The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has raised concerns over many parts of Ealing Council’s proposed 15 year local plan and has called parts of it “inappropriate” as well as highlighting concern over the council’s “proposed approach towards its Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land.”
The Mayor also seeks Ealing Council to be clearer on tall buildings and said: “The draft Plan does not clearly identify areas it considers suitable for tall buildings in a single map”.
In a letter to Steve Barton, team leader spatial planning, regeneration and property for Labour-run Ealing Council, the Mayor outlined issues over its proposals, dates of commitment, planned use of metropolitan open land (MOL) and other concerns.
In its correspondence with Ealing Council, the Mayor said that while “The draft Plan aligns itself with the Council’s key priorities to tackle the climate crisis, to fight inequality and to create good jobs and growth. These objectives link well with the Mayor’s Good Growth Objectives, especially GG6 increasing efficiency and resilience, GG5 growing a good economy and GG1 building strong and inclusive communities. The draft Plan is well structured and reasonably well aligned with the LP2021 in many areas, but there are a number of issues which we raise and for which we provide guidance; our key concern being LBE’s proposed approach towards its Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land.”
The Mayor added: “While it is clear that the Plan will cover a 15-year period, it is not clear when this period will begin and end. It would be useful if this was set out. The difficulty in committing to a starting year is recognised, but doing so (even indicatively prior to the submission version of the Plan) would help LBE in aligning growth aspirations with their LP2021 housing target period, for example.”
In its plans for Gurnell Leisure Centre, The Mayor said it would be “inappropriate development on MOL”: “The proposed allocation lies completely within MOL and is currently home to a leisure centre. As set out in Policy G3 of the LP2021 MOL is afforded the same level of protection as Green Belt land. The proposed use is for a leisure-led scheme with enabling residential use and improved access to open space. The Mayor largely considers this would be inappropriate development in MOL.”
Residents had until 8 February 2023 to respond to the consultation over the plan. At a council committee meeting on 6 February 2023, the council revealed it had 3000 responses to the survey and 700 by email as of that date.
Speaking to EALING.NEWS, Brent River & Canal Society Trustee and Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaign officer, Steven Toft said: “We are disappointed that the Mayor did not question Ealing Council’s proposal to de-wild and develop half of Warren Farm Nature Reserve. The site assessment in the Local Plan red-flags this proposal on the grounds of loss of biodiversity and open space. The proposal would also fall short of the GLA’s objectives as laid out in the London Plan and the London Environment Strategy, which also call for Biodiversity Net Gain and require new developments to include new wildlife habitats. The area scheduled for development contains plants and animals on the Mayor’s Priority Species list. These will not survive the loss of suitable habitat at Warren Farm, should this plan go ahead. Our petition to the Mayor, now approaching 21,000 signatures, shows that a lot of people understand this.”
Mr Toft added: “That said, some of the Mayor’s other points are well-made. If, as the Local Plan says, Ealing is to become the engine of West London’s new economy, the implied increase in population will require a corresponding increase in access to green space. The decision to de-designate some areas of Metropolitan Open Land is, therefore, short-sighted.
”The Local Plan is almost entirely focused on the built environment. There are no corresponding sections on a strategy for green space. It contains very little information about improving parks and green spaces and protecting the ones that we already have. It is also not clear how the Local Plan will reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. Climate change and the threat to ecosystems is one of the biggest challenges this country faces over the next 15 years. In this Local Plan it seems like an afterthought.”
Ealing Liberal Democrats have raised their concerns and highlighted areas including tall buildings and metropolitan open land where it will be challenging Ealing Council over.
In a statement, it said: “The overview on tall buildings is “overly complex”, does not take into account the fact that Kew 3km south of Ealing Centre is of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) which is strategically important. Furthermore, there is no single map showing all the tall building spots, demonstrating a deliberate lack of transparency replaced with a “smoke and mirrors” approach. Indeed, there is a no clear definition of a “tall building”, something which the Liberal Democrats have also challenged Labour on.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Gary Malcolm, Leader of the Opposition said: “The Labour administration in Ealing are continuing with their ill thought out plans to build on Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land through designating housing blocks at a range of protected land areas across a range of sites. Liberal Democrats believe in the importance of green infrastructure to sustain us over the medium term alongside a framework of buildings for the future and connected communities. We believe that this local plan is damaging to the sustainability of a future Ealing.”
Councillor Julian Gallant, leader of Ealing Conservatives told EALING.NEWS: “The London Mayor’s reservations about Ealing Council’s Local Plan are window dressing, frankly. He weakly resisted the plan to de-green the Twyford Abbey site and stayed right out of the Friary Park controversy. We Conservatives, as on-the-ground Ealing people, deeply value our MOL-our lungs-and we’ll resist any furtive attempt in the local Plan to “dedesignate” it. And we didn’t miss the fact that dedesignation was mentioned in an ANNEXE at the back of a 700-page document!”.
Neil Reynolds, chair of Ealing Green Party told EALING.NEWS: “The Mayor is right to be concerned about the Labour council’s plans. The loss of green belt will change the character of the borough. The criticism doesn’t go far enough as it fails to mention the attack on nature that the council is planning at Warren Farm.”
Mr Reynolds added: “Equally the absence of a credible plan to reduce car use is rightly criticised. It suggests a superficial commitment to dealing with the climate emergency. All three issues should be put right in the final version of the plan.”