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About 20 months ago,  a property company known as Oakmill Properties Ltd  applied to Richmond Town Council Planning Department for planning permission to develop land on the site of the car showroom at the top of White Hart Lane and other land adjacent to it.

They proposed building a retail unit on the ground and a number of flats on top of it.

What kind of retail unit was not specified, but one set of plans  indicated something along the lines of a Tesco Express type establishment.

Whilst a second described three much smaller retail outlets.

No provision was made for parking for the flat-owners and there were no adequate provisions for the loading and unloading of delivery lorries to the retail outlet.

Local Councillors were against it, so were overwhelming numbers of local residents and traders and Richmond Planning Department duly rejected it.

So far, so good.

Oakmill then submitted revised plans which included some parking for the flat-owners and other minor amendments.

Local Councillors still opposed the plans, but instead of rejecting them again, the Planning Department, for reasons of their own, did not reject the applications, but merely did nothing and let them “run out of time.”

This prompted Oakmill to launch an Appeal, chaired by an “Independent” Inspector from the National Planning Inspectorate.

Astonishingly, despite the well documented objections of the people who live and work here, despite a cogently argued case against it and despite using a highly questionable retail research report, the Inspector approved the plans.

He ignored the  record number of objections lodged with the planning department by local residents, citing everything from increased congestion, increased parking problems, impact on local traders, aesthetic grounds – the building plans approved are at the most basic architectural level – and fears of extra pollution and an increase in petty crime and vandalism.

All these concerns were deemed irrelevant, despite a valiant effort by a small group of concerned local people who attended the appeal and put a most convincing case.

At this point the Council gave up and declared there was nothing more to be done.

They did not launch a legal appeal in the High Courts, even though expert barristers opinion was that there was a very good case.

It is now too late to have the approval overturned by a High Court judgment.

Nobody is suggesting that nothing be done to the land, but it must be in keeping with the neighbourhood,  recognise the congestion and parking problems and understand the real impact  a national retail giant such as Sainsburys  would have on local traders who make this part of Barnes so special.

This kind of thing is going on all over the country at the moment, (see the Links to other sites) and although it requires a lot of effort, it is possible to prevent this area being turned into yet another clone of every High Street in the country.

To find out the current situation go to The Situation Now

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This site was last updated 05/25/07