Tuesday, 22 October 2019

24 storey tower at Stonebridge Park station given the go ahead

Still catching up after my break I thought readers would want to know the fate of the application for a 24 storey block to replace the modest 2 storey Argenta House building at Stonebridge station LINK

The plans were passed by a Planning Committee which had an unusual number of substitutions. There was one presentation against the plans by a local resident concerned about residential tower blocks post-Grenfell and in particular evacuation  plans for people with a disability as well as the fact that the station lacked disabled access. There was also concern about the capacity of Stonebridge Station to cope with extra traffic from the Argenta House block along with the nearby Northfields development,

Planning officers made much of the landmark nature of the proposed block and the relationship with the existing high rise Wembley Point and the even higher block planned for Northfields.


Monday, 21 October 2019

James Saunders to become top man at Wembley Park developer Quintain

James Saunders
Press release from Quintain (unedited so you can relish the hype!)

Quintain Limited has appointed James Saunders as Chief Executive Officer effective October 21st, 2019, succeeding Angus Dodd, who is stepping down after serving as CEO since June 2016.

Under Angus’ leadership, Quintain has become a leading vertically integrated developer, operator and owner of BtR (Build to Rent) and mixed-use assets and is responsible for the ongoing transformation of Wembley Park in north-west London.  James, who has served as Chief Operating Officer for the last eight of his twelve years at Quintain, has led on the repositioning of Wembley Park from an event destination to an exciting cultural neighbourhood for London, and takes up his role as the company explores further growth opportunities.

 Olivier Brahin, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Quintain Limited, said:
“On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Angus for leading the transformation of Quintain since he moved from Lone Star in 2016. Thanks to him and the team he has built, the 85-acre site surrounding Wembley Stadium has become one of the largest urban regeneration projects in Europe with over £2 billion invested to date and another £1 billion expected by 2022. 

“I would also like to congratulate James on succeeding Angus.  James has the right mix of experience – both inside and outside the property sector – to continue building on Quintain’s success to date and effect a truly seamless transition.  A former consumer marketing executive, as Quintain COO James created the strategic direction for marketing, communications and place making that has led to dramatic reconsideration of the Wembley Park area.  We look forward to his leadership as Quintain accelerates its development of operating subsidiaries, Tipi, the company’s build-to-rent platform, and Wembley Park, its estate and asset management vehicle.”
Angus Dodd, out-going Chief Executive of Quintain Limited, said:
I’m very proud of everything we’ve achieved during my time as CEO and I’m pleased that the Board has appointed James, who has played an instrumental role in establishing the firm as a vertically integrated developer operator, to succeed me.  With Quintain poised to accelerate the development of our operating businesses, in addition to our development and regeneration arm, the Board and I have every confidence that James will continue to extend our track record as one of the most innovative real estate developers and operators in the UK.  I wish him and the Quintain team all the best.”
James Saunders, incoming Chief Executive of Quintain Limited, said:
“This is an exciting moment in Quintain’s growth trajectory, and, even more importantly, in the transformation of London.  The most rewarding part of our work is the creation of great places to live, work and visit and the communities we have helped kick start in Wembley Park and beyond as we work hard to expand the range and quality of housing options in the areas where we operate.  I want to thank Angus and the Board for the opportunities to date and I am very excited about working with our great team to realise the growth opportunities ahead.”

James has served as a main board director of Quintain Ltd since 2017 and is responsible for place making and estate management at Wembley Park, commercial partnerships, group marketing, IT, and health and safety.

In his role as Chief Operating Officer, James led the repositioning of Wembley Park from an event destination to an exciting new neighbourhood for London. He created the strategic direction for marketing and place making that has led to dramatic reconsideration of the area as an exciting location to live and as a destination for a myriad of leisure and retail outlets. 

Alongside overseeing the Wembley Park estate operations team with responsibility for management of The SSE Arena, Wembley and London Designer Outlet, he also managed key stakeholder and commercial partner relationships including with the GLA, the London Borough of Brent, Wembley Stadium, the FA, AEG and Realm.

Prior to joining Quintain, James was the Chief Marketing Officer at The Cloud Networks, a consultant to Vodafone Europe and Brand Director at Coca-Cola Great Britain.  He holds a Sloan Masters from London Business School and a Law Degree from Cambridge University and is a barrister-at-law. 

