Monday, 31 December 2012

Harrow Observer on Willesden Town Square Public Enquiry

From the Harrow Observer website:

Keep Willesden Green inquiry set for next year

Public hearing about plans for Willesden Green Library, High Road, Willesden Green. L-R: Nicolette McKenzie, Sheila and Martin Redston, Elizabeth Proud, Alex Colas.
AN INQUIRY in to an application to turn an area outside Willesden Green Library in to a public square has been adjourned until next month.

Martin Redston applied to Brent Council to have the public space outside the library in High Road, Willesden, to be officially designated as a public square in order to protect the building.

After being told the inquiry would take place in December, Mr Redston was given two weeks to prepare reams of legal papers to back up his case, but asked for an adjournment so he could consult specialist lawyers and prepare witness statements.

Mr Redston, who runs a civil and structural engineering business, said: “This has been dragging on since March and it is a very long process. We now have until February to prepare all the documents and our argument.”

Mr Redston’s application will be decided by Brent Council and could potentially have implications for a planning application which is lodged with the council by developers Galliford Try to demolish the southern side of the library, which was built in the 1980s, and redevelop the entire site into nine blocks of flats and a cultural centre with library.

This is the second application from developers Galliford Try after the initial application was withdrawn and revised to retain the Victorian section of the building, which sits within the Willesden Green Conservation Area.

There has been widespread opposition from users who want to retain the buildings and Sarah Teather, Liberal Democrat MP for Brent Central, has also objected.

A decision will be made on the planning application on February 13 – the same week the inquiry hearing is due to take place.

A spokesman for Linden Homes, a sister company of Galliford Try, said: “It is too early to comment on the outcome of the public enquiry.”

Two objections have been lodged against the proposal to designate the area in front of the 1983 library a public square, from Linden Homes and Brent Council.

Mr Redston, who is part of the Keep Willesden Green campaign, is hoping neighbours will back his case and will be able to prove they use the area ‘as of right’ in order to get the status.

The campaigner is not sure how much the whole process will cost, but it could run in to tens of thousands of pounds and Mr Redston said the group is considering launching a fundraising campaign to cover this, if necessary.

To have your say see www.keepwillesdengreen.blogspot.co.uk

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Fill in this form to register your views on Town Square application

The public space we are seeking to register as a Town Square is illustrated above.  Please click on the link below for a form that you can complete in support of the application. 


Tuesday, 18 December 2012

More evidence needed as date set for Town Square Inquiry


The full hearing of Martin Redston's application, on behalf of all Willesden Green residents, to have the open space in front of the Willesden Green Library Centre registered as a Town or Village Green, will now begin on Monday 11th February 2013. It will be held in Space 2, on the first floor of the Library Centre, starting at 10am, and may last for up to four days. The independent Inspector who is holding the Public Inquiry has issued full details of how it will be organised and dealt with (see pdf link below for details).
 
Martin will be up against barristers representing both Brent and Linden Homes (Galliford Try), and has to submit all of his written evidence statements by Friday 18th January. It would help his case if he had more evidence from inhabitants of the "core" area of Willesden Green around the High Road. There are many objectors to the WGCC planning application who have put comments online, with addresses that fall within this area.
 
Roads that crop up at least once, often several times are: Brondesbury Park, Bryan Avenue, Chambers Lane, Churchill Road, Grange Road, Kings Road, Lechmere Road, Osborne Road, Peter Avenue, St Andrew's Road, St Paul's Avenue and Sandringham Road. If you are one of these people, or know them, and you or they could provide any evidence of the use of the town square for lawful sports or pastimes at any time since 1991, please let Martin have details as soon as possible. It doesn't matter if you cannot attend the Public Inquiry, or would not wish to speak at it - a simple signed written statement would be a great help.
 
Any such statement should give:
  • the name and address of the person making it;
  • what their connection is with the Willesden Green area, and the open space;
  • what pastimes (for example, standing or sitting and talking with friends, sitting to read a book or magazine, any organised game or activity) they have enjoyed in the space, and (roughly) how often;
  • what pastimes they have seen other people enjoying there, how many people, and (if known) whether or not they were local people from the Willesden Green area;
  • whether anyone (Council staff or police) have ever tried to stop them or others from indulging in the pastimes they have enjoyed in this open space; and
  • what periods of time (approximate start and end dates) their experience of the pastimes described covers.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Town Square Enquiry adjourned until February 2013

Cllr Muhammed Butt addresses 100 Days Of Peace Rally in the Town Square
 The Public Enquiry into the application to register the space outside Willesden Green Library as a Town Square  has been adjourned until February 2013 on the grounds that the applicant was not given enough time to prepare the case.

