Brentford Football Club (BFC): Lionel Road Liaison Group Meeting
Notes of the meeting held in the Bee Hive, Griffin Park at 7pm 29 April 2013
Attendees: Giles Dixon (GD, Kew Society), Denis Browne (DB, Brentford Community Council), Hilary Smith (HS, local resident), Andrew Ross (AR, Strand on the Green), John Burgess (JB, BCC), John Ormsby (JO, WLRG), Dorothy Boland (DB), Derek Collett (DC, Brentford Community Council), Martin Taylor (MT, Kew Society), Kath Richardson (KR, Brentford Chamber of Commerce), Philip Marchant (PM, BIAS), Marie Rabouhans (MR, West Chiswick and Gunnersbury Society), Oliver Pearcey (OP, KBGT), Andrew Dakers (AD, Brentford High Street), Ivor Morrison (IM, Rivers House), Janine Gavin (JG), Tim Luckett (TL, BHSSG), Sonja Leadley (SL), Dave Holmes (DH, Green Dragons Lane), Pearl Pelfney (PP, Green Dragon Lane Housing Co-op), Donald Kerr (DK, BFC), Robert Colvill (RC, SOGA), Louisa Greenacre (LG, Westerly Ware Association)
Project team: Brian Burgess (BB, Brentford Football Club), Chris Gammon (CG, Brentford Football Club), Steve Lancashire, Chair (SL, Four Communications), Patrick Kinsella (PK, Four Communications), John Roberts (JR, AFL) Joe Ellis (JE, WSP), Ben Sykes (BS, Faulkner Browns), Mitch Cook (MC, Greengage), Alistair Watson (AW, Taylor Wessing).
1.0 Welcome and Apologies
1.1 Apologies were received from Bela Cunha, Nicky Gupta, Chris Newman, Richard Merrick, and all local councillors, who SL reported were in Group meetings.
1.2 Pearl Pelfrey, Dave Holmes, Louisa Greenacre and Janine Gavin were welcomed to their first meeting.
2 .0 Notes of 18 March 2013 meeting
2.1 The notes from 18 March 2013 meeting were agreed.
2.2 SL informed the group that the notes from the 22 April and this meeting would be sent round as soon as possible.
2.3 SL told the group there would be a short presentation on the stadium design as agreed last time but the bulk of the meeting would be would be much more of a discussion based on the papers submitted by RC, which had been circulated, and JO, which was available at the meeting.
3.0 Matters arising
3.1 There were no matters arising.
4.0 Stadium design
4.1 SL introduced JR, who presented the stadium design and made the following points.
• The south stand is the main stand; it will accommodate the Community Sports Trust, player facilities, board, Club offices and corporate hospitality and possible space for a rugby club if one is attracted. The other sides will have concourse areas, with areas for serving food, toilets and kiosks. The corner between the west and north stands will also have a climbing wall.
• The future fit out of other areas in the stadium had not been decided. It will be developed when planning permission is secured.
• The new access bridge over the railway to Capital Interchange Way is effectively at first floor level of the East Stand and will provide direct entrance to the stadium. The outside broadcast area is in the north east corner. This will have easy access to Capital Interchange Way. On non-matchdays it can be used as car parking by the Club.
• Discussions with the national organisation representing disabled groups have been productive and the stadium is accommodating their comments with elevated seating in all areas of the stadium.
• The media centre (on second floor) will be used as a classroom and a teaching space, as well as reverting to a main press room on match days.
• On the third floor the two end stands will have concourses. Away fans will be in the north east corner and the eastern half of the north stand. There are flexible arrangements to segregate away fans because the Football League and Cup Matches have different capacity requirements.
• The fourth floor of the south stand is essentially hospitality space with its own deck of premium seating. It could be transformed into one facility to serve 750 people (for a conference/banqueting service).
• The top floor will be plant rooms, a TV studio and control room. This floor will have no public access.
4.2 The following points were made and discussed
• RC asked what the maximum height of the stadium would be. JR informed the group the maximum from ground level to the top is 29m, the floodlights must be elevated more than 21m from pitch level.
• DB asked if this was the equivalent to a 10 storey building, BS confirmed this was the case.
• JR informed the group the stadium would have PVs on the north side of the roof. AR asked why they are not going to be around the whole stadium, especially considering the feed-in-tariff. MC said this would not actually make it more financially viable for a development such as this.
