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.