Statement to the Press from Nick Woolven, SEC Chairman


Save Ealing’s Centre (SEC) unites 25 residents’ groups across central Ealing from Hanwell to Acton.  Ealing is our town centre, and we are very concerned about its future.  SEC opposes the current Dickens Yard plans - a massive overdevelopment that does not meet the community’s needs and is much larger than what the community agreed in 2004.

The Council can only sell Dickens Yard once.  It needs to be redeveloped, but must serve the community.  This demands coordinated planning, and integration with the rest of the town centre including public transport provision and the new Crossrail station.

The design of the Dickens Yard flats is massive and oppressive, and the buildings will completely overshadow the Conservation Area at the heart of Ealing - including the Town Hall and Christ Church.  High-rise densely populated developments are out of character and out of scale with Ealing’s existing low-rise landscape. 

698 new flats in Dickens Yard, with the 704 new Arcadia Centre flats, will overwhelm the town centre and Ealing’s infrastructure.  There is no provision for new schools, GP surgeries or dentists, or even new sewers.  There will be no extra community facilities when Ealing is crying out for a sports, arts, leisure and cultural centre.

The proposed retail outlets are marginal at best.  This will not reverse the downmarket trend in Ealing’s existing shops, many of which are already empty.

The centre of Ealing needs revitalisation, not regeneration.  This can only be achieved by developing a new vision in the form of an integrated strategic master plan.  Piecemeal development decisions will not work.  The Dickens Yard proposals must be rejected until new plans are in place.

English Heritage Oppose Dickens Yard proposals 

English Heritage, the Government's statutory adviser on the historic environment, has produced a very critical report on the proposed Dickens Yard development and has publicly recommended refusal of St George's planning application for the site.  English Heritage's recommendations are based on national policy guidance.

English Heritage's conclusion is that the Dickens Yard application should be recommended for refusal because it would "cause detriment to long views, the character or appearance of the Conservation Area, the setting of heritage assets and the integrity of the context - by means of its incongruous scale, composition, silhouette and proportion."

Save Ealing's Centre is pleased to learn that the influential organisation responsible for protecting and promoting England's spectacular historic environment has endorsed the views which SEC members have expressed consistently in recent weeks, namely that the Dickens Yard proposals represent massive overdevelopment which does not respect the immediate surroundings or the nature of the built environment in Ealing.

English Heritage's detailed comments on the proposed Dickens Yard development include the following statements:

  • "The major issue is considered to be with regard to skyline, silhouette and impact upon long views."
  • "The issue of height was raised at an early stage and has been continually reinforced during discussions with the architect and applicant.  However, despite minor alterations, the maximum height remains at 14 storeys."  (Instead of the 8 storeys in the original policy brief.)
  • "The proposed skyline fails to achieve any simplicity of form, instead being jagged and complex."
  • "Because of the heights, which are significantly taller than neighbouring buildings, long views within, though, into and out of the Conservation Area will be impacted."  NB Dickens Yard is in the centre of the Ealing Town Centre Conservation Area, which is itself surrounded by other Conservation Areas.
  • "The proposal cannot be considered in keeping with the character or appearance of the conservation area due to the incongruity of scale, form, material and detail .... These elements would cause detriment to the established, suburban and Victorian civic character of the Conservation Area."
  • "The impact of the bulk, form and scale would cause detriment also to the setting of the three heritage assets that ring the site, namely the Town Hall, Church and Fire Station."
  • "Views of the listed Town Hall would be engulfed by views of the development behind."
  • "The Grade Two-starred listed Church," (Christ Church) "the spire of which is an important local landmark, would be forced to compete architecturally with elements of the proposed scheme, and would suffer in respect of proposed alterations to the boundary treatment, enclosure and setting."
  • "The relationship between the proposed new blocks to the rear of the site and the former fire station and stables is an issue .... as the sheer height of the block adjacent to these locally listed buildings still bears no relation to them.  The existing buildings would be dwarfed by this relationship.  This remains a serious concern."
  • "The quality of design .... cannot be seen be seen as comfortable for its context, and the composition, both in terms of elevational treatment and urban composition, are unprecedented within the Conservation Area.  The quality of design is therefore considered to be incongruous and insufficient to gain support."
  • "This proposal has failed to sustain the heritage values of its context by proposing an incongruous scale and a form that would cause detriment to the character of the Conservation Area and the setting of adjacent heritage assets."

These statements from English Heritage are an outright condemnation of the proposed Dickens Yard development.  As Save Ealing's Centre has stated repeatedly, the design of the proposed Dickens Yard development in its present form would destroy the centre of Ealing as we know it.  Save Ealing's Centre has said that the proposed development ignores publicly agreed planning guidelines and is out of character and scale, and has campaigned with the slogans "No Overdevelopment in the Centre of Ealing" and "No High Rise Developments in our Town Centre".  This is exactly what English Heritage is saying. 

We believe that the present scheme must be rejected, and that a completely new high-quality integrated scheme for the revitalisation of the centre of Ealing is now urgently required.

