The battle of Park Western
Development plans by Metal Box and Unigate nearly destroy the character of the Estate.
The first indication that changes were likely on the eastern side of the Hanger Hill Garden Estate came in June 1976, when the Metal Box Company submitted an outline planning application to Ealing Council to build some 40 houses on its sports ground, with access from Tudor Gardens.
The strongest of objections were lodged by the Residents' Association and by the local Ward councillor. Nothing more was heard about any redevelopment of the Metal Box site over the next three years or so, although it was rumoured and then learned more authoritatively that Metal Box was planning to close the factory and offices, to relocate the work elsewhere.
In September 1980 all production work ceased at the factory, but some 300 office and other staff were to remain for about three more years. In November 1980 it was ascertained that negotiations were being carried out for the redevelopment of the Metal Box site. It came as no great surprise therefore, when, in January 1981 an official notice appeared in the local newspaper to that effect. So began several years of sustained and intense activity by the Residents' Association, by those residents who would be directly affected, and by the Ward councillors, to seek to ensure that the redevelopment would be compatible with the Conservation Area and to minimise its impact on neighbouring residents and their homes.
A few landmarks from the ensuing four and a half years:
January 1981: An official notice appears in the Acton and Ealing Gazettes that an application has been made to Ealing Council by the Metal Box Company and Unigate Limited for a huge joint redevelopment of their lands through from the Metal Box Sports Ground to the A40 Western Avenue -- a 32-acre site -- for the layout of access roads and erection of office, warehouse, industrial and residential buildings. It is anticipated that the project will take five years to complete, and that some 1,500 new jobs will be created.
March 1981: 150 residents attend a meeting in the Community Centre, called by the Residents' Association, to consider the Metgate proposals. Representatives of the architects, R. Seifert & Partners, give an illustrated presentation. A consensus emerges, which the Residents' Association conveys to Ealing Council. In summary, this is:
(a) Whilst not objecting in principle to the proposed redevelopment (which would create a large number of jobs, much needed in a period of high unemployment), residents have serious concerns about certain aspects of the plans submitted in relation both to nearby homes and the Conservation Area.
(b) Both the Metal Box and Unigate sports grounds should be substantially retained.
(c) The proposed housing development on the southern part of the Metal Box Sports Ground is rejected as completely unacceptable, especially for its effects upon Tudor Gardens.
(d) There should be no access to the site from the southern end of Dukes Road.
(e) There is concern as to noise and pollution from future industrial activities and the circulation of lorries. Rather than have a circulatory road around the development, which in part would run parallel with and immediately behind the top of Princes Gardens, it is suggested there should be a widened service road on the east of the development. Loading bays should all face east, away from the residential area.
(f) Buildings should be of acceptable colours and materials. Visual protection in the long term should be provided by extensive planting of trees.
March to May 1981: A number of residents join with the officers of the Residents' Association to form a working party, to ensure that all possible pressures is exerted in any direction that might be useful. The group co-ordinates correspondence and meetings with the Council's Chief Planning Officer, R. Seifert & Partners, the Chairman and Members of Ealing' s Planning Committee, Sir George Young MP and Ward councillors. It makes contact with local newspapers and with the BBC Nationwide television programme, researches past plans by Ealing Council for the future of the Park Royal industrial area (of which the Metgate site formed the southernmost part), and submits a 350-strong petition of residents to all members of Ealing's Planning Committee.
2nd May 1981: Ealing's Town Planning Committee visits the Metgate site and is lobbied by residents. Afterwards the Chairman of the Town Planning Committee meets the officers of the Residents' Association and Ward councillors in a resident's home.
6th May 1981: The Planning Committee gives outline consent for the redevelopment of the Metgate site in accordance with the principles of the layout given in the plans shown to residents by R. Seifert & Partners at the public meeting held in March. This would involve the demolition of all existing buildings on the site, with the layout of access roads and the erection of offices, industrial and warehouse units and 36 residential units.
At both meetings of the Planning Committee that considered the Metgate plans, the two Ward councillors speak forcibly on behalf of residents. Although not all the residents' objections are met, some important concessions are won:
(i) Detailed drawings of the proposed developments must be submitted and approved by the Planning Committee before any work begins, such drawings to show the design, siting, external appearance and means of access.
(ii) Vehicular and pedestrian access to the site is to be via Kendall Avenue (or from Western Avenue) and not through Tudor Gardens.
(iii) Any warehouse built must not be used for wholesale or retail cash and carry.
(iv) Details of sound attenuation must be approved by Planning Committee before any work begins.
