On 10 September 2020, the Secretary of State granted planning permission for a large mixed-use scheme, including 441 new homes, in a series of tall buildings on the site of the Citroen car dealership, close to the elevated section of the M4 motorway in Brentford, West London. The application, made by L&Q, had been refused by LB Hounslow but called in by the Mayor of London, who made himself the local planning authority in respect of the application. After the Mayor resolved to grant permission for the development it was called in again, this time by the Secretary of State. The scheme was opposed by Historic England and by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, both of whom appeared at the public inquiry, on grounds of impact on heritage assets. The Mayor of London appeared at the inquiry to support the proposal. Of particular concern to HE and RBG Kew was impact on the grade 1 listed Orangery, within Kew Gardens, and on the Strand on the Green Conservation Area. The Inspector found a lower level of less than substantial harm to the Orangery and to the OUV of Kew Gardens as a World Heritage Site, and a moderate level of harm to the Conservation Area - an assessment which accorded with the evidence of the Mayor. However, the Inspector considered that the benefits, in terms of housing delivery, outweighed that harm. The Secretary of State agreed.
The Inspector’s report contains some detailed and important observations concerning the approach to heritage policies and to the assessment of cumulative harm to heritage assets, including to a world heritage site.
Douglas Edwards QC appeared for the Mayor of London at the inquiry and throughout the application process.