Thursday, 21 February 2013

Willesden Green planning application approved

After a 3 hour meeting Brent Planning Committee tonight approved the Galliford Try/Linden Homes (and some would add Brent Council) planning application for the building of 94 one and two bedroomed flats and a Cultural Centre on the site of Willesden Green Library and its car park. 7 members voted for the application, 2 against and 1 abstained.

Members of the public were given extra time to speak and made the objections that by now will be familiar to most readers about loss of public space, smaller overall library space (though this was disputed by the planners and architect), lack of parking space, housing density and height and the future of the Brent Archive.

Cllr Hunter and Cllr Lesley Jones spoke in favour of the redevelopment while Cllr Carol Shaw  opposed and presented a list of 9 issues that needed to be addressed.

A major new issue was the failure of the Council to produce the public register of interests and make it available for inspecting at the meeting. This should have been done under section 12 of Brent's Planning Code of Practice. Philip Grant has argued in an e-mail to Joe Kwateng that as the overall head of the Department which includes Planning and Development, Andy Donald (Director of Regenration and Major Projects), had signed the Development Agreement between Brent Council and Galliford Try. As a result, all of Brent's Planning Officers have an 'involvement' with Andy Donald and should have declared a prejudicial interest.

Chris Walker, head of Planning, said that the processes were kept separate. However the issue remains that the register should have been available for inspection and wasn't made available. This may have potential legal repercussions.

28 comments:

  1. @PukkahPunjabi on twitter is a legend, loving the way he documents committee meetings and shines the light on councillors texting

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  2. I can confirm that @PukkahPunjabi is in fact a woman. But what a sorry state of affairs we have that we rely on Twitter to hold our representatives accountable

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  3. That's great news. Let's hope it kickstarts some much needed redevelopment in the area, which has been left to decline for far too long.

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  4. Kickstart regeneration? These plans have already lost us a bookshop a cafe and a cinema. Now the car park will go too. Strange type of regeneration.

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    1. The cinema had already gone, there's no shortage of local cafes, and bookshops are threatened globally. It's a shame it had to go but it probably only had a few years left and the rise of e-publishing would have seen it off eventually. At least now we get a visible sign of investment in the area and an influx of residents who will presumably have some spending power. Or do you want to see the area become the sole haunt of the daytime alcoholics who currently flank the library building?

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  5. Closure of cinema happened before these plans, and new centre will have cafe too...it is a shame about local bookshop though. Issue of car park/ parking was actually something everyone there last night (esp Councillors and Members) knew little or nothing about in terms of guidelines and policy, which doesn't help. All current transport strategy highlights importance of sustainable transport for new developments and rightfully so to prevent over trafficking, improve safety and environment. Willesden Green has second highest level of public transport accessibility possible and naturally supports this. The Cllr who was questioning how people from other side of Brent would get there without using their cars was on totally the wrong agenda...they should use the tube and buses just as most people in London do to get to work, attractions etc!

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  6. I want to know if anything will be done about Councillor Krupa Sheth who spent the entire 3 hour meeting texting on her phone which she held under the table thinking no one could see her. Apparently she is claiming that she was looking things up on the internet which were relevant to the planning application. This councillor who is so curious, so thirsty for information on planning applications, did not ask one single question or make one single comment during the 3 hour meeting.

    She has shown utter disdain for residents and for her position as an elected councillor. I want to know if the Labour Group condones this behaviour and if not what action they will take against her.

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    1. THE ONLY WAY THAT ANYTHING MIGHT BE DONE is if anyone who was at the Planning Committee meeting, and actually saw this alleged texting throughout the meeting, makes a formal complaint about this. First hand eye witness evidence, coupled with an objection that the councillor in question (a close relative of the committee chairman) was allowed to vote on the applications before the Planning Committee when she had not been listening to the points made by all sides (objectors, applicant and Planning Officers), is something which would have to be taken seriously. If you can honestly say that you saw this happen, and wish to object but have not yet done so, then I would suggest that you address your email to: chief.executive@brent.gov.uk .

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    2. A couple of people may have seen her on her phone, but no one knows if she was texting or looking up issues which were discussed i.e. affordable housing policy, as is claimed. And certainly no one can claim that she wasn't listening to the points being made, because you simply don't know. The only reason people would complain is out of desperation because the decision didn't go the way they wanted. Even if she voted in favour, it wouldn't impact upon the outcome. Let it go.

