The London Borough of Brent
“Brent is one of the most culturally diverse areas in London with over half of the residential population born abroad”
Moving to Brent
As with a number of outer London boroughs, Brent is an area of contrasts with prosperous neighbourhoods existing alongside areas of deprivation. The borough has undergone and continues to undergo a number of positive developments initiated by the council, in an attempt to improve some of the most deprived areas and bring new residents into the borough. In Wembley, for example, work was recently completed on Dexion House, an ambitious project which created 802 new student accommodation units as well as a public community pool. With similar regeneration projects underway, good transport links and some reasonable schools, it’s no surprise that Brent is becoming increasingly interesting to families and young professionals.
Brent is also one of the most culturally diverse areas in London with over half of the residential population born abroad. There is a particularly large Indian community in the area and this is reflected in the number of retail outlets, eateries and temples in the area. The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, commonly known as Neasden Temple, is a beautiful white architectural structure on Brentfield Road which reflects the significant Hindu population in the area. Other striking structures in the borough include the arched Wembley stadium, one of the most famous football and music stadiums in the world, with the capacity to seat 90,000 people.
House Prices in Brent
In contrast to the deprivation seen throughout the borough, property prices here are relatively high, with an average house price of £530,000 as of January 2017 – making the area more expensive than Greenwich, Lewisham and Enfield among others. Rents are also high compared to the low wages of the borough, making up 75% of average earnings, compared to the 57% average for London. Prices rise the closer you get to the borders of London boroughs such as Camden, Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea, so for a combination of property prices and safety, the best areas to live in Brent look like Kenton, Northwick Park and Sudbury.
“…striking structures in the borough include the arched Wembley stadium, one of the most famous football and music stadiums in the world, with the capacity to seat 90,000 people”
Increasingly popular with commuting professionals, Brent has plenty of good transport links with the Bakerloo, Metropolitan, Piccadilly, and Jubilee lines all within its boundaries, as well as a good Overground service for travel to the outer edges of London. In addition, Chiltern Rail also serves several points throughout this area, transporting locals right across the North West, as far as Birmingham and also to leafy Oxford. For motorists, the North Circular road runs through the borough, connecting traffic directly with the M1 to the north and the M4 to the south west.
For residents seeking to dine out, Brent has an adequate selection of restaurants and cafes scattered throughout the borough. Highlights include Vijay India, Palm Beach and Asher’s Africana on Ealing Road, La Regina on Wembley Hill, and a large Nando’s on Wembley High Road.
When it comes to retail therapy, on the other hand, the borough has a reasonable variety of shopping areas to choose from. For a combination of designer brands and bargains, the London Designer Outlet in Wembley is home to 70 stores and designer outlets including Adidas, Gap and Levi’s, as well as a number of restaurants and a large Cineworld cinema. For everything else, including a vast array of furniture of homewares, there is a large branch of IKEA just beside the North Circular, as well as Brent Cross Shopping Centre in the neighbouring borough of Barnet.
For an open-air high street experience, Queen’s Park offers an array of boutique stores and welcoming cafes, as well as a Farmer’s Market selling a broad choice of locally-sourced organic produce every Sunday. Alternatively, over in Wembley, the busy streets of Ealing Road offer visitors a wide variety of everything from tasty Indian eateries and kitchenware to designer jewellers and high-end South Asian fashion.
Brent is relatively well stocked when it comes to the weekly shop. In addition to a number of fruit and vegetable outlets such as Wembley’s Fruity Fresh, this borough is home to large branches of all major supermarket chains, as well as the aforementioned Queen’s Park Farmers Market for local and organic produce.
Health & Sport
Alongside branches of major international gym chains such as Nuffield Health, The Gym and PureGym, Brent offers an appealing outdoor alternative in the form of fourteen outdoor gyms spread throughout the borough. Run by the council, these airy spots offer free instructor-led sessions on a weekly basis and are open seven days a week.
Despite performances from world-famous artists such as Beyonce at Wembley Stadium, Brent isn’t a particularly cultural borough, although some gems can be found. For creative types, the Tricycle Theatre on Kilburn High Road is one of the best of its kind in the area, a ‘local venue with international vision’ which regularly puts on a variety of drama, comedy and musical performances. Other cultural highlights in the borough include the Lexi Cinema, an indie spot run by volunteers, as well as the Brent Museum.
“For creative types, the Tricycle Theatre on Kilburn High Road is one of the best of its kind in the area, a ‘local venue with international vision’ which regularly puts on a variety of drama, comedy and musical performances”
Schools and Education
Schools in Brent fare slightly better than the UK average when it comes to primary-aged pupils, although despite improvements they still fall short of the London average. The best primary schools in Brent, all of which achieve well over the UK and London averages for KS2 results, are Wykeham Primary School, St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Primary School, and Robert Southwell Primary School. Good secondary schools can also be found in the area, with the best being Wembley High Technology College, JFS and Claremont High School in the state sector, and the Swaminarayan School and Menorah High School in the independent sector.
Despite well-publicised problems with gun crime over the years, crime levels in Brent have fallen and it sees a relatively low amount of annual crime compared to London averages. Harlesden is the area in the borough with the highest crime levels, and therefore the least safe, while Kenton is the safest area with four times fewer crimes reported than Harlesden in 2016.
Ironically, the carefully kept greenery of Wembley Stadium is rather in contrast to the sparse greenery of the borough itself – Brent has 43% less green space than the London average, and the least amount of green space in comparison to all other outer London boroughs. In recognition of this fact, the council have invested a lot of effort into making the most of the 74 small parks and open spaces in the area, installing outdoor gyms and outlining a number of walking routes, which pass by a combination of parks and iconic area landmarks.
For those seeking something a little less urban, Fryent Country Park in northern Brent has the largest proportion of greenery, covering 103 hectares. As a designated nature reserve with some woodland areas, this open space is used by a number of people, including conservation groups and locals looking for an area to relax and take in the view. Other notable parks include Roundwood Park in Willesden, a Victorian park which currently holds a Green Flag Award.
A rather ancient borough, North-West London’s Brent has hosted some form of settlement since prehistoric times, and was rather romantically named after the Celtic goddess Brigantia.