The Chiswick Curve is dead – Long Live Chiswick!

The West Chiswick and Gunnersbury Society was delighted with the news that the High Court had dismissed the claim by the developer, Starbones to quash the decision of the Secretary of State. This means that the decision to refuse planning permission made in July 2019 by the then Secretary of State stands.
It has been a long campaign since Starbones submitted the application in December 2015 with various battles along the way. Throughout, we took strength from working together with neighbouring groups in Chiswick, Brentford and Kew – together, we can! The strength of opposition to the development, both local and wider, was clear at the public meeting which we organised in April 2016 and confirmed by the unanimous decision of the Council’s Planning Committee in February 2017 to refuse planning permission. We didn’t give up the fight when, as expected, the developer appealed; instead we geared up for the Public Inquiry
The harm the Chiswick Curve would have inflicted on a significant number of heritage assets was such that the Council was joined by Historic England, the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and the Kew Society as main (Rule 6) parties at the Public Inquiry which was held over 4 weeks in June/July 2018. WCGS also participated outlining the impact on the surrounding residential communities and emphasising that “Heritage is our inheritance – it is the visible link with our history – it connects us to where we live and contributes enormously to our collective sense of place.” We then had a long wait for the Planning Inspector to submit his report to the Secretary of State and for the latter to digest the report and come to his decision, which he did in July 2019.
Now that decision is confirmed by the High Court the Society wishes to thank all those who have contributed to this successful outcome. We appreciate the major contribution made by our Council’s planning department and to the work carried out and commitment shown by our neighbouring community groups, especially the Brentford Community Council and The Kew Society. Our members and other local residents who supported us were vital to maintaining our resolve.
In relation to the Public Inquiry we wish to pay tribute to the rigorous and robust approach taken by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Historic England to the issue of harm to the World Heritage site and to other major heritage assets such as Strand on the Green (Historic England). The combined weight of the cases made by the Council and the other parties against the appeal was powerful.
The decision of the Secretary of State on the Chiswick Curve and the cases made by these parties will, of course, have relevance in relation to other large-scale developments currently under determination. These include the L&Q Citroen site (Public Inquiry held in January/February 2020) and the B&Q site (application currently under consideration). At both Public Inquiries the tensions between a conservation area adjacent to an Opportunity Area in a world city were debated. In my closing statement at the Citroen Inquiry, I said:
I think that we can all agree that London is a world city. It is of national and strategic importance as our capital city. Its natural and historic environment is too important to be treated in a cavalier fashion. It should be conserved and enhanced in accordance with the NPPF. While regeneration of the Great West Corridor is important, the corridor is not, and must not become, the defining feature of the wider area. The big attraction of this area for visitors as well as those who live and/or work here is that, while easily accessible from Central London, it has significant heritage landscapes and a beautiful stretch of the Thames which, together with its predominantly low-rise buildings give much of it a generous, open, almost rural feel. This is complemented by its compact townscape of predominantly Victorian and Edwardian terraces, providing homes to its well-established, thriving residential communities. The special appeal of both is that they provide respite and retreat from the urban environment.
A significant part of the “pull” of London is the great variety of what it has to offer in terms of its built and natural environments. It is essential that development enhances and maintains this rich tapestry rather than leads to an homogenised city of poorly distinguished areas, sterile neighbourhoods and an assortment of high-rise blocks, competing for attention as they dominate the skyline.
So, my plea is that, as a world city, London
• provides its residents with homes of genuine high quality,
• understands the true value of its historic environment and
• pays full respect to its world heritage
Marie Rabouhans
Chairman, WCGS
13 March 2020
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