Friday, 31 August 2012

Brent Council wanted a Willesden Town Square in 1984

Wassail at Willesden Town Square 2010
 Philip Grant has sent us the following comment on the Willesden Town Square application:
Martin Redston's application for Town Square status to be given to the space between Willesden Green Library Centre and the original 1894 library building actually fits in with what Brent Council  wanted when they planned the 1980's redevelopment of Willesden Green Library.
In a document produced by Brent's Development Department (the forerunner of the present "Regeneration and Major Projects") in December 1983, an annotated plan of the site stated: 'The Council intend to preserve the little building on the corner with its turret and decoration - the wings behind are later additions, and these will be removed to provide some much-needed open space.'
Some councillors wanted to save money on the project, and demolish the whole of the old (Victorian) Willesden Green Library, replacing it with a public square which would run from the new Library Centre right down to the High Road. In a Council debate, reported in the "Kilburn Times" on 20 April 1984, Councillor Len Snow said that this 'would be a sad mistake', leaving 'a gap here, which will be open to wind and traffic noise'. He went on to say: 'If the square was protected by an interesting frontage it would be a haven of peace and on a sunny day a delight to sit in.' 
Len Snow's view, and that of like-minded Councillors, eventually prevailed, giving Willesden Green the public square that local people have enjoyed for more than 25 years, and still enjoy.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The case for Willesden Green Town Square

Martin Redston has sent the following response to Linden Home's objection to the application to designate the area outside Willesden Green Library as a Town Square:

I have been notified of one objection to my Town Square Application. This has been submitted by Jeremy Alden of Linden Homes. I would comment as follows:

The application for Town Square status was submitted by me as a resident of Willesden Green for more than 35 years. I have always lived within walking distance of the Square and have used it at least once a week for most of each year since it was first constructed in about 1986.I use it for meeting friends, reading books when sunny, walking and attending events. As far as I am aware Jeremy Alden has no relationship with the locality as he has a home address in Guildford Surrey. I also understand that he is writing as a representative of Linden Homes, a non-trading subsidiary of Galliford Try who have a registered address in Uxbridge Middlesex. I would suggest that neither Jeremy Alden or Linden Homes were in any way interested in Willesden Green until 2011 when Galliford Try were selected by Brent Council to construct housing units on the majority of the site and construct a small library facility over the open area at the front overlooking the High Road. I would therefore question the interest that Jeremy Alden has indicated in this area and would suggest that it is motivated purely by short term financial interest rather than any long term community concern.

My detailed response to Jeremy Alden's objections are shown using his numbering:

1. My name is Martin Redston (not Michael)

2. It is a fact that the area has been used for public activities since 1986

3. A selection of names were appended to my application in order to demonstrate the continued use of the Square for more than twenty years. These are not intended to be exhaustive or exclusive.

4. This procedure is as set out in the Defra Guidance notes and indicated in my application

5.1 There are many dictionary definitions of pastime. However this has been tested in Court. Thus the case of R v Oxfordshire County Council and another ..etc clearly sets out the definition of pastime relevant to this particular issue, which includes standing and taking in the atmosphere, walking, sitting, dog walking etc. It does not have to be structured games playing.

5.2 The main use for the area is not just the holding of markets. This is one clearly identifiable pastime that can be easily documented and falls within the R v Oxfordshire etc case precedent.

5.3 If a community member attends a market, I am sure that there are plenty of opportunities to play with children, walking and the like.

5.4 Sitting, playing football and cricket are all relevant pastimes. I am sure that other people have so used the area over the last twenty years. My application only provides a few examples.

5.5 Why is petitioning not a pastime? Many people consider political activities a recreational activity because they are pursued outside their working day. I would refer to such National Open Spaces as Trafalgar Square and Speakers Corner in Hyde Park which are clearly designated for pursuing political activities, petitioning, listening to speakers and the like. The absence or otherwise of a right of way does not preclude registration, as noted in the case of Newhaven Port and Properties Ltd v East Sussex County Council.

