|1 Morland Gardens
|The approved redevelopment
There had been 48 initial objections to the plans with a further 15 when plans review, a 330-signature e-petition against and a 36-person written petition from Willesden Local History Society.
There were just 3 comments on the Planning Portal in support.
Chair of Brent Planning Committee Cllr James Denselow voted against mainly on grounds of confusion over the DMP7 policy on heritage and view shared by Cllr Maurice who also voted against and felt additionally that the Council as applicant could have done more work on the proposal.
In his presentation to the Committee Roger Macklen said:
I have lived in Stonebridge since 1947, and as well as being a local resident, I’m a member of Willesden Local History Society.
Stonebridge has changed during my lifetime, much of it not for the better. Many of the newer buildings are tasteless and have nothing to please the eye.
1 Morland Gardens, or Altamira as I know it, is a beautiful landmark building that has been around since 1876.
It was part of the original Stonebridge Park, that gave its name to the area.
Please see the two photos we sent you - Altamira and its neighbour have been an impressive part of the scene by the main junction for more than a century.
They are the only buildings with this belvedere tower design left in Brent, and together they add so much to Stonebridge’s townscape.
Brent’s Heritage Officer said in April that Altamira: ‘should be considered an important local heritage asset of high significance.’ He was right.
Brent’s planning guidance says: ‘Brent’s heritage assets make a substantial contribution to the borough’s local character and distinctiveness. They are a unique and irreplaceable resource which justifies protection, conservation and enhancement.’
Brent’s new Historic Environment Strategy says: ‘Once a heritage asset is demolished it cannot be replaced. Its historic value is lost forever to the community and future generations and it cannot be used for regeneration and place-making purposes.’
This application wants to demolish Altamira, an irreplaceable building that’s part of Stonebridge’s character, and should be kept, for the long-term benefit of the community.
366 local residents have signed a petition asking the Council not to demolish it.
The applicants claim that 1 Morland Gardens is of ‘low significance ... and of local interest only.’ That’s wrong - and there’s plenty of evidence to prove it.
It’s shown to be wrong by the Council’s own Local List score of 8 out of 12, which the Heritage Officer has confirmed, and by objections from nearly 50 people who understand the history of the area and the value of this building.
And it’s shown to be wrong by objections from The Victorian Society, and from a Professor of Architecture, and expert on H.E. Kendall, who wrote:
‘1 Morland Gardens is not just any nineteenth-century villa, but a characteristic work by an architect of genuine and lasting significance. 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 application.
In his submission, local historian Philip Grant who contributes regularly to Wembley Matters said:
Brent’s policy DMP7 says: ‘Proposals for...heritage assets should...retain buildings, ...where their loss would cause harm.’Questioned by councillors Philip Grant said that in 1994-95 Brent Council made alterations and extensions to the building in line with heritage policy. Design of them was subordinated to the main building and the view from Hillside preserved. He said he was not opposed to change or alterations, not to housing and the college, if such changes were also subordinate to what should be a protected building.
These proposals went wrong over that policy from the start – they didn’t show: ‘an understanding of the architectural or historic significance’ of this heritage building ...
... and instead of considering what viable use could be made of it, they started with a “wish-list” that made it impossible to retain.
The applicants’ “headline” public benefits sound good – but their plans have major faults, including on air quality, and on accessibility, which the Supplementary Report side-steps – I’d welcome your questions on those.
They tried to justify demolition by saying the villa has “low significance”, a false assessment, by a firm who knew that “low” was the result their client needed to support its application.
The Heritage Impact Assessment didn’t use the criteria for locally listed buildings approved by this Committee in July 2015 – please see the copy at page 4.
On your criteria, I believe this building scores 2 for authenticity, 3 for architecture, at least 2 for historic, and 3 for townscape – a total of 10 out of 12 - a “high significance”.
I’d be happy to justify those scores in answer to questions – please ask Brent’s Heritage Officer for his views as well.
Please look at page 3. The para. 4.29 guidance on policy DMP7 says: ‘The Council will resist significant harm to or loss of heritage assets.’
It also states that ‘a balanced judgement’ is required: ‘where the harm would be less than substantial’.
Brent’s Heritage Officer has said: ‘The demolition of the building, by its very nature, must be seen as substantial harm to the significance of the heritage asset.’
The DMP7 guidance gives a strong presumption that the substantial harm to this heritage asset over-rides any public benefits.
