Two 4-bedroom houses are planned for this site (Site A)
Many issues have arisen over Brent Council's plans for infill housing in its council estates but the two main ones have been loss of green space and trees to the detriment of existing residents and the proposed tenure of the new developments.
The Brent Planning Committee will consider the Brent Council planning application on Wednesday August 17th at 6pm. I understand that are likely to be representations from residents and a local councillor. The webcast can be viewed live HERE.
Both issues are involved in the proposal for infill at Rokesbury Place in Harrow where two four-bedroom houses are proposed on the site above at the end of a dead-end street. The tenure of the houses has been changed from the Social Rent originally proposed to London Affordable Rent.
The proposal would remove three mature trees and reduce the green space, used for leisure, and parking.
These trees are to be removed:
Whilst it is noted that there is a part loss of the existing grassed space, (next to 34 Rokesby Place) the scheme would provide a new communal amenity space next to the new homes and enhancement to the remaining space within site B (next to 31 Rokesby Place) including new drying facilities. The benefits of the scheme to provide two new affordable family sized homes would be considered to outweigh the harm of any loss of existing green space as discussed within para 67-69 below (see report)
An area of approximately 160 sqm of green space is proposed to be changed to hard surfacing to accommodate the enhanced turning head and the parking spaces within site B. Site A has landscaped areas at either end of the car park, with a total area of approximately 145 sqm. These will be removed, but a new communal landscaped area of approximately 80 sqm will be re-provided. It is acknowledged that it is possible that some residents may be currently using some of the grassed area for recreational functions, and that this may have some local value despite not falling within the boundaries of a designated public open space. (My emphasis)
Policy DMP1 seeks to retain existing green infrastructure including open space, high amenity trees and landscape features, and providing appropriate additional or enhancements where possible. Where the loss of open space is proposed, this would be required to be balanced against the benefits of the proposal. While the loss of the green space is acknowledged, the scheme would deliver the provision of two affordable family sized homes within the Borough for which there is an identified need. This is considered to outweigh the harm, particularly given the proximity to Barham Park which provides a large area of open space in very close proximity and access to this park would remain unrestricted for nearby residents. On balance, the loss of this green space is outweighed by the benefits of the scheme as a whole, including the delivery of two affordable family sized homes.
A objector from Copland Avenue points out:
On the previous application in 2015, the Tree Officer appraised the two trees to the rear of the site (Bird Cherry T2 and Lime T3) and provided root protection recommendations (in fact the cherry is a prunus lusitanica, a tree with an Award of Garden Merit which produces food for pollinators and berries for birds). That report stated ..." the retention of trees identified as T2 and T3 is recommended as this will enhance the screening between the new houses and the adjacent gardens. The retention of existing groups of trees will be beneficial in maintaining the character and appearance of the site and locality as well". Additionally, in the final report of the 2015 application it stated, "One tree would be lost as a result of the proposal, however, a Bird Cherry and Lime which provide a valuable food source and attract various wildlife would remain on site". There doesn't appear to be a tree officer's report for this application, just a report by the developer which is not going to be impartial. These two valuable trees, plus a nice silver birch, are all to be sacrificed, it seems - heartbreaking! We strongly object to this. Surely Brent should adhere to its previous recommendation to retain these trees. We would also request a BAT survey has they are in our garden every summer.
This is the overall plan for the Rokesby Place:
The applicant claims that when surveyed only one car was using the car park which appears to be disproved by this photograph from a resident:
Incidentally the building behind the car park, an extension to a Crawford Avenue house, is not shown in the application plans.
Work will also go on at the green space adjacent to 31 Rokesby Place. This is currently a green space with a washing drying area where residents have carried out planting. Cars are morked next to it but the council say this is a turning area. They claim 5 'new' car parking spaces are provided in the new design but this does not take account of the loss of spaces on the northern site or the spaces needed by the new houses. Objectors dismiss claims that residents could park on nearby streets.
Visiting this morning it was clear that this small, peaceful community really care for their estate as can be seen from the planting that has taken place outside the terrace of houses:
The second issue, previously high-lighted on Wembley Matters, and of particular significance to Watling Gardens, is the never-ending ambiguity around Brent Council's definition (or lack of it) of 'affordable housing.
The Brent Poverty Commission in the report adopted by Brent Council was clear:
The application form clearly stated that the tenure for these 4 bedroom houses would be for Social Rent. LINK.
However, the Planning Statement, prepared by Maddox Planning for Brent Council as the applicant, clearly states a proposed Social Rent LINK:
The justification for the harm this application will do to the existing residents of Rokesby Place is the benefit that two new four-bedroom Council homes will provide.
On the application form it was said that these new large family homes would be for Social Rent.
Social Rent was identified by the 2020 Brent Poverty Commission Report as the only genuinely affordable housing which the majority of families in housing need could afford, and the rent level which Brent Council should be aiming to provide its Council housing programme at.
But the proposed Condition 3, which the Officer Report recommends the Planning Committee should approve, has changed the tenure of these two homes to London Affordable Rent, which is not what the application offered, and would not be affordable to most families on the Council's waiting list.
By making these two homes for London Affordable Rent, rather than Social Rent, it undermines the benefit which is supposed to justify this application. If Planning Committee is minded to accept the application, it should insist that Condition 3 be changed, so that the affordable housing is delivered as two Social Rent units, as originally set out in application 22/1400.
This is particularly important as these 4-bedroom houses are clearl meant for large families so rent level wil be particularly important for them - as the Poverty Commission recognised.
Back in 2018 the Scrutiny New Developments Task Group on Affordable Housing LINK said:
Brent’s future housing strategy should be explicit about the need for social rent. It is not acceptable for the viability process to lead to a lack of social rented accommodation, but significant proportions of “affordable rent” and intermediate products such as shared ownership, when we know these simply are not genuinely affordable options for residents of the borough in housing need.
That is even truer today.