Sunday 1 February 2015

Bid to change use of Mahatma Gandhi House to accommodation as giant high rise development goes to planning committee

Prior approval is being sought to change the use of Mahatma Gandhi  House, which used to house the offices of Brent Council Housing Service, to  accommodation. LINK

It would comprise 37 studios, 48 one bedroom flats and 4 two bedroom flats. The initial drawings appear to show high density accommodation.  The building is 8 storeys high.

Ground floor

Meanwhile the much large Yellow Car Park Scheme behind Quality Inn and Dexion House  (now demolished) and beside the Civic Centre,  comes before the Planning Committee on February 11th.

This is part of an enormous development including retail, professional, food and drink units; business accommodation, housing units, community use space and student accommodation has been covered before on this blog.

The amount of affordable housing for this site remains small (18 out of 370):

The planners express concern about a short-fall in three bedroom accommodation...

However, this could easily be addressed through internal alterations to the building, amending the size of flats within the element of the building adjacent to the park. This would involve changing a number of groups of two flats which currently comprise two 2-bedroom 4-person flats into one 1-bedroom flat and one 3-bedroom flat. The total number of units would not change. However, the proportion of 3-bedroom flats would increase to meet the minimum level specified within the Development Specification. It is recommended that a condition is attached requiring details of these changes. This is considered to be sound as the proposal would primarily require internal changes and any external changes would be non-material
The site outlined in red

The nearby Fountain Studios (top centre) sent in an objection concerned that the building works (which also include an access road and a park) would disrupt its activities in terms of noise, reverberations and building vehicle traffic. The Council make it a condition that there is engagement to limit the amount of noise and disturbance.

The planners also suggest that the proposed aluminium cladding  with white framing should be softer with greater contrast between the materials.

There are no 'poor doors' (separate entry for affordable and market accommodation)

The officers recommend approval.

The three applications that are being considered concurrently look to deliver 370 homes together with some key elements of social and physical infrastructure including the 0.4 Ha park and the 300 square metre community hall. The homes meet or exceed London Plan unit size standards and almost all units benefit from good sized balconies. All units within this building benefit from immediate access to the park. The incorporation of a large lobby serving all units helps to demonstrate an inclusive approach to all residents, including those who reside within the Affordable units. Conditions are recommended to address some shortfalls or alterations that are necessary, such as the number of 3-bedroom units, the potential efficiency improvements to the layout of Affordable units and the layout of the community hall. A condition is also recommended to ensure that noise and disturbance from construction is minimised.
As Quintain rapidly fill in the various plots it is hard to keep track of the various planning applications and the stages they have reached, I think it would be useful for the public to have a document and images updating information.

It is hard to get an overall impression of what the area will eventually look like, the amount of retail, food and office space and the different types of housing, including student accommodation.  The amount and type of open space is also an important consideration. However, most important for local people is the lack of affordable housing. The planners argue that using the floor space measure =10% but in terms of the number of units it is just 5%.


Anonymous said...

Not sure how they claim 10% in terms of area is affordable ?

The above figures 18 out of 370 is split between 1, 2 and 3 bed. They would have to be extremely large to be 10% in terms of area of the whole development.

Martin Francis said...

Yes that puzzled me. I wondered if they were counting the 13 'intermediate' flats as affordable too.

Anonymous said...

"Intermediate" does count as affordable - it usually means shared ownership. It's cheaper for developers to supply this type of housing than affordable rented so they generally put in more shared ownership units and argue that more affordable rented units will reduce the overall number of affordable units overall.

Brent really needs to get tougher in both demanding nad building more affordable rented accommodation, and by that I mean really affordable, not this "80% of market rent" nonsense

Anonymous said...

My guess is studio flat floor area is so small it would distort the figures as there is a high proportion of studios.

My view is that area figures should be based on like for like.

Alison Hopkins said...

You're right: affordable is a nonsense term. Unfortunately, Brent are relying on housing associations to deliver much housing. Said HA's are becoming more and more commercial, and can't really be called any kind of social housing any more. Their rents are that 80 percent - and BHP plan to increase their social rents to a similar proportion.

Anonymous said...

This could have some relevance: