1 July 2024

Nimby Watch: The well-read Nimbys of Brentford


For this week’s edition of ‘Nimby Watch’, Jonn Elledge takes us to west London, where local Nimbys appear to have taken entirely the wrong lesson from his work…

Where are we this week? Brentford.

Oooh, west London, fancy. So who wants to build what? The ’boutique property company’ Town Quay Developments and Mountbatten Homes is redeveloping Frasers Timber, a site on ‘The Ham’, beside the Grand Union Canal. The plan is for a car-free development of 60 flats, split between one 10 storey tower and one lower-rise block.


What’s there now? What looks like an abandoned barn, wedged between Shire Place, an existing residential block, and ‘The Brentford Project’ – a much larger mixed-use development which is intended to ‘reconnect the high street with the waterfront’, and to which developer Ballymore has attached an implausibly sexy name. 

So it’s brownfield? Brownfield, what’s more, besides a major recent redevelopment with a lot of similar blocks. 

Aha, but how much of it’s affordable housing? Oh, well, this is the best bit: all of it. Under current reg.s, most residential projects aim at 35% affordable, generally a mixture of conventional social housing at 50% of market rent (which is good), intermediate rent at 80% of market rent (which is less good), and shared ownership (which is, well, let’s not get into that here). This scheme, though, is going to be three-fifths intermediate and two-fifths social rent. Doesn’t that sound great?

It does! Yeah, the locals hate it. Look at this flyer someone forwarded to me:


It’s a conservation area? The Grand Union Canal and Boston Manor Conservation area was extended to cover precisely one more street in 2017. If I told you that street was the site of some disused barn-like buildings that transparently do not deserve conserving at all, could you guess which one?

Okay, but what about this statue? Oh, that’s a good bit. Firstly, the bit about sightlines to and from historic heritage sites being protected is nonsense – not every view of every heritage site gets protected. That’s obviously true if you think about it for even ten seconds, because if it was you’d never be able to build anything near any of them. 

That would not, at this stage, surprise me. Secondly, while I’m sure this person is sincere in their love of Flora’s Column, I’ve been to Syon Park many times and didn’t even know it existed. It is, what’s more, a site of such importance that it doesn’t even show up on Google Maps. All of which suggests it’s perhaps not that important a local landmark after all.

I thought the woo about how ‘we need buildings to have subservient relationships with rivers for our mental health’ was a nice touch, too. Yes, and note the repeated use of first person plural words like ‘our’ and ‘us’. This flyer is written for an audience of people who live inside the ‘Brentford Project’. I don’t know who’s behind it – but it’s clearly aimed at people who live in other new build flats, in the hope that the usual selfish complaints about construction traffic and ‘unaffordable’ homes will persuade them to block others from having what they do.

Well, ‘affordable’ housing often isn’t. Which is a complaint to direct at the government, and a case for building a lot more homes. Anyway, you know what the most irritating thing about that flyer is?

I think I can probably guess. It’s the format.

Uhuh. They’ve ripped off the format of this column– 

Ripped off’ is a strong term here. –to campaign against housing.

Have you forgotten that you ripped off the format of a Guardian column? Look–

Which has been running for 35 years? This just isn’t the way I was hoping this column might influence the housing debate, okay?

What, you were hoping they’d put up a statue of you? No.

And then give it a protected view? Shut up.

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Jonn Elledge is a journalist and author.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.