Writing in this month’s NLQ magazine, Piers Clanford, Chairman of St George, explains how the regeneration of a 22-acre industrial estate in Brent has bucked the London trend and progressed quickly through planning and into delivery.
To read the full feature, including contributions from Jules Pipe CBE, Deputy Mayor of London, Cllr Shama Tatler, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Planning and Growth at the London Borough of Brent and Ben Gomez-Baldwin, Director at SEGRO, download NLQ magazine (subscription required).
“London is in the grip of a deep and damaging housing crisis and yet across the city many ambitious regeneration and homebuilding plans struggle to get up and running.
Grand Union, in Alperton, Brent, is an exception. This 22-acre brownfield site moved swiftly through the planning system and is now delivering homes and jobs at real pace.
The timeline is impressive… St George purchased the site in April 2017, a planning application was submitted in January 2018, work started on site in January 2019 and the first homes (100% affordable) were secured by and handed over to Brent Council for their residents in December 2021. That’s four years from site purchase to first completion.
What makes this more impressive is the sheer scale and complexity of the site. Previously home to the derelict Northfields Industrial Estate, this vast space was cut off and contaminated by generations of industrial use. Below ground was a maze of water mains and sewers and above there were steep changes in levels, multiple site ownerships to work through and close residential neighbours to connect with and consider.
Another huge challenge was to re-provide the derelict estate’s industrial floorspace and make it work harmoniously as part of a mixed-use neighbourhood. However, perhaps the most complex task was to engage the surrounding community in the site revival, and to reassure them that positive change was coming.
So how were all these complexities overcome?
A big part of the answer is Brent Council, where they take a strikingly hands-on approach to regeneration. From day one they invited us in and set a crystal clear vision and priorities for the site. Key asks included meaningful community engagement, high quality affordable homes and first-class open spaces and amenities for the whole of Alperton to enjoy.
The whole Brent team worked as focused and determined partners, with regular meetings to drive progress and an ‘open door’ to discuss and resolve challenges in real time. This meant every planning deadline was met and St George had the certainty to make an upfront capital investment of £170 million to unlock the site and drive delivery.
Another key to Grand Union’s success is the community’s influence and support. Trust was built up gradually, one conversation at a time. This was achieved through a wide-ranging engagement programme, including an on-site visitors’ centre, exhibitions, community festivals, door-knocking and taking every chance to meet the local people, groups, schools and businesses. A Community Steering Group was established, which has since evolved into the fantastic Grand Union Community Development Trust, which now runs the 5,000 square foot community centre.
Re-providing on-site industrial floor space, required another form of innovation. The St George team designed a multi-storey light industrial building, which will deliver 130,000 square feet of workspace on just a 1.7-acre footprint. This was the key which unlocked the rest of the site and will create up to 250 jobs once it opens as SEGRO V-Park Grand Union next year.
Another stand out feature of Grand Union is the quality of the design, which is both finely detailed and functional, yet full of thoughtful, fun and locally inspired features. There will be 13 acres of public open space, including a canal-side piazza, featuring locally inspired public art, landscaped gardens, waterside meadows, community centre and children’s play areas. The new neighbourhood is being brought to life with shops, cafes, pubs, health centre and nursery.
In total, Grand Union will create 3,350 high quality homes, 1,170 (35%) of which will be affordable homes. Other benefits include a £93 million contribution to improving Brent’s wider community infrastructure and amenities, a 240% on-site biodiversity net gain and bringing 400 permanent jobs and 200 apprenticeships to the heart of Alperton.
To sum up, Grand Union is doing a huge amount of good. It exemplifies positive partnership working and proves that we can, with a truly collaborative approach, deliver hugely positive outcomes at the scale and pace London needs.”
Piers Clanford, Chairman, St George PLC (a Berkeley Group company)
Before: the Northfield Industrial Estate