Wednesday 17 August 2022

Planning Committee dumps Brent Poverty Commission recommendations on social rent and leave disabled residents of Rokesby Place in the lurch


The recommendation accepted by Brent Cabinet in September 2020

The Planning Committee tonight failed to challenge the change of tenure from Social Rent to London Affordable Rent in the Rokesby Place planning application and the conditions tonight. 

I suspect that this may mean that London Affordable Rent (LAR) is becoming the default position on Brent's new council housing. As Alan Lunt did before, in another application, the planning officer presenting the report minimised the difference claiming that LAR was genuinely affordable. She first said that she hadn't got the numbers but LAR was 'very, very similar' to social rent. She was given time to get the figures and stated  that the difference was that LAR was 8% higher than social rent but did not mention that unlike social housing services, LAR services are not capped.  No councillor asked her to explain why the change had been made.  

Making light of an 8% plus increase on the original rent, particularly during a cost of living crisis on accommodation for large families, is not acceptable.

It seems that  Labour members of planning committee can see things that are wrong, ask a question, but then withdraw even when the answer provided is obviously inadequate.

They challenge but don't pursue all under the  emolliative chairing of Cllr Kelcher.

Similarly vague answers from Maddox, Brent Council's agents, were accepted and this included a claim that argued there was no requirement to take into account the disability adjustments needed for existing disabled residents as a result of the development, as well as the dismissing of LAR even though(not mentioned by councillors) their report stated that the development was for social rent. 

This followed a heart-felt presentation by a Rokesby Place resident on the impact of the changes on access of the proposed layout changes on access for those using a wheelchair. It was left to Conservative councillor Michael Maurice )Ken ton  ward)  to oppose the application on grounds of lack of disabled parking as well as parking for visiting carers and medical staff,  reduction of  amenity space for existing residents and an increase in density on a very small site. Cllr Rajan Seelan (Labour - Wembley Central) also voted against on vehicle access grounds but the application was passed 6-2.

In her presentation resident Shahida Khan had said that the present car park that will be removed was the only place for a disabled person to get out of a car safely.  There was no evidence of an equality impact assessment for disabled people and she suggested that councillors get in a wheelchair themselves and tried to get in and out of a car. The process has not been fair and the disabled had not been considered. She wanted the application deferred for further consultation.

Residents voiced oncerns about the difficulty of access for fire tenders but officers argued that the new houses would be fitted with sprinklers so that rather than the requirement for a 45 metre hose distance from appliance to the house that a 70 metre distance would apply.

Cllr Ketan Sheth (Labour - Wembley Central) a former chair of planning committee, gave a 5 minute presentation opposing the application and supporting the residents' views. 

He said that while private amenity space and a shared amenity space had been provided for residents of the new houses, the plans took away well-used existing amenity space for current residents. What was now proposed was a scant replacement for what they would lose.

Residents' everyday experience of parking on the estate meant that they rejected the officers' assessment of parking needs. The suggestion that they park on nearby streets would put them in competition with existing use by staff from the post office sorting office, fire station,  police station and a nursing home.

He challenged the officers' view that it was unlikely that hedgehogs were present in the current green space by saying as well as residents' sighting, he had seen them for himself. The loss of mature trees was disappointing and would discourage wildlife.

Cllr Sheth was also concerned about the new development's impact on the privacy of residents. The new car park would mean that at night headlights would shine straight into bedrooms and the proximity of the amenity meant noise would disturb residents.

He drew attention to the discrepancy in the documents that referred to social rent  in the applciation and London Affordable Rent in Condition 3.  The Council's own Poverty Commssion had identified that LAR was not affordable to most Brent residents. He suggested that Condition 3 be changed back to social rent.

That was not to be.

BACKGROUND: Wembley Matters has raised some questions about the make up of the Planning Committee and its inter-relationships in a previous article Planning and Probity.


Anonymous said...

Butt's sycophants on the planning committee don't mind being lied to about rents (£50 / week difference between SOCIAL RENTS and London Afordable) they are just so pleased to be doing their Highnesses bidding. As for Fluffyhead Kelcher, I'm sure the Tories would welcome him with open arms, along with devisive Towerblock Tatler and a few others. Poor Brent, becoming poorer by the day.

Anonymous said...

The whole process has been a disgrace in how it has been handled. There was no impartiality from the Chair and he clearly showed bias towards Cllr who were for the development.

Anonymous said...

What was also noticeable was how cllrs that were objecting were vigorously questioned to provide evidence for their arguments but the same was attitude was not put to those that were supporting the development. Evidence with pictures of hedgehogs have been provided clearly showing they were found on Rokesby place.

Anonymous said...