• MR enquired whether there is a plan for advertising on the roof. JR said that this is a possibility.MR asked how the Club plan on reconciling the fact that they are going to have large advertising on the roof which the enabling developments can see. JR said the advertising is designed for aircraft to view. JR also informed the group that the application for advertising will form a separate planning application.
• DB stated that immediately on the north side there is an office building and the stadium will be at least as high. JR said the height on that side of the stadium is less. MR followed this up and asked BB if he had consulted with the office block to which BB said not yet.
• DB then asked whether the external cladding of the stadium had been decided upon. JR said not as yet, but it will not be a metal finish and will most likely (although not confirmed) be a similar to a compressed board/timber finish.
• MR asked whether the Club were factoring in that the stadium will be built before the enabling developments so must also be sensitive to the local area. JR said the Club understands that, and is designing the stadium in the frame of mind that nothing else may be there.
• OP asked what the logic in putting the highest stand on the Thames side was, considering that this is the most sensitive side of the development. JR replied and said when the Club started looking at the footprint it looked at a number of different configurations. The one being shown was the only way it was possible to get a stand on all four sides because of the squeezed triangular shape of the site.
• OP believed the solar impact was worsened with a glass wall but JR disagreed because it was not a continuous wall of glass (it has opaque panels) and the use of brie soleil.
• OP said the Club identify a number of areas where the area isn’t fitted out but wondered, in terms of the business plan, how this can be possible. The Club say that there is a possible space for a rugby club, for community space, but it is unclear how much of this is being relied on to generate income. How big is the risk that this space will not be used? CG said the Club anticipate that some of the space can be used as office space for a rugby club and it’s community activities and/or a naming sponsor. Sharing with a rugby club may also lead to more demand for hospitality lounges. The Club has fitted out the right space for a football club. If a rugby club is secured then the Club would discuss their requirements with them and act accordingly.
• OP: what proportion of the office space does the space that hasn’t been allocated yet represent? CG said about 20-25 per cent but he would check.
• AR: will the buildings on Lionel Road South which are 130 years old and in good condition be used? They are in very good condition and are of true local historical importance. They could possibly be used for the grounds staff?
• JR said that it is not possible to keep them because of the space required for the stadium, crowd circulation and the change in levels.
• AR requested a further explanation. JR explained there is a structural zone required to support the stand, there would not be any space for these buildings. The level of the building is being lifted by half a metre; this is so no spoil is taken off the site. Every effort is being made to look at the development as a whole to minimise the impact. Space also needs to be found for safe spectator flows.
• JR said the Club are trying to improve Lionel Road as a whole and within the residential accommodation there is room for a small retail unit such as a cafe. One of the aims of the development is to bring activity to a neglected Lionel Road both on Match and non-Match days.
• DB asked whether Lionel Road South is going to be considerably wider. JR answered the pavement will be widened on the right hand side walking away from Kew Bridge, the road will be slightly narrower because of the cycle route.
• AR said there is potential for using the northern end of the site to install a platform that would link with the Hounslow to Willesden Line. He said it would be a potentially useful and interesting for a platform for incoming supporters on match days. Is this in your mind?
• BB said the Club have been discussing this with the council for many years, and have also talked to Network Rail and Southwest Trains, who have said there would never be the demand for this. BB said there is nothing to stop this from happening but he made it clear that it would not be able to be used on match days as it would be too close to the stadium to be safe for queues to be managed.
• AD suggested using materials from the existing site in the stadium design. He believes this could be a very powerful message.
• JB: will Lionel Road be shut during match days? JE said it was likely to be half hour before and half hour after. The police usually close the roads around stadia across London for short periods.
5.0 Discussion of circulated letter
5.1 SL informed the group that this section will allow them to ask any questions they have on any aspect of the development and in particular address the concerns raised in RC’s letter sent on behalf of some of the local groups. BB was asked by RC to report what changes had been made to the scheme since consultation began.
5.2 BB began with section 2.0 in the letter, which raised concerns about the population impact of the development.
• BB said that, in response to public comments during consultation, the scheme had firstly been spread to include two adjacent sites and subsequently, since the second exhibition, had been reduced to a maximum of 910 housing units and a 160 bed hotel.