A preliminary hearing will be still be held on Monday December 17th, 10am Studio 2, Willesden Green Library Centre. This will hear directions from the Inspector to the parties concerned. The meeting is open to the public.

The delay has implications for the timetable for the planning application for redevelopment of the site and the building of 95 homes as the developer's plans involves building on the Town Square.

Evidence of the use of the Town Square can therefore continue to be sent to Martin Redston mredston@compuserve.com as signed PDFs with any photographic evidence.

Comments are also still possible on the planning application and can be sent to andy.bates@brent.gov.uk (Reference 12/2924 12/2925)

Friday, 7 December 2012

Town Square Public Enquiry needs your evidence



The three day Willesden Green Town Square Public Enquiry will begin on December 17th at Studio 2, First Floor, Willesden Green Library Centre.plicant has to establish that the space has been used for pastimes and recreation  'as of right' since it opened in 1989. These could include reading a book, drinking coffee, photography, art  as well as attending the various fairs etc.

Signed statements giving such evidence would be useful.  These should be sent to Martin Redston (e-mail addresses below).  PDFs are acceptable.

Residents are welcome to attend. Please let Martin know if you wish to speak at the Enquiry. 






Carry on commenting on Willesden Green Planning Application

In response to my query I have received the following from Andy Bates of Brent Planning regarding the Willesden Green applications and whether comments will continue to be accepted up to the date of the Planning Committee Meeting.
 
Dear Martin, 
 
Thank you for your email. I can confirm that comments will continue to be accepted. In terms of a Planning Committee date, the first meeting the applications could be considered at is on February 13th 2013. All those who have commented on the proposals will be notified once a date is fixed. 

I hope this updates you. 

Regards, 

Andy Bates
Area Team Manager (South Team)
Brent Planning & Development

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Willesden Green consultation process a misleading travesty says local resident

A local resident has kindly consented to share her submission regarding the Willesden Green planning application with readers:

Objection to Planning Applications 12/2925 and 2924,
Willesden Green Library Centre, 95 High Road, London, NW10 2SF Associated application for Conservation Area Consent

I object strongly to the above proposals for a major project to construct 92 flats and a small library building on the above site.

·        The replacement library has been misrepresented as a “benefit” to the community when in fact it is diminishing the facilities which are currently available to the public.
·        The proposals do not respect the character of the conservation area
·        The proposed replacement buildings are not of the highest architectural quality or design - they are an over-scaled and insensitive intrusion  which will destroy and dominate the High Road’s sense of place.
·        The proposed blocks of flats in the new housing scheme constitute a form of town cramming. On height alone they are unacceptable, breaching  SPG17 guidelines that  residential development should be no higher than 2-3 stories.

The Council is breaching its own policy commitments, national policy and GLA guidelines; in so doing it is betraying public trust.

BREACH OF BRENT'S PLANNING CODE OF PRACTICE AND DUE PROCESS.
Misrepresentation
The Council has sought throughout, to misrepresent its role in this matter, trying to pretend that the developer is the sole applicant for this planning permission.
Both the site and the buildings on it are council owned and therefore Brent is a joint "applicant" and an "interested party" in the application.
It is clear that this is a Council project from every statement made by the Council, from the  announcement in the 2010 Corporate Strategy that “we will be redeveloping Willesden Green Library”, and all subsequent committee reports.
The Council is, in truth,  seeking to grant itself planning permission to develop this land.

Breach of Brent's Planning Code of Practice.
The conduct of both officers and councillors is in breach of Brent's Planning Code of Practice. (see item 12 in respect of officers)

The Planning Code of Practice is also relevant to the conduct of the planning committee: if any member of the Committee has been involved in any way with promoting the scheme for Willesden Library they will be unable to vote on the planning application. As Planning Committee member Cllr. Ann John was clearly involved in promoting this redevelopment scheme; she is therefore partial and should be barred from discussion of the plans, or voting on them.

MISREPRESENTATION of  “PUBLIC BENEFIT”
The proposed replacement buildings offer no benefits to the local community that it does not already enjoy. The proposed redevelopment will seriously reduce public benefit.
The Council and its partners have persisted in misleading the public with false statements.

·        The proposed scheme represents a net loss in square footage of Publicly owned land and a reduction of amenity in a public amenity building,
·        The new public open space will be much worse, hidden away at the back of the building in a shady, steeply terraced passage-way which compromises public safety.  The change of ground levels has not been factored in to the design. The scale on the drawings has been misrepresented to imply a larger outdoor amenity.
·        Loss of parking
·        Detriment to a much-loved historic building.

