Guest post by Philip Grant in a personal capacity
From JLL’s Affordable Housing Statement for Kilburn Square, published 28 November 2022.
There are many reasons for objecting to Brent’s “infill” housing application (22/3669) for the Kilburn Square estate, but when I submitted my objection at the weekend, it was just about affordable housing.
Why would I object, when an updated and “Final” Affordable Housing Statement submitted by the Council’s planning agent, JLL, in late November clearly promised that for the 99 proposed “general needs” units ‘all proposed homes will be let at London Affordable Rent by Brent Council’? My reasons are set out in detail in an illustrated objection comments document, which I hope can be attached at the end of this post, for anyone to read if they wish to.
Two weeks before that Affordable Housing Statement was published, Brent’s Cabinet had approved a Report which proposed the conversion of homes, originally promised to be for rent at the genuinely affordable London Affordable Rent (“LAR”) level, to shared ownership (or even open market sale). Kilburn Square and Windmill Court were among the schemes where this would happen, but the actual numbers of LAR homes to be converted at each site were hidden away in an “exempt” Appendix.
Paragraphs about Kilburn Square from the Report to the 14 November 2022 Cabinet meeting.
Despite Brent’s New Council Homes team having known for at least three months now that they would not be delivering all 99 of their proposed “general needs” homes at Kilburn Square at LAR, no updated information on this has been supplied to Brent’s Planning Department. That information could make a difference between the application meeting Brent’s Local Plan affordable housing policy, BH5, or not meeting it.
The policy states that the “tenure split” for affordable housing should be 70% Social Rent or LAR and 30% ‘intermediate products’. Forty of the proposed 139 homes at Kilburn Square are for extra care accommodation, charged at Local Housing Allowance rent level, which is an ‘intermediate product’. This means that the split shown by the application (by unit) is 71.2% LAR and 28.8% intermediate, which would comply with Brent’s planning policy.
However, if the homes converted from LAR to shared ownership (which is also an ‘intermediate product’) were to be split proportionately between Kilburn Square and Windmill Court (the other two schemes would only involve two “conversions”), the split by unit for Kilburn Square would become 43.9% LAR and 56.1% intermediate. This would fail the BH5 policy test, and make it difficult for Planning Officers to recommend the Kilburn Square application for approval on the basis of its “public benefits”.
Conclusions from the Officer Report to Planning Committee on Windmill Court, March 2022.
When Brent’s Windmill Court planning application (21/4690) went to Planning Committee in March 2022, the fact that all of the proposed new homes would be for Social Rent (for existing tenants re-housed) or LAR was cited as a ‘substantial benefit’. This was used to justify several failures to comply with planning policy, which were 'considered acceptable' after taking into account that benefit.
Now some of those LAR homes will be converted to shared ownership (as has already happened at Watling Gardens). But that was because problems with viability only arose (or so it was claimed) after planning consent had been given. The situation over the proposed conversion of LAR homes to shared ownership at Kilburn Square is very different!
I will end this “introduction” to my objection comments with two paragraphs from them, setting out my views on the Kilburn Square position to Brent’s Planning Officers:
4.4 It currently appears that the applicant is knowingly withholding important information from the Local Planning Authority, in the hope that it can get its application approved on the basis that all of the 99 “general needs” homes proposed will be for rent at LAR level. It would then submit an application to vary the affordable housing condition in the consent given on that basis.
It would undermine the integrity of Brent’s Planning System, and reflect badly on the integrity of Brent’s Planning Officers and Planning Committee members, if such a blatant abuse of that system were allowed to occur.
4.5 I would argue strongly that, having been made fully aware of this situation, Brent’s Planning Case Officer should advise JLL that its client, the applicant, must submit its revised proposals for the tenure split of the proposed 139 homes at Kilburn Square, and that no decision on application 22/3669 can be made until that has been done.
We will have to wait and see whether any notice is taken of my affordable housing objection comments!
This is the text of the email I sent on 5 February, attaching the pdf copy of my objection comments, to the Case Officer dealing with the Kilburn Square planning application.
I copied the email to other senior Planning Officers, including Brent's Head of Planning, so that no one involved in dealing with the Brent New Council Homes planning application can claim that they were unaware of the important points I have made:-
'Dear Mr Thompson,
As Case Officer for application 22/3669, you should have received copies of the two parts of the objection comments which I submitted this afternoon (5 February).
