Thursday 28 April 2022

1 Morland Gardens – is proposed Stopping-Up Order another mistake?

 Guest post by Philip Grant in a personal capacity

1.Brent Council notice on display at Morland Gardens. (Photo by Margaret Pratt)


In June 2021, Martin published a guest blog I had written, Brent’s development delayed, about the Council’s failure to obtain the Stopping-Up Order needed before they could proceed with their proposed development at 1 Morland Gardens. They’d been told in December 2018 that they would need such an order, if they wanted to build over the footpath and community garden in front of the heritage Victorian villa. They could have applied for it at any time after they received full planning consent on 30 October 2020.


Now, finally, they have started the process, by giving notice of a proposed Stopping-Up Order. But already they’ve added to their long catalogue of mistakes over 1 Morland Gardens! The Legal Notice published in the “Brent & Kilburn Times” on 14 April failed to mention Morland Gardens when describing the highway to be stopped-up, only giving its grid references:



Under the Legal Notice, the only way to inspect or request copies of the draft order and plan was in person at Brent Customer Services, where they would be available for ‘a period of 28 days from the 14th April 2022.’ I went to the Civic Centre on Tuesday 19 April, and the documents were not available to inspect or get copies of. I reported this, and the Senior Officer concerned has just let me know that they will be publishing a new Legal Notice in our local newspaper on 28 April.


These were procedural mistakes, but they are not the biggest error. Right from the start, when Council Officers greedily thought they could add the Council-owned “highway” to the 1 Morland Gardens site, in order to build more housing as part of the redevelopment of the Brent Start college, they failed to consider what the effect of a stopping-up would be.


3.Part of the Morland Gardens “highway” between the college and community garden.
(Photo by Margaret Pratt)


At the moment, pedestrians walking to and from Hillside to the homes further along Morland Gardens, and the Five Precious Wounds R.C. Church in Brentfield Road, can take the path alongside the low front wall of the college, and be shielded from the traffic fumes and noise by the trees of the community garden. If these routes (in green on the plan below) are stopped-up, they will have to walk alongside the busy roads, right up to the road junction.


4.Brent’s “stopping-up” plan, with before and after routes added.


The additional walking distances involved are not great, but pedestrians would now be exposed to the pollutants emitted by the heavy traffic, especially when it is tailed back along Hillside because of the traffic lights. This junction is in what has been designated an Air Quality Management Area (“AQMA”), because of its poor air quality, and in fact is one of the most polluted road junctions in Brent.


Because the site is in an AQMA, the planning application for Brent’s Morland Gardens redevelopment had to include an Air Quality Assessment (“AQA”). This was prepared for the Council by a specialist company (Gem Air Quality Ltd), but the scope of what they were asked to report on was just ‘the potential impacts of existing and future traffic levels on a proposed mixed-use development located at Morland Gardens.’ 


In short, the assessment only considered the effects of traffic pollution on residents and users inside the planned new building! It did not assess what the plans would mean for pedestrians and others, and did not look at the difference between pollution levels along the paths that would need to be stopped-up and those on the pavements beside the main roads here.


In fact, no actual air pollution readings were taken at Morland Gardens, Hillside or Brentfield Road as part of the assessment. It was a desk-based modelling exercise, but it did use an accepted technique described as a “comprehensive tool for investigating air pollution problems due to small networks of roads”. This was applied to a number of “receptor” points around the planned new building:-


5.Main part of Figure 3 from the Morland Gardens AQA report.


The AQA looked at the “before” and “after” predicted annual mean levels of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. It can be seen that the receptor locations R1 and R3 are the equivalent to points B and C on the stopping-up order plan, so the predictions for those do provide at least an indication of the likely levels of the traffic pollutants harmful to health. These are the tables of results prepared by Gem Air Quality Ltd and included in their AQA:-



6.Tables of predicted mean annual values from the AQA. (Gem Air Quality Ltd, October 2019)


It will be seen that the predicted level of Nitrogen Dioxide at ground level (especially at the corner of the building nearest the traffic lights – R3 = 51.0) is above the permitted “safe” limit. For particulate matter, the table appears to show levels at around half of the “objective”, but the World Health Organisation guideline value is 20, not 40 µg/m3, and the AQA only looks at PM10 concentrations, not the more harmful PM2.5 particulates (present in vehicle emissions).


Added to that, the AQA only contains mean annual predictions. The document admits: ‘that the short-term impacts of NO2 and PM10 emissions have not been modelled as dispersion models are inevitably poor at predicting short-term peaks in pollutant concentrations, which are highly variable from year to year, and from site to site.’  Pedestrians would have to walk closer to the traffic that the “receptor locations”, and the report also admits that: ‘street canyons have not been modelled as part of this assessment.’


Having Brent’s proposed nine-storey building at the corner of Hillside and Brentfield Road would contribute to a “street canyon” effect. The report says: ‘Street canyons may result in elevated pollutant concentrations from road traffic emissions due to a reduced likelihood of the pollutants becoming dispersed in the atmosphere.’


