Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Details of further consultation on Willesden Green redevelopment

We now have fuller details of the presentations on August 8th and the meetings planned for September:
Open day on Wednesday 8 August 

An open day will be held at Willesden Green Library Centre in The Library Lab to give you an update on the project. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to share your ideas on the future of the WGCC.

There will be a display at The Library Lab throughout August if you are not able to attend the open day.
Wednesday 8 August
11am to 8pm at The Library Lab in the Willesden Green Library Centre  with presentations at 12noon, 2pm, 4pm and 7pm

Further workshops with the following focus groups are planned for September:

Tuesday, September 4 - Seniors
Thursday, September 6 - Small and medium enterprises
Tuesday, September 11- Community groups
Thursday, September 13 - Ethnic minority groups
Tuesday, September 18 - Teens
Thursday, September 20 - Families with young children

Further information
If you need more information or have any questions about the planning application please contact Galliford Try’s dedicated freephone information line on 0800 298 7040 or email 
Web: www.willesdengreen.co.uk  Twitter: @Will_GreenCC

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Vague vagaries on Willesden Green consultation

The August 8th 'consultation' has now been belatedly advertised on the Brent Council and Linden Homes/Galliford Try websites.  Still remarkably vague (are Remarkable PR still involved?)about content, future events and even end date....

It looks as if we will have to visit the Library Lab to find out timings for the 8th and what is organised for September.

From Brent Council website:

Willesden Green Cultural Centre

Who is consulting?

Regeneration and Major Projects

Why are we consulting?

The planning application for the proposed new Willesden Green Cultural Centre was withdrawn by Galliford Try at the beginning of July.
The Council and Galliford Try are now proposing some further engagement activities with local people and other stakeholders to explore the design for the Cultural Centre including what the building will look like and also what activities will take place in and around the building.

How can you take part?

An open day will be held on 8 August 2012 at the Willesden Green Library Centre in the Library Lab to update all stakeholders. You are welcome to drop in at any  time during the day and we will be available to answer questions. There will be presentations at set times during the day and further information on this will be available at the Library Lab.
Thursday 8 August
11am to 8pm at the Library Lab at the WGLC
Please note we will be holding further events in September, more details on these will be available at the Library Lab over the next few weeks.

When is the consultation taking place?

Start:     August 2012                    End:     September 2012

Who is being consulted?

Target Group:                    All residents and local stakeholders and businesses in Brent and all users of the Willesden Green Library Centre
Geographic:                       Willesden Green

Saturday, 28 July 2012

The Guardian takes up Willesden Bookshop issue

From today's Guardian

The Willesden Bookshop
The Willesden Bookshop is just one of the many independent bookshops that are struggling to survive . Photograph Graham Turner for the Guardian
The shelves of the Willesden Bookshop are half-empty. The independent bookseller which launched local author Zadie Smith's debut, White Teeth, and has provided a vast range of books to the diverse north-west London community it has served for 23 years, is in the throes of its closing down sale, and staff and customers are devastated.

Helen Sensi, who has worked at the shop since it opened, called the latest closure "heartbreaking". Sensi is also known as the mysterious "Helen" from Zadie Smith's recent New York Review of Books article] in which the novelist lamented the shop's closure and praised her as the woman who "gives the people of Willesden what they didn't know they wanted. Smart books, strange books, books about the country they came from, or the one that they're in."

Part of the Willesden Green Library Centre, the bookshop is being forced to close by Brent council's redevelopment plans for the area. The council believes the current centre, which also houses a museum and a library, is "not fit for purpose, and struck a deal with developer Galliford Try to knock it down and rebuild it in return for allowing Galliford to build 92 flats behind the library. Following huge local protests the plans have now been delayed subject to further consultation, but the bookshop was told its lease would end at the end of August, and it has nowhere else to go.

"It's ironic in that the whole protest has been successful in that the council has had to listen and halt its plans and realise it has to get local people on their side," said owner Steve Adams. "But sadly they haven't come to us and said 'It looks like right now this is happening, can we give you a new lease?' … We would have grabbed at the chance."