Roasting marshmallows & making bug hotels at Welsh Harp Centre October 23rd and 24th

From Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre

Join us at the Welsh Harp Education Centre for a wonderful morning in the woodland roasting marshmallows, making a bug hotel and exploring the woods.

10am-12pm, Wednesday 23rd and Thursday 24th October.
£4 per child per activity session.
Limited spaces so book now!

What you need to know for this activity:
An adult must attend & supervise children throughout activities.

Places are limited and booking is essential, please contact us to book and also let us know if you need to cancel your booking.

Marshmallows (regular and Halal) and skewers are provided. Please bring vegetarian marshmallows if you wish.

Please pay in cash on the day. £4 per child per activity session.

Activities suitable for children aged 5-11 years. Children aged 4 and under who are not participating in activities are free of charge.

Children and adults should wear comfortable outdoor clothing that may get dirty.
To book, contact Deb Frankiewicz on:
Phone: 07711 701 694
Email: welshharpcentre@thames21.org.uk

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Celebrating 100 years of Council housing in Brent

Drawing of new Council houses in a Close, from a 1921 Willesden Council booklet.
[Source: Brent Archives]

Guest post by Philip Grant

Last month, a Brent press release announced that work had begun on 149 new Council homes in Harlesden. It was welcome news, but a drop in the ocean compared with the need for affordable social housing for local people to rent.

Almost a year ago, I added a comment to a blog about the Council’s plans for the St Raphael’s Estate LINK, saying that Brent’s officers did not know their history, as they said that the estate was mainly built between 1967 and 1982. I can now share some more information about that history.

This year is the centenary of the 1919 Housing & Town Planning Act, seen by many as the start of Council housing in this country. In following up a local history enquiry on the subject*, I revisited a document I had seen in the Brent Archives collection a dozen years ago. And yes, Council housing in what is now Brent did begin 100 years ago.

In fact, Willesden Urban District Council had been considering building some homes for rent before the outbreak of the First World War. By November 1918, it had prepared plans for an estate at Stonebridge, an idea which had already been approved by the government under the 1890 Housing of the Working Classes Act.

Although there was the promise of Government subsidies towards the cost of building these homes, the Council had to borrow money first. It asked the Norwich Union Life Assurance company, but they would not make loans for Council housing schemes. In fact, it was a loan of £20,000 from the National Union of Railwaymen which got their first estate started!

The site for “Brent’s” first Council housing estate, at Stonebridge Farm.
[Reproduced from the 1914 edition of the Ordnance Survey 25” to one mile map of Middlesex, Sheet XVI.1]

Work should have begun on the Brentfield Estate (so called after an ancient field name) in 1919. Interference by various government departments, and the need to redraw the plans after it was decided that the proposed North Circular Road would run right through the site, delayed the start until the following year. The Council’s own workforce began building the roads and sewers in February 1920, and the contract for the first phase of the planned 591 houses was signed in May, with work underway by July 1920.

All of the houses on the estate had three bedrooms, and every one included a bath (the larger ones in a separate bathroom!). They each had a garden, and each kitchen was fitted with a cooking range (chosen by a sub-committee of the three women on Willesden’s Housing Committee). Were the rents affordable? After a dispute between the Council (which wanted to charge less) and the London Housing Board, a compromise figure of 12/6 (twelve shillings and sixpence) was agreed.

You can read about the building of the estate, including plans and some pictures, online in a facsimile edition of a Willesden U.D.C. booklet, with an introductory note, “Homes fit for Heroes – Willesden Council’s Brentfield Housing Scheme, at the Brent Archives website LINK

The booklet was written for the official handover of the first 65 homes in June 1921. 32 families (chosen from more than 1,000 who had applied) had already moved into the first street to be completed. Priority was given to Willesden ex-servicemen, with families living in the most overcrowded conditions. The handover celebrations took place in the grassy square at the centre of the street, which was pictured in the booklet:-

Drawing of new Council houses in Square, from a 1921 Willesden Council booklet.
[Source: Brent Archives]

It is almost 100 years since local people moved into these first Council homes in what is now Brent. They were designed as good family homes, or as the slogan for the 1919 Housing Act proclaimed “Homes fit for Heroes”. Using information from the time, I have located these first homes, in Mead Plat, and they are still providing decent homes for families today:-

These original houses, in Mead Plat and Garden Way, are now part of the St Raphael’s Estate (the name for the Council housing on the west side of the North Circular Road comes from a Church of England  “mission church”, which opened in Garden Way in 1926). Let’s hope that as many as possible of Brent’s new Council homes will be family houses, with gardens, which will provide decent affordable housing for another century!

