Guest Post by Philip Grant in a person capacity
1 Morland Gardens, behind locked Heras fencing, 26
It is almost three years since I first wrote about Brent Council’s plans to demolish “Altamira”, the locally listed Victorian villa at 1 Morland Gardens, and build a new adult education facility and 65 homes there. Ever since the project for an updated Brent Start college, intending to retain this beautiful heritage building, was “hijacked” at the end of 2018, to provide a large number of new Council homes, there have been mistakes and delays. Now there are more.
Brent Council does now have a vacant building, as the six month stay by Live-in Guardians has ended, and a barrier of Heras fencing now surrounds the outer wall of the grounds. They also have a contractor in place for their project, Hill Partnerships Ltd, under a two-stage Design & Build contract awarded last July. The first stage, a Pre-Construction Service Agreement, is underway, and as part of that the contractor submitted a Construction Logistics Plan (“the Plan”), as required by one of the conditions of the planning consent (given in October 2020!).
Condition 20, for a construction logistics plan, from the 1 Morland Gardens planning consent.
The submission of the Plan, in December 2022, was treated as a separate planning application (22/4082), but it was not advertised. I only discovered it online last week. It may not sound like a very interesting document, but when I read it, I found a number of things to comment on, pointing out in my objections how Brent, and their contractor, have got it wrong again.
The Plan treats the development site as a single plot of land, when it is actually two. Brent Council owns the public realm and highway outside the boundary of 1 Morland Gardens, which its proposed new building would partly cover. But it does not have any legal right to build on that piece of land. It first needs to obtain a Stopping-up Order for a section of the highway, and if it gets that order, the Council would need to appropriate that land for planning purposes.
There are objections to the proposed Stopping-up Order, and Brent has yet to submit its request for an Inquiry by an independent Inspector. As far back as May 2021, Brent’s Development Management Manager confirmed that an order would need to be: ‘approved prior to any development taking place on the areas that are currently adopted highway. Until the stopping-up process has been completed under S247 of the Town & Country Act 1990, works will not be able to start on the development insofar as it affects highway land.’
The Plan has been submitted because it needs to be approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority (Brent Council) ‘prior to commencement of the development’. If or when the legal hurdles I’ve just mentioned have been overcome, and the contractor has a site it can start work on, there are still plenty of problems.
The Key Site Constraints page from the Construction Logistics Plan.
As this early page from the Plan shows, there are a number of “constraints” involved in developing the site. Some of these are the result of the project’s designers trying to squeeze too many new homes into an unsuitable site, and ignoring the practical “constraints”. (Does that sound familiar? Newland Court and Kilburn Square come to mind, among others!)
One of the “constraints” listed is the single access/egress point to the site during construction, along the residential cul-de-sac of Morland Gardens itself, which would restrict the size of delivery vehicles. The Plan deals with this by saying that deliveries by articulated lorries will be unloaded from the lay-by, or “pit-lane”, on Hillside. What lay-by?
Page showing where vehicles would deliver materials to the site, from the Logistics Plan.
Someone involved in Brent’s project has made a major mistake here. The lay-by on Hillside for deliveries and refuse collections was part of the original plans submitted in February 2020. Those plans had to be revised, because both TfL and Brent’s Transportation Unit objected that a lay-by there would be unacceptable. Hillside is a London distributor road and bus route, with no waiting allowed at any time along its frontage with 1 Morland Gardens because of the proximity to traffic signals. A lay-by there would also be too close to the bus stop, and make the footpath too narrow for safe use by pedestrians. It appears that the contractor has been given the original, and incorrect, plans!
The site diagram above shows all deliveries by “rigid vehicles” coming through a gate from Morland Gardens, and then using the existing “turning head” to drive into and then reverse, so that they can exit forwards once they have been unloaded. But that “turning head” would no longer be available for vehicles making deliveries to, or collecting refuse from, the other properties in Morland Gardens. This, again, would ‘unduly prejudice the free and safe flow of local highways’, something the Plan should not be allowed to do, if it is to be acceptable to Brent’s planners.
Access for deliveries to Brent’s proposed Morland Gardens development is not an unforeseen problem. I raised it in an objection comment in July 2020 (see the “Transport and Access” section of a guest post I wrote before the Planning Committee meeting), after the revised plan removing the lay-by had been submitted in June 2020. However, Planning Officers dismissed my objection by saying it would be dealt with by a condition requiring a Delivery and Servicing Management Plan for the new college (ignoring the fact that there would also be deliveries and servicing for 65 homes!).