The Willesden Green shop is just one of the UK's independent booksellers struggling to survive. Figures from the Booksellers Association showed there were 1,094 independent bookshops left in the UK by the end of 2011, down from 1,159 in 2010 and 1,289 in 2009.

"We've been inundated with people saying 'Why are you closing down?'" said Sensi. "I think people will feel a tremendous sense of loss. Independent shops have had a hard time, but Steve has kept the shop going where others have fallen. He's managed to be a community service, even if the council doesn't recognise it."

Sensi said that the end of the Willesden store was "a disaster for children in terms of literacy. To see children engrossed on the floor, from tiny tots reading cloth books to older children running towards a cover they recognise, is a delight. For me, that's where it begins."

It was in another of Adams's stores, the recently closed Kilburn Bookshop, that Smith herself first started reading. "He allowed the children just to look at the books – they ate them because they were young. He just allows children to enjoy books," said the novelist's mother, Yvonne Bailey-Smith, who said she was "absolutely gutted" about the Willesden shop's closure and who is one of the 5,000 locals to have petitioned the council about the Galliford Try deal.

"It's been my local bookshop for 23 years … It's a huge loss. Willesden hasn't got a landmark, and the bookshop has brought all kinds of people here. [And] it's a community space. I don't know what we're going to have. I don't know what would be a meeting point with that space gone," she said. "It is very upsetting. I have had a tradition to take the children to the bookshop and the library, and now when the [grandchildren] arrive, we always go into the bookshop.

"I've got a beautiful video of my eldest granddaughter sitting in Steve's bookshop by the children's books, reading a novel upside down.

"[And] Zadie's first book was launched there. It was wonderful to have the launch in the bookshop owned by the person who had the shop in which she first started reading. Her voice was quivering when she read."Bailey-Smith praised the shop's range of multicultural titles, particularly for children. When her own children were born, she said, there were very few multicultural books available "that showed characters that looked like themselves. Steve had lots of Errol Lloyd, and anything else he could find, that represented children around the world, and that was lovely."

Adams is now hunting for new premises after declining the council's offer of a short-term rental in the high street, and will meanwhile keep his schools business and website, specialising in multi-cultural children's books, running from an office in a store he co-owns in Highgate.

"We would desperately like to stay in Willesden," he said. "We have listened to residents and broadened the scope of what could be in the retail space, so it could include a bookshop," said a spokesman. "We offered the bookshop a fully fitted unit on the high street as a short-term solution while a permanent unit was found, but this was turned down. We are still in contact with the owners of the Willesden Green Bookshop regarding finding alternative space."

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Action needed now over 'dead time' August meeting

Martin Redston, co-chair of Keep Willesden Green, has written to Beth Kay, lead officer on the Willesden Green Redevelopment for Brent Council (Major Projects) after her e-mail to Martin Francis (below) on the summer consultation event on August 8th.

You are of course taking the Mickey aren't you! You are clearly aware that the Nation (the World?) will be deep in the middle of watching and celebrating the Olympics. Many people will be attending the games, still others are actually on holiday during that period (myself included). Travelling to and from work will be difficult and people may have difficulty in attending at those times. I suspect that you personally will have a travel problem because you don't even live in the borough. The idea that people will be in a position to attend a drop in session to discuss the future of our Library facility at such short notice is frankly an insult to the community.
What is the relevance of your statement"We are aware of the constraint of the Olympics which is why we have programmed this event on a day when there are no events in Wembley"? exactly.
This proposal is appalling and clearly an effort to 'bury bad news' by Brent Council and their preferred partners Galliford Try. You clearly have taken absolutely no notice of the points in our discussion at the Willesden ACF in which I predicted that the developers would be working overtime to come up with a revised plan, but you denied that this was the case. Once again I was correct.
Even if the new plan includes everything that the Community has clearly requested in recent weeks, it is anti democratic to call a critical meeting at this time with less than a fortnight's notice. This event must be postponed until September when the community will be in a position to engage fully again. We have requested a meeting with Cllr Butt on many occasions since he took over as leader and no response has been received to date. Why have you as Regeneration Officer not ensured that it is properly arranged?
I am copying this to the Chief Executive and Brent Council Leader amongst others. Action must be taken now.

