A Queensbury Rules trade-off

I know there’s a Willesden Green contingent among readers, so although this is outside my normal patch (and because The Queensbury featured in the Sunday Lunch periphery round-up), this seemed worth covering. As I’m no expert in all things NW2, I’ve handed this post over to local resident Esther Foreman (@estherforeman), who finds herself in a predicament but has a – perhaps controversial – solution.

“I have woken up every morning for the past eight years and gazed out of my window to look at the tree-covered hills, vales and rooftops of Hendon, Hampstead and Kilburn, dotted with the odd high rise.

The Fairview New Homes development of 110 Walm Lane seeks to completely destroy my world view, quite literally. It proposes to knock down the Queensbury Pub and the Willesden Green Conservative Club, and build 56 high-rise homes. Ten of these would be affordable housing. There would be 700 m2 of communal space and 23 car parking spaces.

Impression of the new flats
(click for the full Design Statement document)

This has put me into a difficult position. Brent needs new homes, badly. The council has set a minimum target of 2,050 new homes by 2016. We have high levels of families living in temporary accommodation, and high levels of homelessness. As someone who has grown up in the area, no longer surrounded by friends and family who have been forced out due to housing shortages and high private rents, I should be welcoming this development with open arms. New homes means new money in the area and each local development is a notch up the community bootstrap and one less fried chicken shop.

However, the cost is high. We will lose the Queensbury Pub, which is the only decent pub in the neighbourhood and provides a great local community meeting point, space for mums and babies during the week, quiz nights and Sunday roasts. This is where I have bumped into Sarah Teather, our local MP, exchanged conversation with celebrities, garnished support for petitions, and argued over the best local curry house with strangers. We held our first Erin Court residents association meeting in there eight years ago. If this goes, where do we go?

I think that the plans for the Willesden Green Library development should be put into the mix here. I actually like the plans for the redevelopment and think the area badly needs a cultural centre and the new housing (92 units altogether) that will come with it. The plans are being blocked by a lot of people who seem to prioritise the car park in the back over the much-needed homes for our sons and daughters .

So here’s what I propose. We have more support for the library centre development as it provides housing, community space, books and so on – and offset this with keeping the Queensbury as is. At the start of the year there were 3,000 families waiting for housing in Brent. People have to live somewhere, and not everyone can afford a Mapsebury Avenue, 6-bedroom house. But once those people move in, they have to have somewhere to meet up in the evening and it’s better for the local economy if they spend their pound in Willesden. If the Queensbury goes, there is no other place for us to do this.

If you decide to support those plucky bar staff at the Queensbury by signing their petition on change.org or by responding directly to Brent Council, remember to give some support for the Library Development at the same time. I say Yes to Homes and Yes to Communities.”

110WalmLane Design Statement

  • Anonymous

    It’s a real pity. Willesden G needs a good neighbourhood pub and the deli adds to an area devoid of decent places to eat. Short sightedness is a particular blight – when the local PO closed, the lease was taken over and lets just say the shops there merely exist to launder drugs money. They do not really enhance the area. It would make more sense to demolish those shops opposite and develop that land and keep the Q.

  • Sujata Aurora

    Interesting but I believe this to be wrong on several points. Brent’s housing waiting list may well have 3,000 people on it but these people need affordable homes. Of the Queensbury development just 18% are affordable and of the cultural centre precisely zero are affordable. I doubt very much that those on the waiting list will be interested in flats that range from £300-500k

    Brents’s main housing demand is for families. That is why the council has set a requirement that at least 25% of all new builds should be 3 bed or more. Of the Queensbury development less than 8% are family sized. I don’t have the figure to hand for the cultural centre but I believe family homes to be less than 15% of the total.

    The cultural centre plans are also deeply misguided. The overall footprint of the public amenity will be around 60% of the original. At a time when other Brent libraries have closed, people are being asked to travel much further to get to a library, and the footfall in Willesden library is expected to double, the loss of a car park is no small matter. We are also being told that the cultural centre will be open at evenings and weekends. As someone who lives 100 yards from the cultural centre I am dreading the increased traffic and congestion this will bring at times when the CPZ is not in operation.

    Property development has its place as people desperately need affordable housing. Done wisely this can regenerate an area but Brent council’s short sighted plans are having the opposite effect. We have lost the Spotted Dog, our bookshop and now the Queensbury pub and Deli are also threatened. Frankly we are being pillaged by developers who are being given free reign by a myopic council.