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Petition launched to stop Brent Council demolishing listed 19th century villa in Stonebridge

PUBLISHED: 17:58 02 March 2020 | UPDATED: 17:58 02 March 2020

Campaigners outside Altimira in Stonebridge. Picture: Willesden Local History Society.

Campaigners outside Altimira in Stonebridge. Picture: Willesden Local History Society.

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Locals and historians have launched a campaign to prevent the demolition of a listed 19th century villa in Stonebridge.

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

Brent Council officers have put in an application to demolish Altamira, in Morlands Gardens, and build a nine-storey building with 65 council homes and a workspace.

It also includes a new education centre, which the council says will "inspire learners who are crying out for new facilities as they strive to improve their lives".

The listed Victorian villa on the corner of Hillside and Brentfield Road, has been a local landmark since 1876.

Brent Council said 93 per cent of people approved the plans following a consultation last year - where 150 people responded.

Image of the proposed nine-storey building. Picture: Brent CouncilImage of the proposed nine-storey building. Picture: Brent Council

But Willesden Local History Society has launched a petition to 'Save an historic Stonebridge landmark' and it has 176 signatures and rising.

On Brent's planning application one person has backed the plans out of 27 comments lodged.

One objector said: "In a year when Brent is supposed to be celebrating its diversity and culture, it would be disingenuous and hypocritical for the council to approve the demolition of the Altamira."

Another said: "Brent is too eager to do the bidding of developers."

While a third said it was "yet another an act of vandalism by this council".

Brent Council's cabinet agreed the £43m scheme in January, having installed a community steering group.

Errol Donald, member of the steering group said. "It is a significant investment by the council and an important one for the Stonebridge area.

"It's also a positive that the community have been involved in advising and shaping the regeneration in Brent."

The building has a low level extension built in 1995 to provide an education centre which did not impact the villa which has remained well-maintained.

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Margaret Pratt, secretary of WLHS, said the "first hint of the plan" was in April 2019, when flyers were dropped through letter boxes inviting people to a meeting at the Stonebridge Centre to look at the architects plans.

"A few people were at the meeting on April 30, talked to the architects and filled in a form expressing agree or disagree. We were told that the students had already filled in their forms," she said.

"I don't know when the small group consultations took place, I never saw any advertising,"

Harry Brown, who launched the petition, said: "The Brent Local Plan of November 2018 states that Brent wishes to 'strengthen local identity and character by conserving and enhancing heritage assets and their setting'. Local opinion agrees with this aim, regarding Altamira as a heritage asset of importance.

"The Stonebridge area has undergone dramatic changes in the last 60 years, with numerous developments having taken place in the area.

"We should not lose this heritage asset, locally listed, and a valuable part of the Stonebridge scene. This is especially relevant during 2020, when Brent should be leading the way as 'Borough of Culture'."

Cllr Ketan Sheth, objecting to the plan, said: "This is an excellent example of a capacious and fine 19th Century rustic villa in the Italianate style by Henry Edward Kendall Jr constructed in 1876."

"As a child growing up in Harlesden, I much admired this beautiful building and still do today. It would be sad to lose it."

Cllr Amer Agha, cabinet member for schools, employment and skills, said: "The proposals for the new look Brent Start Adult Education Centre at Morland Gardens have been developed closely with the Stonebridge community.

"The feedback to the proposals for the £43m state-of-the-art education centre have been overwhelmingly positive with more than 93pc of local residents in favour.

"Brent Start supports thousands of learners every year but sadly the current building is no longer fit for fit-for-purpose.

"By creating an aspirational, modern education centre, we can inspire learners who are crying out for new facilities as they strive to improve their lives.

"If approved by the planning committee the new centre will be built to the highest environmental standards while providing 65 much needed new council homes, affordable workspaces for businesses to thrive, community space for cultural activities and a public café."

The application can be found on the council's website with reference 20/0345

To sign the petition go to democracy.brent.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?id=155


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