"The South Kilburn Regeneration programme has slipped behind schedule in 2015/16. There is a masterplan review of South Kilburn Regeneration; this means it is being fundamentally reviewed to determine how best to deliver the programme and realise benefits of regeneration for South Kilburn and for its businesses and residents. This review will reconsider the fundamental approach, including whether it is better for the council to retain the South Kilburn Housing Assets, or continue to dispose of them."The above statement was included in the papers for the Full Council meeting last month and was a surprise for South Kilburn residents causing cconsiderable disquiet.
As a result an information request was made to Brent Council to try and find out exactly what was going on. I would welcome comments from SK residents on whether they feel any the wiser as a consequence of Richard Barrett's response. It would be interesting to know the additional costs that will be incurred by the review.
I am writing on behalf of the Kilburn branch of the Labour Party to request information relating to the regeneration programme in South Kilburn. Last year, I put in an FoI request about other aspects of the programme, and you kindly provided me with useful responses. I hope you will be able to do so on this occasion too.
The basis for my questions is a point in the budget report that was discussed at the full Council meeting on Monday. This is covered in section 14.5 (first bullet) of the report, as follows:
“The South Kilburn Regeneration programme has slipped behind schedule in 2015/16. There is a masterplan review of South Kilburn Regeneration; this means it is being fundamentally reviewed to determine how best to deliver the programme and realise benefits of regeneration for South Kilburn and for its businesses and residents. This review will reconsider the fundamental approach, including whether it is better for the council to retain the South Kilburn Housing Assets, or continue to dispose of them.”
I have searched through the Brent website, and have not found the information that I am seeking. I should therefore appreciate responses to the following:
· What are the terms of reference of the masterplan review referred to in the above extract?
The intention is to appoint a Design Team to assist the Council review the adopted Master-plan and the current proposals for the remainder of the programme. It will seek to understand whether the principles established in the original Master-plan need to be altered or not given the passage of time and taking into account the schemes already delivered. The review will also look at the scope of the Master-plan and factoring in any relevant new legislation and guidance ensure the programme remains viable; as such it will also look at all sites within the South Kilburn area to consider inclusion or exclusion within the overall Master-Plan. The brief is currently being worked up by officers but when it is ready to go out to market it will be made available to the public via the London Tender Portal
· What is the timescale of the review?
It is hoped to go out to market to seek expressions of interest from Architectural Practices in March, appoint, subject to Cabinet approval, by May with a likely consultation process and report back to Cabinet toward the end of 2016 or early 2017 at the latest. This indicative timescale is subject to Cabinet Timetable availability and it is also likely that the Master-Plan will be placed before Planning Committee alongside a proposed SPD for the area.
· Will there be a consultation of local residents and other interested parties as part of the review? If so, what form will this take?
Absolutely. It is intended there will be a series of consultation events/workshops with local residents, tenants and stakeholders. The most likely format will be drop-in meetings but may also include questionnaires. The final form of consultations will be agreed with the appointed Practice but it will be a specific requirement of any bid to conduct consultation.
· How far behind schedule has the regeneration programme slipped? What are the implications for the remaining phases of the programme?
The programme has slipped due to external factors such as the safeguarding of Salusbury Road site by HS2 since 2012 and other factors, such as specific project delays on site. This, in turn, has pushed the programme out of kilter by having a knock-on effect on future phases. Some individual projects remain on target but overall the programme has extended by at least twelve months. The intention is that the Master-plan Review will seek to see whether there is any ability to recover this time by reconfiguring the remaining programme. The Master-Plan review will also incorporate a refresh of the financial viability of the scheme. No implications have been identified apart from the obvious prolongation of the programme and the resultant delay in tenants moving into new accommodation.
· What criteria and methodology will the review use to decide whether to retain the South Kilburn Housing assets?
I note the extract provided by this FoI from the Budget Report but would advise that the Master-Plan Review will not be the vehicle for determining whether the Council disposes or retains assets as they are developed. I am sure the Review will be used to assist in the consideration of this query but it is more likely something that will be considered by the Council’s Investment Board and reported back to Cabinet for decision as appropriate.
· Whether and how does the review relate to the information that the Council will provide following the Scrutiny Committee’s consideration of its report on South Kilburn regeneration, at its meeting of 2 December 2015 (see LINK)
The Master-Plan review and the questions arising from the Scrutiny Committee consideration are separate matters. The points made by the Scrutiny Committee will and has assisted in the development of the Brief..
There are several problems here, which the response to the FoI request is extremely useful in identifying.
Perhaps the most important is - once again- what is the purpose of the scrutiny committee? The response to the FoI request says that the review that is to be undertaken is separate to that of the scrutiny. Why? Surely, if scrutiny is looking at how regeneration has progressed to date then that should be a crucial part. But then there is a further problem. Looking at the Council's website, it contains the minutes of the scrutiny committee's discussion of South Kilburn regeneration in December, but nowhere is there any record of any decisions, including whether or not to set up a task force to take a closer look as suggested by some at that meeting. Worse, at that meeting the officer reporting undertook to report back on information that he and the lead member did not have with them (this is minuted). Yet nowhere is such information reported. So, the only report that exists is that given by the officer reporting to scrutiny. Yet scrutiny should exist to produce its own views after consideration of that report. That doesn't seem to be happening several months on.
Then we have the fact that a Design team/Architectural Practice will be appointed (no doubt at the usual considerable expense)to draw up proposals which THEN go out to consultation. Everyone who has ever encountered a Brent Council consultation knows what a sham they are. As regards South Kilburn regeneration, flaws have been pointed out at masterplan and planning committee meetings, only to be ignored and then proved right at later stages. Consultation "workshops and events" are a joke.
A serious review would involve the Council's regeneration team, a scrutiny report and those directly affected - South Kilburn residents and their organisations - BEFORE drawing up amended proposals.
On the issue of "disposing of assets", i.e. the Council divesting itself of all remaining council housing in South Kilburn, the response that this will not even be part of this flawed review, but a matter for the Council's Investment Board says rather a lot about how regeneration is seen. We are constantly told that regeneration is about providing better housing, yet this shows financial considerations come first.
Brent already squandered the millions given to regenerate South Kilburn 10 years ago under the New Deal for communities scheme. Looks like they are wasting funding again..
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