Wednesday 2 December 2015

Serious scrutiny requires review of how Brent works with residents on regeneration

This is the full version of Pete Firmin's presentation to Brent Scrutiny Committee tonight. Not all of it was delivered due to the time limit on presentations.

I’m the chair of Alpha, Gorefield and Canterbury tenants and Residents Association on the South Kilburn Estate behind Kilburn Park tube station.
We welcome the opportunity to raise our concerns about many aspects of the South Kilburn regeneration. While we thought it rather late in the day, we were pleased when the previous chair of Scrutiny, Dan Filson said there would be a task force set up to look at the issues involved and that residents would have substantial input into that.
He contacted us mentioning many issues which should be looked at, including:
how the decanting process has gone so far, and 
what lessons can Brent (and maybe other authorities too) learn from the project and apply in future schemes. 
whether the properties should have had greater internal usable space  
the disruption during building works  
the amount and nature of external social amenities like play space, open space, doctor surgeries, primary school facilities, community hall facilities or general circulation  
In addition, one of our Kilburn Councillors, Rita Conneelly, suggested to himand us additional issues:
What was delivered and was it the best we could have ?
Whether choosing Catalyst and Willmott Dixon was best for this phase of the development and whether Scrutiny feels Catalyst and Willmott Dixon have breached significantly enough of their contract for Scrutiny to recommend they not be used in future commissions (remembering that Willmott Dixon failed to remain enrolled in the Considerate Constructers scheme, failed to manage their site and minimise impact on residents and failed to deliver the project any where near on time; for example).
What concerns were raised by residents when the regeneration plans were first publicised- and how have these borne out- and most importantly, still not been resolved in cases (e.g. pressures on parking and community cohesion)
Who has been chosen for future phases and how have we insured we will not have the above problems with them?
whether perfectly good blocks which could have provided good homes into the future with a good refurbishment program were sacrificed so that developers could build private flats on prime land? Whilst the blocks in most disrepair have been left until later phases of the programme leaving many families and children in substandard housing for years unnecessarily. 
The report in front of you says under 6.0:
However it is also considered timely to refresh the Master-plan. Therefore, inconjunction with Planning colleagues it is proposed to consult local residentsand tenants on a revised and refreshed master-plan and accompanying SPD.
Brent will appoint master-plan architects, Cost Consultants and also engagewith the local community in regard to proposals. These proposals will considermatters such as, infrastructure, density, mix and range of accommodation, phasing and also the possibility of incorporating additional sites into the Master plan area.
But it is not just a matter of appointing expensive consultants anddrawing up new plans. They should not be drawn up without critical appraisal with real input from residents. That’s why we hope you will press ahead urgently with the task force which Dan Filson proposed.
Missing from the report in front of you is virtually any mention of problems with the regeneration of South Kilburn. There is just  a passing mention to `slippage’ under 5.0 `Current position’.
Of particular concern for us is that there is no mention of the Kilburn Park Catalyst/Wilmott Dixon development. Yet this is not complete even though it is already over a year late. And there are still several important aspects to deal with, such as the recent discovery that not enough refuse storage was planned to cope with both the new and existing residents. While Brent and Catalyst are arguing over whose fault this is, we are the ones suffering with frequently overfull storage bins.
This is just the latest of the relentless problems we have had with a building site next to us. I’ve given you each a copy of the summary we drew up on April so you can see the scale of the problem at least.
While the last 2 paragraphs in the report highlight contractors working with local residents, our experience on the ground has been the opposite.
For instance, under `Green Space’  (page 3) the report says “there is also a communal garden space, provided as part of the CatalystDevelopment, which will also be available to local residents.” Has it been forgotten that this space is only communal because we had a very long and sometimes bitter row with catalyst who were insistent that it would be only for the residents of the new blocks?
We have wider concerns than just the way in which developers impact on those neighbouring their sites, and have attempted to raise them.
The other document I’ve passed you is a resolution passed by our Tenants and Residents association annual general meeting in July of last year. The issues there fall into 3 categories – the attitude of Wilmott Dixon/Catalyst towards us, but also issues around planning – such as the closeness of new blocks to existing ones, which we raised at the planning stage, and have become more obviously dreadful with construction, and our concerns about what regeneration has meant for South Kilburn in general. We have attempted to get these at least addressed by the lead member for regeneration, but despite frequent requests (and promises by her) she has not engaged with us in the 15 months since it was sent to her.
One small example of the issues which have not been addressed – regeneration has significantly increased the population of South Kilburn. The proposed new  `health centre’ has been given much publicity by the Council, yet this is the bringing together 3 existing GP practices. It is not an increased in GP facilities for an increased population.
The section of the report under 5.0 headed “Salusbury Road Car Park Site” reads as if the siting of the vent shaft is settled (in favour of Canterbury Works). It isn’t and won’t be at least until after Parliament has heard the several petitions residents have submitted against the shaft being sited next to a primary school and in the middle of a residential area. Quite honestly. people in the area are shocked that neither HS2 or Brent even attempted to engage with us while arguing for the site to be changed, even though the opposition of school parents, governors and local residents was known to Council officers.B
Which brings me to my final point - the Council has not ensured that developers listen to and respect residents . Indeed Brent Council itself has declined to enforce its own standards with developers and has failed to seriously consult and involve residents in decision-making. For instance, the report says under `Sports provision’ (4.3) that Land was provided for the construction of a new sports hall facility. Built by Westminster City Council, primarily for the, expanded, St. Augustine’s Secondary School. The Council secured reduced rates for South Kilburn residents as part of the deal”. I checked with other members of our TRA before coming here and no-one can recall having seen this advertised anywhere. At the same ti8nme, we have been arguing for years that residents should have use of the Multi Use games Area attached to St Mary’s school in South Kilburn, which was partly funded by the Council and we are still unable to achieve this. Similarly the Council has said residents were consulted about what should go in the new urban park on Albert Road( where HS2’s lorries will incidentally be passing for years). None of us can remember seeing a consultation.
If you want serious scrutiny and a serious appraisal of how regeneration has gone so far, you could start by arguing for serious change in how Brent works with, involves and respects local residents. A proper task force which looks at the problems and pitfalls would be a useful start to that.


Anonymous said...

What did Scrutiny Committee actually decide to do, after hearing Pete's deputation (or as much of it as he was able to present in the time)? Did they take any notice of his points, or did they just accept the Council Officer's report?

Philip Grant.

Pete Firmin said...

Scrutiny members asked several pertinent questions but didn't take a decision. Lead member and officer were a bit of an embarrassment since on so many questions they didn't have an answer. That's apart from where their answers were wrong or misleading. As far as I'm aware, the committee did not make any decisions, but my understanding is they are leaning towards establishing a task group to examine SK regeneration further. The TRA, together with Councillor Conneelly will be pushing for this.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Pete.

Let's hope that the Committee do more than 'lean towards establishing a task group', and actually scrutinise the important issues you have raised with them.


Unknown said...

Hi is there a contact number or email for the tenants and residents Association of Kilburn Estate or for the Chair?

David McLean
Southwark Group of Tenants Organisation