5.6  A Right of Way is only part of a wider use for the area. However it is clear that the general public have walked across the Square ever since it was created. In fact the square was specifically created by Brent Council for this walking and gathering by the public as a general amenity. In the recent case of Newhaven Port and Properties Ltd v East Sussex County Council it was established that where no signs are in place indicating the nature of the space there can be no bar to registration.

6.1 A significant number is not defined. However It is easy to observe a continual throughput of pedestrians walking over the area on any day of the week. People are observed to be meeting each other, sitting and talking. It is important to recognise that the area is an excellent definable area for people from out of town to meet friends as it is easily seen from the High Road and can be described as a prominent location at the junction of two main roads and opposite the Post Office. It is ideal for people to wait and congregate with kids and buggies. Elderly people often stand or sit there to sort out their pension money and rest with their bags after going to the Post Office.

6.2 The area is in Willesden Green.

6.3 It is clearly demonstrated that the use of the area has been by a significant number of the locality. I have provided a small sample of pictures taken at a local event in March. There have been two events at least since that date. The objector does not have any evidence to back up his statement.

6.4 There is no necessity to produce reams of paper with names of people who have used the square over twenty years. This was tested in the Case of McAlpine v Staffordshire (2009) which helped to define the concept of significant numbers. In that case only 16 people produced evidence, but these were accepted as typical. Does the objector have any evidence that hundreds of people do not use the square each week?

6.4.1 The resident from Edgware is actually someone who lives close to the Brent border, he attends many events in the area and on the Square. He is representative of all other people who would be disadvantaged if the square were to be built over. This indicates that the area has great importance to the wider community.

6.4.2 The five people noted on the sheet all live in roads in the locality. The lack of a postcode does not invalidate their evidence. The roads noted are:
Chandos Road (NW2)
Kings Road (NW10)
Donnington Road (NW10)
Dundonald Road (NW6)
St Gabriels (NW2)
Leighton Gardens (NW10)
Perhaps the objector should have checked his facts before writing this.

6.4.3 In fact all the people that I approached (apart from Edgware) were chosen because they specifically live in the area. Many more people would be pleased to declare their use of the space. However as noted in  McAlpine v Staffordshire etc it is unnecessary and impracticable to obtain the names of everybody that may have used the area. After all it should be noted that some may have already passed away and others may have been babies or toddlers when first using the area and would not necessarily remember the details. It is only necessary to indicate that the area has been used by the public generally during the qualifying period and this is indeed the case and cannot be refuted.

6.5 Under the Defra gudelines it is not necessary to obtain evidence from all residents in an area. In fact if only one new local person each day for twenty years visited the square this would make a total of about 7000 new visitors to add to the regular attendees. Because the area is in the public domain, not fenced off and used as of right this point is clearly demonstrated by observation on any day of the week.

7.1 The period runs since the area was completed and opened to the public by Brent Council in about 1986.

7.2. It is not necessary to ensure that the same people used the area throughout. As stated above, I personally have used it throughout the period on a regular basis. Some will be new to the locality, some people may have moved away or deceased. Some have been born or moved into the area. This indicates a typical  fluid population all who have free access to the area. Many people will have moved into the area because the amenity is available, it would be a reduction in their quality of life if it were removed. However I now enclose verbatim evidence provided by a local resident indicating use for 'pastimes' throughout the period:

I grew up on Staverton Road and in the 1980s. I often waited for friends on the area at the front of the library.  As a fledgling music professional, it struck me as kind of poetic when during the late Nineties, a group of boys started hanging out at the front of the library, practising their breakdancing moves while Run DMCs It's Like That pumped out of their boombox (or did they still call them ghetto blasters back then?). It wasn't exactly to the standard of that video, but the kids provided plenty of entertainment to those of us who stopped to spectate! I continued to sit in the Town Square and when returning from music gigs I would use the area to sit, relax and read.

