The Friends Group made the following submission ot the Planning Inspectorate on 3 June 2020
Re: Watermans Arts Centre
Appeal ref: PCU/CONS/F5540/3214606
The Friends of Watermans Park is a Friends Group recently constituted on 29 March 2019 and its principal objective is:
To help protect, conserve and enhance Watermans Park, its environs and access to the River Thames for the enjoyment of local residents and visitors.
Comments made on behalf of the Friends Group are therefore related to that overall objective from the perspective of users of the Park.
The purpose of this letter is to comment on the proposed demolition of a low-rise existing office building and Arts Centre to provide 193 new dwellings within buildings of part 6, part 7 storeys. The planning consultation for this development took place before the formation of the Friends Group.
The Friends Group considers that the existing Watermans Arts Centre together with Watermans Park provide an exceptional public Thames riverside location. The site of the Arts Centre should not become a commercial housing development without the strongest possible justification. That the development would result in “less than substantial harm to Kew Palace and Kew World Heritage Site” on its own is hardly a strong endorsement.
In 2016 planning permission was granted for the development of a marina at Watermans Park. As part of this decision enhancements to Watermans Park were proposed including “creation of four new distinct but linked areas within the park including: an outdoor café space (for a pop-up style operator) and eating area, a space for performances, a seating and viewing area which seeks to maximise the attractive views across the river and a new play area based on natural play principles”. After more than three years the Council has yet to set out detailed proposals for these and other enhancements. It has, however, made so called Non Material Amendments to the planning consent. These were approved on 24 April 2019 so that development of the marina could commence before such proposals were finalized and prevent planning consent lapsing on 19 May 2019.
An enhanced Watermans Park with such facilities outlined above would complement and be available to the Arts Centre to provide local residents and visitors with different and interesting reasons to visit. The proximity of the Park and Arts Centre is an asset that would be diminished if the Arts Centre moves location. Given the increasing housing provision in Brentford, for example around the nearby new football stadium, public spaces become ever more important.
The Council’s proposed redevelopment of the Arts Centre site is to be linked through a S106 legalagreement with the proposed delivery of a re-located Arts Centre on the site of the former Brentford police station on Half Acre, alongside105 new dwellings. The new dwellings are, we understand, intended for social housing. The Friends Group commends the Council’s efforts to provide additional social housing in the Borough. However, we consider that the loss of a public riverside location has not been properly factored into any cost / benefit exercise that may have conducted. The current proposal is simply just one option that has been presented as the only option and should be rejected for the reasons outlined above.
The Friends Group would like to be given an opportunity to present our views in person at the inquiry but we are not seeking Rule 6 status.
We also draw to your attention that a member of the Friends Group Committee currently operates a business from part of the office building that is proposed to be redeveloped.
Chair, Friends of Watermans Park