Arcadia Public Inquiry: daily report

The Public Inquiry into the proposed Arcadia development started on 23 June in Ealing Town Hall. Save Ealing's Centre appeared as a principal witness at the Inquiry, which lasted for 11 days over three weeks. (The Inquiry did not sit on Mondays.)

During the hearing, we posted a daily report of the proceedings, in which we opposed the case being put by developers Glenkerrin and Ealing Council. This report, in reverse chronological order, is below.

One of our supporters produced an entertaining daily blog of the Inquiry, which can be accessed at:

Thursday 9th July (day 11)
The barristers for the Objectors (Save Ealing's Centre, Ealing Civic Society and the Conservation Panels), Glenkerrin and Ealing Council made their closing statements. Tom Cross, for the Objectors, was commendably brief and to the point, concentrating on the main issues before the Inquiry. Mr Richard Harris, QC for Glenkerrin, on the other hand, was surpringly long, repeating much of the detailed evidence The Inquiry finally closed on the end of the afternoon.
Wednesday 8th July (day 10)
The day was taken up with a visit by the Planning Inspector, accompanied by representatives from Glenkerrin, the Council and the objectors, to various places around the area from which the development, and in particular the proposed tall tower, would be seen. The question of the visual impact of the development will be crucial in the final decision, and has been a major topic during the hearing.
Tuesday 7th July (day 9)
The Inquiry opened early, at 9:00 am, for a technical discussion between the barristers and the Planning Inspector on the Planning Conditions and Section 106 financial contributions which should be included.
From about 10:30 onwards the Inquiry continued hearing statements from the individuals and organisations who registered to address the Inquiry. This session continued for the rest of the day. This included statements from local councillors. All but one of the speakers was in opposition to the application.
Friday 3rd July (day 8)
The day opened with the cross-examination of James Guest's submission on Retail Issues.
It continued with statements by some of the members of the public who'd applied to address the Inquiry.
Thursday 2nd July (day 7)
Thursday continued with the cross-examination of Anthony Lewis's submission on behalf of the Conservation Areas. It heard from:
• Social Infrastructure pressures - Eric Leach
• Transport pressures - Tony Miller
• Environmental and Air Quality issues - Nick Woodward
• Retail proposals - James Guest.
Wednesday 1st July (day 6)
The Inquiry heard from the first of the seven Save Ealing's Centre, Civic Society and Conservation Areas witnesses:
• Planning policy and related issues - Will French
• Design and Visual Assessment - Bob Gurd
• Impact on Conservation Areas and Ealing - Anthony Lewis
Tuesday 30th June (day 5)
The whole of today was taken up with evidence from and the cross examination of Ealing Council's third witness - Neil Bleakley, the Council Planning Officer responsible for large projects.
Neil's presentation emphasised that the proposed 26 storey tower opposite the station, and its accompanying three 12 storey sisters facing Haven Green, lay between and outside the Central Ealing and Haven Green Conservation Areas, as these don't include the railway tracks. This attempt at an 'excuse note' met with the expected response from members of the public and featured in the cross-examination by SEC's barrister, who established the planning importance of considering the significance of these towers on their adjoining conservation areas. SEC's barrister also pointed out to the Inspector the highly critical comments on the Arcadia proposals by the Councils own Conservation and Urban Design Team.
Neil Bleakley also confirmed that there has not been any planning application by the Primary Care Trust to open a health centre in the re-built, but unopened, Daniels Department Store.
Friday 26th June (day 4)
The day was taken up with evidence and cross-examination of two of Ealing Council's three witnesses. These were:
• Brendon Walsh - Director of Regeneration and Property
• Dick Johns - Planning Policy Manager
Fosters architects also issued a correction statement.
Brendon Walsh is the Council officer responsible for cultivating and maintaining relationships with property developers. His presentation tended towards the general, rather than the specific. While repeatedly emphasising "I am not an architect", Brendon extolled the "elegance" of the design for the Arcadia development. He also likened it to Tuscany and the towers which successful renaissance city states built to celebrate their prosperity. He claimed that the Arcadia planning application is a 'once in a lifetime' opportunity, and that other developers are holding back and waiting for the results of the Inquiry.
Much of Glenkerrin's and Ealing Council's case is based on the ranking of Ealing town centre in the hierarchy of Greater London town centres. SEC's barrister explored this in his cross-examination. Brendon Walsh acknowledged that it was important to get the Retail element of the Arcadia scheme 'right', as failure would rebound on the residents of the 567 flats who will live above the shops.
Dick Johns is responsible for preparing, and updating, the Council's planning policies, and also is the Council's lead officer for disability access issues.
It was acknowledged that Ealing is behind most other Councils in updating its planning polices and is having to rely on policies dating back to 2002-4 when evaluating large planning applications. It was also announced that the Council has recently commissioned an update of its retail growth projections as the current ones were prepared before the economic downturn and the opening of the White City shopping centre.
Members of the public expressed concern over the disability access proposals for the development. They pointed out that there was a substantial difference between Inclusive and Accessible design. Inclusive means that the design enables the disabled to visit all areas without the need of special measures such as platform lifts.
Foster's Correction Statement
Hugh Stewart, the partner from Foster's architects, issued a statement correcting the emphatic claim he had made during his evidence that there were no steps on the main north-south pedestrian route through the development.
He now acknowledges that there is a major flight of steps on the plans. Quite why he was unaware of this when he gave evidence to the Government's planning inspector is unclear.
Thursday 25th June (day 3)
We have now heard from Glenkerrin's four witnesses. These are:
• Hugh Stewart - a partner with Fosters, architects of the 26 storey tower
• Professor Robert Tavernor - a consultant on townscape
• Mike Axon - a road transport engineer
• Julian Carter - from the developer's planning agents.
They all sought to claim that the Arcadia development is the most fantastic and appropriate opportunity for the heart of our town centre. This was refuted by our barrister in his cross-examination, which has embraced many of the points raised by our supporters in their letters of objection. The sessions have been enlivened by spirited and focused questions from members of the public audience.