With the closure of  6 libraries in Brent any replacement of the Willesden library needs to offer  a much larger building.  This proposal barely offers the same amount of library space as is already there and expects to cram in several other uses, such as increased council offices, onto a smaller site. The proposals are dense, cramped, and over-scaled in relation to neighbouring properties. The proposed architecture is at odds with the surrounding Edwardian neighbourhood.

BREACH OF GOOD PLANNING PRACTICE
The Council has failed to follow due process at every stage of this application:
·        to develop an LDF for Willesden Green, although this is an essential part of Town Planning and Spatial Strategy 
·        to produce a planning brief for the project, despite a written commitment to do so
·        to observe government constitutional guidance, Local Gov Act 2000, on “Key decisions”
·        to abide by the Willesden Green Conservation Area Character Appraisal/Management Plan 2006,
There is a need to conserve the best of our built heritage against pressure for redevelopment and unsympathetic alteration”.
·        to abide by the Council’s UDP on Conservation-Led Regeneration and preservation of locally listed buildings and conservation areas, policies:
            BE24 LOCALLY LISTED BUILDINGS,
            BE25 DEVELOPMENT IN CONSERVATION AREAS
·        to abide by guidance in the new National Planning Policy Framework
o  in creating a strong sense of place
o  promotion of design that responds appropriately to local context.
para. 132  'Significance can be harmed or lost through alteration or destruction of the heritage  asset or development within its setting. As heritage assets are irreplaceable, any harm or loss should require clear and convincing justification.'
·        to abide by London Plan policy 3A.18
o  it will not provide equal or enhanced community use floorspace.
o  The facilities will not be of equal or better quality to those that are being demolished,
o  It will not improve the existing offer to local people.
The Council accepted a planning application without uploading any of the details or drawings onto the Planning Web portal, thus making it impossible for the pubic to inspect the plans, thereby denying the public the right to the statutory period of reply.

CONSULTATION
The Council has flouted every single possible duty and commitment to properly consult on this scheme, and has attempted to mislead the public at every stage, by misreporting and misrepresenting such consultation as has taken place. 

This began with its first public announcement in Brent Council Magazine, issue 107, October 2010,  which misrepresented the Corporate Strategy announcement for Willesden as: "improve Willesden Green Library Centre providing more community facilities", when in fact the Corporate Strategy 2010-2014 itself states: “we will be redeveloping Willesden Green Library”

This was fundamentally misleading.

All subsequent consultation has been no more than a box ticking exercise outsourced to private companies.
The most recent in August / September this year was run by a private company calling themselves  the Library Lab, thus misleading residents into supposing that they were connected with the Brent Library service.
The people running the meetings tried to control  what was said; to stop people from asking questions or expressing their point of view, and even told questioners 'not to be disruptive'.  

The numbers attending the meetings were derisory: barely 200 out of a population of potentially 130,000 or so who live in the South of the borough,  or 13,000 who live in Willesden; certainly far fewer than the  number who wrote letters of objection. 

The reports of these meetings put out by this company are a shameful travesty of the truth. 

The whole exercise has been in breach of  Brent Council Constitution:
“The purpose of the Constitution is to support the active involvement of citizens in the process of local authority decision-making;”  and  “create a powerful and effective means of holding decision-makers to public account;”

FIDUCIARY DUTY
It is not the role of a democratically elected Local Authority to sell public assets cheap to facilitate profits for commercial developers on publicly owned land. A case could be made that Brent will be in breach of its fiduciary duty to the tax-payer in encouraging the developer to shortchange the public with reduced and inferior public facilities in return for large profits at the tax-payers expense. Councillors have endorsed plans that mislead the public.

There is also a question to be answered as to why the current, relatively new building was allowed by the Council to deteriorate to the point where it is claimed it is beyond repair.

For all these reasons these proposals should be rejected.

In by-passing all due process in this matter the Council has tainted the planning process.
There is little point in having any planning policies at all if they can be broken so easily.

The Council should prepare a proper planning brief for the site, which will be properly consulted on, and provide real benefits for the borough, rather than maximum profit for the developer.



POSSIBLE OBJECTIONS TO THE HOUSING PROPOSALS IN THE PLANNING APPLICATION


Philip Grant has asked to have the following two comments he has submitted to Brent’s Planning Service on the Willesden Green application (12/2924) posted on the blog. This is for the information of other people interested, and to make these comments easier to read, as the Council’s system packs the text together, and inserts upside-down question marks where quotation marks have been used, which will make the points more difficult to follow when they do appear on the Brent Planning website. The comment on affordable housing also had to be edited slightly in the version submitted, as that shown below contained too many characters.


DEPARTURE FROM BRENT’S CORE POLICY CP17

The Town Planning Statement submitted by URS on behalf of Galliford Try Plc makes much of the fact that the proposed building is designed to be Brent Council’s southern hub (at para.1 – Introduction): 

‘The proposed new Cultural Centre represents a flagship scheme for Brent Council, to act as a southern counterpoint to the new Civic Centre in Wembley to the north.’ 

This approach appears to have blinded both Brent’s Regeneration Department and the developer to an important difference between the Wembley and Willesden Green sites.

Under the Brent’s LDF Core Strategy for planning, Wembley is the main growth area (of five such areas) in the borough, and the site of the major Wembley City redevelopment within which the new Civic Centre is under construction. Willesden Green is not one of the Core Strategy’s growth areas, but a District Centre, where Brent’s ‘Protection and Conservation’ policy applies. At para.5.12 the Core Strategy says: 

‘As well as areas where growth and change can be focused and encouraged, there are also extensive parts of the borough that need to be protected and conserved, especially the suburban character. This relates largely to the character of particular built areas, such as the borough's 22 designated conservation areas ....’

The Core Policy which sets out to maintain ‘the local character of Brent’ is CP17. In particular, this states: 

The distinctive suburban character of Brent will be protected from inappropriate development.’ 

Policy CP17 is not referred to in section 5.3 of the URS Town Planning Statement among ‘Those Core Strategy policies which are considered relevant to the development proposals’. Given the care which URS appear to have taken to mention any core policies which might possibly appear to support their client’s proposed development, this suggests a desire not to bring this particular relevant policy to the attention of the Planning Committee.

One of the important points which must be put to Brent’s Planning Committee for them to consider and decide is whether the proposals in this planning application amount to ‘inappropriate development’. It is difficult to justify the proposed building of 95 new homes, in blocks up to 5 storeys high, on a site of only around half an acre, as protecting the ‘distinctive suburban character’ of Willesden Green.


FAILURE TO PROVIDE AFFORDABLE OR FAMILY HOUSING

Brent Council’s Core Strategy for planning includes Part 5 “Planning for More and Better Housing”. At para.5.72 this states: ‘Maintaining and providing a balanced housing stock is a key Core Strategy housing objective’, which is set out in Core Policy CP21 as including:

‘An appropriate range and mix of self contained accommodation types and sizes, including family sized accommodation (capable of providing three or more bedrooms) on suitable sites providing ten or more homes’.  

Part 5 of the Core Strategy goes on to look at affordable housing, showing that affordable housing is much needed in the borough, and that: 

‘Brent has a particular need for larger family affordable housing, particularly for social rental, as the Brent Housing Needs Survey 2004 indicated that 43% of the affordable housing requirement is for 3-4 bedrooms.’

Brent’s Core Strategy acknowledges that targets for affordable housing come under the Mayor of London’s London Plan. It notes that: 

‘The Examination in Public of the London Plan concluded that  the expectation that all sites in London with a capacity for 10 or more homes should contribute to the overall strategic objective that 50% of London's new housing should be affordable was a robust policy assumption applicable to all boroughs.’ 

Section 3 of The London Plan (2011) deals with housing, and at para.3.9 it sets out a strategic target that 50% of new housing in developments of 10 or more homes should be affordable, and that 70% of affordable housing should be social housing.

Galliford Try’s original planning application (ref.12/1190) in May 2012 included 92 new homes, none of them affordable homes, comprising 40 x 1-bed, 48 x 2-bed and 4 x 3-bed units. This revised application is even further away from both Brent’s own housing and planning policies, and from the London Plan, because as well as again proposing no affordable housing it includes 95 new homes with none of them family sized ( 46 x 1-bed and 49 x 2-bed).

The reasons put forward as to why the planning application (ref.12/2924) should be accepted despite failing to meet planning policies on both affordable housing and providing family sized homes are claimed to be given in the Town Planning Statement submitted by URS (Galliford Try’s planning agents) in support of the application. 

At para.6.1, on affordable housing, this says: 

‘In this particular case, the objective is to deliver significant public benefits that consist principally of a new cultural centre in a building of a design that will make a substantial improvement to the local townscape and surrounding public realm, all at no cost to the taxpayer. In these circumstances it will not be possible to provide affordable housing within the scheme. A Viability Assessment, demonstrating as much will be submitted in support of the application in due course.’

On the family sized accommodation point, para.6.1 says: 

‘The proposed development seeks to provide 95 dwellings within attractive blocks comprising 1 and 2 bed apartments. As the Cultural Centre is to be funded entirely by the sale of the residential units, no 3 bed apartments are provided within the scheme due to viability issues’.

Before Brent’s Planning Committee could consider approving proposals which so clearly breach planning policies, they would need to see in full, and be satisfied by, an independent Viability Assessment which URS promised to submit. What they have actually received is a Viability Statement dated 13 November 2012 prepared by URS themselves (see “WGCC-ViabliityExecSummaryNov2012” near the bottom of the online document menu). This states that: 

‘A Financial Viability Assessment has been carried out by specialist assessors BNP Paribas Real Estate, at the request of the Greater London Authority. The financial results are confidential and, therefore, cannot be circulated publicly.’ 

URS then go on to give a brief summary of what they claim the assessment contains, saying that:
‘The report concludes that the development cannot provide both the cultural centre as well as affordable housing, as this would render the scheme unviable.’

What has been supplied is not an independent assessment, and not even a statement made by the specialist firm who are said to have made that assessment. Brent’s planners and Planning Committee should not accept the assurances of URS on this matter. In the absence of clear and convincing justification, the application fails to meet key planning policies on housing, and should be rejected.


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Time to submit your comments on Willesden Green planning application


The above flyer is being distributed in Willesden Green and you can run off your own copy by clicking on the PDF below. The closing date for submissions is now likely to be DECEMBER 6th.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

'Remarkable' PR desperately resort to anonymous quotes to undermine Keep Willesden Green campaigners

In their account of the 'community involvement' process they undertook for developers Galliford Try, Remarkable PR make a rather remarkable attack on Keep Willesden Green via an anonymous quote from one resident about what s/he claims a 'few friends' have said. LINK (p24) Public relations has never had a fantastic reputation but this does seem to take the biscuit. The comment is certainly not one that Brent Planning Committee should endow with any credibility.

The quote from Remarkable PR's document
Kate Spence, Joint Chair of the Keep Willesden Green campaign said:
Like most attendees of the Library Lab Consultation, I only attended one meeting.

KWG are a large group of local residents united by their desire to ensure that Willesden Green is regenerated in a way that will benefit the local community. We are the Public who live and use the land at the library site. We want to make sure that the right thing is done and the interests of ALL our community are served. 
Remarkable PR who have made these comments in their consultation are being paid by Galliford Try to consult with us in order to demonstrate that it is appropriate for Brent Council to take Town Centre public land and allocate 70% of it to a property developer for the developer's own private financial gain. The KWG local residents have chosen to campaign to protect the land. It should be retained for much needed infrastructure.

In 2006 Brent Council intended to do things properly. The following can be read in the Willesden Green Conservation Area Appraisal 2006
2.1 The Local Development Framework 
The Planning Service at Brent Council will produce as part of its Local Development Framework a set of core policies for the control of development within Conservation Areas. In particular the core document will address the fundamental principle of “Preserve or Enhance” from the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and Planning Policy Guidance Note 15. The core policies will deal with alterations to existing buildings, new development, the built landscape and the natural environment. Policies will also be adopted to respond to the pressures of large scale development in residential historic areas.  
From the core policies a series of guidance documents which will be supplementary to the LDF will be produced. These supplementary documents will expand upon the basic policy principles giving specific guidance regarding materials, construction details and techniques for development in the Conservation Area.  
In addition to the supplementary development guidance documents the LDF will identify and possibly initiate a number of “Area Action Plans” which may include the Conservation Area within its remit. The special requirements of designated Conservation Areas will be a principal consideration in the development of “Area Action Plans”  
2.2 The Community Involvement 
As part of the Development of the LDF the Council has produced a “Statement of Community Involvement” which outlines its strategy for consulting people who live, work and play in the London Borough of Brent. All documents produced as part of the LDF will be consulted upon using the principles and processes described in the document. Hard copies are available from the addresses shown in contact details at the back of this document, or can be viewed on the Council website. The strategies outlined in this document will guide the Councils involvement with the residents of Willesden Green.

