Ealing and Northfield

Regenerating Ealing – the vision thing

One of the big issues raised over the Leaf and Dickens Yard planning applications is vision. Where is the vision for Ealing?

In planning terms this has to be in the current Unitary Development Plan which the current Tory administration inherited from the previous administration. It was adopted in October 2004 and you can see it here.

This is currently being re-worked and will be called the Local Development Framework (LDF). The consultation meeting on Thursday was a part of the process of creating and getting consensus for the LDF. Sure this is a long-winded process that has been underway since the 2006 elections but it would be surprising if it wasn’t. Those asking for vision need to accept that the current process is all about informing that vision.

I have been looking hard at Crossrail, see here, and it is clear to me that Crossrail will have a big impact on the LDF. It is inconceivable that the State would spend £16 billion on building a high speed railway connection between the World’s busiest international airport at Heathrow and the World’s foremost financial centre in the City and allow Ealing’s centre half way between the two to remain a relatively low density area. We might argue over the level of density but dense it will be. Why wouldn’t you want to surround Crossrail nodes with high density developments?

Cranford ladies with acknowledgements to the BBC

Those with a knowledge of Ealing’s history know that the centre of Ealing was half way down South Ealing Road around St Mary’s church before the railway came. The current Broadway and its hinterland of residential streets is a product of 19th century railway development. Now the railway is coming again and Ealing’s centre needs to respond to it. We might lament the loss of the country houses and market gardens that comprised this area before the railway came but the railway is coming again and we need to work out whether we want to make it work for us or whether we want to stick our heads in the sand.

Many of the objectors to these schemes seem to have a clear vision. That of an exclusive, upmarket suburb like Chiswick, Hampstead or Richmond. That might suit a few of the borough’s residents but I suspect it will not resonate with the majority.

15 replies on “Regenerating Ealing – the vision thing”

Quite right. Crossrail will have a massive impact so let’s look at it. We need now to be discussing what implications it (as well as other developments like White City) will be for Ealing in say 10 years time. And in a local democracy everyone must have a chance to debate this. A peremptory dismissal of all those who have written in with carefully argued concerns about the implications of Arcadia or Dickens Yard doesn’t take us very far. These objectors have at least put some views on the table. I don’t think it too unreasonable to think that the Council might respond by sketching out theirs.


It is up to the council’s planning committee to decide planning applications and the main tool it has to guide it right now is the UDP. The members will take objectors’ views into account and also use their own judgement of what’s best for Ealing. Ultimately they will have to stick to planning grounds for deciding the future of these schemes.

I don’t want to pre-empt the planning committee so I will keep my opinions about specific planning applications to myself.

I do think though that some of the wider issues should be aired because although change is always upsetting to many our town centre does need to change and if it isn’t the current town centre schemes that drive that change then it will be others.

The council’s view will come out over time through the LDP process. It will not be quick though.


Interestingly it was not the Council’s planning committee which halted Arcadia/Leaf1 from Glenkerrin – as it never met to decide on the application.

5,000 objection letters, and rejection by the London Mayor, English Heritage and the Government’s architectural advisors ‘decided’ the fate of Arcadia/Leaf1.

Many of us have already contributed significantly to the LDF process and will continue to do so – individually, via our residents’ groups and via SEC. Let’s hope that when the LDF finally emerges in 2011 probably it will be the summation of many. many different views for a ‘better’ Ealing.


The trouble with your system is that big decisions need to be taken now – before the Council has got off the fence and explained what it wants Ealing to become. After 2 years in power, the Council has had ample time to take this lead. Rather than wait till 2011, I want to know what those who make key decisions want for Ealing when they put themselves up as candidates.

Anyway, if the Planning Cttee really will determine Dickens Yard on planning grounds, as you say it must (and it’ll be liable to judicial review if it doesn’t) the scheme hasn’t got a prayer. It too flagrantly contravenes the Council’s adopted SPG for the site as well as a staggering number of UDP policies – one list cites Policies 3A.5, 3A.6, 3A.10, 3A.29, 3B.3, 3C.17, 3C.19, 3C.23, 4B.1, 4B.8, 4B.9, 4B.10, 4B.11, 5F.1 (bullet point five), point 6 of Appendix 2 and the density range for the site in Table 3A.2.

