Sudbury residents protest in the public gallery - 63 objections and a 160 signature petition
Cllr Saqib Butt in a declaration at the beginning of the meeting said, 'Can I confirm that I am connected with the applicant and near enough all the signatories on the petition on social media' and Cllr Akram said he was declaring the same. * The legal officer confirmed they could take part. Cllr Rita Begum declared that she had received a gift, tickets for the developer's funfair, but confirmed these were below the £50 declaration limit. She might have well have reclused herself because her only participation in the discussion of the application was to vote for it.
Cllr Paul Lorber, Lib Dem, (Sudbury) made a decent fist of presenting all the things wrong with the planning application to build 4 three storey houses within Barham Park, replacing 2 small park keeper houses.
Cllr Tea Benea, Labour (Sudbury) also spoke against the proposal and Cllr Ketan Sheth, Labour (Wembley Central) had his statement also opposing the development read out as he was chairing another meeting. Cllr Benea is a new councillor and Cllr Sheth a veteran who himself is a former chair of Planning Committee.
Cllr Ketan Sheth said that when he was Chair of Brent Council’s Planning Committee he led on the conversations with residents for setting-up Neighbourhood Plans. Sudbury Town Residents’ Association was the first to engage with the Borough in drawing-up a plan, in consultation with the local community and planning officers. In 2015, the Sudbury Town Neighbourhood Plan was put to voters, and the community, in its area, with more than 900 people voting to accept it, 93% of the total votes cast.
Following that the Council then adopted the approved plan, and it remains the relevant part of Brent’s Local Plan policies for the Sudbury Town Neighbourhood, which includes the location for the planning application. A new designation - Local Green Spaces, was introduced in legislation for Neighbourhood Plans. This allowed communities to identify and protect green areas of particular importance to them. The Sudbury Town Neighbourhood Plan, at policy LGS1, identified four Local Green Spaces, one of which is Barham Park.
He said that today, local Green Spaces have the same protection in planning law as Green Belt land and that the Neighbourhood Plan’s green spaces policy BP1 is very clear about the nature of that protection, which applies to Barham Park, stating ‘Any proposals for the re-use or redevelopment of park buildings for residential use (Use Class C3) will not be supported.’
776 and 778 Harrow Road are park buildings. Originally, they were built within the park as homes for park-keepers. The proposal in this new planning application is seeks to demolish these park buildings, and redevelop the site to provide four residential townhouses. He recognised that these additional units could be a place for new residents or existing to call home but said it was clear, that this new planning application falls within the type of proposal, which policy BP1 states will not be supported.
Cllr Sheth went on to say that he was acutely aware that the current buildings lack any architectural merits; and suggested it is a moot point whether they are fit for habitation. However, he said it would be wrong for the current application to seek to override the Sudbury Town Neighbourhood Plan, unless there is convincing strong evidence to the contrary. To approve the application, in its current form, would be contrary to the Local Green Space policy BP1, which takes precedence over any contrary Brent planning policies, and would undermine the fundamental purpose of this Neighbourhood Plan. He suggested that the application should be reconsidered, and a revised application for a like-for-like replacement be encouraged.
When the agent for the developer spoke he said he would focus on the technical aspects of the proposal and when questioned said he knew nothing about the covenant on the site. Rather extraordinary.
One councillor on the Planning Committee had to be put right by the chair when he told an objector that the proposed houses would reduce the council's waiting list for council homes - they are not council homes, nor likely to be affordable at private sale.
Even more extraordinary though was the senior planning officer who went round in circles about the weight to be given to the Sudbury Neighbourhood Plan, the Brent Core Strategy, the Local Plan and the London Plan.
Eventually he said that all were relevant but you can ask, 'what harm would it cause if you break it?' and if the harm was less then go ahead.
This raises obvious questions about whether Neighbourhood Plans, despite all the work put into them by residents, are worth the paper they are written on.
There was an Alice in Wonderland discussion about whether buildings in parks are park buildings...
Clearly our green spaces are not in safe hands.
My impressionwas that Cllr Collymore did not vote (I was sitting behind her) but I have since been told she claims to have voted in favour along with her Labour colleagues. Cllr Michael Maurice (Conservative) voted against.
Cllr Muhammed Butt was in the room when I arrived but left before the meeting was due to start. In fact it started 30 minutes late due to technical problems.
Probably that was the least of the problems connected with this application which has succeeded at the 11th attempt but the covenant may still be the elephant in the room.
*Updated after listening to the recording of the meeting