How will Ealing Council respond to OPDC’s modified Draft Local Plan?

Ealing Council is under new leadership as from May 18th 2021, with Cllr Peter Mason appointed as its Leader and a changed set of Cabinet members.  In his first week, the new Leader announced

• An immediate review of council policy on tall buildings, setting out where tall buildings are inappropriate in the borough
• Implementing town development plans, created with communities, setting out the vision and infrastructure needs of the borough’s seven towns

Our Forum strongly supports both these ambitions.   Ealing has long defined itself as ‘the Queen of the Suburbs’ and a Borough made up of its ‘seven towns’ (including Acton).   In the past five years, a cluster of major towers at North Acton has completely changed the character of the area.

The planning consents for these developments have been granted by Ealing Council under its ‘scheme of delegation’ with OPDC.  It is not the only part of the Borough which has seen changes.   Public opposition to a rash of tall buildings across Ealing has made itsef felt in recent years.

As a result of campaigns by the Ealing Civic Society, Ealing Matters, and the ‘Red Block Rebels’ the new administration at the Town Hall is aware of the growing strength of public opposition to extreme housing densities and building heights.  Local elections take place in May 2022.

The OPDC Draft Local Plan threatens further high density high-rise in East Acton, at Channel Gate and at Acton Wells (the sites on Victoria Road).   This building typology is being imposed because the Corporation has a 25,000 housing target to meet and has struggled to identify enough potential sites after the 45 acres of Cargiant land was ruled out in late 2019.  Too much is being crammed on too little land.

Our Forum has written to Councillor Peter Mason asking how his new administration will be responding to OPDC’s consultation on its ‘modifications’ to the Draft Local Plan.   This will be an early opportunity for the Council to demonstrate a real commitment to a rethink of its plans for the future of the Borough.  Our letter can be downloaded here OONF and StQW to Peter Mason June 2021 final

Under the former leadership of Cllr Julian Bell, Ealing Council seemed content to leave OPDC to its own devices in terms of plans for East Acton.  Cllr Bell viewed the delegation scheme for North Acton as ‘our opt out’ and a sufficient level of control by the Borough.  This unusual arrangement (of one planning authority deciding planning applications on behalf of another) was negotiated by Ealing with London Mayor Boris Johnson prior to the establishment of a Mayoral Development Corporation in 2015.

The results for North Acton are now there for all to see,  and visible from a wide expanse of London.  ‘One Westpoint’ at 54 storeys is nearing completion and has joined a cluster of towers of student and residential accommodation (mainly) small flats and studio apartments).  A further development at 4 Portal Way has planning consent for 55 storeys.  Further developments at 1 Portal Way, and on the site of the Castle pub, are at pre-application stage.

North Acton prior to construction of 1 Portal Way and 4 Portal Way
North Acton prior to construction of 1 Portal Way and 4 Portal Way

We think it wise of Cllr Peter Mason to commit to a review of the Borough’s strategy for tall buildings.   In an era of lockdowns and cladding scandals, public appetite for high-rise living is uncertain.  Sales off-plan to foreign investors have fallen away.   We hope that he and his Cabinet colleagues take a careful look at the details of OPDC’s Draft Local Plan.  This consultation is the last chance to do so, before the Planning Inspector brings his examination to a conclusion.

Ealing residents look to its Council, with its new leadership, to do more than wave through an OPDC Draft Local Plan that fails to reflect how local people wish to see the eastern part of the Borough develop in the future.   The Queen of the Suburbs can do better.

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