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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Harrow residents divided over Tesco towers development plan

Developers submit formal application for ‘Tesco Towers’ with 500 new homes in ten blocks and new supermarket

Plans for ten new tower blocks up to 13-storeys high have been submitted. More than 500 homes and a new Tesco store are planned for the site, but residents are fighting against the development of more high-rise buildings in the borough.

London housing association Notting Hill Genesis (NHG) has been holding public consultations on the scheme, called Greenmead Place, since 2022 but finally submitted a formal application last month.

The developers want to demolish the existing Tesco superstore on Station Road in Harrow and replace it with ten tower blocks, ranging from four to 13 stories, to accommodate 504 homes

The plans, dubbed Tesco Towers by critics, have been met with fierce opposition from some locals, with a petition set up during the initial consultation stage being signed by nearly 2,500 people. Some are even blaming the Conservative-run council for going back on a 2022 campaign promise to ban new high-rise tower blocks but the pledge only referred to the suburbs and this application is on private land.

Cllr Marilyn Ashton, Chair of the Planning Committee. Image: Harrow Council.

The chair of the planning committee and deputy leader of the council, Cllr Marilyn Ashton, said that the application is ‘nothing to do with the council’ as it has been made by a company on land it owns. She said: “We don’t own this site. It’s not up to us what they put in, it’s up to them.”

Cllr Ashton added: “We never promised that we wouldn’t allow any high-rise buildings to be built in the whole of Harrow. We said we would protect the suburbs, and we are. […] We are not happy about this but you have to be realistic about your chances.”

The site sits within the borough’s ‘Opportunity Area’, which was designated by the Greater London Authority (GLA) as a key location with potential for new homes, jobs, and infrastructure.

Harrow needs more housing and Cllr Ashton warned that if development didn’t happen in the Opportunity Area, which already has some high-rise buildings, it would have to be done in the suburbs.

She said: “It’s in the London Plan, which we must conform to because otherwise we won’t get our Local Plan adopted at all. [Alternatively] we would have to put the development in the suburbs. This is what people have to understand. It’s always about the art of the possible, it’s always about achieving a Local Plan that’s pretty damn good and protects most of Harrow from inappropriately tall buildings.”

She added: “But the flip side of that is that you have to put some higher density development somewhere, particularly in the ones where there already is that kind of development. You can’t say ‘we don’t want a tall building on that site’ when you look around you and the whole place is covered in tall buildings.”

The development proposes 35 per cent of the homes be affordable and a new Tesco will also be built following the demolition of the existing one. Documents submitted by NHG suggest the development, which would be completed in two phases, represents ‘an opportunity to […] build homes on a brownfield side’ rather than on surrounding green belt land.

Phase 1 would see the development of 233 homes – including all of the affordable housing in five towers ranging between seven and 13 stories – and the construction of the new Tesco store.

Phase 2 would involve the building of 271 private sale homes – in five blocks ranging between four and 13 stories – and the demolition of the existing superstore. If approved, the Tesco store would remain continuously operational to customers throughout the entire construction stage of development.

A Change.org petition objecting to the proposals submitted by campaign group ‘No To Tesco Towers’ has been signed by almost 2,500 residents. The group has raised concerns over “the scale of the development, a lack of truly affordable housing, and the impact on local infrastructure, such as roads, public transport, schools and health services”.

A spokesperson for NHG said: “We have conducted several rounds of consultation and fully engaged with the local community to ensure their views were heard, which resulted in several changes, including a reduction in height and density, minimising the impact on neighbouring streets.”

They added: “Beyond new homes, the wider community will benefit from a new and improved Tesco store offering a customer café and extra jobs, as well as a new pocket park and green spaces throughout the site.” If the plan is recommended by council officers, Cllr Ashton expects the application to come before the planning committee over the summer months.

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