Sunday 28 August 2016

Is Brent's 'Metroland' suburban housing under threat?

The Quintain site surrounded by 'low density suburban housing'
A report going to the Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee on September 6th LINK highlights some of the issues facing Brent Council in the provision of housing.

It is estimated that 1525 new dwellings need to be built every year until 2026. The report expresses confidence that this can be met in the early part of the period through developments taking place, particularly in Wembley, but additional measures will be needed in the future.

One immediate problem is that developers favour one or two bed-roomed units to ensure a maximum return while Brent's  Strategic Housing Marketing Assessment 2016 said that to meet local needs 66% of them should be of 3 bedrooms or more.

The report says that one option would be for the Council to control dwelling size as a condition of the sale of its land, rather than at the planning stage. This comes up against current 'market sentiment' when the Council tries to meet the 50% 'truly affordable' renting target and developers have recourse to viability assessments as well as limits on the ability of the Council to cross-subsidise from other funds.

Given the recent controversy about the development of Heron House, near the Quintain redevelopment area around the stadium, this possibility for finding additional sites is a concern:
...on a potentially more contentious note redevelopment of extensive areas of low density suburban housing where there are high public transport accessibility levels
One of the Heron House residents' issues was that the development was out of keeping with the largely traditional suburban nature of the immediate area.

Could this mean that those traditional 'Metroland' homes in the north of the borough that happen to be close to tube stations and bus routes (see above) might be under threat in the future as high rise-high density housing becomes the norm? Could we see speculators buying up such houses, with their large gardens, in order to redevelop them into blocks of flats with the blessing of the Council?

Other suggestions in the report may also cause concern:

The opportunities for additional sites for housing are likely to be found from a variety of sources for example: 

·      within existing growth areas, through for example increasing densities on already identified sites and identifying new sites;

·      extending where appropriate existing growth areas into adjacent areas;

·      more supportive policies for redevelopment/conversion of existing residential into addition dwellings;

·      having a more pro-active approach to identifying sites within town centres;

·      the identification of further extensive growth areas 
·      a more flexible approach to existing non-residential allocations, the most obvious due to their scale and existing developed nature being employment sites. 

The last obviously raises the possibility that local employment opportunities may be lost as employment sites get used for housing.


baarnett said...

Just because property developers can be arrogant and deceitful doesn't mean that higher-density housing in the vast 1930s estates of outer London is wrong - particularly around stations and good bus routes.

Anonymous said...

Brent Council are a disgrace. My family and I have lived in Brent for over 35 years, yet when I wanted to extend my family property they refused to grant us permission for our initial design on the grounds it ruined the amenities. This was a fickle excuse considering that they have allowed what was once a borough filled with greenery to be ripped apart and turned into a concrete jungle. Bunch of hypocrites and corrupt to the core. How many brown envelopes would have been handed out during the whole development tender?

Jaine Lunn said...

Wembley Park, Metroland just exactly where is "Wembley's Park" oh I forgot silly me its King Edward VII Park which was bought for us by the Council back in 1913 to compensate us for the loss of "Wembley Park" when they built the stadium and surrounding area. Perhaps now there is no Park ( with the exception of the Childrens Play area at the LDO which will soon be removed as outlined in Quintain's persistent development plans). Wembley Park they should rename it. Wembley's Concrete Jungle? Suggestion's please.

Philip Grant said...

When they built the British Empire Exhibition in the 1920's, on the site of the original Wembley Park, they did "rename" it.

There is a fascinating booklet in the Wembley History Society Collection at Brent Archives called: "Wembley - The First City of Concrete." (Published in 1925 by the British Portland Cement Association.)


Philip Grant said...

"Metroland" was the term used to promote healthy housing developments close to the Metropolitan Railway, allowing families to move out from overcrowded inner London areas, but for their breadwinners to commute easily "into town".

In the early 1920's, Metropolitan Railway Country Estates Ltd was advertising building plots for sale on its Chalk Hill Estate: 'immediately adjoining Wembley Park Station, comprises some 123 acres, and has been planned out in half-acre and acre plots for the erection of small houses of a country type, with ample grounds for gardens and orchards.'

Not all of the suburban estates built in the Wembley area in the 1920's and 1930's had houses with such large grounds, but many were deliberately designed along "garden suburb" lines, with grass verges and trees along the streets, and the local Council(s) restricted developments to no more than ten homes per acre.

The need to build more homes is not a new problem. In the 1960's developers were buying up homes on the Metroland Chalk Hill Estate because of their large plot size, and the newly-formed Brent Council decided to do the same. Their aim was to create a modern, high-density estate with over 1,500 homes. Despite strong local opposition, they used compulsory purchase powers to put together the site for their own Chalkhill Estate. When completed in 1970, Brent's development was described (by the "Daily Telegraph") as 'one of the finest municipal housing estates in Britain.'

Many readers will know that within thirty years this estate was being demolished as unfit for modern needs. Readers who don't know the story can find it in an illustrated article (Chalkhill - 1,000 years of history) on the Brent Archives website at:

So, redeveloping Metroland suburban housing for high-density flats has been tried, and failed. Yes, people need places to live, but families need homes, and a home is not just a box. It is part of an environment where you can live, breathe, enjoy some peace, some greenery ... in short, some quality of life.

Too many blocks of flats, packed in closely together, is not the answer. Yes, there do need to be some higher-density homes, for those without children who don't have the time or health to look after a garden, but please leave us many of the green suburban estates we currently enjoy in the Wembley area, and elsewhere.