Ealing Council’s recent announcement that they were ‘clamping down on tall buildings’* has been revealed to be a sham. The “new guidance” ** trumpeted by the Council leader is little more than a rehash of 10 year old policy.
Many people have asked if this would now stop the 22 storey tower on Manor Road, by West Ealing station, which was APPROVED by the planning inspector in October 2021.
Sadly no. This announcement won’t do anything to stop it being built.
Nor will it stop the plethora of sky scrapers being built in North Acton, nor the hundreds of tall buildings already approved in the borough and those in the pipeline. So what tall buildings will Ealing be clamping down on? It’s a bit like closing the stable door once the horse has bolted. Or horses in this instance.
Ealing Planners have ignored this guidance for ten years. So how will this ‘new guidance’ make a difference?
STT has looked at the details (for a more in depth analysis see box below). In summary, Ealing hasn’t produced any ’new guidance’ that would prevent tall buildings from being approved, they are just restating the outdated Local Plan from 2012, repackaged with minor tweaks. What’s more, this new guidance was signed off by the Cabinet Lead for ‘Good Growth’ Shital Manro at a committee meeting of one – himself!
During STT’s meetings with Council Leader Peter Mason and Head of Growth Shital Manro, they’ve been promising big changes, claiming Ealing is ‘no longer up for grabs’. STT have been also pushing for a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) that would stop gross over development around West Ealing station, including Hastings Road and the Waitrose car park site, but to no avail.
Are planners and developers free to carry on like before?
These announcements carry little weight in planning terms. Are are they just virtue signalling?
All this comes on the back of Ealing Councils’ inability to adequately defend its own planning decision on the controversial Manor Road Tower. Partly because the council failed to submit vital housing figures, the appeal against the tower was lost. Costing thousands of pounds of wasted council tax in legal fees.
Worse still the Council had an obligation to record the figures under a ruling by the Ombudsman, which it still not complied with. A double failure. As a result, the 22 storey Manor Road Tower will now be built, setting a precedent for more towers of small flats in the immediate area and across Ealing.
So with announcements like this, which are just minor tweaks of an old policy and still no sign of the five year housing forecast, what has changed??
We feel let down, but we are determined that they will not hoodwink the electorate.
Many thanks for your ongoing support.
Stop The Towers
Council Clamping down on tall buildings announcement
** Policy Guidance link
Ealing Local Planning Policy Guidance (LPPG): Tall Buildings | Ealing Local Planning Policy Guidance (LPPG): Tall Buildings | Ealing Council
Ealing Today article with STT response
STT Planning team comments:
The Council web page refers to this being controversial – it certainly is! They have not produced any new guidance that would prevent tall buildings from being approved, just restating the outdated Local Plan. They can only ‘hope’ that developers might read the signals that they do not want to incur the wrath of the electorate.
The Council have chosen not to give a definition of a tall building eg. Ten or more storeys. Instead their definition leaves the area vulnerable. The problem with this definition of tall buildings is that once the Manor Road tower is built, it leaves a query whether a 20 storey tower next to it is a tall building? Similarly in central Ealing with the 26 tower next to the Town Hall, all the towers in Acton and Southall – once you have a couple of towers, is another new tower tall?
Ideally we would bolster the requirement for the building of tall buildings only to be on specified sites, to say that unless the site guidance says explicitly it is suitable for a tall building, it is not designated.
There is also wriggle room so a developer can still propose a tall building on a non designated site and it has to be considers on its merits. We need a stronger steer that there would have to be an over-riding justification on other grounds to build a tower in a non designated site. A genuine recognition that other factors are relevant.
Also until we have the 5 year delivery target and proof of land supply, we still have the ‘tilted balance’ (= a presumption of approval) so LBE has limited scope to refuse applications.
Unlike most authorities, Ealing Council chose not to review and revise the 2012/13 Ealing Local Plan within a five year window. Thus outdated, it has meant that developers treat it with little respect, not required to heed it. The Council have left the borough vulnerable to overdevelopment, which is why we are see a plethora of cranes and tall towers emerging. What is more, their failure to be open and transparent with respects to their statutory duties to produce Authority Monitoring Reports on an annual basis since 2014 has further contributed to their inability to refuse inappropriate development. This seems to have been deliberate Council policy at Cabinet level, maybe to enhance their ability to provide as many new homes as possible, but at the expense of ignoring appropriate planning guidance that should protect current and future residents from harm. Examples are too few stairwells to act as fire escapes, internal corridors that lack windows for natural light and ventilation – both of these have been shown to be life enhancing. Just think of similar failures in Grenfall and the necessity to ventilate stale, virus-laden air.
Cllr Shital Manro admitted that “This approach is a long-standing part of Ealing’s current Local Plan and has been since its adoption in 2012-13” the only difference is the reference to The Ealing Character Study and Housing Design Guide.
Local Plan – Characterisation Study
The Council have restarted the process to produce a new Local Plan but the needs for background research and then consultation mean this is a lengthy process. The long awaited Allies and Morrison characterisation study for Ealing has now appeared. Click here for link.
This study supports the development and implementation of the new Local Plan. It provides a broader evidence base needed for area-specific plans, and will support the implementation of the emerging London Plan policies.
The plan consists of two parts:
A1) Boroughwide characterisation – Character elements and typologies in mapped and written format;
A2) Typologies and scope for growth – Housing design guidance and parameters primarily for small housing sites and tall buildings.
The study makes the point that tall is not the same as dense and you can have denser, more intense development without building a tower. Also just because you have one tower does not mean you have to have lots of towers.
The report is set out by theme to explore different aspects of LBE’s historic, geographic, physical, functional and social characteristics. The report is intended to set out information on the layers of character that comprise Ealing as well as introducing key elements and relevant policy considerations from the London Plan (2021).
The report is intended to draw together emerging trends observed through this analysis and site visits to emerging and recently completed schemes to understand what this means for shaping character-led intensification and growth across the borough.
West Ealing will be targeted for further intensification.
Small site intensification – delivery of homes through small site intensification will be an important part of helping Ealing to achieve its housing targets. This equates to replacing existing houses with more infill development, or conversion into homes with multiple occupation.