Wednesday 29 April 2020

1 Morland Gardens should be considered 'an important local heritage asset of high significance' - Brent Heritage Officer

The proposals for the redevelopment of 1 Morland Gardens on a prominent corner site in Harlesden/Stonebridge have attracted much controversy over the loss of a well-loved landmark in the Italianate style villa presently occupying the site. LINK  There has been an argument about its relative heritage merit and whether alternative proposals should be considered which would preserve the villa. LINK

Brent Council have kindly supplied me with the advice of the Council's Principal Heritage Officer which I hope will be given due weight.

Application Number 20/0345

Consultee Details 

Name: Mr Mark Price Principal Heritage Officer
On Behalf Of: Principal Heritage Conservation Officer 


SIGNIFICANCE: 1 Morland Gardens is a Locally Listed Building [a non-designated heritage asset] but not in a conservation area nor a statutory listed building. The local list description (attached) confirms and sets out its significance. It has a significance score of 8 out of 12 and therefore it should be considered an important local heritage asset of high significance. 

The Heritage Statement submitted with the planning application [at 8.8] confirms the authenticity and the intactness of the building and therefore its relative significance and states that Externally, the Victorian house remains mostly intact and The houses south-facing façade still makes an impression on those passing along Hillside. However, although the report considers the history and use of the building, it does not put it into the immediate local context of Stonebridge nor as a building type within the Borough of Brent. It is therefore difficult to come to any judgement about its potential loss. Furthermore, it does not make a case for its demolition or give any comment on the merits of the replacement building. 

The NPPF at paragraph 8 states that an Analysis of relevant information can generate a clear understanding of the affected asset, the heritage interests represented in it, and their relative importance. It goes on to point out at paragraph 9 that Applicants are expected to describe in their application the significance of any heritage assets affected, including any contribution made by their setting (National Planning Policy Framework paragraph 189). In doing so, applicants should include analysis of the significance of the asset and its setting, and, where relevant, how this has informed the development of the proposals. 

Unfortunately, such information has not been provided. 

Brents DMP 7 [b] is quite clear that applicants should provide a detailed analysis and justification of the potential impact (including incremental and cumulative) of the development on the heritage asset and its context as well as any public benefit and [at c] argues to retain buildings where their loss would cause harm. With this in mind, the applicants should seek further advice from a heritage specialist to gather further evidence in support of this application. The specialist might offer different conclusions or mitigation measures for the Council to consider. 

I am aware that the D&A Statement at section 5.1, Heritage, alludes to the fact that the Design Team have carefully considered a wide range of development options for the application site, including options that retain the historic core of the building. Also that the proposed building is not without considerable design merit. However, the development options need to be carefully set out and argued as part of the planning application and form part of the heritage statement along with the architectural merits of the new design as well as the other public benefits [as defined by the NPPF] to countenance demolition. 

In my view, therefore, this additional information needs to be obtained before a proper assessment of the proposals can be determined.


Philip Grant said...

Without this report, the Council's 1 Morland Gardens application would have been going to next Wednesday's "virtual" Planning Committee meeting for approval.

The Historic Building Assessment (referred to in the "Advice" above as a Heritage Statement) was prepared in April 2019, before the plans that involved demolishing the Victorian villa had been drawn up. The Council should have used it to help them shape proposals that would have provided a better use of the site, while keeping the locally listed heritage building as part of any new development.

Instead, the Council got carried away with the idea of how much more they could put on the site by demolishing the Victorian building, without regard to their own planning policies on heritage assets.

The only way they could justify the demolition of the building, to fit in with their finally chosen scheme, which Cabinet gave the go-ahead for in January, was to claim that this heritage asset had 'minimal significance'. The planning consultant (submitting the application on the Council's behalf) did this, saying that the Historic Building Assessment backed that view. It did not, and neither did the other evidence already available.

Now that the Council's own experienced historic buildings professional has (correctly) said that 1 Morland Gardens is 'an important local heritage asset of high significance', I wonder whether the Council (and the leading officers and councillors involved) will admit that they were wrong.

Or will they try to find another way to justify doing the exact opposite of what their own planning policies on heritage assets promise?

Philip Grant said...

I have sent a link to the blog above, and copy of my comment, to Cllr. Amer Agha, who is the Lead Member and spokesperson for the Council's proposals over 1 Morland Gardens.

I have invited Cllr. Ager to reply to my comment, as part of Martin's policy of encouraging open debate on matters of local public concern.

Philip Grant said...


I did get a reply from Cllr. Amer Agha on 13 May.

This was after I had written to him again, to draw his attention to a new objection against the Council's plans to demolish the Victorian villa at 1 Morland Gardens, which the Case Officer received on 1 May, from a Professor of the History of Architecture at York University.

The Professor, an acknowledged expert on Victorian architecture, had explained in detail the importance of H.E. Kendall Jnr. as an architect, and concluded his objection by saying:

'In short, 1 Morland [Gardens] is not just any nineteenth-century villa, but a charactistic work by an architect of genuine and lasting signaficance. Its destruction would be a terrible loss, not only to the local environment, but also to the architectural heritage of Victorian Britain. I strongly urge you to reject this proposal.'

Cllr. Agha said that the Council sometimes has to make difficult decisions, and that in the end, a balanced judgement will be made, by Planning Committee, after the current evaluation of the proposals by Brent Council's planners.

His own view is clearly that the benefits of the proposals outweigh the loss of the heritage building.