The opening of the new BHP homes at Chapter Road
Brent Housing Partnership (BHP) has built new homes for homeless families on the site of a former film processing factory that was at the centre of a landmark 1970s industrial dispute.
The Grunwick dispute took place at a film processing factory on Chapter Road, Willesden, north-west London in 1976 and ran for two years.
Workers at the factory protested against poor pay, working conditions and the right to union recognition. The strike dominated the headlines at the time; it set a precedent in industrial relations and often involved violent clashes between protestors and police.
Breaking stereotypes and attracting further media attention was the fact that the strikers were mostly immigrant, East African Asian women. They were led by Jayaben Desai and were dubbed “strikers in saris” by the news media.
The Grunwick site undoubtedly has a special place in history, but over the years it has been in decline and in need of regeneration. The site was purchased from housing developers to build residential homes six years ago, work started but it remained incomplete after a sale fell through. BHP stepped in last year to rescue the project and 38 new homes were officially opened in June. BHP worked in partnership with Durkan (contractors), John Rowan Partners (consultants) and Alexander Sedgley (architects). We were all very proud of the outcome.
The purchase of the Chapter Road site was part of a bigger project for BHP to help reduce the massive housing waiting lists in Brent and help Brent Council to lower the demands for other forms of temporary accommodation. We were allocated £10 million from the Mayor of London’s Targeted Funding Stream (Settled Homes Initiative) following a successful grant bid to provide homes for homeless households nominated by Brent Council.
We set ourselves a challenge of finding ways to address the very real problem of housing shortages in the borough. The Chapter Road development is a shining example of how we rose to this challenge. We have not only helped provide families and individuals with much needed homes, but the residents now have the benefit of living in high-quality, eco-friendly homes, providing excellent value for money, with community facilities on their doorstep.
The development will contain a medical unit with a doctors or dentist that will serve the local community.
With the funding from the Settled Homes Initiative, we have bought a total of 175 properties across Brent, making BHP one of the largest property owning ALMOs in the UK. Whereas traditionally ALMOs manage properties owned by their local authority, we are driven to break the mould and explore new territories.
It was very important to us, as well as local councillors, that the Chapter Road development commemorates what had taken place more than 30 years ago; and that such an important part of history was not forgotten.
In memory of the late Jayaben Desai who, against all odds, fought for the rights of her fellow workers, a plaque has been erected on the development which marks the site of the workers’ struggle.
The husband of Jayaben Desai attended the opening ceremony. “The homes are lovely and Mrs Desai would have been very happy that this site has been put to good use to help the community and provide homes for people who need them,” he said. “She was a unique lady and I am overwhelmed by her being remembered with a plaque in her memory.”
I hope that the new residents will feel privileged to be part of history and also be very happy in their new homes.