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John Lewis planning application sparks backlash in Ealing

A planning application by John Lewis Partnership (JLP) has sparked public outcry as it plans to build a number of tower blocks up to 20 storeys high.

The development, which would see the construction of mixed-use buildings including housing, has faced fierce opposition from some residents who have called on Ealing Council to act.

Campaigners Stop T Towers (STT) have sent a letter to council leader Peter Mason requesting that local authorities not entertain “any application for the West Ealing Waitrose site which exceeds the draft local plan height limits of 7-13 storeys.” STT has said that John Lewis’s current application does not respect the concerns of residents and contains numerous blocks over the 13 storey mark.

The application contains plans for four main blocks which range from 11 to 20 storeys as well as two apartment complexes between 3 and 4 storeys.

STT also raised concerns about sustainability objectives after the plan made it clear that John Lewis intends to demolish existing buildings on the site including the current Waitrose store which is only 18 years old.

Campaigners say that the application makes very little effort to incorporate or compromise with the suggestions and concerns of the local community that were raised during a public consultation.

In fact, the way the retail giant has gone about the process has raised the eyebrows of many locals with Justine Sullivan, Co-Chair of Stop the Towers labelling the company as ‘arrogant’ and questioning the timing of the application to coincide with the council’s summer holiday.

Suggestions have been made that John Lewis deliberately timed the application to be sent to the council at the start of August when there would be less scrutiny and public attention paid.

In an open letter to the council, STT said that “JLP has behaved evasively by submitting its application on 4th August during the summer holiday period and then delaying the wider communication of the submission, with the public only advised through a leaflet drop on 19th August.

This has left residents with a mere 13 days until the closure of the consultation period on 31st August to review and respond to the application comprising 190 documents.”

JLP’s pivot to property development seems to come as executives search for a strategy to make the company profitable after suffering losses of £234 million last year. The plan proposes 428 housing units ranging between one and three-bedroom ‘flats, apartments or maisonettes’ as well as commercial spaces.

Out of these units, plans show that less than 80 are affordable housing meaning that it falls well below the Greater London Authority’s aim of 35 per cent leading to campaigners pouring more scorn on the project.

“The arrogance of John Lewis Partnership around its intention to overdevelop the West Ealing Waitrose site is breathtaking. JLP has ignored local community opposition to their excessive plans and ridden roughshod over Ealing Council’s guidance for the site.

“Residents of West Ealing support appropriate and proportionate developments that will genuinely benefit the local community but JLP’s current plans will not deliver this.

“Unfortunately, the company is behaving like the most rapacious of developers, ignoring the needs of the local community and disregarding democratically implemented local plans in a desperate attempt to plug the losses of its core retail business,” said Justine Sullivan, Co-Chair of Stop the Towers.

A John Lewis Partnership spokesperson: “As the housing crisis continues, we have the opportunity to make better use of a supermarket and car park site to deliver much-needed homes for the local area, as well as improved community facilities, new commercial space and a new Waitrose shop.

“We’ve set out our ambition to maximise the delivery of affordable housing to ensure good availability of quality, rental homes for local people, including nurses, teachers and other key workers.

“This is an ongoing process where we’ve been working closely with a range of stakeholders and will continue to do so while the application is considered.

“The plans have been submitted to Ealing and the local authority will now consider the application in line with all relevant planning policies.

“We are confident that Ealing will welcome feedback from local residents between now and determination of the application as has always been the case with other major applications in the borough.”