Cries of 'shame' and 'Tories out' filled the air after a council planning committee defied a baying crowd of campaigners to approve a scheme to build tower blocks of flats and civic offices in the heart of Hammersmith.
The entire contingent of Conservative councillors on the committee voted in favour of the King Street scheme, giving them a seven to three majority over Labour members, who all opposed the project. They approved the demolition of the town hall extension, flats for the blind, the Cineworld cinema and homes on Cromwell Avenue to make way for two blocks of 290 flats of up to 15-storeys, civic offices, a new public square, restaurants, shops and supermarket.
Campaign group Save Our Skyline says it will fight the decision, and is prepared to fund a judicial review and call on Boris Johnson to block the scheme. Chairman John Jones derided the decision but vowed to keep on fighting.
He said: "While we are tremendously disappointed and frustrated by the decision, we are hardly surprised. We call on residents to maintain the pressure by writing to the Greater London Authority and the Secretary of State to make their view known. "In short, this is a disgraceful deal which shames Hammersmith."
More than 400 protesters came to the meeting on Wednesday night, which was held at Latymer Upper School due to the unprecedented interest. Many brought placards which simply said 'No' and nearly 1,300 residents had written their objections.
But one-by-one their arguments against the scheme were dismissed, which often led to howls of derision and, occasionally, outright hostility. One man was evicted but allowed back after a plea from Labour leader Stephen Cowan.
Planning officers said the scheme could be justified because the 'regeneration benefits' would outweigh the negatives and that the reduction to part of the scheme's height, agreed in August, would not adversely impact the skyline.
They added knocking down the town hall extension for a new public square, deemed 'hideous' by one protester, would improve the street, while the proposed footbridge to link Nigel Playfair Avenue with Furnival Gardens, opposed by campaigners amid fears its ramp extension will eat into the park, had now been re-designed and improved with a 'curved and slender geometry'.
Residents found support from Lucy Ivimy, the Conservative councillor for Ravenscourt Park, who accused her colleagues of pushing for the scheme only because of their 'wish for new offices'.
"It's hard to find anyone apart from the council and the developers (Grainger and Helical Bar) who supports these proposals", she said.
She added much of the planning report presented to the committee was 'defective' and 'disingenuous', including the comparison of the proposed new tower blocks with the exisiting 14-storey Premier Inn in King Street.
"It's disingenuous to mention what is an eyesore that would be rejected if an application was made today. This report is defective and its conclusions cannot be replied upon."
The cinema 'underpinned' the area's evening economy and its loss was 'difficult to defend', while the towers would being 'considerable harm from a heritage point of view', she said.
She added: "That there's no alternative to this scheme is a nonsense. If this is rejected, a far better one can be brought forward."
Labour councillors slammed the lack of affordable housing in the application, which the council admitted it 'couldn't afford' to include due to the recession, and said the loss of homes for the blind was 'unforgivable'.
Cllr Wesley Harcourt said: "These people will have their lives disrupted for a considerable amount of time."
The Hammersmith Society's Melanie Whitlock called the decision to approve 'a sorry day for Hammersmith', adding: "There is no one on the planning commmittee who seems to care a jot about the unique aspects of this part of London."
Mr Jones added: "It only serves to demonstrate the arrogance of this council and the inherent conflict of interest in the council having power to grant itself planning permission for such a controversial scheme."
Grainger and Helical Bar, operating as King Street Developments, said the scheme will bring major benefits to the area, adding the public square will be used for activities and events like ice skating, outdoor cinema and markets and that the new businesses will 'breathe new life' into the town.
KSD's David Walters said: "This scheme will deliver tangible regeneration benefits for Hammersmith and we are extremely pleased that the Council’s officers and planning committee have recognised this. There is a great deal of work to do before work begins but we are very keen to get started and hope that we will receive planning permission shortly.
"Thanks must go to all our local supporters who have helped us design a scheme that will deliver the long term improvements to the area that the Council’s original brief set out in 2007."
The committee agreed visually impaired people affected by the demolition of their Thomas Pocklington Trust flats should be moved no more than 1km away, a concession from the suggested 3km.