Unfortunately none of these intentions have been put in to place.  We are told that the ratio of land allocated at the WGCC has been prescribed by developers as the only viable way of returning a new WGCC with council offices. It seems to me that the opinion of partnered property developers with deeply flawed designs have been given a greater emphasis by Brent Council than a well considered LDF.
How can Remarkable PR expect local residents to sit down and talk about activities inside a diminished library space that has been designed without any Local Development Framework, "Area Action Plan" or a publicly consulted master plan? It is outrageous that Brent residents can be handed such an ill-conceived done-deal and then be criticised when we object as a group. 
If the library is run-down then it is a result of poor maintenance on the part of the council. If Remarkable PR can only find one anonymous resident, who thinks it is wise to sell off Public Asset, then facts speak for themselves. It is time to consider the views of the local residents and to stop trying to consult on the finer details of a done deal.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Brent challenged on Willesden Green planning process

Philip Grant writes:
The online copies of plans and supporting documents for the Willesden Green Library Centre applications (12/2924 and 12/2925) have finally appeared on Brent's Planning website (late on Thursday 15 November). They can be accessed at:
Comments and objections have also started to be posted, but the way these remove paragraph breaks, and substitute upside down question marks for apostrophes and quotations, makes any long comment very difficult to follow. A comment which I sent in on 12 November is an example, and as this raises an important issue for the way in which the planning application should be dealt with in practice, I am asking the hosts of the KWG blog to re-publish it here:
I am still unable to comment on the details of the planning application, because the plans and supporting documents are not yet available to view online. I am, however, writing to make clear that although the application is shown as being in the sole name of Galliford Try Plc, this is, in law, a joint application with the London Borough of Brent, and should be treated accordingly when considered by Brent's Planning Committee.

I have previously (in respect of the withdrawn application ref. 12/1190) put this point in writing to Brent's chief legal officer, Fiona Ledden. On 1 June 2012 she replied that:

'It is a requirement of the Development Agreement that Galliford Try Plc submits a planning application to the Council in respect of the proposed scheme and if planning permission is granted to carry out the development. In the circumstances it is not correct to say that the Council should be a party to that application.'

However, it is under that Development Agreement of February 2012, and all of the other surrounding facts and evidence, that Brent and Galliford Try are clearly engaged in a joint development project, whereby Galliford Try will build a new Cultural Centre for Brent in return for Brent giving Galliford Try the land on which to build flats for sale at a profit. The Development Agreement is a contract, but the requirement of that contract referred to by Ms. Ledden cannot over-ride the factual legal relationship between them which is that they are jointly engaged in the development. In law, both parties to a joint development should be named as "applicant" in planning applications in respect of that development.

The fact that Brent is a joint "applicant" (or even if this is still disputed, is at the very least an "interested party" in the application) means that item 12 of Brent's Planning Code of Practice applies. This states that:


'If any officer of the Council who is involved in making recommendations or decisions on planning applications has had any involvement with an applicant, agent or interested party, whether or not in connection with the particular application being determined, which could possibly lead an observer with knowledge of all the relevant facts to suppose that there might be any possibility that the involvement could affect the officer's judgement in any way, then that officer shall declare a prejudicial interest in the public register held by the Director of Regeneration and Major Projects and take no part in the decision making process. This public register to be available for inspection at Planning Committee meetings.'

Brent's Director of Regeneration and Major Projects, Andy Donald, is the person responsible for Brent Council's role in this planning application, and also the head of the department which includes Planning and Development. Therefore: 'any officer of the Council who is involved in making recommendations' on these applications has an 'involvement' with Andy Donald, and must declare a 'prejudicial interest' in the public register in connection with the application, 'and take no part in the decision making process'.

In another letter to me, of 27 June 2012, Fiona Ledden assured me that, whatever their personal views, members of the Planning Committee must approach their decision making with an open mind. She explained that:

'What in practice this means is that members of the planning committee are bound by the Council's Planning Code of Practice and if they have been involved in any way with promoting the scheme for Willesden Library they will be unable to vote on the planning application.'

As Planning Committee member Cllr. Ann John was clearly involved in promoting this redevelopment scheme, she will presumably be barred from voting on it.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Inspector appointed to hold Willesden Town Square Inquiry

Parachute games on the Willesden Town Square - spot the councillors

Brent Council has decided to to appoint an independent Inspector to conduct a non-statutory local inquiry in the application for the plaza between the current library and  the now closed bookshop, and the Victorian Library, to be designated a Town Square.

The decision was made on the basis that it will be a simpler and clearer process if the Town Green/Square application was decided before the library redevelopment planning application goes to Planning Committee. If  planning permission had been granted before a successful Town Square registration then the planning consent could not be implemented. This is because the plans submitted by developers Galliford Try build on the space concerned to make space for  the building of flats to the rear of the new building.

