Wednesday 14 August 2019

Let's build a 24* storey housing block on a flood plain close to Brent's most polluted road...

The proposed 28 storey block with nearby terraced houses and Wembley Point for comparison (revisd image of 24 storeys awaited)
Argenta House on Argenta Way, opposite Stonebridge Park Station where the new block will be built. 
Wembley Point in the background.

Following on from Wembley Central's 'Twin Towers', the tower blocks around Wembley Stadium and those approved in Alperton, a 24 (*the developer's PR agency informs me that 4 storeys have been knocked off the original proposed 28 storeys) storey tower block proposal is going to Brent Planning Committee at its next meeting on Wednesday September 21st.

What is particularly worrying about this proposal is that the 28 storeys (which replace a two storey building) will be built on a flood plain where both Wembley Brook and the River Brent flow and next to the heavily polluted North Circular Road.

Not an ideal site for housing one would think but it is close to Wembley Point which is being converted to accommodation and across the road from he long empty Unisys building which is part of the larger Brent Council supported development which includes Bridge Park complex. Housing and a hotel are planned there as well as a smaller sports centre. Currently Stonebridge residents are in dispute over the plans.

As always Brent planning officers  find reasons to support the plans despite the obvious drawbacks. This is a breakdown of the flats planned for the block. The definition of 'affordable' used is'no more than 80%  of open market rents' (ie unaffordable for the most needy Brent residents):

The wording of a petition and a submission against the development is not available on the Brent Planning Portal. 

Officers argue that the'maximun reasonable amount [of affordable and intermediate housing] has been provided on a near policy compliant tenure split.' It will be subject to further viability assessments as the development proceeds.

While recognising the flood risk and the worsening situation as a result of climate change, and taking into ac count that the first three storeys of the development will not include residential accommodation, the officers state:
At face value on the basis of evidence provided by the applicants it appears, notwithstanding that some of the site is within functional floodplain, from a technical perspective there is the ability to create betterment over the current situation through new development. This is in relation to flood risk onsite and elsewhere (though reducing footprint/obstructions within the channel), improving the aesthetic, recreational and environmental/ bio-diversity performance of the river channel/ environs and also the appearance/ perception of this gateway site whilst meeting the very real issue of meeting housing needs.
 I would hope committee members investigate that statement a little more.

The section on pollution from traffic is even more opaque with officers concentrating on how the new development would add to traffic pollution rather than on existing levels of pollution, but go on to say:

Related to the above, air quality at the lowest levels of the building (levels 6 and below), especially on the eastern elevation closer to the North Circular, would not meet the air quality objections for Nitrogen Oxide, although particulate matter objectives would be met at all levels. This shows that the emissions from the North Circular have a major effect on air quality at the site, albeit that the impact is predicated greatest at the lower elevations and the effect decreases with height. 
However officers assure Planning Committee members that:
Officers have questioned the effectiveness of NOx filtration systems in these flats, since the flats will have opening windows and doors onto balconies. Opening of such doors and windows would result in untreated air entering the internal habitable rooms (depending on air pressure differences). The applicant's air quality consultant has carried out further testing to clarify that the efficiencies of the NOx filters are such that the NO2 levels in the internal air will be 80-90% lower than the incident air, meaning that the affected flats' windows would need to be open for at least 88-89% of the time for internal parts of the flats to exceed the annual mean Air Quality Objective levels that are considered safe. Similarly, it has been confirmed that the use of the balconies on these levels by occupants, even for extended periods, will not result in occupants' air exposure exceeding the annual mean air quality objectives for NO2. As such, it would be necessary for an occupant to live on the balcony (including at night) for such objectives to be exceeded.
Regular readers will not be surprised at the report's conclusion:
Officers consider that the scheme meets planning policy objectives and is in general conformitywith local, regional and national policy. The proposal would make a positive contribution to the area,whilst having an acceptable impact on and relationship with the existing surrounding development.Officers recommend the application for approval subject to the conditions and obligations set out in this report
The full report has much more detail including comments from the owners of Wembley Point regarding a possible bridge between the two buildings which will now occupty the site and potential improvements to Stonebridge Park Station. Available HERE

Residents can apply to the chair of the Planning Committee for leave to make representations at the meeting before a decision is made. Contact the Governance Officer
Email:; 020 8937 1354


Jaine Lunn said...

Wonder if they'll be giving discounts to people with advanced lung disease as living on the most polluted road in the country, it won't matter too much as their lungs are already damaged lol.
Just picture it, sitting on your balcony breathing all those luscious dangerous and noxious traffic fumes, while trying to relax to the never-ending hum of the Bakerloo trains rattling along one side and on the other all the cars and HGV's pumping out exhaust fumes while the engines are idling in the daily traffic queues, sounds wonderful doesn't it!

Jaine Lunn said...

Signs on the glass, saying "Windows don't open as no fresh air available anytime".

Anonymous said...

Maybe Sadiq Khan, our esteemed Mayor of London, could ban all traffic on the North Circular Road.

Anonymous said...

They say they've knocked 4 storeys off the top of the original plans. Why not cut out the bottom 6 storeys, and start the building 20 metres above ground level? That would help solve the air pollution and flood risk problems!!!