Plans to develop Quintin Hogg Memorial Grounds would cause ‘substantial damage to the natural environment’

Image above: Visualisation of the new stadium stand 

Abundance London objects to large expanse of artificial pitches and courts

The environmental group Abundance London has lodged an objection to the planning application by the Latymer Foundation to make substantial changes to the playing fields at the Quintin Hogg Memorial Grounds on Hartington Road.

The Foundation, which supports Latymer School, submitted the application to LB Hounslow on 4 July, with plans to restore the 1936 Grade II Listed Polytechnic Stadium and construct a new multi-sport area catering to hockey, netball, and tennis.

READ MORE: A new sports stadium planned for Chiswick

If the plans go ahead Abundance London say they would cause ‘substantial immediate damage to the natural environment’, while providing little or no benefit for local residents.

The new sports facilities would provide ‘short term benefit for the school, though with long term damage for the environment and possibly for the children’.

They also say publication of the plans have so far involved ‘almost no engagement with the local community’.

Image above: Proposed pitches and courts; Latymer Foundation

‘A world of plastic, rubber and asphalt’

Abundance London, run by director Dr Karen Liebreich MBE, say while they are aware of all the reasons why sport is good and children should do more of it, they believe residents, the council, the school and its parents should take into consiferation that:

‘Almost the entire area of the Quintin Hogg Memorial Sports Ground will be transformed into a world of plastic, rubber and asphalt, with high fences and floodlights.’

The proposal is ‘greedy,’ they say, ‘in its use of every corner of the site, covering much of it in artificial surfacing, and leaving almost nothing for the natural world.

‘It is therefore contrary to good environmental practice, contributes to climate change, and contradicts any claim about stewardship of biodiversity or nature.’

Image above: Proposed pitches and courts; Latymer Foundation

‘Less green open space by the river Thames, more high-end prison camp’

‘The 3G (ie Astroturf) AGP football pitch will be made of “green fibres filled with silica sand and granulated rubber (black)”. This is customarily made from recycled tyres, laid over a reinforced surface.

‘According to an investigation by the Telegraph each pitch surface weighs around 220 tonnes, lasts around 10 years and then goes to landfill. The same fate is likely for the other pitch surfaces, once they have served their purpose.

‘While a 2020 article in Nature reported “A number of carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic substances were present in rubber granulate” they concluded that, “Based on current evidence, there is no reason to advise people against playing sports on such pitches.”

‘Nevertheless an increasing number of local and sports authorities in the US are turning away from artificial pitches because of worries about the dangerous chemicals they contain. Players on other local artificial pitches note that their shoes are full of particles after playing.

‘As well as displacing living plants that could remove carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, artificial grass can reach very high surface temperatures leading to unplayable fields and health risks, and also contributing to the urban heat island effect.

‘The hockey field will be finished with “a dense, short pile carpet with the principle playing surface coloured green with the safety run-offs coloured blue to match Latymer UpperSchool colours.”

‘The padel courts will be “a sand filled carpet with a uniform blue colour. ‘The cricket wickets will be “a dense, short piled and unfilled carpet coloured green.” “The margins and space between adjacent wickets within the cricket practice facility shall be a contrasting green, to denote the principle playing area.”

“Hard standing surrounds to the artificial pitches shall be porous asphalt with typical black / dark grey finish.”

‘All the above playing areas will be surrounded by separate fences standing between 3 and 4.5m in height. There will be 40 light columns between 6 and 20m high. According to the plan, there will be parking for 122 cars, and a small bike storage area. This suggests considerable motorised traffic and little thought for active travel.

‘Almost the entire area of the Quintin Hogg Memorial Sports Ground will therefore be transformed into a world of plastic, rubber and asphalt, with high fences and floodlights. At the risk of sounding emotive, the vibe will be less green open space by the river Thames, more high-end prison camp.

Image above: Plan for proposed artificial pitches; Latymer Foundation

Loss of established trees

The planning application promises to protect the three ancient sweet chestnuts on the site, but says Abundance London:

‘even one of those will have a pathway built over part of its roots’ and apart from these, almost all the existing trees will be removed.

‘Any so-called Biodiversity Net Gain (a new metric designed “to leave biodiversity in a measurably better state than before the development took place”) really needs to take into account the hundreds of tonnes of future plastic/rubber-based waste being created and brought onto the site in the form of all these playing surfaces, which are currently not recyclable.

‘The use of artificial materials to cover so much soil, the floodlighting, the impact on drainage, the loss of green vegetation will all have an impact on biodiversity, with insect life reduced, and subsequent detrimental effects on bird and bat populations.’

Biodiversity is taken into consideration in the planning application. The Latymer Foundation promises areas of wildflower grassland, scrub, new trees, and hedgerows which will result in a BNG of +18.8% habitat units and +15.6% hedgerow units.

That would be ‘miraculous’ says Abundance London, as ‘these areas form a tiny proportion of the whole site, and are mainly planted along a narrow strip at the edge to screen the sports pitches from the traffic on the A316.’

Image above: Proposed pitches and courts; Latymer Foundation

Not a community project

In their submission to Hounslow Council’s planning department objecting to the plans, Abundance London sau much is made of the community contributions that Latymer School makes to its neighbours in Hammersmith, but in fact these grounds will be private sports’ facilities primarily designed to accommodate their own pupils.

‘For safeguarding reasons it is unlikely that the public will have free access to these facilities for most of the time. Indeed many of the existing much-vaunted community contributions mentioned in the publicity take place only during half term or holidays when the school is closed (existing school sports facilities in Hammersmith, for instance, are only available to rent after 6pm).

‘At Kings House School playing fields, just opposite on the other side of Hartington Road, a 3G pitch can be rented for £180 per hour.

‘The planning documents lay great emphasis on the pupils who are “talented young people from every socioeconomic background” (annual school fees are £24,141). This is not a community project, it is a facility for the 1,200 pupils of the school, with a few occasional side benefits for the rest of the community.’

Image above: Proposed pitches and courts; Latymer Foundation

Very little local consultation

The Latymer Foundation says local stakeholders and members of the local community have been consulted about their proporals. They held a meeting on 13 May 2023.

‘This was apparently “widely publicised” with a letter drop and email invites’ says Abundance London. ‘However neither Val Bott (the eminent local historian who lives on Hartington Road, less than 500m from the site), residents in Chiswick Staithe (450m from the site), local groups Wild Chiswick and Abundance London (both of whose directors live nearby), nor even the members of the local residents’ association, the Grove Park Group, nor the Dukes Meadows Trust knew of this consultation.

‘Local press such as the Chiswick Calendar (whose editor lives nearby) were not informed. Of the respondents who completed a feedback form – all twelve of them – 100% were “positive in terms of the proposed works.” To call this a proper public consultation is at best disingenuous.

‘The Design and Access Statements emphasise the history of the site as a sports ground – the use of artistic maps (reproduced in Section 2.1, pp.14-15) created by local artists infringes copyright; no permissions were sought or given, and the images have no attribution or credit. The contempt for the local groups that created these maps is not promising.’

The planning application – P/2023/1835 – more details of which can be found on the Council’s website: planning.hounslow.gov.uk – is currently under consideration by the Council’s planning department.