Mark Walker is the acting chair of The Island Triangle Residents’ Association (TITRA) in North Acton and raises his concerns about how Old Oak Wharf high-rises threaten Old Oak Lane’s close-knit community.
Imagine that you lived in a two-up, two-down house in Ealing and a developer told you they planned to put a huge housing block topped with 15-storey towers, dominating your home and blocking out the light, right next to it.
Imagine that local planning rules forbade such a massive building, but the developer seemed emboldened to ignore them.
Imagine the developer told you their development would improve the cohesion of your community.
This nightmare is becoming a reality for residents of the Old Oak Lane Conservation Area’s railway cottages in Old Oak, under plans from developer Gem Point, which wants to cram 360 homes on the current site of Lord Builders Merchants, next to the Grand Union Canal at North Acton.
Hundreds of homes delivered at such massive heights will overwhelm the existing community of 220 Victorian era cottages (known locally as the island triangle) while the new development’s service traffic and visitor parking needs will put excessive strain on local streets and infrastructure.
Residents are stunned at the prospect of such an out-sized building, particularly since the Mayor’s Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC)’s Local Plan says that canalside buildings near existing residential areas cannot exceed six to eight storeys. Why is the OPDC failing to apply its own rules?
The developer claiming to bring community cohesion through high-rise towers hasn’t looked around this neighbourhood recently. The attractive 19th century streets are brimming with heritage – they have been a TV, film and music video location for decades. Michael Caine starred in the Ipcress File here, Pulp’s legendary Common People street scenes were filmed here, as were the jokey family scenes in Madness’ famous Our House video from the 1980s.
Local people have enhanced this conservation area and established green spaces: with support from Ealing Council, residents built a community Woodland Garden, while locals have turned alleyways between the cottages into beautifully-planted, shared gardens. We believe improving these green areas, and the Victorian houses they support, is a more genuine way to foster community cohesion than a developer in a hurry imposing unrealistic and ill-thought-out plans on people.
Developer Gem Point conveniently forgets that Old Oak is rapidly being modernised anyway. Permission was granted in November for 457 homes – including a 30-storey tower – at Atlas Wharf, just the other side of the canal. And any visitor cannot miss the massive 26 and 16-storey towers of the Oaklands development that recently delivered 600 new homes here.
It seems that hundreds of new dwellings, with thousands more to follow, isn’t enough for City Hall, which increasingly wants to surround and destroy the small Victorian housing enclaves that are the beating heart of Old Oak.
We call on Gem Point to rethink its misguided building in favour of something that is sympathetic to and sustainable for the whole community. We call on the OPDC to apply its own planning rules to help everyone agree a sensible balance between new homes and safeguarding existing communities here. And we call on local people to let the OPDC know that they condemn this travesty of a plan and of the planning process.
Anyone wishing to comment on the Old Oak Wharf plans can write to the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation at firstname.lastname@example.org
In a response, an Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation spokesperson told EALING.NEWS: “As the Local Planning Authority, officers are currently engaged in pre-application discussions with the developer and are assessing the proposals against the policies set out in our Local Plan. Our planning officers also recently met with local residents on site to hear their views and these will be taken into account alongside any other representations, if the proposals are submitted as a planning application.”