How could they vote in favour of the development when serious concerns (even the chair cllr K acknowledged) regarding issues concerning disabled residents and wheelchair access and put as a condition that this be looked at further to the developers and address. The whole meeting should have stopped there!
The developers/council lied regarding consultation (clear proof of that is available) on having consulted with residents of the planning. This did not happen! More to be told how residents FOUND out about the planning! Hmm…a lot to be answered here.

Anonymous said...

The whole thing was a complete farce. Cllr Kelcher (Chair) started of by saying there is a huge housing shortage in Brent and larger homes are needed. Why start of with a speech and then say (pretend) to be impartial. Did his wife ( Deputy Council Leader) tell him to approve this!
Did M Butt (Council Leader) ask his brother Cllr S Butt (Deputy Chair) and the other relatives on the committee to pass this application. Ofcourse not!

They must think the public in Brent are stupid and are treating us as such.

Anonymous said...

Everyone should reach out and support Rokesby place especially those with legal knowledge as something fishy has been going on with this whole process. Those with disability knowledge should reach out and help them. This shouldn’t be happening to them in this day and age

Anonymous said...

The London Borough of Bent

Anonymous said...

Now that Cllr Maurice and Cllr Seelan voted against the proposal will they be kicked off the planning committee and be replaced by “Yes Cllr” ?

Martin Francis said...

Cllr Maurice is the Conservative representative so I think he is safe. As for Cllr Rajan-Seelan he is one of the three Labour represenatives for Wembley Central ward which covers Rokesby Place. Planning Committee is supposed to be independent of political interference and is not whipped but watch this space. There are precedents...

Anonymous said...

It is quite obvious that Cllr Seelan was put on Planning to secure his full support for the Leader, now he's gone against he will surely be removed.

Anonymous said...

The comparison between Brent Council and the Wealdstone Brook appear quite accurate.

Anonymous said...

You've got to love the article's description of Cllr Keltcher's Chairing as emolliative (weak, ineffective, or effeminate). His open support of Butt's Brent knows no bounds.

Philip Grant said...


This is the full text of an email I have sent this morning to Brent Council's Head of Planning, headed: "Application 22/1400 - Freedom of Information Act request - Social Rent or London Affordable Rent":

Dear Mr Ansell and Brent FoI team,

I am addressing this email directly to you, as well as to Brent FoI, as you have been delegated the authority to make changes to yesterday evening's Planning Committee decision on application 22/1400 (Rokesby Place), including authority to vary conditions. I would request that you do not issue a consent letter on that application until this Freedom of Information Act request has been fully dealt with, as the answers to it may require an amendment to Condition 3, Affordable Housing.

The reason for this request is my concern about the change made to the type of affordable housing tenure for the two new four-bedroom homes at Rokesby Place, and how this came about, as there does not appear to be any justification for it in the documents for this application published on Brent's planning website.

The application form for 22/1400, submitted by Maddox Associates on 13 April 2022, clearly states for each of the two new homes:
'Tenure: Social Rent'.

The Planning Statement for this application, published on Brent's website on 19 April 2022, when describing the Proposed Development, states:
3.4 The houses are all proposed for social rent.'

Despite this, the proposed Condition 3 in the Officer Report to Planning Committee on 17 August was as follows:
'3. The residential dwellings hereby approved shall be provided as affordable housing in perpetuity, and shall be delivered as London Affordable rent units ....'

Freedom of Information Act Request:

In order to establish why the tenure of the two houses was changed from Social Rent to London Affordable Rent, please let me have the following information and documents (in pdf format, please) in respect of the Rokesby Place planning application 22/1400, covering the period from 13 April 2022 to 17 August 2022:

1. On what dates in that period were there any communications (other than the Application Form and Planning Statement referred to above), in either direction, between the applicant (or its representatives) and Brent Planning Officers about the type of affordable housing tenure for the two proposed new homes at Rokesby Place?

2. Please let me have copies of all of the communications in 1 above.

3. If any of the copy communications requested under 2 above have names redacted, please provide details of the status, employer and job title of each person whose name has been redacted, if this is not shown on the copy where the name itself has been redacted.

4. If there are no communications of the type requested in 1 above, please explain when, how and why, and on whose authority, the proposed Social Rent tenure (shown in the April 2022 application documents for application 22/1400) was changed to the London Affordable Rent tenure proposed in Condition 3 of the Officer Report in August 2022.

Please acknowledge receipt of this email and FoI request. I look forward to receiving your full response to it at an early date. Best wishes,

Philip Grant.

Brent's Head of Planning has replied, saying: 'We will of course look at the questions you raise and respond shortly.'

Anonymous said...

