Monday, 31 December 2012

Harrow Observer on Willesden Town Square Public Enquiry

From the Harrow Observer website:

Keep Willesden Green inquiry set for next year

Public hearing about plans for Willesden Green Library, High Road, Willesden Green. L-R: Nicolette McKenzie, Sheila and Martin Redston, Elizabeth Proud, Alex Colas.
AN INQUIRY in to an application to turn an area outside Willesden Green Library in to a public square has been adjourned until next month.

Martin Redston applied to Brent Council to have the public space outside the library in High Road, Willesden, to be officially designated as a public square in order to protect the building.

After being told the inquiry would take place in December, Mr Redston was given two weeks to prepare reams of legal papers to back up his case, but asked for an adjournment so he could consult specialist lawyers and prepare witness statements.

Mr Redston, who runs a civil and structural engineering business, said: “This has been dragging on since March and it is a very long process. We now have until February to prepare all the documents and our argument.”

Mr Redston’s application will be decided by Brent Council and could potentially have implications for a planning application which is lodged with the council by developers Galliford Try to demolish the southern side of the library, which was built in the 1980s, and redevelop the entire site into nine blocks of flats and a cultural centre with library.

This is the second application from developers Galliford Try after the initial application was withdrawn and revised to retain the Victorian section of the building, which sits within the Willesden Green Conservation Area.

There has been widespread opposition from users who want to retain the buildings and Sarah Teather, Liberal Democrat MP for Brent Central, has also objected.

A decision will be made on the planning application on February 13 – the same week the inquiry hearing is due to take place.

A spokesman for Linden Homes, a sister company of Galliford Try, said: “It is too early to comment on the outcome of the public enquiry.”

Two objections have been lodged against the proposal to designate the area in front of the 1983 library a public square, from Linden Homes and Brent Council.

Mr Redston, who is part of the Keep Willesden Green campaign, is hoping neighbours will back his case and will be able to prove they use the area ‘as of right’ in order to get the status.

The campaigner is not sure how much the whole process will cost, but it could run in to tens of thousands of pounds and Mr Redston said the group is considering launching a fundraising campaign to cover this, if necessary.

To have your say see

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Fill in this form to register your views on Town Square application

The public space we are seeking to register as a Town Square is illustrated above.  Please click on the link below for a form that you can complete in support of the application. 

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

More evidence needed as date set for Town Square Inquiry

The full hearing of Martin Redston's application, on behalf of all Willesden Green residents, to have the open space in front of the Willesden Green Library Centre registered as a Town or Village Green, will now begin on Monday 11th February 2013. It will be held in Space 2, on the first floor of the Library Centre, starting at 10am, and may last for up to four days. The independent Inspector who is holding the Public Inquiry has issued full details of how it will be organised and dealt with (see pdf link below for details).
Martin will be up against barristers representing both Brent and Linden Homes (Galliford Try), and has to submit all of his written evidence statements by Friday 18th January. It would help his case if he had more evidence from inhabitants of the "core" area of Willesden Green around the High Road. There are many objectors to the WGCC planning application who have put comments online, with addresses that fall within this area.
Roads that crop up at least once, often several times are: Brondesbury Park, Bryan Avenue, Chambers Lane, Churchill Road, Grange Road, Kings Road, Lechmere Road, Osborne Road, Peter Avenue, St Andrew's Road, St Paul's Avenue and Sandringham Road. If you are one of these people, or know them, and you or they could provide any evidence of the use of the town square for lawful sports or pastimes at any time since 1991, please let Martin have details as soon as possible. It doesn't matter if you cannot attend the Public Inquiry, or would not wish to speak at it - a simple signed written statement would be a great help.
Any such statement should give:
  • the name and address of the person making it;
  • what their connection is with the Willesden Green area, and the open space;
  • what pastimes (for example, standing or sitting and talking with friends, sitting to read a book or magazine, any organised game or activity) they have enjoyed in the space, and (roughly) how often;
  • what pastimes they have seen other people enjoying there, how many people, and (if known) whether or not they were local people from the Willesden Green area;
  • whether anyone (Council staff or police) have ever tried to stop them or others from indulging in the pastimes they have enjoyed in this open space; and
  • what periods of time (approximate start and end dates) their experience of the pastimes described covers.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Town Square Enquiry adjourned until February 2013

Cllr Muhammed Butt addresses 100 Days Of Peace Rally in the Town Square
 The Public Enquiry into the application to register the space outside Willesden Green Library as a Town Square  has been adjourned until February 2013 on the grounds that the applicant was not given enough time to prepare the case.

A preliminary hearing will be still be held on Monday December 17th, 10am Studio 2, Willesden Green Library Centre. This will hear directions from the Inspector to the parties concerned. The meeting is open to the public.

The delay has implications for the timetable for the planning application for redevelopment of the site and the building of 95 homes as the developer's plans involves building on the Town Square.

Evidence of the use of the Town Square can therefore continue to be sent to Martin Redston as signed PDFs with any photographic evidence.

