Saturday, 28 April 2012

Pickles to decide on fate of 1894 library

Philip Grant has received a reply to his letter of 17 March. 
 
Eric Pickles passed it to his National Planning Casework Unit, who have discussed the matter of who has authority to give consent for the demolition of the 1894 Willesden Green Library building with Brent Council. 
 
The letter confirms that if the planning application for the new Cultural Centre includes demolition of the Willesden Green Library (which we now know that it will), and if the Council are minded to approve that application, Brent intend to refer the Conservation Area Consent application to the Secretary of State for his consideration under Section 74, Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act, 1990. 
 
 

Friday, 27 April 2012

The significance of "Significance" in the battle for the 1894 library building

When Councillor George Crane said, at the recent meeting of Brent's Executive,  that the Victorian library building had "no significance", he said it for a reason. He will be pleased that his comment has been widely reported, because that is the message he wants to get across, particularly to his colleagues on the Planning Committee. "Significance" will be a key factor when the planning application for the new Cultural Centre and the application for Conservation Area Consent to demolish the 1894 library building are considered.

Since March 2012, the official guidance for all planning matters has been the Government's new National Planning Policy Framework. It's Glossary includes the following definition:
Significance (for heritage policy): The value of a heritage asset to this and future generations because of its heritage interest. That interest may be archaeological, architectural, artistic or historic. Significance derives not only from a heritage asset’s physical presence, but also from its setting.
The definitions also mean that the locally listed 1894 library building is a "Heritage Asset", and the Willesden Green Conservation Area is a "Designated Heritage Asset" for the purposes of NPPF.
When considering the impact of a proposed development, NPPF says that the applicant must 'describe the significance of any heritage assets affected'. The higher the heritage asset's significance, the stronger the case for conserving it, or refusing consent for the 'substantial harm or total loss of [its] significance' (i.e. its demolition!). From the point of view of the Council and Galliford Try, the lower they can make the significance of the 1894 library building and Willesden Green Conservation Area appear, the more chance they have of getting their proposals approved. So when Cllr. Crane says that the building has "no significance", or Beth Kay (Regeneration Officer) tells the Willesden ACF meeting (with several members of the Planning Committee present) that because of substantial alterations made to the original library building 'it does not retain significant architectural value', they are already preparing the ground to get the decision they want.
In our objection letters (I will be writing two, one for the planning application and one specifically for the conservation area consent application, which I hope will be considered separately on its own facts and law) we will need to get across the fact that both the Willesden Green Conservation Area and the locally listed 1894 Willesden Green Library building do have real value, and therefore a high significance for the purposes of consideration under NPPF. Here are some points worth making, but I am sure that campaigners can think of others which reflect their particular views:
  • that as well as the front of the old library being a beautiful architectural building in its own right (with the 'substantial alterations' made in the 1980's being what was necessary to retain that highly valued frontage when later extensions to it were removed) it is an important landmark building and an integral part of a group of late Victorian buildings which form the core of the Willesden Green Conservation Area;
  • that the 1894 library building makes a positive contribution to the character of the area;
  • that the 1894 library building played a key part in the social history of the area, and rather than knocking it down, it could be conserved and put to viable use as part of the new Cultural Centre (which will contain Brent's Museum and Archives) thereby enhancing its significance;
  • and if this appears to be the case when you look at the application documents:- that the Conservation Statement tries mislead the reader by understating the significance of the 1894 Library Building and/or the Willesden Green Conservation Area (giving at least one example).
The NPPF says (in 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.' That is a good starting point for our fight to save the 1894 library building, but only if as many people as possible make the case that it, and the conservation area it stands in, do have real value and significance.  If you would like to read the full National Planning Policy Framework guidance on "Conserving and enhancing the historic environment" (which replaced Planning Policy Statement 5 at the end of March), I have copied and pasted this section of NPPF and the relevant definitions from the Glossary into the  4-page pdf below. 
Philip Grant

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Open letter to Councillor Hunter

Dear Councillor Hunter.

I came along to last night's meeting and felt that the KWG group gave an excellent and honest account of how the 'majority' of Willesden Residents feel.

I was astonished to hear you suggest that there is a 'silent majority' who do not object to the Executive's proposals. This just is not true. I stood for many weekends outside the library - spreading the words about the new proposals. Firstly, let me say, initially (back in February of this year) I was shocked by how many people did not know about the proposal to knock down the historic 1894 library building and the subsequent demolition of the 20 year old library. In fact - many did not believe me!!

However, due the the persistence of the close knit community we were soon able to spread the word (something the council seem unable to do adequately). The opposition to the demolition of the historic building is huge. I can honestly say that over 90% of those we asked about what they thought of the new plans were against it. They did not need encouragement to sign the petition  - they were enraged that they had not been asked - and that such a thing were possible in a democracy. 

I don't expect you stood outside the library for as many hours as I did or spoke to as many people - but I would ask you to provide me with some proof regarding your suggested  'Silent majority' that you believe exists.   There are two petitions with a collective 9000 signatures from local residents - who are opposed to the plans - we have our own survey of residents which concurs with our own findings of 90% against the development and even GT/Brent Council's own 'consultation' figures record that 77% of residents are against the development - please tell me where your silent majority fit in to these figures? and show me proof.

Jackie Baines

Petition presented but will Council listen?

On the Town Hall steps last night
Supported by more than 60 campaigners Miki Berenyi presented Keep Willesden Green's 'Stop, Listen and Reflect' petition to the Executive last night with a cool and cogent speech detailing the Council's failure to consult, its neglect of the original building and its cinema and cafe area, and the fact that the new building has less community amenity than the original.

Cllr George Crane in response said that 'Pause and Reflect' (it is noteworthy that he left out 'listen') would perform no useful function and that the planning process would give time to reflect. He said that her understood the significance of the Old Willesden library building and suggested it could be 'celebrated' within the confines of the new building.

He said that the Council was trying to look at a space for the bookshop within what he called  the 'cafeteria' and was revising the space in the front of the building.

Two local Lib Dem councillors spoke. Cllr Gavin Sneddon in favour of the petition and Cllr Ann Hunter against. Sneddon compared the way Willesden residents had been treated to the very full consultation, from first principles, of the Harlexen Town Plan.

He asked Ann John to give residents an assurance that, in line with the law, no pressure would be put on councillors on the planning committee to approve the plans.

Ann John did not give any such assurance.

Cllr Ann Hunter in a long contribution said that she had asked for two plans - one with and one without the historic building. The previous retention of that building has been a compromise because of strong local feelings. She went on to suggest that there were other residents who thought that building had no value and that it was time to move forward with a dynamic new building that would enhance the area.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Demonstrate In Support of Our Petition Tonight

Please come to the Brent Town Hall, Forty Lane, Wembley tonight at 6.30pm to join our demonstration in support of the 'Stop' Listen and Reflect' petition that we will present at the Executive just after 7pm. The Executive Meeting will be upstairs in Committee Rooms 1,2 and 3.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Keep campaign alive with this poster

Philip Grant says: The attached A4 poster is a document that can be used to help get the message across in the community that local people still have a chance to help save this much-loved building. The idea is that it can be displayed in shop windows, or on notice boards, anywhere that people are willing to put it up legally. I would not want it to be flyposted, particularly as I have put my name on it. Lorraine King, editor of the Brent & Kilburn Times from whose 19 April edition the letter has been copied, is aware of the poster, and I have told her that I'm not sure of the exact copyright position, but hope that no one will object.


Letter to Eric Pickles on Conservation Area Consent


To: The Rt. Hon. Eric Pickles MP Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eland House Bressenden Place London, SW1E 5DU 

17 March 2012
Dear Secretary of State, 

Willesden Green Library Centre Redevelopment (London Borough of Brent) Section 74, Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 Who is the appropriate authority for “conservation area consent”? 

I am a resident and Council Tax payer in the London Borough of Brent, and am writing to ask for your help. If you can give all parties with an interest in this matter a clear statement of your views, this will help to avoid unnecessary delays to this proposed redevelopment, which is intended to provide both a new Cultural Centre for the south of the borough and new homes. Users, like myself, of the existing library (Brent‟s busiest, with over 500,000 visitors a year), museum and archives on the site will be without proper facilities there for at least 20 months (August 2012 to April 2014), which will be a considerable inconvenience without any additional delays. 

By way of background, but not the issue I am asking you to consider now, I would advise you that a key planning decision which has to be made in this case is whether a locally listed building (the original 1894 Willesden Green Library) within a conservation area can be demolished. The developers, the London Borough of Brent and Galliford Try plc (their „development partner‟ under a Development Agreement signed in February 2012, following a “tender” process), wish to demolish the building, to clear the site for an entirely new building. A large number of local people oppose the demolition of the building, many, myself included, believing that it can and should be retained as part of the new Cultural Centre. 

