Green Light for What Will Be Chiswick Tallest Building

Borough planning committee narrowly vote to approve Holly House

A CGI of Holly House viewed from Chiswick High Road looking west
Councillor said CGI of Holly House understates its true height. Picture: Simpson Haugh

January 15, 2023

Approval has been given for what will be the tallest building in both Chiswick and Brentford at a borough planning meeting this Thursday evening (12 January).

Although the vote was not unanimous, councillors on the committee decided to give permission to build 24 storey high Holly House a mixed use development with 252 flats, 35% of which are classed as affordable.

The committee accepted the recommendations of a report by council planning officers which argued that the benefits provided by the building, particularly the provision of social housing outweighed any harm it might cause.

A council planner told the meeting that there was no maximum height for buildings in the area but scale was constrained by consideration of impact height would have on neighbouring heritage assets such as Kew Gardens and the view across Strand on the Green.

Marie Rabouhans of the West Chiswick and Gunnersbury Society addressed the meeting saying that the proposal was ‘flawed’ and that the height of the building was in excess of the council’s own stated guidelines as well as a previous masterplan which suggested 60m as an acceptable height. She dismissed the argument of the developer that the design of Holly House was so good it tended to enhance rather than detract from views of the area as ‘misguided’.

CGI showing building looking over Strand on the Green. Picture: Starbones Ltd

Cllr Joanna Biddolph endorsed the comments of the West Chiswick and Gunnersbury Society, the Strand on the Green Association, Brentford Voice, the Kew Society and Kew Gardens who had all objected to the application. She added that investigations that she had done had shown that the £193,278 allocated through the Community Infrastructure Levy from the scheme for Gunnersbury Station would come nowhere near the amount of money needed for improvements at the already over stretched tube and train stop. She said that, as a consequence, the money would probably sit idle in a bank with the station needing to deal with a further increase in the number of passengers using it.

She also said that the computer-generated images provided by the developer presented a distorted ‘worm’s-eye view’ of the main tower and, by her reckoning, the real height of the building was 24 storeys.

The site at which the Holly House would be built
The site at which the Holly House would be built

The committee was also addressed by the CEO of the developer Starbones Ltd, Kim Gottlieb who reiterated previous arguments about the benefit the building would bring in terms of jobs and housing.

He rejected the notion that residents of Holly House would be disadvantaged due to shortfalls in communal space. Hehighlighted the benefits of the communal vertical gardens that span three floors, plus the two-floor roof garden on top of Holly House.

He told councillors that there would be more than 400 jobs created by the construction adding, “Holly House will be a wonderful building, with high-quality accommodation in which to work and to live on all levels. it is not a standard brick-built block with little balconies.

“It will provide an answer to a long-awaited regeneration of an important, high-profile site that is passed by millions each year. It was a vacant derelict site long before we acquired it, it has been an empty eye sore and a blot on the townscape.”

Councillor John Stroud-Turp said, “If we listen to the developer this is an iconic landmark, if we listen to objectors – to quote the King when he was the Prince of Wales – it is a ‘monstrous carbuncle’ clearly none of those are true.

“Some of the objections raised, road safety and pressure on public transport can be addressed afterwards, they are not show stoppers. Whilst design is a matter of opinion, this is an adventurous design, it’s pushing the boundaries and it is not the slab-sided concrete monstrosity we normally see.

“If we could pick it up and put it somewhere else it would be brilliant but we can’t and it is where it is and I fear we are never going to find anything that fits that site that people are happy with.”

In proposing approval of the scheme, Cllr Rhys Williams, who represents Brentford East, pointed out that the Chiswick Curve scheme, a previous plan for the site that was even taller than Holly House, had been approved on appeal by the Planning Inspector and it was only overturned by the Secretary of State. He thought it likely that this scheme would succeed on appeal even if the committee rejected it. He added that his primary concern was for the people who would gain housing and jobs due to the development and not for people walking by the river ‘tut-tutting’ at tall buildings and in his opinion developments such as the one around Brentford Stadium had enhanced not distracted from the vista.

The committee voted 7 to 5 in favour of the proposal. Harleen Atwal Hear, Hina Mir, Dan Bowring, Rhys Williams, John Stroud-Turp, Pritam Grewal and Rashid Bhatti voted to approve with Tony Louki, Samina Nagra, John Todd, Allan Joseph and Gurmail Lal opposed.

Councillors voted against an associated application for a 4-metre-high digital display advertising hoarding on the side of the building.

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