Philip Grant
* The local history enquiry that prompted my research came from Cllr. Janice Long, who has a real interest in Council housing. I was able to tell her that the first Council homes in the north of Brent had been Kingsbury U.D.C.’s High Meadow Crescent estate in 1924/25, and Wembley U.D.C.’s Christchurch / Lyon Park estate in the early 1930’s.

Brent Cabinet closes Strathcona School and six Children's Centres

I have been away for a week in Edinbugh and catching up on Monday's Cabinet meeting which I missed. As I feared the Cabinet rejected the Scrutiny Committee's recomendations and rubber-stamped the closure decision - certainly no attempt to move heaven and earth to stop the closure of a great local school.

The Harrow Times reports Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, as repeating his confusion of local government funding cuts with the Direct Schools Grant. It states: 'He criticised cuts from central Government - suggesting that these have forced the council's hand..' Any savings on the DSG expenditure in Brent will be redistibuted to schools (a very small amount per school) and can't be used to fund other council services threatened with cuts.


Jenny Cooper, joint secretary of Brent NEU said:
It was a sad day for democracy. The council cabinet ignored speakers and our members from Roe Green Strathcona and voted to go ahead and close the school anyway. The school gave rousing, dignified, eloquent and well researched speeches, presenting their arguments and suggestions. It was clear they were the experts in the room. They voiced their utter disgust for the lack of democracy and engagement from the council. The head looked at the councillors and, in a raised voice, sarcastically said "Forward together", underlining the irony of the council's strapline. Community supporters left after the vote to shouts of "nonsense!" and "shame on you, Brent!". Our members and the school have been treated with absolute disdain. Now the fight begins to protect jobs.
At the same meeting the Cabinet approved what amounts to the closure of nearly  half its Children's Centres disguised as the creation of Family Hubs:

Although Mount Stewart, Treetops, Wembley Primary, Welcome/Barham Park, Wykeham and Harmony sites may be used by neighbouring schools or privation/voluntary  provision the unique and essential services offered by Children's Centres will be lost.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Brent Council plans for accommodating higher secondary pupil numbers via academy expansion

It is one of the ironies of Government policy that Labour Brent Council has the duty to provide school places in  the borough but not the means to do so through building its own schools. The bulge that has been moving through primary schools in now entering the secondary sector. Secondary rolls will rise as primary rolls fall.

All Brent secondary schools are now either academies or faith schools, with none under the direct control of the local authority so the Council has to negotiate with them to provide extra places or rely on additional free school provision.

Projected Numbers and Shortfall

The report going to Monday's Cabinet admits that projections are subject to external factors (such as the impact of Brexit) and so plans have some flexibility built in.

It is expected that 6 of the 10 forms of entry required for 2023/24 will be provided by the North Brent School, a free school which will be part of the Wembley Multi-Academy Trust with Wembley High Technology College. The North Brent School will open in September 2020 with four forms of entry on the Wembley High site but will increase to 6 forms of entry when it moves to the former Chancel House site in Neasden Lane in September 2022.

Due to fears that the new school will have a negative impact on other secondary schools in the Neasden area the North Brent School will have a proportion of its admission numbers allocated via proximity to Wembley High.

This leaves a four forms of entry gap for 2023-24 and the report puts forward two unnamed secondary academies for consideration to provide two additional forms of entry.  Four forms of entry at one site is rejected as too risky for one school. Temporary bulge classes, a solution in the primary sector, is rejected as not suitable to the different curriculum provision in secondary schools - pupils move to different specialist rooms rather than being in one classroom. The report claims that the temporary bulge classes would be as expensive to provide as additional permanent expansion.

