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Environmentalists and residents raise major concerns over Ealing Council’s draft Local Plan which they say removes protection from parks

Across Ealing, environmentalists and residents have expressed major concerns over what they have seen and read about parks in Ealing Council’s draft Local Plan.

The draft Local Plan, sets out what the council is seeking to do for the next 15 years and the public has until 8 February 2023 to give their comments on the proposals which cover a range of issues across Ealing including housing, environment, leisure and more.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England London (CPRE London) has said they will be challenging Ealing Council’s plans in the draft Local plan which they claim will remove protections from parks.

According to CPRE London, Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) sites, which have the same level of protection as Green Belt, including Acton Park, will lose their protection completely

The full list of sites which are set to lose their protection are:

MOL2 Former Kellogg Tower / Grove Farm / Ealing Northern Sports Centre
MOL5 Greenford Cemetery & Windmill Lane Allotments
MOL13 Trailfinders
MOL18 Gunnersbury Sports Grounds/ Old Actonians
MOL20 Hanger Hill Park & former Barclays Sports Ground
MOL22 Twyford Abbey (already under threat from a planning application)
MOL23 Acton Park, Sports Grounds and Trinity Way
The council also proposes removing MOL protection from Norwood Green Play Park and the land north of Norwood Green Road

Alice Roberts, head of campaigns at CPRE London told EALING.NEWS: “It is unprecedented for a borough to seek to remove official Metropolitan Open Land protection – which gives the sites the same protection as Green Belt – from vast areas of land – eight large sites in fact. These sites are nearly all in constant use for recreation or sports or as parks and it’s vital the protections remain in place for future generations. Some small parts of these sites may have gone out of use but the answer to this is to work with local sports clubs and wildlife groups bring them back into use or create critical habitat to tackle the nature crisis, not to exclaim that they no longer need to be protected.”

Ms Roberts added: “At this stage we are responding to the Local Plan Review consultation to say this is completely wrong and that the reasons cited for removing the protections are completely unjustified.  We are also working to raise awareness among Ealing residents of the scale of the threat and to ensure residents have a chance to respond themselves. We are certain Ealing residents will be up in arms about this – if they know what’s happening. Unfortunately, it has not been widely advertised at all. It’s buried in a consultation with scores of documents amounting to hundreds of pages.”

Supporting CPRE London,  opposition Planning and Housing spokesperson Liberal Democrat Councillor Jon Ball said: “It is terrible hypocrisy for a Labour administration elected on a manifesto promising to create new parks and open spaces is now instead removing the protection our existing parks and open spaces have from being dug up for building schemes. I urge all residents who are concerned about our green spaces to respond to the Council’s Local Plan consultation either by email to localplan@ealing.gov.uk or respond to the survey question on Policy G4 “What are your views on the development proposals on green open spaces?” with resounding opposition.”

Councillor Ball added: “We need to preserve green spaces like Actonians in my ward that acts as a green lung next to the traffic of the North Circular and Northala Fields where I take my son at weekends. These areas should retain the protection that they currently enjoy. Development, including much-needed genuinely affordable housing, must be on brownfield sites.”

Cllr Athena Zissimos, Lib Dem Councillor for Hanger Hill ward in which a number of the open spaces earmarked for loss of protection lie said: “The Labour-led Council hardly blinked and gave planning permission for Twyford Abbey which was MOL to be built on, it is hard not to believe this is what the plans are for all the other green spaces in Hanger Hill, they will chip away at it all, until there is nothing left. A report put out by the Council in 2013 recognised that parts of Hanger Hill already did not have much green space.”

CPRE London is also calling on the council to extend the consultation process.
Ms Roberts said: “We believe Ealing Council should extend the consultation now, set to close on 8 February, and give people a chance to absorb what is proposed and make the voices heard.”
The requested extension follows other groups and residents who have called on Ealing Council to extend the deadline for its draft Local Plan until the end of March 31 2023. Residents feel the current deadline of 8 February 2023 is not enough to go through hundreds of pages of detailed information the council is asking people to comment on.

They say: “The Council is conducting this consultation from a huge position of strength, since they have been working on the new LP since about 2019. And then we are given until 8 February 2023”.

They claim the council has been working on the draft Local Plan for years and have the benefit of teams of experts to write it, which local people do not have the means of ability to respond to in such a short period of time.

One Hanwell resident told EALING.NEWS: “This really is not enough time to respond. We need to consult with each other, we need to find out what these complex documents mean. It takes time. The council has the means to do this but we are just ordinary working people. The council leader needs to realise we can’t respond in such a short period of time for something they’ve had months if not years themselves to prepare and get experts to write for them.”