Six years ago, when I was on maternity leave with my second child, I would often walk down from my new home in Normanby Road with the pram and my toddler to do the shopping for the next few days. I do have a car, but when you're cooped up at home with a baby and an active toddler, you are happy to take a long time to carry out any chores that get you out of the house. 

Once you get past Willesden bus garage, the pavement is narrow and cluttered and it's a real obstacle course getting past bus queues, roadworks and even prams coming in the other direction! It's a very busy road with heavy traffic and my daughter would have to walk obediently clutching the side of the pram, under strict rules to stay out of the way of both pedestrians and traffic.

The area outside the library was like an oasis. My daughter could finally be let to run around, balance on the walls and jump from paving stone to paving stone. Routinely, this would be followed by a trip to the library, the bookshop (now gone), and then the round of butcher's, greengrocers (now gone), bakery and fishmongers (now gone). Then we would go back to the Town Square for another runaround, (often having a chat with other mums who will have seen us as they wheeled past on their own high-street shopping trip)  before setting off on the slow stroll home. A modest afternoon's activity, to be sure, but car-free and putting money in the tills of local businesses.

Its should also be noted that school groups use the space to assemble before crossing the high road after visits to sports centre and museum eg a safe gathering point. For Example St Mary Magdelene school do this all the time. 

I also enclose in Appendix A below an article by Zadie Smith who is a notable Willesden resident who spent her formative years living a few doors away from WGLC and has written this for the New York Review of books. The first seven paragraphs are relevant to my application.

7.3 There is no necessity for typical pastimes to run continuously or remain unchanged through the period. There is reference to a table to be produced by the Council...what is this please? I have not been given a copy.

8.1 to 8.10 These items all indicate continued and gradually increased use of the area for community activities. The list does not include the sizeable gathering of the community on the weekend when the library was opened 23 years ago. There has also been a more recent activity of Wassailing in 2010. 2011 and 2012, this has not been continuing for twenty years but it has demonstrated the increasing community activity in a multicultural locality. I am sure that other activities will be forthcoming in the future. 

8.11 Kids play has been continuing since 1986.

8.12 Public seating (on walls etc) has been available since 1986.

8.13. These activities have probably been going on for more than 20 years. Any open space will attract ball play activities. These are not proscribed in this area. The temporary arts installation (December 2011 to July 2012) was in a  particular area of the square and there was still plenty of adjacent room nearby, the two activities survived together without any conflict.

9. All of these activities are demonstrated to have been used continually. So the objection is wrong. The objector is exceedingly new to the area and probably has not actually attended or observed on a regular basis. He is in no position to judge.

10. All activities have been attended by the public as of right. I have never been asked to apply for a licence to walk, talk, read, sit, walk a dog, play with my children, attend an event or petition in the Square during the twenty six years of its existence. There are no notices posted in the area indication the requirement for a licence. The area is free and unencumbered for the use by members of the public. It is not fenced. It was created for public use.

10.1 to 10.15. I assume that stallholders require trading licences and/or music licences for their activities in accordance with the relevant consumer law as they would anywhere, but no licence is required by the public to attend. The objector is incorrect in using the word licence out of context here.

10.2. The Art installation may have been organised by the Council, but nobody needed permission to attend it or view it. In fact the Council clearly understood the significance of the square as a free public gathering place and wanted to provide an amenity for local people to freely view. So the objector is wrong.

10.3 These activities are typical example. It is clear that sitting has continued throughout the last twenty six years as indeed witnessed by myself over many years.The Square hosts many parades and events that could not be facilitated without the open space. It is an essential part of Willesden daily life. This is not a village green application. It is unnecessary to prove that people have been gathering to play cricket, tennis and boules in order to justify an urban town square. This was clearly demonstrrated by the Court in the recent case of Newhaven Port and Properties Ltd v East Sussex County Council. It should be noted that other events recently have included the Wassail, tree planting at the front of the library  (Appendix B), Green Fair (Appendix C), Reclaim the Streets (attended by local councillors and the council leader) and the like. The space is neutral ground and a place where paths cross genially. This is very important in an increasingly multi cultural neighbourhood. The square is very lively and active, particularly on a Friday evening when pedestrians make their way to various religious buildings in the locality. 

