Monday, 29 October 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin R

(with apologies to Private Eye)

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

Saturday, 13 October 2012

'Light of Learning' burns bright in Willesden Green

Library campaigners marked the first anniversary of the closing of the six Brent libraries, and the threat to Willesden Green Library with a 'Light of Learning Relay' run between the libraries and events at each one. The event showed that the campaign is still very much alive and burning with determination!

The relay runners outside the library
Handing over the 'Light of Learning'
Reading by Rohila Gupta
The Old Library is reflected in the closed bookshop

The public signed a petition supporting the Town Square application

Friday, 12 October 2012

A bookshop betrayed by Brent councillors

These are the members of the Brent Executive who took the decision that resulted in the closure of the Willesden Bookshop. Read the e-mail below from a Brent resident who is yet to receive a reply and let the councillors know what you think about their actions:

Dear Cllrs Butt and Crane,

Thank you for the meeting last week. I would like to clarify an issue that I promised to email you about.
I want to reiterate that a huge proportion of people objecting to the current design of the WGCC originally came on board because they do not want to lose The Willesden Bookshop. Schools, families, locals of all races and ages have benefited from its presence over the 23 years it has existed and feel indebted to its influence and mortified by its loss. All blame Brent Council for the fact that it is no longer there.
I will set the record straight re efforts made by Brent Council and its officers to relocate the Willesden Bookshop. 

·  The lease of the bookshop was extended to 31 August 2012. 
·  The Council's Property Department forwarded the proprietor a link to some properties on Dutch and Dutch's website, which he had already seen as he was himself  scouring commercial websites for suitable properties. 
·  They told him the rent on the Parking Shop (which the Council was vacating) was £50,000 - far beyond what the bookshop could afford.
·  Beth Kay showed him a unit on Queen's Parade, which she offered to have fitted out at the Council's expense. However it was far too small and only available for six months.

So, some properties he had already seen via a basic internet search, a shop that was too expensive, and another that was too small with a lease six months short of the minimum required for a business of this kind. That's not 'bending over backwards' to provide a viable alternative. Meanwhile, the lease has not been renewed and the bookshop is now closed.

 I would also like to put right a couple of rumours that originated from Brent Councillors:

·  At no point has The Willesden Bookshop ever been 'subsidised' by Brent Council.  The only subsidy it could be claimed that the bookshop has ever received is one quarter rent's waiver subsequent to extensive refurbishment of the Library Centre, during which the front of the building was boarded up causing loss of business.
·  It has never failed to pay - or been let off paying - its utility bills.

In fact, the Council Property Departement's unwillingness to raise its rent at the last review date was probably because it had already lost the cafe and cinema, and the bookshop was preventing the front of the building from becoming a derelict shell, vulnerable to vandalism. Moreover, the bookshop provided guidance, help and parking permits to library users and, as I've said, always paid its rent. In other words, the council itself recognised that the bookshop was an asset.

Cllr Crane, you have said on several occasions that you feel no love for the old Library building, which you would have happily seen demolished 20-odd years ago. You implied in our meeting that reinstating the 1894 building into the design of the WGCC represents a significant compromise on your part and evidence that you are attuned to public opinion. I ask that you pay the same heed to the wishes of local people over the bookshop. 

The Willesden Bookshop (not just 'a cafe bookshop', ie 4 shelves of art books by a coffee counter) should be included in the plans for the Cultural Centre. Its space allocation has been lopped off the final calculations for the WGCC, along with the cinema and 'dead space', yet is a much-used space and a much-valued one, too! After all, it entirely fits with your vision of regenerating the High Road with highly valued upmarket businesses, and it makes no sense at all, and very bad PR, for the Council to be the perpetrators behind its closure.

Can you please make a genuine effort to save this treasured local business and important building block for the regeneration of Willesden Green.

I have copied in Steve Adams at the Willesden Bookshop, so you can contact him directly. Here is a link to an article in The Guardian that accurately describes the situation and how Willesden residents feel about the bookshop's closure:

 Yours faithfully
 Miki Berenyi

Friday, 5 October 2012

Relay to mark one year of Brent Council's library closures

Andy Donald's 'one fell swoop' to take out environmental and transport demands

Kate Spence writes:

Article in Architects Journal dated March 2011: 
With this in mind, it is the right time to call for similarly direct language in the government’s proposed national planning policy framework. At a roundtable at MIPIM last year, Andrew Donald, a regeneration boss with Brent Council, pretty much said as much. ‘I’d take out all the demands around environmental and transport requirements in one fell swoop,’ he said, ‘and replace that with something to the point about what development is going to make to local area, written in plain English.

Andy Donald
 Mr Donald, Director  of Major Projects and Regeneration for Brent Council, has clearly extended his "take out in one fell swoop" list since March 2011.

In Willesden the list includes Conservation Area, Literacy, Cultural Amenity, Public Space, Children's Playground, Car Parking, Market Square, Cinema, Bookshop, circulation space, study desks while across the borough we are losing libraries.
Perhaps, he could explain "in plain English" exactly what difference the Galliford Try development is going to make to Willesden Green and why such highly valued Public Amenity can be taken out "in one fell swoop"

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Willesden Green Library on Brent Connects agenda this evening

Brent Connects replaces the Area Consultation Forums and the first Willesden session is this evening. Remember you can book a Soapbox to speak on a subject of your choice by arriving early and filling in a form.  Willesden Green Library Redevelopment is on the agenda.
College of North West London
Denzil Road
NW10 2XD
Tuesday, 2 October 2012 7pm
Main presentations:
  • Recent smelly waste in Neasden/Wembley
  • An interactive community feedback session including
       - How Brent Connects works
       - New equalities duties and monitoring  
  • Central Middlesex Hospital's A&E service
  • Willesden Green Library Centre proposed redevelopment