I was present at the meeting and the planning officer seemed to suggest that the fencing on my boundary was in poor condition and I would be made to repair it. In fact the boundary fencing is the council's responsibilty and and not ours they last repaired it more than 15 years ago. So they admit that they are not doing there job. Another example of misinformation by the planning officers. They were also very disparaging of residents (both private and council) attempts to keep the area green through planting of tree shrubs flowers etc. I think there does need to be an investigation in to the whole of this planning application

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - 18 August 11.10 - says Kelcher's open support of Butt's Brent knows no bounds.

What do you expect??? Butt made Mrs Kelcher (Mili Patel) Deputy Leader of Brent Council, so he has to do whatever Mo Butt wants, in order to keep his wife in a position of power!!!

Paul Lorber said...

Sadly this, and similar planning applications made by Brent Council, are effectively pre-determined (decided in advance of the planning meeting) because of the new Local Plan rushed through by the Labour Leadership without debate at a recent Council Meeting. This Local Plan sets a target of 4,000 extra homes in "infill" type areas meaning that any application that helps to meet this large target is 'deemed' as acceptable. Only the Liberal Democrats voted against the Local Plan because we saw what was coming.

The Plans approved for Rokesby Place are taking car parking spaces and amenity grass/planted areas away from existing residents occupying 34 homes on this small estate so that 2 x 4 bedroom houses can be built with miniscule 2.5m long strips of garden and NO car parking. The 4 bed family homes are intended for up to 8 people so the likely hood that neither of the houses will have a single car is ZERO! It is of course long standing residents who are paying the price for this Labour inspired planning madness. In the meantime the Labour Cabinet is authorising the spending of £tens of millions on buying one and two bedroom flats from developers who are more than happy to unload them - As we are always told that it is larger 4 bed plus units that Brent is short off why waste money on those small units and not insist on developers providing the larger ones?

Anonymous said...

How this disgraceful and dishonest council was re elected is beyond me!

Philip Grant said...

Dear Anonymous (18 August at 16:27),

The majority Labour Brent Council was re-elected in May 2022 because only 30% of the borough's residents who could have voted did actually vote.

More than in 2018 voted for candidates other than Labour, so that 5 Conservatives and 3 Lib Dem councillors were elected.

But overall, with the "first past the post" system, in most of the Wards more of the people who bothered to vote, voted Labour. They did this either because they believed that Brent's Labour Council was doing a good job, or they considered that it was better to vote for councillors who claimed to uphold Labour values (and some of them do).

You may, from your own experience of them (?), consider them to be 'disgraceful and dishonest'. But unfortunately, most people don't bother to take much interest in what Brent Council is doing.

Most of what they know comes from the Council's own Communications Team, which sees its job to be only to promote positive stories about Brent Council, especially through the "Your Brent" magazine and weekly emails, which often feature photos of and "quotes" from Brent Labour Cabinet members.

If things on the Council are to change for the better, more people need to be made aware of what actually goes on at Brent Council. Opposition parties and other groups who ARE interested need to draw attention to social media sources and blogs, such as "Wembley Matters", which provide a more balanced and critical view of local affairs.

There may be by-elections, but the next chance for any real change will not come until 2026. Until then, it is important to raise awareness of what is wrong at Brent Council (as well as acknowledging when the Council does some good, when that is the case, and giving credit for that where it is due).

It is also important to challenge the Council, where appropriate. One way that this can be done is through using the rights we all have, such as using Freedom of Information requests to get the evidence behind what has happened, asking Public Questions at Council meetings, or asking to speak at a Council meeting, to get your point heard.

Philip Grant said...

I have watched and listened to the webcast of the Planning Committee meeting for the Rokesby Place application, so can now comment on the information given by the Planning Officer about the difference between the levels of Social Rent and London Affordable Rent.

The figure she gave for London Affordable Rent, for 2022/23 for a 4-bedroom house, was £198.03 a week. This comes from the table published by the GLA on the Mayor of London's website.

The figure she gave for Social Rent, for 2022/23 for a 4-bedroom home, was £183.18 a week. This figure comes from the Government's website on social housing controls, and is the MAXIMUM that can be charged as Social Rent for a home of this size.

This gives the around 8% difference between Social Rent and LAR which Planning Committee were told.

If the Planning Officer had used the latest London local council average Social Rent figure from the GLA affordable rents table (2020/21), uprated by the statutory maximum annual increases (2021/22 = 1.5%, 2022/23 = 4.1%), the comparative Social Rent for a 4-bedroom home would be £147.75 a week. That's over a £50 a week difference!

What conclusion can we draw from this?

Do Brent Council intend that any new homes they build for Social Rent will be for the maximum Social Rent level allowed by the Government?

Or do they take the view "why not make them all London Affordable Rent?", and charge tenants an extra 8% for their homes, but still claim they are providing genuinely affordable housing to Brent residents in housing need?

Anonymous said...

I've heard that these two new houses will cost Brent Council £2million to build - how do they get to this figure? You can build a new 4 bed house for £100K and Brent already own the land.