Westminster’s Moberly Sports Centre proposal – Too good to be true?

The ‘Save the Jubilee Sports Centre’ campaign say;

Moberly plans

“At the end of 2013 Westminster Council submitted a planning application to Brent for the redevelopment of the Westminster-owned Moberly Sports Centre to provide a new sports centre and 71 new homes. Westminster say that the new Moberly will provide Brent residents in the south of the borough with an £18 million new sports centre at no cost to Brent. On the face of it, this looks like a brilliant deal for Brent residents. But is it too good to be true?

Westminster City Council think it’s a good deal for them, because they’re expecting to save £380k a year in running costs by closing down the nearby Jubilee Centre and moving services to a new enlarged Moberly Centre over the border in Brent.

But is it a good deal for Brent residents? The Save Our Jubilee campaign has been fighting Westminster City Council to keep the much-needed sports facilities at the Jubilee Centre, one of Westminster’s two most deprived wards. We think that combining sports facilities in the Moberly Centre isn’t a good deal for Brent residents either. This is why.

1. No affordable housing will be provided to meet the desperate needs of Brent residents. Brent’s Site Specific Allocations DPD identifies the Moberly site as one that could be redeveloped to improve the existing sports and nursery facilities and in addition to provide 104 housing units. Brent would normally expect half of these to be affordable – a valuable contribution to meeting housing needs in the borough. Westminster are proposing 71 flats (fewer than Brent thought the site might accommodate) and all these will be market housing for sale with no affordable units included.

2. Loss of daylight and sunlight to neighbouring properties. Westminster City Council’s decision to relocate services from the Jubilee to the Moberly site has resulted in a massive new building, seven storeys high at the northern end, which will rob neighbouring homes in Brent of daylight and sunlight. Evidence for this is provided in the Daylight and Sunlight Report accompanying the application which shows that, as a result of the development, properties in Chamberlayne Road, City Heights and Noko will experience daylight levels below BRE guidelines, while properties in City Heights and Noko will have no direct sunlight at any time of the day.

3. Loss of outdoor sports facilities. On the north side of the Moberly site there is an 18 x 36 metre floodlit artificial turf pitch used mainly as a football pitch by local youth clubs and adult teams. The report Planning for Sport and Active Recreation Facilities produced jointly by the London Borough of Brent and Sports England in 2008, looked at the distribution of STPs (Synthetic Turf Pitches) across the borough and considered that the south of the borough was adequately served by the pitch at the Moberly. However, if Westminster’s application for the Moberly site is approved, this pitch will be lost and, as a result, wards in the south of Brent will no longer meet minimum FA and Sport England standards for outdoor pitch provision.

These three considerations (failure to provide affordable housing, loss of daylight and sunlight, and loss of outdoor sports facilities) provide solid grounds, all justifiable by reference to the Council’s Core Strategy, for Brent to refuse the current application from Westminster City Council for the redevelopment of the Moberly site.

Westminster City Council has asked Brent to treat the Moberly application as an exceptional application, in effect arguing that the benefits provided to Brent residents by the new sports centre are so exceptional that Brent’s policies in relation to affordable housing and overshadowing should be set aside. In particular, Westminster argue that the new housing on the site has to be high value market housing, as this is necessary to subsidise the new sports centre. WCC has asked Brent to make an exception to its affordable housing policy to allow funds to be channelled into the sports centre, rather than housing for Brent residents.

We argue below that, contrary to Westminster’s claims, the benefits offered by the new development are in no way exceptional as the new centre will, firstly, not provide any more usable leisure space than exists now and, secondly, the facilities in the main replace sports facilities already provided in the existing Moberly and Jubilee centre.

Firstly, comparison of existing and proposed floorspace

Westminster say the new Moberly will provide over 2,000 square metres more activity space than exists now in the Jubilee and Moberly Centres. However, if we take into account the loss of the outdoor sports pitches at the Jubilee and Moberly Centres now then there is very little difference between the floor space in the new Moberly and what Westminster provide to local residents now at the Jubilee and Moberly centre.

While the boxing court is a new facility (though it is by no means certain that the Allstars Boxing Gym for whom it’s intended will move from their current club quarters) and the floor area for gym/fitness suites is increased, we consider that these improvements need to be balanced against the loss of existing facilities in the existing Jubilee and Moberly Centres which will not be re-provided. There include these the 1137 sqm free to use outdoor court (Jubilee), the 777 sqm floodlit outdoor court (Moberly), two squash courts (Jubilee), sensory play room (Jubilee) and the nursery/under fives facilities at the Moberly Centre.

In conclusion, therefore

The new Moberly Sports Centre might seem a good deal for Brent. However, for the reasons we have outlined above (particularly failure to provide affordable housing, loss of outdoor sports facilities, loss of daylight and sunlight to neighbouring properties) the current Westminster proposals do not comply with key elements in Brent’s planning guidelines and should be refused for this reason. Westminster have argued that the benefits provided by the new leisure centre are so valuable that Brent should set its planning guidance aside. We have shown that the benefits provided by the new centre to Brent residents are marginal, and insufficient to justify setting Brent’s planning guidance aside. For this reason, we hope that the current planning proposals by Westminster will be refused by Brent.”

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