The difference of opinion which you can easily resolve at this stage (I will suggest a way that this could be done below) is over who has the authority to decide whether this building, in the Willesden Green Conservation Area, can be demolished. The relevant legislation on this point is from the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990:- 
74. Control of demolition in conservation areas.
(1) A building in a conservation area shall not be demolished without the consent of the appropriate authority (in this Act referred to as “conservation area consent”).
(2) The appropriate authority for the purposes of this section is—
(a) in relation to applications for consent made by local planning authorities, the Secretary of State; and
(b) in relation to other applications for consent, the local planning authority or the Secretary of State. 

During a recent discussion with representatives of Brent‟s Regeneration Team and Galliford Try plc I was advised that they believe Section 74 (2) (b) applies, as they intend that both the application for planning permission and the application for conservation area consent will be made by Galliford Try plc (as sole applicant) to the London Borough of Brent (the local planning authority). My view, and that of some of my fellow objectors to the demolition of the 1894 library building, is that Section 74 (2) (a) applies, as Brent is the owner of the building that is proposed to be demolished, will be the owner of the new building that would replace it, has responsibility for the design of the new building, is legally the development partner of Galliford Try plc for that building and is the local planning authority. 

Even if it is correct in strict law that Galliford Try plc are the applicant (because only their name will be shown as “Applicant” on the application for conservation area consent form), this is surely a case in which Planning Law must not only be applied fairly, but be seen to be applied fairly. If Brent Council were to decide this conservation area consent application in favour of demolition, I believe that most impartial observers would consider that they had acted as both judge and jury in their own case. It might also lead to legal action, resulting in additional delays and costs, a situation which I hope all parties would prefer to avoid. 

As “the Secretary of State” can be “the appropriate authority” for the purposes of both Section 74 (2) (a) and (b), and can consider the evidence and arguments of both sides in a manner which will be seen as independent of both, the way in which I would suggest that you can resolve this matter at an early date is to notify all parties along the following lines: 

In the particular circumstances of this case, and without prejudice to whether S.74 (2) (a) or S.74 (2) (b), Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 applies, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will act as the appropriate authority in this case, and any conservation area consent application made in respect of the proposed demolition of the 1894 Willesden Green Library building in the London Borough of Brent must be referred to him. 

Everyone involved would then know how the application should proceed, and could prepare accordingly, saving time which might otherwise be wasted in disputes over who was “the appropriate authority” when the conservation area consent application is actually made.  

As well as replying to me as an individual, please send copies of your reply to the Chief Executive of the London Borough of Brent and the Company Secretary of Galliford Try plc, to whom I have copied this letter at the addresses shown below, and to the two groups whose letters of support are attached, Keep Willesden Green and Willesden Local History Society, who have seen this letter in draft.
Thank you. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Yours sincerely,
Philip Grant
:

Demonstrate in support of our petition on Monday

 Keep Willesden Green are presenting their petition of 3,600 signatures to the Brent Executive on  Monday at Brent Town Hall.

The petition calls on Brent Council to 'Stop, Listen and Reflect' before going ahead with the redevelopment of Willesden Green Library Centre which will mean the community losing the well-used independent Willesden Bookshop, the historic Old Willesden Victorian Library and a cherished open space.

To push home the message Keep Willesden Green ask all who support its aims to join them outside the Town Hall with banners and placards from 6.30pm. The petition is likely to be heard shortly after 7pm.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Council response to Willesden Green library issues

Brent Council published the following response to the 18th January  Soapbox by Sophia MacGibbon in the Feedback notes  of the Willesden Consultative Forum last night:

1890s BUILDING
We note your concerns that the proposals include the demolition of the 1890s library building at the front of the site. The decision not to incorporate the Old Library has not been taken lightly. The project team has considered whether it could be retained but has concluded that, if the public realm is to be significantly enhanced and if the new Cultural Centre is to make a real connection with the High Road (unlike the existing Library Centre), then the Old Library building cannot remain.

Whilst it would be fair to say that the majority view from the consultation which has been carried out is that the new building should be retained and incorporated into the new Cultural Centre some residents have agreed with the project team and have told us you can miss the Library on the High Road and that the 'no man's land' is a haven for anti-social behaviour. In urban design terms we believe that the library does not work where it is.

The Old Library does sit within the Willesden Green Conservation Area, However, our Conservation Statement notes the results from the historic building survey: substantial alterations have taken place both to the external elevations and internal spaces to leave it with little architectural value.