Phil, You are being disingenuous talking of country houses and market gardens which pre-dated the widespread development of residential roads in late Victorian & Edwardian times. This was wonderfully managed by a dedicated elite when this country was at its zenith. There is no longer a real elite backed by a loyal community and any major development will incur high negative scores just like Livingstones tram!


If you are going to slag me off can you use short words please?

Ealing was country houses and market gardens until the railway came. Fact. It isn’t disingenuous to point this out. Nobody would have built houses in Ealing if it hadn’t been on the railway. All I am saying is that it is unrealistic to suppose that Ealing will be untouched by Crossrail.

‘It is the law’

What on earth does this mean? Will French is an experienced town planning expert and if the UDP is ‘law’ then St George Dickens Yard1 attempts to drive a coach and horses through this law.

As for wanting short words – try this:

Crossrail could be good for Ealing centre and West Ealing centre, but only if Ealing Council had and soon engages creatively and effectively with Crossrail and its local agent Network Rail. TfL needs to be creatively engaged with as well to sort out Ealing centre’s transport hub.

The Leader of Ealing Council is now well known for his vision for Ealing town centre. He has been heard to say that his vision for Ealing town centre is ‘….let the market decide’. Ealing deserves better than this Adam Smith piffle. Let’s hope that the people of Ealing decide what’s best for Ealing and its centres.

Finally, I don’t think you have much of a clue as to what the objectors to Dickens Yard1 and Arcadia/Leaf1 are all about. You’ve made no effort to engage with SEC, which represents 25 local groups with a combined membership of over 12,500 residents. Mind you, you are in good company as none of the other Councillors – also up for re-election in May 2010 – have attempted to engage with SEC either!


I am no planning expert but there is a formal legal framework for planning and the UDP is meant to be the guide for developers, planners and the planning committee and any planning inspector. If Will French is an “experienced town planning expert” why was he on here describing that formal legal framework as “your system”. For the second time who is Will French anyway?

The council has been and will continue to be pro-active with regards to Crossrail but Crossrail will have economic impacts that the council will not be able to control or alter. It is no coincidence that Glenkerrin has assembled the Arcadia site. Dickens Yard is much more valuable with Crossrail than it is without. Under a Tory administration that gain will translate into new libraries, swimming pools and schools. Under Labour the council spent £50 million on a failed IT system and buying their own building. You choose.

I won’t speak for council leader Jason Stacey but the leader and cabinet are very constrained in what they can say on particular planning applications and particularly so in the case of Dickens Yard where the council owns the site. I feel I have a bit of latitude as a new cabinet member who was not involved in the DY decision but even I am intent on sticking to general principles rather than the specifics of these applications. If we are not careful we will have a developer or a group of residents taking us through an expensive legal process which will cause planning blight in our town centre and cost the council a lot of money.

As for SEC I am not sure who they represent or who they are. They might use their website to identify themselves. They give the impression of being a small group of activists made up of people with what a councillor would call a “prejudicial personal interest”. In other words their view is self-serving.

I regularly attend residents’ association meetings, for example Walpole, West Ealing and Ealing Fields, as do my councillor colleagues. I don’t recognise the heat that SEC is trying to portray. Even when Ealing Times headlines an article “Dickens Yard: ‘Overdevelopment'” and SEC run around screaming blue murder they get 9 comments on their website 4 in favour of DY and 3 against (discounting the two people who commented twice). One man’s overdevelopment is another man’s chance for a home.


I’m me – I’ve been in Ealing for 14 years and would be very happy to meet to discuss any of this with you. I believe firmly that you get better decisions on complex issues like this when all views get a proper airing – that’s why I welcome your blog.


PS One thing we might talk about is which law it is that precludes a Council from stating its ideas for the Town Centre over 2 years after taking office.

I do resent this ‘Who is Will French’ stuff. Who are you Phil for that matter? And who am I for that matter too?

It’s the policies, arguments and facts that really matter.

