Friday 9 June 2017

Locals challenge Brent Council's 'vision' for South Kilburn regeneration

The Brent Cabinet of June 19th, starting at the earlier time of 6pm, has a full agenda with several items relating to the controversial South Kilburn regeneration. The main item is adoption of a revised South Kilburn Supplementary Planning document. I receommed a full reading of the Officers' responses to representations made by local people (report embedded below) and others but here is a taster:

Leslie Barson and Dee Woods representing users of Granvill Plus Centre and the Carlton Centre

The vision is not the vision of the people of South Kilburn. It is an imposed vision whose prime purpose is to maximize housing. This has no long term benefits for the people of South Kilburn nor does it address the council’s own aims such as “improved public realm” (Masterplan Consultation Website) building for health and happiness. In fact it feels that the views are used to justify the decisions the Council wants with those decisions not necessarily in the interests of those who live and work in South Kilburn. They may coincide but they may not. The document has so many inaccuracies that it is hard to believe the people writing it really knew or were interested in South Kilburn. Its platitudes and disingenuous statements skew the reader to the decision the Council would like to see but don’t show the full picture. Brent Council should sign up to Community Engagement Principles as defined in the National Standards for Community Engagement ( putting these into action in South Kilburn to make some recompense for the years of bad practice. 

Officer response

The vision is an update of the original South Kilburn SPD, informed by the New Deal for Communities work. It has been subject to extensive engagement and reflects the opportunities that the area provides taking account of the area’s social, environmental and economic assets within the wider macro context that exists; particularly the need for viable delivery of new social rent dwellings, greater tenure diversity in the area, update of and additional provision of social infrastructure, increased opportunity for residents plus updated London planning policy which requires the efficient use of land.
Identifying that the masterplan has no long-term benefits for the people of South Kilburn is clearly inconsistent with the evidence of what has been achieved so far, including feedback from tenants who have moved into new dwellings, or accessed new/updated facilities. It also ignores the external validation of the work achieved for example by the Mayor of London. The Council recognises that regeneration is more than just a physical process ‘done’ to the local community; it complicated and requires engagement/support/participation and covers a multiplicity of issues. The Council has sought to follow good principles of regeneration wherever it can and for the vast majority of resident’s/local community groups, this is evidenced by a positive feedback. Inaccuracies have not been identified by the respondent and their response contains the type of sweeping generalisations it identifies the Council exhibit in the SPD. The masterplan process since 2005 and regeneration of the estate has quite rightly given the proposed level of change exhibited substantial levels of sustained engagement.

South Kilburn Trust

There is a risk of creating a divided community – on the one hand of people in social housing, set against private housing - very expensive to buy, or at high rents on short tenancies. There are a huge swathe of people in between - people who are working, and can’t get into social housing, but increasingly can’t afford to live in South Kilburn, let alone buy or rent a space big enough for their family. Different tenures and opportunities needs to seriously be considered so as not to end up with community of, bluntly speaking, rich and poor. And so it needs to be considered whether making the most amount of money out of a site is the best thing to do for the regeneration of an area.

Officer response

This scenario is one which officers are well aware of and is recognised in the SPD. The SPD identifies that ideally a wider range of tenures should be provided in the area. Nevertheless, it also identifies that firstly that the Council must make good on its promise to replace the number of existing social rented homes lost to the regeneration.
Unfortunately in the financial climate within the public sector currently, without grant/additional external funds opportunities for provision of alternative tenure types will be very limited. Social rent properties are extremely expensive to subsidise. The only other alternative would be to increase density to create greater subsidy. The Council is not using South Kilburn as a money making exercise; all proceeds are recycled within the regeneration of the area. The Council takes a whole life view of its assets and functions balancing up commercial property values with its role as a wider supporter of the community a significant number of which are reliant on many of the services it provides. 

Residents will be concerned about another proposal on the Agenda which  'appropriates' the green space to enable the redevelopment of Gloucester House and Durham Court to go ahead. A 'quality' replacement is promised:
The redevelopment of Gloucester House and Durham Court site consists of:
·      The demolition of 209 residential units and garages contained within the Gloucester House and Durham Court site
·      Erection of 236 new residential units - market sale (134 new homes) and affordable social rented (102 new homes)
·      Relocation and improvement of the public open space and play area at the north of the Site
·      New public realm and improved routes through the Site
·      Landscaped private and shared gardens
·      Basement car park providing 91 spaces
·      Space for an energy centre for the South Kilburn District Energy System.
·      Market and affordable dwellings including a range of 1 to 4 bed flats and 3 and 4 bed duplex family units
The appropriation includes open space with a public children’s play area, however a new replacement play area will be provided. The Planning Committee Report of 20 August 2014 identified that in order to justify the proposed redevelopment it is important that the replacement facility is of a significantly improved quality. The report found that overall, the proposals appear to be of sufficient quality to justify the redevelopment of the existing play area and inconvenience that will be caused during construction when no play area will be provided.
It should also be noted that Paddington Recreation Ground is around 330m away, South Kilburn Urban Park approximately 400m away and in May 2016 the new Woodhouse Urban Park in South Kilburn opened which is just over 500m away.

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