It may seem odd that a 349 bed triple-tower development in Wembley High Road went through Brent Planning Committee with scarcely a murmer last night while a proposal for a single dwelling in Brondesbury Park had a professional planning advisor speaking on behalf of residents and suggesting possible legal action against the Council, and a 5 minute speech against by a ward councillor.
While much attention has been given recently to the Council's proposals for in-fill on its estates, and objections by residents to the subsequent the loss of green space and trees, less attention has been paid to what called be called 'private in-fill' when back gardens are built on. This is often through extensions or outbuildings at the side and bottom of gardens. The suspicion is that some of these are let out - 'beds in sheds'.
Last night's application was for building on the back garden of 7 Sidmouth Road, a house that has already been divided into flats. This was the latest application in a series which had been refused.
Cllr Erica Gbajumo submitted the following objection:
I write in order to formally object to the planning application 22/1282, located at 7A Sidmouth Road, London, NW2 5HH.
This borough does not need additional luxury homes which will be unaffordable to residents in desperate need of housing. This is a council which promised to build '1000 council homes' with the intention of supporting our most vulnerable residents in Brent with housing. The approval of this application would be a step away from this Council's pledge made in May 2022.
Moreover, in July 2019, Brent Council declared a climate and ecological emergency, a decision which many will agree was a step in the right direction in order to combat climate change. One of the aims of the climate emergency was to continue to double the number of trees planted in the borough.
The loss of trees, particularly category B and category C trees, will be detrimental to the area. This part of the Brondesbury Park ward is well known for its leafy green nature, and the removal of trees, will harm the biodiversity as well as being detrimental to the leafy green character of the local area.
I therefore call on the planning committee to not only scrutinise the application, which has made a CIL application to fund their unaffordable housing project, but to also reject the application based on the reasons outlined above.
A request by Cllr Gbajumo and Cllr Hack that consideration of the application be deferred because late changes had not been consulted on was rejected by officers on the grounds that these changes were only minor and did not require further consultation.
Cllr Ryan Hack made a careful considered presentation to the committee:
A particularly worrynging aspect of the case was the officers' argument that despite the loss of the garden and its trees and habitats that the development did less harm than the benefit of a new house. This could set a precedent when future schemes come before the Committee. Private back gardens could be a goldmine for the owners of similar properties.
The link with the urgent need to take into account the Climate Emergency scarecely figures in the Planning Committee's deliberations.
The planning application was approved by the Committee with Cllr Dixon and Cllr Maurice voting against. Cllr Dixon's reasons were the net loss of habitat, lack of clarity on how the development constituted less harm to the community and concern over drainage. Cllr Maurice was concerned that the Council may face a costly legal challenge and that the development was out of character being too large and he disliked the design. He was also concerned about drainage and the potential for sewage discharge in the event of heavy rain.