10.4 How can the objector state that you can play football or cricket accidentally when visiting a library? The entrance to the library is off the square, and the two activities have continued separately anyway.

10.5 It is patronising to state that there is a lack of space. In fact there is plenty of place for games if taken in the context of a crowded inner city environment. Unlike leafy Surrey, the population in this locality needs to retain every piece of open land for recreational use, not allow building to take place on it.

10.6 I do not have to prove that these activities were instigated as of right. The objector has not proved the opposite. The fact that people have freely ranged, unchallenged across this area is adequate proof of the right. There is no evidence whatever that the activities were carried out under licence. The objector is well aware of this fact.

11 The Conclusion is completely wrong as evidenced by all the points noted above. The objector has no idea about this matter as he does not live in the area and is only interested in the financial reward gained by building multi storey buildings on the site. He and his family do not have any interest in the community and really has no idea about the use of the site. Perhaps he should attend one of the events to see the very real community use of the square and understand how it is important to support community cohesion.

11.4 The application meets all the relevant tests. Brent Council has already indicated that the application has done so when they accepted the application in April. Under the Defra guidelines they could have rejected it at that stage, but did not do so due to the overwhelming evidence for its Registration. No objection has been received by Brent Council or any other person or organisation.

The Area between the two buildings should be registered as a Town Square under the legislation forthwith.

Martin Redston
28th August 2012

Linden Home's Objection to Town Green application

This is the objection to the Willesden Town Green application lodged, unsurprisingly, by Linden Homes. Linden are a subsidiary of Galliford Try the site developers. My apologies for any formatting problems. I had to convert the objection from a PDF file.


1.            An application was submitted on the 30 April 2012 by Mr Michael Redston.

2.         11  is claimed that the area shown on the plan attached to the application has been used "as of right" since  1986  for "pastimes  and leisure  pursuits" including  walking,  meeting,  public art, French Market and the St Patricks Day festival.

3.        Signatures are appended  to the application  which purports to support the use for "pastimes and leisure pursuits" for varying numbers of years.

4.        To  establish  the  existence  of  a  Town  Green  the  test  set  out  below  must  be  applied  in accordance with section 15 of the Commons Act 2006.

4.1         Whether the land has been used to lawful sports and past times;

4.2           Whether there is a qualifying locality or neighbourhood  within a locality;

4.3        Whether any such use has been indulged in by a significant number of the inhabitants of that locality or neighbourhood;

4.4          Whether the use has continued for 20 years up to the date of the application;

4.5        Whether  it  has  been  used  "as  of right"  (that is  not  without  secrecy,  force or  with permission}.

5.           The area must have been used for sports and pastimes.

5.1      The Oxford English Dictionary definition of "pastime"  (as referred to in the case of R  v Oxfordshire  County Council  and another, ex parte Sunningwe/1 Parish Council is "an activity that someone does regularly for enjoyment, a hobby".

"Activity" is defined as a "recreational pursuit". "Recreation" is an "enjoyable leisure activity".
5.2         The main claimed "use" for the area is for the holding of markets.   The holding of a
market  does not fall within  the definition of "a pastime"  as set out above, that is, it cannot be said to be "an activity" that someone does for enjoyment", a "hobby".

5.3          Even if it could be said that the holding of and visiting markets were a "pastime", this is only the first part of a 5 part test.  As demonstrated  below, the activity fails to meet other elements of the test.

lt is clear from the case law that the type "pastimes"  envisaged are walking, playing with children and similar recreational activities (an enjoyable leisure activity).

5.4          it is noted that only two people claim that it is used for "kids play"/ "playing", only one person claims it was used for "football and cricket" and a further four people claim it is a  "seating  area".  These  activities  could  fall  within  the  definition  of  "pastime· As demonstrated below, all these activities fail to meet other elements of the test.

