Guest post by Philip Grant in a personal capacity
Extract from the Affordable Housing Statement in Brent’s planning application 21/2473.
When Brent Council submitted their planning application for the redevelopment of their Watling Gardens estate they said: ‘Brent Council are fully committed to delivering these much-needed new affordable homes.’ Then suddenly, at the last minute, they want to change that, so that 20% of the homes there will not be genuinely affordable.
Less than 24 hours ago, I wrote a guest post about a Report on 1 Morland Gardens for the Cabinet meeting at 10am on Monday morning, which had only been published on Thursday afternoon. I mentioned that there was another Report for that meeting which had still not been published. Giving Cabinet members, other councillors and the public so little notice of important issues where decisions are to be made is bad for local democracy, and it can also lead to bad decisions.
The Watling Gardens Report was only published at around 3pm on Friday afternoon. It asks the Cabinet to approve the award of a contract ‘in the sum of £38,535,634. In order to make the Watling Gardens scheme viable, it also recommends that Cabinet: ‘Approve the tenure changes of 24 homes (19 x 1 bedrom homes and 5 x 2 bedroom) from London Affordable Rent to Shared Ownership.’
I had looked at the Watling Gardens planning application, and felt that something was not right with that recommendation, nor the “facts” given in the Report to support it. I had another look, then immediately sent an email to Brent’s Legal Director and the Strategic Director (Community and Wellbeing) who had signed off the Report. This is that email (sent at 4:14pm on Friday):
‘Misinformation in Report to Cabinet on Watling Gardens (item 16 on Monday's agenda)
Dear Ms Norman and Mr Porter,
The Report on item 16 (Award of Contract for Watling Gardens) for Monday morning's Cabinet meeting was only published at around 3pm today.
I realise that this is an urgent matter (and that: 'Due to urgency, a waiver of call-in has been obtained in relation to the decision to be taken by Cabinet.'), but that does not excuse the Report containing what appears to be incorrect information, which might lead Brent's Cabinet to make an unlawful, as well as rushed, decision.
The misinformation I am referring to is at paras. 3.3 and 3.6:
'3.3 The planning consent gained for this site is for a 100% affordable housing scheme.'
'3.6 Therefore, officers recommend the change of 25 of the 125 homes to be converted to shared ownership as in recommendation 2.1. There will be no change to the planning approval required as this is an affordable housing product, on which the council receive 25% capital receipt at the point of sale and staircasing receipts usually from year 5 onwards. The properties would be fulfilling a need within Brent for people unable to register for affordable rented housing but not able to access the open market due to salary levels.'
The planning consent is not just for '100% affordable housing.'
Planning Committee, when they approved the application, did so on the basis that the 125 homes would be a mix of Social Rent and London Affordable Rent.
The consent letter of 25 April 2022 contained a specific condition over what type of affordable homes had been consented to:
Condition 3 from planning consent letter of 25 April 2022 on application 21/2473
There is no indication on Brent's planning website that there has been any change in this condition under application 21/2473, so that making a decision, and awarding a contract, which converted 24 (or 25?) of the 125 homes to shared ownership would involve Brent Council breaching its planning consent for the Watling Gardens scheme.
This point needs to be put right, so that Cabinet members are aware of the correct position well before they are asked to make a decision on the Watling Gardens contract.
The Report says that it affects Mapesbury and Kilburn Wards, but as I am not sure which Ward the site falls into following the boundary changes, I am copying this email to councillors for Cricklewood & Mapesbury and Kilburn Wards. Yours,