Sunday 3 March 2019

Parking chaos in Kings Drive will worsen when new bungalows replace garages

Kings Drive is a pleasant council estate in Wembley with a mixture of blocks of flats, town houses and terraced houses. It has many mature trees and grass verges. Apart from Kings Drive itself (a dead-end road) it consists of cul-de-sacs including one which at present is for car parking only, but where four bungalows are due to be built.

Parking problems have increased recently with more tenants having cars. The curtailment of the estate's already unreliable 206 bus route on the increased number of Wembley event days has unfortunately served an incentive to car ownership.  Residents argue that the removal of parking spaces and the addition of 4 bungalows when the garage site off King's Drive is redeveloped LINK will mean more parking problems.

Padlocks have appeared on the garages that are presently on the site and residents have been told it will be cleared ready for demolition by March 22nd.

When the planning application to demolish the garages currently occupying the car park site and build bungalows instead was made, the Council argued that the garages were under-used. Residents responded that they had been deliberately run-down and not let.  The Council argued that spaces on Greenhill Way, off Kings Drive, could be used for parking but that is some distance from the estate and is often full of cars, partly by council workers who park there to avoid parking charges and walk to Brent Civic Centre.

At present residents in Saltcroft Close suffer frequent missed waste collections because the bin lorries are unable to access the close because of parked cars.  Grass verges have been turned into mud when cars mount it to gain access or to actually park their cars when no other spaces are available.

King's Drive resident Dawn Condouriodise has protested to Brent Council CEO Carolyn Downs and councillors about the issue:
Dear Ms. Downs,

Despite a petition signed by 100+ concerned residents against losing our garages and car park, and confirmation that Kings Drive was/is indeed full to capacity by parking surveys carried out by Brent Housing Partnership/Council, during the planning process, planning permission was still granted to eliminate our garages and car park and replace them with 4 bungalows with gardens and parking spaces.

Kings Drive is lined with cars head to tail every day and after 6.00 the small car parks throughout the estate are packed with cars, double parked, treble parked and in desperation, on the grass.

We all know about the increase in knife and gun crime around London and Wembley is no different. Only recently a man was found shot dead in his car in Greenhill Way, a distance away from our estate, and the police have now placed signs ‘Criminals Beware’, on the very street that Brent council suggested residents park after our car park is demolished.

Is that where I should look for a car space at 9.00 every night when I return from visiting my mother in a nursing home? That’s if there is a space after all the cars that line the car park every night are forced out onto the road. If not, how far from my safe zone will I have to go.

As well as many young families, there is an ageing community up here and we’ve always felt safe in the confines of our estate until now, with the prospect of being forced out to roam the streets for a parking place.

Is Brent Council really willing to put the safety of residents, some who have lived here for over 50 years at risk, in their quest to build these 4 bungalows, that we were lead to believe were affordable housing, but which we discovered were not, as confirmed when my neighbour requested being put on the waiting list for one, and was told by Brent Housing Partnership at an estate meeting, that they were to be private and she couldn’t afford it.

Use London Transport? This is a no through road with a bus stop at the bottom of one side of the steep hill we live on, where 2 elderly women were recently mugged in daylight and another bus stop at the bottom of Kings Drive where gangs congregate at night and mugged my neighbour as he was walking up the road and incidentally also where my mother was mugged years ago twice, in broad daylight. Would you want your mother or daughter to walk up from there? or to be searching there for a car space after dark?

We all know about the need for more housing to accommodate the increasing influx of people to our area and around Wembley Stadium thousands of homes are being built continuously.  Isn’t that enough without destroying our safe area.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought Brent Council was responsible for the safety and welfare of its residents, or is empire building their only concern now, whatever the consequences.

The worrying question is what is more important to Brent Council, the safety of its residents or 4 bungalows ? I fear the latter.

I can only hope I am proved wrong for the sake of my safety, the safety of all the anxious families involved with that petition and everyone in this area who use the car park.
Brent Council's Operational Director of Housing, Hakeem Osinaike  replied:
Thank you for your email of 19 February, which has been passed to me for a response. I am very sorry to hear about your concerns and hope that the contents of this email will go some way to allay some of your concerns.

You are right, the Council has granted planning permission for four bungalows on the site you refer to, following the statutory consultation process. This project is part of the Council’s new affordable home programme, in conjunction with the Mayor of London’ Building Council Homes for Londoners programme. The programme’s main objective is to increase the supply of good quality and affordable homes for the residents of Brent. 

London has a housing crisis and Brent has been hit hard by this. Currently in Brent, we have 3,397 households on the Waiting List who have been identified as being in priority need for housing and more gets added every day. From our current stock and supply from Housing Association partners, we currently let about 600 homes a year. It is therefore clear that we need to do something significant to address this issue, which is why we have started a programme to build over 800 new homes across the borough. Land as you may already know is in short supply in London and Brent in particular. Brent has therefore targeted sites which are under-utilised and in our ownership in the first instance, because this minimises the build costs and enables us to start work solving this crisis as soon as possible.

As part of the planning process, parking will always be part of the consideration for a new development and due regard will be given to the needs of current occupants and the households who will live in the new homes. Having said that, whilst we do not wish to trivialise the impact or give undue consideration to the problems caused by reduced parking, we have to consider a balance between parking and our ability to deliver solutions that go in some small way to solving the very real housing problems that people on low incomes are now facing.

I am sorry to hear that you feel frightened and unsafe in the area and I am truly sorry to hear about the bad experiences that you have had in the past. I would however suggest that should you be concerned about your safety in future, you should report this to the Police in the first instance.

I apologise if this is not the response you wanted to hear, however the need to supply more council homes is now a priority for the London Borough of Brent.
This is clearly a problem with no easy answers: we need more council housing but not at the expense of existing tenants, we need fewer cars on the road but must have viable and safe public transport alternatives, and the council should recognise that 'car-free developments' often result in transferring additional parking demand to nearby roads.

Commenting on this article, Michael Pavey, Labour councillor for Barnhill ward said:
"It is ludicrous to remove garages when the parking in an area is already overwhelmed. We absolutely need new homes in Brent, but this cannot be at the expense of our existing communities. Residents have been crystal clear in their opposition to this scheme from the very outset but sadly the Council has consistently ignored their concerns." 

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