In 2011 the Home Office closed Latchmere House Remand Centre – one of the most successful rehabilitation prisons in Europe – to save money. It then sold off the site, in a leafy spot in a suburban neighbourhood that straddles both boroughs of Richmond and Kingston, for a vast sum of money to Berkeley Group to develop into housing.
After various public consultations from which a planning brief was drawn up, Berkeley put in two planning applications to develop the Latchmere House site, one larger than the other by 16 units that supposedly requires the opening up an access point for traffic via Latchmere Lane. Odd given that these dwellings are located close to the only existing access to the site via Church Road, a relatively quiet wide road with a wood down one side, and a handful of houses with deep verges and driveways in front of them on the other. These extra 16 units are the affordable housing option. This means you either vote for the ‘cheaper’ housing, which both Boroughs need and get the new road onto Latchmere Lane, or you vote against it to prevent the new opening onto a road that is mostly single-lane road due to the cars parked either side and traffic calming measures with bollards, speed bumps and a 20-mile-per-hour limit.
Latchmere Lane struggles to cope traffic at peak times already as the road is used as a rat-run to avoid the congestion on nearby Richmond Road, and more so when Richmond Park closes early in the winter months. This often results in tension and arguments between drivers and the whole road grinding to a halt. Delivery vans, commercial vehicles and refuse vehicles have a very difficult time passing down this road without damaging parked vehicles and causing traffic jams. It is also dangerous for cyclists who can’t pass safely against the oncoming traffic, much of which ignore the speed limit, as well as for pedestrians trying to cross. Additionally, the number of vehicles parked on Latchmere Lane has increased in the last few months, since Richmond Council has demolished garages that used to serve homes on both Cowper Road and Beard Road (off roads from Latchmere Lane) to building more housing.
The creation of a second road to the site is also a terrible prospect for local residents. An access at Latchmere Lane will involve the loss of some very attractive green space and greatly degrade the view of the House itself. Latchmere Lane is the worst possible choice for a second access and local residents objected to this strongly the last time it arose as a possibility, with over 130 residents signing a petition against it. This is a beautiful area with lots of wildlife, plants and trees. The development needs to be sensitive to this and therefore should only have one access road.
There is no need for a second access into the site. Statistics provided in the Traffic Assessment that was carried out for this development confirm that traffic from the new houses will result in no more vehicles to the site than under its former prison use. Church Road easily coped with the prison traffic for many years and is wide enough for cars to pass each other comfortably while Latchmere Lane is only single width unless parking restrictions are introduced, which would have serious consequences for the residents, whereas on roadside parking is not required in Church Road due to them already having off-street parking. Many of the houses on Latchmere Lane do not have useable driveways and to create additional parking would require paving over front gardens that would have a detrimental effect on the environment. Additionally, if you look at the housing on the old BAe site on Richmond Road, where there are two separate ‘estates’ with only one access point each – one on Richmond Road and the other on Dukes Avenue – these each cater to over 100 houses. Therefore, Church Road can easily cope with the planned 89 residences on the Latchmere House site.
Personally, I am happy to support the larger number of units on the site if some of it will be affordable housing, but whether the development contains 89 or 73 residences, there is absolutely no need to open up a road to the houses from Latchmere Lane.
If you do one thing today: email the Kington councillors (find their addresses here) before the planning meeting on 17th July 2014 and ask them to tell Berkeley Group to go back to the drawing board and offer a development that doesn’t require a choice between affordable housing and a new road or neither. They are holding us to ransom.
If you do two things today: go to the planning meeting at 7.30pm on 17th July 2014 and ask them to tell Berkeley Group that no new road is required. You will need to apply to speak by 15th July, email email@example.com.
If you do three things today: tweet the following – “#BerkeleyHomes force residents to choose between #AffordableHousing and an unnecessary road #LatchmereHouse #ShameOnThem” or “#BerkeleyHomes has no social media? So communities have no public forum to air their views? #NoRoadThroughHere #LatchmereHouse”