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Cap The Towers say “Peter Mason’s council appears to be on the side of the big institution trying to twist arms and bully through a scheme”

Local campaigning group Cap The Towers has challenged Ealing Council leader Councillor Peter Mason in which they say “the people of Acton are wondering why Peter Mason is turning a blind eye to the new flats at Friary Park, which are being extensively marketed to some of the wealthiest people in the world, this time in Singapore, as investment properties.”

They claim that what Councillor Mason said in May 2021 is far from what is happening. At the time he said:  “From now on communities will be in the driving seat when it comes to regeneration in Ealing. Local communities need to lead the process of change in our Borough, not developers. I want to ensure that local people know that their Council is on their side and that’s why I am announcing a series of new measures to make the Council more open, transparent and inclusive”.

But since September 2022, in a series of videos and statements, Cap The Towers has been challenging Ealing Council and Councillor Mason over how residents in Ealing are not involved in development decisions.

The group said that Ealing Council and its leader Councillor Peter Mason “appears to say one thing and do the opposite” as the Council planning committee approved on 19 October 2022 the addition of a seventh tower at Friary Park development The Verdean despite local opposition.

Earlier this week, the group challenged Ealing Council over its claims to be following the London Plan when deciding on planning applications. It said that under the heading ‘Delivering the homes Londoners need’ the London Plan states categorically that local councils should ‘create a housing market that works better for all Londoners.’ and says this is not happening with Ealing Council.

In the video they question why Councillor Mason has spoken out against John Lewis housing development for Waitrose in West Ealing but is silent over Friary Park in Acton.

“Recently the leader of Ealing Council, Peter Mason, tweeted that Ealing needs genuinely affordable housing, above all other types of housing. He went on to say: We need expensive homes for sale less than we need homes for the 11,000 families on our housing waiting list’. He criticised John Lewis’s building proposals in West Ealing for what he said: feels like a big institution trying to twist arms & bully through a scheme.

“Well the people of Acton are wondering why Peter Mason is turning a blind eye to the new flats at Friary Park, which are being extensively marketed to some of the wealthiest people in the world, this time in Singapore, as investment properties.”

They say the video shows how the Friary Park development is being sold in Singapore and the campaign group says it “contains further evidence that the towers of Friary Park are not intended for Londoners at all”.

In a voiceover, the group said: “So why isn’t Peter Mason speaking out against the way the developers are marketing the properties at Friary Park. Could it be because Ealing Council is working too closely with the developers? We know the council and developers chose to ignore the Acton residents’ unanimous opposition to the excessive height and volume of the new development. To the people of Acton it felt like, in the words of Peter Mason a big institution trying to twist arms & bully through a scheme – except in this case Peter Mason’s council appears to be on the side of the big institution trying to twist arms and bully through a scheme. All the people of Acton are asking for, is a Council that represent us, and not one that works so closely with developers it appears to be compromised. Londoners do not want Friary Park to be an investment hub for the global rich.”

The group says the first tower of 24 floors was marketed in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and in various countries in the Middle East.  The second 22 floor  unbuilt tower is now being marketed in Singapore while Cap The Towers says the developers will be marketing the third tower as luxury housing.

In a statement, Cap The Towers said: “These massive towers, already defacing the landscape of Acton, none of them containing a single affordable home let alone any social housing. Cynically, the developers have included just enough social housing, hidden away somewhere else on the estate, to get their planning permission from a gullible or naive Planning Committee.

“Those Councillors, in giving approval to the Friary Park project – first in 2019 and again last year – have never asked a single question about who these towers are for.  Cap the Towers was present at both those meetings and has witnessed, at first hand, the astonishingly low level of scrutiny by the Committee combined with the fact that the planning officer, in his report to Committee, always ignores this whole issue of flats being designed for and sold to overseas investors in such overwhelming numbers.”

A Ealing Council spokesperson told EALING.NEWS: “As a council, we have radically stepped up our homebuilding plans in recent years but we recognise there simply isn’t enough affordable housing here for everyone who needs it.”

They added: “The Friary Park scheme secures the delivery of 455 affordable homes. That’s an uplift of 230 additional affordable homes, as well as the replacement of those that existed on the original site. This represents 37% of homes to be built on the site.”

EALING.NEWS also asked Mount Anvil and Catalyst for a comment.