SEC Letter of Complaint to Ealing Council

On Tuesday 3 June, Save Ealing's Centre submitted a letter of formal complaint to the Chief Executive of Ealing Council, Darra Singh, about the lack of due process in the planning procedures relating to the proposed Dickens Yard development and, in particular, to the changes in the planning brief which took place after consultation with the community in 2004. 

Ealing Council prepared a comprehensive development brief for the future of the Dickens Yard site in 2004 after extensive consultation with the community. Ealing Council's Cabinet approved the brief in June 2004 "for the purposes of development control" and for use as "the basis on which to market this development site". Ealing Council has at no stage withdrawn or amended this agreed brief. 

However, in its more recent dealings with St George - the preferred developer for the Dickens Yard site -Ealing Council appears to have set aside the agreed site brief and negotiated a much larger scheme, involving considerably more intensive use of the site. 


LBE Policy

(2004 SPG and Site brief)

Planning Application (MAY 2008)

Max Height (storeys)

Up to 8 subject to siting, impact on nearby uses etc


Number of Flats



Community and other Facilities

? primary health care, church hall, cinema, as part of total 84,000 m2 for town centre

920 m 2 health spa

325m2  ’community facility’

Car Parking

200 public spaces – residential development only to be ‘low car ownership’

282 public and 301 residential spaces


7,000m2  approx total additional

8,079m2 A1 including 1,000 m2

replacement, + 961m2 A3

Overall capacity

Over 30,000m2

At least 54,891.m2

Almost certainly much more

Plot ratio

2:1 acceptable in principle, 75% site coverage

Not less than 3:1

Almost certainly much more


From South - Uxbridge road. Avoid traffic on residential roads to north

From north and south

This vastly inflated scheme, which bears no resemblance to the scheme originally agreed in 2004, was approved by Ealing Council's Cabinet in December 2007. 

Save Ealing's Centre believes that the radical change in the proposals for the use and development of the Dickens Yard site is a breach of HM Government's Planning Policy Statement 1 (PPS1) which sets out the Government's overarching planning policies on the delivery of sustainable development through the planning system. 

Save Ealing's Centre believes that Ealing Council has ignored the advice in PPS1 that "Community involvement in planning should not be a reactive tick-box process. It should enable the community to say what sort of place they want to live in at a stage when this can make a difference." In 2004, the community agreed with Ealing Council what sort of place they want to live in. 

PPS1 goes on to say that "Effective community involvement requires an approach which tells communities about emerging policies and proposals in good time, and enables communities to put forward ideas and suggestions and participate in developing proposals and options. It is not sufficient to invite them to simply comment once these have been worked up." Ealing Council never told the community about the changed policy for the Dickens Yard site which the Cabinet approved in December 2007. 

Inviting the community to comment on a worked-up and completed planning application as submitted by the Council's preferred developer gives the community no further opportunity to develop proposals and options for the Dickens Yard site. Save Ealing's Centre believes that the change of development brief for the Dickens Yard site from the one agreed by the community and approved by Ealing Council in 2004 to the scheme adopted by Ealing Council's Cabinet in December 2007 represents a failure of due process for community involvement. 

Furthermore, since the vastly increased scope of the development has not been the subject of competition, it is not clear that the Council will have gained the best value for the land. Many members of SEC are suspicious, and believe that there has been a failure of the Council's obligations to manage the conflict of interest between its role as owner of the Dickens Yard site and its role as planning authority. 

For some time now, members of the Save Ealing's Centre alliance have sought to engage with Ealing Council in order to seek answers to their concerns. As no answers have been forthcoming, it is with regret that SEC has been obliged to raise the matter to the status of a formal complaint to the Chief Executive of Ealing Council, in accordance with the provisions of the Councils' published complaints procedures and the instructions in the Council's Statement of Community Involvement. 

The letter of complaint raises nine specific and detailed points on which SEC seeks answers from Ealing Council. 

SEC unanimously Oppose Dickens Yard proposals

At a meeting on Thursday 29 May, the Save Ealing's Centre (SEC) alliance of residents' associations decided unanimously to oppose St George's planning application for the Dickens Yard development. Save Ealing's Centre supports the revitalisation of Ealing, but firmly opposes overdevelopment. 

SEC represents 25 residents' associations and community groups covering the whole area between Hanwell and Acton as well as many individual supporters. The constituency represented by SEC consists of over 12,500 local residents. 

Over the next few days, SEC supporters will be delivering 10,000 leaflets to households in and around the centre of Ealing listing what is wrong with the proposals for the Dickens Yard development as they stand at the moment. 

Save Ealing's Centre's main objections to the current proposals for the Dickens Yard site are that they ignore publicly agreed planning guidelines they are out of character and scale there are too many flats, there is no new infrastructure, and there is marginal retail space there are no new community facilities, and there is no community gain SEC is calling for Ealing Council to set an excellent example in the way that it manages the future of the Dickens Yard site, by ensuring that there is no overdevelopment. 

Overdevelopment of Dickens Yard is a major concern, as it was with the Arcadia Centre, and stems from the lack of an overall master plan and vision for the development and revitalisation of the centre of Ealing. 

