Residents angry at decision
Council plan approved despite more than 1,000 people registering their objections
A highly-contested youth centre in a green space surrounded by houses in Harefield, has been given the go ahead despite objection from residents and councillors.
More than 1,000 signatures were gathered against the plans, which came from Hillingdon Council, for a singlestorey youth centre, with a two-storey sports hall, playground, car parking, lighting and fencing, on the green space on Ash Grove, Harefield.
Richard Barnes, a Harefield resident who was previously Deputy Mayor of London under Boris Johnson, and a deselected Hillingdon Conservative councillor who later defected to UKIP, spoke at the meeting which decided the youth centre’s fate, on Wednesday last week.
He said: “I thought it was perverse that four councillors should determine what was good for Harefield, when the church, the residents’ association, and 600 residents were against it.
“It’s just a total overdevelopment of the site. They’d be cramming it in behind lord knows how many people in Ash Grove.
“When the houses were built there it was recognised that they needed a bit of green space for the kids to play around in and now they’re finally going to build on it.”
Mr Barnes will be supporting an appeal against the decision.
He said: “It is a Hillingdon application determined by Hillingdon councillors and I believe they’ve reached a perverse decision.
“We’re taking it out of the hands of political objectives. Prior to the application being heard, or consultation the council was saying this is going to happen.
“It would appear it’s all been totally pre-judged and the local residents count for absolutely nothing.
“It was significant that there wasn’t one single Harefield councillor there. It’s a disappointment.”
There are two levels of appeal, one for the local administration to the ombudsman and then residents will be taking their case to the planning inspectorate.
The Major Planning Applications Committee approved the proposal despite a total of 114 letters of objection setting out issues including losing an amenity, traffic, parking, crime, emergency service access concerns. There were only five letters in support.
Hillingdon Council’s final report states: “The proposal is considered to comply with current planning policies which seek to encourage enhanced community provision.
“Whilst some loss of open space would occur, justification for this has been provided such that, on balance, the benefits of the development are considered to outweigh this loss.”
Lead petitioner and Ash Grove resident, Lisa Whicker, asked the Planning Committee to carefully consider the impact both to residents and the already exasperated traffic as they had not built anything like this in over 20 years, as it will be open 52 weeks a year.
“I may as well have sat there naked. They’d made their minds up before we went in there.”
She highlighted other concerns about fire safety access and getting the bins out.
“With it open 52 weeks a year we’ll get no respite. Even with a nearby school you get respite in holidays but we get none of that.
Ms Whicker added: “We are not against a youth centre – however we do feel 2.8 million pounds is being ploughed into this Youth Centre – Is this really money well spent on just one building?”
Cllr Tony Eginton, representing Barnhill for Labour, also believes the centre is in the wrong place.
He said: “The roads are very narrow and there’s lots of parked cars and it’s taking away the only open space in that estate, which is used by families.
“We should be providing better youth service. It would be more sensible to try and use the facilities at Harefield Academy, which, because it’s involved in sport would be an ideal place.”
n UNHAPPY: Neighbours of the Ash Grove site will appeal against the decision to build the youth centre