Public inquiry into planned 1,075-home Richmond neighbourhood 'last chance to reset the clock'

Peter Eaton, co-chair of MBCG, and barrister Kim Ziya on a recent site visit to the former Stag Brewery site
-Credit: (Image: Mortlake Brewery Community Group)

Campaigners have said an upcoming public inquiry into plans for a new 1,075-home neighbourhood in South West London is the 'last opportunity to reset the clock'. The inquiry to decide on the scheme for the former Stag Brewery site in Mortlake will kick off on May 29 after developer Reselton Properties lodged appeals over concerns from the Greater London Authority (GLA) about the low level of affordable housing it proposes.

The inquiry is expected to last until June 14. Inspector Glen Rollings has been appointed by Secretary of State Michael Gove to hold the inquiry into the developer's appeals against Richmond Council's failure to issue final decisions on the two planning applications which make up the scheme. One of the applications proposes to build 1,075 homes in buildings up to nine storeys tall on the site, including 65 affordable homes, restaurants, shops, offices, a cinema and space for a hotel or pub. The second application is for a 1,200-place secondary school to be built on the site.

The overall scheme has sparked fierce objection from residents, with 1,093 objections across both applications on the council's website. Mortlake Brewery Community Group (MBCG) has consistently objected to the scheme and argued it does not include enough affordable homes, along with raising concerns about its density, height and impact on traffic levels and the surroundings.

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Visualisation of the revised scheme for the former Stag Brewery site in Mortlake, Richmond upon Thames
Visualisation of the scheme for the former Stag Brewery site in Mortlake -Credit:Reselton Properties Limited/Squire and Partners

MBCG has almost reached its £45,000 target on GoFundMe to secure legal representation at the inquiry and has now appointed barrister Kim Ziya from Landmark Chambers. Reselton Properties, the council, the GLA and the West London River Group, which objects to the scheme, will also be represented at the inquiry.

Francine Bates, co-chair of MBCG, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): "We have been campaigning for a sustainable and community-led development for the brewery site in Mortlake for many years. Our pleas for a visionary scheme restoring the heart of the historic neighbourhood of Mortlake have fallen on deaf ears."

Ms Bates said the group is 'delighted' at the support shown by residents for the fundraiser to appoint Ms Ziya and that it 'shows how much people care about the future of the brewery site and want their voice to be heard'.

She said: "[Ms Ziya] will be putting forward evidence to show that the current scheme does not comply with planning policy and fails to provide adequate affordable housing for the people of Richmond. [Ms Ziya] will argue that the development is too dense and will create traffic chaos. She will also put forward evidence to demonstrate that the proposed secondary school is not needed. We have almost hit our current target but would welcome any further donations towards our campaign."

The council approved both applications but has not issued a final decision as it requires a stage two decision from the GLA, which could let the council's decisions stand, directly refuse or call the scheme in.

Reselton Properties lodged an appeal against the council's non-determination of the applications after the GLA indicated its opposition to the scheme over the low level of affordable housing it proposes. A letter in February on behalf of Reselton Properties said the GLA had suggested the 'level of affordable housing was too low, that there would be many months of further delay and the outcome would most likely be [a] direct refusal'.

Original plans for the site with 813 homes were approved by the council, but called in by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan over a lack of affordable housing in 2020. The developer then increased the scheme to 1,250 homes, with up to 30 per cent affordable housing, but this was thrown out by the Mayor in 2021 due to concerns including height and scale.

The former Stag Brewery site in Mortlake
The former Stag Brewery site -Credit:Google Maps

Guy Duckworth, on behalf of Reselton Properties, told the LDRS valuers had shown the maximum level of affordable housing the latest scheme can provide is 'pretty close to zero'. However, he said: "Reselton Properties Ltd has volunteered to underwrite a minimum of approximately 7 per cent of the residential floor area in the current scheme as affordable housing for family occupation. Furthermore, the developer is committed to five separate financial reviews during the course of development delivery when further testing may show that additional surpluses are being generated which can be used to capture additional affordable housing allocation."

Mr Duckworth said the 'visionary' scheme mainly follows supplementary planning guidance adopted by the council for the site, while it would bring a 'new commercial heart to Mortlake' and replace a 'redundant set of brownfield industrial buildings'. He added the Department for Education (DfE) has set aside around £45 million to build the proposed school, while local head teachers had expressed support for it as it would offer 'new much-needed choice to pupils and parents'.

But Ms Bates slammed the level of affordable housing proposed by the 'dense' scheme, while adding green space would 'be lost and the river landscape changed forever'. She told the LDRS: "Traffic will be even worse than it is now and infrastructure plans are minimal. We are very disappointed that the council continue to support the developer's scheme and maintain their insistence that a large new secondary school is still needed despite objections from local head teachers."

She added: "The planning inquiry gives us our last opportunity to reset the clock, reject these plans and sit down with the council and the developers to plan a scheme that will truly benefit the community."

Mr Duckworth said the developer would put in place measures to limit the impact of the scheme on the road network, including junction improvements at Chalkers Corner, works to the Sheen Lane level crossing, improved and new pedestrian crossings, better links to Mortlake Green and funding to improve bus services. He added that these measures have been approved by Transport for London (TfL) and council officers to make sure extra traffic would be 'more than mitigated by these improvements'.

He added: "The scheme replaces a site which for centuries has denied any access to the public with a scheme which is completely open to the public, offering many acres of open access landscaped space, none of which is the case today. The comparison with the historic current state of the site could not be greater in terms of its public access open space offering."

Richmond Council declined to comment. The GLA has been contacted for comment. MBCG's fundraiser can be found here.

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