Yours in disgust,
Brent Resident, Martin Redston

GLA planning officers found Willesden Green application did not comply with heritage policy

GLA planners, advising the Mayor,  have acted before the bulldozers move in, at least as regards the Old Willesden Library.

We can now reveal that Strategic Planners at the GLA  met with the Galliford Try application team twice during the 6 week consultation period during which the they considered whether the Willesden Green Redevelopment application  complied with the London Plan Policy.

According to Gemma Kendall, Case Officer,  in the meetings before the July 4th deadline, the planning officers:
...expressed serious concerns that the proposed scheme would not comply with the London Plan Policy 7.8 and 7.9 regarding heritage assets and heritage-led regeneration. The applicant subsequently chose to withdraw the application before it was reported to the Mayor on 4th July 2012.
Galliford Try, in what appeared to be a surprise move, withdrew their planning application for the Willesden Green Cultural Centre on July 4th.

It now appears that the combination of unprecedented local campaigning, massive public rejection of the plans,  the views of the GLA planning team and not least the Town Square application combined to force withdrawal.

Meanwhile, appearing to have learnt little, the application team have arranged a consultation day on the revised application in the middle of the August holidays!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

More Willesden Green workshops in September

E-mail to Beth Kay regarding the summer 'engagement' process over the Willesden Green development:

Dear Beth,

I have heard about an engagement event on August 8th via someone else. I have received nothing directly despite registering for updates.   Could you let me know what other events will be happening over the summer to get people's views. Obviously this is peak holiday time + Olympics, so are you doing anything else to garner opinion. August 8th is not advertised on the Linden Homes/Galliford Try website, nor on the Brent Council website.  How are people going to find out about it?

Martin Francis 

Beth's response:

Dear Martin

The council and Remarkable Group are in the process of updating their websites.

This first session is meant to update residents on the project and provide more information on the next steps which are being planned.
We are aware of the constraint of the Olympics which is why we have programmed this event on a day when there are no events in Wembley.

The Library Lab (who are hosting and facilitating the consultation) will be open throughout the summer and they will be the first point of contact to answer questions and take feedback at any time.

We are then planning a series of facilitated workshops in September, details of this will follow.

I trust that this addresses your concerns.

Best wishes


'Engage' with Council and Galliford Try on August 8th

We hope there will be a lot more to Galliford Try and Brent Council's summer 'stop, listen and reflect' period but here is the first (hopefully not the last) offer: After all August is when many families will be away.

Anyway this will be a chance to make the case for the retention of the Old Library, space for the Willesden Booskhop, a Town Square (now thankfully cleared of the wooden trees!), proper management and anything else that concerns you.

Dear Resident
The planning application for the proposed new Willesden Green Cultural Centre was withdrawn by Galliford Try at the beginning of July.
The Council and Galliford Try are now proposing some further engagement activities with local people and other stakeholders to explore the design for the Cultural Centre including what the building will look like and also what activities will take place in and around the building.
An open day will be held on 8 August 2012 at the Willesden Green Library Centre in the Library Lab to update all stakeholders. You are welcome to drop in at any  time during the day and we will be available to answer questions. There will be presentations at set times during the day and further information on this will be available at the Library Lab.
Thursday 8 August
11am to 8pm at the Library Lab at the WGLC
Beth Kay
Regeneration Officer (Major Projects)
*Address: Regeneration & Major Projects, 2nd Floor, East Wing,
349 -357 High Road, Wembley, Middlesex, HA9 6BZ

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Willesden Consultative Forum tonight

Willesden Area Consultative Forum

Next meeting

Wednesday, 11 July 2012 at 7pm 


College of North West London
Denzil Road
NW10 2XD

Wards covered

Dollis Hill, Dudden Hill, Welsh Harp and Willesden Green

Next meeting
  • Local policing update
  • Shaping a Healthier Future
  • Localisation of Council Tax Benefit
  • Draft cemeteries strategy

During the break, you will have the opportunity to speak to your ward councillors, the Safer Neighbourhood Team, speakers and council officer.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

KWG up-beat as it moves to the next phase

Keep Willesden Green met at a local community hall tonight and had a minor celebration of the welcome news of the withdrawal of the Galliford Try planning application, before quickly getting down to the business of planning the next stage of the campaign.

