Brentwood Ford HQ homes proposal lacks ‘golden thread of sustainability’

Plans have been revealed for 152 homes on land next to the Ford HQ in Brentwood.

However, the development’s potential residents would have to maintain its roads themselves, as they are not set to be adopted by the highways authority and the plans have been criticised by Warley resident Stuart Wilks, a former chairman of Brentwood Bus and Rail Users Association, who said the plan “appears to offer no such new facilities, despite obviously bringing substantial numbers of people and families to the area”.

The site being potentially developed by Fairview Homes comprises two portions of land formerly associated with the Ford headquarters: the car park on the north side of Eagle Way and the data centre and part of the grounds on the southern site.

The former Ford headquarters in Brentwood was bought for £40 million, with plans for more than 400 homes across the site.

Fairview New Homes completed the purchase of the 21-acre site on Eagle Way and plans to turn it into a new residential development, comprising both private and affordable housing in January.

As part of the deal, the Ford central office building will be sub-sold to Land Charter Homes, to be turned into 266 flats under permitted development rights.

Remaining land within Fairview’s ownership will be used for 150 homes, meaning the Ford site is set to take considerably more homes than the 350 it was earmarked for in earlier versions of the Brentwood Borough Council local plan.

After Ford announced its plans to close its Warley headquarters in 2018, which was the centre of its UK operations for more than 50 years, the site became a key area for housing growth in the borough – the government has allocated almost 8,000 homes to be built  in Brentwood between 2016 and 2033.

By developing an adjacent car park and the council depot to the north of the site, which would require full planning permission and a comprehensive application, Brentwood’s emerging local development plan envisages 473 homes for the area – consisting of the council depot and the larger Ford site made up of its main building and car park.

However, Mr Wilks said more needed to be done to make it sustainable.

He said: “As it stands, there appears to have been little, if any, consideration given to the golden thread of sustainability as regards social, economic or environmental concerns.

“The Warley area of Brentwood has already been over-developed with a number of large, cramped estates lacking in infrastructure or amenities, such as shopping, social, recreation. This appears to offer no such new facilities, despite obviously bringing substantial numbers of people and families to the area.

“Consideration should be given to cycling and walking infrastructure – many of the incoming residents are likely to be commuters to London – how is the development aiming to address the narrow and already congested Warley Hill route to the station and Brentwood town centre?

“Amenities such as cycleways, pedestrian footways to link to local parkland such as Thorndon should also be included.

“In principle there is nothing wrong with new homes, but more consideration needs to be given to the impact upon the local economy, society and community as well as environment before permission is granted for unfettered construction at the Warley site.”

The proposed development comprises a mix of two, three and four bed terraced houses and one, two and three bed apartments, of which 10 per cent would be wheelchair accessible and adaptable units.

The development proposal is underpinned by a single masterplan which involves developer Land Charter Homes in the Ford main building, Fairview New Homes and a care home provider constituting Phase 1c of the development in a separate detailed planning application.

The last phase of development in the area sees Brentwood Borough Council developing the council-owned waste depot and neighbouring car park.

A summary of Fairview’s transport assessment said: “Vehicular access to the two sites will be provided at the same locations as the existing access points, in the form of priority T junctions. The proposed access points will cater for both vehicular and non–motorised modes.”

It added: “It is not intended to offer either of the sites for adoption by the highways authority.

“The site is well connected to the existing highways and transport networks within Brentwood, and it is considered that the site is located such that it is easily accessible via sustainable transport modes including by foot, bicycle, bus and rail.

“A review of the historic collision data recorded during the most recent three-year period available illustrates that there are no existing highways safety concerns that would be exacerbated by the traffic associated with the proposed development.”

In a separate development in the town, plans by the same developer for more than 80 flats on Brentwood’s former blood donation centre were initially unanimously rejected by the council, but were granted last month after a successful appeal to the planning inspectorate.

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter