A ‘peasant revolt’ of allotment holders have toppled their multi-millionaire landlord over a planning spat that would have seen 80 new homes built on their plots.
Ralph Percy, 64, the 12th Duke of Northumberland, had planned to transform a three-acre site at his grade I Syon Park estate in west London into 80 flats.
The Duke, who initially received backing for the scheme by Hounslow Council’s planning officers, had planned to use revenue raised from the flat sales to fund £20m worth of essential repairs at historic Syon House.
But after opposition from more than 900 local residents, including furious allotment holders, the proposition was defeated after 10 Hounslow councillors rejected plans on Thursday.
Previously, the Duke had threatened to close the site to allotment holders, warning in a letter sent in May that if their opposition ‘leads to the application being refused then the allotments will not reopen.’
Other ambitious plans for historic land owned by his company, Northumberland Estates, included a taxpayer-funded tourist attraction in the grounds of Alnwick Castle.
Ralph Percy, 64, the 12th Duke of Northumberland, had planned to transform a three-acre site at his grade I Syon Park estate in west London into 80 flats
The Duke had threatened to close Park Road allotments (pictured above), warning in a letter sent in May that if their opposition ‘leads to the application being refused then the allotments will not reopen’
But after opposition from more than 900 local residents, including furious allotment holders, the proposition was defeated after 10 Hounslow councillors rejected plans on Thursday. Pictured: Park Road Allotments in Isleworth
In 1917, Henry George, 7th Duke of Northumberland, leased the plot of land to the local authority to ‘manage and maintain’ the allotments.
But in 2015, management of the site, which is considered ‘asset of community value’, reverted to Northumberland Estates after Hounslow Council’s lease ended.
An online petition with more than 3,000 signatures opposed the plans and warned Park Road Allotments offered a ‘much needed tranquil location’ and was a ‘wildlife haven’.
Allotment holders were furious to see proposals that would’ve slashed their plots by two-thirds to accommodate the housing. The Duke’s company argue they were set to be offered new allotments.
In his May letter, the Duke’s holding company, Northumberland Estates, wrote to residents: ‘It is unfortunate that a small minority have resorted to the press to raise issues regarding the development.
The Duke planned to build flats on the Park Road allotment site, which has been leased out for use by the local community more than a century. Pictured: Artist’s impression of flats
To offset the shrinking size of allotments, the Duke’s estate had promised social housing and homes specifically for West Middlesex Hospital’s healthcare workers. Above: Plans submitted to Hounslow Council
Revenue raised from the flat sales to fund £20m worth of essential repairs at historic Syon House. Pictured: Artist’s impression of the proposed flats in Park Road, west London
‘It is not how we would prefer to conduct our business, but if this ultimately leads to the application being refused then the allotments will not reopen.
‘It is not a tenable position to both oppose the scheme and expect a plot on the new development.’
But plot holders warned they were being ‘steamrollered by the Duke’, whose family’s estimated worth topped £300million according to the Sunday Times Rich List.
To offset the shrinking size of allotments, the Duke’s estate had promised social housing and homes specifically for West Middlesex Hospital’s healthcare workers.
The site nestled just off the banks of the River Thames has starred as the backdrop for scenes in a string of period dramas. Pictured: The Great Conservatory, used to shoot scenes in Downton Abbey, at Syon Huse, West London
Syon House was also used by filming crews for a number of scenes in Netflix hit period drama Bridgerton
Reacting to the news last night Northumberland Estates Director Colin Barnes said: ‘The decision is extremely disappointing and a lost opportunity both to provide affordable homes and health workers with housing while retaining allotments. We will move on.’
Ralph Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland
Ralph George Algernon Percy, 64, attended Wellesley House prep school and Eton, before studying history at Oxford.
He married his wife Jane, 63, in 1979 and the couple have four children together.
Ralph’s older brother, Henry Percy, died after an overdose in 1995 and was Queen Elizabeth II’s godchild.
The Percys arrived in England from Normandy in 1067, after William the Conqueror’s successful campaign.
The family, which also owns 10,000 acres of land and several properties including Albury Estate in Surrey and Warkworth and Prudhoe Castles in Northumberland, has played a succession of prominent roles in British history.
Ancestors of the Percys have appeared in the Domesday Book, featured in the works of Shakespeare, led the 1569 uprising against Elizabeth I, signed the Magna Carta, fought in the American War of Independence and been jailed over the Gunpowder Plot.
The family’s seat, Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, has been home to the Percys for more than 700 years.
Today, the family’s wealth is estimated to be £300milliom, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.
Mr Barnes did not comment on plans to appeal the decision.
Sue Casey, Isleworth Society Chair, said: ‘We are delighted that the arguments of individuals and groups locally, regionally and nationally were listened to.
‘The Isleworth Society is passionate about preserving the area’s local open spaces and we believe the councillors made the right decision.’
Annie Aloysius, an allotment holder at Park Road for 12 years, told the Times her plot was an ‘important place’ for her sons Dexter and Gaius to learn about wildlife.
She said: ‘It’s somewhere that I’ve taken my kids throughout their lives.
‘Sense has prevailed, while we understand they may be disappointed, we hope that we can find a mutually satisfactory solution to make the allotments work for everybody.’
Speaking at last night’s meeting, Labour councillor Vickram Grewal said: ‘I’m pro-development at the best of times but I got into politics to fight intimidation, bullying and threats and the big man applying pressure on the little man.
‘We have seen all of this behaviour from the Duke.’
Salman Shaheen, another Labour councillor, added: ‘I now call on the Duke to abandon his threats to evict the allotment holders.
‘Let them stay. Let them work the land they love and treasure.
‘If the Duke is a reasonable man then he will not appeal the Council’s decision. He should lease the land back to allotment holders.
‘Or better yet, sell it to the community, so that we can preserve it as a common treasury for another century to come.’
In 2018, Hounslow council rejected similar plans from the Duke to reduce the size of allotments.
Earlier this year, Northumberland Estates were slammed for plans to build a £7.9m boutique spa and hotel overlooking Alnwick Castle, Northumberland.
The Duke has eyes set on plans to open a 47 room hotel boasting a restaurant, bar, fitness centre and meeting rooms in the grounds that were once used to film Harry Potter, Blackadder and Robin Hood.
The hotel will be funded Northumberland Estates – the business arm of the Percy family – and will replace the Grade II listed, 18th century Duchess’s Community High School.
The Duke and Duchess, Jane, also plan to build a £7.9m boutique spa and hotel overlooking the family’s seat Alnwick Castle, Northumberland (pictured above)
But locals claim the hotel will attract parties, with, ‘hoards of young lads and lasses marauding over Alnwick turning our lovely sedate town into a rowdy party city.’
Residents voiced concerns that the ‘intrusive’ hotel would look ‘like an ugly modern prison’ and bring the medieval town to a standstill with traffic jams in the busy summer months.
Alnwick Town Council gave the plans the green light, despite saying: ‘The building is too large for this site on the historic northern entrance to Alnwick.’
In 2014, the Duke was forced to sell millions of pounds worth of 500-year-old family heirlooms, including paintings, books and manuscripts, to foot a £12m flood damage bill.