Campaigners Celebrate Gurnell Decision
Leisure centre redevelopment decisively rejected by planning committee
Campaigners are celebrating after plans for the redevelopment of the Gurnell Leisure Centre were decisively rejected.
At a virtual meeting of Ealing borough’s planning committee this Wednesday evening (17 March) councillors voted by 10 to one against the scheme with two abstentions. The proposal was to build tower blocks containing housing at the site which included towers of up to 17 storeys along with a new leisure centre.
The Save Gurnell campaign, which ran an online petition against the scheme which gathered over 4,000 signatures, had presented a video to the committee arguing that the harms of the proposal far outweighed its benefits and it did not meet the requirements of the exceptional circumstances required to build on Metropolitan Open Land.
It was further argued that the housing provision did not meet the need in the borough and was being provided in a socially divisive way.
The dense development of the site, which would have required the removal of 158 mature trees was being justified on the basis that it would help cover the cost of the new leisure centre, the current one remains closed with the council saying it is unlikely to reopen. The campaigners argued other boroughs have developed new leisure centres at a fraction of the £55million estimated cost for the Gurnell facility and funded them through borrowing and the Community Infrastructure Levy.
The video played to the committee produced by the Save Gurnell group is shown below:
The Mayor’s office had previously indicated that the scheme was not compliant with the London Plan and that ‘very special circumstances’ would be required for agreement to be given. The council had argued that the special circumstances required to build in a harmful way on MOL do apply here lack of alternative sites and means of funding for a new leisure centre and the urgent need for the 599 housing units that would have been provided.
Addressing a key concern of the development encroaching on the park, Gregor Mitchell speaking on behalf of developer EcoWorld said this had been limited to an 0.5 per cent increase on the land, “which is less than a third of the size of the tennis court”.
But a number of councillors flagged concerns on this, with Cllr Josh Blacker calling it “disingenuous”, adding, “We’re not replacing a car park with a car park, we’re replacing a car park with up to 15 stroreys, the volume here is what’s important and I just don’t think we meet that special circumstance case.”
Cllr Ray Wall, who also voted against the plan, said,“It shouldn’t have even got this far, the finances don’t stack up for me but that’s not the reason I’ll be voting against it. We are building on MOL a swathe of housing.
“It’s our land and we are not giving enough social housing on it, far from it…it’s on a flood plain, there’s no mix of the tenure, it’s now with the development itself would be a kind of barrier to the park from Ruislip road from my view…
“Finally the leisure centre looks like a warehouse with two chimneys plumped on top of it.”
On the committee Chris Summers was the only councillor who decided to vote in favour of the plan “on the balance” of issues, citing the need for a new leisure centre.
“The footprint of this new building is virtually the same as the existing building, and the car park we’re not building on virgin countryside MOL. On balance it is getting a brand new state-of-the-art leisure centre, much improved, a wider pool, bigger gym. The leisure centre does need to be rebuilt,” he said.
One of the campaigners against the scheme said, “Unlike the Perceval House scheme this vote is so clear cut that it is unlikely that the scheme can be cosmetically tinkered with and presented again in a few weeks. The fact that the vote appears not to have been whipped suggests it was understood that, even if approval had been given, the proposal would have fallen down at a later stage.
“It will literally be back to the drawing board and hopefully some of the arguments made by the Save Gurnell campaign will be taken heed of in the next design to be presented.”
Elsewhere in the four-hour meeting, the committee approved new developments for CP House and Dawley House of up to 13 and 12 storeys respectively on Uxbridge Road, and reserved matters for the third phase of the Southall Green Quarter development.
We have asked Ealing Council for comment on the Gurnell decision.
March 18, 2021