Wednesday 22 November 2023

Morland Gardens – Brent Council reviews its development plans

 Guest post by Philip Grant in a personal capacity


1 Morland Gardens, entrance seen from the Community Garden, 30 October 2023.


My guest post on 31 October, Brent’s Halloween Nightmare – its Morland Gardens planning consent has expired!, had an Open Letter to Brent’s Chief Executive attached at the end. I promised to share the Council’s reply to that letter with you, and will ask Martin to attach it at the end of this post (the first of two documents).


Although the letter, from Brent’s Director of Property and Assets, is dated 10 November, it mysteriously never got delivered to me, until the Chief Executive sent me a copy on 17 November. The letter is quite brief, but it did include the following important sentence: ‘We agree that the planning application as described below expired on 29th October 2023.


So what happens next? The letter says: ‘Following the expiration of the planning permission, the Council is reviewing its options for the Morland Gardens site, including the Altamira building.’


“Altamira” is the locally listed heritage Victorian villa (pictured above), so after campaigning since the Council’s planning application, including its demolition, was submitted in February 2020, there is now a second chance to save it. I understand that the review aims to put forward recommendations to the Cabinet meeting in December (perhaps as part of the Affordable Housing Update which is due to be on the agenda?).


The third ‘key issue’ from my Open Letter which the Director of Property and Assets identified was not allowing the condition of the empty property to deteriorate further. His reply about the security of the site missed the point. My response reminded him that it was missing slates from the roof (and possibly more of them missing following recent strong winds) which needed the Council’s early attention.


Although we will have to wait and see what Officers recommend to Cabinet over the future of 1 Morland Gardens, I do not want that to be a repeat of the 2020 proposals, which have already caused a long delay and wasted several million pounds. When I replied on 20 November, I included my own contribution to the review, as a genuine attempt to help the Council “get it right” this time. I will ask Martin to attach a copy of that document below, so that anyone can read it if they wish to. 


Philip Grant


Brent Council's reply to Philip Grant's letter of 31st October on 1 Morland Gardens



Review of Options for Morland Gardens – getting it right this time





Anonymous said...

Great work!!! But will Brent Council ever admit to getting it wrong???

Unknown said...
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Philip Grant said...

I have sent a copy of my "getting it right this time" submission to several people, including the councillors for Stonebridge Ward.

I reminded them that Cllr. Aden had spoken at the Planning Committee meeting in August 2020, on behalf of all three Stonebridge councillors (including Cllr. Knight, before she joined the Cabinet as Lead member for Housing).

He had said that they were neutral on Brent Council's application. While they.welcome the prospect of new affordable homes, they were against the demolition of the heritage Victorian villa. He asked the Council to reconsider its plans, and come up with a smaller scheme which retained the heritage building.

Five Labour members on Planning Committee ignored his words, and those of myself and other objectors, which was enough to get the flawed planning application approved.

[The then Labour Chair of Planning Committee voted against Brent's application, on the grounds that it went against the Council's heritage planning policy. He was removed from the Committee at a Council meeting the following month. Coincidence?]

I have encouraged the Stonebridge Ward councillors to submit their views to the Morland Gardens review, which is being lead by Brent's Head of Capital Programmes, Neil Martin ( ).

Martin Francis said...

From Paul Lorber:

Over £4 million of public money wasted so far by the Labour Leadership on their 'pet' project so far.

Not a single housing unit to show for it.

Sheer incompetence which could have been avoided if Councillor Butt and his Cabinet colleagues bothered to listen to Philip Grant and others.

Liberal Democrat Councillors took this matter to Scrutiny 18 months ago and argued that the Labour Administration's approach to this project was wrong, that it would waste more money and achieve nothing. They did not listen to us either.

The buck stops with the Leader of the Council but neither he or anyone else will take responsibility and do the right thing. Instead Labour will try to simply sweep this under the carpet.

Philip Grant said...

While I note what Paul has written, I don't think that the issue of Morland Gardens can be "swept under the carpet".

Some bad decisions were made, but they were based on some bad advice from Officers. If Cllr. Butt and his Cabinet questioned that advice at all, or the practicality of the proposals recommended to them, they did not do so in public.

"Altamira" is a landmark building, sitting there with heras fencing around it since January 2023, and a security company keeping an eye on the empty building. Brent Council needs to do something with it, and with the Brent Start college, which has been in temporary accommodation for nearly two years.

Doing nothing would be a worse option than doing something, although with the current financial state of Brent Council ...?

Philip Grant said...

Further to my 23 November at 11.07 comment above, I have now received a response from one of the Stonebridge Ward councillors.

Cllr. Promise Knight's two word reply says: 'Noted, Philip.'

Anonymous said...

A very disrespectful response but at least she did respond.

Our three councillors don't respond at all 😞