(v) The residential element of the Development is to be positioned to the south-east of the Metal Box Sports Ground, with the remaining part of the sports ground preserved as open space. The houses are not to exceed three storeys, and to have a density of "not more than 75 habitable rooms per acre".
(vi) An embankment, acoustic screen and landscaping must be provided between the site and the adjoining residential properties on the Hanger Hill Garden Estate.
(vii) All loading bays are to be sited so as to face away from the Estate.
(viii) The Planning Committee says it will not look favourably on the developers attempting in the future to gain access from their site into the southern end of Dukes Road, by demolishing the existing small factory they own there.
June 1981: As part of the outline scheme for the Metgate site, Ealing Council is asked to agree to the closure of Dukes Road leading out on to the A40 Western Avenue. The Council does not agree to this.
25 August 1982: A detailed planning application for the Metgate Site is considered by the Council's Planning Committee. The plans are in general an improvement on the outline plans agreed. The office buildings on the A40 Western Avenue frontage are to comprise a series of four to seven storey linked wings arranged around the north, east and west side of an open landscaped courtyard. Parking for this office element is to be provided at basement level under the courtyard, and around the building.
The industrial sections adjacent to the top of Princes Gardens are now to be served by way of a new single spine road running down the east side of the site, to link with Kendall Avenue. The proposed circulatory road - which would have impinged so much upon the top of Princes Gardens - has gone! The industrial/warehousing elements are to be three separate blocks, with service access courts from the new spine road. Substantial earth mounding was to be provided along the western boundary with the adjoining residential area.
The Unigate Sports Ground is to be retained, with no threat of road access to the bottom of Dukes Road. The one major cause for complaint that remains is the proposed housing development at the southern end of the site. The Planning Committee agrees the plans, other than the housing development and the siting of the southern industrial building.
21 September 1982: The Mayor of Ealing officially 'launches' the £80 million PARK WESTERN scheme when, at an inauguration lunch at the Unigate offices in Western Avenue, he gives the order to demolish the 150ft Metal Box factory chimney.
October 1982: The Residents' Association holds a public meeting at the Community Centre to consider the proposed development of houses at the southern end of the Metal Box Sports Ground, with access from Tudor Gardens. Afterwards, the Association lodges strong protests with the Council.
November 1982: Approval is granted by the Borough's Planning Committee for 13 two-storey dwelling houses and a warehouse units on the south-east side of the Metal Box Sports Ground. The Residents' Association notes with regret that access to the houses will be via Tudor Gardens. However, several important concessions are obtained:
(a) Details of the design and external appearance of the houses must be submitted to and approved by the Council.
(b) Pedestrian and vehicular access to Tudor Gardens will not be allowed until the housing development is complete (in other words, the houses will be built from the north).
(c) In due course a fence will be erected to prevent industrial traffic having access to Tudor Gardens.
(d) No pedestrian or vehicular access, other than that then agreed, to be created or proposed on to the Hanger Hill Garden Estate.
On receiving planning consent for the housing development, Metgate immediately approaches the Crown Estate Commissioners to purchase the small piece of escheated land at the 'elbow' of Tudor Gardens, required to gain legal access to the site. Metgate is told, as the Residents' Association has consistently beeb told, that the Commissioners will only sell the property - access roads and ornamental gardens - as one package.
This at last opens up an opportunity to settle the long-outstanding issue of the property held by the Crown, and with it the restoration of the gardens to something like their former glory. Metgate suggests that, subject to its being able to acquire the land from the Crown Estate Commissioners, it will keep only the small piece of land needed to gain access from Tudor Gardens and transfer the remainder to the Residents' Association in a 'shell company'.
In addition, Metgate will carry out certain environmental improvements on the Garden Estate up to the value of £5,000. Further, Metgate is prepared to improve the road junctions at Tudor Gardens by linking it with the rear service road.
March 1983: The terms of the Metgate proposals concerning the Estate's service roads and ornamental gardens are put to an extraordinary meeting of the Residents' Association, when it is agreed in principle to accept the proposals subject to more detailed arrangements covering method of ownership and other matters being referred back to a further meeting before the deed is finalised.
March 1984: At another extraordinary meeting, the following basis of agreement with Metgate is formally approved by a large majority:
(1) Metgate will buy all the escheated property from the Crown and pass it to the Residents' Association except for the part needed to provide a suitable access road to the new housing development.
(2) Metgate will provide the Association with a limited liability company to own the property.
