Ruth Cadbury condemns plans to replace Park Road allotments with flats

Images above: Drone footage edited with a projection of the proposed residential complex; via Isleworth Society, 12th Duke of Northumberland Allan Warren

Public inquiry into proposals 

Brentford and Isleworth MP Ruth Cadbury has condemned the 12th Duke of Northumberland’s controversial proposal to replace the historic Park Road Allotments in Isleworth with residential flats.

The MP  joins a chorus of opposition from a wide coalition from community members, allotment holders, and local organisations. A public inquiry began on Tuesday (1 August), following Hounslow Council planning committee’s refusal of the Duke’s previous application due, in part, to concerns over the loss of local open space.

The committee’s decision also reflects the prevailing sentiment among residents and local leaders who advocate for responsible development that preserves the borough’s natural and historical assets.

The Duke’s initial application to construct 80 flats on the allotment site faced substantial backlash, resulting in its rejection by Hounslow Council in October 2021. With over 900 objections from local residents, it became evident that the proposal had struck a nerve.

The allotments, a cherished green space that has thrived since 1917 on the Duke’s Grade I-listed Syon Park estate in Hounslow, have become the centre of a heated debate over the balance between development and preserving community heritage.

Northumberland Estates, which oversees the development, argues that the proceeds from the construction are vital for funding essential conservation efforts at Syon House. While the estate is privately owned, it has long been open to the public, serving as a historical and cultural landmark.

Image above:How current green space would look should the Duke get his way

Proposals would destroy “a treasured historic asset” for private gain

Ruth Cadbury, alongside Isleworth councillor Salman Shaheen and other opponents, views the Duke’s plan as an attempt to prioritise private gain over community well-being.

“Allotments play such an underrated role in our society by providing a space to grow cheap food, a space for people without large gardens to enjoy the outdoors as well as being a green lung for our local area,” said Ruth.

She emphasised that the pandemic had underscored the importance of preserving green spaces for public use and questioned the need to sacrifice the allotments.

Cllr Salman Shaheen, Cabinet Member for Recreation, Public Spaces and Parking and an Isleworth ward Councillor, told the BBC the proposals were:

“an ill-conceived plan designed not to support a treasured historic asset, but to destroy one for private gain”.

Cllr Shaheen added: “Hounslow has comfortably met its housing targets by allowing development on the ample brownfield sites in the area.

“That we have been able to do so without paving over our green space makes me ask what the imperative would be to change that now, except to line the duke’s already deep pockets?”

He added that “a man richer than the King has shown no evidence to prove that the only way to fund the repairs to one historic asset is by destroying another historic asset”.

Image above: Ruth Cadbury MP and Cllr Salman Shaheen

Affordable housing claim met with scepticism 

Claire Niven, for the Park Road Allotment Association, said Northumberland Estates was proposing “sacrificing 71% of allotments at the heart of a community”.

She added the site also hosted nature walks, open days, litter picking, apple and blackberry picking, and allotment holders organised food bank donations.

Melissa Murphy KC, for Northumberland Estates, said the project would deliver “40% affordable housing”, but critics do not accdept the trade-off between much-needed housing and the irreplaceable green space.

Other Isleworth councillors John Stroud-Turp and Sue Sampson joined Ms. Cadbury and Cllr Shaheen in opposing the development plans. They highlighted the borough’s ability to exceed housing targets through brownfield sites, casting doubt on the necessity of building over the allotments.

The public enquiry continues.