Monday, 10 April 2017

Now in Willesden Green: The onward march of high rise and student accommodation

Replace this...

with this:

Brent Council has designated various areas of the borough, particularly Wembley, as suitable for high rise development but it is apparent that there is seepage into other areas. Often one high rise once approved and built enables more as a precedent is set.

In Willesden Green the Queensbury project was subject to a community campaign based both on the saving of a pub as a community resource and the unsuitability of the planned new building in a conservation area. However Electric House at the junction of Walm Lane, Willesden Lane and the High Road was approved.

Now Electric House will have a part 8 storey, part 7 storey neighbour to replace the current 'meanwhile  space' shops of Queens Parade.

The applicant argues that the Council wish to see residential use of the site, the type of residential is not specified so that student accommodation complies.

There are around 2,500 student residences built or planned in the Wembley Stadium area but one, if only for 120 units, in Willesden Green sets a new precedent.

The planning application also includes 5 commercial units and a basement warehouse area.

It is early days for public comments but several objections are along the lines of this one from a resident in the neighbouring Electric House:
I wish to raise the following objections regarding application reference 17/0322:

1) Brent's Core Strategy CP2 states "The borough will aim to achieve the London Plan target that 50% of new homes should be affordable. At least 25% of new homes should be family sized (3 bedrooms or more)." The 120 high quality student units does not meet the definition of 'affordable housing' according to; "social rented, affordable rented and intermediate housing, provided to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market."

2) A planning application in 2013 for 34 residential units was refused on the basis that the density of the units would exceed the London Plan and Brent Council recommendations. The 120 studio units would far exceed the density of the rejected 2013 application

3) The 7 and 8-storey proposed buildings would have scale and design that harms the character and appearance of the Willesden Green Conservation Area

4) The existing buildings according to the 2013 committee report '...are considered to make a contribution towards the character and appearance of the Conservation Area'. The demolition of these buildings will be a severe detriment to the Willesden Green Conservation Area.

5) The current amount of retail space is 590sqm, the planning application provides for 324sqm of retail space - a loss of 266sqm which would be an unacceptable threat to the high street.

6) In the absence of a legal agreement to control parking, the absence of an on-site servicing bay and a delivery and servicing plan to control servicing the proposed development will generate a demand for on-street parking and servicing that cannot be accommodated within the surrounding area and on Willesden Lane and Walm Lane, as such the development would give rise to highway conditions that would be prejudicial to highway and pedestrian safety

7) The 2013 refused application suggested lack of road access to the retail units as a reason to refuse. If the proposed commercial units would be served by an access route surrounding Electric House, as a resident I object to service vehicles passing my window and causing a disturbance

8) Electric House has unresolved pest problems as evidenced by the rat traps laid out by Network Living near in the bin area. The addition of 120 students next door with will likely exacerbate the problem and create problems for the surrounding area

9) Brent have so far been unable to collect the refuse and recycling safely and on time from Electric House with only 25 units. There have been incidents of the doors being left open, and the recycling going weeks without collection. The additional 120 units will provide unwanted strain on these services.
Former Labour councillor James Powney writing about the proposal on his blog LINK says:
I think that [the development] is frankly too big.  Brent has a policy of concentrating tall buildings in its five growth areas for a reason - to protect the lower density developments in the rest of the Borough.  There is a creeping pressure on Willesden to accept bigger and bigger blocks.  Electric House was one of those, which I can accept because of its position at the head of a street.  Similarly with the Erin Court development from a much earlier time, but The Queensbury redevelopment was rightly refused as much too big. 

The provision of more student housing is also questionable in an area that already suffers from an extremely transient population.  In the past, Brent planning committee refused student accommodation at the former Spotted Dog development citing this as a reason.  The logic behind this has not changed.
So far there is only one supporting statement:
Overall I now support this revised plan as the proposed buildings will still enable the view of the Electric House clock.

I think that Westminster University would be good to approach as they have a site in Baker Street only 10 minutes away by Tube.

I would like to see that the buildings are clad in real red brick and not synthetic to match with the Conservation Area, and also would like see that the landscaping also extends to the building by providing a green roof or wall and bird boxes (swifts perhaps) in the design.

I like the idea of flexible shop space as we do lack larger shop accommodation for chains. But would like to see that the shop frontage conform to the design guide produced by Cllr Tom Miller for Willesden Green.

As for the existing tenants of the retail spaces, I would encourage the developers to find them alternative accommodation in some of the spaces that are empty along the High Road to make up for the disruption to their businesses and the fact that they are unlikely to be able to afford the higher rents that no doubt will happen.

Perhaps one of the retail spaces could be a technical hub (with cafe?)? This would be suitable for students to use and also would enable the local population to use the facilities as we have many who work from home and would welcome such an initiative. And enable them to have a meeting place with clients.
LINK to application 17/0322


  1. "conform to the design guide produced by Cllr Tom Miller for Willesden Green." - that well known guru of architecture.

  2. This is actually in reference to a council document:

  3. Given that Brent (with Newham) is top of the league for "social cleansing" which forces homeless families to move right out of London, surely top priority in any new development must go to truly affordable social housing? Brent Council is behaving disgracefully and possibly breaking the law by giving families in need a single offer of a new home, often hundreds of miles from their families and friends and their children's schools and allowing them just 24 hours to accept or to refuse and be cast adrift from all support.