• BB then addressed 2.02 in the letter. He said the total area of land for the scheme is 4.8 hectares. This has a transport accessibility rating (PTAL) of 3 – 4 which under the London Plan could support a density of 260 units/hectare. If the stadium does not receive planning permission and BFC sells the land to commercial developers they could apply for 1,250 housing units, in conformity with the London Plan density. The stadium therefore reduces the potential capacity of the sites for residential development.
• BS said the London Plan is a base against which the scheme will be assessed. The Club will be putting the methodology to Council and GLA.
• BS said the enabling development sits on a total site area of between 2.2 to 2.8 Ha, depending on the methodology used to define the boundary. DB said you have said in meetings the reason for the housing developments is to fund the stadium. It isn’t generated by the principles of the London Plan. If somebody arrived with £20 million tomorrow the buildings would be lower.
• BS agreed that the Club have a challenge to meet which comes from the top down, but we are also building up from the bottom. The team is working to see how the proposals could work for future residents. He felt it unfair, considering all the changes the Club have made, to suggest they are not also operating from a bottom up point of view.
• MR: these top of the range, expensive properties, which does not reflect the needs of the local community. It really is just a means of funding the clubs aspirations and to hell with community needs.
• OP asked if the Club had taken a look at other developments adjacent to the area. He felt it would be helpful to have a comparative with other sites to determine how much each flat could generate. He also took issue with the lack of affordable housing.
• MC said the enabling developments have all been designed with their own merits. The density aspect is part of the equation to work out the numbers. BB said that while it is true the higher the price they can be sold for the less the Club needs it doesn’t actually work like that. St George’s is on the river so commands higher prices. The developments closer to the river are higher, but to the back of this development the market prices would be considerably lower. There is more of a range. Consultants have been asked to speak to affordable housing bodies to see if affordable housing could work, but there are issues with that as their current funding regime only runs to 2015. BB repeated all the Club wants is funding for the stadium and is happy to explore any possibility.
• MR: the Club says it is a community Club but in this instance is not behaving as such.
• BB took issue with this. He said because of the feedback the Club have tried to acquire two further sites and also persuade the club’s owner to underwrite an enormous funding gap. This is being done on an open book process with the Council. Figures show a funding deficit and they have been shown to the Council. They will constantly be reviewed as the project develops. The values will depend on what developers feel they can sell homes for, it depends on the market. The club does not want to make a profit in the sense that a developer wants to, it just wants an income (value) to fund the stadium.
• JB: can the funding gap not be reduced by having a less ambitious capacity.
• CG said if the Club get promoted to the Championship the average stadium size in that league is 27k and the average attendance is 17k. The Club is obviously investing a large amount of money in the move. It has been in Brentford for over 100 years and the Club hopes to be around for 100 more but needs to build a stadium that will be fit for purpose for that amount of time.
5.3 SL moved the discussion on to other points made in section 2 of the letter.
• BB ran through the Brentford Area Action Plan stating that it was endorsed as being sound by an independent planning inspector and was adopted by the London Borough of Hounslow.
• RC: many comments will be more for Hounslow Council but wished to make them nonetheless. This development, along with others agreed, represents a 70 per cent increase in the population, yet as you go through nothing is actually going to change. There is nothing in all of this that will benefit the local area.
• MR echoed this point saying the Club are ignoring the impact on local hospitals and other infrastructure. How will these services cope with such an increase?
• MC said he has spoken about the EIA, which now has a first working draft. It is proposed that the residential area will be built over a period of 9 years, around 100 residential units will be released each year. The average household size for Brentford is 2.6 so there will be about 260 new people each year. Three bed homes are about 20 per cent of the whole mix. That is around 418 family members over 9 years – approximately 15 families per year. There will be a population increase, but it will be phased. Hounslow Council had estimated a child yield of 215. In terms of social infrastructure, the impact on schools, GPs and other social services. Because of the way GPs are being reorganised it means in the future there will be an implication for our scheme and this is running parallel with improvements already happening in the area. MC also said that looking at the GLA guidelines, there will be an extra 100 children. Breaking this down by age and likely demand on schools, there will be an impact but it is not thought to be a significant problem.
• RC said that he believed on top of all the other developments a development of this size will cause serious trouble.
