Reprieve for Gunnersbury Park?

Ealing Conservatives pledge no building in the grounds

Related Links

Area for proposed housing in Gunnersbury Park
Area for proposed housing in Gunnersbury Park

Gunnersbury Campaigner Invited to Downing Street

Save Trees in Gunnersbury Campaign

'Housing Only Way to Save Gunnersbury Park'

Friends of Gunnersbury Park and Museum

Campaign to Restore Gunnersbury's Historic Stables

Gunnersbury Park Museum,

Sign up for weekly email newsletters from,, and

The chances of part of Gunnersbury Park ever built on appear to have reduced dramatically following a surprise statement from Ealing Conservatives that they will oppose any such plans.

They say that they have always been against such a sale and that their statement in no way represents a change of position.

Councillor Phil Taylor, Portfolio holder for Customer and Community Services, said, “Our Council has consistently said that it would not support residential development in Gunnersbury Park, or any other park in the Borough. "

He suggests that the inclusion of the option to consider sale of part of the park needed to be included in the consultation but was never actively being considered by his party.

He added, “Although it has caused some upset it was essential that the question was raised in the recent consultation questionnaire. The kind of enabling development outlined would be acceptable to funding bodies such as English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund. We can now negotiate with these bodies with the clear understanding that such enabling development is unacceptable to the public as well as this council."

The announcement appears to have come as a surprise to the ruling group on Hounslow Council who set up the Gunnersbury regeneration board jointly with Ealing.

Leader of Hounslow Council issued a statement saying, "We understand that Ealing Council this week (Monday 20 October) agreed a motion that affects its strategy for parks and green space; this in turn could change Ealing’s policy and strategy on options previously agreed with Hounslow to find a way of guaranteeing a future for Gunnersbury Park."

He added that he looked forward to seeing full details of Ealing's plans at the next Gunnersbury Park Joint Advisory Panel.

Brentford Labour Councillor Matt Harmer said, "Having wasted £25,000 of residents' money consulting on plans they now disown it's clear that neither administration has a clue what they are doing. Cllr. Thompson doesn't know what Ealing's policy is and says he has to wait until a meeting that won't take place until the last day in November to find out. Incompetence on this scale will not impress English Heritage and the other agencies that are watching what is going on."

It is believed that over 4,000 local people responded to the questionnaire on the park.

Chair of the Friends of Gunnersbury Park, James Wisdom reacted angrily to the announcement saying that there was no future for the park if the two owners are collaborating poorly. He said, "One of the most positive changes that has happened at Gunnersbury in recent years has been the active engagement of Ealing Council and the cooperation between both them and Hounslow. Councillor Taylor and his Ealing colleagues wanted the Options Appraisal, and he was very active in the design of the public consultation and the specific wording of the questionnaire, and he wanted it to go to 70,000 people. He and his colleagues now face a charge of acting in bad faith."

Mr Wisdom believes that the timing of what he believes is a volte-face by Ealing's Conservatives is due to the fact that a summary of initial responses to the consultation were released to Councillors this week but not the public. Other campaigners for the park are claiming that with elections coming up next year and Ealing Conservatives getting fewer votes than Labour in the borough in the most recent European election they did not want to be saddled with an unpopular policy on a public open space.

Andrew Dakers, Liberal Democrat Councillor for the Brentford ward said, "Whilst the Conservative's u-turn on Gunnersbury Park is welcomed, the botched consultation reflects a lack of understanding of local peoples' concerns and aspirations. "

Although some campaigners are likely to react with glee to these developments others are more concerned about the news. James Wisdom, who has previously argued that the sums needed to bring the park up to scratch are so large that some sale of land is required, said, "I fear this new stance will have completely wrecked any possibility of support from English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund. "

The date of the next Gunnersbury Park Joint Advisory Panel will be published as soon as the meeting date is agreed by both Councils. The park stakeholder group will be presented with the final consultation report when the panel has seen and discussed it.


October 23, 2009