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  7. I fear there will be little regeneration of Willesden. We are becoming like Paris where certain classes are pushed out of the centre to.
    Willesden and surrounding areas (Harlesden, Wembley, Kilburn etc) are now areas where the poorly paid workers are now housed and pretty much biked into town every day then shipped back out at the end of a day (Stand outside willesden green station at 6pm and see how many thousands now get off the trains in the rush hour) Also get a bus in the morning between 6 and 8 and see how full they are (Normally full by the second stop mainly with migrant workers) Regeneration of an area happens by the people that live in it and sadly brent is a much ignored and forgotten borough by govt its not important other than to house cheap workforces which is why Brent need to do deals with people like galford try involving selling off public land to try and balance there depleted books because of the greater strains on services through more people being pushed here. That is why your high road which is all betting shops and 24 hour super markets and fast food shops and pawn shops it reflects the community. If this council really cared about regenerating the area it would have stopped the 25th chicken shop or kebab ages ago on the high road. I sadly think this is just another nail in Willesdens coffin. These are obviously just my own opinions having lived here for 45 years and watched the slow systemic demise of the high road and the neglect by the council of the current library building and surrounding area over the last 8 or so years. Hopefully something good will come out of it but taking away more public space to build flats none of which are for social housing is not regeneration in my books. Its just helping balance the books... I don't blame Brent Council they know they are buggered as do most moderately intelligent people and that was the truth behind all of this. Of course these are purely my opinions and everyone is entitled to their own.

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    1. You can't have it both ways. You either campaign for social housing, which would attract the kind of people who use the dreaded chicken shops or you accept the area needs an input of cash in order to grow and develop. So you accept gentrification in part or you continue to live in a grotty area dominated by betting shops.

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    2. Well said. Regeneration is about investing in facilities/ infrastructure and encouraging economic growth, it's not about keeping things as they are and hoping they will miraculously change (and then probably complaining that the Council does nothing for the area a couple of years down the line...). The new £10m Cultural Centre, improvements to infrastructure through Section 106 money and a small amount of gentrification will help facilitate this...seeing the Council has no money to help in any other way, we should be welcoming this with open arms.

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    3. I am sorry to disappoint your hopes of 'improvements to infrastructure through Section 106 money', but if you read the Planning Officer's Report (page 32 of 45 pages) you will see that it says:

      'The Council has accepted not to seek the normal Section 106 financial contributions (which would equate to
      £432,000, given the contribution of £3000 per bedroom), as set out in the adopted SPD. It has taken the view
      that in light of the financial appraisal here the overall benefit of securing in excess of £10 million of works, as well as the value of the items listed under the Heads of Terms set out at the start of this report, and the CIL contribution payable to the Mayor, that the package of benefits proposed is adequate in these circumstances.'

      Galliford Try were not willing to pay Brent the normal rate of Section 106 payments, as they would be building the new Cultural Centre "for free" on the 27.8% of the WGLC site which Brent was not giving them "for free" so that they could build flats for sale at a profit. Brent's Planning Officers appear to have accepted this!

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    4. The Council should have demanded the full amount, no doubt about that, and most likely would have got it. However, there is around £80,000 worth of S106 the Council will get and is set aside for improvements to our bus stops, car clubs and public art in the area, and these are the added benefits i was referring to.

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  8. As a residen of Willesden I walked across the Library car park Friday lunchtime a car park which was full up, I was walking to Sainsbury's to do my shopping on arrival their carpark was equally totally full. This is not a saturday day but a friday lunchtime. Both carparks completely full. Now when this building begins that will remove one of these car parks, The library car park.
    Now is that car park full of people using Willesden High road shops in their lunch break? Possibly? So this closes that leaves nowhere for these people to park, solution... Use somewhere else in their lunch hour where parking will be available. Knock on effect all the still just about keeping there heads above water local shops close down as their trade diminishes. Knock on effect... High Road degenerates rather than regenrates even more. Still all seems a very ill conceived plan with little if any care for local residents, shop keepers and community. All parties involved are fully aware what they have done here, I for one sincerely hope that come the next forthcoming local council elections people show these greedy councillors that supported this that it is not what the residents wanted as they fully know and vote them out of a job which is meant to be representing us.