Externally, it appears that much of the southern side was constructed in the 1980s when the current Library Centre was developed. At that time, the wings were truncated and the former main entrance to the south filled in. Indeed, there has been so much consolidation that the original fabric in the elevations is to be found in the facade on the High Road side. Internally, much of the original fabric, fixtures and fittings have gone and the space has been dramatically altered, with a large steel staircase leading to offices on the first floor.

The building is certainly valued by the community for its historic and aesthetic contribution to the High Road but the historic integrity has been compromised. With the interior being devoid of fixtures and fittings, and the layout having been altered so much, it does not retain significant architectural value.

CAR PARKING
The new development for WGCC will be car free. Residents and visitors will be encouraged to use sustainable forms of transport including walking, cycling and public transport. The new cultural centre will be extremely well connected, the site will be serviced by Willesden Green Tube Station and seven (7) bus routes -nos 52,98,206,260,266, 302 and 460.

A vehicular pick up and drop off bay will be provided. There will also be a small amount of designated disabled car parking spaces and baby car parking spaces.

BOOKSHOP
Some residents have expressed concern about the future of the Willesden Bookshop and a desire to see the business incorporated within the fabric of the new Cultural Centre. There are currently no plans to do this: the bookshop does not provide a core Council service. However, the project team has heard what people are saying and will be broadening the scope of what could be in the retail space so as not to exclude a bookshop. It needs to be stressed, however, that this retail space will not be providing a core Council service and would therefore be let at market rent.


Comprehensive consultation needed - Cllr Sneddon

Cllr Sneddon was handing out the following statement at the Willesden Consultative Forum last night:

Ward councillors including myself were involved in initial discussions about the future of the library. In these discussions it was agreed that the designers would prepare two design options one with and one without the old library building. I warned developers that any design which involved demolishing the old library would be very divisive. A decision was subsequently taken that only a design that involved demolishing the old library was viable as the street frontage was necessary for any design to be effective. Regrettably, this decision was taken behind closed doors without consultation either with residents or councillors. Accordingly I believe residents should be involved in a much more comprehensive consultation on the pros and cons of demolishing the old library and a full consideration of all the options rather than being consulted only on the details of the new design.

I am encouraging all residents to participate in the present consultation and any subsequent planning application while campaigning for a fuller public discussion of the real issues. As part of listening to residents views I am also asking for feedback on a few simple questions below.

Thank you for your interest in this matter,

Regards,
Councillor Gavin Sneddon

1) How often have you visited Willesden Library in the last twelve months?
2) What are the main purposes of your visits?
3) What things do you most like about the present library and what things do you think most need to be improved?
4) which council ward do you live in? (eg Willesden Green, Brondesbury Park etc)

CONTACT DETAILS

Correspondence Address: 
c/o Liberal Democrat Group Office
Brent Town Hall
Forty Lane
Wembley
HA9 9HD
Mobile:  07407 155 438
Email:  cllr.gavin.sneddon@brent.gov.uk

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Potential bombshell on Willesden Green


A potential bombshell was partially revealed at the Willesden Area Consultative Forum tonight when Richard Barrett  said that he understood that local historian Phil Grant had been in contact with the Secretary of State for Communities over whether Brent Council was the appropriate body to make the planning decision on the Willesden Library Regeneration. He said Brent Council thought they were but would find out more. Phil said that the issue revolved around Conservation Area Consent which would possibly make  Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State,the appropriate authority.  He predicted that the Council would not have a smooth ride with its planning application . He called for no amenities to be closed until full planning consent had been obtained.

Speaking about the regeneration Elizabeth Proud said that if people wanted to comment on more that cosmetic details of the proposals they were effectively told to 'shut up'. She spoke about the loss of open space, the Victorian building and the reduced size of a replacement building that looked like an airport building or a warehouse: 'We know an eyesore when we see one'.

Indeed when Beth Kay and Richard Barrett presented the revised plans the building looked worse than in the earlier artist's impression and there were little more than cosmetic changes to the internal layout and the floor plan. There was slightly more space between the building and the High Road and an indication that the cafe area might include retails space, that 'could' be a bookshop, but would be let at market rates.

One resident said that the plans had been underhand and imposed on residents. The Victorian Library and the open space were part of Willesden. She claimed the Council had deliberately run down the cafe and cinema and the 80s library had only been refurbished 5 years ago. She said that the way the Council had behaved was more like something from the old Soviet Union.

