|Impression from Park Lane Methodist Church/Park Lane Primary
Afterwards residents were aghast that two councillors abstained on such a major issue. If there is any committee where councillors are expected to make a decision it is planning. If you don't have enough information to make a decision you should keep on asking questions until you do.
If the vote had tied 4/4 I presume Marquis would have exercised a casting vote against the application.
Denise Cheong with just 2 minutes to represent hundred of local residents made a presentation on the impact of the high density high rise blocks on the local area, the impact on current over-crowded roads and public transport and the fact that the development did not comply with established GLA and Brent standards.
Cllr Sam Stopp (Labour, Wembley Central) appeared to have been so impressed by the developer's consultation procedures and his openness that this had persuaded him to support the development despite recognising that the building was not perfect. He would like to have seen it less high but its height was based on what officers had told the developer was possible. He thought the building's orientation was not ideal.
Stopp went to to list the positives: The excellent consultation by the developer, quality of the building design, provision of community space.
He went on to contrast the developer's consultation with that by the Council. Local residents seemed to have found out about the proposal late in the day with a rush of contacts comparatively recently. The Council needed to adopt a more open and transparent approach to consultation. As in Islington, we need members' panels which are accessible to the public so they can question developers and councillors.
David Glover, the planning officer,was faced with the task of explaining why officers were supporting the application despite it not complying with policies on density, carbon emissions, living space, open space, play space and the proportion of affordable housing.
He claimed that although the building did not meet the standards that it could be approved by reference to the guidelines that interpreted policy. He echoed Cllr Stopp in praising the quality of the finish of the building and the flats. He said that the restricted nature of the site justified the developer in building at greater height and density than set out in the local plan. The 28% affordable hosing (rather than the recommended 50%) had been subject to independent viability assessments. Initially the developer offered a higher proportion of affordable housing but this was limited to a 7 year period after which it would move to market rents. Officers had negotiated a lower proportion of affordable housing but for perpetuity.
Some of the most incisive qustioning came from Sarah Marquis, chair of the committee, who pointed out that the density was double that recommended for town centre locations and doubted that it complied with the requirement that not meeting those standards could only be supported if it was 'clearly and robustly justified by local circumstances.' The density was that which applied to international city locations rather than a local town centre.
She went on to query the planners' claim that the development was allowed because the local plan allowed 'tall building' in the Wembley Central vicinity. She pointed out that local tall buldings were much lower and that the previous application in the sites had been for 17 storeys. It was a big leap from the 30metre definition of tall to the 85metres of this development.
In the course of the discussion the developer confirmed that they were also seeking to purchase the green space on the embankment behind Chesterfield house and their aim would be to build residential properties there. This was not followed up by the Committee but would obviosuly add to the issues around local infrastructure including traffic density and school places. The negotiations had not got very far and purchase of the garage space behind Chesterfield House to provide disabled parking for the new development has not been completed.
The extent of this additional land which is now subject to acquisition and development can be seen in this illustration:
|Click to enlarge
The actual process of building on a site surrounded by traffic congestion with difficult access and parking sounds as if it will be a two year nightmare for local residents not to mention the impact when crowds travel to the stadium and arena.
I am left puzzled by how the committee members who voted for the development could have felt persuaded despite all the arguments above. Does a community space and 'quality finish' really outweigh the disadvantages?
The voting details are below. A further puzzle was how Cllr Colacioco asked all the right questions, got extremely unsatisfactory answers, and then voted for the application!
Voting on the application was as follows:
FOR 4 Cllrs Agha, Choudhary, Colacicco and Mahmood
AGAINST 2 Cllrs Marquis (Chair) and Cllr Maurice
ABSTENTION 2 Cllrs Ezeajughi and Cllr Patel