Wednesday 9 November 2016

23 storey block on historic Dollis Hill site likely to be opposed

The 'Pre-Application Presentations' now made at Brent Planning Committee are useful as an early warning of planning applications to come. The public are not allowed to make representations but can watch the presentation.

At the November 16th Committee there is a presentation on plans for 403-405 Edgware Road/corner of Oxgate Lane that includes a 23 storey building. The present building has a fascinating history. It was completed on the site of an existing admiralty building, known as the Admiralty Chart House in 1940 and housed navy and civilian staff in case Whitehall became unusable because of bomb damage. Since then it has had multiple uses uncluding a carpet warehouse LINK:

replacement with mixed use development (including tall building up to 27 storeys), comprising:
• Flexible Class B1/B2/B8 employment space (approx. 1,375 sq. m), predominantly located on ground floor, with some also on first floor;
• Banqueting and conference centre, comprising one large hall, two smaller halls, (located on the first floor, with ground floor lobby/reception area);
• Fitness centre and health spa (including a swimming pool);
• Residential accommodation (providing approx. 150 apartments);
• Roof garden and outdoor terrace;
• Dedicated service yard within the building to service the employment floorspace,
accommodate other delivery vehicles and for refuse/waste collection;
• Three levels of basement car parking, providing space for approximately 166 spaces, together with cycle storage.

Ex Dollis Hill Councillor Alison Hopkins has already made her views known on behalf of Dollis Hill residents:

Firstly, there’s obviously the fact that the site is of major historical interest. We’d most certainly push for Listing if there were any attempt made at demolition. The current owners illegally removed the Crittall windows and were served a notice to replace them, too. Other modifications have also been made by them and the building has been deliberately neglected.

The idea of a conference centre to serve over two thousand people is, frankly, insane. The local transport system simply can’t support it and our roads cannot take the volume of parked cars. The owners of the building have already caused massive disruption at times by using the building for festivals and exhibitions. The knock on impact of their inconsiderate parking has been felt within a mile or more radius here in Dollis Hill.

A further point on the conference centre is that it is highly unlikely to be used by local residents, given the salary levels and deprivation levels in Dollis Hill. The functions which the applicant has already held in the building have been attended by people who were most certainly not local. Having talked to several, they came from as far away as Reigate and Brighton!

As you rightly state in the report, it will also cause massive pressure on the businesses who park locally.

I don’t know if you’re also aware that Highways have already stated that a CPZ will be needed across Dollis Hill once the Brent Cross scheme gets going: the funding for that is apparently coming from Barnet’s S106/CIL monies.

In terms of transport, whilst there may possibly be a new Brent Cross Overground station one day, access to it from Brent is very limited for pedestrians, so I’m not convinced it will improve the PTAL rating overmuch. The applicants claim of 30 buses every hour on that stretch of the A5 is, frankly, nonsense.

Additionally, the idea of a 27 storey tower block is unbelievable. It’s totally out of context, intrusive and represents a development that is massively out of place in what’s still a mostly residential area. I note you’ve stated that the surrounding buildings are three of four storey, but the  1920s and 30s two storey housing is not far away. Given the topography of the area, it will be very obvious – just as the 27 storey block in Barnet on the Welsh Harp is LINK.

In terms of traffic, I have VERY grave concerns indeed about the impact on Dollis Hill. It is not currently possible  to turn right into Oxgate Lane (or Humber Road) from the southbound A5, and the only access to the site, whether from the A5 or Oxgate Lane is from the northbound Edgware Road. Barnet’s Brent Cross Regeneration plans call for a new road junction at Humber Road, allowing a right turn from the southbound A5, but this is being opposed strongly, and so may not happen. But in any event, as matters stand anyone approaching the development from the southbound A5 would need to rat run through Dollis Hill, by using Oxgate Gardens or Dollis Hill Lane, then Coles Green Road for access. We already face tens of thousands of extra cars each day from the Brent Cross plans, so this would be a major issue.

The detailed pre-planning report can be found HERE.


Unknown said...

Looks like an appropriate & sensible choice for a conferencing centre if they save the building as it will generate jobs. The area could also do with a swimming pool. Since Earls Court has shut down there is need for more conference space as they are vital places for small business to fertilise & generate growth and that can only lead to benefits for others. These spaces are often well utilised by third sector organisations that benefit people from various communities. Think the objection lacks validity as Its not as if anything on that main road has been built with thought to asethetic value anyway.

(Thoughts my own).

Anonymous said...

Are you having a laugh? I can't believe your attitude and comments. A 27 storey building on that site mindless. Clearly the local community doesn't count yet again in this Borough.

Alison Hopkins said...

Scott, it's a daft place for a conference centre.And that's from someone whose organised an awful lot of them.

It has a low PTAL rating and we know well how many cars woold result from a space catering for 2300 people. There's buses, yes, but most of those will be rerouted if Brent Cross gets going. There's no Tube or Overground within any sensible walking distance. The site has poor access, as you can only turn directly into it from the A5, so cars would rat run and shortcut.

They're not proposing tosave the building, they propose total demolition and the erection of a 27 storey tower block. The building has considerable aesthetic value, rather like the old GPO research station. That was sensitviely converted to flats. This could be too, with the addition of perhaps small business space. There is, by the way, already a fair bit of small business space adjacent as well as two office blocks converted to flats.

There's a fair bit of conference space not far away as it is, too.

Unknown said...

