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Cap The Towers welcomes Mayor of London commitment which could lead to Ealing Council approved plans for towers in Acton being thrown out

Local campaigning group Cap The Towers has said it has welcomed the Mayor of London’s commitment to not allow tall buidings built without two staircases and believes approved plans by Mount Anvil and Cataylst to build towers in Acton’s Friary Park that only have one staircase will be thrown out.

The group has also said it continues to hold Ealing Council and the nine councillors who approved the plans to account for ignoring all recommendations before granting approval.

The Mayor’s statement, followed the government’s launch of consultation in December 2022 where it would be requiring developers to include two staircases in buildings 30m or above.

Earlier this month, the Greater London Authority (GLA) planning department said: “The Mayor has consistently expressed concerns that the fire safety requirements in the national Building Regulations are not fit for purpose, so the proposed strengthened requirements and clear direction at the national level are strongly supported.

“This Government consultation envisages a very short transition period with new developments being encouraged to prepare for this change now.

“In light of this we are clear that, with immediate effect, all planning applications which involve residential buildings over 30m in height will need to be designed to provide two staircases before they are referred to us at Stage 2 for the Mayor’s decision.”

EALING.NEWS reached out to Mount Anvil CEO Killian Hurley who said: “We are currently reviewing our plans and will be delighted to update you once we have greater clarity.”

We also asked Catalyst for a comment. The housing provider told EALING.NEWS: “We are reviewing the potential impact of the announcement on the schemes we currently have in development.”

Speaking to EALING.NEWS, an Ealing Council spokesperson said: “”The developers are aware of the new direction from the Mayor of London that a second staircase will be required in all buildings over 30 metres, and are currently reviewing their plans.”

Cap The Towers has also claimed that previously the Council ignored and delayed showing advice from the London Fire Brigade regarding safety.

According to the group, which has released videos fronted by TV presenter Sean Fletcher to highlight concerns about The Verdean, the name of the Friary Park development, Ealing Council has ignored advice from the London Fire Brigade.”

In a recent Instagram post, Mr Fletcher said: “We want an Ealing Council that works for the people of Acton and Ealing, not a council that appears to work so closely with the developers it’s not always clear which is which!”

In approving the plans, Cap The Towers said, only one councillor, Conservative Julian Gallant, voted against the plans and of the other nine, it claims that they have “voted to allow a lower standard of fire safety at Friary Park.”

The nine Councillors who voted for the development were: Sanjai Kholi (Labour), Louise Brett (Labour),  Tariq Mahmood (Labour), Swaran Padda (Labour),  Monica Hamadi (Labour),  Muhammad Iqbal (Labour), Sarfraz Khan (Labour), Anthony Kelly (Labour) and Gary Busuttil (Liberal Democrat).

In its response to the plans, the fire service said Ealing Council should consider “multiple staircases a fundamental requirement for tall residential buildings.”

In a statement, Cap The Towers said: “The Mayor of London has apparently decided that he cannot even consider ratifying the latest planning application for a seventh tower and other increases in height and bulk of buildings at Friary Park in Acton. The Planning Committee of Ealing Council approved this application on 19 October last year but the Council’s decision has to be ratified by the Mayor. That cannot happen because it is now mandatory that towers as high as those at Friary Park must have at least two staircases for fire safety reasons.”

It added: “The developers and Ealing Council were trying to get away with just a single staircase in each of the Friary Park towers, disregarding the advice of the London
Fire Brigade who asserted that there should be ‘multiple staircases’, and ignoring all the predictions that new regulations requiring second staircases in tall buildings
were imminent.”

“The nine councillors on the Planning Committee, who so misguidedly voted in favour of this seriously flawed planning application, are now accountable for this
latest Friary Park fiasco.

“Even more guilty than these nine councillors, are Ealing’s senior planning officers who – having received the London Fire Brigade’s advice on the need for second staircases in September – deliberately hid those crucial details, not only from the general public but even from members of the Planning Committee themselves! It was Cap the Towers, acting on the advice of specialist lawyers, who managed to force Ealing’s planning officers to release the Fire Brigade’s advice in its entirety, just a couple of days before the Committee met on 19 October.

“However, those nine councillors lacked the will or the capacity to grasp the significance of the Fire Brigade’s advice, though it was clear to everyone outside Ealing Council that the expert opinion of the London Fire Brigade could not be ignored. But the additional scandal is, why would Peter Mason’s Ealing Council deliberately set a lower standard of fire safety than the London Fire Brigade was recommending, particularly when Friary Park is just along the road from Grenfell where the single staircase was one of the causes of lost lives. How disrespectful is that?

“And what did Ealing Council think they were doing, rushing the developers’ plan through last October in a frantic effort to avoid the almost inevitable change in the regulations on fire safety that would scupper the developers’ plan? Now both the Council and the developers have egg on their faces as their unsafe plan for additional building at Friary Park, which they devised together, has proved to be impossible, not to say illegal.”

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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