Guest post from Philip Grant
As Martin reported last month, Cllr. Shama Tatler missed the Full Council meeting on 22 November, so was not there to answer my supplementary question about the (lack of) affordable Council housing proposed for Brent’s Cecil Avenue development, on the vacant former Copland School site. I had not been satisfied with the original answer to my Public Question on the subject.
A written answer from the Lead Member for regeneration was promised, but a subsequent Member’s Question (from the Leader of the opposition), on whether the written response to me would be circulated to all members of the Council, did not appear to receive an answer.
I have now received that written response (I will ask Martin to attach a copy below), and to ensure that all councillors do have the chance to consider it, I have circulated the document to them with the following email. I am sharing that email publicly, so that any Brent resident can ask their local councillors how they have responded to the points raised by my question, and Cllr. Tatler’s “answer” to it:-
Cllr. Tatler’s response to question on affordable Council housing at Cecil Avenue
Dear Brent Council Members,
At the Full Council meeting on 22 November, your colleague Cllr. Shama Tatler was not available to answer my supplementary Public Question about affordable Council housing at Brent Council’s Cecil Avenue development (on the vacant, Council-owned, former Copland School site in Wembley).
I received her written response on 7 December, and as it is unclear whether this has been circulated to all members of the Council, I am sending you a copy now. I believe that this matter raises important points, and you may wish to share your views on them with the Lead Member for Regeneration.
As well as the response, it is best that you know the question that she was meant to be answering (because I do not think that they key points have been answered). This was my supplementary question:
‘Brent urgently needs more affordable Council homes, and it could be building 250 of these at Cecil Avenue now.
But only 37 of the 250 in your plans will be for affordable rent, while 152 will be for private sale by a developer.
Some of the £111million GLA grant could be used to provide social rent housing there.
Instead, you plan to use it for infill schemes on existing Council estates, which may be years away.
In an article published in the “Brent & Kilburn Times” on 18 November your colleague, Cllr. Ketan Sheth, wrote:
'The value and cost of land in London is at an all time high: therefore, building on land already owned by the council means the building costs are lower and all of the new homes can be let at genuinely affordable rents.'
But under the proposals for Cecil Avenue, approved by Cabinet on 16 August, and for which Cllr. Tatler is the Lead Member, only 37 of the 250 homes will be for London Affordable Rent, and none will be for Social Rent (which the Brent Poverty Commission Report in 2020 said should be the Council’s priority for genuinely affordable homes).
The attached response from Cllr. Tatler makes a similar point about the importance of using Council-owned land to provide affordable homes:
‘Many of the current and planned future developments containing affordable housing will be on ‘re-purposed’ council owned sites that mean there is no acquisition cost and that because of ownership, schemes can be developed at pace.’
The ‘council owned site’ at Cecil Avenue is vacant, and full planning consent for the 250-home project was granted in February 2021. The scheme there could ‘be developed at pace’ for affordable Council homes, but under Brent’s current proposals 152 of the new homes there will be for private sale by a “developer partner”.
This is how I (and, I suspect, many other Brent residents) see the Council’s current proposals for the Cecil Avenue development:-
This image is a parody of the Council’s publicity photographs for its “New Council Homes in Brent” programme, but the point it is making is a serious one.
Do you want the citizens of our borough to see the hypocrisy that the Council’s current proposals display? Perhaps ask yourself the question which I put to Cllr. Tatler:
‘What justification will you give for these plans, when asked by families who’ll have to wait much longer for a decent home, and existing residents who’ll lose the green spaces on their estates?’
If you agree that the current proposals for the Cecil Avenue site don’t seem right, please share your views on them with the Lead Member and the Strategic Director for Regeneration. Thank you. Best wishes,
(a long-time Brent resident, with no party-political allegiance)