Friary Park Skyscrapers 'Done Deal' Claim
Chief Executive questioned over Council involvement
The Chief Executive of Ealing Council has received a formal complaint over the authority's dealings with Catalyst Housing over the Friary Park redevelopment in Acton which would include tower blocks as high as 20 storeys.
Catalyst Housing (formerly Ealing Family Housing Association) bought the estate - close to Acton Main Line station - in 1987 and want to demolish the current housing stock and replace with between 500 and 650 new homes.
There has been growing concern over the plans to bulldoze the estate and replace it with high rise tower blocks.
A petition has been set up by residents who say they 'totally reject having these towers foisted upon our area when more cost effective and environmentally friendly options have not been considered.'
Now there are claims that the current consultation is a farce and the application - which hasn't been submitted to the Council yet - a 'done deal'.
Angela Jullings from the Friary Green Residents' Association has written to Martin Smith, Chief Executive of Ealing Council, querying £30 million of council funds she says will be part-financing the regeneration of Friary Park, W3.
In the letter she asks 'is it standard practice to lend tax-payers' money to developers of this magnitude?'
She writes, ''This clearly now puts you in conflict of interest and the loan puts you into partnership with Catalyst. It seems Ealing Council are both judge and jury on whether the submitted planning application gets the green light or not, which surely is incongruent and at loggerheads with integrity.
''It is worrying that this whole development appears to be supported and financed by both parties – Ealing and Catalyst – and there is no objective view, no neutrality, no third position on this and it seems this plan will be railroaded through Planning whether the residents of Acton and Ealing like it or not.
''In light of the discovery of this loan, I feel that residents of our borough are not being listened to. There is no transparency nor accountability. This proposal seems to be a 'done deal' and everything else around it, the workshops by Catalyst for example, is a masquerade. Sadly, the proposal doesn’t even provide more social housing.''
A spokesperson from Ealing Council said, ''The council has worked for many years with local housing charity Catalyst Housing to provide good quality rented housing in Ealing.
“Catalyst's proposals to demolish and rebuild the outdated and difficult to refurbish Friary Park estate are supported by the council, as they give the opportunity to create an exciting new place adjacent to a new Crossrail station and to increase the supply of desperately needed housing at rents ordinary people can afford.
“As part of the plan to provide additional, affordable housing on the site, Catalyst has bid for funding from the Government. To support this bid, the council's Cabinet approved a loan in November 2014. A commercial rate of return will be applied when funds are provided.
“The Planning Committee is autonomous and judges each application on its merits in the context of national, regional and local planning legislation and policy.''
Neil Cox From Catalyst said, '' Ealing Council have not lent Catalyst any money to redevelop Friary Park, and there is no loan or agreement in place to do so. All that there is, is an approval "in principle" to provide a loan to fund the development of market rented homes on Friary Park. The “In principle” bit is very important – nothing has been signed or formally agreed yet, so either we or Ealing Council could decide not to proceed with the loan.
''There is a dire shortage of homes for people to rent or buy across the country. Like many local authorities, Ealing wants to ensure that those people in the borough who rent, have the opportunity to rent good quality homes that are professionally-managed by reputable locally based providers. The loan proposals are designed to support that.''
14 May 2015