So who will pay for the expansion? Extract from report LINK

5.0  Financial Implications
5.1  This report includes provision of additional mainstream and SEND secondary school places and approval to allocate capital funding is sought for both. There are two sources of grant funding available for mainstream and SEND school places.
5.2  The estimated cost of the mainstream school places is £31.3m and the SEND school places is £3.8m, making a combined estimated cost for the Secondary School Expansion Programme of £35.1m.
5.3  Capital investment is sought for the whole secondary school programme at £35.1m, noting that the Director of Finance will approve the allocation of capital from this total to individual projects within the programme on production of further detailed information. It is anticipated that this is a maximum total forecast cost, which could be reduced as the programme develops.
5.4  There are two sources of grant funding available for mainstream and SEND school places; Basic Need Capital Grant and Special Provision Capital Grant. Both are provided by Central Government for the provision of school places.
5.5  For the period 2011-2020 the Council has been allocated a total of £164.1m Basic Need Capital. After taking account of actual spend to date and current commitments, there is a balance available to allocate of £27.9m.
5.6  The local authority was allocated a total of £2.8m from the Special Provision Capital Grant specifically for the provision of SEND school places. £1.1m of this funding has been spent and/or committed. The remaining £1.7m is available to be allocated to this programme.
5.7  A total of £29.6m of secured capital grant funding is available. Based on the total estimated cost for this programme this leaves a funding gap of £5.5m.
5.8  In addition to work to reduce the estimated cost, officers have looked at potential additional sources of capital funding. In addition to the secured £29.6m, a further £11.8m may become available through other identified sources. These are capital contributions from council development projects where a portion of the capital receipt must be allocated for education purposes; those sums were previously allocated to school projects but have not yet been secured. Also from a commercial settlement on a live school expansion project. The council may also be allocated additional Basic Need capital from 2021 onwards but this is not confirmed. In the event that costs cannot be reduced and/or additional funding secured, the council would need to fund up to £5.5m.
5.9  It is proposed that all remaining unallocated capital grant is used to fund this programme. It is already known that there will be a requirement for further capital expenditure to provide SEND school places as detailed in the School Place Planning Strategy 2019-23 approved in November 2018. A feasibility study is currently underway for an additional SEND project. Proposals will be brought to Cabinet in the new year which will include proposed funding arrangements. Should requirements in the mainstream primary or secondary sectors change and require capital expenditure this would also create a funding pressure.
5.10  The revenue costs associated with the operation and maintenance of the expanded school buildings once completed will be the responsibility of each school, as will the additional staff and running costs. Mainstream schools are funded from the Schools Block of the DSG via the funding formula, which allocates funds on the basis of the prior year’s pupil numbers so there is a time lag and the Schools Forum may recommend top slicing the block to allocate more funding to support expanding schools. New in-borough SEND places will be funded from the High Needs Block of the DSG, but at lower cost than the likely alternative independent out of borough provisions.

'Various sources' is the answer with quite a lot of uncertainties involved. I am awaiting a reply from Brent Council to the following question:
As these schools are academies and not under local authority control with land and buildings on a long lease to the respective trusts, does capital funding by the authority, coming out of the Council’s budget, mean that the Council will now have a proportional capital interest in the school?  Or is it just added to the Trust’s assets?

Further is there any possibility that the DfE itself could contribute to the capital costs via the EFA?


Saturday, 12 October 2019

Affordable Housing Task Group Report's recommendations to be considered by Brent Cabinet on Monday

A report to Monday's Cabinet will be of much interest to local people on the housing waiting list as well as those struggling with expensive but poor private rented housing. Cabinet will, rather belatedly  consider the report from the Affordable Housing Scrutiny Task Group that went to the Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee in January.

Cabinet is asked to:

a.Note the Resources & Public Realm Scrutiny Committee’s endorsement of the report, and its recommendations

b.Note and consider the committee’s additional proposal: that plans for new housing developments take into account the known needs of people with disabilities awaiting housing provision.

 Recommendations (Link to report)
Affordable housing targets and viability 

1.     In the new Local Plan for Brent the strategic target of 50 per cent for affordable housing in new developments should be retained, with an expected tenure split of 70 per cent social rent / London Affordable Rent to 30 per cent intermediate affordable housing. 