Comments are also still possible on the planning application and can be sent to (Reference 12/2924 12/2925)

Friday, 7 December 2012

Town Square Public Enquiry needs your evidence

The three day Willesden Green Town Square Public Enquiry will begin on December 17th at Studio 2, First Floor, Willesden Green Library Centre.plicant has to establish that the space has been used for pastimes and recreation  'as of right' since it opened in 1989. These could include reading a book, drinking coffee, photography, art  as well as attending the various fairs etc.

Signed statements giving such evidence would be useful.  These should be sent to Martin Redston (e-mail addresses below).  PDFs are acceptable.

Residents are welcome to attend. Please let Martin know if you wish to speak at the Enquiry. 

Carry on commenting on Willesden Green Planning Application

In response to my query I have received the following from Andy Bates of Brent Planning regarding the Willesden Green applications and whether comments will continue to be accepted up to the date of the Planning Committee Meeting.
Dear Martin, 
Thank you for your email. I can confirm that comments will continue to be accepted. In terms of a Planning Committee date, the first meeting the applications could be considered at is on February 13th 2013. All those who have commented on the proposals will be notified once a date is fixed. 

I hope this updates you. 


Andy Bates
Area Team Manager (South Team)
Brent Planning & Development

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Willesden Green consultation process a misleading travesty says local resident

A local resident has kindly consented to share her submission regarding the Willesden Green planning application with readers:

Objection to Planning Applications 12/2925 and 2924,
Willesden Green Library Centre, 95 High Road, London, NW10 2SF Associated application for Conservation Area Consent

I object strongly to the above proposals for a major project to construct 92 flats and a small library building on the above site.

·        The replacement library has been misrepresented as a “benefit” to the community when in fact it is diminishing the facilities which are currently available to the public.
·        The proposals do not respect the character of the conservation area
·        The proposed replacement buildings are not of the highest architectural quality or design - they are an over-scaled and insensitive intrusion  which will destroy and dominate the High Road’s sense of place.
·        The proposed blocks of flats in the new housing scheme constitute a form of town cramming. On height alone they are unacceptable, breaching  SPG17 guidelines that  residential development should be no higher than 2-3 stories.

The Council is breaching its own policy commitments, national policy and GLA guidelines; in so doing it is betraying public trust.

The Council has sought throughout, to misrepresent its role in this matter, trying to pretend that the developer is the sole applicant for this planning permission.
Both the site and the buildings on it are council owned and therefore Brent is a joint "applicant" and an "interested party" in the application.
It is clear that this is a Council project from every statement made by the Council, from the  announcement in the 2010 Corporate Strategy that “we will be redeveloping Willesden Green Library”, and all subsequent committee reports.
The Council is, in truth,  seeking to grant itself planning permission to develop this land.

Breach of Brent's Planning Code of Practice.
The conduct of both officers and councillors is in breach of Brent's Planning Code of Practice. (see item 12 in respect of officers)

The Planning Code of Practice is also relevant to the conduct of the planning committee: if any member of the Committee has 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 is therefore partial and should be barred from discussion of the plans, or voting on them.

The proposed replacement buildings offer no benefits to the local community that it does not already enjoy. The proposed redevelopment will seriously reduce public benefit.
The Council and its partners have persisted in misleading the public with false statements.

·        The proposed scheme represents a net loss in square footage of Publicly owned land and a reduction of amenity in a public amenity building,
·        The new public open space will be much worse, hidden away at the back of the building in a shady, steeply terraced passage-way which compromises public safety.  The change of ground levels has not been factored in to the design. The scale on the drawings has been misrepresented to imply a larger outdoor amenity.
·        Loss of parking
·        Detriment to a much-loved historic building.

With the closure of  6 libraries in Brent any replacement of the Willesden library needs to offer  a much larger building.  This proposal barely offers the same amount of library space as is already there and expects to cram in several other uses, such as increased council offices, onto a smaller site. The proposals are dense, cramped, and over-scaled in relation to neighbouring properties. The proposed architecture is at odds with the surrounding Edwardian neighbourhood.

The Council has failed to follow due process at every stage of this application:
·        to develop an LDF for Willesden Green, although this is an essential part of Town Planning and Spatial Strategy 
·        to produce a planning brief for the project, despite a written commitment to do so
·        to observe government constitutional guidance, Local Gov Act 2000, on “Key decisions”
·        to abide by the Willesden Green Conservation Area Character Appraisal/Management Plan 2006,
There is a need to conserve the best of our built heritage against pressure for redevelopment and unsympathetic alteration”.
·        to abide by the Council’s UDP on Conservation-Led Regeneration and preservation of locally listed buildings and conservation areas, policies:
·        to abide by guidance in the new National Planning Policy Framework
o  in creating a strong sense of place
o  promotion of design that responds appropriately to local context.
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.'
·        to abide by London Plan policy 3A.18
o  it will not provide equal or enhanced community use floorspace.
o  The facilities will not be of equal or better quality to those that are being demolished,
o  It will not improve the existing offer to local people.
The Council accepted a planning application without uploading any of the details or drawings onto the Planning Web portal, thus making it impossible for the pubic to inspect the plans, thereby denying the public the right to the statutory period of reply.