• MR said the comments are misleading because, although there will be increases in school places, these places will be filled by existing demand. There will not be enough capacity for the enabling developments.
• MC responded to this point, he said if you look at the way need is formally calculated, the projections showed room for school places.
• KR said the funding for schools goes into the other end of the borough, but in this end there is a real problem. Technically speaking it might be alright for the whole borough, but there is a problem in this specific area.
• JO echoed concerns about school places. Most London boroughs are up to 10 per cent short of school places, He was not sure where the information was coming from.
• MC said the information is from 2011 data released by the local authority in their school place planning.
• RC said the numbers do not add up, if you are increasing by 30-40 per cent then you are going to need school spaces.
• AW: Other developments have provided S106 agreements. The S106 for these proposals will be based on what the council is calling for. The council needs to be urged to spend the money it is receiving from other S106 agreements on increasing the number of school places in the area.
• MR said it isn’t just money, it is also the space.
• PP asked why the Club are not proposing a school in Griffin Park. (SL indicated this question had been answered in the meeting on 22 April.) BB said the club and education make a good partnership. Young people who are excluded from schools in the borough come to the Hounslow Interim Education Centre at Griffin Park. The Club is offering to expand these education facilities in the new stadium, the learning zone space will be three times the current size. We are talking to the Interim Education Centre asking how much space they want. BB said the Lionel Road site does not have enough space for a school. He felt that on the general matter of school provision, we agree and we will be pressing councillors to ensure there is adequate school provision.
• • DB said 51% of new properties were Buy to Let. AD said these tended to be transient and not contributing towards community. OP queried the relevance of that point.
5.4 SL moved the discussion on to section 3 of the Robert Colvill letter.
• BB informed the group that since RC’s letter the Club has modified the scheme to take into account public comments and had assessed the key views from locations agreed with the London Borough of Hounslow.
• Addressing 3.02 BB said the height references used to assess the scheme have been the Above Ordinance Datum (AOD) heights for both existing buildings and proposed outline developments. The scheme has been revised in response to public feedback so that all buildings are lower than Vantage West and the building closest to Kew Bridge Road steps down to be lower than Kew Bridge House.
• MR said this is one of the nubs of the whole argument, the extent to which you think you can modify because you need the money nowhere near meets our view about what is acceptable to the area. Kew Gardens is talking about making river meadows, yet we find the north side of the river is being built up and it is cumulative. This is adding tier upon tier upon tier.
• RC added that while the Club have indeed tapered the developments, they still rise 60m, and this is twice as high as what is deemed as barely acceptable.
• OP added that there was a tremendous fight over the Kew Bridge development and the first application was eventually thrown out. This is a massive overdevelopment, particularly at the south side of the site. Also, this discussion is just about massing, and we ought also to be talking about materials. We are being asked to take on trust individual details about the development which are only going to inform (guide) the actual development. There is a real issue here about getting something that is considered and textured.
• BS: There is a top down need but there is a working from the bottom up to put forward a position to be assessed. Views all the way around the site have been shown. It is not being said there is not an impact but a strong case will be made that the context of this site is not the same context as the St George’s site.
• AW added that the design code will be part of the application documents, the way to control future developments is by attaching planning conditions. They control the way the development is built out, any developer buys the site on that basis.
• DB said the development is surrounded by world heritage sites and is close to various conservation areas. Given their proximity, it is inappropriate to make such an application.
• BS: there is not a developer here at the table and it is very unlikely this debate would be taking place if there were. The Club is not seeking to make a profit, it is trying to self-finance. The scheme being promoting is that there are benefits and there are impacts, but the team strongly believe the benefits outweigh the impacts.
• MR disagreed. It is the benefit cost balance. All the benefits are to football fans but the entire cost will be borne by a much smaller community. The immediate neighbours, will be paying a very high price for a benefit which for many of us is very questionable.
• • RC commented that LBH would only go along with such over-development as it’s BFC. No developer would stand a chance.
• DB: if the development was restricted to 7 storeys, how much would that cost to the Club?
• CG informed the group that it would be extra of tens of millions which is a financial deficit the Club cannot afford, particularly considering the costs it is already underwriting,.
• MT asked what is the total cost of the stadium and infrastructure required for it alone (i.e. excluding the enabling developments)
• BB said in round numbers you are talking about £80 million, including all of the infrastructure necessary to operate the stadium safely (e.g. the new bridge and the queuing ramp to Kew Bridge Station.