She was followed by a woman who said that the Victorian Library and open space were the heart of Willesden and in  response to Richard Barrett's claim that the landmark Victorian Library would be replaced by a new landmark building, the Cultural Centre, she said something that looks like a circus marquee will never be a landmark building. Warming to her theme she said that in removing the open space the Council were not getting rid of anti-social behaviour but of social behaviour: it was a space where people could congregate and mix in all their diversity and one where people new to the area could observe local life and feel part of the community. The  Neighbourhood  Bulletin from Brent ward working had said that (contrary to the Council's claim that the space encouraged ant-social behaviour)  'the area outside Willesden Green library is no longer a haven for anyone causing anti-social behaviour' because 'a dispersal order is now in place...'

She said that the real failure had been one of 'management and marketing' and the problem could have been solved with a proper management plan.

In a corrective to the presenters' statement that local councillors had been consulted, Liberal Democrat councillor Gavin Sneddon said that they had warned officers that demolition of the Victorian Library would be controversial and that his colleague Ann Hunter had asked for two plans, one with the Victorian Building and one without. The decision to proceed with the plan for demolition did not involve local councillors.

No member of the public spoke in favour of the proposals, if anything the opposition has broadened and deepened.

Get to Willesden Forum tonight

A reminder that the Willesden Green Redevelopment is on the agenda for tonight's Willesden Area Consultative Forum. Councillors will be available and if you arrive early you can book a Soapbox slot or e-mail consultation@brent.gov.uk

From Brent Council website:

Willesden Area Consultative Forum

Next forum meeting:
7pm Wednesday 18 April 2012

Venue
College of North West London
Denzil Road
NW10 2XD

Wards covered Dollis Hill, Dudden Hill, Welsh Harp, Willesden Green

Next forum - Main presentations:
- Olympic Route Network
- Establishing Ward Working Priorities for 2012-13 - come and meet your 
  councillors and tell them about any concerns you have about your ward
- Proposed re-development of the Willesden High* Library Centre
- Brent celebrates the Diamond Jubilee

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

* We presume this is a typo and actually refers to Willesden Green NOT the high school!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

3,600 ask Brent Council to 'Pause, Reflect and Listen' on Willesden Green

On Shakespeare's birthday on April 23rd, Keep Willesden Green campaigners will be asking the Brent Executive to 'lend us their ears' when we present the petition asking the Council to 'Pause, Reflect and Listen' on the Willesden Green Regeneration plans.

3,600 local people have signed this latest petition which follows other petitions on the retention of the Old Willesden Library building and allocation of space in the new development for the Willesden Bookshop.

Are our councillors going to ignore this petition as they have sought to do with the others?

We should remind the Executive that Antonius went on:

The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones

 The Executive meets at 7pm at Brent Town Hall. AGENDA

Monday, 9 April 2012

Last chance to sign 'Pause' Willesden Green Development petition

From Kilburn Times

Today is the last chance to sign our e-petition on the Willesden Green Redevelopment. Follow this LINK to sign.

THE FULL PETITION TEXT

We the undersigned petition the council to Pause the Willesden Green Library Centre regeneration plans to allow for full consultation with residents in order to ascertain their views on how the area should be developed and the amenities that should be provided or retained.

Brent Council is handing over public land worth £10.4 million to a property developer in exchange for rebuilding the Willesden Library Centre. The original 1894 library building on the High Road will be demolished, The Willesden Bookshop is likely to be driven out of business, the public car park will be reduced to 8 spaces and a children’s play area will be lost. Over 18 months, three five-storey blocks of 90+ luxury flats will be built behind the existing Library Centre.

We all want a thriving, welcoming and dynamic library and cultural centre, but the current deal has been sealed with virtually no public consultation and very little available information, ignoring the wishes of over a thousand local residents who have expressed opposition to these plans in two Brent e-petitions.

While the developers get a healthy profit from the sale of luxury flats and Brent councillors get some fancy new offices, the cultural and financial cost to rate-paying citizens is disproportionately high. It smacks of ‘profits before people’.

Borough residents need to have a say in the content and design of the library centre redevelopment, but we have not yet been given the chance to do so.

The Council says: Plans for the development of the library centre were raised at the executive committee in February 2011, and quickly followed by two public consultations to ‘test the market’. The council had to abide by commercial confidentiality, so no detailed plans could be made public until a deal was signed with the developer on 15 February 2012.