2.    Brent Council should adopt the Mayor of London’s 35 per cent “fast-track” threshold approach to viability (with 50 per cent on publicly owned land and for industrial sites). Through this the council would forgo the requirement for a financial viability assessment and/or a late stage viability review in the event that a developer guarantees delivery of the requisite percentage of affordable housing across the entire development (with the 70 per cent social rent / London Affordable Rent to 30 per cent intermediate tenure split applicable). The policy should be subject to review. 

3.    To help meet the need for larger affordable homes in the borough, Brent should continue to require a minimum of 25 per cent of new affordable rented homes to be three bedrooms or larger, accommodating at least a household of six (2 people per bedroom). However, this approach must be combined with a clear and effective under- occupation strategy, enabling and incentivising down-sizing in order to release more existing larger homes for re-let. 

4.    The council should continue to use the “Existing Use Value Plus” (EUV+) method for determining benchmark land values. Any other uplift in value should be captured for the public. 

Corporate approach to affordable housing delivery 

5.    Future council policy with regard to the setting of rents for affordable housing should continue to be based on the traditional social rented model (like the mayor’s London Affordable Rent model) and should not be linked to volatile and irrational market rents rather than incomes. 

6.    Brent Council should create a cross-departmental Board of officers, reporting directly into the Corporate Management Team (CMT), to ensure a ‘one council’, joined-up, sustainable approach to the delivery of Affordable Housing. The board should have high level responsibility for programme management and monitoring of an Affordable Housing Action Plan and associated suite of Key Performance Indicators. The Board should include senior officers from Brent’s Planning, Housing, Regeneration, Property, Finance and Legal teams. 

7.     Brent should consider adopting a land assembly, master planner approach, working with key partners and designating Land Assembly Zones in its Local Plan. Where attempts to encourage and incentivise voluntary land assembly do not succeed, Brent should commit to extend its use of compulsory purchase powers in these zones, where the law allows. 

8.    Brent Council should maximise resources available through the mayor’s fund, RTB receipts and borrowing to support direct delivery within its own capital development programme with a primary focus on rented homes at social rent levels and on larger homes (3 bedrooms or larger). 

9.    Brent must adopt a clear policy on access to shared ownership in the borough, making the product accessible to people on incomes that are as low as possible and ensuring the policy is designed to enable keyworkers to take advantage of it. 

10. All new homes in Brent should be marketed locally first, as per the Mayor of London’s planned “first dibs” policy. Brent should investigate how such a requirement could be implemented. 

11.  Brent Council should explore all the options highlighted in this report for innovative partnering arrangements and delivery models with Registered Providers. 

Estate regeneration
12.Future estate regeneration projects in Brent should use the South Kilburn Regeneration Programme as a model of good practice and make a clear commitment to ensuring there is no loss (in quantum terms) of social rented affordable housing and to resident ballots. 
Land owned by public authorities  
 13. Brent should actively promote partnership working on publicly owned land with other public bodies, as promoted by the Naylor Review (One Public Estate), e.g. Network Rail/TfL sites such as potential over station and over rail land developments, as part of the Local Plan. 
Industrial/employment sites
14. Brent must adopt a proactive approach to identifying opportunities where surplus commercial space, underused retail sites and car parks may have significant potential for housing development, both strategic industrial land sites and smaller commercial land sites, and in particular where sites have potential for mixed-use developments.
Small sites
15. The council and its agents should proactively explore partnerships with developers and RPs on small sites to maximise the amount of affordable housing across the borough. Brent should identify potential opportunities and funding mechanisms for increasing development of small sites, including any further opportunities for infill development. It should be prepared to invest the necessary resources. 

16. Developers of small sites with capacity for 10 or fewer units should be expected to pay a commuted sum, wherever possible, based on a consistent tariff, to Brent as a contribution to the fund for affordable housing to be built elsewhere in the borough. All affordable housing in small developments should be included in Brent’s periodic performance stats. 
Community led housing
17.Brent should investigate and promote opportunities for community led housing projects, such as “Community Land Trusts” and “Self-Build” projects, which will protect homes and assets at affordable levels in line with local incomes for future generations. 

18. Brent should explore setting up of a CLT model on publicly owned land and encourage developers to do the same.
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