Thursday 29 June 2017

Huge disappointment as Brent approves controversial development proposals for Corrib and Gladstone Parade

The divide between local residents and Brent Council widened further last night when despite opposition from local residents, supported by their councillors, the Planning Committee followed officer advice and approved controversial developments at the Corrib Rest, Queens Park, and Gladstone Parade, Dollis Hill.

Although listed as objecting to the Corrib Rest proposal, Robin Sharpe representing the 400 strong Queens Park Area Residents Association, actually spoke in support of the application although he felt it could be improved.  He suggested that QPARA had been successful in increasing the number of hours that the replacement community space would be available to 40 hours although they would like it to be available until 3pm on Fridays rather than just Monday to Thursday.  He urged the developer to work with the community to make the project a success. Full text HERE

 A Hopefield Avenue resident also spoke in favour claiming that the new proposal would reduce the 'nuisance' previously experienced by homeowners in Hopefield because the community space would now be on the ground floor, rather than the first floor, and would not have an entrance in her street.

Opposing the application Kevin Barratt, representing Irish Pensioners and the 2,000 people who had signed a petition opposing the development, wanted to see more community involvement before a decision was made. He said that the Council would be better off keeping the Corrib as a community facility, rather than using money generated by the development to fund other community facilities.

He argued that with no street entrance in Hopefield Avenue, users would have to access the ground floor community room by walking through the bar, which would not be appropriate for some users. He suggested that the community space had been 'designed to fail' so that eventually the developer could convert it into housing.   He said that the replacement space was smaller than the current two first floor spaces that were to be replaced by flats. The proposed ground floor community room lacked light and space and the number of toilets had been reduced.

Dan Judelson who had tried to co-ordinate meanwhile space at the Corrib said that opposition to the scheme was 'wide and deep' and that their submission explained whey they had pulled out. He said that they were dealing with a property developer and not a community organisation and that the best guide was to look at the developer's track record in Camden. We shouldn't rely on businesses to provide community spaces of their own volition, such facilities should be supported and protected by councillors and the Council.

Cllr Denselow pointed to the 25% reduction in the number of London pubs and thus the need to protect the Corrib's Asset of Community Value status and to follow the Council's pub protection policy.  He wanted to see a thriving community space funded by the Council. He raised the question of whether Brent Council had the necessary skills to implement the Business Plan for the project.

Cllr Nerva said he had been trying to work out why no separate entrance had been provided for the community space and asked if there were plans to rescue the dance floor by re-installing it on the ground floor or making it available to another organisation.  The pub's viability would depend on the rent to be paid to the landlord (both for community space and the weekend commercial lettings) and he wanted to see upfront information on comparable rents locally. He asked how the community room provision could be revoked by the owner of it turned out not to be successful.  He thought an entrepreneurial landord would seek to extend the hours for the community space.

Cllr Pitruzzella was concerned that the community space would not be available at the weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) for community activities. Cllr Conneely sent a written submission objecting to the privatisation of a community facility if the development went ahead and remarked that she had used the Corrib as a community hub for 30 years and did not want to lose it. She queried representation on the community board that would oversee the community space. Cllr Duffy sent in a request that the Committee defer a decision pending further consultation.

Paul Clough, Brent Legal Adviser, said that the landlord would have to apply to the Council for any variation in conditions attached to the community space.  Summing up the Brent Planning Officer said that they were satisfied that the developer's was a 'generous offer' and warned that it was important not to make too many conditions that would mean the pub became unviable.  He said that they had investigated a stand alone community space with its own entrance but could not ignore the concerns of Hopefield Avenue residents and their experience of anti-social behaviour.  He said it was not reasonable to request availability of the space earlier in the day as this had not happened before. Officers would look into how to advertise the space to ensure community groups knew about it and would set up a review if it was not being used. He suggested that wording be added to say that hire rates should be comparable to local authority rates.

Planning Committee members then voted unanimously for the application. Cllr Choudhary's hand did not appear the be raised but he confirmed later that he had voted for the proposal.

Afterwards it was clear that some of the long-term users of the Corrib felt that they had been scuppered by Hopefield Avenue resident protecting the value of their properties from a Corrib user profile which did not match their, or the Council's,  aspirations for the area.