We say: Did you know about this in 2011? Not a single local resident or tradesperson we spoke to knew about the plans until Jan 2012, and only then through word of mouth. The Feb 2011 consultations were conducted with, respectively, 5 and then 7 people. One person present recounted that they were asked for their opinion, then shown plans for the centre that were drawn up before the meeting. This does not conform to the generally understood definition of a ‘consultation’

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Willesden Green development a 'done deal' despite public opposition - but we can have a say about the shelving!

A member of the Keep Willesden Green Committee has written this report on the meeting with Ann John, leader of Brent Council, held at Brent Town Hall earlier this week.

Ann John, outside Brent Town Hall
Gill Wood  introduced the group, expressed our appreciation for the time that Councillor Ann John was giving to listen to our concerns and explained that we represented more than 5,700 people who signed the recent petition in good faith to keep the Old Library building.

Gill also stressed that the KWG group was not affiliated with any political party. 

We are not anti-development, Gill continued, we just want to ensure that if the WGCC development has to be built at all, that not only it will be of lasting benefit to an increased library using population, but that we also get a public amenity that Willesden deserves, showing that the architects have been sensitive to the specific needs of the community it is there to serve. 

Gill finished her introduction by saying that several of us attended the Executive Committee meeting in February seeking answers to the genuine concerns that residents had been relaying to us and were disappointed that none of our questions were properly addressed. She asked Ann John to share her vision of the Willesden Green Cultural Centre, which has so far failed to reach the larger Brent community. Gill concluded that we were gathered to listen to Councillor John and we hoped that she would listen to the views of Brent residents.

Ann John then explained the challenges of meeting the many needs within the borough including the lack of 700 school places and the increasing (normally transient) population who choose to settle in Brent.
She explained that the major refurbishment of Ealing Library had been successful and this library was now open. The Council’s intention was to offer libraries fit for the 21st Century and that the Civic Centre in Wembley and the new WGCC in Willesden Green would meet the needs of a new generation of library users. 

The Civic Centre would return revenue, in so far as it would offer office space to replace several costly buildings across the borough and would offer facilities that would yield an income. WGCC would be financed by the sale of the land at the rear and would offer a more sustainable building with improved facility and Council offices for public interface on the top floor to replace the One Stop Shop for better local connection in the south of the Borough. Other issues were raised mainly to demonstrate the lack of public funding and the housing and education demand that the increasing Brent population are creating.

KWG made the following points:

            The lack of consultation has angered local residents. The representative group all live within close proximity of the Library and none of us had received Galliford Try’s leaflet information regarding the library development until March 2012. There had been no information posted in the library. We felt that the plans had been kept hidden.

            The scheme is predominantly a housing scheme. KWG are not anti development and understand the need for housing but if the scheme is built a healthy balance will be lost.

            KWG presented the developer’s plans overlayed on to a satellite image of the site. We demonstrated to Councillor John that the scheme illustrations are very misleading. For instance the scale has been tweaked to imply greater outdoor amenity and the position of the London plane tree is not accurate. As the plans stand the London plane will be lost.

           Similarly the open space at the back is not adequate, due to the challenge of levels which has not been factored in to the design, the rear area will simply be a shady, steeply terraced muggers paradise. This is not adequate open space

           The foot-print of the new building is 50% of the existing building. An additional floor of office space does not return the amenity that will be lost. Cllr. John  seemed surprised and concerned by all of the above. She was clearly  not fully aware of the design flaws although she was aware that the architects needed to resolve the matter of level change.

KWG presented a plan that moved the Open space to the front of the building on the High Road, added 20% more space to the footprint of the library and offered solutions for the level change while retaining the Old Library. The Housing scheme is also retained.

In response, Cllr  John said that she had been advised by a team of Architects and Consultants that the Galliford Try scheme would deliver Public benefit. We have clearly demonstrated that it will not. Cllr. John asked us to present these concerns to Galliford Try.

KWG expressed concern regarding the maintenance of the building. We can’t  trust a Council who built a library with a 65 year shelf life in 1983 declaring that it would be sustainable and reduce maintenance and heating costs, then insist 28 years later that it is no longer fit for purpose and that we need a building that will be sustainable and reduce maintenance and heating costs…..

 We also discussed the funding of the project and KWG raised a concern that the £9.4m was not sufficient to return a building of any quality. That the proposed build cost would be £180/ sq.ft. which is not sufficient to meet the requirements of the Client brief and will only provide a shell Community Centre specification not state of the art library and Council offices given the requirement for on site sustaining of the demolished old libraries. The cost in 1983 of the existing library was £5,000,000. This inflation linked would be a figure of £13,900,000 today. Both these points Ann John said she would refer to the Regeneration team along with our comments regarding Consultation.

