The latest chapter in a long anticipated “once in a generation” building programme in Harrow was confirmed this morning (September 11), as the council announced its much discussed private sector partner.

But Harrow Council’s opposition say the project is the “biggest mistake in a generation” and will result in “unsuitable flats” in high-rise buildings.

Wates Residential has been chosen to support the council in its ambitions to redevelop three sites in the borough – Poets Corner, Peel Road, and Byron Quarter.

The £600 million scheme seeks to provide a new civic centre in Wealdstone, alongside 1,500 homes, commercial space, and a school.

Cllr Graham Henson, leader of Harrow Council, said: “During these difficult times it is important to have something to look forward to – our ambitious plans will give families an affordable place to call home, create jobs for local people, build a new Council HQ, and re-energise Wealdstone town centre.

“Through our partnership with Wates we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a real and lasting difference to the lives of our residents and boost the local economy.

“Now is the right time to redevelop these three sites and build a better Harrow for our residents and businesses.”

The hunt for a strategic partner was announced over a year ago – a final decision delayed by the Covid-19 outbreak – and was criticised by the borough’s Conservative Group.

It was approved after being called-in for further analysis by opposition councillors and, at a council cabinet meeting, Harrow Conservatives’ leader Cllr Paul Osborn stressed that this latest announcement could also be subject to further review.

Cllr Osborn called for the programme to be reassessed, given the council is unaware of what the global situation will be like over the next few years.

“It’s difficult to know where to start with this project and, you have to laugh about it, because the alternative is to cry,” he said.

“I think it’s right to say that this is the biggest decision the council has made in a generation – I think it’s also going to be right to say that it’s the biggest mistake the council has made in a generation.

“I think this development is going to end up with lots of unsuitable flats in high-rise buildings.

“I don’t think there’s been a proper consultation with the residents of Harrow and whether that’s what they wanted.

“You’re going to act in haste and repent at leisure. Once you make this decision and head down this path, you are more and more committing the council to a problem that will potentially bankrupt it in the future.”

He added the scheme is “nowhere near” the original timetable set out – pointing out the council should have moved into the new civic centre last year – and has gone through three council leaders and three chief executives.

A complete business plan between the two partners is expected to be presented to the council’s cabinet in February next year, with the first homes scheduled to be built in 2022.