• Andrew Dakers' statement on 28 November 2014

last modified November 28, 2014 by andrewdakers

After permission was granted Andrew Dakers, Chair of Brentford High Street Steering Group reflected:

“Everyone seems agreed that change and progress is needed in Brentford town centre.  The sheer height of the scheme has been driven by Ballymore and their predecessors ignoring local planning policy and overpaying for the land – and the money spent was locked in many years ago, which left the Council having to negotiate write-offs with Ballymore.  It would be easy for objectors to be gloomy today, but I feel it’s time to acknowledge what has been achieved.”

“The planning meeting last night was one step in a process of negotiation between multiple stakeholders that has thus far taken about eight years.  Elements of the community vision have been taken on board in that time.  Far more old industrial buildings are retained and restored in this scheme than the proposals in 2000, the waterside will be opened up through a series of ‘yards’ and the site, like most large schemes today, will have a CHP energy centre.  As designs come off the drawing board we will hopefully also see greater contrast in the work of the different architects Ballymore hired.”

“In the past eighteen months the ongoing process of negotiation has seen significant progress on affordable housing: From 0 to 9%.  There have also been improvements to the design of Plot C.”

“Over the past week, and last night, we saw proposals for 20% of commercial floor space being secured for local businesses at 20% below market rent for five years.  A transition plan for businesses was conditioned.  The Boar’s Head Yard name was retained.   It seemed there was acceptance that more detail was needed on conditions around the slipway and facilities at Workhouse Dock, as well as Montgomery Wharf.  There was also significant emphasis put by Ballymore on their desire to work with the Council to facilitate Watermans’ move to the town centre.”

“This process of engagement must continue and improve.  Several councillors voting in favour of the scheme noted that Ballymore had probably insufficiently engaged with objectors in recent times and this needed to change moving forward. It is vitally important that the Retail Strategy, Transition plan for businesses and selection of building materials actively involves interested parties.  We also believe that more work must be done on the ‘Design Code’ to support the scheme master plan, which was under scrutinised by the committee.  Unusually, the Design Code does not presently provide any photographic or written reference points from within Brentford – and we do have some great buildings!”

“On a personal note I was reminded how unsatisfactory it felt as a councillor trying to make complex decisions on a scheme worth £500m at 11pm at night when everyone is exhausted.  Surely on such large schemes and decisions in future the Planning Committee should meet during the daytime, perhaps on a weekend.”