The construction of housing and a new library around a West London recreation ground has been approved. The project will see the creation of 95 homes, 94 of which are categorised as affordable housing, a new ‘state-of-the-art’ library building as well as highway enhancements, 53 new car parking spaces and landscaping.
However, the application was subject to vehement opposition by both Hillingdon residents and ward councillors. The construction is due to take place on land that was formerly a community swimming pool, land that many residents see as set aside for recreation.
According to the council’s report, during the public consultation, 47 household letters of response were received of which 46 raised objections to the proposed development.
In addition, a petition objecting to the scheme on Yiewsley Recreation Ground was sent to the council containing 435 signatures. At the hearing, Cllr Sital Punja made an impassioned speech against the development saying: “I can not tell you how disappointed I am to be sitting here today, how truly repugnant I find this situation where Yiewsley residents are ignored time and time again.”
She marked out her opposition to the plan highlighting concerns around air quality, and environmental issues, and raised the matter of an almost 100-year-old covenant that promised the land would “remain forever recreational”.
She said that residents of the new development, which will consist of buildings of up to five stories on the Otterfield Road side of the recreation ground, would not be able to “open a window because the air quality is so bad,” and labelled the planned housing as “quantity over quality” noting the high number of single bedroom units.
The councillor, who was joined in opposition by her fellow ward councillor Nasser Abby, said that the community has been “ruined by the continued catastrophe of poor planning decisions that blight Yiewsley.”
She finished her speech by saying: “I hope the committee rejects this application or holds its head in moral shame.” During the meeting, a letter sent to the council for residents was read out which expressed frustration with the process and said that “for a long time Yiewsley residents have felt ignored” by the council.
It added that many residents in the area didn’t want any more housing saying: “Since 2008, 1525 residential units have been built.” Concerns over the transparency of the process were also raised in the letter, with the petitioner asking the council to remove the application from the agenda as it had been “impossible” for residents to read the 1869 pages of documents to do with the development.
The application was made by the council itself and required it to nullify the covenant by appropriating the land, which includes brownfield sites where the old swimming pool used to be, in August.
Before going to the committee for comments and questions, council officers addressed some of the points raised by opposition groups. Officers assured the committee that the development would be air quality neutral, and could even be air quality positive with the addition of carbon-absorbing trees which were added late into the plan.
The scheme will remove 10 trees but replace them with 30 more, a net gain of 20. They also added that the relocation of Yiewsley Library was judged to be sensible and meant it was of a higher standard while remaining within the confines of the town centre.
As part of the plan, the old library building is set to be demolished. Committee members appeared to have mixed feelings about the development. Cllr Adam Bennett praised it seeming offended by Cllr Punja’s suggestion that single-aspect units were of poor quality.
However, councillors did seem split by the proposition in front of them. Cllr Elizabeth Garelick wondered if the building functioning as effectively entirely affordable housing could have an undesirable effect on the community at large and mean that social incorporation of people from different socio-economic backgrounds would be stunted by the move.
Chair of the meeting Cllr Henry Higgins warned that the committee was straying from strictly planning considerations. Cllr Bennett added: “When we sit on this committee, we look at a lot of applications and we say we wish they had more affordable housing and now we have one that has an awful lot of affordable housing and we as a committee sort of say its too much?”
He pushed for his approval of the plan to be seconded and a vote was taken resulting in a 4-3 decision in favour of the application.