The other page from the Plan which has caused me to make an objection comment is the one labelled “Proposed Sales & Marketing Area”.
The “Sales & Marketing” page from the Construction Logistics Plan.
Sales and Marketing? The 65 homes in this planned Brent Council development are all meant to be “genuinely affordable” homes. Condition 3 of the planning consent confirms that, stating: ‘The development hereby approved shall be implemented and maintained for the lifetime of the development as 100% London Affordable Rent.’ Yet the diagram above shows a 2-bedroom, 3 person “show apartment”, available for viewing in the first section of the development (due for completion in week 64), to be used for sales and marketing purposes.
The 1 Morland Gardens planning application went totally against both Brent and London planning policies on the protection of heritage assets, and Planning Officers admitted that. The justification for doing so was the “public benefits” of the development, particularly the provision of 65 homes which would all be “genuinely affordable”. If some of the homes are to be sold, not let to Council tenants who urgently need them, that shifts the balance more towards scrapping the demolition, and keeping the Victorian villa as part of a more sensible scheme.
The Report to November 2022’s Cabinet meeting about the conversion of some LAR homes to shared ownership did include a paragraph on Morland Gardens, which suggested “value engineering” the project (without giving details). Martin published a guest post from me, including my open email to the Council Leader and Lead Member for Housing. I suggested, not for the first time, an alternative solution, but Cabinet members and Brent’s New Council Homes team seem determined to carry on with a project which is unviable and impractical.
How many more times can they get it wrong, before they realise they’re just throwing good money (our money!) after bad?
Thank you for your diligence Philip - you have such an eye for detail and we appreciate your efforts to save this historic building from destruction - a building like this should be fully protected.
Only yesterday we passed the Dunelm store on the A40 with its beautiful ornate tower and were so pleased once again that that had been saved.
I have sent the email below to the Planning Case Officer dealing with this application:
'Dear Mr Quinn,
You will have seen my objection comments of 27 and 28 January on application 22/4082.
I did not include any illustrations with those comments, but have included some in an online article which was published this morning, so that the basis for my objections is in the public domain. I'm attaching a pdf copy of that article, for ease of reference.
I would draw your attention to the illustration (from the Hill Partnerships Construction Logistics Plan) "Permanent Site Establishment during Construction", at the top of the third page.
You will see that deliveries to the proposed construction site from larger, articulated vehicles are proposed to be made via a lay-by on Hillside. That lay-by does not exist, and cannot exist, because both TfL and Brent's Transportation Unit have said that it would be unacceptable for both traffic flow and safety reasons.
It appears that the contractor was wrongly supplied with a copy of the original plans, not the revised plan of June 2020, which removed the proposed lay-by from application 20/0345.
As the Construction Logistics Plan is reliant on deliveries to the site from that non-existent lay-by, because access to the site via the gate at the southern end of Morland Gardens is so restricted (and itself would cause serious traffic flow and safety problems), the construction process set out in the Logistics Plan would ‘unduly prejudice the free and safe flow of local highways’
I trust you will agree that the Plan submitted under application 22/4082 is not acceptable, and must be refused. I look forward to receiving your confirmation on that point. Best wishes,
FOR INFORMATION 2:
This is a copy of an email, headed "1 Morland Gardens - When enough should be enough", which I have sent this evening to Brent's Lead Member for Housing and Head of Affordable Housing, with copies to the Council Leader, Deputy Leader and three other relevant Cabinet members:
'Dear Councillor Knight and Ms Baines,
This is an open email
Further to our correspondence last November, I'm writing to draw your attention to an article which I've had published today: "1 Morland Gardens – How many more times can they get it wrong?" You can read it, and the comments added to the post, at:
In case you, or other relevant Cabinet members (the Leader, Deputy Leader and Lead Members with responsibility for Regeneration, Education and Culture, who I'm copying this email to) feel reluctant to visit the "Wembley Matters" blog, I am also attaching a pdf copy.
My article concerns the Construction Logistics Plan submitted by Hill Partnerships Ltd, under Stage 1 of your contract with them for 1 Morland Gardens. Without an acceptable Plan, no construction can commence.
You will see that, to be able to construct your planned building, the Plan relies on a lay-by on Hillside for the delivery of large materials. The problem is that the lay-by does not exist, and cannot exist, because both TfL and Brent's Transportation Unit say that it would be unacceptable!