KWG then made the point that in the Executive  meeting of February 15th 2011 the Regeneration Team had stated: 
3.17 To inform the procurement process a vision statement and client brief for the Councils new building would be developed. The documents would clearly articulate the Council's aspirations and detailed design requirements for the new building. A planning brief, draft development agreement and contract would also be developed to ensure that from the outset the potential developer partners are aware of the contractual requirements that would be placed upon them when delivering the project. 
 None of the above has happened. Why has the planning brief phase been skipped and the critical consultation following the planning brief not carried out? Cllr.John had no answers for this. Again she said that she would discuss this with the regeneration team.

With regard to the demolition of the Old Library, Cllr. John acknowledged that thousands of residents living adjacent to the High Road wished that the Old Library should be retained. Remarkable PR have published 77% as their figure. KWG have a figure of over 90% following their own survey. Ann John insisted that petitions were not reliable indicators of public need. That residents were wrong in their understanding of their local townscape and that she was best placed as a non-resident minority to decide that demolition of the Old Library would serve the Public interest best!....

KWG also mentioned that the open space outside the Old Library was an important “crossroads” and meeting point for the mixed demographic of Willesden. It is a much needed and highly valued common ground on the High Road. It is important that this space is retained.

Cllr. John could see the benefits of common ground but felt that currently, in practice, it was not a safe spot and harboured negative factors. KWG disagreed with this and offered local insight that the space on the High Road was much safer than the muggers' alley that was proposed at the rear.

The meeting was concluded by Cllr. John, declaring that the plans would not be altered for the planning application. The next consultation on 18th April would discuss the detail of the internal fit-out. 

The situation therefore is that the previous consultation has not taken in to consideration any of the views of the Public, we are simply being served a done deal and allowed to discuss the minor detail of library shelving etc.

The Galliford Try scheme breaks all the codes of good design and shows no benefit to the local Community. We can only hope now that our Council will realise their mistakes and the acknowledge that bad advice has lead to an unacceptable development.

Friday, 6 April 2012

London Assembly Member, Navin Shah opposes demolition of Old Willesden Library

From the Brent and Kilburn Times LINK


Invite to 'view final proposals' on Willesden Green development


Dear Resident,
 
Proposals for the Willesden Green Cultural Centre
 
I am writing to you about the proposed new Willesden Green Cultural Centre (WGCC), a project that is being developed by the London Borough of Brent and Galliford Try.
 
As you know, over the course of the last two months we have been carrying out a community consultation on the detail of these proposals, including a series of one-to-one meetings held in February and a public exhibition in March.
 
We have had a large number of responses and have considered all the comments that have been received. As part of the next step in this process we would like to offer those that have expressed a keen interest in the development a further opportunity to meet the project team and to view the final proposals before they go on display to the wider public in early May.
 
The project team will be available to meet on Tuesday 17 April at a time of your choice between 10.30am and 6:30pm. The meeting will be held at the Willesden Green Library Centre.
 
In advance of these meetings, we have uploaded a comparison table to the project website that gives a full breakdown of the sizes of both the proposed Cultural Centre and current Library Centre. We hope that this will be a useful document and will help inform our discussions.
 
If you would like the opportunity to discuss the proposals then please contact me, or my colleague Tom Hewitt, on the project’s information line – 0800 298 7040 – to arrange a convenient time.
 
As we will be booking slots on a first come, first served basis, I would encourage you to call at your earliest convenience to avoid disappointment.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
The Project Team
Willesden Green Cultural Centre
 
 

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Willesden Green Development on agenda of next Consultative Forum - be there!

After representations by residents the Willesden Green Regeneration has been put on the agenda for the next Willesden Area Consultative Forum.  This is an opportunity for all those who have views on the development to make their known in a public forum:
You are invited to the next Willesden Area Consultative Forum that will take place on Wednesday, 18 April at the College of NW London, Denzil Road, NW10. Start time is 7pm prompt.
I attach an agenda and a soapbox form. The main items on the agenda at this meeting are:
Ø  Olympic Route Network
Ø  Establishing ward working priorities for 2012/13 – ward based break-out sessions
Ø  Proposed re-development of the Willesden Green Library Centre
Ø  Brent celebrates the Diamond Jubilee
Information about the Allotments and Food Growing Strategy will be available.
Action notes from the previous meeting are on our website – please click on the link below:
I look forward to seeing you on 18 April.
   
