Matalan site – our new objection

Ziser London revised their planning application for the Matalan site on Cricklewood Broadway and Temple Road, and we’ve put in a further objection.

Our February comments and objections on the original planning application still stand, except that we are pleased to see the nine-storey element on the Broadway/Temple Road corner has been removed. However eight-storey elements remain above cores/stairwells, breaching the +2 rule of the Brent Tall Buildings Strategy and the preceding Brent Design Guide, under both of which the development is categorised as comprising tall buildings merely by comparison to one neighbouring building, let alone its overall surroundings. These features could also provide a precedent for later buildings – e.g. on the Wickes site – going still higher.

Block A’s balconies facing Temple Road remain unchanged and our objection to their design remains. The application includes drawings showing selected sight-lines between Gratton Terrace and Block A, including an intervening tree canopy as of September 2019. These trees are frequently pollarded by Barnet Council (they were pollarded after September 2019 so those drawings represent a maximum) and are deciduous too, so for much of the time they do very little to obscure views. Sight-lines between the windows of Block A and Gratton and Midland Terraces are not considered and only likewise one sight-line is shown on Temple Road sections.

Block B’s impact on Temple Road has been increased. The fourth storey was stepped back but now has been brought forward, creating a yet more overbearing effect on a narrow road facing two-storey Victorian/Edwardian buildings.

While the Daylight, Sunlight and Overshadowing report correctly states that those Temple Road buildings are divided into flats, the overlooking of first-floor bedrooms and living rooms from Block B’s rooftop shared amenity space and floors below is ignored and the report’s own calculations that BRE guideline limits are often breached and otherwise barely met again indicate the overbearing and overshadowing impact of the development.

The application claims that this development will provide local employment during construction and afterwards. If disruption during construction cannot be a reason to reject a planning application, can employment during construction be a reason to approve? No staff levels for the developer’s maintenance and on-site management staff after construction are provided, nor any estimates for the commercial space on the ground floor. Given that none of the commercial spaces in the Fellowes Square development further up the Edgware Road are occupied (despite the demolition of the Gladstone Parade premises opposite) and that premises towards the centre of Cricklewood remain unoccupied, we have to be sceptical about the prospects for Block A’s commercial space.

The offer of 14 affordable units out of 238 falls below the needs and guidelines of Brent, London and the country. The financial viability assessment uses a local estate agent’s experience of recent rents without regard for coming changes in national and local circumstances. UK housing prices and rents are already falling. The country faces a recession due to COVID-19 and has yet to suffer the full medium- or long-term economic impact of leaving the EU. London’s considerable European population is expected to shrink, while Cricklewood expects a massive increase in housing availability with 7,500 units in Brent Cross South, 1,000 on the B&Q site, more on the Galtymore site and at Beacon Bingo on either side of Depot Approach, and more along the Brent side of the Edgware Road. It’s hard to believe that a rational developer is risking a major BTR development that relies on London rents remaining so overheated and at such a high proportion of personal incomes that minor reductions in rent for more than 14 units would render the development non-viable. If this application is approved on that basis, we would expect a further application to reduce the number of affordable units or eliminate them due to a changed financial climate.

In short, the impact of this development would be severe and the social gains trivial. The application does not make a substantial argument for such intensive development on this site and the scant offer of affordable housing calls its appropriateness and viability into question.

You can see many other objections on the Brent planning portal – click here – though you might not see our latest one as the portal can be a little strange. You can also make you own comment there but the deadline is today 16 June 2020! You can see all the planning documents there too, or click here to see our own notes about the site and the application, as well as our previous objection.

19 June 2020 – A hasty addition:

Further to our comments, if this development is approved then we need a condition contrary to the Outline Construction Logistics Plan. That has vehicles exiting onto Temple Road. This is wildly inappropriate. Temple Road is a narrow residential road, has parked cars on both sides and is frequently clogged. What’s more, HGVs waiting to turn onto Cricklewood Broadway will obstruct access onto Temple Road for drivers turning right onto Temple Road from Cricklewood Broadway, either directly or by further clogging Temple Road so that there’s a tailback of vehicles that have turned onto Temple Road and no more can enter. In turn, right-turning queues on the Broadway, being just before the start of the bus lane, often cause an obstruction to south-bound traffic in the morning rush-hour. Also, some will attempt to turn right onto Mora Road instead, despite the no-right-turn signs (often swivelled or obscured) and blocking the single lane beside the bus lane, but the end of Mora Road is even more easily clogged.

Instead, vehicles should use Longley Way to exit; it’s not residential, not clogged with parked cars and not a through road, and is a much better junction with a much wider and unobstructed section of the Broadway. It is completely normal for construction sites to operate with a single entrance and exit.

The Logistics Plan is not explicit that no construction or contractors’ vehicles should pass along Temple Road, Mora Road or Ashford Road, roads which are commonly used as cut-throughs towards Anson Road and Chichele Road. Especially with Mora Road School at the foot of Temple Road and the bar on vehicles going to or from the RFF using these roads, this needs to be explicit.

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