'Deterioration Will Escalate if Nothing is Done'

William Hardman says saving trees in Gunnersbury Park could sabotage regeneration

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Stables, Gunnersbury Park
Stables are currently under scaffolding
Stables, Gunnersbury Park
Stables in better days
Area for proposed housing in Gunnersbury ParkArea for proposed housing in Gunnersbury Park

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'Housing Only Way to Save Gunnersbury Park'

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Campaign to Restore Gunnersbury's Historic Stables

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After years of mismanagement by Ealing and Hounslow Councils, the results of a public consultation on Gunnersbury Park are expected to be announced at the end of this month.

William Hardman, a local architect who has campaigned for many years to save the historic and now decrepit stables in the Park, has written to put his viewpoint about the current proposals for redevelopment of Gunnersbury Park.

It is natural that most people oppose the idea of selling-off part of Gunnersbury park to raise money for Ealing and Hounslow Councils. However, the facts are not quite as straightforward as they appear.

Originally the land at Gunnersbury was sold by the Rothschild family to Ealing and (what was then) Acton Borough councils as a park. Almost the first thing the local authority did was to sell-off land along Lionel Road for housing, to raise money for up-keep.

The same thing is being proposed now, and the idea is to sell off less than 3% of the land (8km2) because money is urgently needed to restore the park and the historic buildings and landscape in it.

If the authorities raise money in this way, additional funds will be provided by the National Lottery Fund and English Heritage to carry out the restoration work proposed.

If the money is not raised, additional funds will not be provided, and deterioration of the park and its historic buildings (see box, right) will escalate. This is inevitable because spending cuts by all local authorities are planned in the next few years.

We could end up in a situation whereby all the historic buildings in the park are covered with unsightly scaffolding (not just the stables that have been like that for 25 years).

On environmental grounds alone, everyone should be opposed to cutting down trees. In fact, we need 1 M2 of woodland to absorb a kilogram of CO2 in a year. That is the amount of carbon dioxide generated if you leave a 100w light on for a day, or cook Sunday lunch on a gas cooker. So we need more trees not less.

The construction of houses on the site in Lionel Road will require Planning Consent, and consent for this site will invariably have conditions attached. As a minimum condition these should include the planting of at least three trees for each one that could be cut down.

In theory, for every £1 raised by the two borough Councils and English Heritage (EH), the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) will contribute £3. However, since the maximum grant from HLF is £5 million this would result in a project of £6.7 million and be insufficient to restore all the estate fabric.

Both English Heritage and Heritage Lottery Fund have indicated they would not be interested in giving any money unless the whole estate (ie the whole park) is considered.

It is significant that the Chairman of the Friends of Gunnersbury Park (who have campaigned and raised money for over 30 years) now supports the sale of the land, as regrettable but necessary.

I think it could be disastrous if the remedial works and refurbishment plans were sabotaged by a group of well-meaning people, who have not had access to the full facts.


September 22, 2009