Call for 'Invalid' Friary Park Planning Application to Be Withdrawn

Designs have been amended to include second staircase in tall towers

Verified view from the planning documents showing the scale of the development
Verified view from the planning documents showing the scale of the development

Ealing Council and developer Mount Anvil are facing criticism over lack of consultation and fire safety in the massive Friary Park development.

The plans approved by the council’s planning committee last October have had to be amended as a result of a widely heralded change in guidance that buildings over a certain height should have a second staircase.

This was as a result of the Grenfell Tower tragedy in which it was believed that the number of fatalities was increased due to the building only having a single escape route. London Fire Brigade (LFB) had given evidence to the Grenfell Inquiry in which it said that second staircases should be a requirement and the government acted on that recommendation at the end of last year requiring them in residential buildings over 30 metres in height.

Although, it had been made it clear a change in the rules were planned last October, Mount Anvil submitted the application for a seventh tower at the Friary Park site and an increase in size of other buildings with a design for a single staircase and the Ealing Council planning committee gave its approval.

Now with the design likely to be blocked by the GLA’s planning officers due to the single staircase, a new design for five towers yet to be built has been drawn up which is compliant with the latest safety requirements. The extra space needed has resulted in the developer cutting the size of flats from the previous design including changing single bed units into studios.

The developer’s financial viability assessors told them that the effect of these changes would be ‘detrimental’ to the project’s viability.

Controversially, this new proposal is designated as a minor amendment to an existing application and therefore will not be subject to the level of consultation that a full new application would be.

A spokesperson for Cap the Towers, which is opposing the Friary Park scheme, said, “Normally when changes as radical as these have to be made to an application that has already been approved, local authorities will insist that that application should be withdrawn and a brand-new application should be made. Up and down the country, this is what local authorities do. But not Ealing Council apparently.”

It also is accusing the council of a lack of transparency with regard to the new planning application. The council published several reports relating to the new application for Friary Park on 15 March. LFB submitted a report to the council about the design on 16 March which contained a number of serious criticisms. This was not included on the council’s site until 30 March, an hour after Cap the Towers had queried its absence.

LFB are concerned that the tallest tower in the development which is 24 storeys high, the same height as Grenfell, will not have a second staircase, along with another 14 storey tower that is above 30 metres. These two buildings have already completed the planning process and there is no legal recourse to make the developer amend the plans to bring them in line with current guidelines.

The brigade’s report is also critical of the level of detail about fire safety measures in corridors, terraces and walkways and says that there are an insufficient number of firefighting lifts.

The LFB report also says that questions they raised at the time of the original application last October over means of escape for disabled residents had not been addressed in the new design leading them to conclude that provision for the disabled was ‘inappropriate’.

Cap the Towers says, “How could Ealing Council have possibly thought that it was right to hide such a Report as this from the general public? Had it not been for the Cap the Towers investigation, Ealing Council would have got away with this. And they would also have been getting away with secret deals with the developer to pretend that major changes in the construction of these huge towers were only ‘minor’ changes. But now it is all out in the open, for everyone to see.”

The group says that, as well as the fire safety issue, the delays to the scheme has focused public attention on other issues raised by the development. Cap the Towers says that there is only 9,500 square metres of public open space in the plans which should be over four times as much according to planning guidelines. The group describes this as yet another big health and safety issue with the site.

Cap the Towers is also pointing out that flats in the next tower to be built in the development are being heavily marketed in the Far East and Middle East which it says contradicts the London Plan objectives that development should focus on providing homes for Londoners.

The group concludes, “The game is up, and this planning application has to be withdrawn, along with its planning ‘permission’ which is now invalid since single staircase towers can no longer be constructed. Mount Anvil will have to think again and if they decide to persist with a further application to expand an already overdeveloped site, they - and Ealing Council - will have many additional questions to answer.”

In response to a number of specific questions from about the application and the LFB report a council spokesperson said, “Developers are aware of the new direction from the Mayor of London that a second staircase will be required in all buildings over 30 metres, and many are currently reviewing their plans.”

Mount Anvil has not responded to a request for comment.

The reference for the scheme on the Ealing Council planning portal is 221747HYBRID.

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April 14, 2023