Friday 17 October 2008

Westfield Seemingly Unconcerned After Years Of Blighting Neighbours' Lives

Westfield plans to open its Shepherds Bush shopping mall at the end of this month. But, what has it done to protect and make amends to residents who have had to live next to the hellish building works throughout the years of construction? On Monday, I met with three Westfield executives to discuss the wide array of problems residents of Wood Lane had suffered - much of it going on through the night.

Theresa Boyd, who is a local resident, also attended. She told me she wanted a chance to tell Westfield what they had put her through. Theresa told them how the dust that was pumped into her home covered everything and caused electrical equipment to fail. We showed Westfield photos of clouds of dust blowing from their site to where Theresa lives and they admitted that the dust could and should have been dampened down and stopped. Theresa explained how huge spotlights glare through her windows into the small hours, how heavy plant is delivered at all hours and how very loud machines and works run late on into the night. Listening to Theresa I was concerned to learn many of these examples had occurred as recently as last Saturday and Sunday nights. Oddly, the Westfield execs hardly brimmed with empathy and it was my impression that they actually found listening to Theresa’s complaints to be really quite tiresome.

I asked Westfield if H&F Council had sanctioned the late night works – which would be highly irregular. Westfield told me the Council's position was that they "hadn't said they couldn't do this" and went on to tell me that the Council was aware that Westfield planned to open the new shopping centre in two week’s time and so were "supportive of the need for these late night works".

I wrote to a senior council officer to find out whether H&F Council is indeed turning a blind eye to these problems experienced by residents. I received a response saying there will be an “urgent officer inspection” to stop late night works and “to correct Westfield's apparent comment, the position is that we have told them that they must not allow any work outside normal hours which gives rise to noise disturbing residential neighbours. We have indicated that we will tolerate quiet out-of-hours work but will react swiftly to any complaints about noise which is harmful to residents, as we always would.”

Westfield is a multi-billion pound business. It’s owned by the second wealthiest person in Australia. It will spend vast sums on opening parties, public relations, advertising and promoting its image. Given all this, I think they should make amends to those who have been immediately affected by the building works – which has been the biggest in London. It would be the act of a good neighbour but, as yet, it doesn’t seem to be one of their priorities.

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