An Inspector has been appointed and is expected to hold the local inquiry in the week commencing 17th December 2012. Currently the closing date for comments on the planning application is December 6th 2012 but this is subject to revision.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Residents to meet as Planning Application process descends into chaos again


Following concern about confusion over  the closing date for comments on the planning applications for the Willesden Green Library redevelopment I received this clarification from Andy Bates, the planning officer concerned:
I am writing to confirm that the applications will be advertised in the same way as the earlier submissions (press and site notices) and, as a result, the 21 day consultation period will always expire 21 days after the last consultation takes place. In this case, this is likely to be the press notice. My Colleagues in Planning Technical support tell me that this Notice is likely to appear at the end of this week, so the period you are querying will be 21 days from then.

The intention would be to get to the planning applications to the earliest Planning Committee that would be in a position to consider the proposals. I would imagine that this would be likely to be in January/February 2013.

This makes it later than the two earlier deadlines given of November 28th and 29th.

However, I have written back to say that as the plans are not all up on the planning portal that the 21 days should count only from when they are all available or when the press notice has been published, whichever is the later.  Clearly  it is impossible to comment on something you can't see and residents can't comment if they don't know about the planning application.

The plans have begun to me uploaded but may take several more days. 12/2924 is available HERE and  12/2925 HERE

There is still no word on the progress of the Town Square application.






Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Planning Process for the new Willesden Green Library applications

Philip Grant Writes:
 
On Saturday 10 November I received a duplicated letter from Andy Bates, Brent's Planning Officer dealing with the Willesden Green Library Centre applications, giving details of them and how to comment on them. Mine was one of about 2,750 such letters, sent to "consultees and neighbours". It includes the statement:
'If you wish to comment on these applications against reference 12/2924, your views will be taken into account on BOTH applications provided they are received online or via post, within 21 days of the date of this letter.'
As the date of the letter is shown as 7 November 2012, this effectively says that I have to submit any objections or other comments by Wednesday 28 November 2012 at the latest if they are to be taken into account in deciding both the planning (ref. 12/2924) and conservation area consent (ref. 12/2925) applications. This is no doubt why the Full Details page for application 12/2924 on the Brent Planning website says: 'This case will be decided no earlier than 28/11/2012'.
 
Although I have already posted the first online "comment" on this application, I cannot really consider what my objections or other comments might be until I can see the plans and read the, no doubt voluminous, documents which make up the application. Both the letter and website say that these 'should be available to view by 13 November 2012'. Two weeks to read and digest all of this information, then submit detailed and well-argued views on the application is a tall order, but this is what anyone who wishes to put in an objection to the planning application within the Statutory Consultation Period will have to do.
 
Brent has its own statutory responsibilities in respect of Galliford Try's planning application. Because of the number of housing units involved, it counts as a "major development", but as long as it is a valid application, Brent has to determine it within 13 weeks of the date the application was received. This would be by 1 February 2013, but in practice the decision would have to be taken at the Planning Committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday 16 January. What with such a complex planning report to write, and the Christmas / New Year holiday period, it is no wonder that Andy Bates wants any comments by 28 November.
 
Despite the impression given in the letter, there is a different situation for comments on or objections to the Conservation Area Consent application (ref. 12/2925). Public Notice has not yet been published about this application, and the time limit for objections etc. will be 21 days after the later of the posting of notices near Willesden Green Library or advertising details of the application in a local newspaper.
 
The Consent application for partial demolition of the 1894 library building will not be decided by Brent's Planning Committee, but will be referred to the Secretary of State for a decision in the event of the Council being minded to grant planning permission for the redevelopment of the existing Library Centre site. This has been confirmed to me by Chris Walker, Brent's Assistant Director (Planning & Development), in an email of 9 November (copied to Andy Bates):
'As the revised application still involves a partial demolition of the library building within the conservation area it would remain my view that the application should be referred to the Secretary of State.'
Any comments made on the consent application have to be passed on to the Secretary of State (in practice, to the Communities and Local Government Department's National Planning Casework Unit). If Andy Bates is advising people to make a comment covering both applications, this suggests that the full text of all comments or objections on the applications will be forwarded to the Secretary of State, as well as being taken into consideration on the planning application. I will check this point with him.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

KWG backs the Save the Queensbury campaign


At its recent meeting Keep Willesden Green heard a report from the campaign to Save the Queensbury pub from redevelopment as flats.  Apart from its use as a pub it is also used by community groups in the morning.

