Morrison's "Lacklustre", Town Hall Ripe for Development

Meeting this week kicks off framework discussion for residents


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On Tuesday night Cllr David Millican - Cabinet member for Regeneration at Ealing Council introduced a reasonably well-attended meeting of around 80 people at Acton Town Hall about the Acton Town Centre Development Framework. He said that this is to be the start of a two-way communication between residents, businesses, planners and Ealing Council.

Considering around 45,000 people live in Acton the turn-out was disappointing, to say the least.

The document which has been seen by some (click here to read a previous article on about the Framework document) is intended, Mr Millican said, as the basis for discussion, not as the final version of the plan. He will be working closely with Vlod Barczuk, Councillor for Acton Central, on the project.

Lucy Taylor, Head of Economic Development was next to speak. She said that Ealing Council does not have control over some of the sites included in the development Framework. Conversations are starting to take place between developers, landowners and Ealing Council. Ms Taylor said that it is hoped that further money (as has happened with Greenford where Transport for London have made a major financial contribution to development there) will be drawn in from the private sector.

Ms Taylor continued that for short term improvements which could be made immediately, there is a plan to invest in and improve shop fronts by providing grants to businesses. Another suggestion is to make Acton Vale Bridge - which is owned by Network Rail - a key gateway point, as the railway bridge is in Southwark. Other suggestions are for hanging baskets, removal of street clutter, signage from shops etc and to give assistance to those seeking work.

Julian Lewis of East Architects, who have been carrying out the consultation in partnership with DTZ and URS (an environmental and engineering consultancy) spoke about the Development Framework as a "document to marshall the forces of change". He said that there is pretty good transport in Acton, though all its stations are on the periphery of the town. He also said that the South Acton Estate is a massive development and has an important relationship to the town centre. The aim is to make Acton the centre of choice for the people who live and work in it.

Mr Lewis called Morrisons supermarket a "lacklustre" building which could do a lot more for the town centre. He also called for more clarity and talked of a plan to pull together Churchfield Road and the High Street, making the Town Hall a more important central point. He also said this could be an opportunity to re-consider the South Acton Estate.

The 80 or so people then divided into groups discussing different aspects of the plan:

1. Key sites for investment opportunity (Morrisons, the Oaks and other sites.)
2. Community and Leisure facilities (Town Hall etc) plus the South Acton Estate Regeneration project.
3. Transport and Public Realm improvements.
4. Employment and the Local Economy.

From the discussions various ideas came up and the following is a summary and selection of them:

- Appearance of Market Place needs to be improved
- Station links/walking routes need to be better signed - and maps provided
- Cycling facilities need to be improved
- The good aspects of Acton need to be preserved and an increase in density would not be welcome
- The good diversity of shops should be increased but high rents are a problem
- Swimming pool: Keep it on existing site; build a larger (50metre) pool plus other sports facilities
- Keep the Town Hall, swimming pool and Priory Centre for public use but the locations could possibly be moved. Keep the facades but the interiors could be modernised behind them
- One suggestion - repeated by several groups - was to create a thriving community space which would be the "heart of Acton". It was suggested that this space could house an arts centre, a dance hall, cinema, theatre and a play area amongst other uses. This space could be an iconic building
- Look at other examples of iconic buildings and follow any successful examples
- Don't keep 'crusty old buildings' just for the sake of it if they are not fit for purpose
- Make more open space around the Oaks shopping centre to link Churchfield Road and the High Street
- One example of a successful development is Stratford Bus Station
- More parking spaces are needed in Acton
- Currently, maintenance of public spaces is poor and it was emphasized that in any discussions a maintenance plan needs to be implemented
- Council should support local enterprise, especially business start-up groups
- The High Street needs improvement
- Keep the human scale of buildings in Acton but improve them and make clearer access joining one area to another
- There are currently 886 people unemployed on the South Acton Estate (giving it an above average 30% unemployment rate). People with issues think the world is against them and need to be persuaded back into employment. Funds should be made available to help
- Acton feels like a poor relation within the London Borough of Ealing - we want an Acton which is active, safe and nice to live in

The meeting lasted around 3 hours. It was emphasized that this will not be the only opportunity to discuss the development framework, and there will be a questionnaire available at some point. The organisers said that they hoped this would be the start of a "long and fruitful" dialogue.

September 1, 2008