When Gillette owners, Proctor and Gamble, shifted the last of the Syon Lane production line to Łodz in 2006, the 42,000 square metre site was sold to Bonnington, the Ireland based international hotel and leisure firm. It had ambitions for an office park and a 500 bed hotel, later reduced to 300 beds then eventually none when the system of capital tanked in the late noughties and loans from the Allied Irish Bank could not be repaid.
The site, is much more extensive than the three Grade II Listed elements of the Bannister Fletcher 1936 factory and office building, WFC Holden’s 1935 bank and the four separate cheeky cherubs lamp standards fronting Syon Lane. It extends beyond Syon Lane to include the former Pernod House on its corner with Great West Road and Harlequin Avenue making up the rear where later manufacturing buildings are now used for film production.
After Bonnington, the whole site was bought after 2013 by the firm involved with the former EMI plant at Hayes, the Vinyl Factory Limited. They now say that applications to develop, extend and enhance existing film production and associated activities on the whole site are soon to be submitted to Hounslow Council, preserving the integrity of the listed elements there.
A chance discussion with Mr Matthew Rees, Hounslow Council’s Head of Planning Development, whilst visiting the former Williams Dye Works site recently, satisfied an eight year quest and yielded contact details for the Gillette Building owners. Arrangements for a tour for Isleworth and Brentford Area Forum (IBAF) Councillors followed, made for 5 August 2022; people from Osterley and Wyke Green Residents Association and Brentford Voice were invited too.
The last time I went inside Gillette’s was in 1992 on a tour with my Acton College tutor group which also coincided with the planning application for building a Tesco store on the United Biscuits factory site. The event was an opportunity to nose, more than anything else, interesting to see the unfinished en suites on the first floor facing Syon Lane.
Planning applications are awaited but the developer has agreed to run a series of pre planning exhibitions and meetings on site in the run up to formal submission, perhaps later this year. As a member of the Hounslow Council Planning Committee, I shall be unable to make comment once proposals are lodged.
I do know, however, that my Ward colleagues Councillors Aftab Siddiqui and Unsa Chaudri are keen that any film production enhancement at Gillette opens up valuable work and training opportunities for the people of Osterley and Spring Grove as well as other parts of our borough. The owners are now briefed on the quality, practical learning delivered at West Thames College associated with digital film making, make up, hair and construction and we have put them in touch with college Principal Tracey Aust.
Further reports will follow as and when. Look out for an item on the Gillette Tower clock restoration currently taking place, coming soon.