Video of Gerry Ansell's summing up re the proposal and councillor's reasons for voting against
The Planning Committee of October 14th was notable as the first the be chaired by Cllr Matt Kelcher following the Labour and Council AGM, for its length and for the way in which the themes that emerged during the discussion of the application to redevelop the site of the Willesden Green PoliceSstation revealed some of the conflictions and contradictions in Brent Council's planning policies and guidance.
This is the Council's recording of the decision:
Ansell said that there were particular factors in this development that reduced viability. It was in a sensitive location with a building of quality with associated costs for its retention and restoration that reduced land values.
He said that affordable housing was a core Council policy but issues are 'a matter of balance.' He assured councillors that officers pushed developers hard on affordability.
Cllr Arshad Mamhood was particuarly vexed working out that the market value was about £10m and the developer was only required to contribute £143,000 to off-site affordable housing elsewhere. Councillors were told that this could be used for the equivalent of 1-1/2 units elsewhere in the borough.
Cllr Mahmood asked that councillors be able to look more closely at the detail of Viability Assessments so that they could scrutinise them. He was told that they were available on the Council website before applications came to Committee.
The retained police station with the new development behind
The recently liberated (from Cabinet) Cllr Tom Miller, representing his ward, spoke against the development. He told the Committee:
I feel that with only this proposal on the table, what the Committee are being asked is, 'Would you rather have a development that is out of character with, not just the local area, but a conservation area?' and show we are not serious about preserving that or, 'Would you rather have a proposal that shows we are not serious about having enough affordable homes?'
It's asking the Local Authority to pick which of our policies we should ditch and that for me has 'REJECT' written all over it. It is throwing down a challenge to the Committte, 'Which of these is not important.'
I'd rather not have a conservation area at all then have a conservation area that allows developers to drive right through it.
Both he and fellow Willesden Green councillor, Cllr Donnelly-Jackson said that they had not been approached bu the developers and consulted.
A positive aspect of the discussion was the planners assertion that they had been keen to ensure the retention of the police station and recognised its historial merit depite it not being a listed building. Cllr Dixon spoke about the important historical character of this section of the High Road.
Other issues that came up were carless developments that just meant residents would spill over into nearby streets to park, the development overlooking neighbour's gardens and in one particular case reducing the light entering a neighbour's property to almost zero. The sheer bulk of the property in contrast to the local side streets and the High Road and the lack of proper consultation were major issues - along with the 146 objections to the scheme.
The Committee voted to reject the proposal with Cllr Liz Dixon and Cllr Saqib Butt abstaining.