‘New libraries’? No. Changed libraries with space wasted on coffee bars – Yes.

I don’t disagree that the Council 2003-2006 was something of a mess.

You are ‘intent on sticking to general principles’ re Dickens Yard. This sounds like you’d prefer to ignore the 2004 Supplementary Planning Guidelines.

If residents don’t like what the Council is doing – especially when it involves the Council ignoring its own guidelines – it’s an inconvenient truth that these residents might go to law to force the Council to behave properly.

As for people like me and all the 25 community groups represented in SEC having a ‘prejudicial personal interest’ – well this is probably laughable as well as libellous.

Let’s just see how many people write to Steve Austin objecting to the St George application. And Phil, you still have a few hours left to send in your objections to Dickens Yard.

At least you are involved in the issues; you put forth your views on a public forum; and you respond. Which is more I can say for some of your elected colleagues.


No need to be getting resentful. Will French has been posting here a lot and you held him up as a “experienced town planning expert” but he doesn’t seem to be that au fait with planning law and seems to think that the rate of progress Ealing is making with its LDP is not good enough. To be out running public meetings and consulting with the public after only two years in office seems like pretty good going to me given the long list of other things the council has to worry about.

I know you are from WEN, people know I am a councillor, who is Will French? On a wider point who are SEC? They claim to represent 25 residents’ associations but it would be nice of if their website identified the committee and gave us some biogs so we can see who we are dealing with.

As for this 2004 line that is SEC’s biggest porky. The 2004 document was a planning brief, ie the council stating what it would like. The responses from developers are what we have to deal with in the real world. We might ask for endless loveliness but if developers come back with different ideas we have to either talk to them or do nothing. SEC seems to have conveniently forgotten the extensive consultation exercise undertaken by St George which is strange as I understand that various residents’ association luminaries took part in this exercise and I had understood that the feedback was that this had been a model exercise. I am told that the final proposals from St George don’t look very different from outcome of the consultation exercise. Somebody from SEC might explain.


Your curiosity as to who I am is rather perplexing and I honestly don’t know how to answer it. Just what do you need to know? As I said previously, I be happy to talk over any of this stuff with you.

I am sorry if you think I’ve been posting too much on your site – I thought that was that was the idea. I do welcome this site as it provides a chance to discuss some of the issues. There is far too much misinformation and far too many misunderstandings around at the moment.

For instance, take another look at the 2004 site brief. You can’t just dismiss it as an SEC ‘porky’. If you look at the report to Cabinet it states the brief is supplementary planning guidance prepared ‘for the purposes of development control’ and to provide the basis for marketing the site.

In other words, the site brief was designed to provide relevant policies for determining the planning application. Government policy as set out for instance in PPS1 is very clear – ‘where the development plan contains relevant policies, applications for planning permission should be determined in line with the plan’. The brief has never been withdrawn or amended and so it’s provisions still stand.

A fundamental purpose of our ‘plan-led system’ is to provide developers with as much certainty as possible about what would be and what would not be acceptable. By using the approved SPG as the basis for advertising for tenders, St George and the 16 (I think) other tenderers knew very well what they were expected to be working towards. So how on earth can it be that after having bid for the site on the basis of the brief, they have come up with the kind of proposals we are now being consulted about?


Will has been very gentle with you here.

Steve Austin is a very experienced Planning Officer and he’ll know a lot more about planning law than you or me – but he’ll not know more from my experience than Will French or the other two planning experts on the SEC Committee. I doubt that Mr Austin will find SEC guilty of lying.

Stop stating LDP when presumably you mean LDF.

I attended the St George’s sales pitches and I viewed them as aspirational flights of fancy. When asked about what I wanted in Dickens Yard I replied with ‘an integrated arts and sports centre’. Sadly I couldn’t find this anywhere in the St George Planning Application.

SEC is but 8 months old and it’s chosen to deal with the huge bits of Glenkerrin and Council/Dickens Yard nonsense rather than constitutional nonsense and officer appointments. No doubt, like the UK and the EU, the SEC will get round to formulating a Constitution one day soon.

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