Residents in a London neighbourhood have been left feeling angry after a controversial plan to build four new blocks of flats was given the green light. One resident claimed the Kilburn Square development will block out the daylight and leave her home ‘in the dark’, badly affecting her sick husband.
Brent Council approved plans to redevelop the estate, which will see 139 flats built within the four blocks following the demolition of the former Kilburn Square Clinic, a vacant three-storey building that was previously used by the NHS to provide mental health services, and garages.
The scheme received more than 115 objections, as well as opposition from the local MP and six residents’ petitions. Three of the petitions totalling 300 signatures came from people living in surrounding streets, whilst the other three totalled a further 100 signatures from residents of the estate.
Zahia, who lives with her husband in Sandwood Court opposite the Brondesbury Road side of the site, complained that one of the blocks of flats will be “right in our face” and urged the committee to reject the plan. She claims her husband is sick and in need of daylight, which would be greatly reduced by the new five-storey building – although it should be a maximum of 1.5 storeys if strict guidance was followed.
Speaking at the council planning committee last week (November 15), Zahia said: “We’re really angry at this Block E. […] They claim our living conditions will still be good, no! Half our flat already needs lights switched on all day, this will make the other half dark”.
The scheme had been recommended for approval by council officers and was given the go ahead by councillors, who concluded that the “benefits outweigh the harm”. Whilst some residents, like Zahia, will be substantially impacted by the loss of daylight, officers felt this was “justified” as it was balanced by other factors, such as the delivery of affordable housing.
The site currently contains a number of apartment blocks, comprising 268 homes in total, alongside a nursery school and the Kilburn Square Clinic – which was vacated by the NHS and refurbished to provide temporary offices. The four new blocks will range between five and eight storeys, providing 99 homes at London Affordable Rent and 40 Extra Care units for New Independent Assisted Living (NAIL).
Kilburn Village Residents Association (KVRA) committee member for the estate, Margaret von Stoll, told councillors that this version of the scheme was “a bridge too far” and has “zero community support”. KVRA feels that increasing the number of households on the estate will lead to “serious overcrowding”, whilst also raising concerns about the loss of daylight, sunlight and green space.
Ms von Stoll added: “We’re not NIMBYs and have always said we’d accept something like Blocks A and B in view of the housing crisis. […] C and E would remove precious trees and green space from our estate, while adding yet more people.”
Chair of KVRA Keith Anderson called the scheme “unviable” and the overshadowing of Sandwood Court “unacceptable”. He said: “There’s no community support, from estate residents or neighbours. Brent should have honoured its Housing Director’s commitment not to force homes on anyone”.
However, Kilburn’s councillor, Anthony Molloy, who declared he was speaking on behalf of himself and another local councillor Rita Conneely, came out in support of the plans. He called the development a “precious and rare opportunity” to provide much-needed family sized council homes, as well as residential care for vulnerable residents which he claims is “jeopardising the balancing of council budgets”.
Cllr Molloy said: “Finding affordable accommodation is the main issue confronting Londoners, especially the young, with many households paying out more than half of their hard-earned wages to private landlords. These types of genuinely affordable tenure are the only accessible option for Kilburn, a relatively deprived area with a high proportion of poor residents.”
He added: “Ever since it was announced, the development has elicited vocal opposition from certain neighbours of the scheme, notably owner occupiers of terraced houses in surrounding streets.”
The plan was subsequently approved by six votes to one. The only committee member who voted against the development was Cllr Michael Maurice who objected to “the bulk of Block E”. He said: “I think it does considerable harm to the area, especially to Sandwood Court.
Following the decision, Mr Anderson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that those residents watching a planning meeting for the first time were “bemused, shocked, appalled, and seriously angry” about the way the proceedings went.
He said: “Owner-occupier neighbours driving the opposition? Cllr Molloy should re-read the 2021 survey of estate residents by independent advisors. 60 per cent responded; the conclusion: “very little demonstrable support for the proposals or trust in the consultation process”. And many neighbours are renters.”
He added: “Those of us closely involved, familiar with similar past applications, were frustrated but not surprised. Members’ mostly anodyne questions didn’t reflect the three detailed analyses we’d sent them all. Sad to see nearly three years of patient dialogue with Brent come to nothing.”