Ruth McKee reports'>
Mon 21 March 2016, 9:59 am
The council's new HQ will be built in the heart of the community, with the old site earmarked for more than 900 homes, as Ruth McKee reports
Hounslow is on the cusp of a transformation into a hub of metropolitan city living. If all goes to plan in the coming years, thousands of new homes will be built, businesses will be thriving and the building at the heart of it all – where councillors and officers can look out and see their plans take shape before their eyes – will be replaced by a housing development, in a cutting edge example of local authority efficiency.
In November 2015, Hounslow Council gave the go- ahead for plans to sell off the current civic centre in Lampton Road and replace it with 919 new homes.
To bring the council HQ into the heart of Hounslow town centre and make way for the new development, staff will move to a new civic centre, to be built on the site of the current Bath Road car park.
Faced with the challenge of building 12,330 new homes before 2030 combined with the increasingly dilapidated state of the current civic centre, council chiefs saw the chance to solve two problems at once.
“It was a pragmatic decision,” leader of the Labour-led council, Steve Curran, says. “The building was built in the 70s and it is now not fit for purpose. It is riddled with asbestos and it is too big for our needs.
"We have been reducing the number of people who work at the civic centre, due to spending decisions
from central government. And while we do encourage other agencies to share the space, such as the police and the CCG [NHS clinical commissioning group], there is no getting away from the fact it is far too big for our needs and we need to downsize,” he adds.
Brendon Walsh, executive director of regeneration, economic development and environment at the council, agrees.
“Cost is, of course, an issue,” he says. “Annually the civic centre costs us £2.3 million to run and it would cost £17 million in maintenance and upgrading IT systems if we were to stay at that site.
"For an organisation that is shrinking, the space is too big to cater for our changing work patterns in the 21st century.” When officers suggested one very radical solution to the escalating maintenance costs would be to sell the land for housing, councillors leapt at the opportunity. In Curran’s words, the plan “is a fantastic return for the residents as everyone will benefit from this development.”
Hounslow is currently home to 271,800 people and the population of the borough is expected to balloon to 323,000 by 2030.
The local authority has set itself a target of building 822 homes a year to help meet the anticipated surge in demand for housing and with the Lampton Road site set to create 919 homes, the development is of such scale that it could significantly ease pressure on the borough’s current stock.
The Mayor of London’s office has granted housing zone status to Hounslow town centre, which means an investment boost of £18.5 million towards the building of 3,478 new homes, including the Lampton Road site, by 2025.
Set over 4.86ha amid the green expanse of Lampton Park, the 919 homes will be built by BY Development – a consortium involving Bouygues Development, Notting Hill Housing and Redrow Homes – as set out in the Hounslow town centre masterplan.
Of those, 90 will be set aside for affordable rented accommodation, 385 will be sold as shared accommodation and the remaining 444 for private sale. The majority of the homes will be two and three- bedroom properties with a smaller proportion of one-bed units.
The majority of the homes will be two and three- bedroom properties with a smaller proportion of one-bed units.
Throughout the borough of Hounslow, 22% of homes are classed as overcrowded, so there will be provision in the new development for larger, four-bedroom homes for families.
With the site’s position at the heart of one of Hounslow’s largest green spaces coupled with its fast transport links to central London and to Heathrow airport, the leader of the council is excited at the prospect of the development drawing in workers from major employers such as Sky UK and GlaxoSmithKlein.
“One of the biggest problems we have here in Hounslow is that lots of people come into the borough to work for the big companies which are based here – but then when work finishes, they leave,” Curran says.
“But in our vision for Hounslow we want to encourage people to live and work in the borough.”
But with a decision on the third runway at Heathrow still hanging in the air, does he fear that if the airport is given the green light for expansion then the multimillion pound housing development may not recoup the money invested?
“There will be no change if the Heathrow expansion is given the go-ahead,” Curran insists. “What we have to do is to put as much pressure on Heathrow as possible so that they implement all the recommendations of Sir Howard Davies’ report.
“This means making sure the schools are insulated properly, that our residents receive home insulation, that our businesses are supported, and of course, Heathrow must do something about night flights.”
A longer version of this article features in the new issue of Great West magazine