• MT: I am trying to gauge what the shortfall is for the Club but can’t tell.
• CG said if the Club reduced the number of residential units from 900 to 450 the figure would be close to an extra £30m gap on top of the financial deficit the club is already willing to underwrite.
• TL: the Brentford Area Action Plan actually has a stadium on the Lionel Road site. That Plan was debated at great length and came out of a very wide consultation and was agreed many years ago.
• JO responded to this point and said that there was a lot of consultation in Brentford, but not many groups within Chiswick were consulted. He said they received no information on the Brentford Action Plan.
• BB added that one of the key points was that the stadium was a good project but the planning inspector was concerned about whether a viable proposal would come forward. The Club was now proposing a scheme that could be viable based on private capital to underwrite a funding gap.
5.5 SL moved the discussion on to transport and other issues as he was keen they received a good airing.
• BB said the transport assessment will address the concerns raised in the letter in detail. JE echoed this point saying a lot of the questions and points in the letter are quite detailed and the transport assessment will better answer these concerns.
• RC accepted this and said these issues are as much for Hounslow as they are for the Club. In his view there is very little being done to deal with the transport problems except on a relatively ad hoc basis. Despite all the development, the infrastructure remains pretty deficient here. When this goes to Planning Committee, these are the issues and concerns the groups will be bringing up.
• JE said the Club cannot afford to fund major improvements to the stations. Changes to Gunnersbury Station will cost £10s of millions. Hounslow together with the Club can put pressure on the relevant authorities; but the improvements have to come from the station operators and not the Club.
• MR said the problem is Hounslow is so far behind because they still haven’t put out a local plan. She also said the CIL could not be implemented until local plan decided but JE queried this and would check details.
• BB said the group can continue meeting for the next 50 years using the Club to bring pressure to change transport issues. The residents should see the Club as part of the solution rather than as part of the problem. The Club are committed to improving the local area and are willing to work with local amenity groups to encourage the relevant authorities to act.
• JO asked about possible rugby clubs. CG said the Club has talked to a number of rugby clubs, but no club has made an offer and as a result the Club are not in contractual discussions with anybody. It is Brentford Football Club’s intention to attract a club if terms can be agreed.
• DB said the Club must take more account for the potential of rugby than they already have.
• CG said the Club does have a financial figure in mind. Because the discussions have not progressed further than meeting rugby clubs the business plan is modelled on a tenancy arrangement.
• OP asked whether the detailed application for the stadium will include a condition on the number of days the stadium can be used or would the Club effectively have a stadium to use as often wanted.
• AW: the condition put forward would be based on what is proposed by the Club.
• DB commented that Sec of State recently emphasised importance of relation scale and character to surrounding area
• MT: in relation to research on traffic and parking that has been carried out so far, what are the full anticipated effects on Kew?
• JE said these details will be in the transport assessment, and will then be made publically available when the application is validated. The study area extends a couple of miles from the site and has been agreed with the Council.
• MT: Will there be parking restrictions in Kew?
• JE said if need be – all the neighbouring councils will be consulted and if they believe it is necessary then the Council can bring this in with the usual consultation with local residents. This is more of a decision for the local Council and residents rather than for the Club.
• OP asked for an archaeological assessment of the site. Kew Bridge Station cutting had sent useful information to the Natural History Museum.
• MC said one had been undertaken and some will have been disturbed by the previous use but we will do an archaeological watching brief.
5.6 Due to the time SL brought the discussion to a close. He informed the group that a response will be issued to the group on RC’s letter and also JO’s points.
6.1 There was none.
7.0 Date of the next meeting and exhibitions
7.1 SL proposed exhibition dates. Both exhibitions will be held at Fountain’s Leisure Centre (if it can be secured). The date and times he proposed based on the Centre’s availability: Friday 31 May 2.30pm – 6.30pm and Saturday 1 June 10.30am – 1.30pm. These were agreed.
MR stated that had found signs to the appropriate room in leisure centre inadequate and could they be improved. SL disagreed but would ensure the signage was adequate.
7.2 After some discussion, SL suggested that a date for the next meeting be sent some time during the planning application formal consultation period, to give the group an opportunity to further question the Club.