Even with a “balanced judgement”, those claimed benefits, with their unresolved flaws, do not outweigh the harm. This application should be rejected.
If you approve this application, contrary to Brent’s planning policies, you’ll not only condemn this valuable building, but set a precedent that undermines Brent’s entire historic environment strategy and puts every heritage asset in the borough “at risk”.
He continued, 'That's not what they're planning to do - they want to knock it down.'
Stella Rodriguez came next, she introduced herself as a foreigner ('you can tell by my accent'), who had recently settled in the area and could not understand why anyone would want to demolish such a beautiful building.
Errol Donald then spoke in favour of the development, a charity worker in Harlesden for the last 3 years and with family still in the area, he said that the development was essential to reinvigorate the area. He did not mention the Bridge Park controversy by name but talked about the local and national political context. He said the scheme was not a direct response to that context but did contribute. It would provide real hope and training (in the form of the new college building) for a resilient community that deserved a chance to have the same chance to grow and thrive as other areas in Brent.
He said that working with young people informed his views - history and heritage are ongoing and cannot be seen in isolation. He'd had conversation about architecture but it was their personal history that was important to people.
Ala Uddin from the College quoted Malcolm X's views on the importance of education. He said the current building was dysfunctional and that the new building would provide fantastic learning spaces with high tech facilities. It would be an aspirational a building that would provide high quality education and motivation to learn. Cllr Denselow asked if the college could do outstanding work in a dysfunctional building despite the problems. Uddin said ye, but it would be even better in a new building.
Answering a further question, he said that 92% of their students came from Brent with the majority from Harlesden, Stonebridge and Willesden Green.
There was a revealing exchange with Brent Council's agent and architect when Cllr Robert Johnson asked if they had looked at keeping the Altimira building. The architect said they had looked at numerous reasons why a new building would be better. The college spaces would be 50% bigger with demolition and 30% bigger if it was retained. A new building would not be constrained by the site's hilltop position Its quality would be greater if they did not have to work around constraints of keeping the building. Retention would reduce the number of housing units from 65 to 27. He admitted that early options did not go through a thorough planning process but said a crowded site with housing would have over-shadowed the present building.
Cllr Abdi Aden, speaking on behalf of the three Stonebridge councillors took a neutral stance. He welcomed aspects of the proposal: housing, replacement building for the college, workplaces bur regretted the loss of the heritage building and said local people thought a 9-storey building on that site was out of character with the area and too high. It had not been designated a site for high buildings. There were also concerns about traffic congestion and loss of light to neighbouring buildings.
Questioned by councillors, officers said that the proposal was not fully 'policy compliant' but this was not 'uncommon.' The loss of a heritage asset was important but officers did feel that there was a substantial public benefit - it was a 'tricky balancing act.'
Heritage Officer Mark Price said schemes were looked at on a case by case basis and asked by Cllr Johnson if the council were going against policy said 'a balanced judgement doesn’t go against our policy. Officer David Glover said policy just mentions 'harm' and any loss of a building could be said to cause harm. For the loss of a non-designated heritage aspect policy just refers to balance.
Their own recommendation and those of third parties said that heritage had value, but there was disagreement about the extent of the value. It had to be weighed on a case by case basis. Referring to Philip Grant's closing point that the precedent set by approval tonight would mean that every heritage asset in the borough would be at risk, he said tonight's decision did not not do that as decisions were made on a case by case basis.
Asked by Cllr Denselow if the loss of one of only two heritage buildings in the area meant that this constituted more than 'significant harm' for this part of the borough, Mark Price replied that this was one of the factors. Asked about Philip Grant's 8/11 rating Mark Price said it could have been -9 taking into account the architect responsible for the design of 1 Morland Place, Philip Grant had been right on that.
Denselow suggested that even if the score had been 12/12, they could still be facing an application to remove. An officer said details had not been decided but given the Council's objectives it was likely that all of the housing units would be affordable.
David Glover confirmed that plans retaining the building had only been 'developed to a certain level' and had not been presented tonight.
Three of the five councillors who voted for development took no part in the proceedings except for the final vote. Councillors Butt, Chappell and Sangani raised not a single question or even a comment. Had they already made up their minds?
A Labour councillors, not on the committee, said after the decision, 'I am more ashamed than ever.'
The meeting has been archived. Watch on this link: https://brent.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/502597