Guest post by Philip Grant
A month ago, Martin published the above map, from a report to Brent’s July Cabinet meeting, which included the locations of a number of the Council’s “infill” housing projects which were ‘not yet in public domain’.
I believe that our Council should be open with residents, especially those who will be most directly affected, about what its plans are (and I will say more about that later!). I added a comment to Martin’s 30 July blog, saying that I had asked for some information on the four ‘not yet in public domain’ schemes in Fryent Ward, where I live.
I have now received a reply to that request, so am writing this to share that information with you. If you know anyone who lives in, or near, any of these estates, please bring this article to their attention, so that they are aware of what may be in store for their home. The Council estates mentioned below are Campbell Court, Elvin Court, Westcroft Court, Broadview (and Gauntlett Court in Sudbury).
Aerial view of Campbell Court, Church Lane, Kingsbury and surrounding area. (Source: Google Maps)
The four three-storey blocks of flats (diagonal to Church Lane) which make up Campbell Court were built around 1950, as part of Wembley’s post-war Council housing programme. They were named after a Second World War Mayor of the borough, Malcolm Campbell. As you can see, the compact site includes grassy areas and trees, pairs of senior citizens’ bungalows between each block and small access drives for deliveries and parking.
Like all of the four Fryent Ward ‘not yet in public domain’ schemes, I was told that: ‘at present, the project is at the Feasibility stage’, and that: ‘no consultation has been undertaken at this stage.’ “Feasibility” implies that they are looking at whether the project is possible (either structurally or financially), but Brent’s Cabinet have been told that 97 new homes could be delivered on this small estate. That suggests Council Officers already have a pretty firm idea of what they have in mind, even though they have not yet let residents there know what it is, or given them the chance to have their say!
The information I have now been given is that the Council are looking at a ‘mixture of rooftop development and infill’, with ‘1-2 stories added to Campbell [Court]’. Infill would inevitably mean the loss of some of the green space and mature trees around the existing homes. It would also mean more residents sharing a smaller amenity space.
Building an extra one or two storeys onto the existing blocks may well be structurally possible. However, it would mean (quite apart from the disruption to the lives of existing residents during the construction work) some overshadowing and overlooking of the 1930s suburban homes in Boycroft Avenue, whose gardens back onto the estate.
Gauntlett Court flats under construction, June 1950. (Brent Archives online image 3850)
Although it is in Sudbury, not Fryent, I will also mention the ‘not yet in public domain’ scheme for Gauntlett Court here. This Wembley Council estate was also built in 1950, with blocks to the same design as those at Campbell Court, and it too was named after a wartime Mayor, Herbert Gauntlett. You can read more about it in Sudbury – Then and Now (no.20).
The expected number of new homes on this site is 120. There is a small “green” between some of the blocks which could be “at risk” if the Council’s plans include “infill”, but otherwise it seems likely that “rooftop development” would be involved, adding one or more storeys to the existing blocks.
Elvin Court, Church Lane, Kingsbury.
Like Campbell Court, Wembley Council’s Elvin Court flats were built on a narrow strip of land alongside Church Lane. You can see the grass verge and access road (for deliveries and emergency vehicles) in front of the three-storey blocks, and there is a similar width behind them, before a line of trees which separates the estate from houses in Sycamore Grove.
These flats were built in the late 1950s / early 1960s, and named after Sir Arthur Elvin, a Freeman of the Borough of Wembley who had died in 1957. Some of the first tenants were families transferred from temporary “pre-fab” homes which had been built around the edge of Silver Jubilee Park in 1946.
The map above shows 40 new homes expected to be provided at Elvin Court. The information I have received says that this will be through ‘a mixture of rooftop development and infill’, and that, like Campbell Court, it would involve ‘1-2 stories added’. Once again: ‘no consultation has been undertaken at this stage’.
Maisonettes built by Wembley Council c.1960, at 353-359 Kingsbury Road.
The next Council estate where some new homes are proposed (but ‘not yet in public domain’) was actually part of Wembley’s post-War “pre-fabs” programme. In 1945, the Council had requisitioned spare land belonging to the Victoria Dance Hall in Kingsbury Road, and erected temporary factory-made bungalows there. These “pre-fabs” housed families until the late 1950s, and when they were demolished, Wembley Council built some attractive two-storey yellow-brick maisonettes, to the east of what had then become the Ritz Ballroom.
Development of the rest of the site was held up, because “the Ritz” was purchased by National Car Parks Ltd. From 1961, they submitted several planning applications for a petrol station and some housing. After a public inquiry in 1963, they were allowed to build their garage and car showroom (now the site of Kwikfit). As part of a land-swap deal, Wembley Council built a nine-storey block of 2-bedroom flats, and six 3-bedroom maisonettes in three-storey blocks, where the dance hall and its social club had stood. These were called Westcroft Court, after the old name of the field (most of which now forms part of Roe Green Park).
Westcroft Court, Kingsbury Road, opposite Roe Green Park.
The scheme which Brent Council are now looking at would add 16 new homes at Westcroft Court. I have been told that they do not intend to add any extra storeys to the main block (this may be because they already receive a good income from the mobile phone masts on its roof!), but that they are looking at part demolition and redevelopment on this small estate.
The last of the proposed Fryent Ward ‘not yet in public domain’ schemes would be at Broadview, part of another Wembley Borough Council housing development. This small estate of semi-detached family homes was built around 1960, on a triangle of land between Fryent Way and the Bakerloo (now Jubilee) Line, just south of Kingsbury Station. Some of the original tenants were transferred here from the Pilgrims Way “pre-fab” estate, 114 factory-made aluminium bungalows erected after the Second World War as a temporary solution to the post-war housing shortage.
This proposal would be an “infill” development, for just three homes, described to me as ‘on garage site’. I have marked this site on the aerial view below, and you will see how small it is, tucked away behind the end houses in the road, and bordered by the tube line and the edge of Fryent Country Park. There is only a narrow access road to the site, between the side of a house and a wooded area of the Country Park, bordering the Gaderbrook stream, and that also provides access to the rear gardens (some with garages) of at least four homes. Space for any new homes here would be very restricted, and both the Country Park and the railway bank are local nature reserves, where the existing trees and bushes should not be destroyed.
Aerial view of the proposed site at Broadview, off Fryent Way, Kingsbury. (Source: Google Maps)
Surely the people affected by these proposed schemes should be consulted before the projects get “firmed-up” any further, and their views taken into account? We have seen recently, with its Kilburn Square housing proposals, the mess that Brent Council can get itself into by not consulting properly.
In that case, it appears Council officers had already decided how many extra homes they could build on an existing Council estate, and that it would be acceptable to reduce the “green space” used by existing residents, while greatly increasing the number of people who would need to share it. This was before any “consultation”, which was then only about “design details”, not whether the scheme was one that made good sense! There is a danger that the Council will make the same mistake over its ‘not yet in public domain’ proposals.
Brent does need to provide more homes for people on its waiting list, but it should also take into account the needs of existing residents. The Council needs to be open and honest about what it has in mind, before any detailed proposals are made. It should discuss with those living in homes on its estates (who will include leaseholders who actually own those homes) how best extra homes could be provided. It should listen, and be prepared to think again and compromise. It should not just bulldoze through plans which might look good on paper in the Civic Centre, but would be detrimental to our borough’s community if actually built.
Editor's note: Yesterday the Guardian published this story when mentions the Kilburn Square development previously covered on Wembley Matters:
Protests grow against new council homes on green spaces in London