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Tower blocks up to 27 storeys tall greenlit in Wembley despite local concerns

Plans to build two tower blocks containing more than 600 student rooms in Wembley have been given the green light despite anger from local residents. They fear an increase in students will lead to a rise in drug taking, littering, and other forms of antisocial behaviour in the area.

The site, on Watkin Road in Wembley, was originally earmarked for a housing development but it couldn’t be delivered. Developer Tribe Student Housing will now build one tower up to 27-storeys for 419 rooms and a second 21-storey block containing 200 rooms.

However, the application received dozens of objections from local residents, as well as a petition opposing the plan with 54 signatures. Speaking to Brent Council’s planning committee (August 9), resident of nearby North End Road, Alvaro Santos Alonso, raised concerns about the possibility of rising antisocial behaviour.

Mr Alonso said: “The main reason we are against this development is our building will be propped between multiple student accommodation towers with associated antisocial behaviour. […] We have seen hundreds of students come and go but none of them interact with the community.”

He added: “Over the last year we have seen residents of these buildings buy and consume drugs, throw objects out of windows, and spread litter all over the place – including abandoned trollies.[…] We would prefer to see permanent residents who will become our neighbours, friends and fellow community members. I have nothing against students but when you have such an accumulation of student accommodation buildings in one street it does cause trouble.”

Tower blocks up to 27 storeys tall greenlit in Wembley despite local concerns Harrow Online
Watkin Road CGI. More than 600 new student rooms will be built in Wembley after the plans were approved by Brent Council. Image Credit: Stantec.

Mr Alonso also suggested that the residents’ bedrooms and living rooms will be “just over 10 metres away from two towers taller than our building”, which he said was “unprecedented” in the Wembley Park area.

Head of planning at Tribe Student Housing, Nick Lawrence, told the committee: “Generation Z are totally different to when I was at university, which is a few decades ago now. Student housing will be governed by a student management plan to ensure that existing residents are not disturbed by the students.”

When questioned about the need for additional student rooms when there is an urgent need for housing, Mr Lawrence suggested that they were needed to accommodate the growing demand for university places, which he said is “increasing year on year”.

He said that Tribe has support from the University Campus of Football Business, which is based in Wembley Stadium, as it wants to increase its 3,000 students and will need more bed space, as well as University College London and Westminster University’s Harrow campus requiring more accommodation.

He added: “Our development […] will deliver 619 student rooms and 35 per cent of these are being offered as affordable rooms (at rents set by the Mayor of London). The scheme will also release 247 dwellings currently occupied by students back into the private rented sector or to sell and contribute 247 homes towards Brent Council’s housing target.”

There will also be 1,490sqm of commercial floor space built across the lower levels of the buildings for ‘light industrial’ businesses, such as photographic, fashion, or workshop and studios. Following approval, the development is expected to start early next year. It will involve the demolition of the existing warehouse units at 1-4 and 9 Watkin Road.