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Saturday, 21 July 2012

Why Ealing Council needs to Defer the St Albans Church Planning Application

In the past week we have seen the planning report and today we had the site visit by Ealing Council's planning committee who will decide whether to convert St Albans Church into ten luxury flats.

There were lots of residents who wanted to ask questions about why the site cannot be used for community purposes.

Residents at the St Albans Church Planning Site Visit (21st June)
Sadly the report about this matter contains a number of errors and it also not does contain a fair balance of viewpoints from those who have come up other community uses for the site. To many residents I spoke to today, things smelt wrong. The main points of criticism are:

  • The report was written BEFORE the consultation period had ended!
  • The last site visit lasted over an hour but this one (remember there are many new Councillors who are different) lasted only about 25 minutes.
  • No report from the Council's Conservation Officer so the planning committee will not be aware of all the salient issues.
  • There are three alternative (and community) uses for the site but these are not detailed properly. Details of the viability of alternative uses are not show so the planning committee will be given a fair impression about the alternative schemes.
  • Opposition comments from organisations like large Residents' Associations are NOT PRESENT in the report.
  • The report states that a nursery will be present however the Council have strangely said they are not to enforce a condition so that a nursery or equivalent would be guaranteed to be present in a few years time. What is likely is that if approved a nursery would appear and then that use of the proposed two storey building would alter to allow for expensive rented property.
  • A number of statements, including one on page 24, from the developer about the non viability of community use are given as being fact when that isn't true. This gives the impression that everything coming from the developer is true and everything coming from the community is omitted. Not good democracy. 

The planning committee on this matter need to ensure that NO possible community use is possible before they can allow a change of use for housing. This clearly isn't the case and I detail some of the errors in the planning report. It does appear that the Council are actively omitting documents from Residents Groups or other bodies who have come up with viable alternatives such as a Theatre and a church at the expense of assuming everything is factually true from the developers statements.

So in summary, the report should be re-written and postponed to a planning committee in August or September. Anything else and the planning committee are not being given the correct and fair set of facts to make a decision about this important site.

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