The morning of day two was taken up by Brent’s planning officer defending the policies that Brent have to protect this type of building in this type of location and it was refreshing to hear this from Brent’s planning department for the very first time in the past 2-plus years. One of our major gripes – the danger of another cafe to saturate Willesden at the expense of a quality pub – has been accepted. But we still want to keep the building!
First up was the community space and replacement “pub / restaurant.” Brent accepted that the replacement on the table were acceptable, a point on which we disagreed.
Density was discussed in great detail; just how many rabbits can you squeeze into these shoeboxes? Affordable housing was covered in great detail too, with Fairview’s QC pressing why previous officers welcomed the amount but this one doesn’t. Similar developments were discussed (including the site of the former Spotted Dog).
In the afternoon session the Inspector pointed out the lack of consultation with English Heritage. Brent Council forgot. Long periods of silence followed before the Inspector agreed to park this but it remained an issue.
And then our turn.
We presented a case to retain the building and develop the site in a more sympathetic manner. We questioned whether the replacement has been designed as a pub and how the community space would work in practice. We noted the level of support in the community. Two residents and Mapesbury councillor Lia Colacicco also spoke. Under cross-examination Fairview’s lawyer questioned some of the stuff we said and we put our best foot forward. A nod from Brent’s barrister suggests we did OK and the inspector thanked us for our efforts.
Finally today, the architect who designed the proposals came to sell us his plans. Naturally he waxed lyrical about how wonderful life would be if he was allowed to build his creation and we were treated to a few gems such as “we’re putting the ‘green’ back into Willesden Green”, the building “feathers up onto the sky and vanishes”, “the building is not a tower but it is tower-like”, and finally, “this is Willesden Green, we’re not going to get common people living here”. The last one was perhaps a joke but showed the disregard this development has shown for the need for social and affordable housing in Willesden. In turn, we again challenged the height and brutality of the 10 storey tower that would land in on our doorstep if Fairview get their way.
On to tomorrow. Day three will bring a heritage expert for Fairview Homes and more on the design of the proposals.