LB Hounslow accused of hypocrisy over plans to build on Green Belt land

Hounslow Council has been criticised by the leading environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth over its plans to build on Green Belt land.

Niall Bolger, Hounslow’s chief executive, was just at the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow promoting the borough’s “exemplary green leadership”,. However, the west London branch of Friends of the Earth said Hounslow’s climate commitments rang hollow, as it was planning to build on farmland and other open land to the west of the borough, which they described as the borough’s “green lungs”.

Council officers are preparing to defend their West of Borough Local Plan Review, which aims to remove Green Belt designations in order to build on 300 acres of farmland and other open land. If approved, two large airport-related developments will be built at Bedfont and Feltham, known as Heathrow Gateway and Airport Business Park. The developments will consist of warehousing, logistic centres, offices, shops and housing.

The Green Belt is an area of countryside specifically protected from most forms of development in order to stop ‘urban sprawl’, preserve the character of existing settlements and encourage planners fo keep development within existing built-up areas. In environmental terms it also allows space for the ground to soak up water, for plants to release oxygen into the atmosphere, absorb carbon dioxide and provide habitat and food for wildlife.

Image above: Green Belt land in Hounslow, Friends of the Earth protesting against a third runway at Heathrow

Proposals are “highly irresponsible”, says Friends of the Earth

A recent report by Transport and Environment, a clean transport campaign group which works with various international organisations, found Heathrow the second highest polluting airport in the world, after Dubai. Rose Jackson from West London Friends of the Earth said:

New warehouses and roads etc. would add to the burden and, at the same time, destroy a Green Belt carbon sink.”

“At a time of climate crisis these proposals are highly irresponsible – West London Friends of the Earth calls for these damaging schemes to be dropped by Hounslow Council.”

Images above: proposed changes to Green Belt & Open Space land in Hounslow – the pink and red areas show the proposed developments for Airport Business Park and Heathrow Gateway (image from Hounslow.gov); Cllr Katherine Dunne

Need for housing must be weighed against need to protect open spaces, says Council

Hounslow council insist tackling climate change is high on their list of priorities, pointing to their commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2030 and their declaration of a climate emergency in 2019.

Like all London councils, Hounslow has a housing target set by the Government and the Mayor’s London Plan. The Council said the need to protect Green Belt land and open spaces must be weighed against the need for housing development in the borough. There is some housing planned as part of the two airport developments.

Cllr Katherine Dunne, Hounslow’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Climate Emergency, told The Chiswick Calendar:

“In order to determine this balance we have conducted considerable research and public consultations in the preparation of our two local plan reviews, including an extensive and independent assessment of the function and accessibility of our impacted Green Belt land. This was to ensure that only poor performing Green Belts would be impacted, and that land remaining in Green Belt or re-designated as Metropolitan Open Land would be enhanced in terms of its role for biodiversity and as a meaningful open space for local residents.

“With respect to development around Heathrow – the West of the Borough plan sets out how new jobs can be created in the area that allow a diversification of sectors away from aviation. This is a realistic framework for tackling the huge housing and jobs challenges the borough faces in a truly sustainable way.”

Image above: a plane flies into Heathrow Airport

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