Residents Accuse Council's Planning Committee Of 'Garden Grabbing'

Fight continues after last week's decision to build 8 new homes

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After losing a 16-year battle, furious residents are continuing to put pressure on Ealing Council's planning committee to reverse the decision to allow a leafy plot bordering Springfield Park to be replaced by 8 new family homes.

Trevenna Cottage
Trevenna Cottage

Led by Victor Mishiku of The Covenant Movement, residents say the council ignored a petition of 320 local residents and organisations including St. Vincent's School parents, that urged the planners to oppose the application put forward by Landbilt, Ltd.

Since last week's decision, local residents have written letters of complaint to the Council's planners, to local MPs and to local press, accusing the Council of 'garden grabbing' and 'nepotism'. They say the plans set the homes too close to the street, destroy old trees, and rid the community of essential green space in the form of the the long garden of Trevenna Cottage which will be demolished as part of the plan.

Noel Rutherford, the Council's Director of Built Environment, replied to accusations from Mr. Mishiku that the development is unlawful under the central government's Planning Policy Statement (PPS3) said "In Ealing there has been no change to the relevant development plan policy (policy 5.5) which states that developments should 'demonstrate particular sensitivity on backland sites, ensuring proper access and servicing, and to accord with all aspects of this policy'. The further guidance given in Table 5F also remains as the Council's formal position in terms of infill development on backland sites. This scheme was of a scale to meet our backland development standards."

Even Ealing Central and Acton MP Angie Bray (Con) joined the debate and sent a letter to the Department for Government and Local Communities. Writing to the Minister of State, the Rt. Hon Greg Clark, Ms Bray asked on behalf of her constituents whether Ealing Council's Planning Committee were within their rights to overlook the PPS3 guidelines of the June 2010 Localism Bill.

The central government's Planning Policy Statement (PPS3), published in June 2010, excludes back gardens from being defined as 'brownfield' land, would be taken into consideration.

A spokesperson from Ealing Council told that changes to PPS3 "are intended to assist local authorities and communities to take the decisions about garden development that are best for their area. These changes were brought to the attention of Planning Committee in the officer’s report which confirmed that the changes do not preclude the development of former garden space but do give the Council greater power to determine what is appropriate in their own area."

The development application was passed by a vote of 5-4.

Residents, led by Mr. Mishiku are planning to meet this Friday to decide what to do next. There is no right of appeal by members of the public after a planning decision has been approved, but the residents hope to find some way of having the decision reversed.   Some have accused the planning committe of nepotism after it emerged that Cllr Ray Wall, the chairman of the committee who had the final swaying vote, is married to another committee member, Cllr Lauren Wall, who also voted in favour of the application.

Ealing Council was adamant that the vote was taken with due consideration. In a written statement, the Council said "The accusations of nepotism that the planning committee somehow engineered a favourable decision for this application are ones that we take very seriously. We encourage anyone in possession of any evidence to support such a claim to make a formal complaint so it can be investigated properly."

3 March 2011

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