Success for LB Hounslow in Syon Park appeal

06 Dec 2018

Planning and Environment

Members at LB Hounslow had rejected the recommendations of officers and refused two linked applications for planning permission submitted by Northumberland Estates (ie Duke of Northumberland).

The first application sought planning permission for 127 residential units on Local Open Space opposite Syon Park, for many years (and currently) used as allotments. The second, linked, application sought to reprovide the allotments within Syon Park, in the grounds of the Grade I listed Syon House.

The principal benefit claimed by the applicant, and the underlying purpose advanced was to produce an income stream in the form of rental income from the new housing to fund a £13 million restoration of Syon House.

The land proposed to accommodate the new allotments, forms part of a Grade I Registered Park and Garden having been designed by Capability Brown – one of only four Brown landscapes within Greater London listed at Grade I alongside Kew Gardens, Hampton Court, and St James’ Park.

The refusals were appealed to the Secretary of State, and a two-week Public Inquiry was held commencing on 8 October 2018. In heritage terms, the case was of national importance: whilst the appellant emphasised that the future of Grade I Syon House was at stake, LB Hounslow emphasised that a Grade I Park and Garden was at stake. The Council did not accept that these proposals were the only way to fund the restoration.

By decision letter dated 29 November, the Inspector (Nick Fagan) dismissed both appeals. His principal reasons for dismissing the appeals were:

1. Syon Park is one of the most important examples of Capability Brown’s work and the proposals represented an alien intrusion (which could be considered cumulatively with the Hilton Hotel built within the park in 2011) which would harm the Park and Garden. Additional harm would be caused to the Grade I Lion Gate and to the Isleworth Riverside Conservation Area. In the language of the NPPF, the harm would be less than substantial;

2. The harm was not outweighed by public benefits, and the Inspector accepted the Council’s contention that the appellant had failed to demonstrate that there were no other funding sources for the restoration;

3. No weight should attach to the argument that the harm to the park could be reversed, because there was no intention to reverse;

4. The loss of the existing allotments would result in a loss of protected open space which would not be replaced by equivalent or better. The Inspector agreed with the Council that he should reject the argument that the appellant could, if he chose, in any event close the allotments with immediate effect (and without reproviding), because there could be no rational reason why the appellant would do so: it would not remove the Local Open Space designation.

Ed Grant represented the London Borough of Hounslow.