More on the campaign can be found HERE

Monday, 5 November 2012

Revised plans submitted for Cultural Centre

Brent Council has released the following statement:
A revised planning application to redevelop Willesden Library and replace it with a state of the art cultural centre was submitted last Wednesday (31 October).

The application, which was submitted by developer Galliford Try, details proposals to deliver a brand new library and cultural centre that will act as the main service delivery hub for the south of the borough.

The proposed revised design is a result of extended consultation with the local community which took place over August and September and includes the old Victorian library as part of the plans.

Brent has secured a self-financing scheme which involves working with developer partner, Galliford Try, to deliver the new cultural centre in return for developing homes on the remainder of the current site for market sale.

For the past few month residents have met with council officers and Galliford Try to revisit the original design and discuss alternative proposals for the new centre and its design.

In response to the recent extended period of consultation Brent has made several changes to the design, including;
  • completely redesigning the scheme to include the old library
  • increasing the size of the new library within the centre
  • creating room for more study spaces and computers
  • changing the brief for the building so that it could, potentially, include a bookshop.
The proposals for the centre also include a children's library,  IT provision, museum, community gallery, archive, archive store, three community spaces (which will provide an array of programmed creative events), cafĂ©/ bookshop, multi faith contemplation room and high quality public spaces designed for markets and events.

Cllr George Crane Lead Member for Regeneration and Major Projects said: "Thank you to the many residents who got involved in consultation and gave up their time to help us develop plans for this new centre."

If the project gets the green light the council hopes to build on its close working with stakeholders to develop the building proposals including how it is may be used and managed.

Link to Planning site: 12./2924 LINK   12/2925  LINK

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Rebuttals in press herald tonight's KWG meeting

Excellent rebuttals of Cllr  George Crane's letter by Cllr Carol Shaw and Helen Marcus in today's Brent and Kilburn Times (p16) plus letter in the Willesden and Wembley Observer (p14) by Martin Redston on how the cultural centre will be dwarfed by flats.

Don't  forget our residents meeting at 7pm tonight a Kings Hall.

Monday, 29 October 2012

'Bog standard' Willesden Green regeneration acclaimed by William Morris?

In a shock move today Brent Council published in the Brent Magazine Page 13 (unlucky?) http://www.brent.gov.uk/media.nsf/Pages/LBB-216 that they were abandoning their plans for a Cultural Centre in favour of a Toilet building on a tiny site crammed between the much loved heritage library and five invisible blocks of 92 flats (these cannot be shown for legal reasons). An expert has speculated that the five blocks will also have the visual impression of Toilets, but a different type of toilet you understand. 


The Toilet building will be constructed of very cheap breeze blocks with white painted rendering. The architect has included unadorned bits of brickwork shoved in as a homage to the general brick nature of the buildings that he has noticed in the Willesden High Road. It is understood from a presentation given a few weeks ago that the Architect has been influenced by the well known William Morris of Arts and Crafts fame, but no sign of any willow leaves could be noted in the picture. It is felt that if William Morris were around today he would have abandoned any pretence of following the lines of nature and would be endorsing this exciting and unoriginal crude approach to architecture.

Andy Donald (Director of Regeneration and Major Projects) should have said " Feedback has been diabolical with just about everyone that I have heard from being dead against the project. We have not reported in any way honestly about the consultation exercise because we are embarrassed to admit that we are turning against the wishes of the community in such a grand fashion". Mr Donald has not actually been observed at any consultation meeting that has taken place in recent weeks and has been relying on the bowdlerised (edited)  half page of biased notes produced after each meeting. http://www.brent.gov.uk/regeneration.nsf/Willesden%20Green%20Library/LBB-343

A spokesperson for the Community said " It is hoped that Galliford Try will not commence any work on such an appalling scheme at any time in the future"

A spokesperson for Galliford Try omitted to mention the £10,500,000 profit that his company will earn by being donated more than 60% of a Council/Community owned site without having to produce a public building of any sort of real quality in return.

It is hoped that the toilet will have free access at all times, especially for those who feel sick of the sight of it.

Martin R

(with apologies to Private Eye)

Stop Press: Admiralty Arch in Trafalgar Square sold for £60m for hotel scheme! A spokesperson explained " we very much respect and cherish this major part of our British heritage. We are currently in consultation about options for the site. These include lopping off 60% of either the northern or southern end to accommodate the iconic new hotel structure or possibly removing the centre section entirely because it tends to block the traffic flow along the Mall (as seen in the recent Olympics)." The Queen was unavailable for comment.