Chiswick Curve public inquiry – Joanna Biddolph speaks out against this over-development

On Tuesday, 21st June several local organisations and individuals spoke at the public inquiry, all against the proposals to build the 32-storey Chiswick Curve at Chiswick roundabout.  The same issues were raised over and over again: its design; its visual impact; pollution levels at the roundabout; landscaping; and contradictions with the local plan and London policies.  Joanna Biddolph spoke out strongly against this overdevelopment:

“I’m Joanna Biddolph, councillor for Turnham Green ward in which this site falls.  I sent in a very strong submission against this over-development and don’t propose to repeat that here.  It’s on the record and I hope you’ll read it.  I would like to bring it up to date.

“During the recent local election I met a huge number of residents.  Chiswick Curve was the second most raised issue on the doorstep.  Not one person spoke in favour of it.  Not one. It’s seen as an insult to Chiswick and our lifestyle here.

“I’ve lived here since 1983 – 35 years – and know it well.  It’s low rise, with pretty streets, open spaces.

“Turnham Green ward is the beating heart of Chiswick.  It includes the longest stretch of Chiswick High Road – our high street; two significant shopping streets off the High Road which, together, make one of our four business hubs (the High Road, Chiswick Business Park, Chiswick Tower and Power Road) yet it also has almost 12,000 residents.

“It includes five leafy conservation areas (*), 37 listed buildings or structures, some landmark buildings including the Russian Orthodox Church with a beautiful blue dome providing a focal point, a symbol of our diversity, a notable landmark.

“The tallest building in Turnham Green ward is Chiswick Tower.  At 17 storeys high, it’s cleverly placed – it’s L-shaped with the tallest section set back from the High Road.  It’s a clever design trick yet it still dominates.

“Next is Chiswick Business Park.  The whole of this is set well back from the High Road with its tallest buildings – 12 storeys high – barely visible.  It’s also generously landscaped, its frontage softened by sensitive planting.

“Other, more recent, residential developments are much lower – four, five, six storeys high.

“There’s a great deal of concern about Empire House, further in, which is blighted by what I call developer’s greed and now impacting on Chiswick’s character, imposing on us not only a threat – the future – but also at least eight empty shops at street level.

“Apart from that, Turnham Green ward – and Chiswick – are overwhelmingly low rise.

“So is the location where Chiswick Curve is proposed. Its nearest residential neighbours live in a short row of classic, small Victorian cottages and a short stretch of new build townhouses, all two storeys high.  On the other side, there’s a cemetery, a local church, a school and a few two-storey houses.

“It’s on the edge, as you know, of the Gunnersbury Park Conservation area, one of the four conservation areas I mentioned earlier, with its own housing area, the Gunnersbury Park Garden Estate, a small garden suburb of modest mock-Tudor houses, all low rise including a small block of flats, again low rise.

“The height and scale of this over-development are of huge concern to Chiswick residents.

“So is the impact of such a large development on, as you’ve heard from others and as residents stressed to me while electioneering, our infrastructure: the tube, buses, trains, and on GPs (many of whom are already over-busy), schools and parking.

“Whatever the proposal for parking, there will be pressure to provide spaces.  I can provide evidence.  At the first surgery I attended after being elected, two residents – they came separately, with different requests – asked passionately for parking spaces.  They both lived in flats, one with no allocated parking and one in a small block with not enough parking provision for its residents.

“Then there is the impact on local shops – Chiswick is known for its local independent shops.  We need residents to use our local shops and fruit and veg stalls.  We are lucky, in what many call our village, to have two butchers, a fishmonger, three delicatessens, two florists and several flower stalls.  We can buy shoes, clothes and have them repaired by cobblers and tailors.  We can eat out in numerous cafes and restaurants from greasy spoons to Michelin-starred restaurants (we have two of those).

“Yet the proposal, to justify the lack of parking – that residents will be encouraged to shop online, have food delivered – drives a wedge between Chiswick and residents living on a roundabout isolated from our community.

“We want residents who play a part in our leafy location, not outsiders on the edge of it.

“I’ve made other points (in my previous submission), consistent with others speaking today, about: the design of Chiswick Curve; its visual impact; the pollution residents here will have to cope with from the huge number of vehicles using the A406 North Circular/Gunnersbury Avenue – 25,000 vehicles a day, and that’s TfL’s official count); landscaping; its mismatch with the local plan and London policies.

“It’s out of scale, out of character, it has no charm.

“Residents – people who live here – don’t want it not only because it is preposterous but also because of its impact on the pride we have in our area and our enjoyment of it.

“I urge you to reject this gigantic over-development.”

Joanna Biddolph, Councillor for Turnham Green ward, 21st June 2018

* Five conservation areas: Chiswick High Road, Gunnersbury Park, Thorneyhedge, Turnham Green and Wellesley Road.