Mary Macleod MP holds lively debate on Brentford Regeneration

Brompton could have moved to Commerce Road


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Local MP Mary Macleod hosted a discussion at the Holiday Inn on Thursday evening about Brentford regeneration with a background slide of "Brentford is Brilliant" setting the tone.

Mary was joined by a panel who gave us all a brief update.

Denis Browne, Chair of Planning Sub committee of Brentford Community Council outlined the initial set up of the BCC some 20 years ago by the council, as the only remaining community council in the borough that has, to greater or lesser effect, tried to assess and make comments on individual planning applications as well as the various plans. He talked about the massive populations growth in London and the super dense developments in the centre in Opportunity Areas. Brentford isn't such an area but is set to take the brunt of the development in the borough. Hounslow struggles with air pollution, due to airplanes and A4/M4 traffic to name but a few causes. He also pointed out that towns that are balanced developments and pleasant for all ages to live and work in are ones that have grown over a couple of generations. Proper town planning is being replaced by housing targets.

Andrew Dakers, Chair of Brentford High Street Steering Group said that he wasn't inspired by Ballymore's final design for the area south of the high street. Ballymore needs to deal with 3 main issues: what happens to the relocation of Watermans Arts Centre; the need to look after existing traders during the building and transition period; lastly the design detail is brutalist and uninspiring and should be further improved in the months ahead.  The detailed plans for remaining 60% of scheme should contain genuinely community-led design..

Rhys Williams, Project Co-ordinator for Lionel Road Developments Ltd provided an update on the Brentford Community Stadium project, explaining that they are currently working towards completing the land assembly for the Lionel Road site having purchased the Duffy site in January. Meanwhile Hounslow Council have started compulsory purchase order proceedings for the Lionel Road site. Having signed a development agreement with Wilmott Dixon just before Christmas they are getting on with the detailed design. Surprisingly the first planning application to be made will be for Griffin Park which will have 70 family homes of 3-4 bedrooms (and no flats).

Last but by no means least, James O'Shaugnessy, Managing Director of Floreat Education talked about their new primary school which will open this September with two Reception classes. The plan is to build a temporary school and then a permanent one on part of Brent Lea Recreation Ground. The idea is that a leisure partner will take over the other 60% of the site and develop it for community leisure. The metropolitan land is under used and therefore it is felt that the loss of some open land is mitigated by the desperately needed school and the regenerated open space. James paid attention to the debate that followed and promised to consult fully with residents about the new school.

Floreat are having one more open meeting for potential parents on 9th March, 6-8pm at Brentford Free Church. The deadline for applications is 15th March.

Mary Macleod MP and panel
Rhys Williams, James O'Shaughnessy, Mary Macleod, Denis Browne and Andrew Dakers

There followed a lively debate.

It was suggested that we don't actually want all the current shops to transition into the new high street but want to go back to having butcher, baker, greengrocer and other independent shops. The power of the retail mix lies with the high street landlords which are Ballymore and LB Hounslow. Brentford High Street suffers geographically as people cannot walk north or west to it as walk in access is limited by the river and people go to more major shopping centres. Much of Brentford's retail is not actually on the high street although the new high street will have a greater diversity of retail shops.

Some residents were unaware of the details of Ballymore's application or the process, unaware that the heights of the various buildings (peaking at 10-11 storeys) were agreed at the planning application approved last November. One person said the development of the high street would kill off the community and replace it with a soulless centre.

The police station has been sold off for residential use. The new owners also own the Max Factor site (next to Watermans Arts Centre) and there was much discussion about alternative new locations for the Watermans. Cllr Theo Dennison confirmed that there were discussions going on about potential land "swaps" as the Watermans site is very attractive for residential development. It was also emphasised that any relocation of Watermans must be a quality design that at least matches the resources of the current site, not a token replacement that can't be sustainable.

Peter Hughes, former President of Brentford Chamber, queried the lack of commercial space which is rapidly disappearing. Commerce Road was once full of commerce, now mostly replaced by ISIS' development of Brentford Lock West. ISIS took some criticism for suggesting to Brompton Bicycles that a new commercial space for them could be part of the development until planning application was granted and discussions failed.

There is genuine fear that people will not be able to work locally and, given new regulations making it easy for office space to be turned into residential, that Brentford will be turned into a dormitory town with some shops but no community. Paul Slattery commented that the current situation was in effect "ethnic cleansing of the working classes in London".

There were also several complaints about the number of developments that have Kew in the title with little or no mention of Brentford. Indeed a food festival taking place in Syon Park this May is advertising Syon Park as being in Richmond.

Nick Walker, or @docklobster said via twitter "But the most depressing part was seeing these warnings coming from the usual suspects, familiar faces from this kind of meeting. But apart from a few, your typical brentfordian doesn't seem to be worried by the worrying future of the town If as many people cared about the future of #brentford as cared for the future of #brentfordfc then there'd be some hope."

Mary Macleod had invited Ballymore to the event but they declined to sent a representative. It was certainly agreed by all that pressure needed to be put on Ballymore by all sides to take active part in consultation and listen to the criticisms before plans are finalised.

It was a shame that this event wasn't more widely announced but a good discussion was held by those present. People who want to get involved in the future of Brentford should attend Brentford Community Council. Their next meeting is on March 16th from 7.15pm upstairs at the Griffin pub and will include James O'Shaughnessy and a discussion on the Brent Lea site.

Where possible these events are live-tweeted and can be followed at @BrentfordTW8 even if you're not on twitter (live tweets are subject to typos and auto-corrects).

February 27, 2015

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