What drives development – housing need or developer profit?

Another marathon meeting at Brent Civic Centre last night ending with a decision to refuse Fairview’s revised “offer” of 12 affordable units in the development at The Queensbury. This is the second time Councillors have agreed with our representations and rejected officers’ recommendations.

There was a lot of debate last night, focusing on “financial viability”, a dark art where developers convince council officers that it would simply be impossible for them to make money if they have to include cheaper units in their schemes. Clearly Brent have had enough and were scathing about the cloak and dagger nature of the viability reports provided to them and the lack of detail to make an informed decision.

Developers aim for 20% profit on a scheme. Nice return, eh? That is achieved by premium apartments that command a high price, with “affordable” flats tucked away out of sight with a separate entrance. Is that what we want for Willesden?

Fairview bought 110 Walm Lane for a knockdown £1.65m and originally included 4 affordable units and no pub / community space. This was increased to 10 units (they couldn’t possibly go higher according to Brent officers) and a pub. Last night a revised offer of 12 affordable flats was refused as too little and the inspector will now take the final decision at the public inquiry in January.

There is a balance to be found. With a turnover of £205m per year, Fairview are no mugs. But with 3 bed flats on the same road commanding £780k we think they can build what’s right for Willesden and still return a profit.

We hope all of this is immaterial. We are confident that the inquiry will conclude that Fairview’s plans are flawed, the building should be retained and (as we have previously shown) it is possible to build around The Queensbury and not demolish it!