Outraged residents in a packed public gallery rained cries of 'shame on you' down on councillors as they passed controversial plans to redevelop the Oaks Shopping Centre.
All seven Labour councillors voted to approve phase one the scheme in Acton High Street despite not being able to give a strong argument for their decision and after listening to a litany of criticisms.
So many campaigners went to the meeting last night that 64 people were unable to get in.
The six opposition councillors on the panel and two Labour ward councillors not voting, repeatedly pointed out how the development is in breach of Ealing Council's own guidelines.
Councillor Colm Costello used an old expression to describe the folly of passing the development while the second and last phase of the scheme remains a mystery. He said: “What we’re being asked tonight is to buy a pig in a bag.”
Acton Regeneration Company boss John Bourne insisted his development, which rises to nine storeys, would bring good quality housing, new jobs, and ‘dramatically improve the shopping experience’ by giving the front of the centre a facelift, adding four more shops and Waitrose moving in.
While Ben Rogers, of town planning consultants Maddox Associates, said delivery lorries would not clog up Churchfield Road as feared thanks to a loading area within the site, a walkway open 16 hours a day would create the necessary link between the High Street and Churchfield Road, and the overshadowing of homes complied with planning policy.
Critical councillors said the density of the 140 new homes was 30 per cent higher than planning guidelines - described by councillor Jon Ball as ‘absurdly high’ - that 22 per cent affordable homes was far short of the 50 per cent target, the block would fail to create a much-needed link between Churchfield Road and the High Street, and it would loom over St Mary’s Burial Ground and other homes cutting out sunlight for much of the year.
Councillor John Popham reminded everyone the development would be in place for decades and said: “If we were to pass this, future generations would curse us.”
The warning fell on deaf ears among the Labour councillors, with Councillor Swarn Kang seeming more worried about the cost of an appeal if the developers fought a rejection in court.
Ignoring the housing crisis, he said although affordable housing is fine in council estates, in a town centre ‘less is better’.
Broadcaster Doug Carnegie, who spoke against the plans along with Rev David Brammer of St Mary’s Church, said: “I’ve never seen such an inverse relationship between the paucity of arguments and the outcome. All they did was put their hands up. They didn’t have an idea to rub together.”
The council said it is up to individual councillors to vote on planning applications and all must provide valid reasons for their decision based on planning merit.