Saturday 3 November 2018

Big changes for St Raphael's Estate on Brent Cabinet agenda

The Brent Council Cabinet is poised to approve a consultation on the redevelopment of St Raphael's Estate at its meeting on Monday November 12th (4pm, Brent Civic Centre). LINK

The estate borders the North Circular Road and the River Brent and consists of around 1174 properties of which Brent Council manages 807. Network Housing also manages some and others are private following Right to Buy. The estate was constructed between 1967 and 1982 with little intervention since.

'Limited' shops

Open views on to green space

Space for small gardens and lawned common areas

Green space between the estate and the River Brent

The officers' report states:

St Raphael’s estate was built when land was in abundance and therefore the build density is low. This presents an opportunity, for the Council to consider what options are available to maximise housing supply on the estate. By doing so, the Council can start to address the housing needs on the estate, as demonstrated above. Initial indications are that, with careful planning and support of residents on the estate, redevelopment options could produce significantly more homes, of the right size and which are genuinely affordable, than the current residents of the estate require. 


1. Refurbishment with Limited New Build– This option would retain but increase the height of the existing blocks but could also possibly add new blocks on available land as in-fill to the existing estate. This option would not likely to be able to deliver the best outcomes for St Raphael’s that a re- development could as it would eat into and not re-provide greenspace. It would not facilitate the reprovision of better community facilities. 

2. Re-development - This option would be the most radical and would likely involve the re-modelling of the estate and also increase the overall numbers of homes located on the Estate and at the same time, address the socio- economic issues affecting residents on the estate through improvements to the infrastructure on the estate. This would require a ballot. 

If Option 2 is not to eat into the green space on the estate and between the estate and the river, it appears likely that there will be high rise development.

In the past the estate had a difficult relationship with the residents of the private houses just over the River Brent in Monks Park. At one stage Monks Park residents asked that the bridge linking the two should be removed so that St Raphael's residents couldn't access their streets. Brent Council leader Muhammed Butt declares two residences on Monks Park in the Register of Interests and Dawn Butler has a house there.

Brent Council recognises the socio-economic challenges the estate faces:

The Council is committed to improving the housing, environmental and economic outcomes for those who live on the St Raphael’s Estate. The Council is aware from both the feedback and from its own knowledge of the Estate that there are environmental, safety and socio-economic issues for St Raphael’s. For example, the Community Profile for St Raphael’s identifies some specific challenges for its residents:

·      38% of children are living in poverty in St Raphael’s compared with 19% across England 

·      25% of people have no qualifications in St Raphael’s compared with 22% across England, 18% in London and 19% in Brent 

·      27% are in full time employment compared with 39% across England, 40% in London and 36% in Brent 

The Council also knows that there are other issues.
·      St Raphael’s is identified as having a low PTAL (public transport accessibility level), and only 56% of households have a car (compared to 74% nationally). 

·      The nature of the roads and river surrounding St Raphael’s can make it feel isolated even although it is relatively close to Wembley, which is exacerbated by the limited retail offer on the Estate. 

·      There are also issues in regards to the air quality and noise from the North Circular. The parts of the estate immediately beside the North Circular have high poorer air quality (65-90 NO2 (ug/m3) – reducing down to 75 dB) - reducing down to 0-55 dB further into the Estate. 

The Council is also aware that personal robbery is a prevalent crime on St Raphael’s estate, which increased by 107% from last year, compared to an increase of 52% in the rest of the borough. Also increasing, but to a lesser extent, are assault of wounding/Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH). There is also recorded gang activity on the estate. The Council’s Community Safety and Housing Management teams are working very closely with the Metropolitan Police to try and tackle these issues. However, the design and nature of the estate is likely to be a contributing factor in these crimes. 

