Guest post by Philip Grant in a personal capacity
The recent guest post by the Chair of Kilburn Village Residents’ Association, Kilburn Square – Decision time (Chapter One) is finally here this Wednesday, ends with a reference to a future decision which will have to be made if planning permission for Brent Council’s proposed scheme is approved. But if Planning Officers get their way, there will be no Chapter Two.
Martin’s earlier blog about the various Brent infill housing applications on the agenda for Wednesday evening’s Planning Committee meeting, Say after me, 'The benefits of the scheme outweigh the harm/impact/conflict with policy', showed how Brent’s Planning Officers are using claimed “public benefits” to justify ignoring any objection points against the applications they are recommending should be accepted.
The main “public benefit” which they say would ‘far outweigh any harm’ on the Kilburn Square application (despite the many valid objection points set out in the KVRA Chair’s recent article) is that the proposed 139 new homes would all be affordable housing. That is what the application’s Affordable Housing Statement (Final) says, despite Brent’s Cabinet giving the green light to some of them being "converted" to shared ownership or even outright sale at its meeting in November 2022.
The rent details from the application’s Affordable Housing Statement (Final)
The affordable housing proposed in the Kilburn Square application is 99 "general needs" homes at the genuinely affordable London Affordable Rent ("LAR") level, and 40 New Accommodation for Independent Living ("NAIL") flats at the "intermediate" Local Housing Allowance rent level.
Other local Brent housing estate applications (Watling Gardens and Windmill Court) approved in 2022, under the current Brent Local Plan policies, also showed that all of their new homes would be for genuinely affordable housing (LAR, or Social Rent level for returning existing tenants). The affordable housing condition (Condition 3) in their planning consent letters made clear that 100% of the homes would be affordable housing, as set out in those applications. The reason given for this condition was: 'In the interests of proper planning.'
There have been no changes in planning policy or law since those consents were issued in April 2022, so the position should be the same for Kilburn Square.
However, if you look closely at the proposed Condition 3 in the draft decision notice, tucked away at the end of the Planning Officers’ Committee Report for Kilburn Square, it says:
'The development hereby approved shall contain 139 residential dwellings. A minimum of 50 % of those dwellings (measured by habitable room or number of homes) shall be provided as Affordable housing ....'
I submitted an objection to this proposed condition, and I will ask Martin to attach a copy of the pdf version of it (which I submitted online, and emailed to the three key Planning Officers - Head of Planning, Development Management Manager and Case Officer – on Sunday evening) at the foot of this article, for anyone to read if they are interested.
I also objected to a weird Condition 4 in the draft decision notice, also concerning affordable housing, for which there was no mention or explanation of in the body of the Committee Report:
The opening part of the proposed Condition 4 from the draft decision notice.
If the application is approved on Wednesday, as recommended by Planning Officers, allowing affordable housing Condition 3 to stand would totally undermine the "public benefits" which the application is meant to provide.
A minimum of 50% of the proposed new homes would be 70, leaving 69 which Brent's New Council Homes team could "convert" away from genuinely affordable LAR rent to local people in housing need. They could even be “converted” from affordable housing to private sale, leaving as few as 30 of the 99 “general needs” homes at LAR rent level, promised by the application, actually delivered by Brent Council’s Kilburn Square project.
What is equally as bad is that Planning Officers are trying to do this "by the back door". When Brent wanted to "convert" some of the Watling Gardens LAR homes to shared ownership, they had to make a fresh planning application to change Condition 3 in the 100% affordable housing consent they'd received for the scheme.
My objection is seeking to have Condition 3 of the planning consent, if Planning Committee approve the plans, require that 100% of the 139 homes should be affordable housing, as set out in the application itself.
I am also seeking that the Condition(s) should include a requirement that any change the applicant (Brent Council!) wishes to make to that affordable housing condition should be made by way of a “material change” application under Section 73, Town and Country Planning Act 1990. That type of application requires public consultation (so the chance to object), and detailed consideration of the reasons and evidence given for seeking a change.
I had drawn attention to the discrepancy between what the Kilburn Square application promised for affordable housing and the November 2022 Cabinet decision on “conversion” of units from LAR last February (Kilburn Square – Brent must come clean on affordable housing!). When Brent’s planning agent did not submit revised affordable housing details, Brent’s Head of Planning promised that the application would be ‘considered as submitted’.
This should have meant that the affordable housing condition would specify 100% affordable housing. To change that, by stealth, to ‘a minimum of 50% affordable housing’ feels like a dirty trick, which Brent’s Planning Officers should be ashamed of!