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  9. Weekday use of the library car park is actually relatively low, as the Transport Assessment indicated, and there is P&D capacity on surrounding roads for those who want to use their car still. However, it's amazing to see (again, refer to the TA) how many people currently drive to the library from locations which are within minutes walking distance - this car park supports a certain element of laziness, whereas developments should be supporting sustainable transport, as all Transport Policy alludes to.
    Plus I find it highly unlikely that the car park is full of people who drove to Willesden Green in their lunch break - from where exactly would they be driving from and for what reason?

    If you look at it from another perspective, the new centre will attract more people to the area to support local business, the lack of car park means people will walk from tube/bus stops directly past local shops to and from the cultural centre. Plus, affordable housing issue aside, i believe the influx of young professionals has the potential to help provide demand for better quality pubs, cafes/deli's, restaurants and shops on High Rd.

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  10. Or 'looking at it from another perspective' the lack of car park may mean people just wont bother to come at all?
    Weekday use of the carpark seems pretty full every day as a resident that lives opposite? Full again today as well as is sainsburys car park. What about elderly and disabled people travelling are they being lazy as well and should have to walk from a train station nowhere near? Already the one stop shop has closed so elderly and frail now have to travel to harlesden sorry everyone does not quite fit into your perfect picture of lazy and to just say affordable housing issue aside? Why should it just be aside? Its a hugely important point in Brent you cant pick and choose just the good things to look through rose tinted lenses and as for better quality pubs the queensbury the only half decent pub left in willesden is also being smashed down to build.... ahhh yes more tightly squeezed in tall sky high flats. Cafe Gigis was a succesful cafe / deli / bar in the library centre, as was the cinema and the book shop and artist resources all things that were very good for the community until Brent pushed the rents on all of these so ridiculously high that all of these businesses were forced to move out of the building as it made the businesses no longer financially viable and Brent refused to help, I know this first hand from the person who used to run Cafe Gigis (Now past away).
    This tied in with leaving the centre unmanaged (The library is the only part of the centre which has actually had an onsite manager in about the last 5 years the rest of the building has not another reason hence its state of condition every time a local resident actually asked for a manager about something we directed to contact wembley) cynics amongst us might say on purpose with a final goal at the end?. These flats will not provide an influx of young professionals they will be used as by to let like the other huge block of flats on grange road are used which we were promised would 'House young professionals' So far we have had a suicide, a possible murder, several drugs dealers and a person with such severe mental health problems his flat had to be totally gutted and rebuilt after he was removed from the premises after months of harrasing neighbours, So excuse me if I am a little doubtful but you know what I've heard it all before and seen it all before all the pipe dreams when the last library was built. If this library now is so run down then we should demand that all the local councilors be sacked and ask why they have allowed such a new building to run down into this condition under their watch?

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  11. I’m clearly not classing those with a genuine need to drive as lazy, and disabled bays and P&D will allow them to park close to the centre. However, and if you bother to read the transport assessment, you’ll see that there are a high number of car trips coming from within walking distance – not all of these are made from people who absolutely need to drive. What’s the point of having great accessibility via public transport if you don’t encourage people to use it. If people don’t bother coming simply because they don’t want to not use their car then I couldn’t care less, but personally I wouldn’t want to encourage more traffic on our already busy roads, more pollution in the lungs of people around the centre and more of a safety risk to people walking the High Road. I, along with the people who write transport strategy for London and UK, could be completely wrong, of course.
    Affordable housing aside, not because it’s unimportant, but because it’s a totally different issue I wasn’t going to get into. I personally think that there should’ve been an element of affordable housing. Totally correct on the Queensbury and I too am strongly against that particular development.
    I totally didn’t realise the new £350k flats will be occupied by savages, murderers and drug dealers. God, how depressing. I’m not sure why I thought young professionals would mainly be the ones affording to buy/ rent those flats. With those rose tinted glasses of mine on though, the area will definitely see regeneration through Hollywood coming in and using it as the set for the new Terminator and Mad Max movies.

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  12. I must say reading all the above from the people chatting it raises the question that if we are talking about young professionals with £350k to spend on a flat are they therefore then not expected to have cars as no parking facilities have been supplied for any of the one bedroom flats? and Certainly not enough spaces for 92 flats? I would imagine most young professionals would require a car no where will this overflow therefore go please perhaps the gentleman / lady that says about the travel assessment could advise further on this matter?
    Genuine question on this not trying to catch anyone out?