(3) Metgate will pay the Houses Section of the Association the sum of £7,500. It is noted that by acquiring the lands, residents could in future exercise legal rights over them and ensure their preservation as an integral part of the garden environment enjoyed by all, with the sum of £7,500 going towards tackling past neglect. Maintenance of the ornamental gardens will be from membership subscription from house residents, who will have a continuing responsibility for this. It is further noted that since ownership of the lands - on behalf of the residents - will be through a limited liability company, there will be the following important safeguards:
(i) If anyone chooses to sue the owners of the property for any reason, neither the shareholders nor directors will be personally liable.
(ii) Since the Company will have no money, anyone considering sueing it for, say, damage to property from tree roots on lands the Company owned will gain no recompense. (It is agreed that the Company should insure against public liability, but not against root damage which has been found too expensive to obtain).
(iii) The qualification for becoming a shareholder and director is that a person should be both a resident in a house on the Estate and have been elected to the Executive Committee of the Residents' Association. This is seen as providing for an elective process of control by residents, whilst avoiding the expense of maintaining an extensive register of shareholders.
Under the terms of the agreement it is envisaged that the service road alongside 49 Tudor Gardens will be closed off and a garden made there, with nearby residents being offered an alternative right of way over the new road to be built by the developer. Metgate is prepared to pay each of the householders affected by the change the sum of £25 to defray the cost of making this amendment to their house deeds. The Chairman of the Residents' Association undertakes to write to those householders concerned. This aspect of the agreement will only go ahead if all those affected agree. If all do not agree, then the overall agreement will still go ahead, with the developer building the new access road alongside the existing service road.
April 1984: It is reported to the Annual General Meeting of the Residents' Association that not all house-owners in the parts of Tudor Gardens and Princes Gardens affected, have been prepared to exchange their rights of way over the service road for rights to be given by the developer into a new road exiting into Tudor Gardens. Consequently the rear service road will remain, with the new road being built alongside.
June 1984: There is dismay when a property developer, with whom Metgate were in negotiation to sell the southern housing site, makes a planning application to Ealing Council to build 26 houses on the site -- double the original permission granted. The strongest of objections are made by the Residents' Association. The developer withdraws his interest in the site and his planning application.
July 1984: At the same time, the Borough's Planning Committee meets to review objections to the Ealing Borough Plan (a comprehensive series of statements setting out the Council's policies in all aspects of the Borough's life over the coming 15 years or so), by individuals and organisations throughout the Borough. A Ward councillor succeeds in having the following amendment incorporated into the Borough Plan:
"Consistent with planning consent 7906/21, any housing on the southernmost corner of the previous Metal Box Sports Ground should not exceed 13 homes, which must be compatible with the Hanger Hill Garden Estate Conservation Area".
Autumn 1984: On the basis that the application to build 26 houses was a breach of the original understanding with Metgate, the Residents' Association renegotiated the agreement to the effect that the new property developer negotiating to buy the housing site will be required to seek permission of the Residents' Association before making an application to build more than 15 houses, and Metgate itself will make a payment of £10,000 to the Association upon signing the agreement.
18 December 1984: The long-negotiated agreement with Metgate Limited is signed in the offices of the Crown Estate Commissioners. Metgate hands over the sum of £10,000 which is placed on deposit with the Residents' Association's bank.
22 January 1985: At the first meeting of the Company, a number of changes to its rules are made as had been agreed at the extraordinary meeting of the Residents' Association in March 1984 viz: (a) the name of the Company should be "Hanger Hill Garden Estate Residents Ltd. (b) only elected members of the Executive Committee of the Residents' Association owning and living in houses on the Estate were entitled to be directors and shareholders of the Company. (c) the Company must use the Residents' Association for "control and management" of the said lands.
February 1985: The Borough Planning Committee gives consent for the erection of 12 houses on the southern corner of the former Metal Box Sports Ground.
Summer 1985: A large high-quality building on the eastern side of the old Metal Box Sports Ground is leased by the British Broadcasting Corporation to house its fleet of television outside broadcast vehicles. So, with the main disposition and nature of buildings and access roads on the Metgate lands determined, and with the ownership of the gardens and service roads of the houses part of the Estate at last in the hands of the residents, some four and a half years of worry and anxiety for residents -- together with a great deal of hard sustained and professional work by many -- come to a successful conclusion.
It is invariably invidious to mention names but one person has to be mentioned here. Hanger Hill Garden Estate owes lasting thanks to Maurice Johnson who, as Chairman of the Residents' Association, was at the helm throughout all four and a half years of this most difficult period. The Hanger Hill Garden Estate cautiously welcomed, but was to keep an ever watchful eye on, Park Western.