Watermans arts centre regeneration “still on track” says Hounslow Council

Image above: Productions at Watermans arts centre

“Non-material amendments” may need to be made to plans before work can begin

The regeneration of Watermans arts centre in Brentford is “still on track to happen” according to Hounslow Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and and Development, Cllr Tom Bruce.

During a Hounslow Council Cabinet meeting on Tuesday (14 November) Cllr Bruce said he wanted to assuage fears about the project being at “red risk”, as the deadline for work to begin on the proposals approaches.

Cllr Bruce said there were “internal conversations” going on about Hanworth Park House, Convent Way and the Watermans proposals, all three of which have been designated at ‘red risk’, meaning that Council officers have flagged up potential risks in pursuing the development, such as concerns about inflation, increased material costs, supply chain and labour shortages, heightened borrowing expenses, delays in utility connections, and power supply adequacy.

At Tuesday night’s meeting the Cabinet were reviewing the Delivery Plan for the borough.

Cllr Tom Bruce 

“Red always makes people very concerned”

“Red always makes people very concerned, I’m sure, and worried it’s not going to come forward at all,” said Cllr Bruce. “I just want to assure people that that’s not the case, it’s not that they’re red because nothing is happening and they’re not going to happen. But it is important that we are transparent and we are clear about concerns that we might have about their delivery on the time frame we had them previously.

“All of them are still on track to happen, I think that’s really important to say, there are internal conversations about how that is going to take place and we are currently looking at the HRA [Housing Revenue Account] business plan and a refreshed HRA business plan will come forward jointly between myself and Cllr Sampson [Cabinet Member for Housing Management and Homelessness] in January or February next year.”

The HRA business plan is the strategic document which outlines the financial and operational framework for managing council housing. HRAs are used by local authorities to account for their housing stock and related services separately from their general fund.

Image above: Impressions of proposals approved by LB Hounslow in 2021

Work needs to start by April

The demolition of Watermans arts centre, the redevelopment of the site, and the re-siting of Watermans to the old police station building in Brentford is intended to create a number of new flats and additional retail space as well as the new arts centre.

Cllr Bruce told Cabinet the Watermans proposal might need to be “re-profiled” and some “non-material amendments” made before work could start, adding that discussions were ongoing with the developer.

There is some urgency about agreeing a way forward with developers. Approval for the project was granted in 2021, and work must commence within three years of approval, so the permission will lapse in April 2024.

He did not elaborate on what amendments needed to be made. Non-material amendments are changes to a planning proposal that do not materially alter the size and scale of the building and would not alter the description of the development.

We have asked Cllr Bruce what changes are being made.

Image above: Watermans; photograph John Angerson

What will happen to Watermans?

The existing riverside site is due for demolition and redevelopment as flats as part of the Brentford town redevelopment and the arts centre is scheduled to move to a bigger venue in Brentford, in the old police station, which will provide 105 new flats and 484m2 of retail space, combined with the development of the new Watermans arts centre within a seven-storey block.

The proposed Watermans arts centre as proposed in 2021 promised a larger theatre, two cinemas with a gallery for film festivals, and space for a café/restaurant, totalling 2,776m2. No provision for car parking is included in the plans.

The Albany Riverside development, planned for the site of the current arts centre and the former Max Factor offices, encompasses 193 units in buildings ranging from six to seven storeys. Progress on this development hinges on the completion of the Watermans arts centre at the Half Acre site, a critical component of the affordable housing scheme.

As with all building projects, it has faced escalating costs, which led the Council’s Cabinet to approve recommendations in July to address the funding gap and look for ways to improve the scheme’s viability.

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