The redevelopment option would introduce private housing into the St Raphael's mix in order to finance the redevelopment and provision of additional affordable housing and the South Kilburn regeneration is cited as an exemplar. However there are differences in terms of involvement with private developers:
Whilst the South Kilburn model has worked through the Council engaging with delivery partners to deliver and manage new private and affordable housing, on St Raphael’s the Council will seek to explore with its partners and Council wholly owned companies such as I4B and First Wave Housing, to be able to deliver/manage private sale or market rent housing products, as well as retention of social housing by the Council alongside Network Homes and Peabody Trust.
Unlike the South Kilburn development any redevelopment of St Raphael's will have to go to a tenants' ballot following GLA rules. 

Here are extracts from a residents' survey about the estate (click on images to enlarge):

Given the report's mention of gang activity it is noteworthy that 'facilities for youth' is top of the residents' agenda for improvement but that of course is not just a matter of providing a building but also the provision of ongoing funding. The Roundwood Centre is a great building, the last one left in Brent, but the latest Brent Council budget proposes no longer funding its youth service activities.

The high priority given to parks and green spaces by residents is also significant and it is likely that any proposals that eat into that space will be opposed.

Overall of course concerns that the redevelopment is a cover for gentrification will have to be addressed by councillors and council officers.


Philip Grant said...

Brent Council does not seem to be very knowledgeable on the history of its properties (something I first discovered when dealing with them over the former Willesden Green Library and the Barham Park buildings)!

The Officers' Report to Cabinet says that most of the estate was built 1967 to 1982, but many of the houses in Garden Way, Mead Plat and Mitchell Way, and along that side of the North Circular Road, go back much further than that. They are solid wall (concrete slab) houses built as part of Willesden Urban District Council's Brentfield Estate.

Brentfield was the district's first Council housing estate, part of the "homes fit for heroes" drive, immediately after the First World War. It was begun around 1919/20, on low lying land between the Harrow Road / Brentfield Road and the River Brent, and finished in the late 1920's.

Its original road layout was cut across by the North Circular Road, which was also built during the 1920's (this section in around 1923/24). You can see on the aerial view at the top of the blog how three roads were cut through, so that the original plans for the estate had to be changed.

All of these original, almost 100 year old, houses have been upgraded over the years (to improve insulation, among other things), but if the Council were to check in its own Brent Archives, it would discover more about the history of the houses on "St Raphael's" estate that it owns.

The Officers' Report says: 'St Raphael’s estate was built when land was in abundance and therefore the build density is low.' Land may have been 'in abundance' after WW1, but the size of the gardens for each house built on the original estate was for a different reason.

It was a reflection that these were designed as decent homes for the men (and women) who had given so much in the war, in the trenches and munitions factories. Their gardens were of a decent size, so that the children they raised would have somewhere to play, and where they could grow vegetables to feed their families, and flowers to make life more enjoyable.

Don't families today deserve a decent home, in an estate community where they can feel safe, rather than a box (even with all "mod cons") in a high rise, high density development, with no green space of their own?

Oliwia said...

As if Brent don't have where to spend their money. I live on the estate and have for 10 years and never been so let down and devastated by Brent. destroying a thousand people's homes, including mine when there's so much empty unused buildings in Brent which could be transformed into flats without affecting anyone. I will not support this .

Ah said...

I definitely agree. I also live in the estate and have been for just under 5 years and these ‘Developments’ that are going on including roof top construction,Scaffolding and many more to come really shows how Wembley is trying to become the new Oxford Circus and all in all it’s just sad because this show just how much our council is will to do to protect our homes and livelyhoods!

Anonymous said...

I agree 100%
There is that old office building i believe formerly called Unysis building. This has been deleralic, unused since I was born for just over 30yrs I have been told. Old delapilated buildings everywhere which could be retrofitted into homes for homeless people & homes for 'average wage earners' to be able to really afford to buy £300,000 max selling price for 3/4 bedroom homes for families.
100max 1bedroom.

I love in St Raph's and am proud to show people where I live because we have open space no high-rise good community spirit despite them taking away everything our community centre, not empty our bins leave the road with pot holes all done dilberate for us to to get fed up and want to leave but the grass not always greener on the other side. So you are not going to drive me out of St Raphs Brent Council and Cllr Muhammed Butt