More on Cap The Towers and its campaign

Since September 2022, the group in a series of video presented by TV broadcaster Sean Fletcher has been challenging Ealing Council and Councillor Mason over how residents in Ealing are not involved in decisions. In May 2021, Councillor Mason said: “From now on communities will be in the driving seat when it comes to regeneration in Ealing. Local communities need to lead the process of change in our Borough, not developers. I want to ensure that local people know that their Council is on their side and that’s why I am announcing a series of new measures to make the Council more open, transparent and inclusive”.

They also questioned why Councillor Mason said at Acton’s Friary Park development of high-rise buildings: “We don’t want speculative planning applications proposed for tall buildings that are inappropriate for their surroundings”.

In a video posted 17 October 2022 presented by TV broadcaster Sean Fletcher, the Council is directly asked: “Now you tell me, whether these towers are appropriate for the surrounding area”.

The latest video comes after Cap The Towers has been campaigning for Ealing Council to be “open, honest and transparent” over plans for The Verdean, a new property development set to consist of 990 new homes on the former Friary Park site of Acton.

The group claims that the Labour-run Council has been holding meetings and negotiations with the developers of the high rise towers which the public have been denied information about.

In January 2022, in a video and statement from Council leader Councillor Peter Mason, he told residents of Ealing that “Our administration promised residents in May (2021) that we would be “open, honest and transparent.

Cap The Towers has claimed that the Council has been ignoring and not responding to residents concerns over Mount Anvil and Catalyst, part of the Peabody Group, plans for the development which is six acres in size and across the road from Acton Main Line station.

The Verdean in Acton
CGI of The Verdean in Acton

According to Mount Anvil and Catalyst, 45% of the development will consist of affordable homes.

Currently there are six towers, Cap The Towers revealed an additional one which has now been approved but residents were not informed or consulted about and they claim it doesn’t offer any affordable homes. They also say up to nine towers may eventually be built on the Friary Park site instead of the six they were led to believe would be there.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Gary Malcolm, leader of the Opposition on Ealing Council told EALING.NEWS: “Ealing Council for many, many years has failed to listen to residents who have concerns over the large number of tall buildings that their planning committee has voted through. Liberal Democrats say even though it is legal for the Council to meet up with developers before any applications are lodged, this smells fishy when Ealing Council does not publish the details of those meetings. I understand other Councils publish details of those meetings and it this Council wants to be open and transparent then it needs to do the same. Anything else and people will be rightly annoyed about these backroom meetings.”

Cap The Towers say they are not against new homes being built but say “We are against developer greed and believe strongly that local residents should have a voice. Unfortunately the planning system is weighted heavily in the developers’ favour. If they get their way, there will be no stopping them returning to raise the other towers even higher.”

In a series of videos released during September 2022 and October 2022, TV presenter and local resident Sean Fletcher highlighted concerns about the Council over its approach with Friary Park. Sean also challenged Ealing Council leader Councillor Peter Mason for the Council to be “open and transparent” with residents concerning the development being built.

Cap The Towers wanted to know more about meetings between Ealing Council and developers Mount Anvil and Catalyst.

According to Cap The Towers there were eight pre-application meetings in 2021 but when they made a Freedom of Information request to find out what the meetings were about, the Council refused to provide any information on which Ealing officers or councillors were present at these meetings, provided no information about what was discussed or agreed at the meetings and claimed no written record exists of what took place at these meetings.

Cap The Towers said: “Freedom of Information would allow us all to know what was raised at these pre- application meetings and what commitments Ealing Council gave to the developers, but without any written records of these meetings, it is impossible for the Freedom of Information Act to work at all!”

Conservative Councillor Gregory Stafford told EALING.NEWS: “Local Conservatives have repeatedly opposed the over development of the Friary Park development. New homes are needed in the Borough but skyscraper rabbit hutches with no increase in amenities benefit no one. I am disappointed but not surprised that the Labour Council is refusing to disclose the details of meetings, because the Labour Leader’s pledge to be open and transparent has been shown to be nothing but hot air.”

Councillor Stafford added: “The Council’s planning code of conduct states that these meetings need to be logged and the names of those present must be recorded. Once again, Ealing’s Labour Council fails to follow even its own most basic standards. Residents are right to be outraged”.

Further videos presented by Sean Fletcher highlight a range of issues which they say the Council has not replied to them about.

 

 

 

At the start of October 2022, a video for the commercial sales of flats at The Verdean was released by property agents Knight Frank promoting studio, 1 bedroom and 2 bedroom homes along with a link to the properties on sale from £375,000.

 

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