Guest post by Philip Grant in a personal capacity
“Altamira”, 1 Morland Gardens, on 30 October 2023 (a significant date).
I’ve lost count of the number of guest posts I’ve written about Brent Council’s plans to redevelop (and demolish!) this locally listed heritage Victorian villa, then home to Brent Start, since they first submitted a planning application in February 2020.
The proposed development was mentioned in a report to Brent’s Cabinet earlier this month, which said: ‘The Morland Garden project is experiencing significant viability challenges whilst also being subject to a significant delay in the project delivery timescales dependent on the outcome of the public inquiry in relation to the stopping up order.’
I pointed out one of the “significant viability challenges” in guest posts in July, including copies of open letters to Brent’s Chief Executive and to the Mayor of London. I showed that Brent’s claim to have achieved a “start of site” by 31 March 2023, in order to qualify for more than £6.5m in GLA 2016-2023 Affordable Homes Programme funding, was false.
At first Brent refused to accept this, but on 30 August I received a letter of apology from Kim Wright, including the following admissions:
‘In the past few days, I have been made aware of some delays to the works programme which have resulted in the GLA’s Start on Site definition not being met, and this is different to what I had been firmly assured by colleagues was the case and which I communicated to you.’
‘I have expressed my disappointment and frustration to those Officers involved, in that I should have been able to rely on the accuracy of what they were telling me, especially after I had probed this particular point thoroughly in order to satisfy myself as to the position.’
‘Having reviewed this with the GLA, the council is now aware that this means the Start on Site definition was not met …. The council informed the GLA as soon as we became aware of this error and we are committed to working closely with them to address any implications arising from it.’
So, currently NO funding from the GLA for this project, What about the delay caused by ‘the public inquiry in relation to the stopping up order’? The Mayor of London’s decision on 20 March 2023 advised Brent that a Public Inquiry would be necessary, but (as one of the objectors) I waited in vain to hear when that would be held.
On 23 June I submitted an FoI request with a simple question:
‘Has a request to hold an Inquiry over the proposed Stopping-up Order been sent to the Inspector?’
All that it needed was a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Instead, on 31 July I received the following response from Brent’s Director of Property and Assets:
‘In relation to [your enquiry] above, I am unable to provide any of the information that you have requested, and, in this regard, I apply the EIR 2004 Exemptions set out in 12(4) (d) which states that the Council may refuse to disclose information where “the request relates to material which is still in the course of completion. This is because the Council is currently in the process of considering its options in relation to the Stopping-up-Order and no formal decision has been made as to how the Council will proceed.’
It appeared that the Council had not yet put the wheels in motion for an Inquiry into the objections (by four members of the public) against the proposed Stopping-up Order, but as the refusal to say “yes” or “no” seemed unreasonable, I requested an Internal Review. However, it appears that I didn’t understand how difficult it can be to provide a straight “yes” or “no” answer!
On 11 September, I received the Council’s response to that Internal Review (from Brent’s Corporate Director of Finance and Resources, no less). It included this statement:
‘With respect to the public interest considerations, I am aware of our obligations to enable greater access to environmental information. I am also aware of the public interest in promoting accountability and transparency for decisions taken by Brent, especially in relation to Morland Gardens and the stopping up order. However, I am also of the view, that providing a yes/no answer as you suggest, at that time, could disrupt the process and thinking of officers. I am therefore satisfied that the public interest in maintaining the exception outweighs the public interest in disclosure.’
However, the GLA funding and the Public Inquiry required over the Stopping-up Order were not Brent’s only problems over its proposed Morland Gardens development. They seem to have overlooked Condition 1 of the planning consent they received on 30 October 2020:
Condition 1 from the Decision Notice issued on 30 October 2020,
accepting Brent Council’s Morland Gardens planning application 20/0345.
The Council’s flawed Morland Gardens project has seen mistake after mistake, delay after delay. I will ask Martin to attach below a copy of the Open Letter I sent today to Brent’s Chief Executive, advising her that the planning permission for the Morland Gardens development has expired. It has lots of information, pictures and legal argument, should you care to read it.
1 Morland Gardens and the Community Garden, with the sympathetically
(about 20 years ago) Victorian villa at 2 Morland Gardens beyond, 30 October 2023,
Brent may try to find a way to wriggle out of the latest mess they have got themselves into, but I hope they will now have the good sense to drop their current plans, and design a development which provides an up-to-date college for Brent Start, with some affordable housing, but retains the beautiful heritage Victorian villa and the Community Garden area in front of it.