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.