AN EXHIBITION of council plans to regenerate Hounslow was ambushed by a dissident group offering their alternative vision.
New proposals to transform the town centre into a 24-hour shopping and leisure destination went on public show for the first time over the weekend.
But a group of residents who are unhappy with the council’s ‘disappointing’ master plan used the occasion to distribute leaflets setting out their own blueprint for regeneration.
The key battleground is over plans for the High Street itself.
The council wants to make the shopping parade more pedestrian-friendly by minimising vehicle access along the entire stretch.
But the Hounslow Town Centre Neighbourhood Forum Group, set up to give residents a voice, wants to open it up to cars to make it more lively and safer at night.
A council spokesman said: “We are more than happy for the Hounslow Town Centre Neighbourhood Forum Group to get involved in the consultation and make suggestions. We don’t think we’ve been ambushed by a dissident group, we welcome interest.
"This is exactly the kind of engagement we are looking for and would urge others to make their views known too.
"It is vital as many interest groups and residents get involved in the Town Centre consultation as the regeneration of Hounslow Town Centre is a crucial component to the borough’s future economic prosperity."
The council’s master plan, approved by the ruling Labour group last month, outlines plans to develop the town centre over the next eight years.
Creating public squares at each end of the High Street and in the centre, outside Holy Trinity Church, is among a myriad of recommendations in the 98-page document.
It also sets out guidelines for the long-awaited development of the car park site opposite ASDA, which it says should be between four and 12 storeys tall and should include a mix of shops and restaurants, along with a cinema.
This is another bone of contention with the neighbourhood group, which wants a smaller building including a swimming centre - something the council has insisted would prove too expensive.
The council is believed to be warming to the idea of moving its headquarters to Hounslow town centre, another of the group’s main demands, with the existing Civic Centre growing too large for purpose.
The sale of the land beside Lampton Park would raise a considerable amount of money.
Consultation on the master plan is set to run until June 8, after which councillors will decide whether to formally adopt the proposals.
However, the document is already being used as a guideline by companies bidding to redevelop the ASDA car park site in what the council describes as a £100 million project.
The master plan is available to view at Hounslow Civic Centre or online at hounslow.gov.uk/index/council_and_democracy/consultations.
HOW THE PLANS DIFFER
* Create a four to 12 storey development on the ASDA car park site, with a mix of shops, restaurants and cafes, a multi-screen cinema and some housing
* ‘Prioritise pedestrian flows’ along the High Street and ‘minimise vehicle access’
* Create new ‘civic facilities’ at the Bath Road car park, beside Yates’s, which could include new council offices and/or an arts venue
NEIGHBOURHOOD FORUM GROUP
* Build a new swimming pool ‘as was promised when the old one was removed’
* Allow transport along the length of the High Street
* Bring the council’s HQ back into the town centre, improving accessibility and attracting business