Labour MP for Ealing Southall, Virendra Sharma , discusses plans for thousands of homes at the Southall Gasworks site in his latest column:
The London Mayor Boris Johnson came to the Southall Gasworks site earlier in November to launch the regeneration scheme that will lead to 3,750 homes being built there.
You may have seen photographs of myself and the Mayor in the Gazette engaged in conversation and wished to be a 'fly on the wall' or a 'GCHQ eavesdropper' to know what we talked about, but I am happy to reveal all.
It is no secret that Ealing Council's planning committee rejected the controversial plans back in 2009 and that the Mayor then called them in and gave them the all clear in March 2010. I along with local Labour Councillors and members of the community travelled to City Hall to make our objections clear.
We were concerned about the sheer size of the development proposed and the impacts of this on the residents of Southall particularly with respect to congestion and volumes of traffic. We were very concerned that the western access road to the Hayes by-pass within the London Borough of Hillingdon was being opposed by the Tory Council there and would make any proposals a complete nightmare for Southall.
The Mayor's proposals to widen the bridge on South Road next to the railway station were also not sufficient to tackle congestion in Southall and needed to be done earlier rather than later in the construction work. Added to this were worries about the contaminated land that at the time it was proposed would be removed in lorries trundling through residential streets and decontaminated off site.
So what has changed since then?
First of all former Tory Ealing Hillingdon GLA member Richard Barnes is no longer at City Hall thanks to Dr Onkar Sahota's election victory in May 2014 and this has meant Hillingdon Council have now dropped their opposition to the western access road to the Hayes by-pass. This access road is vital to relieving both the impacts of construction traffic and traffic from the development. I made it very clear to the Mayor that while getting the go-ahead for the access road is a necessary development it must also happen sooner rather than later and that the same applies to the widening of the bridge on South Road.
Added to this, Ealing's Labour Council and Labour's Dr Sahota have been working hard to get funding from Transport for London and the Mayor to finance significant improvements to Southall's streets including The Broadway, High Street, South Road, The Green and King Street. Works have now started on The Broadway and all these works when they are completed over the next few years will improve both traffic flows and the pedestrian experience. The Council is also investing its own resources in Southall unlike the previous Tory asset stripping administration and has opened the much needed new car park on the High Street.
Finally the developer St James have given a commitment to decontaminate the land on site without the need to transport contaminated materials through the streets of Southall.
This doesn't mean that everything in the garden is now rosy but it does mean we have a way forward and the positive benefits of more affordable homes, a thousand jobs, new open spaces and public realm, a cinema, a sports pavilion, a new primary school, a new health centre and a new contemporary retail offer to complement the traditional retail offer currently in Southall are now within sight without the development overwhelming Southall.
I'm still concerned though and made this very clear to the Mayor when I told him "We'll be watching you!"