Taking all of these facts together, the levels of harmful pollutants which pedestrians would have to face when walking along the “red route” shown on the stopping-up plan above would cause a much higher risk to health than the existing “green routes” which the Council plans to stop-up. Did Brent’s planners consider this, when recommending the scheme for approval? NO!


7.The Air Quality section of the Officer Report to Planning Committee, 12 August 2020.


The Planning Officers report, and the advice from Brent’s Environmental Health Officer on which it was based, only looked at the AQA, which was just about the air quality inside the proposed building. But para.175 above includes this important sentence:


‘Officers acknowledge that there is the potential for high levels of nitrous oxide associated with pollution from adjoining streets to impact on the lower floors of the building (lower ground to second floor).’


To deal with this, a condition was included in the planning consent, requiring that the mitigation measures recommended in the AQA must be implemented, and proved to have been implemented, before the new building could be occupied. Those measures can be summed up in this extract from the “Building Mitigation” section of the AQA’s conclusions:


‘A mechanical ventilation system that draws air in from the roof may be considered acceptable as predicted NO2 concentrations on the fourth floor and above are below the relevant air quality objectives. However, the inlets should be placed as high as possible (roof level) and as far away from the local roads as possible.’


If the air quality at the corner of Hillside and Brentfield Road is only considered to be safe four floors above street level, then surely pedestrians need to be kept safe from the pollution as well! Deliberately forcing them to use the pavement by the busy junction, rather than the existing paths, shielded from the worst of the traffic pollution by the community garden, must surely be wrong!


8.The proposed Morland Gardens redevelopment site, as currently pictured on Google Streetview.


There is a variety of additional health risks to pedestrians from exposure to high levels of traffic pollution. I’m especially concerned about the increased risks of asthma to children which the proposed stopping-up could cause. 


One of my children has suffered from asthma since the 1980s (with more than a dozen childhood hospitalisations, and one almost fatal attack), caused by the traffic fumes encountered on a 50-metre stretch of Kingsbury Road, on the way to school. The reality of such risks was finally confirmed in the 2020 inquest verdict, following the tragic death of 9-year old Ella Kissi-Debrah, which found that she: ‘died of asthma contributed to by exposure to excessive air pollution.’


But there is a way that the stopping-up order can be prevented. Para. 4 of the Legal Notice (as it will be reissued) sets out how anyone can object to it:


'Persons desiring to object to the making of proposed order should send a statement in writing of their objection and the grounds thereof, to the Head of Healthy Streets and Parking, Regeneration and Environment, 5th Floor North Wing, Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley, Middlesex, HA9 0FJ, or via email to , quoting the reference TO/23/031/NP, within the period of 28 days from the 28th April 2022.' 


And there is a final irony. The person who is responsible for Brent’s proposed Morland Gardens stopping-up order is the Council’s Head of Healthy Streets!


Result from the Address Pollution website, 29 April 2022


Philip Grant.


David Walton said...

The public square communal land-use at the centre of Chippenham Gardens Local Centre is also kept as highways land by Brent. That's how a developer can take it all hostage for two years, why remedial restoration works afterwards can be likely sub-standard and why it is land banked/ weak protected as forever at risk of a plantation tower landing on it any day soon.

Only veteran trees saved it for now, but have these trees roots been damaged by Higgins behind hoardings work site activities?

Philip Grant said...


Brent Council has an Air Quality Action Plan, and is currently consulting about a new one. These are extracts from the London Borough of Brent Air Quality Action Plan 2017-2022:

'Brent council acknowledges the impact of poor air quality on health and the need for action to reduce or eliminate air pollution where possible. In Brent it is estimated that 200 premature deaths occur each year which are directly attributable to air pollution as well as further unquantified premature deaths where air quality is a factor. We accept air quality in Brent is
poor and recognise significant intervention is required to improve local air quality for all. We have made some progress but accept that further work is needed to meet this challenge. Our air quality action plan demonstrates we are taking this issue seriously and will endeavour to tackle air pollution at source or reduce exposure where this is not possible.'

'We will commit to keeping this air quality action plan under review and will continue to identify new opportunities for air quality action in response to changes in legislation or local air quality as the need arises.

Our ultimate aim is to secure clean air for all especially for those at greatest risk or in the worst affected areas in the borough. We accept that this is likely to be a challenge to fulfil, but commit to investing in air quality action for improvement now and in the future.'

'The link between poor health and air pollution is well established and for the last 15 years the council has been taking action to reduce pollution in the borough. Brent meets all national air quality targets except for two pollutants - Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Particulate Matter (PM10).'

'Air quality in Brent has been improving but whilst this downward trend is likely to continue for the future the council will need to take action if we are to meet national targets set for NO2. In addition, there is no threshold below which there are no ill health effects from particulates and local authorities are required to take steps to reduce these emissions where possible. As a result both nitrogen dioxide and particulates remain the focus of the new plan.'

