Thursday 1 December 2022

Kilburn Square – from the other end of the telescope



Guest post from Sara Hojholt in a personal capacity



It’s over two years (!) since Brent Council shocked our local community with a far too ambitious “Mini Master Plan” to build 180 new homes on the estate it owns in Kilburn Square – adding 80% to the 2019 population, on a smaller shared space.  Last September it finally listened to the near-unanimous rejection of that; and agreed to a re-think - acknowledging three major objections: the huge increase in density of residents; the loss of precious green space and mature trees; and the inclusion of a 17-storey tower.


But then in January it settled on a version only about 20% smaller, removing the tower but ignoring the other two objections. And despite good words about collaboration with residents, a scheme that would work for everyone, and not forcing homes on us… that’s essentially what they’ve now carried through to a Planning Application (reference 22/3669). And in the 138 documents of the dossier, they have failed to show clear evidence of substantial support from the estate residents or our neighbours in the wider community. 


So, here’s a message to our Council. For more information, search “Kilburn Square” on Wembley Matters, and visit our website


The other end of the telescope

An Open Letter to Brent Council from a Kilburn Square Resident


Dear Councillor Butt and Ms Downs,


I live on the Kilburn Square estate, where you want to build an extra 139 homes. You sit in Civic Centre, miles away from Kilburn. All your justifications for this still oversized scheme are top-down, and viewed from an external perspective. But I’m pleading with you to look at things from the other end of the telescope. One of your Housing Officers described our estate to our MP as “brilliant”; we believe your scheme would undermine our physical and mental wellbeing, and the “sense of place” which Brent used to put at the heart of its development planning.  


Your arguments


You tell us there’s a huge waiting list, the GLA has grant funds, you’ve committed to numerical targets, you have a target proportion of larger homes and you can’t afford to buy land. We hear that; but you then use abstract or euphemistic terms like Infill, Densification and PTAL (accessibility to public transport). 


·      “Infill” suggests a few extra units here and there – not 60% more households than our original estate had in 2019, with a reduced communal space.

·      You tell us the GLA supports “densification”; but Kilburn Ward is already the most densely populated in Brent. As for the estate itself, the GLA has dropped its quantified measures of density of residents, as unfit for purpose; but Brent still has one – it’s called Amenity Space and our estate already fails to meet it before a single new brick is laid.

·      Your team have told us “if we had to respect that norm, we could hardly build anywhere”. Is that a justification?

·      Good public transport is of course essential if any development is to be car-free; but that doesn’t in itself justify adding more new homes than the site can reasonably absorb

You’ve already added a Block to the Southwest corner of the site. The next, little-publicised move to add more housing was a GLA grant allocation in November 2018 – for 70 new homes by demolishing one adjacent daytime use building. Then in March 2020 Cabinet approved a Network Homes agreement, with an increased target of 80-100 new homes – removing a second daytime use building. 


Had you stuck on that, the broad local community would have seen it as an acceptable compromise – and the new Blocks would be halfway built already. Contrary to your regular public assertions, neither we residents nor our supportive neighbours are NIMBYs.


Instead, your team chose to double their target. You thoughtfully offered us a second 17-storey tower - thankfully now cut to a “mere” 7-8 storeys. But you’ve persisted with three satellite Blocks (now merged to make two) on our existing communal space. 


·      Brent’s project website refers, to this day, to “the availability of significant parcels of land that could be suitable” for development – with no justification offered.

·      And now your Planning Application claims that the green space and trees where you want to impose a 37-unit merged Block C is “underutilised”. Outrageous!

·      We’ve told you for well over a year that this is not only a precious area for physical relaxation. It’s also our Green Lung – a crucial visual and environmental amenity for the whole community, on and off the estate.

West Kilburn is already in Brent’s worst category for green space deprivation – and your own Climate Strategy seeks to increase green space not remove it. But don’t just take it from me, read the second Comment posted on the Planning Portal, from a Barrett House resident. Here’s an extract:


“My flat , it's dark and I have very little sunlight come in, I have significant health conditions including my lungs being damaged thanks to black mould, covid and asthma . I also struggle with other conditions. Taking away trees [and] green space will Impact on our health and quality of life. We utilised the green space in lockdown it was our neighbourhood connubial area!! It got us through tough times. Because we are poor and not privileged does that mean we don't deserve quality of life? In the long run it will cost the council more as mental and physical health will decline. Several other neighbours object to this work but due to either lack of English or learning difficulties have been unable to make objections. Please don't take away our trees, sunlight and quality of air!!!”


