An attempt at an Underground style map of London's 'lost rivers' and sewers (Heritage Magazine)
A follow-up post to David Walton’s 'After the July floods urgent action needed on the depleted flood defences of South Kilburn as densification continues'. Proposed here are some sustainable environmental actions for Brent Master Developer to apply to its large South Kilburn site.
Brent as the South Kilburn Master Developer relentlessly prepares building designs, complete with planning permissions, gift wrapped for hard to trace private enclosure, for freehold buyers/ builders on publicly owned existing South Kilburn flood defences. All this amidst existing publicly owned social housing. Surely it constitutes major government intervention in the markets. the direct opposite of what government claims it stands for?
What makes off-shored private equity so worthy of being made this special case?
On the South Kilburn floodplain, government has designated a very large site/ growth area/ tall building zone; with 'site allocations’, Brent designed with planning permissions already in place ready for sale to private developers. The key for South Kilburn residents’ human rights, safety and future wellbeing must be that the River Westbourne and its tributaries existence should no longer be ignored by government. Decision makers are frantically trading proposed new building site allocations with planning permissions in this flood plain zone. A third of England's flood defences are in private hands, but what about the two thirds which are in public hands and under government guardianship?
The deliberate denial of obvious flood risk, when comprehensive natural flood defences were designed and were protectively already in place (the estate’s original housing in designed flood protection park land), is an apocalyptic 'cancel- for- market' strategic device not used before in London. And not unlike using inflammable materials to cheaply build new homes or attempting to allow a deadly virus with no vaccine or cure to rip through society for herd immunity, this human exploitation scandal also deserves an emergency re-think, if all buildings in this water world area of London both old and new are not to be, by this environment cancel sleight of hand rendered 'sick buildings' by year 2041.
All South Kilburn natural flood defences which have survived this brutal public flood defence's land transfer to the market must in 2021 be strongly protected, highly valued and CIL upgraded as recreation and natural water store public spaces. While flood defences already been destroyed and replaced by new 'sick building private enclosures', CIL funded replacements nearby must be installed in a new spirit of real world UK climate emergency action. And why not restore residents on a partnership board for South Kilburn's very large site to steer and oversee the 35+ new 'sites' towards 2041? The age of highly lucrative ignoring of environmental concerns and residents’ total exclusion to enable 'smooth process', clearly needs to end given the emergency situation which has become all too apparent to everyone living here. You walk past new blocks and smell the damp!
A basic principle for the large South Kilburn site, given its extensive flooding history and ever rising floodplain water table, should be that water is retained safely on site and that roads are no longer designed to function as sewage canals bringing ever more water down from Camden and St John's Wood and then exporting that excess on to parts of Maida Vale from South Kilburn land.
Living roof gardens, water butts and genuine estate wide active growing initiatives should be urgent policy for all developments (old and new) - the principle being to control water before it overloads London's crumbling Victorian drainage system from this mega density 36,000 new town called South Kilburn ‘Colony’. In Costa Rica a pioneering Earthshot winning project pays local citizens to restore natural ecosystems and has led to incredible levels of environmental protection and awareness. Why is this considered impossible in South Kilburn’s very large site development?
The River Westbourne flows above Sloane Square station
1. This 'very large site' of clearances/ new builds ongoing since 2005 is mainly car-free housing given that two underground stations and a rail station are located in this zone. Instead of increasing adopted roads (sewage flood canals) in grids (the current hardscape in Brent’s rigid plan)- perhaps generous scale green, plant growing, active travel routes is the progressive and climate response and the best way to develop movement and to link this with protecting and improving the plan that currently neglects surviving South Kilburn flood defence parkland?
All Brent highways land in South Kilburn tall building zone's 45 hectares can be re-purposed as flood defence active travel, plant growing ,widened green corridors.
As well as this being good for Brent taxpayer's long-term, just look at the 'sick buildings' scandals throughout South Kilburn, where for example it now costs more to repair buildings new built on a flood defence than it originally cost to first build them! A ‘flood risk always reduced from now on ‘approach as proposed here would be good for Carlton vale, good for Maida vale, good for Bayswater and good for Knightsbridge, where the River Westbourne and its tributaries flow.
2. Building on every South Kilburn space should be seriously questioned.
Where will extra water gathering on this floodplain go if not into people's homes (old and new) given the water always present near the surface? South Kilburn Land simply never dries-out!
Government should no longer environmentally cancel the River Westbourne and its tributaries as policy. COP 26 and Brent Councils own long declared 'Climate Emergency' need to become real (not zoned) for South Kilburn peoples’ lives and this estate of 'sites' all too obvious flood risk environment recognised. Note my neighbours’ living at ground level are flooded out and living in temporary accommodation along with many other local flood families. Dehumidifiers are still drying these flats out and it is November!
3. Opportunities to upgrade rather than total destroy South Kilburn's entire surviving rivers flood defence system also include:
a. Making more space for water. Higgins, a developer at Chippenham Gardens village, South Kilburn where the River Westbourne and the Malvern join is building 56 flats on top of this flood risk basin to Brent Master Developers’ design. Local people have managed to protect the historic flood defence local (reduced in size) park also located here (this based on veteran trees being preserved). However, Brent remains rigidly opposed to improving the flood defence 'pond' potential of this green space by expanding its size, scale, space, volume and depth, by re-purposing three adjacent parking bays and then squaring this off as replacement for flood defence land lost to the new Higgins development.
