Wednesday 10 March 2021

Quintain's revision to Wembley Park's North East Lands consent approved by Brent Planning Committee


Despite the large number of residents' objections to Quintain's revisions to its consented plans for the North East Lands section of the huge Wembley Park development, there were no questions for a resident of Marathon House after he had spoken about its impact on the daylight and skylines of residents' flats. He claimed that the application demonstrated no benefits compared with the original consent. Furthermore, he suggested that by breaking down applications into small bite size chunks  developers masked the larger impact on the area.

The revisions increase the height and density of the development but move some boundary lines.

Having no questions the Committee moved on to the developer's agent who basically came out with rather a lot of what appeared to me to be greenwash.  He claimed that the loss of light to residents of Marathon House was neglible and their balconies already reduced light and gave the impression of a larger loss of light than was otherwise the case.

An officer said that the benefits of the scheme was more open space, a larger capacity park (they haven't increased the size but ditched the lake and replaced with a couple of ponds), an attractive public realm with trees along Rutherford Way and making it a car free development.


 Cross section of Rutherford Way

Officers argued that changes to the scheme would break up a potential 'canyon' on Rutherford Way between Marathon House (tower on right) and Unite Students on one side, and the lower Quintain development on the other.  The officers' report repeated the claim that loss of light did not matter in student accommodation as it was transitory. They argued that BRE guidelines allow for special situations in urban environments and did not have to be strictly applied. They spoke about 'mirror massing' when buildings on one side of the road mirror that of the other side. The implication was that this was avoided here.

Officers echoed the agent's view that the Marathon House balconies meant more loss of light than would be the case if they were not there. They said that the Quintain blocks were set back and thus further from the middle of the road than Marathon House.

Cllr Maurice pressed on the loss of light,   due to Covid more people would be working from home and there most of the time and loss of light could affect their mental health. An officer responded that the impact would be negligible on Marathon House and Unite Students.

Cllr Kennelly asked about the use of rooftop space and was told that although there was no detail yet it would be provided for amenity and bio-diversity to provide recreational and ecological benefit.  The officer recognised that that the area was 'somewhat of a concrete jungle' and has been so for almost 100 years since the British Empire Exhibition and it would be nice to reintroduce the biodiversity that had been there before the BEE (watch out for cows on the roof!)

Cllr Saqib Butt said that he could not see any additional benefit compared with the oriiginally consented scheme, there were no additional housing units and he could only see loss to  residents in the neighbouring blocks.  Officers again pointed to trees on Rutherford Way and more space in the park due to the reduction in the size of the lake.

Cllr Kennelly said that keyworkers needed housing and often needed a car for work.  Making this a car free development would exclude them. Lead officer David Glover said that there was a recent reduction in demand for parking and that people were unwilling to buy parking spaces. The development may not be suitable for such keyworkers and the Council recognised that there was a need for a range of different housing to cater for differing needs that would be open to keyworkers. Wembley Park was an ideal site for car free development being so close to Wembley Park station and other public transport with a very high PTAL rating. Kennelly expressed concern that increasingly key workers have to move out of the area and  travel in to work. They needed access to centrally located housing. An officer said that Quintain recognised the need to provide some central parking for those in car free developments such as Rutherford Way.

Lead officer David Glover, discussing the impact on Marathon House residents said that there could not be a 'who comes first has the final say.' system/  Merely because their development went up first occupants could not then decide what was built opposite them - such a polcy would tie the hands of developers and planners.  The revisions had an 'acceptable' impact on surrounding properties.





Anonymous said...

As a local resident affected by the increase in building height, I viewed the proceedings with great displeasure at the way the process was conducted, but do not blame the councillors at all in the way they voted (unanimously).

It is the Planning Officers from the Council who were just glorified spokespeople on behalf of Quintain. Rather than present the information in a neutral and balanced way, they were actively championing the scheme and dismissing the impacts of the development. Case in point, the image you have shown above was broadcast a few times, but this conveniently misses off the second section of NE03 immediately to the left which is the building of offending height. This was never made clear to councillors.

Unfortunately we see this all too often with Planning Officers siding with developers and then becoming their champions while sidelining the views of local residents. I'm not against development, particularly when it comes to providing much-needed homes and regeneration (in areas that need it) but it is easy to see why so many local residents feel frustrated and voiceless by the lack of a fair process and the fact that their concerns are so readily dismissed. The plans are then reported to the Committee without providing the full picture of the issues at hand and schemes then never receive the due critique they deserve.

G.Lee said...

Of course the Councillors,(most of them), as well the officers and the developers are all complicit in this ridiculous over-development of a small area, and the corresponding pressure it will bring to the area.

Anonymous said...

As a long term resident of Brent I have relied on the Borogh's Planners to do their best for the current residents of Brent. Unfortunately this expectation regarding Planners (dictatated to by the Council leadership) has been changed completely over the last few years. I and many residents agree completely with the statement above by Anonymous 10 March 2021 at 21:06: "Planning Officers from the Council who were just glorified spokespeople on behalf of Quintain".

Many residents of Brent now believe that the Brent Council Leadership care more for developers than they do for their residents (and their own careers of course). Perhaps this is why so many long term residents are leaving Brent or considering leaving, meanwhile we watch their old homes being turned into HMOs or blocks of flats. Then there is the scorched earth policy regarding businesses, many being driven out of B(r)ent when they or their landlord discover the value of the land the business sits on if it were turned into residential. Tiny workspaces in the base of blocks of flats with no vehicle parking will never revitalise Brent, they will just make the blocks look derelict very swifty.

Philip Grant said...

In support of the comment by Anonymous (10 March at 21:06) above, here is a comment that I added to Martin's 9 March blog about the North East Lands application at 17:06 yesterday:-

'I'm watching and listening to the Planning Committee meeting.

The diagram which Planning Officers are using to combat Marathon House objections to their loss of light, with Marathon House on the right and NE03 on the left of Rutherford Way, only shows the western half of the proposed building on Plot NE03.

It does NOT show the other block on the eastern (Northern Park) side of Plot NE03, with a much higher block (19 storeys, I believe) which the revised plans have made 60 metres higher than originally approved, to make up for the much smaller reduction (c. 6 metres) in the height of the block nearest to Marathon House.

Councillors are clearly concerned with the loss of light that existing residents will suffer. I hope that they stick up for the many residents objecting to this application, rather than accept the "planner speak" of the officers trying to justify Quintain's application.'

Unfortunately, Planning Committee members were sufficiently reassured by what Brent's Planning Officers told them to approve the application, rather than to go with their original "gut instinct", which told at least some of them the objector from Marathon House was right, and the application should be rejected.

Several commenters above have been very critical of the way Brent's planning system has operated in recent years (pro-developer, anti-resident). Please, please email your comments and views to your local councillors, with copies to Brent's Chief Executive ( and Strategic Director for Regeneration (

Those in power at the Civic Centre all need to know the strength of the concerns Brent residents (and voters) have about what is going on in the Borough. It may not change anything quickly, but if we all keep quiet, nothing will change for the better.