Arcadia 'Wrong Development in Wrong Place'
A personal opinion at the end of the public inquiry
Erich Leach is founding member of Save Ealing's Centre and
Vice-Chair of West Ealing Neighbours. He submitted evidence and
attended the public inquiry every day.
Arcadia Public Inquiry 2009 – An Opposer’s View
During this period, the residential/retail plans for the 4.2 acre area – stretching from Ealing Broadway Station west to Christchurch – have been endlessly filleted, questioned and argued about. National, regional, sub-regional and local planning guidelines have been quoted, debated, extolled and in some case lambasted. Local, national and international experts have been paraded and interrogated. Millions of pieces of paper have been photocopied and distributed. Expensive, and not so expensive, barristers have strutted their stuff. Ealing residents, some attending every day, have watched the proceedings with emotions ranging from elation, through confusion, to downright anger.
As a Save Ealing’s Centre (SEC) member, representing West Ealing Neighbours residents’ group, I formally submitted evidence to the inquiry on social and community infrastructure (or to be precise the lack of same in Ealing town centre and in the Arcadia proposal). Consequently I’ve attended every day and have compiled a daily, contemporaneous diary of the Inquiry proceedings.
What Have We Learnt?
What SEC and all the other opposers have learnt is that our assessment in late 2007 still holds water – we want the centre of Ealing revitalised but Arcadia is the wrong development in the wrong place. We now also know much more precisely what the current Arcadia plans are all about. Prior to 23rd June 2009 we certainly didn’t. We’ve seen plan documents at the Inquiry that we had never seen before or probably couldn’t decipher before. We might miraculously have found a certain document in the past somewhere in the higgledy, piggledy jumble of plan documents either in Perceval House or thrown up onto Ealing Council’s unreliable and unhelpful web site. However a black and white personal computer A4 print-out of a full colour A3 glossy brochure plan is often less than useless.
We’ve learn’t that Ealing Council doesn’t have a tall buildings’ policy. We now know that the distance between the residential tower blocks is too little to meet planning guidelines. We have discovered in some detail the horrors that await Christchurch School children, parents, teachers and governors should the scheme go ahead. England’s most eminent Town Planner – Professor Sir Peter Hall - has told us all that the Arcadia development ‘..would fatally and permanently compromise the built quality of one of the most remarkable suburban environments to be found anywhere in England’.
CERA, the central Ealing residents’ group whose members would be most ‘damaged’ by Arcadia, has shown us just how the shadowing by the towers will seriously harm Haven Green users throughout the year. Disabled witnesses have highlighted just how poor, ill-judged and mean spirited the mobility features and facilities would be in Arcadia.
We also now know that the input data into the Glenkerrin pollution and retail models were flawed and with bad data input you get bad data output. So pollution level predictions are too low and retail predictions are far too optimistic.
Pathetically small amounts of so called Section 106 money will be paid over by Glenkerrin in an attempt to provide educational, healthcare and policing facilities for the 916 new Arcadia residents. There are no open entry State schools or healthcare centres that could be expanded in the immediate area. The Metropolitan Police Authority want a Safer Neighbourhood Police base in Arcadia, but there is no allocated space for this and inadequate money earmarked to construct it.
Glenkerrin were hard pressed to find any Ealing residents who would speak in support of Arcadia. They found just one who definitely lives in Ealing – Councillor Phil Taylor of Northfields Ward. In contrast 30 local residents not only spoke at the Inquiry to oppose Arcadia, but variously at their kitchen tables and on their PCs produced well researched written transcripts, drawings, projections, tower-blighted townscapes and slide presentations.
We’ve also learned that money can buy property developers’ powerful friends – like Russell Harris QC who is the Mayor of London’s advisor on the Government’s Regional Spatial Plan (ie the London Plan) and sits on CABE the Government’s architectural advisors. (The Inquiry was not formally advised of the Glenkerrin barrister’s latter role, but local resident Tony Palmer exposed this earlier this week).
And as for the Members of the 17th December 2008 Planning Committee Panel who approved the Arcadia proposal – they were nowhere to be seen in the Inquiry. So no self doubt or questioning from Councillors Ahmed. Aslam, Bagha, Kapoor (senior), Mr and Mrs Popham, Ross and Yeo. Of course we did have a cameo appearance by Panel Chair Councillor Potts this week – but he spent less than 30 minutes in the Inquiry.
Expert opinion is that it could be Christmas 2009 before whoever is Secretary of State Communities and Local Government at the time will announce Ealing’s Arcadia fate,
Ealing Council was asked to provide an alternative view regarding the proposals and has told us it is 'inappropriate to comment in favour of Arcadia before the outcome of the inquiry is published.'
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July 10, 2009