Marie to pen a parody of the 1972 hit by Johnny Nash I can see clearly, covered by many artists, most notably by Jimmy Cliff.

The Gunnersbury Groundlings present their

Song for Spring or Reasons to be Cheerful, part 3*

We can see clearly now the Curve is gone

That cursed obstacle down our way

Gone are the big screens that would’ve had us blind

It’s gonna be a bright

Bright sunshiny day …

 

Perhaps we can make it now the Curse is gone

If those big bad developers disappear

Here is that judgement we’ve been praying for

It’s gonna be a bright

Bright sunshiny day….

 

Look all around, there’s still some blue sky

Look straight ahead, there’s still some blue sky

 

We can breath easy now the Curve is gone

The future polluter down our way

Here is the judgement we’ve been praying for

It’s gonna be a bright

Bright sunshiny day.

A chuffed groundling, with apologies to Johnny Nash

March 2020