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Letter of the week: 1 Morland Gardens

PUBLISHED: 08:30 23 August 2020

Altamira, 1 Morland Gardens, built in the 1800s, now earmarked to be demolished by Brent Council. Picture: Philip Grant

Altamira, 1 Morland Gardens, built in the 1800s, now earmarked to be demolished by Brent Council. Picture: Philip Grant

Archant

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Times’ readers this week.

‘No mention’

Philip Grant, Kingsbury, full address supplied, writes:

Brent Council were quick to issue a press release celebrating the approval of their plans to redevelop 1 Morland Gardens for a new education centre and homes. Unlike the more balanced reporting by your newspaper, the release did not mention that only five of the eight committee members supported their application. Several viewers of the meeting have commented that three of the five who voted in favour took no active part in the proceedings before the vote. Had they already made up their minds?

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The council’s version includes quotes from a passionate supporter of the scheme, about the benefits of the new building for the local community. Perhaps they focussed on this to reduce the damage done by their recent court action against the community over Bridge Park.

The release made no mention of the councillor who spoke on behalf of all three Stonebridge ward representatives. Although acknowledging the need for new homes and a more up-to-date college, he pointed out the disadvantages of the plans to local residents. He asked the council to think again, and come up with plans that retained the much-loved Victorian villa.

And the release made no mention of the key points made by objectors, that the application was against Brent’s adopted heritage assets planning policy DMP7, and the promise in the recent planning strategy document that Brent valued its heritage assets. These points were made, but most committee members ignored them.

The objectors only had three minutes each to make their case, and answer questions. They had to overcome a recommendation for approval by the planning officers, backed by a detailed report. That said the committee should make a balanced judgement, but did not provide a balanced view of the facts, and failed to mention key objection points. Planning decisions are meant to be made in accordance with policies. In this case officers told the committee it did not matter that the proposals went against Brent’s policy DMP7, as the benefits far outweighed the loss of the locally listed heritage asset. The irony is that those benefits only came about because Brent failed to comply with the first test set down by DMP7 – that proposals affecting heritage assets should demonstrate a clear understanding of their architectural and historic significance.

I had made that point to the committee, but the majority of members ignored it.


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