Plenty of children live in flats above and in basements below, the 50 plus Victorian shops of Chippenham Gardens local centre without gardens or balconies. As it currently stands this green space flood defence will be considerably reduced in size by Brent’s over-building ( so no play equipment space anymore) and will also be design ineffective in its core purpose of protecting lives and homes in this densely populated key local centre (where 11 routes and 3+ rivers meet) from sewage flood major risk liability. Given July floods such disregard of this very specific flood defence improvement 2021 opportunity seems reckless and ill advised.
b. Give Local Green Space Designation to South Kilburn Public Open Space, Brent Kilburn’s only remaining park scale natural flood defence. This large park forms an excellent rain garden, pooling surface flood waters for a week then gradually absorbing them. Vital to public health and safety of this very large site and clearly should no longer be Brent 'banked' as surplus brownfield flood defence land for sale with Brent building designs/ planning permissions.
This 100+ veteran tree woodland space must be strong protected with a Local Green Space Designation policy by Brent being climate actioned for 2021. (The grass cutting tractor could also leave 2 metre of space wild around all 100+ trees to better support the local ecosystem and increase flood waters soak-up speeds yet further).
c. The removal of the large roundabout park of 40 trees flood defence on Kilburn Park Road in 2008 which also used to retain, pond and absorb flood waters has as a result become sewage flooded with highly problematic sick buildings instead.
Westminster has a retirement home that has become a ‘development site' with green space opposite this Brent major flood defence loss. Tanked/sealed underground car parks (once pumped of rising flood plain ground water), mean that Westminster developers can send its entire future excessive water problem on and into Brent homes, particularly into a brand new high density housing scheme which Brent has recently purchased! This Westminster 'site' could work well as a new underground flood water storage defence instead. Veteran trees on this site also need protecting.
Beyond this, Westminster is also re-developing its Carlton Vale Estate NW6 high quality social housing- to become towers instead? This re-development will also have a catastrophic effect on Brent's floodplain downstream. especially if the River Westbourne and tributaries remain ignored by all key decision makers as is the case in 2021.
Brent should challenge Westminster on these all too obvious sewage flood liabilities being adversely across borough boundary grown. The National Planning Policy Framework (section 14. clauses 152 to 169) form an excellent starting point. While in a similar way Westminster should challenge Brent about the sewage flooding of Maida Vale Shirland Road directly downstream of South Kilburn’s large site with many rivers.
d. If South Kilburn wasn't a developer colony where "development will look after itself" other solutions could be sought. In Slovakia I know a town adjacent to an historic flood risk river where the local council helps fund ground water pumps in all gardens to systematically lower the town's water table. It also encourages flood plain allotments on its land. Pumped ground water is used for gardens, allotments and for domestic toilets allowing substantial savings on water bills for locals as expensive tap water is not being needlessly wasted.
e. De-paving and permeable pavers should be required throughout South Kilburn very large site, with replacement of existing poor design new hard landscapes as a remedial measure. similar to the replacement of inflammable cladding and inflammable insulation retrofit that is already happening.
4. Given there will be five times the number of homes by 2041 on floodplain unilateral forced as South Kilburn - should the only new 'community infrastructure' in South Kilburn be tall building zone housing and a 'go elsewhere' zonal policy for all else even flood defences?
How can local estate people living a multiple excluded/ deprived estate zoned existence be expected as individuals to own this deliberate and knowing major government escalation of estate flood risk rooted in an unreasonable planned choice to cancel environmental underground rivers as environmental realities, for the brutal short term and soon to be permanent crisis economic gains? Why should City of Westminster residents own this growing cross borough boundary disaster either?
Add South Kilburn zone concentrated inflammable cladding, inflammable insulation, inflammable structure, build quality crisis and incremental withdrawal of health/ services-all points instead to a humane rethink of what "South Kilburn people getting what they deserve" should actually mean? The UN has in October 2021 declared the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment a human right and is to appoint an expert to monitor human rights in this context of climate emergency.
Is a 6,000 social housing estate set in flood defence parkland in year 2000 set to become a 36,000 new town towered on 45 public owned hectares by year 2041, with no flood defences retained? Or can this part of London do better regarding protecting human rights and reducing exploitations growing forwards?
Instead of the current land war on estate residents, a war on excessive flood plain water needs to be declared. A new urban construction model of flood management, strengthening ecological infrastructure and drainage systems is clearly essential in very large site South Kilburn zone given the catastrophic liabilities and consequences of creating a giant cross borough boundary sick buildings area (the present reckless direction of travel/ let the market decide process).
Cities like Tokyo and Singapore are planned and designed to handle one-in-100-year storms. Why is London captured in such pre-Enlightenment wilful regression regarding its own new building of very large site towns such as South Kilburn Colony towards 2041? Regents Park is an impressive part of the flood defences for Central London, while Kilburn Park (South Kilburn) flood defence for Central London has been totally cancelled for profit. Who is liable in 2021 and who will pay for what happens in the future and the damages caused?
FLASK (Flood Local Action South Kilburn)