On Thursday evening Hounslow’s Planning Committee voted to allow the company, Putt in the Park, to take over the bowls pavilion and green and turn it into a café and mini-golf course.
The permission was granted with conditions – that the company sticks to its promises which it called community benefits, and that the site was surrounded by a high hedge to diminish its visual impact on the Listed Park and Conservation Area. The Planning Department officer said that they would investigate if a complaint was received that these conditions were not being met.
The significant conditions are:
Free use of the facility for local schools
Free use of the pavilion for community groups two hours a day
Free use of the pavilion for baby and toddler groups
Reduced rates for OAPs
Open 360 days a year
The planners had acknowledged that the site was going to be “incongruous” with a Listed Park and a Conservation Area, but maintaining and extending the hedge and improving the planting and landscaping with advice from The Gardens’ Trust was sufficient.
The planners had refused the first time because neither the applicant nor the CIC had adhered to LBH’s policy on the removal of a community asset. This time, the planners acknowledged that this still had not be done, but that they had been persuaded that, as the park as a whole was a community asset, the policy did not matter. Although not the applicant, David Bowler from the CIC was allowed to intervene when the director of Putt in the Park was unable to reply to questions, and he added that as the company had been introduced by the Lead Director for Ealing the policy and procedures were not thought to be relevant.
The two hours of debate were wide ranging and mostly about general, not narrow planning matters. Much of the discussion was not about the bowling green and pavilion, but about the history and status of the Bowls Club which had used it. Councillors who knew the Park had many ideas and solutions to the problems – others stayed silent. There was no opportunity to challenge or correct mis-statements. What was happening – both in this and the previous Planning meeting – was the sort of open discussion which the CIC should have been having with councillors, stakeholders and the public about the future of the site long before it came to the final stage of the planning process.