Kilburn Square opponents of the infill plans in the public gallery
Which should not surprise regular readers who will have got used to 'What Brent Council wants, Brent council gets' as far as the supposedly politically independent Planning Committee goes.
It's sad to see months of research, campaigning and well thought out representations by residents come to nothing as the Kelcher-Butt Juggernaut crunches on.
The three applications had much in common - new homes squeezed into estates at the expense of loss of green and amenity space, mature trees and access to daylight.
Kilburn Square was approved by 7 votes to one (Cllr Mauricer), Clement Close (which has received less publicity) approved unanimously, and Newland Court 6 for, 1 against (Cllr Maurice) and 1 abstention (Cllr Seelan).
The pressing need for council homes trumps the quality of life of existing council residents every time. However, as Cllr Georgiou pointed out, there is often the possibility of a compromise that provides additional homes on estates as well as respecting the views of existing residents. Speaking in favour of the Kilburn Square application on behalf of himself and Cllr Conneely (Kilburn ward councillors), Cllr Molloy supported the application saying that the area was much less densely built than Paris or Barcelona and the opposition came from the owner occupiers of nearby streets.
As I have observed over years of attending Planning Committee residents attending for the first time are often shocked by the proceedings - not just the mumbled, often incoherent, contributions but the factual mistakes that shocked residents try to point out but are quickly silenced. Poor chairing enables senior planning officers to ramble on down all sorts of bye-ways.
Tonight there were desperate attempts to correct one officer who several stated that one flat facing a proposed new building, was north facing, when the plan on the screen clearly showed it was east facing. The resident who actually lives in the flat was told she was not allowed to speak, so decisions were made based on misinformation.
After the meeting, having watched it on the livewebcast, Philip Grant sent Wembley Matters this comment about the Kilburn Square proceedings:
I've just watched the live webcast of the Planning Committee meeting for the Kilburn Square application.
Whether or not 100% affordable housing should be set down in Condition 3, rather than 'a minimum of 50%' was a live issue, with 100% supported by two Kilburn Ward councillors and Cllr. Georgiou, on the basis that anything other than that would not be acceptable if the application was accepted.
After fudging around it, Planning Officers finally admitted that the Committee could impose a 100% affordable housing condition, if that was what they decided was necessary to justify the harm which the application would cause.
There was some discussion about whether Brent Council would ever reduce the level of affordable housing from 100%, given their election promises and the acknowledged need for genuinely affordable homes.
The Chair, Cllr. Kelcher, said if the Council (or Cabinet) tried to reduce the amount of affordable housing, there were ways that could be challenged, such as call-in. He then moved the discussion on to other points of the application, and never came back to the affordable housing point.
In particular, he did ask committee members whether they wished to change Condition 3 from 'a minimum of 50%' to 100%. At the end of the discussion he just asked who was in favour of accepting the recommendation to approve the application, putting up his hand and noting that five other Labour members of the Committee did the same.
Cllr. Kelcher must have known that his wife, Cllr. Mili Patel, supported a Cabinet decision in November 2022 which would mean the "conversion" of at least around 40 of the LAR homes proposed for Kilburn Square to "intermediate" homes, or even to private sale.
The Vice Chair of the Committee, Cllr. Saqib Butt, also quick to put his hand up, must have known that his brother, the Council Leader, both supported and spoke in favour of the "conversion" of LAR homes at Kilburn Square at that Cabinet meeting.
Planning Committee could have ensured that 100% of the 99 general needs homes they approved for Kilburn Square were protected as genuinely affordable homes through Condition 3. They could also have ensured that any change to that which the Council later wanted to make would have to be by way of a fresh application for a "material change" (under Section 73, Town and Country Planning Act 1990), which would then need proper scrutiny and a possible further decision by Planning Committee.
The Chair of the Committee made sure that they did not even get a vote on that point (so that he and none of the other Labour councillors were seen to be directly voting against 100% affordable homes).
That is not how planning decisions on important points should be made - but it is the level that planning in Brent has sunk.