Berkeley and M&G’s plans get green light despite concerns about ”an incongruous, monolithic wall of development”

Housing secretary Michael Gove has given the green light for a 2,150-home development on the site of a former Homebase and Tesco’s in Hounslow, west London.

A planning inspector had recommended refusal for a development of 16 blocks of up to 17-storeys on the two sites at the Tesco and Homebase sites on Syon Lane on the grounds that some of the buildings were too high.

The planning applications were made by St Edward Homes, a joint venture company owned by M&G Investments and Berkeley.

Inspectors concluded, however, that some proposed buildings of up to 20m high would “result in serious harm to the character and appearance of the area.”

gove new

Housing secretary Michael Gove

On 24 November 2021, Gove called in the planning application for his decision, instead of leaving it to be decided by the local planning authority.

However in a letter published yesterday  published yesterday written on behalf of Gove by Lee Rowley, the housing secretary has recommended the scheme for proposal.  

Gove disagrees with the planning inspectors assessment that the heights of the proposed buildings exceed the indicative heights in the area’s masterplan. 

He writes that despite agreeing with the inspector’s assessment on heights, he thinks the “development would not appear excessively large in its context.” 

The letter adds: “Unlike the inspector, [Gove] finds that there would be moderate harm to the character and appearance of the area.” 

He also found the scheme proposals to “be in compliance” with the London Borough of Hounslow’s local plan, particularly with regard to the position of the tall buildings on the site. 

>>See also: Gove summons five housing associations for a meeting over maladministration findings

>>See also: Gove overturns refusal for 1,100-home Taylor Wimpey development in Lancashire

“Tall buildings should be carefully placed so as not to create a wall of tall buildings, ensuring they relate sensitively to surrounding residential areas,” he writes.

The housing secretary also disagreed with the inspector’ view that the taller blocks ”would present an incongruous, monolithic wall of development”. 

Despite concerns raised by Heritage England, Gove concluded there would be “no harm” or only “limited harm” to areas of nearby heritage significance, despite part of the Tesco site being within the Osterley conservation area.

The letter states Gove intervened ahead of a further planning application which would have seen one of the sites developed into a five-storey commercial storage site.

Berkeley on Friday announced it has put its investment in new housing development on hold due to what it describes as an “unsupportive” operating environment.

The housebuilder, in an unaudited update for the six months to 31 October, said the planning and regulatory environment is “complex, uncertain and unpredictable.”