Urging withdrawal of proposals to redesignate 45% of protected land
Bedfont Lakes is one area that could be rezoned. Picture: Robin Webster
December 13, 2022
A coalition of local resident and environmental groups has written to Hounslow Borough’s two local MPs urging them to support the campaign against the council’s proposals to redesignate a significant proportion of the area’s Green Belt.
Representatives of groups including Friends of the River Crane Environment, Hounslow Friends of the Earth, West Chiswick and Gunnersbury Society and Brentford Voice along with environmental charity CPRE signed the latter asking for a rethink.
The council want to remove Green Belt designations from 45% of the borough’s Green Belt and to develop 41% of that land which is predominantly in the west of the borough. The rezoning will mean that two major developments, Heathrow Gateway and Airport Business Park, in Bedfont and Feltham could proceed. There will provide services for the airport as well as shops and housing.
Nic Ferriday, from Hounslow Friends of the Earth, commented,"With all the current concern about green space, biodversity and climate change - much of it expressed by the council itself - it is extraordinary and deeply worrying that Hounslow Council wants to de-designate Green Belt and build on it. We urge the council to withdraw all plans to build on the Green Belt."
The letter, which has been sent to MPs Ruth Cadbury and Seema Malhotra, requests them to hold talks urgently with the council to ask that they abandon all plans to remove Green Belt protections from sites in Hounslow.
It continues, “Residents are angry, and we are not surprised. Despite carrying out protracted and complex consultations on the Local Plan Review for the West of Borough, at no point has the Council made clear to local residents its plans to build over huge areas of Green Belt including at Bedfont Lakes, Mayfield Farm, Hatton Fields and Raleigh Park. No serious attempts have been made to engage with local residents on this highly controversial issue or to present alternatives.
“Parts of the plan smack of obfuscation – even untruth. The borough says it aims ‘to protect and enhance the borough’s Green Belt, Metropolitan Open Land, open green spaces and create more accessible MOL and open spaces’ but then says protections will be removed from 45% of the borough’s Green Belt with 41% of that to be built over and the remainder fragmented and vulnerable to future encroachment. Very misleadingly, these proposals are described as ‘minor boundary adjustments to the Green Belt.’ “
The council is accused of hypocrisy and greenwashing and its claims that it can ‘mitigate and adapt’ the impact are dismissed with the letter stating, “The Green Belt proposals will do the exact opposite. It is manifestly clear that the proposals will not address the Climate Emergency declared by the Council in June 2019. Nor will they provide a carbon sink, flood attenuation, enhanced biodiversity, an offset to the heat island of Heathrow, mental health benefits or an improvement in the borough’s obesity rate. Plans to release 228.4 hectares (18.7% of LBH's total Green Belt) for development can simply never be said to ensure ‘an overall net gain in biodiversity.’ “
The group claims that the plans are based on a ‘chronically outdated’ local plan that has failed to take account of the impact of Covid-19, Brexit, reduced demand at Heathrow and the economic situation which is likely to limit population growth.
It says, “There is simply no justification for permanently losing Green Belt against only a probability that outdated growth forecasts will materialise, and certainly no justification for deciding now to lose Green Belt against some tentative forecast of future demand.”
Hounslow Council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and is committed to net zero carbon by 2030, but the Green party locally has criticised its strategy for not taking into account the environmental impact of producing the building materials needed for construction such as steel and concrete.
Cllr Tom Bruce, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Development said, “We are committed to delivering regeneration across the borough, providing quality homes for residents, unlocking new job opportunities, and creating well-designed public spaces where communities can thrive.
“Hounslow was disproportionately affected by the pandemic, which saw the local economy contract by 11.3% in 2020 alone and thousands of residents furloughed or unemployed. Our plans in the west area of the borough will help revitalise our local economy – ensuring our residents and businesses can grow and flourish, as well as support our biodiversity and environmental ambitions for the area.
“We have also been extensively consulting and engaging with residents on these development plans since 2016. The plans have adapted over the course of time and been amended, where appropriate, based on resident and other stakeholder feedback.
“Our plans are being considered by the Secretary of State, through his Inspector, who will assess the merits of our proposals taking into account national and local planning policies, and the wide views of consultees including local people.”
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