Kind regards
Councillor Krupesh Hirani
Chair, Willesden Area Consultative Forum
The 'Soapbox' enables residents to speak for a few minutes on a topic of their choice.  You can fill in a request form here  LINK  or send in a request  consultation@brent.gov.uk or arrive early at the Forum and fill in a form before the meeting begins.
 

How do the spaces in the current and proposed Willesden Green buildings compare?

The developers have produced a comparison table to address questions about the spaces within the proposed new Willesden Green Cultural Centre building ('Client brief') and spaces in the present building.



Comments welcome!

This is what Galliford Try say:

In response to resident queries we have prepared a schedule of areas comparing the new WGCC with the existing WGLC. The brief has developed over the last two months in response to the consultation and design development which has taken place.

Overall the building size at Willesden Green has reduced but the reduction in useable space is only around 100 square metres. We have put together a brief for a new building where there is no wasted space, as there is in the current building. The new building will be a compact and active hub for the south of Brent.

The new building will have an open plan design which will allow the spaces to bleed into one another, whilst there is a reduction in library space in the brief there will be a variety of spaces throughout the building which users can occupy and enjoy. The total stock for the new library, including items that will be out on loan will be between 55 and 60,000. Current stock level is 60,000 books.

An evaluation of the requirements for customer services in Brent has concluded that there is a need for 60 customer services booths in the two main customer service hubs in the borough; this is where face to face enquiries for all Council services can be handled.  This provision has been incorporated into the design of both new buildings with 33 booth spaces in the Civic Centre and 27 booths within Willesden. This provision facilitates a significant customer services offer, alongside the cultural and community facilities that both buildings will offer to residents.

The new building at Willesden Green also includes office space for the councils Localities Team (social care referrals and assessment), this team provides an essential council service and is not currently located in the building, accounting for an increase in the overall office space, we have separated out these areas in the attached schedule to make this clear.

Remarkable result: Brent's own consultation shows majority reject Willesden Green proposals

The outcome of the Galliford Try-Brent Council consultation on the Willesden Green Library Regeneration plans are now available and reinforce Keep Willesden Green Campaign's demand that the Council 'Stop, Listen and Reflect':

Remarkable PR had 220 responses to the public consultation (both on line and on paper). The breakdown was:

Supporters of the scheme    15
Partial supporters                24
Undecided                          10
Objections                        171

As a result a revised proposal is being worked on and Remarkable are planning to contact the original 50 people with whom they had 1:1 consultations to ask them to return to review the changes. However it is not expected that these will include the retention of the historic  Old Willesden Library building.

The dates of this second one-to-one consultations will be on April 17th..

Remarkable PR will also be sending out a revised flyer - to a similar number of resident regarding the updated plans.



Sunday, 1 April 2012

Navin Shah AM wants to keep Old Willesden Library building

Navin Shah, London Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow and a candidate in the upcoming election has written the following response to a constituent regarding the Brent libraries issue:
Thank you for your email to me and apologies for the delay in replying to you. I appreciate and share your concerns. I can only tell you my opinion on the library closures and the proposed demolition of Willesden Green Library.

 I would firstly like to respectfully point out that I am not a member of Brent Council and my remit is confined to the London Assembly and Mayor of London. I do not have a vote on Brent Council or in the Labour Group in Brent and I do not have a say in the policies that Brent choose to implement.

The best I can do on this issue is to convey my views on the importance of maintaining libraries, which I have done, to the Brent Labour Group. On this, I have been approached by campaigners to enable a meeting between Brent Council's elected members and officers to their case across. I have sought to do this but I have been advised by the Council that they are unable to meet at this time because of the pending legal appeal.

As a side note, as well as my position on the London Assembly I am an elected councillor in Harrow. The Harrow Labour Group, of which I am a member, have ensured that there will be no closures or privatisation of libraries. I am proud of this policy as I feel that libraries are an important part of the community.

I would also like to add that I believe the stringent cuts made by the Coalition Government has put local authorities in extremely difficult positions, having to choose which vital services they should cut. I do not envy any elected members and officers who have been placed in that position.

With regards to Willesden Green Library, as an architect by trade I feel preserving Willesden Green Library is extremely important. In Harrow, I have fought long campaigns to keep locally listed buildings and am on the board of Harrow Heritage Trust, which take matters such as these extremely seriously. I want to keep Willesden Green Library building and am actively pursuing this issue.
 I hope that you understand my position. Please feel free to contact me on this issue again should you need further clarification on this or any other issues where I can be of assistance.