Brent's proposed 1 Morland Gardens development is not only unviable, it is also impractical. That is not a problem which can be solved by "value engineering"!
I realise that to abandon the Council's current plans for the Morland Gardens development would be disappointing, and embarrassing, but there comes a point when you must realise that enough is enough. Why go on wasting money, and delaying a viable new home for the Brent Start adult education college and the new homes planned for Twybridge Way, when it should be clear to you that your present scheme for 1 Morland Gardens cannot be achieved?
I suggested a sensible alternative in my email to Cllrs Knight and Butt of 9 November 2022. It is time that you gave my suggestion serious consideration, and I look forward to hearing that you will. Best wishes,
So much built heritage and ecological hostile destruction in Brent intensification zones, while taxpayers heritage and ecological protection limited funds available conserve, secure, make beautiful, healthy and pandemic/ climate change hyper resilient anti-growth areas the destroyers call 'home'.
A perfect closed structured bureaucratic system of building inequalities and of making difference.
..........Did you know Philip that MORE-LAND Gardens is on the Brent Brownfield Register see 84?
Many other brownfield shockers too such as, at 43, Granville Community Centre in quintuple population South Kilburn, with its Edwardian giant community main public hall 100 year heritage to be social un-plan extinguished.
At 99 is Kilburn Square brownfield.
Further to "FOR INFORMATION 2" above, both the main recipients of my open email have responded this morning.
Brent's Head of Affordable Housing wrote:
Thank you for sharing this with us.
Emily-Rae Baines (She/Her)'
The Cabinet Lead Member for Housing wrote:
Cllr Promise Knight
I have replied to both, saying:
'Thank you for your emails. I look forward to receiving your substantive response within the next couple of weeks. Best wishes,'
Their emails are pretty disrespectful considering all your efforts Philip particularly the 'Noted' from Cllr Promise Knight - let's hope her constiuents 'Note' this when considering who to vote for in the next local election!
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
Further to my comment at 15:15 today, it did not take long for Brent's Head of Affordable Housing to send me the Council's "substantive response" to my open email (see FOR INFORMATION 2 above).
This is what I received at 15:23 today:
As we stated in our response to you, your suggestions will be considered but this will be alongside a number of other factors.
At this point we have no further response to add to that but do appreciate you taking the time to set out your view.
You've probably looked into this already, but in case you haven't...
'The submission of the Plan, in December 2022, was treated as a separate planning application (22/4082)'
December 2022 may be significant, as the building is a 'locally listed Victorian villa at 1 Morland Gardens'
If the the document of December 2022 somehow supersedes the original Planning Application, it's worth looking at this, as it may apply - they may have to go to the Secretary of State.
THE TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING (CONSULTATION)
(ENGLAND) DIRECTION 2021
The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (“the
Secretary of State”), in exercise of powers conferred by articles 18(4), 31(1) and 45 of
the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England)
Order 20151 (“the Order”) directs as follows:
...1. This Direction shall come into force on 21 April 2021 and shall apply to applications for planning permission relating to land in England received on or after that date.
...9.For the purposes of this Direction, “commemorative object development” means development which consists of or includes full or part demolition of a statue, monument, memorial or plaque which is, or is part of, a building in place for a period of at least 10 years on the date of any proposed demolition other than a statue, monument, memorial or plaque:
(a) that is a listed building;
Dear Anonymous (1 February at 11:50),
Thank you for your comment. I was not aware of this Direction, and it will be a useful piece of information to have, when dealing with any planning applications involving a listed building.
Unfortunately, "Altamira" is only a locally listed building, and is not on the Historic England statutory list, which means that it does not count as a "listed building" for planning purposes.
Although application 22/4082 has a separate number, it is not in itself an application for "planning permission". It is an application under a condition imposed under the full planning permission, reference 20/0345, which was given consent in October 2020.
Have a feeling the building will mysteriously burn down solving any issues with demolition.
Dear Anonymous (2 February at 23:08),
I hope that your feeling about this is wrong!
It would be a great loss to the heritage of Stonebridge Park if this building were to be demolished, or otherwise destroyed, which is why I and others have been opposing Brent Council's flawed redevelopment plans.
I don't think More Land being brownfield registered 2022 helps the Altamira's cause. It is Brent known and iconic, if the HS2 London station is near too, then why not some heritage mixed in and showcased as at New Kings Cross?
Butt they don't care
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