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Locals call on the Greater London Authority and the Mayor to overrule Ealing Council and stop Clarion Housing development on Twyford Abbey

Residents in Ealing are campaigning this week to get the Greater London Authority (GLA) to throw out Ealing Council‘s approval to allow Clarion Housing to build 326 flats spread across seven blocks at historic Twyford Abbey, West Twyford. 

Last month (19 October 2022), Ealing Council planning committee gave the controversial project the green light, despite 256 people objecting to it and only 6 expressing support, and now only GLA intervention can stop it.  

Today (15 November 2022), Dr Rupa Huq MP for Ealing Central and Acton along with Dr Onkar Sahota, chair of the London Assembly will be meeting with the GLA planning committee before a final decision is taken by the Mayor of London.

Local resident Kiran Rao highlighted concerns of the local community and said: “This planning application is set against the backdrop of our lived experience of pollution, climate change and health inequality in our area. You’ve only gone to turn on the radio and you’ll hear about some traffic jam or accident in Hanger Lane or be stuck in one yourself! It’s for this reason that we as a community have long admired the Mayor’s policies on climate change from cutting carbon emissions via the ULEZ to allowing children to commute safely to school via school streets.”

Ms Rao added: “This matters to us as we are impacted the most. We live in a highly polluted area, where there are many health inequalities. I think it’s safe to say that it is widely known in our community that air pollution is an invisible killer.”

According to Ms Rao, locals views were not listened to. “What really upsets us as a community is that Ealing Council has not listened to us. They have gone through the motions of ‘consulting us’ but there is a fundamental disconnect between policy, both local and regional, and creative interpretation and application of it, which seems neither transparent nor fair. Ealing rejected previous applications with a much smaller footprint, so it appears that our future is being sold to the highest bidder.”

She said that the Mayor has also previously raised concerns about the planning application. “The Mayor took a very dim view of this planning application for good reason and there have been no material changes since his stage 1 assessment. What we see being played out is a gross misinterpretation of policy designed to protect the land, its heritage and us, local residents. What shocked us so much was the lack of scrutiny; from the planning committee to the officers report which failed to reference important policy or misinterpret it. Conclusions were drawn without even mentioning an important stakeholder, the local West Twyford Primary School and Children’s Centre”.

Another local resident, retired schoolteacher Claire McIntyre, said: “The school is huge, 533 children attend and they objected to it and they still do. That’s 533 tender lungs that will be impacted by this development. That surely has to count for something. The school is situated immediately adjacent to this proposed development. Ealing’s decision was so bad that we decided to make a short film, so that we could get our voices heard. It features our young residents.”

Ms McIntyre added: “Our young residents and community don’t want more open space, we want access to clean air and this is our human right. This development will not give us this as the lungs of our community, 157 trees, will be destroyed.”

Ms Rao further added: “We’ve been portrayed as a community resistant to change, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. We want to see the Abbey restored but not like this and we have alternative solutions to its future use. What must come first is the health and safety of our community. Destroying 157 protected mature trees and woodland during our climate emergency in a highly polluted area is nothing short of criminal.”

Ms Rao said the Clarion application is set against the backdrop of COP 27 and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group which the Mayor of London chairs. “This is an important test case of the Mayor’s leadership on climate change. It is our human right to be able to breathe clean air and we believe that he respects this. All major political parties have written to the Mayor to raise their objections, including our local MP Dr Rupa Huq and Chair of the London Assembly and our area representative, Dr Onkar Sahota. We hope that common sense prevails and that we find a more sustainable solution to the precious gem that is Twyford Abbey. This will support our green recovery and wellbeing now and into the future.”

Ealing Green Party chair Neil Reynolds told EALING.NEWS: “The planning committee has made the wrong decision by approving the Twyford Abbey application. Deciding to allow developers build on metropolitan open land, and felling so many mature trees, will be bad for the environment, wildlife and local residents.”

He added: “The Mayor of London will hopefully step in and reject this. I am grateful to Green Party GLA member Sian Berry for writing to the Mayor urging him to do so. Ealing Labour promised to re-wild and re-grow, the reality is they just want to build and build”.

Among those supporting the local residents are Hanger Hill ward councillors where Twyford Abbey is located in. They previously expressed their shock at the decision by Labour-run Ealing Council and its councillors on the planning committee to agree to the plans.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Athena  Zissimos told EALING.NEWS: “‘The GLA must step in and protect the Metropolitan Open Land that we depend on them to protect, and that Ealing Labour Council is ready to give away. The GLA had not supported the development in the planning application put before the Planning Committee that was granted, the GLA must follow up on their recommendation and call-in the development. Not everything is about creating more housing, sometimes it is about leaving green space alone, so that the people that live in this crowded and polluted part of Ealing, can literally breathe a little easier, with the green space and trees that surround them in Twyford Abbey.”

Conservative Councillors for Hanger Hill, Fabio Conti and Gregory Stafford told EALING.NEWS in a joint statement: “We are extremely disappointed with the Labour planning committee members voting to approve the application that will see over 150 established trees being removed to make way for this development on West Twyford’s last green space.”

They added: “This proposal not only go against protections in place to protect metropolitan open land, but also the council’s own objectives to re-grow and re-wild our borough. Ealing Labour talk big on protecting green space but when it comes to it they fail to deliver. We will continue the fight as this application now moves to the GLA.”

Following approval of the plans by Ealing Council, leader of the borough Councillor Peter Mason tweeted that he was “delighted” by the decision of the planning committee.

He said: “Delighted that @EalingCouncil ’s Planning Cttee have given the go ahead to the restoration of Twyford Abbey this evening. The plans brought forward by Clarion are a good example of delivering gentle density, tenure blind, affordable housing, at no more than 6 storeys, well below the heights we are seeing elsewhere in the Borough, that dominate too much of the discussion on how we secure good growth. Trees lost will be replanted, biodiversity net gain achieved.”

Jean-Paul Beaini, who has lived in the Hanger Hill ward area for five years and been on the committee for West Twyford Residents Association for three years spoke at the planning committee meeting. He told EALING.NEWS: “The damage to the environment and the community that this development will cause is unthinkable. Notable objectors to the development are the Mayor of London and the GLA, our local MP, the adjacent primary school, numerous environmental charities and various local resident’s associations including ours. We are yet to see any noteworthy support for the scheme except from the developers. It is obvious this development is not fit for purpose.”

In her objection to the development, Ealing Central and Acton MP Dr Rupa Huq wrote: “I am unconvinced that this proposal represents the best possible long-term, sustainable and sensitive solution for the future of the Twyford Abbey site that would safeguard the heritage and biodiversity of the site and provide real benefits to the Abbey’s neighbours. Along with local residents, I believe this application represents gross over-development of a sensitive site, which should be rejected.”

Last month, Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Hina Bokhari AM wrote to the Mayor. In a tweet she said: “Today I wrote to the Mayor to support Ealing Lib Dems in their effort to save Twyford Abbey & prevent a planning application which will see its removal. He must take action now to preserve the area’s biodiversity and heritage, and reduce air pollution and health inequality!”

Clarion says in its plans that “Our vision is to open up the Twyford Abbey grounds to the public for the first time, providing access to previously closed off parkland and delivering much needed housing to the area”. It claims that 36% of the housing built will include 36% “genuinely affordable homes” and that the Abbey building will be saved. “Our aim is to preserve this rich history and restore the Abbey to its former glory.”

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