'Air Quality Action Plan Measures:

3. Exposure Reduction Measures:

Green Space provision in Brent is below the 15% London average and many Brent residents have little or no access to green or open space. Trees form an integral part of the urban environment and provide a range of benefits not limited to improving the general amenity of an area and positively impacting the local environment. The council recognises that additional provision of green space also contributes more generally to the Councils’ commitment for
improving health and wellbeing and tackling health inequalities in the borough.

The air quality management area is recognised as generally lacking tree cover and the council seeks to address this by undertaking a targeted upgrade of green infrastructure in suitable locations, increasing planting and the quality of green space where appropriate. We expect this to also improve the accessibility of key routes to encourage walking and to make the street
and public transport viable and attractive travel options.'

QUESTION: How is Brent's Air Quality Action Plan reflected in its proposals to stop-up the highway in front of 1 Morland Gardens, and remove the trees of the community garden?

Philip Grant said...

The "Wembley Matters" Twitter account (see right-hand column) re-tweeted an item from "Life in Kilburn" this afternoon, which concerned high air pollution levels in Kilburn.

I went to the website it mentioned, to get the latest air quality report for 1 Morland Gardens. The air pollution in Kilburn was very bad, but at Morland Gardens it was even worse!

I will send Martin the screenshot of the report, and ask him to add it at the end of my article above.

Anonymous said...

The dystopian, polluted and totally disconnected Borough of Butt supported by his sycophants. Why would anyone vote for this cabal of self serving, self important income top ups.

What's the betting that a relation of Her Butt, who just happens to have an well publisised MBE will be the next Brent Mayor designate?

As for the lie about Council Housing, in this case at Morelands, we all know it will be at private rental rates and unaffordable by the people of Brent as explained by Brent's Poverty Commission. Do tell, why does Her Butt dislike his own residents so much.

Anonymous said...

The Head of Healthy Streets should not be proposing an order that makes Morland Gardens less healthy for pedestrians!!!

Martin Francis said...

From Gaynor LLoyd:

I am as ever extremely grateful to Philip Grant for his alerting me to the proposed stopping up order, and for his detailed research - as ever. I have taken a great interest in the proposed development at 1 Morland Gardens over a considerable time, focusing on different issues These included ecological and heritage - but also a change from the homes' rental category from 100% "social rented" to "London Affordable". 100% Social rented was what was agreed with the GLA at their Stage 1 report; that was (according to the GLA Stage 2 report) "clarified" by the applicant (Brent ) as to be provided at London Affordable Rent - which is what is in the planning consent. What this clarification was is something which I will continue to follow up, because the Poverty Commission report commissioned by the Council makes it clear that social (formula) rents are what is required by Brent residents. Recommendation 4 and the section The Pervasive Impact of Unaffordable Housing ) And 1 Morlands is of course a piece of Council owned land.
However, I was always concerned, knowing the layout at the very busy intersection on Hillside / Brentfield Road, about the effect on pedestrians if the community gardens and intervening footpath disappeared and, instead of the footpaths used by pedestrians currently, they would be forced along the narrow pavements immediately abutting these busy and highly polluted roads. I have put in an objection to the proposed stopping up order, both as a Councillor (from which I step down next week), and on my own behalf. I hope that others will do the same. Anyone who knows that busy intersection and the little island of green and appreciated community garden that sits there protecting pedestrians will appreciate what the change will mean. Including of course during the period of construction. I have sent a copy of my objection to Philip Grant.

Philip Grant said...

I am grateful to Gaynor Lloyd for her objection to the proposed Morland Gardens stopping-up order (copy received, thank you), and for her comment above.

It must surely carry weight when a serving Brent Councillor (albeit only for a few more days) points out to the appointed Council Officer that the proposed order goes against the Council's own adopted Air Quality Action Plan, and its legal duties over air pollution!

I was aware of Gaynor's enquiries to Council Officers about social / affordable housing at Morland Gardens, as we have a shared interest in Brent providing genuinely affordable homes.

As far as I know, she is still waiting for an explanation of the reasoning behind Brent changing the proposed homes here from "social rent" (as they originally told the GLA when they applied for funding towards the cost of the development) to "London affordable rent" (when the planning application went in).

I know the feeling (which could be described by the old fashioned phrase of "trying to get blood out of a stone")! I am still trying to get a straight answer out of Brent Cabinet members and Council Officers about why they will not provide more genuinely affordable homes on the Council-owned former Copland School site (aka Cecil Avenue).

Nearly a year after agreeing (in September 2020) the Brent Poverty Commission recommendation to invest in more housing at social rent levels, as that is what is really needed in the borough, the Cabinet approved plans (in August 2021) that would see only 37 of the 250 homes to be built there let to Council tenants at London affordable rents, and NONE of them at social rents.