Sunday, 23 September 2012

Willesden Green Development - who profits?

A contributor has asked me to post this summary of the current issues regarding the Willesden Green Redevelopment:

The story so far.... 
The original plans from GT included destroying the plane tree on the High Road. 
Locals objected.
A chunk was knocked off the nose of the proposed WGCC in response to objections regarding the tree. 
GT also proposed demolition of the old Library in a Conservation Area.
Locals objected.
The facade of the  Old Library is now plastered on to the nose of the WGCC in a clumsy attempt to heal the rift between locals and Council and facilitate the HCA Housing. 

The WGCC is not a well-considered scheme. It has been a series of clumsy lash-ups attempting to rectify a massively flawed design and an incompetent, mismanaged attempt at Regeneration by Brent Council.

The new proposals are not acceptable as they do not meet the Council’s own design brief to the tendering developers. 

Public Interest is not being served, the proposed loss of Public Amenity is devastating and simply retaining the facade of the Old Library does not begin to patch up the mess created so far.

Until the plans are taken back to the drawing board and the ratio of Public Land to housing reconsidered, there should not be any discussion of how the Old Library should be incorporated. 

Brent  Council’s Regeneration Team see themselves as Master Developers with an open budget. They have a sense of entitlement to our land and public space that is not serving Public Interest.
 It is clear that the original Galliford Try plans were not fit for purpose. They would not have required such drastic changes if they had been. The designs by the other bidders were more competent and far less flawed. 
At the outset, neither the topography or the protected Plane Tree at the front of the site were properly considered by Galliford's architects AHMM. The agreement to enter in to a developer partnership with Galliford cannot have been on design merit. 

We know from a Freedom of Information request that the three bidding developers were all asked to offer a Residual Value to the Council as part of their bid.
Cost breakdown document
 A bid from another developer offered a 50/ 50 split of the profit from the private housing. This developer was able to demonstrate that the private housing profit would be over £9m. They offered the Council an over-all  value of £14,328,152.48. This total includes £9,400,000 for the WGCC library construction but the residual sum of nearly £5m is effectively a profit share which the Council claim would be "ring-fenced for social housing". Why has there not been more transparency about this?
Why have the Councillors publicly denied that there would be no other financial benefit from the scheme? 
We are told that the scheme to build the WGCC will not be financially viable without the development of 94 housing units. 
How much is the proposed profit share from the preferred Galliford Try scheme? An FOI for the bid submitted by Galliford Try has been refused. Brent Council have not been transparent about the Residual Value for this project. How can they claim zero cost to the public when it is clear that additional value is being squeezed from the site and obfuscated?

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