Ealing's Local Plan Described as 'Highway to Climate Hell'

Campaigners urge residents to respond to consultation before deadline

Building tall towers such as the ones at Friary Park boost's CO2 emissions
Building tall towers such as the ones at Friary Park boost's CO2 emissions

February 2, 2023

The local branch of Friends of the Earth (FoE) is urging residents to respond immediately to the borough’s Local Plan Consultation describing the draft proposals as a ‘highway to climate hell’. This is a reference to a comment made by the UN Secretary-General at a recent climate conference and the group believes the plan’s focus on growth contradicts efforts to tackle climate change.

There is less than a week left to give feedback on the plan.

The group welcomed the commitment to ‘tackling the climate crisis’ as the first of “three core themes” of the Local Plan, but disputes that the content of the Plan puts Ealing on track to meet its aim of becoming “carbon neutral as a borough” by 2030.

115 potential building sites are listed in the plan and, if developed, they will increase carbon emissions particularly if tall towers are constructed. According to Ealing FoE, building generates over 60% of CO2 emissions in the borough with transport at around 30%. Therefore, the group believes that the Plan should have included a programme of retrofitting existing buildings to make them carbon neutral and not be focused on new building.

The group says, “The bulk of the plan comprises a list of potential building sites for residential infill, the construction of which will substantially increase carbon emissions both during build and in-use, especially where tall buildings are permitted given their proven higher emissions per m2. The loss of space for local amenities, Green Belt and MOL, negatively impacts other goals in the plan, and together with allowing out-of-character high rise blocks, irrevocably changes the character of the borough.”

It has published a detailed response to the draft local plan on its web site.

Acton Park could be stripped of its Metropolitan Open Land status
Acton Park could be stripped of its Metropolitan Open Land status

The group says, “If the real aim of the Plan is not tackling climate change but providing housing, then the Plan needs to say so and spell out how many of the 21,570 units planned will be truly affordable and what is Ealing Council's target population for the borough.

It also supports the 20 minute neighbourhood concept described in the Local Plan, “enabling people to fulfil the majority of their daily needs within a 20-minute round-trip walk from their homes”. However, as 83% of the 115 sites proposed for development are currently non-residential, Ealing FoE says this will mean less space for the amenities people such as workplaces and community centres and once the land is developed, it will be difficult and costly to find space to provide such facilities.

The group adds, “Given the Climate Emergency Strategy adopted by the Council, the proposal to lose all of Ealing’s Green Belt and some areas of MOL (Metropolitan Open Land), is incomprehensible. The criteria used for the changes seem weak: a reason given for taking away Acton Park’s MOL status is that some other parks don’t have it; Old Actonians sports ground and Baron’s Pond lose their MOL, in part because they can’t be seen through a brick wall on the opposite side of an adjacent road! We urge retention of all Green Belt and MOL at their actual sizes or expanded. “

Barons Pond on Popes Lane could lose some protection against being developed
Barons Pond on Popes Lane could lose some protection against being developed

Ealing FoE says that inclusion in the Plan of proposals to develop a site or remove its open space status, should not be taken as public acceptance, given limited public participation in drawing up the Plan and the size of the documents the public are expected to absorb.

CPRE London (formerly the Campaign for Rural England) has also expressed concern at Ealing Council’s proposals, particularly the plan to remove protections from seven large green spaces in the borough. Metropolitan Open Land sites, which have the same level of protection as Green Belt, will lose their protection completely making it easier for approval to be obtained to build on the sites. The seven sites affected include Acton Park, Gunnersbury Sports Park and the Old Actonians ground, Ealing Trailfinders rugby club, Grove Farm, Greenford Cemetery & Windmill Lane Allotments, Hanger Hill Park & former Barclays Sports Ground as well as Twyford Abbey which is already under threat of redevelopment.

CPRE London is also challenging the proposals to change the designation of all its Green Belt sites – and to remove the designation entirely from one of its Green Belt sites.

A spokesperson for the charity said, “We urge all local residents and anyone who lives near to, or who uses these sites for sports or recreation, to make their voice heard and submit a response to the consultation.”

Opposition Planning and Housing spokesperson Liberal Democrat Councillor Jon Ball said, “It is terrible hypocrisy for a Labour administration elected on a manifesto promising to create new parks and open spaces is now instead removing the protection our existing parks and open spaces have from being dug up for building schemes. I urge all residents who are concerned about our green spaces to respond to the Council’s Local Plan consultation either by email to localplan@ealing.gov.uk or respond to the survey question on Policy G4 ‘What are your views on the development proposals on green open spaces?’ with resounding opposition!

“We need to preserve green spaces like Actonians in my ward that acts as a green lung next to the traffic of the North Circular and Northala Fields where I take my son at weekends. These areas should retain the protection that they currently enjoy. Development, including much-needed genuinely affordable housing, must be on brownfield sites.”

Grove Farm in Greenford will no longer be Metropolitan Open Land. Picture: Dudley Miles

Councillor Athena Zissimos, Lib Dem Councillor for Hanger Hill ward, in which a number of the open spaces earmarked for loss of protection lie added, "The Labour-led Council hardly blinked and gave planning permission for Twyford Abbey which was MOL to be built on, it is hard not to believe this is what the plans are for all the other green spaces in Hanger Hill, they will chip away at it all, until there is nothing left. A report put out by the Council in 2013 recognised that parts of Hanger Hill already did not have much green space."

Councillor Deirdre Costigan, Ealing Council’s cabinet member for climate action said, “Over the last 15 years, climate change has become a much bigger story and now it’s one of our key priorities. We are already starting to see examples of how it will affect our lives in coming years. That’s why we have declared a climate emergency, built new cycle lanes in Southall and Greenford, rolled out 17 school streets and ensured we are one of the top boroughs in London for recycling.

“Over the next 15 years, our borough will of course change – and the local plan is about making sure we have the right rules in place so that this change is carefully managed and that local people have more control over how that change happens.

“The draft new local plan will help us to reach our ambitious aim of reducing our carbon emissions to net zero.

“There are already national and London rules that help us to do this, but our local plan is asking you – in Ealing, can we go further? Can we agree more innovative rules that will reduce harmful air pollution in our borough, and help cut waste?

“The plan sets out policies which could help reduce emissions by making it easier to walk and cycle; which will support us to recycle, regrow and rewild; and which will allow us to deliver better local services and affordable homes while also improving our parks and green spaces.

“This is a draft – so we genuinely want to know what you think. “

The Ealing Council consultation on the Local Plan ends on 8 February. To comment on Ealing's draft local plan go to the council website or email localplan@ealing.gov.uk.

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