5.5       "Petitioning" is not a pastime. lt is not a recreational activity/hobby and therefore fails this limb of the test.

5.6       Using the area as an alleged "right of way" is not a "pastime" as it is not a recreational activity or hobby and therefore fails this limb of the test.

6.      lt must be a qualifying locality or neighbourhood within a locality and any such use has been indulged in by a significant number  of the inhabitants of that locality or neighbourhood

6.1       The second and third limbs of the test are read together in accordance with Section
15(2) of the Commons Act 2006 which states that there must be a "significant number
of inhabitants of the locality or any neighbourhood within the localfty using the area for such sports and pastimes".

6.2      The area is in a qualifying "locality" being in the administrative area of the London
Borough of Brent and the "neighbourhood" being Willesden Green.

6.3        However, it has not been demonstrated that the "use has been indulged in by a significant number of the inhabitants of that locality or neighbourhood".

6.4       The applicant has only produced 36 people to support the application

6.4.1     One person gives their address as Edgware and is therefore not an inhabitant of the locality or neighbourhood and therefore must be discounted.

6.4.2     Five People do not specify a postcode and therefore it cannot be said with any certainty that they do inhabit the locality or neighbourhood.

6.4.3     The remaining 30 people state that they either live within postal areas NW2 or NW10, both of  which  are  within  the administrative area  of  the London Borough of Brent and/or Willesden Green.

6.5        The population of the administrative area of Brent is in excess of 255,000 people. The Population of the neighbourhood of Willesden Green, although lower, is still significant and therefore the 30 people (or even the total of 35 people, if it could be shown that the other five did live within the locality and for neighbourhood) demonstrated to live within the locality or the neighbourhood, using the area for the purported use, is extremely insignificant and therefore fails both the second and third limbs of the test.

7.         The use must have continued for 20 years up to the date of the application

7.1       The Application was made on 301h  April 2012. Therefore  the 20 year period  runs from 1May 1992 - 30 April 2012.

7.2       The application purports 20 years use from 1986. None of the 30 qualifying inhabitants have stated in  what year their purported "use· of the area began. Therefore the application does not adequately demonstrate that any of the purported pastimes were

indulged for a 20 year period beginning on 1 May 1992 and ending on 301


7.3         Even if all or some of the qualifying persons could demonstrate that their purported

use of the area began at least from 1992 and continued up to 301

April  2012, as

shown in the Table to be produced by the Council in defence of this application, none of the purported "pastimes· have actually run for a period of 20 years up to 301h April

8.        The table to be produced by the Council will show clearly that:

8.1      The French Market has been running since 2006 ( 6 years);

8.2       The Art Installations running since 2011 (1 year);

8.3       The apple tree planting running since 2010 (2 years);

8.4      The St Patricks Day Festival running since 1997 (15 years);

8.5      The Green Fayre took place once on 2011;

8.6      Brazilian Festival took place once in 2008;

8.7      The International Market took place once in 2011(1 year);


8.8      The Food Market, this is the World Flavours Market running every Saturday since
2011(1 year);

8.9       The Green Fayre took place once in 2011 (1year);

8.10     Petitioning - Applicant states this has been running for 12 years so this fails the test in any event (whatever the relevant penod);

8.11      Kids Play - Applicant evidence claims this use has been indulged for "20 years" however no start date is given so must be discounted as it has not been demonstrated that the stated 20 year period was between 1 May 1992-30 April2012 ;

8.12     Public Seating- Applicant states this has been running for 6 years so this fails the test of a 20 year user in any event (whatever the relevant period);

8.13     Playing Football and Cricket- Applicant evidence claims this use has been indulged for "21 years" however no start date is given so it must be discounted as it has not been demonstrated that the claimed 21 year period included the period 1 May 1992-
30 April2012;

In any event, as part of the Art Installation of 2011, a number of decorative artwork trees were planted in the application area. Since then, it has not been possible to play cricket and/or football and therefore, it would not be possible for the Applicant to show that this pastime was enjoyed continually for a 20 year period up to 30 April 2012.