I promised in my introduction to those comments to send you an illustrated pdf copy, for ease of reference, and I'm attaching that document.
You will see that my comments relate solely to the position over affordable housing, and the fact that the applicant's actual intentions over the split between LAR and intermediate housing products have not yet been disclosed to you by the agent, JLL, despite having been approved by its client on 14 November 2022.
I believe that action is required as a result of my detailed comments, and I would draw your attention to the following paragraph in them:
"4.5 I would argue strongly that, having been made fully aware of this situation, Brent’s Planning Case Officer should advise JLL that its client, the applicant, must submit its revised proposals for the tenure split of the proposed 139 homes at Kilburn Square, and that no decision on application 22/3669 can be made until that has been done."
As you may wish to seek advice on that point, I am copying this email to some of your senior colleagues, for their information. Best wishes,
After 22 years Growth zoned, South Kilburn has delivered only 8 new for social rent flats, at Dovebury Court (owned by Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea).
1 bedroom £104.66pw
2 bedroom £105.50pw
2 bedroom £124.76pw
2 bedroom £158.79pw
2 bedroom £155.40pw
2 bedroom £124.76pw
3 bedroom £118.62pw
FOR INFORMATION 2:
In the interests of openness and transparency, and to try to persuade those in power to "do the right thing", I sent the following email to Brent's Lead Member for Housing and Head of Affordable Housing this afternoon:
'Dear Councillor Knight and Ms Baines,
You will be aware, from the letter which I had published in the "Brent & Kilburn Times" on 19 January, that I feel Brent Council (as applicant) is being dishonest by not notifying Brent Council (as Local Planning Authority) about its changed plans for the affordable housing in its Kilburn Square planning application, 22/3669.
I have now submitted a formal objection comment about this, and I attach an illustrated copy of my comment, for your information.
I have also written to the Planning Case Officer, drawing his attention to this paragraph:
'I would argue strongly that, having been made fully aware of this situation, Brent’s Planning Case Officer should advise JLL that its client, the applicant, must submit its revised proposals for the tenure split of the proposed 139 homes at Kilburn Square, and that no decision on application 22/3669 can be made until that has been done.'
I hope that you will now supply the necessary information to JLL, if you have not already done so, and instruct Brent's planning agent to submit a revised Affordable Housing Statement, so that the decision on your planning application can be made on the facts about your proposals for the tenure split of the proposed new homes.
In order to publicise this matter further, I have had a guest post published today on "Wembley Matters", which you can read at:
FOR INFORMATION - UPDATE:
In the continued interests of openness and transparency, I am setting out the full texts of an exchange of emails this afternoon.
The first is the response from Brent Council to my email (FOR INFORMATION 2 above) sent yesterday, and the second is my reply to it:-
1) From Brent's Head of Affordable Housing:
'Thank you Phillip for sharing this with us. As with any developer we as the Council are subject to the same rules and requirements and I am glad you have utilised the official processes to flag your concerns so they can be addressed.
2) My reply to Brent's Head of Affordable Housing:
'Dear Ms Baines,
Thank you for your email.
I agree with you that planning applications by the Council should be treated in the same way as those by any other developer.
I would expect any developer to be honest with the Local Planning Authority about any changes in their proposed application, such as the tenure split in the affordable housing they intend to provide.
I have raised my concerns over Brent Council's failure to be open and honest about its changed tenure split for Kilburn Square via the official planning comments process, but I have also raised them directly with you, as the Council's Head of Affordable Housing, and with Cllr. Promise Knight, the Cabinet Lead Member for Housing.
Please confirm that you have now instructed JLL to submit a revised Affordable Housing Statement for Kilburn Square (application 22/3669), giving the actual and updated tenure split for the proposed 139 homes, including those you intend to "convert" from LAR to shared ownership.
If you cannot give that confirmation, please explain why, and what you intend to do over the tenure split on this scheme. Thank you. Best wishes,
Kilburn Times letter, 2 Feb, p.9:
How many stair cases in the proposed new towers, owners agents back to the drawing board on Kilburn Square as brownfield plans?
Surely, every Brent resident can at least agree no 'market decides' Grenfell Tower failed design new towers anywhere in Brent, even the ones 'on site' now in Grey Growth Zones?
FOR INFORMATION - CONTINUED:
For the further exchanges of correspondence with Brent Council over this matter, please see my guest post of 16 February, "Kilburn Square - Would you believe it?", at:
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