Sunday, 16 June 2013

Council sells off more land for Bridge Park development - but no new secondary school

Stonebridge bus garage before conversion
Bridge Park Leisure Centre with Unisys House in background
Indicative scheme for the site
Tomorrow's Executive is to consider another council land sale financed development along similar lines to that at Willesden Green Library which provoked so much controversy. DETAILS

The Bridge Park Community Leisure Centre would be rebuilt as part of the scheme with some of its council owned land sold to the developer. A compulsory Purchase Order would be served on the car breakers that occupy part of the site. Bridge Park includes a number of business units and the separate Technology House office block is used by a children's nursery and a church.

The Centre was built on the site of the old Stonebridge bus station (I seem to remember trolley buses) and was partially a response to fears of disorder on the Stonebridge Estate in the wake of the 1985 riots.

Before land sale and compulsory purchase order
After land sale and CPO
The Unisys site is owned by General Mediterranean Holdings and they plan to build 512 dwellings and a hotel on their part of the site. The proposal differs from that for Willesden Green in that this involves a direct land sale rather than an agreement with a third party. Brent Council would procure its own architects and builders to build the new sports centre rather than developer such as Galliford Try.

The report states:
The Sale Agreement passes the risk of residential and commercial sales to the developer. So for example the council considered GMH carrying out the whole development on behalf of the council including building the sports centre. While this would remove the sports centre build cost risk to the council it would raise other issues. If the council for example set out its requirements for the sports centre and imposed an obligation to deliver the new sports centre in accordance with that specification then it would have tocomply with the European OJEU procurement rules and undertake a fully compliant and separate procurement process. This is despite the fact the landowner (GMH) has no intention of selling to a third party. A land sale avoids this protracted procurement process. The council would have to procure its own architects and build contractors but can do this effectively by using existing pre-OJEU procured frameworks.
It appears that the council has learned some lessons from the Willesden Green Library Centre development. However as with most schemes sold as 'gift horses' it is worth a closer look, particularly, as in the case of Willesden Green, the repercussions of occupying a smaller site as the result of the land sale.

The report says there is not need to specify the housing at this stage but somewhat ominously states:
  A minimum of 5% of all dwellings will be affordable but will be limited in order to fund the sports centre.
 In the Willesden Green development Galliford Try successfully persuaded the Council  that they would  not be able to build the Cultural Centre at zero cost to Brent Council if they had to build affordable housing.

Among the potential losers are the 37 business units in the Bridge Park complex. The Council  suggests they could be relocated in the commercial floor space proposed by GMH, relocate to other council owned space such as Harlesden Design Works or to 'other industrial spaces' in Park Royal. The current conference rooms in the Centre would not be replaced although the large function space would be, although a swimming pool could be installed instead as an option. It is noted that the latter would be a significant cost but would help secure the financial viability of the Centre.  The report notes that the proposed swimming pool on the site of Dexion House in Wembley 'shows no sign of being developed'.  In line with some of the schemes for school expansion a possible domed 5-a-side football pitch on the roof of the new sports centre is suggested.

There are no plans to replace the children's nursery although there is an option for a children's play area. The report merely says that it will 'look at further options to replace the nursery during the consultation process'. Remember the Willesden Bookshop...

Perhaps most importantly, in terms of the predicted shortage of secondary school places in Brent and the dearth of secondary schools south of the North Circular Road, a possible redevelopment involving an 8 form entry secondary school AND a shared sports centre on the site is rejected. This is because:
...there are currently no allocated funds to build a new school (c£18m), a new sports centre (c£9m) and additional flood storage (part of the site is in a identified flood zone) (c£1-2m)
512 new dwellings will of course add to the pressure on school places. It will be interesting to see how these proposals develop and are received by current users of the site. Certainly the Unisys site, empty and decaying for so long, needs to be utilised for something useful.


Anonymous said...

Unisys has been empty since 1996

Anonymous said...

Symbol of incompetent management. Good riddance !

Chairman Hughie Rose said...

General Mediterranean Holdings are the group that fraudently was charged and fined some time back.Why does the council always look to criminals to conduct business instead of reputable companies?