Ealing Council previously extended the deadline for inviting residents and businesses across the borough to provide feedback and comments to its draft new 15 year local plan by two weeks from 25 January 2023 to 8 February 2023.

In one letter seen by EALING.NEWS and written by Southall resident and local campaigner Minni Dogra, they say that the impact and legacy of the plan is great and needs time to properly respond to.

Ms Dogra also claims the council has implemented poor levels of communication and engagement to residents and businesses over how the draft Local Plan is being made public and explained.

Ms Dogra recently attended a walkabout on 12 January 2023 organised by the council and is concerned that the amount of time the council has provided following the walkabout and workshop to when they have given a deadline for responses to the plan is not enough.

“We all met at Southall Station for the Walkabout at 1pm 12 January 2023: 5/6 Ealing Council officers, 4 residents, 2 Southall councillors and one Cabinet councillor who joined us halfway outside Lidl. Why was there such a low turnout? I raised the serious issue of lack of notification and the time period involved for the proposed consultation of such massive changes planned for Southall.

In the evening the Southall Workshop meeting took place at Southall Manor House. Again, the turnout of local Southall residents and business people was extremely low. I recognised the Southall residents because they are the same people who take a genuine non-secular interest in Southall community matters. Although I am not sure, 2 Southall
councillors (same ones from the Walkabout) were present, but not the Leader of the Council despite being the Councillor for Southall Green. Other Ealing borough residents attended and complained bitterly about the lack of notification and time periods allowed for the consultation process.

“The Council is conducting this consultation from a huge position of strength , since they have been working on the new LP since about 2019. And then we are given until 8 February 2023. That’s 3 weeks to start reading , understanding , learning , digesting , thinking , discussing and finally reaching a stage of consultation. We are not on an equal footing.”

“I sincerely believe that the Southall people and all the residents and businesses throughout the borough should be given a fair starting point from which to begin the Regulation 18 consultation process. The consultation cannot start properly unless notification and sight of the Draft LP is given in a proper and reasonable manner. The impact of the proposals are so far-reaching that people must be given reasonable time to form groups and learn from each other so that they can respond. The truth is that many of us have just become aware of the Local Plan and we need sufficient time to try to reach out to as many residents as possible who are able to express feedback that is a fair reflection of our different community groups.

“I expect the council to allow an extension going in to March. The council does this for a living. You cannot expect ordinary people to settle down to study this document. As I said on the Walkabout and at the Workshop, I never knew in all my years in the borough that the council was required to consult businesses and residents in relation to a new Local Plan. This is the first time I have ever read such a document where we are required to appraise the detail and give our opinions. Those of us who are trying our best to engage must be given some respect for the time that they have already committed to the consultation process by attending the council run events. Ealing Council should also consider running a second round of Workshops so that we can go beyond the “Introduction to the draft LP” and next time have a more meaningful conversation and ask questions from a position of knowledge rather than ignorance.

“I was given a summary by the engagement officer at the walkabout. The summary is detailed as to all the aspects that we would have covered. As a matter of record I must advise that the detail reflected in the summary sheet given to us was not actually covered. The weather was atrocious (wind and rain). Whilst the planning officer gave information as we walked around (which was very helpful) , our most detailed conversation was about the shortness of time and the need for a time extension so that the people of Southall could genuinely engage in this Regulation 18 procedure.

“We expected the Regulation 18 to be a process that the Council were going to engage in prior to drafting the Local Plan. It appears that the draft local plan has already been drafted and the Regulation 18 process is happening after the event and that gives the impression of decisions made and foregone conclusions. The Draft Local Plan is basically a catalogue of the Council’s plans for the seven towns. People are unhappy right across the borough. Once again the impression given is that decisions are being made, documentation is being rolled out, plans are being passed, consultation procedures are not followed properly, expediency and tick box exercises drives the decision-making processes.”

Councillor Jon Ball, Liberal Democrat spokesperson on planning and housing commented to EALING.NEWS: “We in the opposition agree with residents that the deadline should be extended further. The Local Plan consists of a 559 page document plus 37 further supporting documents, some of which also run to hundreds of pages, and the devil lies in the detail.  A period this short running across Christmas and the New Year is patently insufficient for residents to properly study, discuss and respond to the plan.”

A council spokesperson told EALING.NEWS: “Thousands of residents and businesses have already taken part in our consultation on Ealing’s draft new Local Plan. The council has already extended the consultation period by two weeks beyond the required period, so the new deadline is 8 February 2023. That means it will run for 10 weeks in total, ensuring that our communities have additional time to review this important document and feedback on the proposals.”

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