Ealing Council’s planning committee last night (17 August) deferred an application to demolish and replace the 1930s-built East Acton Arcade with a multi-storey hotel, a decision that Ealing Central and Acton MP Rupa Huq has described as a “David versus Goliath-scale” victory after she and others spoke out against the plan.
Ealing Councillors voted 8 to 1 with 1 abstention to defer the plan submitted by Avison Young on behalf of the developer Kaz Investments Ltd to allow time for a highways impact, a proper assessment of alternative snooker facilities, and details of natural light impact to be put before the Committee.
The deferral means the future of the Arcade’s businesses on 93 Old Oak Common Lane are safe for now. This includes London Snooker, a snooker and pool club with 8000 members, as well as various family-run businesses such as Al Manara Butchery, King Kebab and Eye Spy Opticians, owners of which appeared alongside professional player Jamie Jones on ITV London News this week to express their fears.
More than 100 residents objected to the application on the Council’s website in advance of the 7pm meeting at the Ealing Council Chamber, as well as Ealing Civic Society, the neighbouring Hammersmith and Fulham Council and English Partnership for Snooker and Billiards, the national governing body for the sport in England.
In a rare move, Huq challenged the application before the Committee, delivering a speech before councillors responsible for planning for the first time in-person. In her speech, Huq highlighted the benefits of the Arcade’s businesses for the local community in East Acton after meeting with business owners at the site last week, from Eye Spy Opticians with its 3000-strong patient list to London Snooker, which is recognised for having world-class facilities. “In challenging times,” Huq said, “these businesses survived the pandemic to their credit. After building up loyal customer-bases for decades, why kick them in the teeth, evicting them for a hotel development whose need is unproven?”
The proposal had included a commitment to offer the current Arcade businesses the opportunity to have a space within the five-storey hotel building when it is built. But it was not clear whether this would be feasible, as rent could be set at a higher rate and they could be offered less space. Huq claimed that “when businesses have asked if there will be space for them in the new structure, they’ve been told ‘not that you’ll be able to afford.’”
She concluded by calling on Committee members to “embrace [Ealing Council’s] Good Growth policy and not throw thriving business under the bus in haste. This has been snuck up on everyone in August, let’s not pass this dud of an application opposed by our neighbouring Labour borough Hammersmith and Fulham, Ealing Civic Society, Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group for Snooker, and both the EPSB and WPBSA, the English and World variations of snooker.”
The decision to defer was welcomed by many. Mary Watkins, owner of London Snooker, said, “I am grateful for everybody’s support, including those who objected online and Rupa of course. They have all helped save this community asset for the time being.” She said the Officer’s Report supplied to Committee members included “misinformation”, adding, “the details that they provide regarding Snooker being provided for at local venues was incorrect. I am seeking legal advice regarding this.”
North Acton Councillor Dan Crawford, son of the East Acton Councillor Kate Crawford who also appeared before the Committee to raise concerns about the application, said the deferral was “great news” on Twitter. “I’m so pleased for Mary Watkins, who loves the sport.”
Speaking to us today, Huq said, “I’m delighted with the decision to defer the application to allow for a proper needs assessment ‒ I’m grateful to Committee members for holding firm. They clearly weren’t put off by the misleading Officer’s Report, and the emphatic result of the vote makes clear that they won’t be giving carte blanche to a greedy developer. The services provided by small businesses within the Arcade are vital to East Acton residents.
“In particular, London Snooker is a fantastic space offering unparalleled facilities in London. Players come from far and wide to use the club’s 21 pool and snooker tables, it brings East Acton folk together through a shared love of the game, and is essential for young players who aspire to take on the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jamie Jones at the Crucible and Ally Pally. It’s well-used, even with pupils from the nearby TCES North West London special needs school who come in for occupational therapy activity. This community asset needs to be protected, not knocked down to make way for yet another soulless, Minecraft-style hotel.
“I will continue to work with Arcade businesses and residents to oppose the application and ensure that Arcade business owners aren’t turfed out without support.”
A World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) spokesperson said: “We are pleased for everyone involved at London Snooker and the other affected business with the decision of the Ealing Council Planning Committee to defer this application pending further assessment.
“Snooker is a sport for all and venues like London Snooker continue to provide a vital role in local communities, whether for players with the potential to progress in the game, or who play for recreational purposes.
“We believe that everyone should have an opportunity to play our wonderful sport and the continued existence of high-quality facilities such as those at London Snooker is crucial and we are extremely grateful for the support provided by Rupa Huq MP and the others who have helped to campaign on its behalf.”
According to Kaz Investments Ltd plans, the planned hotel will be 5 storeys high and contain 129 rooms. It claims that more than £500,000 a year in revenue will be generated to local businesses, adding that the hotel will create 40 new jobs. Residents are encouraged to make their views on the application known on Ealing Council’s website before a final decision is taken.