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13-storey ‘Tesco Towers’ plan in Harrow sparks concerns from local retirement home residents

Residents of a Harrow retirement home have raised health concerns over plans to build ten new tower blocks up to 13 storeys high right nextdoor. Many already suffer from severe breathing difficulties and fear that poor air quality and debris from the construction site could impact the more vulnerable residents

Against fierce opposition from local campaign groups, London housing association Notting Hill Genesis (NHG) submitted plans for the development, officially called Greenmead Place, last month. The developers want to demolish and then replace the existing Tesco superstore on Station Road in Harrow, alongside 10 tower blocks, ranging from four to 13 stories, to accommodate 504 homes.

Residents of the adjacent Rosen House Retirement Home, many of which are vulnerable and have serious health issues, are trying to fight the development. Mary Warner, 77, has lived at Rowen House for just over five years, she told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that many residents are ‘already stressed and anxious’ at the prospect of it going ahead.

She said: “The residents here are elderly, some are clinically vulnerable with breathing difficulties and use oxygen [tanks]. The prospect of a huge development next door on such a small footprint fills us with foreboding and we’re literally scared for our lives.”

13-storey 'Tesco Towers' plan in Harrow sparks concerns from local retirement home residents Harrow Online
Rosen House Retirement Home. From Left to right: Residents Wendy Ebrahim, 63, Mary Warner, 77, and Veena Shah, 70, outside Rosen House Retirement Home.

The retirement home residents, along with campaign group ‘No To Tesco Towers’, have been working locally to raise awareness of the development and encourage people to sign their petition. They are fearful of the effect the project will have on air quality, light, noise, and traffic, which they claim will have an enormous impact on their daily lives.

Suresh Shah, 80, has developed mutism since living in the retirement home and currently spends much of his day enjoying the view from his window. If the development goes ahead, this view will be obscured by one of the towers, potentially leaving his home completely in  shadow. Now unable to articulate his feelings, Suresh can only express them through crying  whenever the development is brought up.

Another Rosen House resident, Wendy Ebrahim, 63, said: “We have worked hard all of our lives, we’ve ticked all the boxes, we’ve paid the taxes, and we have come to a location to retire. […] We need to be able to breathe good quality air, it’s a basic human right. We’ve got people here on oxygen tanks, on kidney dialysis. None of us foresaw this as our retirement.”

It is possible that the development could take more than five years to complete, with Wendy suggesting many of the residents ‘won’t survive that [long]’. Those with homes directly facing the site are concerned they would have to draw their curtains and shut their windows to counter issues around privacy, noise, and dust, fearing the ‘colossal’ buildings could potentially leave them without light or fresh air.

Wendy said: “Elderly people die in the heat. […] I can’t be in my apartment sometimes because the temperature goes up so high. […] How am I going to open the windows with [the building works happening] right there?”

She added: “We’re trapped here now, we can not sell our properties. We are not a young group who can just up and go either. You wouldn’t want your elderly parents, grandparents, friends to live right next to a construction site. It’s going to impact us hugely.”

Mary claims it’s not just going to be the immediate area that should be concerned as everyone in Harrow would be impacted by the increased traffic. She said: “It’s going to be miles of traffic jams, nose to tail, with exhaust fumes coming out. It’s going to be a nightmare.”

13-storey 'Tesco Towers' plan in Harrow sparks concerns from local retirement home residents Harrow Online
Suresh Shah, 80, Rosen House Retirement Home. Suresh Shah, 80, is mute and can only cry when the development is discussed. Image Credit: Facundo Arrizabalaga. Permission to use with all LDRS partners

Sidney Chu, 65, believes the residents are ‘being discriminated against’ as the development would deny them a ‘decent standard of living’. He slammed NHG for being ‘not very good’ at collaborating and communicating with people in the local area.

Residents claim they only heard about the scheme through a neighbour, rather than via NHG or Tesco. Veena Shah, 70, said: “It was all very hush hush, nobody knew about it.” She fears the dust and debris emanating from the construction site would be ‘really harmful’ to these residents.

Veena said: “A lot of them are housebound, so in the summer time they come down and enjoy sitting outside but they won’t be able to do that because of the dust, noise, and air quality. […] We are really going to suffer.”

The development proposes 35 per cent of the homes be affordable and a new Tesco will also be built following the demolition of the existing one. Documents submitted by NHG suggest the development, which would be completed in two phases, represents ‘an opportunity to […] build homes on a brownfield side’ rather than on surrounding green belt land.

‘Phase 1’ would see the development of 233 homes – including all of the affordable housing in five towers ranging between seven and 13 stories – and the construction of the new Tesco store.‘Phase 2’ would involve the building of 271 private sale homes – in five blocks ranging between four and 13 stories – and the demolition of the existing superstore. If approved, the Tesco store would remain continuously operational to customers throughout the entire construction stage of development.

A spokesperson for NHG said: “We are always willing to work with the local community to understand and mitigate their concerns and are committed to providing this much-needed housing in a popular part of London. We carried out extensive consultation with local residents and gave them the opportunity to have their say about the evolving proposals.”

They added: “Following this, we responded by decreasing the heights of most buildings to reduce the impact on nearby homes, while assessments will be submitted to ensure the project complies with daylight and sunlight policies.

“Efforts are always made to ensure the minimum impact on neighbours and the site will be registered with the Considerate Constructors Scheme. Noise and air quality assessments will be conducted which will establish any mitigation measures that will be required, which contractors will enact.”

13-storey 'Tesco Towers' plan in Harrow sparks concerns from local retirement home residents Harrow Online
Protest against ‘Tesco Towers’ Plan. Rowen House residents, alongside community group \’No To Tesco Towers\’ have been protesting against the development. Image Credit: Facundo Arrizabalaga. Permission to use with all LDRS partners

The plan is expected to come before Harrow Council’s Planning Committee in the near future, however, a date is yet to be announced. Speaking just after the plan was submitted, the chair of the committee, Cllr Marilyn Ashton, said the area is already ‘covered in tall buildings’ and if development didn’t happen here it would ‘have to be put in the suburbs’.

She said: “This is what people have to understand. It’s always about the art of the possible, it’s always about achieving a Local Plan that’s pretty damn good and protects most of Harrow from inappropriately tall buildings. […] But the flip side of that is that you have to put some higher density development somewhere, particularly in the ones where there already is that kind of development.”

Ultimately the residents feel it isn’t the people of Harrow that will benefit from the development, particularly due to the belief that the properties are unaffordable for locals and are aimed at the foreign market. Wendy said: “It’s the property developers that will benefit, Tesco will benefit, and we will be put through years of nightmares.”

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