Friday, 17 May 2019

Some mistake, surely? Brent Council wins planning awards while complaints about housing escalate

Chase House, South Kilburn
Guest post by Pete Firmin, South Kilburn Estate resident

Legend has it that emperor Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Brent Council leadership seem to be staging a modern re-enactment when, while receiving baubles for its planning team, it turns a blind eye to reports of the poor standard of housing being built.
The Council website proudly proclaims LINK 

Brent scoops planning award 
A UK planning industry award was handed to Brent council's planning team yesterday (24 April) in recognition of the projects and plans and commitments made by the team to borough.
The RTPI [Royal Town Planning Institute] awards for planning excellence is the longest running and most high-profile awards in the industry and celebrates the teams and projects that transform economies, environments and communities all over the UK and internationally.
Brent scooped the Local Authority Planning Team of the Year award ahead of nine other shortlisted authorities.
The judges noted how Brent's planning team excelled in all areas of work. They were impressed with their desire to continually reflect on their performance and look for ways to develop and improve their service.
Cllr Tatler, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Highways and Planning, said:
"This is a great achievement and one that we should be proud of. We were up against some of the best nationally to win Planning Team of the Year and it just shows that we are on the right path with what we are doing here in Brent for residents, creating new homes, opportunities and building a better borough.

In stark contrast, about the same time, Catalyst Housing announced that all residents would have to leave Merle Court in Carlton Vale within 18 months. Not only has the flammable cladding on the building to be removed, but Catalyst say that the need for major internal works mean residents have to move out.

In recent months local Councillors and the MP, Tulip Siddiq, have received many complaints from residents of Argo House in Kilburn Park road of major problems, including poor ventilation, internal mould, intermittent hot water and heating, loose cables and loose cladding. Residents also say they are getting little or now support from the property managers or Home Group Housing association.

A few weeks ago, residents of Chase House in Hansel Road tweeted photos of the state of their bloc, including mould. This week the Kilburn Times picks up on that LINK but with the additional facts this concerns not just Chase House, but also Franklin House (Carlton Vale) and Hollister House on Kilburn Park Road. The common factor to all three is that they are all managed by L & Q. Their common problems are like those of Argo House.

Such problems are not new. Like Merle Court, Swift House and George House (managed by L & Q) on Albert Road, have flammable cladding and have had 24-hour firewatch since shortly after the Grenfell tragedy. L & Q is currently in the process of removing the cladding on Swift House, which means residents are surrounded by ugly scaffold for an extended period.

George House also needed a new roof after the previous one leaked. It still has flat roofs which collect water.

Kilburn Quarter (Network Homes, Cambridge Road) had to have their balconies waterproofed after it was discovered they were leaking.

These problems come on top of a myriad of lesser issues (though not to the residents…) that have been reported for years, as well as issues of rocketing service charges imposed.

What all these properties have in common is that they have been built as part of Brent Council’s regeneration of South Kilburn. All are new, and the problems are common to both “social” and market-price residents.

Before this latest award, Brent won several plaudits for its “flagship” regeneration and refused to listen to those residents and community activists, including the local Kilburn branch of the Labour Party, who tried to raise these issues.

Clearly the problems are common to several different property developers and housing associations. Despite the awards (which never seem to involve local people among their judges), builders and housing associations have been taking advantage of Brent’s enthusiasm for regeneration to build sub-standard housing.

Brent appears to want to disclaim any responsibility for these problems, referring all enquiries from journalists about Merle Court to Catalyst without comment. However, not only was Merle Court built in partnership with Brent Council, but Brent gave panning permission for all these blocks (which replace previous Council housing). They are all part of the Council’s regeneration of South Kilburn, and social tenants in them were referred on by Brent after their Council housing was demolished. Brent shares some responsibility for this situation beyond simply being the Local Authority in which poor quality housing exists.

The concern is that, with South Kilburn regeneration to continue for many years, and Brent wanting to “regenerate” St Raphaels estate, we can see further similar problems.

South Kilburn residents and community activists are, however, getting organised. As well as calling for current faults to be rectified, we must call for a halt to regeneration until Brent and the community, are satisfied that housing is build to a decent standard and housing associations and property managers take real responsibility for their buildings.


John Healy said...

Great article Pete. Brent council will be publishing their details for the South Kilburn ballot, along with their 'new allocation policy' at the beginning of June. Then we will be able to show the council, that most resident's and leaseholders may not agree with their Regeneration plans to demolish our homes.

John Healy said...

The South Kilburn ballot has been delayed for the third time and is now forwarded to July, 2019. However the 'new allocations policy' is still on track to be published in June, 2019.