St George's proposals for Dickens Yard, like Glenkerrin's proposals for the Arcadia Centre, are a piecemeal solution to a borough-wide problem. 

At the moment, the heart of Ealing is being sold for 30 pieces of silver (for each piece of silver, read a million pounds), and the community is being betrayed. 

We ask Ealing Council to take a step back, to consider the legacy that it has inherited from the previous administration, and to look carefully at what it wants for the future of the entire centre of Ealing. The Council should then invite developers to submit integrated plans for the revitalisation of the whole of the centre of Ealing. 

Dickens Yard proposal has doubled in size

We have started to examine in more detail the proposals for the Dickens Yard development, including the Planning Statement and the Design and Access Statement attached to the developers' planning application. 

Almost everyone recognises the need for the redevelopment of the Dickens Yard site, and we are not opposed in principle to what Ealing Council is trying to achieve. However, there is unease within the community that the proposals which emerged from a 2004 public consultation have been changed in favour of more intensive use of the site than what the Council said should provide the basis for the development. 

The 2004 consultation was a thorough exercise involving the local community and other key stakeholders. It examined in detail the site's potential and its constraints, and then set out very clearly the principles for the kind of development which it thought appropriate. Ealing Council adopted these principles for "development control purposes", and promoted them when it advertised for tenders for development of the Dickens Yard site. 

However, the Council's circular letter to households dated 18 April 2008 and the developer's Planning Statement and Design and Access Statement show that the proposed use of the site has intensified considerably since 2004, leading to concerns about overdevelopment in excess of what the Council had originally deemed to be reasonable for the Dickens Yard site. 

We are glad to see that the developers are aiming for the original target of 50% affordable housing, but are concerned that the overall amount and density of housing have increased since the original 2004 brief in three particular respects: 

1. Building height - The 2004 brief stated that the maximum height of the development should be up to 8 storeys, subject to the impact on the neighbourhood. The Planning Statement shows that virtually all the buildings will exceed this figure, with three blocks 9 storeys high, one block 10 storeys high, one block 12 storeys high, and one block 14 storeys high. 

2. Total accommodation - The figure given in the 2004 brief was over 30,000 square metres. Comprehensive floorspace figures are not provided in the planning application, but we estimate them to be at least 55,000 square metres and probably much more. 

3. Residential density - This was set out in 2004 as up to 350 habitable rooms per acre, subject to top class design. The planning application shows an increased density of 392 habitable rooms per acre (an increase of 12% over the original absolute maximum), and it is questionable whether the design can truly be regarded as "top class". 

Other major concerns include the fact that in the 2004 brief, low car ownership was to be encouraged with the provision of just 200 parking spaces. That figure has now increased to 583 spaces. The upshot is that there will be more new vehicles than originally envisaged using the already very congested roadspace in central Ealing. 

Further evidence of the more intensive use of the site is that the 2004 brief envisaged some 7,000 square metres of retail space. This has now increased to more than 9,000 square metres, adding an extra 28%. 

The result is that the plot ratio (the relationship between the total floor area of the development and the total area of the site) has increased from an "in principle acceptable" 2:1 in the original 2004 brief to at least 3:1 and possibly much more. 

Road access to the Dickens Yard site was originally envisaged as being only from the south, ie only direct from Uxbridge Road. That has now changed, with unrestricted access through residential roads to the north of the site. These roads are narrow and frequently congested, yet there are no proposals for traffic mitigation in the planning application. The Council's policy (UDP Policy 9.9) on managing the road network specifically resists developments that generate significant traffic increases on local residential roads. 

Ealing Residents concerns over proposals for Dickens Yard

Ealing residents who live north of the Uxbridge Road, principally on Gordon Road and further east - including Woodville Gardens, have been having a first look at the plans for the Dickens Yard development and thinking about them against the background of Glenkerrin's proposals for the Arcadia Centre and the visible decline of the Ealing Broadway Centre. 

We are concerned that the current proposals for Dickens Yard show a much more intensive use of the site than what was set out in the original policy brief prepared by Ealing Council in 2004. It is a matter of regret that the Council appears to have abandoned its original policy for the future of Dickens Yard - on which it consulted the community widely - in favour of more intensive use to maximise its revenue from the site. 

It is also a matter of great concern that the Council is prepared to "let market forces dictate" when it comes to taking decisions on these important sites in the centre of Ealing, rather than developing a master plan to revitalise the centre of Ealing by integrating and coordinating the proposals for the Dickens Yard and Arcadia sites, by incorporating the Ealing Broadway Centre in this vision, and by making proper provision for both public and private transport. 

Without such a master plan, we shall have piecemeal development and there is no indication that such developments will meet the community's needs or be for the benefit of the community. 

All the plans seem to focus on building as many (expensive) flats as possible and having as many (small and medium-size only) retail outlets as possible. There is no provision for community facilities such as a community arts or cultural centre (despite Ealing's population of 300,000 people). There is no indication of who will buy these flats or occupy the retail outlets. Certainly with a downturn in the economy, there is a risk that some of the flats and retail outlets may remain unoccupied.