In recognition that Brent Council says it is in listening mode, it was decided to ask Cllr Muhammed Butt, leader of the council to meet with a group of KWG members.  We will emphasise  participation rather than just consultation and,  in the spirit of the Localism Act, explore ways of working  with the council and other groups  to realise the aspirations of the local community.

There was a very positive atmosphere at this well attended meeting and an up-beat 'can do' approach to the next phase, whatever the difficulties in the past,  which bodes well for the future.

There was a recognition that the campaign had brought the people of Willesden Green together as nothing had before and a determination to build on this new sense of community.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Sarah Teather 'Council must incorporate Old Library into their plans'

From Brent Lib Dems website:

Brent Central MP Sarah Teather has today said that Labour-run Brent Council must listen to local residents over plans to redevelop Willesden Green library after it was announced that the developers have withdrawn the planning application that would have led to the closure of the library for 18 months. Brent Council and the developers have said that they will now seek the community's views over the summer before submitting a new planning application later this year.

Since the plans were announced, thousands of local residents have spoken out against the plans, calling on Brent Council to preserve the locally listed Old Library building. Concerns were also raised after the Willesden Bookshop and the Brent Advisory Service (BIAS) were not been given space in the proposed development.

Additionally, despite the Council admitting there is a need for affordable, four bed family housing, 88 one and two bedroom flats built were included in the previous application with only four three-bed apartments. None of the proposed flats were due to be social or affordable housing.

There was also public outrage after the Labour Council Executive agreed the outline plans of the redevelopment before carrying out a full public consultation. These outline plans included the demolition of the Old Library building.

Commenting, Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather said:

"I welcome today's announcement that Brent Council are willing to work with local residents to improve the redevelopment plans for Willesden Green library. However, Labour leaders must show that this time they will listen to the concerns of the community and incorporate the old library building into their plans.

"The Council had previously vowed to permanently rehouse BIAS and the Willesden Bookshop, but have so far failed to live up their promises. Hopefully this delay will give them time to find these valuable local resources new homes.

"The previous plans were desperately short-sighted. Any new proposals must meet the needs of the community and I will be watching carefully to make sure this is the case."

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Willesden Green: Developers and Council are pausing to listen and reflect!

Galliford Try, the developers of the controversial housing development (with Cultural Centre attached) has withdrawn its two planning application for the site.

Galliford Try and Brent Council say that this is to extend the consultation period for the redevelopment and use the summer to seek local people's views.

The planning applications have received an overwhelming thumbs down from local residents with the planning department unable to keep up with the enormous flood of objections.

Cllr George Crane, lead member for Regeneration and Major Projects insisted that 'this redevelopment has never been a foregone conclusion as some people have claimed and this extra time for discussion demontrates that' but went on to state that the development 'needs to be at no capital costs and result in a quality development - these principles remain unchanged'.

Martin Redston, joint chair of Keep Willesden Green, said that he was overjoyed at the decision but that the campaign would not put its guard down: 'We will be looking for genuine consultation leading to community engagement at all levels'.

Details about consultation events and the time line will be publicised shortly. The further consultation will include the design of the new cultural centre and the activities that people want to see in the building once it's complete.  I understand that the original architects are now working on designs that will include keeping the historic Old Willesden Library.

The shows what a well-informed and determined community based campaign can do. Congratulations to all  all concerned.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Willesden Town Square vibrant with the French Market

The French Market last week

The much smaller space under redevelopment proposals
The open space and proposed Town Square outside Willeseden Green Library Centre was vibrant with colour last week as the French Market took place.

The open space in the front of the Library will largely disappear when the new Cultural Centre is built and will be replaced by one BEHIND the building, between the new flats and the Cultural Centre. It will be in the shade and the public will not be able to see it from the High Road.

Objectors to the Town Square application have until July 20th to submit their views to Brent Council. Meanwhile these photographs speak for themselves.