Next up was the proposal to demolish Gladstone Parade on the Edgware Road, Dollis Hill, with its local shops and flats above, with a much bigger development.  Alison Hopkins spoke as lead petitioner saying that the shops were a local community asset, the hairdresser had been there for 50 years and the grocery shop had recently been refurbished. There was no guarantee that the current shopkeepers would be offered a lease or tenure of the replacement shops or would be able to afford it. Residents objected to over-development of the site as well as the replacement accommodation being unaffordable to locals. Instead they wanted the current properties, which appeared to have been deliberately run down, with vacant properties not marketed by the freeholder (in order to help his application?),  to be regenerated and refurbished - not demolished and replaced by something that did not meet local needs.

Andy Thompson for Dollis Hill Residents Association, a statutory consultee, said that that the proposed development was inappropriate for the area and did not meet density requirements. Its position on the busy Edgware Road, with high air pollution, meant that the development would not be suitable for families, with children's health particularly at risk.

To cries of denial from the residents and shopkeepers in the public gallery, the developer claimed to have had discussions with the fish and chip shop owner and others (a claim later repeated by Brent planning officers) and that that there had been detailed reapplication discussions with planning officers to ensure the proposal was acceptable.  Six of the housing units were 'intermediate' and four 'affordable' although the latter rate was not defined.

Cllr Liz Dixon, representing residents, said that at first she had been in favour of the development recognising that it provided much needed housing, However, she had been inundated with  comments from local people and shopkeepers and realised that the Parade was a vital part of the local community.  It was very much an elderly community who have known each other and the shops for years.  She had been educated along with the campaign and a sense of community was at the heart of the issues.  It was true that the community had not been consulted properly and this was a major concern. Addressing the developer she said, you haven't learnt about the community.  The new homes would be at the expense of the existing community - there was a need to balance what we need with what we have. In a phrase which would serve for many of the developments in the borough, including or perhaps especially, Wembley, she said that new developments had to benefit the existing community.

The Committee then voted 7-1 in favour of the application with Cllr Maurice the lone councillor voting against.


Anonymous said...

Councillors, eh?
Naïve? Or corrupt?

Alison Hopkins said...

I will be writing more on this, as you might imagine.

I was, however, a bit boggled that Cllr Dixon said she'd known nothing about the community round the parade until this was brought to her attention very recently. Claiming it's an "elderly" community is pretty inaccurate: the demographic isn't, nor are the shop users.

It's a huge shame all three were so very late to the party. The first time any of them said they might oppose was on Monday.

And yes, both the developers and the officers lied about the shopkeepers being contacted. The rumours of the plans have been bubbling under for some while - the pub, chippie,Sandra the hairdresser and the Londis have ALL been trying to renew the leases for years!

This is an utter utter disgrace on so very many levels. The committee ignored everything we said, or argued - wrongly - about it. They had obviously not read the on line objections, either.

It's a committee without point or purpose, if all it does is rubber stamp officers and Butt.

Anonymous said...

Cllr Maurice is now the only one standing up for the community, Well done to you. At a loss to understand why the elected councillors are not standing up for the residents that voted them in. Brent seem to be hell bent on tearing up communities and running rough shod over everyone and objections falling on deaf ears. Just heed the warning, be careful of what you reap and sow. Well most of them won't be around in the next 20 years, so don't give a shit.

Philip Grant said...

Cllr Maurice is the only member of the committee who is not a Labour councillor.

Although I am not a member or supporter of any political party, I think that a Council where 56 of the 63 members belong to just one party is very bad for local democracy.

I'm afraid that this situation encourages many members of the majority party to think that they don't need to concern themselves with the views of the residents they are supposed to represent. They feel that as long as they stand as Labour candidates, they will be re-elected, and continue to pick up their £10k a year (as well as some extra "responsibility" allowances for any committee work they do). And they don't want to upset the party Leadership, in case they get deselected.

As Alison has said in her separate "guest blog" about the Gladstone Parade planning decision, 'This is NOT democracy'. Or if it IS (as the councillors did get elected), it is democracy which is not working well for the residents of Brent, and it is up to us to do something about it at the Council elections in May 2018.