9.       As stated above, none of these activities  have been shown to be used continually in the requisite period of 1 May 1992 - 301h April 2012 and therefore all the purported activities fail the fourth limb of the test

10.      Area  must  have been  used  "as  of  right" (that  is  not without secrecy, force or  with permission).

10.1     the Council's permission (by way of a licence) was required to hold:

10.11 the French Market

10.12 the International Market

10.13 Brazilian Market

10.14 the Food Market

10.15 the Green Fayre

Therefore, the holding of or the attendance at all of these markets was with permission (of the Council) and not "as of right" and therefore all of these purported pastimes fail the last limb of the test.

10.2    The Art Installation, the tree planting and St Patricks Day celebrations were all organised by the Council on Council property and therefore all visitors were there with the permission of the Council. Therefore, these three purported activities fail to meet the final limb of the test

10.3      With regard to "Petitioning" and "Public Seating", even if it could be shown that these purported activities were carried out "as of right", the Applicant by his own evidence shown they were not enjoyed for at least 20 years

10.4      With regard to "kids play/playing" and "football and cricket" it has not been adequately shown by the Applicant that these uses were indulged "as of right".  The application area is the frontage of the public library and therefore it is as likely that such use was incidental to visiting the library. These being the case, then such activities were not "as of right" but with permission of the Council - being permission to enter onto the area in order to visit the library.

10.5      There is no evidence at all to suggest that "football and cricket" have been enjoyed a significant proportion of the inhabitants of the neighbourhood (or locality) "as of right", not least because of lack of space to enjoy such pastimes to any significant degree.

10.6      lt is incumbent on the Applicant to prove that these uses were "as of right". The applicant has failed to prove this is the case.

11         Conclusion

11.1      As demonstrated above, the Applicant has failed to show that the application meets the test for establishing that the area outside Willesden Green Library should be registered as a Town Green.

11.2      Not all of the purported uses are in actual fact "sports and pastimes" as required pursuant to section 15 of the Commons Act 2006 (petitioning, claimed right of way and the holding of markets)

11.3      Of the purported uses  that could be said to be pastimes (kids play, football and cricket, seating) and those uses that some may argue to be pastimes (the markets}, it has not been demonstrated that:

11.3.1 a "significant number of the inhabitants of the locality or neighbourhood" have indulged  in  the  pastimes. The Applicant has produced  only 30 people in support (a total of 35 if  those further 5 can be shown to live in the locality and/or neighbourhood).  The  population  of  Willesden  Green  is  circa   12,000  and  the population of Brent is in excess of 255,000. No evidence has been produced to show that  a  significant  number  of  the  inhabitants of  Willesden  Green, let  alone the Administrative Area of Brent, have used the area for all or  any  of the purported pastimes.

11.3.2 the area has been used for the 20 year period 1 May 1992- 30 April 2012 . Contrary  to  the  claims  in  the  application,  as  set  out  above,  the  Council  can demonstrate (as set out above) that none of the markets/Council run events have

been running for the requisite 20 year period. The Applicant by his own evidence has failed to demonstrate that the other purported pastimes were indulged for the requisite
20 year period, as set out above.

11.3.3 the area was not used "as of right''.As set out above, all of the markets and Council run events were provided/permitted with the consent of the Council. Therefore none of these activities were enjoyed "as of right".

Of the remaining activities, the Applicant has failed to adequately demonstrate that these purported pastimes were enjoyed "as of right" rather than being incidental to visiting the library and in the case of "football and cricket", the Applicant has failed to produce any evidence that such pastime was enjoyed whether "as of right" or otherwise.

11.4     In view of the above, the Application fails to meet the test set out in the Commons Act
2006 and therefore the application to register  the area outside Willesden Green
Library as a Town Green must be rejected.

On behalf of Linden Homes Chiltern Limited and Galliford Try PLC