Wednesday, 4 May 2016

FA & fans take on Brent planners and Quintain over Wembley redevelopment,

There has been some speculation about the fact that Brent Council is holding two Planning Committee meetings next week. One explanation is that a senior officer is leaving shortly so the meeting was timed to take place before her departure and the second explanation is that following the Labour Group AGM some members of the Committee may be replaced by councillors who are less compliant.

Whatever the explanation there is not doubt that controversial proposals are being pushed through.  The Huffington Post LINK has picked up on an issue I raised over an application to be heard on 9th where officers said the students needed less daylight in their accommodation that ordinary residents.

Now a huge development around Wembley Stadium LINK has been brought forward attracting the opposition of the Football Association and football fans.

This is the area the planning application covers:
Olympic Way and land between Fulton Road and South Way including Green Car Park, Wembley Retail Park, 1-11 Rutherford Way, 20-28 Fulton Road, Land south of Fulton Road opposite Stadium Retail Park, land opposite Wembley Hilton, land opposite London Design

Retail/financial and professional services/food and drink (Use Class A1 to A4) up to 21,000 sqm;

Commercial (Use Class B1) up to 82,000 sqm;

Hotel (Use Class C1): up to 25,000 sqm;

Residential (Use Class C3): up to 350,000 sqm (up to 4,000 homes) plus up to 20,000 sqm of floorspace for internal plant, refuse, cycle stores, residential lobbies, circulation and other residential ancillary space;

Education, healthcare and community facilities (Use Class D1): up to15,000 sqm;

Assembly and leisure (Use Class D2): 23,000 sqm;

Student accommodation (Sui Generis): Up to 90,000 sqm.

The proposals have produced the following comments:

Clive Betts MP has written in relation to the proposal following conversations that he had with the Football Association about the proposed developments adjacent to Wembley Stadium. This letter seeks reassurance regarding the potential impact of the development on fans being able to get away from Wembley at the end of the games, about facilities for people with disabilities and about the potential for fans to be held back in “holding pens” at the end of the game. 

According to the analysis undertaken by the FA, the development could add two hours before fans can get out of the car park onto the roads leading away from the stadium. This amount of time is unreasonable and unacceptable, and could lead to reputational damage to Wembley Stadium, the FA and English Football and therefore an adverse effect on Brent Council. 

The FA have advised that fans with disabilities would take an extra 40 minutes on top of the two hours to get away from the parking facilities that are proposed, which may be a contravention of the Disability Discrimination legislation. It is presumed that an equalities impact assessment will be undertaken. 

The FA has also advised that, because of changes to the flow of supporters necessitated by the proposed development, it would be necessary to hold some fans in an area for a period of time after the game had finished. This is a throwback to the problems football had 30 years ago where away fans were held for long periods of time after the games, with football fans effectively criminalised and held behind in certain areas. This would be a disaster both for the image of football, the image of the national stadium and the Council.

Letter of objection from the FA 

A letter was received from Martin Glen, Chief Executive of the FA raising issues which are summarised as follows:

The proposals which look to develop high rise blocks close to the stadium will severely damage the iconic view and status of the Stadium.

Whilst regeneration is vital, it needs to be balanced with Brent’s and the FA’s duty to protect the spirit of what is a great venue.

Wembley is a part of a national identity and positive celebrations of this should not merely be unhindered, but enhanced.

The aim of the FA’s objection is to retain the visual power of the stadium to help stimulate every aspect of life in Brent, retaining the emotional response Sir Norman Foster intended for the stadium.

If the Stadium is to continue to hold a special place in fans’ hearts, it needs to continue to provide a world class experience. All regeneration plans must place supporters at the heart of every day and that development need to ensure their safety and free movement.

Currently the development does not do this. The parking options and pedestrian and traffic flow are not adequate and need to be reconsidered to ensure Wembley Stadium remains the best venue in the World.

