Monday 2 November 2020

The Brook Avenue Five Towers at Brent Planning Committee on Wednesday



View of the proposed buildings from Olympic Square ('Archer' statue and station steps on right)


The proposed blocks (Dark green, lower right)  showing their suburban context

The proposed blocks from Elmside Road (junction with Kingswood Road)

The proposed blocks (outlined in green) and other planned developments (pink) as they will appear from the junction of Forty Lane and Bridge road (The Torch pub on left and Ark Academy right)

The development of 5 blocks on Brook Avenue goes to Brent Planning Committee on Wednesday November 4th. This is a development of TfL land (formerly the station car park and tube drivers' depot). Two blocks are 13 storeys high, 1 is 14 storeys, 1 is 17 storeys and the highest, nearest the station is 21 storeys (reduced from the original proposed 30 storeys).

Th development represents the further  'leaking' of the highrise buildings around the stadium across Bridge Road into a partly two storey suburban street.  It is likely that eventually the whole of Brook Avenue will become high rise.


Looking along Brook Avenue towards Bridge Road and Wembley Park station with existing flats in the foreground

 The blocks outlined in green as they will be seen from Eversley Avenue/Barn Rise

The tallest block, block E, will have commercial premises on the first 3 floors with retail facing on to Olympic Square,  

Of the 454 housing units 73 will be London Affordable rent and 79 shared ownership ('affordable' 33.5 % of the total).

The officers' report states:

Whilst the London Affordable Rented flats will be a self-contained element of the development, the other affordable tenure will be intermixed with the private units of the development and residents of all tenures within the scheme will have equal access to the first floor landscaped podium. The development will therefore facilitate social cohesion between the different tenures.

The buildings proposed would serve as both a place-marker for the station but also effectively transition away from the denser core of Wembley Park across Bridge Road whilst also respecting the key viewing corridor of the stadium within which it sits. The height of this apex point of the development is acknowledged as significant and that it is taller than envisioned within the draft site allocation in general design terms. Nonetheless, officers give weight to the benefits of the scheme (including 40% affordable housing provision) and other policy requirements such as the Mayor’s housing SPG seeking densification of car free development around public transport hubs and consider that the proposed height of the building strikes a good balance between the competing requirements. 

A significant reduction in height from 30 storeys at this scheme’s initial pre-app stage is also acknowledged and has resulted in a building which establishes a reasonable maximum height which balances the townscape and visual impact considerations with the benefits of the housing delivery. The applicant's submitted Townscape and Visual Impact Assessment identifies a number of local views away from Brook Avenue from where the development would be visible and demonstrates how these views would change. The development will result in a substantial change to the backdrop visible from some nearby roads (such as Elmside Road and Beechcroft Gardens), but this change would very much be reflective of the status of the site as within a growth area and a housing zone.

There are the usual comments in the officers' that may be challenged by some members of the Planning Committee. As well as the above they include:

  • The development is a'suitable and attractively built addition to theWembley park growth area.
  • Amenity space is below standard but of good quality through podium gardens.
  • On-site child play space is only 'marginally' below policy objectives and shortfall will be offset by developer contributing £31,000 to the imporvment of existing parks
  • Viability has been robustly tested and has demonstrated that the proposal offers more than the maximum reasonable amount [of affordable housing] that can be provided on site.
  • Loss of light to some windows of surrounding properties is 'not unusual for developments of this scale.'

The developers will contribute £260,00 towards enhancing bus capacity in the area.

There are 15 objections recorded on Brent Planning Portal including this one:

I am objecting to this application because it is a massive overdevelopment of a small and narrow site.

The Wembley Park area has sites allocated within it, under the Wembley Area Action Plan, as being appropriate to tall buildings. 

At the same time, the WAAP identifies sites INAPPROPRIATE for tall buildings, and this site in Brook Avenue is one of them. On those grounds alone (and there are others) this application should be refused.

The applicants argue that as the site is only just across the road from a site where tall buildings are considered appropriate, there would be no harm in allowing their five proposed blocks of between 13 and 21 storeys high. That is a false argument!

If this application is allowed, what is to stop another applicant coming along and saying, 'Well, my site is just across the road from one where tall buildings are allowed, so I should be allowed to build a tall block too!'. To accept this application would set a dangerous precedent, which other developers could exploit, and that must not be allowed to happen.

Brent's core policy CP17 is aimed at protecting and enhancing the suburban character of Brent. This application would do the opposite of that, by encroaching into the suburban character of Brook Avenue and its nearby streets, and the view from the Barn Hill Conservation Area.
Only five years ago, Brent adopted the Wembley Area Action Plan, and with it, a line on the map which showed "this far and no further" for tall buildings. That line must be held, and this application must be rejected, so as not to undermine  it.  




Philip Grant said...

Brent's Planning Officer's say that the loss of light to some windows of surrounding properties is 'not unusual for developments of this scale.'

It's not unusual because they have been recommending that loss of light is "acceptable", even though it goes against planning policies (and is an infringement of the enjoyment of their homes for the residents who suffer that loss of light), for far too long.

Like taller buildings than there should be, insufficient affordable housing, insufficient amenity space and eating away of protected views of Wembley Stadium, Brent's planners are creating precedents that developers exploit time and time again, rather than sticking up for the planning policies which elected councillors adopted, after public consultation exercises.

Jaine Lunn said...

It is well known that the Wembley Area Action Plan is now proven to be a work of fiction, and that Brent Council officers have little consideration for their Core Policies which they adhere to or dismiss on a whim depending on which way the money is blowing.... prefereably into their coffers. Residents views are seldom if ever considered when making decisions.