Hayes Park Green Belt: What’s at stake

OPINION: A lot of the opposition to the decision to sell-off Home Farm/Hayes Park has focused on the open space and luscious greenery local residents stand to lose if the site is developed on, rather than what they stand to gain.

While no planning permission has been sought (outline or otherwise) for the site so far, it’s fair to assume that – in light of rising property prices in the area –prospective buyers have been eyeing up the site for it residential development potential.

And, if that turns out to be the case, what local residents will almost certainly experience is a long, protracted period of chaos and congestion along the roads serving the site during the construction phase.

Pole Hill Road and Charville Lane, for example, are both well-used thoroughfares that become almost impassable at times already, thanks to the high throughput of traffic they already receive.

Add to the mix the procession of tipper trucks and JCBs a new residential development is likely to bring, and the result will be numerous traffic jams and fits of road rage, as travelling around the local area becomes nigh on impossible.

It’s also worth mentioning the damage a potential uptick in traffic volume would undoubtedly do to the surfaces of our roads, and – in turn – the vehicles that use them.

In the longer term, these potential traffic problems would most certainly worsen once any plans to develop the site are complete, and a new influx of residents move in, bringing more cars with them.

If the problems became too bad, it could prompt the council (and this is purely speculative now) to rethink the road system in the area, and take steps to increase the volume of traffic they could comfortably withstand, paving the way (no pun intended) for further construction work and disruption.

All of this together would completely change the look and feel of the area forever, transforming this once quiet corner of Hillingdon countryside into a concrete maze, heaving with traffic that spits out pollution into the once clean air.

Then there’s the impact a sudden influx of people would have on the rest of the area’s amenities. A new residential development would put additional pressure on the area’s schools, Hillingdon Hospital, our local GP surgeries, dentists, and more.

Admittedly, it is a pretty bleak picture we’ve painted here, and we make no apologies for that, because we fully appreciate how much Hayes Park means to residents and how losing it would irreversibly change the character of the area and damage the community forever.

The number of people who’ve contacted Friends of Hayes End to remark on how they moved to this part of the borough specifically because of the views, grew up running amok in the fields or spent their summers helping out a Dalton’s Farm, are a testament to that.

We’ve even had people who’ve long since moved out of the area get in touch, sharing their memories about watching the horses (that are still very much part of what makes Hayes End great) and their riders trot along the frosty lane on Christmas Day, offering to help fight the threat to Hayes Park and Home Farm in any way they can.

This area means so much to so many people, and we’ll be damned if we let it go without a fight. If that means more protests, so be it. If that means pasting more of the local area with posters, fine. If it means not losing what makes this such a great place to live, that’s what we’re going to do. Bring it on.

The Save Home Farm campaign wins support of nationwide environmental protection charity

The threat posed to Home Farm’s Green Belt Land has caught the attention of The Campaign to Protect Rural England, who has pledged to support local resident-led efforts to safeguard the site from development.

The environmental charity’s London branch has added the Home Farm site to its map of at-risk Green Belt sites within the M25, and has agreed to assist the Hayes End community in any future planning disputes that may arise from the forthcoming sale of the land.

As previously reported by Friends of Hayes End, the 144-acre Home Farm/Hayes Park site was recently listed on property website RightMove with a guide price of £5.5m.

Viewings of the site by prospective buyers were concluded this week (8 September), while Bidwells – the property consultancy overseeing the sale – has confirmed interested parties until 24 September to submit their bids for it.

At the time of writing, no planning applications concerning the site are understood to have been submitted to Hillingdon Council, but the uncertainty over the land’s future has been the subject of growing concern within the local community.

Since news of the land sale emerged, the plight of Home Farm has been featured in the local press on several occasions, and has been the subject of an extensive poster campaign across the local area, as well as a peaceful demonstration.

Securing the support of the CPRE constitutes a major win for the local community’s efforts, as the organisation has been actively involved in drawing attention to similar campaigns at both a local and central government level in the past and at present.