Level Playing Field objection (Brent planners' commentary)

Level Playing Field have expressed concern that the proposal will make access for disabled persons to and from the stadium worse due to the unreasonable waiting times for the lifts, fewer accessible parking spaces being available, the emergency evacuation procedures and the travel distances from the stadium entrance. They highlight that to expect a disabled person to wait 40 minutes to queue for the lifts is a significant worsening of the current situation and is unreasonable.
They also highlight that the proposed 105 blue badge spaces in the multi-storey car park is significantly less than the 174 blue badge spaces currently in place, and that Wembley Stadium has 310 wheelchair spaces, not including the Easy Access and Amenity seats available for ambulant disabled people. Level playing fields have specified that they have been told that the existing 174 Blue Badge spaces frequently fail to meet demand.
They also specify that the capacity of the proposed lifts would be significantly reduced when transporting wheelchair uses, and that these lifts would also be shared with Club Wembley guests. They highlight that a robust emergency evacuation plan for ambulant disabled people and wheelchair users would need to be put in place from the upper levels in the event of the lifts not being in use, with a significant number of people potentially requiring assistance.
The queue times that have been cited for the lifts are identical to those cited by the FA and this has been discussed above and within with the consideration of the objection from the FA, with the Detailed Considerations section of this report. The applicant has committed to the provision of 250 blue badge spaces, some of which are to be located within the Blue Multi-storey car park and others elsewhere in the vicinity of the stadium (e.g. the Red Multi-storey car park). Details of the provision of these spaces are to be secured through the Wembley Park Parking.
Management Plan, discussed within the Detailed Considerations section of this report. Emergency Evacuation Plans are secured through the building regulations. With regard to the distance to the blue badge parking spaces, Quintain initially were looking to propose a ramp from the blue badge parking level to the Stadium Concourse which would have resulted in a significant improvement. However, due to structural and warranty issues with the Stadium Concourse, this could not come forward at this point in time. The ramp was subsequently removed from the proposal.

These are not the only controversial aspects of the application.  A huge car park is planned despite the fact that Wembley Stadium was supposed to be a public transport destination and a new, three form entry primary school is planned on the site of the car park for York House.  The application states that this is to be run by Ark Academies although it is not clear how they were chosen.  Questions are raised about the issue of air quality on the site and only partially addressed.

The demise of the Powerleague facility between the stadium and  Brent Civic Centre is mentioned almost in passing and this may explain why residents have been unable to gain local councillor support for opposition to a Lucuzade Powerleague facility at Kingsbury High School:
The Powerleague 5-a-side football centre is not within the site for this application. It was implemented as a “mean-time” temporary use within a development site. The Council is supportive of its re-provision and the applicant is looking at options to relocate it elsewhere in the vicinity when development comes forward on that site. However, it was only proposed as a temporary use and its loss could not be resisted
Lastly once again officers seem to be playing with the definition of 'affordable housing' to make it virtually meaningless:

Housing mix and Affordable housing: The Affordable Housing proposal are supported by officers. The total Affordable Housing offer proposed within the scheme comprises 34 % of the total number of units. A total of 22 % of the total units are to be provided as permanent Affordable Housing, comprising Affordable Rent, Discount Market Rent (at 65 % of market rent), Intermediate Shared Ownership and Discount Market Sale (at 75 % of market value). A total of 12 % of the total unit are to provided as time limited Affordable Housing (80 % market rent for a 7 year period) through the Mayor’s London Housing Bank. The tenure mix fo Affordable Housing differs from the standard products referred to within Council Policy, but is supported by officers as it looks to provide a wider range of Affordable Housing products which will help to meet housing need whilst maximising the proportion of Affordable Housing that the scheme can afford. The proportion of proportion of family sized private units is below the levels set out within the Wembley AAP, but the proposed mix by unit and tenure results in a significant increase in the level of Affordable Housing and is supported on that basis.
The development includes the maximum reasonable (WM's emphasis) proportion of Affordable Housing including Affordable Rent, Intermediate Shared Ownership, Discount Market Sale and Discount Market Rent units. The price of private units cannot be considered or set within a planning application, other than how it affects the proportion of Affordable Homes.

The same evening planning applications for other projects in the stadium area will also be considered.

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