Who is this 'local community'?
Its on the main road, there's nobody overshadowed & the whole road is a complete eyesore. Other people live locally too and have different views - like me. Also people have to live somewhere... If there is a 'truely affordable housing' clause pref at least 50/50 then why not.

(Thoughts my own).

Unknown said...

I didn't realise they were scatting down the old building, as I agree it does have some value. My thoughts are that they are redeveloping the whole area anyway because of Brent Cross & if a conference space is needed why not there? You couldn't find a spot closer to main roads (like the north circular & motorways) & transport systems relating to public transport are likely to change soon anyway. One of the PC World's has closed across the road which is about the same size. I sincerely doubt congestion would be any worse than usual. But, thanks to you there is the crossing nearby which helps!

With regard to business use of conference centres, its not about office space - its the opportunity for a particular sector or trade to get together as an event that entices customers interested in that particular sector to one place.

Alison Hopkins said...

The brent Crodss mess is across the road and no improvements are planned for Dollis Hill - quite the opposite. The station may never happen and there's no pedestrian access planned across the main road and railway line, PLUS the bus routes are going to be mostly diverted.

That PC Works didn't attract over two thousand people simultaneously, which is what this centre is meant to. The centre is designed for large long timeline weddings, conferences and so on, not drop in events. That whole retail park is going, anyhow - and the centre visitros can't park there.

As I said, there's no proper access to the site other than from the A5 northbound, which means cars will cut through. The area is already very pressured indeed in the week for parking and certainy can't support this kind of extra volume.

I doubt that conference space of this nature is needed, given Wembley PArk and other close sites.

Most IT conferences, for example, need on site acccomodation and are usually held in large hotels. If you're talking about tarde shows - which I found to be a total waste of time, as an exhibitor or visitor - those need massive floor space to be viable, like the NEC.

The former owner of the building organised an event which had drop in visitors from all over the country. It caused chaos, with people parking as far down as Gladstone PArk Gardens. We put up with that, as it was only a few days in the year. This sin't that.

And none of this, of course, addresses the real issues of housing end employment.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with the idea of a conference centre per se but that building is lovely and should be preserved. If they build the new station as part of the Brent X regeneration it could work, but otherwise I'd imagine most people want to organise conferences somewhere with better transport links – and there are plenty of other venues in London which mean you don't have to resort to the miserable outback of a run-down industrial estate which is effectively in the middle of nowhere. I agree with Alison, that part of Dollis Hill is not currently suitable to attracting visitors.

Alison Hopkins said...

22:01 - yes, spot on. Other than the bit about run down industrial estate, it's actually getting decent refurbishment work all over and provides a great deal of employment. ;) Wing Yip, for example, have approval to do up the building next door to the Admiralty and the old Bathroom Centre has applied for conversion to rented flats. The old Remploy building and Hanover House have also been turned into decent rented accommodation. The Atlas Centre has new owners who are going to do it up a bit, but without losing the old historic Bentley works.

We've no say on the station, even if it ever happens, as it's in Barnet, with no proper access from our side. Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of Brent Cross, the regeneration area might be a better candidate for a conference venue, IF the station happens. But of course it's not as lucrative for Hammersons as shops, I suspect.

There sre advantages to not being close a Tube station in terms of longevity of residence. People tend to come here for the longer term, and that has benefits to community over some of the transience elsewhere.

Alison Hopkins said...

Just a PS.

If anyone is interested in the wider history of the area, have a look here:

I've been doing a bit of digging around lately.

Alison Hopkins said...

Scott, there are houses within a hundred yards of the building, as well as low height blocks of flats. And if you think about how visible the 27 storey block at West Hendon is, thaat shows how prominent this would be. Having done a little basic trigonometry, the block would overshadow many hundreds of houses.

I'd be delighted to show anyone interested exactly what the impact would be, based on a very granular and detailed knowledge of the area.

The fringe of the road may look scruffy in some bits, but I can assure you that we who live in close proximity don't think of our area as an "eyesore". Quite the opposite.

And our community is very very strong indeed, which is why we've foughr the Brent Cross mess for so long.

Anonymous said...

Dollis Hill is a shithole, no one will want to hire a conference facility there. If it gets through planning it will fail.

Alison Hopkins said...

The application has been withdrawn.

For now - but we're watching.

Ed Round said...

The number of developments along the Edgware Road, right up from Kilburn to Staples Corner, that are rightly objected to on the grounds of transport inadequacies, makes me think that a wholesale review of transport along this vital artery is desperately needed. Time for my monorail plan to swing into action, I think.

David Arditti said...

Definitely, Ed. If not a monorail, then a reinstatement of the tramline that once ran up the A5. And of course, the A5 needs cycle tracks. And an orbital passenger railway using the Dudding Hill freight line is also a good idea. Why does the A5 has to be as awful as it is? (I wrote at length on it here.) The main reason seems to me to be the split between local authorities: as a boundary road, no-one takes responsibility and no-one plans effectively for it to be made better. I'd like to see the Mayor of London take control of the road from the local authorities, who have left it in such an awful state. And if the Mayor could take over the whole Brent Cross Cricklewood mess with a Development Commission, as at Old Oak, that would also be beneficial.

I agree that this particular building is one of the few in the area that has some architectural merit, and it would be sad for it to be demolished. On the other hand, I see no fundamental reason why a conference centre is inappropriate to this area, if it goes with sensible transport planning. People mostly travel to conferences by public transport.