That’s the view of your Block C from our end of the telescope. And Block E would be shoehorned in unacceptably close to two existing Blocks.


In the meantime, the long-planned and urgently needed refurbishment of our existing tower block is no closer to being carried out. 


On a broader front, you’ve not explained why you have pressed this scheme on us Kilburn Square residents rather than, for example, devoting the whole Cecil Avenue site – Council-owned and with Planning Permission in place – to Brent-owned affordable homes. That would not be financially viable?... Ah, but wait a minute: you’ve publicly acknowledged to Cabinet that the Kilburn Square Planning Application as submitted IS NOT FINANCIALLY VIABLE. How misleading is that?


When our local newspaper asked the Council last week LINK  to comment on the scheme’s viability, your spokesperson dodged the question; nor did they comment on the number of units to be available at social rent level (the answer is none). The report to Cabinet is unambiguous: to achieve viability, most of Block B would need to be converted, after Planning Permission is granted, to Shared Ownership; and there’s even a hint of Open Market Sale!


For two years, your project team’s laborious pre-engagement process has tightly controlled the agenda, and has failed to gain the trust and support of the great majority of us residents. We do trust our Independent Advisors – 60% of our households gave them their honest views last year and they reported “There is no measurable support for the scheme, nor for the process”. But for subsequent “consultation” on alternatives defined by the project team, they were sidelined.


So, in summary, as the Council moves further away from meeting the needs of the truly most needy on the waiting list, towards becoming just another developer, the view from our end of the telescope is looking less acceptable than ever! For more information visit


Sara Hojholt, Kilburn Square Resident




Philip Grant said...

That is a brutally honest assessment on Brent Council's failings over Kilburn Square, Sara.

I hope that Carolyn Downs and Cllr Muhammed Butt will take on board what they have been told, and withdraw Brent's planning application.

That is the respect that your letter deserves, but as someone who has also sent open letters and emails to the Council Leader and Chief Executive, I can say that such hopes are rarely rewarded.

Anonymous said...

Great presentation, however, as Philp pointed out, Brent's leadership are deaf to residents views and needs.

Clare Latham said...

Any proposal that replaces play space with car parking space, increases rainwater run off and the risk of flooding, takes daylight from flats, removes unusually beautiful mature trees, makes it harder for a community to socialise and increases the density of housing in what is already the densest area of a borough makes little sense. I don’t know why Brent think this project is viable in any way. The new plans seem to make a fortress out of what is an open and friendly estate - surely something that will bring more problems further down the line? The original plans to redevelop the day time use buildings seem sensible enough and would go some way to supporting those in need of housing, without condemning them and everyone else to the health, social and environmental pressures of the current proposal.

Niam McAleer said...

Well said, Sara! An excellent summary. If any readers are minded to post formal comments on the Brent Planning Portal, you have until December 15 at least. Here are details and a few extra points
• Go to : and enter 22/3669. To comment, you’ll need to register – that’s quick and easy; or email, including your name and address
• Block C/CD will not only remove trees and green space, it will displace the current access road from Victoria Road, to run right outside the flats in Barrett House
• It will also mean a playground being relocated to a spot right outside flats in Rathbone House
• Block E is positioned unacceptably close to Sandwood Court – because Brent no longer owns the land on the other side alongside Morland House
• For confirmation that the scheme as presented is NOT financially viable; see this report approved by Brent Cabinet on November 14 . Paras 4.20 and 4.21 in particular
• Once they get Planning Permission they will need to convert probably 45-50 units (mostly in Block B?) from London Affordable Rent to Shared Ownership - not something that's likely to be an option for the most eligible people on the Brent waiting list,
• See this for one Brent Councillor's views on the appropriateness of Shared Ownership:
• And read this Kilburn Times article for Before and After pics of Block C/CD:

Email to join our campaign!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately objections will be ignored by the Leader's pet committee members

Scott said...

Kilburn needs a town council to take back resources and decision making power from a distant Brent (and Camden).

Anonymous said...

I wish all Kilburn Residents the very best of luck and hope you succeed in stopping this over development. But alas I will not hold my breath as Cllr Butt and his cronies will not listen to reason and will do what they want regardless of the cost of mental and physical health of people who will be affected.

Cllr Butt refers to people who pay his wages as “NIMBYS”. Doesn’t that say it all!!!

David Walton said...

