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Opinion: What is going on at Ealing Council over Friary Park in Acton

Cap The Towers is a group of Acton residents who have come together to give their community a united voice against what they say is the over-development of Friary Park in Acton and lack of openness and transparency from the council and the developers Mount Anvil and Catalyst.

In an open message to Ealing Council, it’s leader Councillor Peter Mason and councillors who site on the Ealing planning committee, they write of the development also known as The Verdean:

  • What is going on in Ealing Council over the planning application at Friary Park for a seventh tower and 238 more flats?
  • Why has neither the Council nor the developer informed the public that on 13 February 2023 the Mayor of London, following Government statements, declared that from now on all residential buildings over 30 metres had to be built with two staircases for reasons of fire safety?
  • Why has neither the Council nor the developer informed the public that on 15 March 2023 the developer wrote to Ealing Council informing them that they had redesigned at least five of the seven towers at Friary Park, changing them from single staircase towers to double staircases.

“Cap The Towers has been investigating. The decision to make these towers much safer is much to be welcomed but why all the secrecy?

“Clearly having to redesign all these buildings is a major matter, eventually costing the developer an undisclosed but huge sum of money. The cost has not been disclosed. However, the financial viability assessor has already declared that ‘the decision to incorporate second staircases will not improve the viability of the proposals and indeed the impact will very likely be detrimental.’ That is a major matter. Also a major matter, is – for example – that some apartments will be reduced in size from 1 bedroom flats to studio flats and other flats will have some even smaller rooms.

“When these kinds of major changes occur or are forced upon a developer after they have already received planning permission, the usual procedure in local authorities up and down the country is that the developer has to submit a new application. Not with Ealing Council though. It appears that between the developer, the Labour group and the Liberal Democrats (ironically the official opposition) to sneak this revised application through without making a new application and without the Ealing public being made aware of what is going on.

“Cap The Towers can now reveal the details. The developer, in presenting their revised plans for the second staircases in all 5 towers yet to be built, has argued absurdly (15 March 2023) that these changes are not major at all, but minor. Ealing Council is going along with this, further evidence of their devotion to the greedy developers whose overbearing towers are blighting the Ealing, Acton and Southall townscapes. And the official opposition, the Liberal Democrats, appear not to be helping residents. Cap The Towers has written evidence from within the Council that all this is so. ‘Just pretend that the changes are minor and we can slide it through by just making it an amendment to the planning permission obtained last October.’

“This could just about work if the changes were truly minor: some change in landscaping for example, or in some building materials. But when major constructional changes with major impacts are involved, as in this case, that amendment route is not possible. The only way the Council can possibly get away with it, is by making it hard for the public to find out.

“Hence the secrecy on the part of the Council and the developer. Once people see this such as suggesting that a major change is only a minor change, the whole issue falls apart.

“The developer must go away, reassess the whole project properly, and then make a fresh application. Cap The Towers thinks that might just lead to the developer finally coming up with a plan where there is less of the concrete jungle, more open green space, and which is not dependent for its viability on selling the majority of the Friary Park flats to rich overseas investors rather than to Londoners who desperately need homes.”

Click here to read more about Cap The Towers

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