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27-storey tower in Hounslow gets the green light

The skyscraper is at the heart of a huge housing development which will also include a 10-screen Cineworld cinema, shops and restaurants

A computer generated image showing how the proposed cinema (left foreground) and tower would look

Hounslow 's skyline will be radically altered after a 27-storey tower was approved last night (Thursday, November 5).

The high-rise apartment block, which will be visible from Richmond Park, is at the heart of 527 homes, a cinema, shops and restaurants to be built just off Hounslow High Street.

They got the go-ahead from Hounslow Council 's planning committee despite concerns from a number of residents who complained the scale of the buildings was totally out of proportion to those in surrounding streets.

The development of the car park site opposite the Blenheim Centre, which is home to ASDA, will require the demolition of homes along Holloway Street and a handful of shops in the High Street.

It is now 13 years since approval was first granted for the regeneration of the land. The Blenheim Centre was the first phase of that project, but the second stage was never completed.

Cineworld cinema to include Imax-type screen

Barratt London and Wilson Bowden's new plans include a 10-screen cinema which Cineworld has agreed to lease.

The cinema will include an Imax-type screen with more than 600 seats and will be allowed to open until 2.30am two nights a week.

There will also be a new public square, which the developers say will be able to host performances and exhibitions.

A computer-generated image showing how the square at the heart of Barratt's proposed development in Hounslow town centre would look

Members of Hounslow Central Residents' Association raised a number of objections, including the impact on traffic, particularly along Balfour Road.

But their principal complaint was about the height of the buildings, especially the tower, which they said would deprive some surrounding households of up to 40% of their current daylight.

"Serious defects"

Christine Quick, who was one of four people to address the meeting on behalf of the group, said: "We're not opposed to the whole development. We're saying there are serious defects which must be addressed."

The director of Specsavers in Hounslow, which would be demolished to open up access to the development, also objected.

He said the store had not been informed about the plans before renewing its lease in December last year, and claimed approving the scheme could leave the council open to legal action.

However, council planning officer Marilyn Smith responded that the permission granted in 2002, which included the demolition of the Specsavers building, was still live and should have showed up on any searches.

The public gallery was packed for the meeting

The architect for the scheme said public feedback had been overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. He told councillors he could have opted for a number of shorter tower blocks but he felt one tall tower would be more attractive.

He said a large number of homes were necessary to fund the cost of the two-storey underground car park, which will include 250 public parking spaces.

"I don't apologise for calling it (the tower) iconic or emphasising the quality of the architecture. We're very proud of it," he told the meeting.

He also said the development would "breathe a new lease of life" into the town centre, which he said was currently a "ghost town" at night.

"Once in a generation opportunity"

The scheme was backed by seven councillors, with two objecting and one abstaining.

Councillor Shantanu Rajawat, who voted in favour, described it as a "once in a generation opportunity".

Councillor Sheila O'Reilly, who voted against, said: "It would be fantastic to have a cinema but we're being asked an awful lot here in terms of compromise on people's quality of life."

The public gallery was packed on the night, and a number of people voiced their disapproval of the decision. One woman was heard saying "this council is going to destroy this town" as she left the room.

The development will contain a mixture of one, two and three-storey homes, 41% of which will be affordable.

The developer has also agreed to pay a 'Community Infrastructure Levy' of £6.5m, which will fund improvements to local facilities, from roads to schools.

The plans still need to be approved by the mayor of London. The Greater London Authority has previously said the development did not comply with the London Plan, but the developer said last night it was confident the plans will get the nod from the mayor now further details have been provided.

Barratt says the development will create around 750 jobs for local people.

It said the provisional start date is early 2017, with the cinema and the first retail and residential units due to be ready in early 2019 and an estimated completion date for the entire project of late 2020.

It is believed the tower will be the borough's tallest, once completed, just eclipsing the 26-storey tower at Brentford's Great West Quarter estate.

However, it may not hold that title for long, with plans in the pipeline for a 32-storey tower in Chiswick .

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