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  13. I think it's fair to assume that a fairly high proportion of young professionals would have a car, but not all. Certainly a lot of young professionals i know use public transport to get around instead. With regard to the number of resident parking spaces, this is worked out by using toolkits to assess how much traffic similar development generate. I think in this instance the assumption that 2 out of 3 units will have a car and require car parking is reasonable, although to be honest the process is fairly speculative and impossible to actually tell until people move in. Obviously if everyone moving in has a car then the parking will overspill onto the streets, which is not fair on residents of those streets. If this concerns you, i would lobby the Council to condition the application so that new development residents cannot apply for resident permit parking, so they could use the dedicated car park, but NOT the local streets (something they have done for a new development next to my house in Willesden Green, albeit this has ended up with someone trying to park on my private drive without permission as a result!)

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    1. ON RESIDENTIAL CAR PARKING
      Brent's planning policies for parking allow a maximum number of spaces for a private housing development of 70% of the number of housing units. This 95 flats development would be allowed a maximum of 66 spaces, and the proposal is for 63. One of the conditions attached to the planning approval was that the development would be "permit free". That means that no one living in these flats will ever be allowed to have a resident's parking permit for any of the CPZ's in the area. This does not mean that someone living in the flats, who has not paid extra to have one of the on-site parking spaces or a couple with two cars but only one space, might not park on a local street outside the CPZ hours, or park illegally within those hours. I hope that this helps to explain what the position will be.

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    2. Well found...so yes, the residents of the new development should NOT have an impact upon existing resident parking

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    3. But the CPZ only operates Mon-Fri 8.30am - 6.30pm. The library/cultural centre will be open until late in the evenings and at weekends. It's pure pie-in-the-sky to say that people will use public transport when they visit the centre. Local roads will be even more jammed. Residents in the new flats will also have visitors arriving by car at weekends and evenings who will further clog up the roads. I am pleased these new residents may not be allowed to apply for residents parking permits but what is the situation re visitors permits?

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    4. Local roads would be even more jammed packed if the new centre had a large car park, as that would clearly encourage more people to drive.
      The CPZ eliminates commuter/all day parking and gives priority to, in this case, existing residents; however, outside CPZ hours then anyone has the right to park on the Council's roads, and that's the way it should be. I'm not certain what the situation re. visitor permits is, but the S106 Agreement wording suggests the new residents wouldn't be allowed them

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    5. As someone who lives in one of the roads where visitors to the Cultural Centre and the flats will be parking, I will be seeking to extend the hours of operation of the CPZ. Not an ideal situation as I will be substantially out of pocket in having to pay for additional visitors permits. For local residents this is a lose-lose situation

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  14. First I would like to say I really appreciate this blog site. To be able to read peoples comments on how such developments have an impact on their lives is invaluable.

    I have no doubt those behind Brent Council are fully aware of what they're doing to the area. The idea of expensive flats attracting those with money into the area sounds great on paper. If you were a young professional with £400,000-£500,000 to spend, would you splash it on one of these flats? If yes, the majority of your disposal income will be spent OUTSIDE Willesden.
    The current condition of the high road right now shows potential flat purchasers what the council have thought of the area the past 10-15 years. Just look at some of the shopfronts on the high road, they're hardly inviting people with little money to spend.

    My house is set within the conservation area of Mapesbury. Houses here are now valued £2million+ I paid £750,000 many moons ago. Would I spend £750,000, let alone today's value of £2million+ for the same house? NO. The surrounding areas have changed dramatically with the help of Brent Council. The Mapesbury Residents association are so focused on keeping a selected few roads in the zone in keeping they fail to see what is going on outside the zone.

    Next time you're in the area go to the junction of Darthmouth bordering Walm Lane. Look across the road at the shops, look above the shops. Now, imagine paying such sums to live near shops and flats where Brent Council have not put pressure on shop keepers and flat owners to maintain their properties.

    The Queensbury will be the next development to be approved opposite these same run down shops/flats.

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  15. The Queensbury development MUST be stopped!

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    1. Well the Queensbury development won't be stopped if we rely on the likes of Mapesbury Residents Association. This elite group of wealthy pensioners have been working hand in glove with Fairview Homes (developers of the Queensbury site) since last summer, holding phoney consultations and spreading untruths about the owners - all the while pretending they are neutral!

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