Official complaints have been lodged by residents of Sherland Road Twickenham, Shacklegate Lane and Railway Road Teddington, against a pre-determined decision to sell off these three garage sites as part of a controversial “linked sites strategy” and the way in which the planning decision was made.

Some years ago, without any consultation with residents and garage users, these sites were added to a list of sites for possible future disposal.

When residents discovered this, they were assured that there would be a full consultation before any final decision was made and that the garages would ONLY be sold if genuinely surplus to requirements. Indeed Council Policy states there is a presumption against the loss of lock up garages.

Vince Cable MP offered to “kick up a fuss” to stop the sale of the Sherland Road garage site, trees and community planted area, which has won eight environmental and community awards, but he too was assured that any sale was a long way off so nothing was done.

It became clear that the decision to sell and redevelop the garage sites had been taken back in 2006, when an embargo was put on garage rental in order to “minimise displacement issues” once sold.

The Liberal Democrat newsletter "Comments" of winter 2007 reported "the Council has decided to redevelop two lock up garage sites in Shacklegate Lane and Railway Road, Teddington. Cllr. Cardy had been assured that this will be subject to a "parking review" of those areas. However, no parking review took place on these or the Sherland Road garage site in an over parked area of Central Twickenham.

Departing from Council Policy, a strategy was formulated whereby these sites were offered for sale as a package and would be developed for affordable / social rented housing. In return, prime sites Twickenham Riverside and Friars Lane car park in Richmond would be developed exclusively for luxury housing.

Councillors boasted that more affordable housing would be built as a result of this “exclusive” rather than inclusive policy. As both landowner and planning authority, the planning process was a complete charade and permission was always going to be granted.

To this day, no attempt to establish need or use of garages has been made by the Council. Residents, many of whom are elderly and have rented garages for over thirty years are extremely distressed and worried at the prospect of losing secure, lockable garage provision close to their homes.

Extensive documentation with regard to garage usage and demand which was submitted by residents objecting to the planning applications was ignored by Council officers and again at the Planning Committee meeting on 28th May.

The Committee also ignored a previous planning decision and valid and reasonable objections, whilst failing to seek a comprehensive parking review which would have supported those objections. The Council Officer at the Planning Committee gave incorrect figures with regard to garage usage on all three sites, but residents were not allowed to correct these inaccuracies.

The only traffic survey carried out in Shacklegate Lane took place during school and college holidays and therefore gave a totally false and misleading picture of the traffic problems experienced daily by residents and users.

The garage sites are in areas documented by Richmond Council as being in areas lacking in Public Green Open Space (PGOS), yet the assertion made by Cllr Mumford that there is a PGOS within 100 yards of the Railway Road garage site is completely inaccurate but went unchallenged by the Chair & Councillors. The four adopted street scene trees and community planted area in front of the garage site in Sherland Road Twickenham is the only PGOS in the vicinity, yet this too was ignored.

Objectors trying to correct these inaccuries were threatened with being forcibly removed from the Building.

There were strong and well founded objections to all three applications, yet every objection that stood in the way of implementing the Council’s 2006 decision was brushed aside, excused or ignored.

It is accepted that deviation from the odd policy happens in order to pass an application, but when a planning officer excuses every single valid reason in a report which is littered with references to the need to provide social / affordable housing, this becomes unacceptable.

Has anyone ever seen a planning application littered with the words “this application is for much needed private houses”? No. Cllr Brian Miller, Chair of the Planning Committee, had previously assured residents that the occupants of a house had no bearing on planning applications. Not so when it comes to Council owned sites.

The official complaints state that the Planning decision was made on the basis that social/affordable housing should take precedence over needs of existing communities and planning policies and that the decisions were flawed, undemocratic and should be reviewed before the garage sites are sold to Richmond Churches Housing Trust.

Richmond Churches Housing Trust is understood to be concerned about signing contracts whilst there are unresolved issues, including a possible Judicial Review. A response from Richmond Council is currently awaited.