Looks like Kilburn Square grey colonial estate zoned is a small version of Not Kilburn, south grey colonial estate zoned. By colonial I mean development has 'discovered' 'waste land' and fails to notice estate modern design and its humane and social wellbeing design principles. A coloniser mind-set.

Interesting how Old Oak and Park Royal re-development alterative, vast actual 'waste land' seems to be 'on hold' as developer colonial invades Brent Kilburn's schools land and remaining green space lungs, including its only small park instead.

Dividing Brent Kilburn using the eclectic railway fence has been an inspired council divide and grey tower strategy, Kilburn and Not Kilburn, south.

I could see all the existing Kilburn Square blocks being demolished in the next 20 years as Brent's real Plan.

Green agencies verbalise green access inequalities and churn out papers on this issue, but state policy is firmly destroy and none protect green spaces where green spaces are most needed (due to dense population car-free /no gardens). Half of its land green spaces, anti-population growth Richmond, is London's happiest place to live for the eighth year in a row……

UK Government sees population as wealth (aka Foucault), but it does not want to distribute this form of wealth evenly, preferring grey exclusion zoned pileups instead. UK half million migrants this year, 1 million next year likely, clearly these people have to be housed somewhere, my objection is that it is to mainly be in grey colonial zones where even modern built public social, health and green infrastructure is being totally removed by council planning committees. This extreme bifurcated wealth business model for London is what Kilburn Square and Brent Not Kilburn, south object to.

If you want to see a local example of 'development by greed', go to new Peel Precinct in Brent Not Kilburn, south and see what Countryside Developer is up to (the future for Kilburn Square?)

Good luck all is not yet lost. Brent Kilburn taxpayers should pay tax for something, as Richmond taxpayers clearly already happily do.

Anonymous said...

Sara - thank you for articulating the issues so well. Brent is run by Labour who are meant to help ordinary people but where is the help on this issue? They just seem determined to blight so many people.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately Brent's Labour Councillors are not what one would/should expect from Labour Councillors, but we would expect from Tory Councillors on the make. Not trying to define the difference am I? Hurray for Brent's Labour Councillors, supporter of the Private Rental Sector regardless of its resident, and great at misinformation and positive PR.

Anonymous said...

Why is is assumed that just Tory councillors are on the make? There are bad apples in all parties.

We have so many Labour Councillors who do not support local residents - many of them do not even respond to residents emails, yet they turn up at countless photoshoots for endless self promotion possibilities.

And we have yet to meet a Council officer at any level who actually lives in Brent yet they are making decisions about where we live.

Anonymous said...

In response to Anonymous 2 Dec 21.46

You are perfectly correct, if Brent were truly serious about Climate Change, and supported shop and travel local, they should make a policy that if you want to work for Brent Council you should live in the Borough. It would cut down parking and traffic, and Officers then would truly understand what fellow residents are experiencing, whether its unsatisfactory road cleaning, flytipping, and supporting objections to Planning applications that affect everyone including them.

Anonymous said...

Why would Brent Officers want to live in Brent? Brent is one of the most deprived parts of London and is losing its old heart and soul day by day whether it's the Willesden, Wembley or Kilburn part. Brent is full of new transient residents, those who have live here for years are leaving and being replaced by students and the poor.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting that Cllr Butt is attacking residents and some of his own Councillors for objecting to totally out of character and sub standard developments of all kinds. His current insult/attack is to call current residents and Councillors who object NIMBYs. He should look in the mirror and see the Carpetbagger best friend (goodness knows why he loves the carpetbaggers so much). Somehow Brent residents need to get rid of these CARPETBAGGERS out of the borough.

Definition of carpetbagger "to be exploiting the local populace for their own financial, political, and/or social gain"

Definition of NIMBY "objecting to the siting of something perceived as unpleasant or hazardous in the area where they live"

David Walton said...

The Levelling Up Secretary 5/12/2022 announced abolition of mandatory housing targets for councils, and that includes Brent!

Housing target numbers are from now only "advisory," especially where "genuine constraints" exist (like education and park nature access needs being destroyed) or "where density changes the character of an area." The Tories now want to create "proper neighbourhoods" rather than grey zoned-in colonial pile ups for this new pandemics age?

No wonder 8 Grey Zones Labour Brent is in such a panic and mad Xmas rush to Planning Application build on the remaining green spaces and schools of Kilburn and Not Kilburn, South!

Anonymous said...

Block E will block air and light we will live in grave because 4 side will be block the air , light ,view and sunshine and they told us they will send survey but nobody came and they don't care about our life and right