Planners recommend approval for TfL car park on ‘wildlife reserve’

Image above: artists impression of the car park from documents submitted to LB Hounslow

‘Ancient’ wildlife habitats would be destroyed

Hounslow Council planners are recommending councillors approve the building of a car park for Transport for London staff on Princes Way in the Gunnersbury Park Garden estate. TfL want to turn an area known locally as ‘Bat Corner’ into a parking lot for 65 cars.

If approved, the site would replace a car park on Bollo Lane which has been made unavailable by nearby building work. The proposal is for surface level car parking and associated resurfacing, lighting, signage and landscaping.

Residents on the Gunnersbury Park Garden Estate beside the North Circular road are opposing the move.

The planning application (P/2022/2638) is due to be considered the Council’s planning committee on 12 January 2023, where it will be presented with a report which suggests the scheme should be accepted.

TfL’s environmental report claims the land is unused and effectively empty, but the local residents, supported by environmentalists, say there is plenty of wildlife living there, including bats, birds  and ground-dwelling animals such as foxes, and building a car park there would effectively destroy a ‘wildlife reserve’ and restrict biodiversity in the area.

Stephen Peiris grew up near the triangle and his current house backs on to it.

“I’m an animal lover. I see the animals who live in that green space and I’ve seen them since I was growing up as a little boy – hedgehogs, foxes, birds. It’s an incredible habitat – very, very mature” he told The Chiswick Calendar.

The triangle of land used to be part of Gunnersbury Park. It was sold by the Rothschilds but, he said, there are restrictive covenances which apply, which affect how the land can be used.

“Heritage England have named it as a Heritage at Risk site and the Council declared it as official conservation area in 2018.”

Image above: a fox near the site of the proposed carpark

Tfl “hypocrites”

Council planners opted to recommend the development after TfL made amendments to their initial plans reducing the number of car parking spaces by six, and offering to increase landscaping.

There have been some 60 objections to the car park proposal, which is why the Council’s planning department has had to refer it to the planning committee to decide.

Some of those who have made objections have branded TfL hypocrites for their much-hyped active travel campaigns aimed at the public, while at the same time they are eager to ‘raze a little wildlife area’ for a new car park for their workers.

Landscaping will in no way replace the existing habitats, Stephen told us:

“Because it was part of the park and it was here before the houses were built, these habitats are ancient. You can’t just destroy it, plant some new saplings and expect them immediately to replace an ancient habitat.”

Image above: Acton Town tube station

Staff working unsocial hours need parking spaces, say TfL

In September 2022, TfL contractors attempted to start work on the site without planning permission, saying they were only doing surveying work which did not need planning permission. Residents protested, and the work was halted.

Stephen’s neighbour Selina, then hugely pregnant, rushed out to stop contractors cutting down the main tree which contains the bat colony.

The plot is owned by TfL, having been sold by the Gunnersbury Triangle Estate in the 1970s. TfL say their staff need a space where they can park locally, particularly those working unsocial hours.

“I can’t see any justification for this” Stephen told us. “It’s right by Acton Town tube station serviced by the Piccadilly and District Lines. There are night buses right to the station and the Elizabeth Line is a 15 minute walk away. It’s one of the best connected places in London and TfL staff have free transport.”

Image above: Children drawing bat pictures for the campaign

Meeting the Mayor

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has spoken out about protecting green open spaces in London. He has repeatedly urged local authorities to reject “inappropriate development”.

His spokesman said: “The mayor believes that the strongest protection should be given to London’s Metropolitan Open Land and any inappropriate development should be refused. Working with his planning team, the mayor will continue to use a full range of planning powers to protect open and green spaces in applications referred to him.”

Stephen Peiris told us: “There is no doubt that this is London Metropolitan Open Landand this development would be in violation of the Mayor of London’s London Plan.”

He and other local residents have a meeting scheduled with Sadiq Khan next week. The Mayor also chairs Transport for London’s board of governors.

Image above: Children drawing bat pictures for the campaign; messages to councillors, including Planning Committee chair Pritam Grewal

Painting bat postcards for the councillors

Meanwhile the children of the Gunnersbury Park Garden Estate are mounting their own campaign.

Several of the teachers at Acton Gardens Primary School (formerly Berrymede Junior & Berrymede Infant Schools) live on the estate and have organised the children to paint pictures of the bats, particularly bat postcards with individual messages to give to each of the councillors on the planning committee.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Former leader of Hounslow Council awarded MBE in New Year’s Honours

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