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For example, CPRE is currently lending support to the Keep Osterley Green campaign in Hounslow, West London, by submitting objections to a planning application that could see a free school built on Green Belt land known locally as White Lodge.

It has also thrown its weight behind the Save Oakfield Site campaign in Redbridge, after the local council made moves to sell-off the area’s playing fields, which were granted Green Belt status in the 1930s.

Alice Roberts, green spaces officer at CPRE London, said there are many misconceptions about the protections afforded to the UK’s Green Belt land by the government’s planning policies.

“Most people believe that Green Belt land is protected, but [our] research shows that politicians are allowing land which is much loved and well-used to come under threat from development. Astonishingly, this includes playing fields, recreation grounds and even local parkland,” said Roberts.

“Local campaigners are battling to save these spaces and we think it’s time their local councillors, our Mayor and our MPs take action.

“We want them to stop just saying that they want to preserve the Green Belt and actually take action to halt these threats,” she added.

The Save Home Farm campaign has support at local government level from John McDonnell MP, who has previously overseen efforts to safeguard Home Farm from development, and is currently serving as a member of parliament for Hayes and Harlington.

“We know that the vast majority of Londoners oppose building on Green Belt land, so we’re asking people to support these local campaigns,” continued Roberts.

“People can also write to local MPs and councillors, and the Mayor, to ask them to halt the threats to Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land in London right now.”

Home Farm Green Belt: How at risk is it from development?

In years gone by, the protection afforded to areas designated as Green Belt land has visibly diminished, as the demand for affordable housing and civic amenities for the UK’s booming population has grown.

Figures released by construction consultancy Glenigan in June 2015 bear this out, and revealed a 430% rise in planning application approvals for developments on Green Belt land over the past five years.

The reasons for this aren’t difficult to fathom and can largely be traced back to the Coalition Government’s decision to push through new planning regulations in 2012 that – essentially – relaxed the rules on developing Green Belt land.

The upturn in the UK economy has also played a part, as property developers look to tap into the demand for new housing stock that people who struggled to get a foot on the property ladder during the recession are now driving.

But that’s only part of the story. The previous government also actively encouraged local councils to prioritise the reuse of Brownfield sites over building on Green Belt land.

It’s this policy, in particular, that has paved the way for much of the residential redevelopment going on in Hayes Town at the moment, for example, in anticipation of the arrival of Crossrail in 2018-19.

The completion of the high-frequency trainline is widely-tipped to prompt a rise in house prices within Hayes and the surrounding area, as it delivers on its goal to make it easier and quicker for people to travel into Central London.

If the expected impact on property prices turns out to be true, the demand for new housing in the area is likely to follow, which could – theoretically – put more pressure on the council to permit development on Green Belt sites like Hayes Farm.

And it’s for all these reasons local residents are so concerned about the fate of Home Farm and its open spaces once the 144-acre stretch of Green Belt land it sits within is sold off.

As it stands, though, no planning permission of any kind has been sought for the land, despite its imminent sale, which makes it difficult at this point to gauge how much of a fight lies ahead.

Even so, there’s no denying the uncertainty over the situation has got local residents worried.

The area has faced similar threats in the past, the most recent one being in 2011, and nothing came of it. But, that was before the relaxation of the planning laws, and at a time when the economy was still largely in the doldrums.

A lot has changed in four years, and just because plans to develop the site failed to win the approval of Hillingdon Council in 2011, it would be foolhardy to assume that would automatically be the case this time around.

One bright spot on the horizon is the contents of Hillingdon Council’s 2013 Green Belt Assessment Update. In it, a large portion of the Home Farm site was earmarked for retention as Green Belt, on the grounds that its presence will protect this area of Hayes from the effects of “urban sprawl.”

However, as the picture shows, this designation (pictured right) doesn’t appear to cover the entire site that’s up for sale (pictured left), which should be just cause for local concern.

Hayes Farm mapHome Farm