Packed Public Meeting – St.Paul’s School Head’s Eloquent Plea

Criticises proposed neighbouring developments on Morrisons and Police sites

A packed public meeting at St Paul’s Church on Friday 27th January heard about a proposed development at Morrisons store on Brentford High Street and also plans for the Watermans, Max Factor and police station sites. 

John Wright, head of St Paul’s primary school spoke out. Here’s his speech in full:

Introduction
I am the head of St Paul’s CE primary school which opened in 1873 to serve the community of Brentford, set up by local people sitting in this church.  We have 338 children, roughly 200 families.  Most live within a mile or so of the school, some families are in their second/third generation at the school.  The school is highly diverse, reflecting Brentford, we are part of the community

Personally I live in South Ealing but am part of the Brentford community.  My family and I visit the Watermans, shop at Morrisons, eat and drink in local pubs/restaurants

I am grateful for this opportunity to speak and would like to thank the councillors present.  I recognise that they have entered public service to serve, support and build the community of Brentford.  I know that they work hard to achieve this, turning out to meetings, supporting the needs of many constituents.  I would like to recognise their commitment to representing and standing up for their community.

I stand before this meeting to represent the school.  I recognise that there may be a range of views but hope I represent the core views. 

How do we feel about the developments proposed for Brentford?
We would probably want to see the existing supermarket and car park remain as it kind of works.  Our parents use the car park at drop off and pick up, taking cars off local roads.  Morrisons is a supermarket on a human scale, providing for the breadth of the Brentford community

Any development must serve the needs of the entire community.  The proposed developments must surely compliment, not replicate one another and enrich the local environment, celebrating what is currently here

Does the proposal for the Morrisons site meet that requirement?  Not as currently proposed.

What are our concerns?
In physical terms the proposed building is out of proportion to the site.  It is too high and too dense.  We have submitted these concerns in our planning response.

We have concerns about feeling hemmed in.  The school has modest external space, currently mitigated by the openness of the Morrisons site in its current configuration.

Our concerns rest on light, wind turbulence, increased noise and pollution.  I recognise that detailed surveys have been undertaken to show minimal impact in some of these areas – but the sense of being hemmed in is very relevant.

How about the proposed building and the business model around it, does it serve our community?
We have concerns here too.

Most of the families that leave the school before the end of the primary phase do so because of property.  It is often families needing a third bedroom.  The cost of a third bedroom locally is too great and they move out of London, to Hemel Hempstead, Portsmouth, Somerset or Bournemouth.  Only 8% of the properties proposed have more than two bedrooms.

Many of my younger teachers and staff simply cannot afford to live in the locality.  I have young teachers who are unable to rent or buy locally.  They commute in to school.  In terms of recruitment and retention this is a real challenge.  If you live a distance from the school and your journey is hard, one of two things are likely to happen: you look to move closer to work or you move to a job closer to home.  The second option is more economically sound.  Year on year, recruitment of new staff is increasingly challenging.  This has an impact on the quality of education on offer to the community.

A two bedroomed property should not be defined as a family dwelling as I believe it doesn’t meet then needs of many families.  If a family has more than three children a two bedroomed flat would be insufficient.  If a family have a boy and a girl, a two bedroom property would become inappropriate once the children reach puberty.

Generation rent seems to be commonly accepted as inevitable.  This model has its limitations and should not be seen as a solution without question.

Brentford, London and the UK needs truly affordable property.  We have concerns about the target demographic for the proposed development on the Morrisons site, being too narrow and not serving the needs of the existing community.  The rents will need to be carefully set.

Essential Living have a number of developments under construction.  There was only one on which rental details could be found: Vantage Point in Highgate Hill.  Rental prices for those apartments break down as follows:

Studio apartment: £1 500 a month (based on a four week month)
1 bedroom apartments: £1, 800 a month
2 bedroom apartments: £2, 600 a month

I appreciate that rents on the proposed Brentford development may be higher, similar or lower to reflect the local rental market, however all are higher than my monthly mortgage outgoings on a three bedroom house.

They would have to be significantly cheaper to serve the local community.

A teacher in their first year of teaching, often a single person, earns £26 139 a year gross – £2, 178.35 a month before deductions.  They would struggle to afford a studio apartment in Vantage point.

A teacher in their second year after deductions would receive approximately £1616 take home pay a month, after deductions.

Six years into their career, by which time they may be setting up a family, a teacher earns £36, 906 a year gross – £3, 075.50 a month before deductions.  They would struggle to a two-bedroom apartment.

Teachers earn more than many others in the community – my support and auxiliary staff earn far less.  If this is what generation rent face, I fear it will not meet then needs of the community in Brentford.  We have already in Brentford and around, many new build apartments to rent in similar price brackets.

What about complimenting the local built environment?
We believe that the proposed development is out of proportion to the local area, it will raise the skyline in the area, an area on the edge of a designated conservation area.

We need cohesion in the local built environment.  The school expanded to a second site, Alexandra House, in September 2015.  Alexandra House is east of the Morrisons site.  It is an iconic 1930’s building.  It was originally built as a health centre and was refurbished in 2014 to become our second school site.

There were a number of significant restrictions put in at the planning phase to conserve and rejuvenated the appearance of the building.  This added to the cost of refurbishment, but has preserved the integrity of the local landscape.

The original Crittal windows had to be removed, restored and re-fitted.  This added many thousands to the project and we do not meet requirements for noise or thermal insulation as a result.

All plant for air and heating provision had to be placed on the roof with a very restricted maximum height, in order that the plant cannot be seen from the street, retaining the original aspects of the building.

Conserving the appearance of Alexandra House was thought very important at the time our plans were considered.  It seems inappropriate to construct a large modern edifice so close to buildings of local significance, such as Alexandra House and our mid-Victorian school building.

Conclusion
As a school, we want to support development that meets the needs of the community and serves to enrich it.  Lower density, mixed residential units including houses with gardens available at truly affordable rents and with affordable ownership options would seem a more effective development plan.  In addition, the current Morrisons site appears to serve the community well.  Refurbishment and modest development would seem a more appropriate plan for this site.

The Morrrisons development is one of a number of developments in the pipeline that have the potential either to enrich and nourish this community or to remodel and fracture this community.  Planning decisions need to be made wisely with the views and needs of the community at their centre.

February 3, 2017

http://www.brentfordtw8.com/default.asp?section=info&page=plmorrisons007.htm

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