The Council has flouted every single possible duty and commitment to properly consult on this scheme, and has attempted to mislead the public at every stage, by misreporting and misrepresenting such consultation as has taken place. 

This began with its first public announcement in Brent Council Magazine, issue 107, October 2010,  which misrepresented the Corporate Strategy announcement for Willesden as: "improve Willesden Green Library Centre providing more community facilities", when in fact the Corporate Strategy 2010-2014 itself states: “we will be redeveloping Willesden Green Library”

This was fundamentally misleading.

All subsequent consultation has been no more than a box ticking exercise outsourced to private companies.
The most recent in August / September this year was run by a private company calling themselves  the Library Lab, thus misleading residents into supposing that they were connected with the Brent Library service.
The people running the meetings tried to control  what was said; to stop people from asking questions or expressing their point of view, and even told questioners 'not to be disruptive'.  

The numbers attending the meetings were derisory: barely 200 out of a population of potentially 130,000 or so who live in the South of the borough,  or 13,000 who live in Willesden; certainly far fewer than the  number who wrote letters of objection. 

The reports of these meetings put out by this company are a shameful travesty of the truth. 

The whole exercise has been in breach of  Brent Council Constitution:
“The purpose of the Constitution is to support the active involvement of citizens in the process of local authority decision-making;”  and  “create a powerful and effective means of holding decision-makers to public account;”

It is not the role of a democratically elected Local Authority to sell public assets cheap to facilitate profits for commercial developers on publicly owned land. A case could be made that Brent will be in breach of its fiduciary duty to the tax-payer in encouraging the developer to shortchange the public with reduced and inferior public facilities in return for large profits at the tax-payers expense. Councillors have endorsed plans that mislead the public.

There is also a question to be answered as to why the current, relatively new building was allowed by the Council to deteriorate to the point where it is claimed it is beyond repair.

For all these reasons these proposals should be rejected.

In by-passing all due process in this matter the Council has tainted the planning process.
There is little point in having any planning policies at all if they can be broken so easily.

The Council should prepare a proper planning brief for the site, which will be properly consulted on, and provide real benefits for the borough, rather than maximum profit for the developer.


Philip Grant has asked to have the following two comments he has submitted to Brent’s Planning Service on the Willesden Green application (12/2924) posted on the blog. This is for the information of other people interested, and to make these comments easier to read, as the Council’s system packs the text together, and inserts upside-down question marks where quotation marks have been used, which will make the points more difficult to follow when they do appear on the Brent Planning website. The comment on affordable housing also had to be edited slightly in the version submitted, as that shown below contained too many characters.


The Town Planning Statement submitted by URS on behalf of Galliford Try Plc makes much of the fact that the proposed building is designed to be Brent Council’s southern hub (at para.1 – Introduction): 

‘The proposed new Cultural Centre represents a flagship scheme for Brent Council, to act as a southern counterpoint to the new Civic Centre in Wembley to the north.’ 

This approach appears to have blinded both Brent’s Regeneration Department and the developer to an important difference between the Wembley and Willesden Green sites.

Under the Brent’s LDF Core Strategy for planning, Wembley is the main growth area (of five such areas) in the borough, and the site of the major Wembley City redevelopment within which the new Civic Centre is under construction. Willesden Green is not one of the Core Strategy’s growth areas, but a District Centre, where Brent’s ‘Protection and Conservation’ policy applies. At para.5.12 the Core Strategy says: 

‘As well as areas where growth and change can be focused and encouraged, there are also extensive parts of the borough that need to be protected and conserved, especially the suburban character. This relates largely to the character of particular built areas, such as the borough's 22 designated conservation areas ....’

The Core Policy which sets out to maintain ‘the local character of Brent’ is CP17. In particular, this states: 

The distinctive suburban character of Brent will be protected from inappropriate development.’ 

Policy CP17 is not referred to in section 5.3 of the URS Town Planning Statement among ‘Those Core Strategy policies which are considered relevant to the development proposals’. Given the care which URS appear to have taken to mention any core policies which might possibly appear to support their client’s proposed development, this suggests a desire not to bring this particular relevant policy to the attention of the Planning Committee.

One of the important points which must be put to Brent’s Planning Committee for them to consider and decide is whether the proposals in this planning application amount to ‘inappropriate development’. It is difficult to justify the proposed building of 95 new homes, in blocks up to 5 storeys high, on a site of only around half an acre, as protecting the ‘distinctive suburban character’ of Willesden Green.


Brent Council’s Core Strategy for planning includes Part 5 “Planning for More and Better Housing”. At para.5.72 this states: ‘Maintaining and providing a balanced housing stock is a key Core Strategy housing objective’, which is set out in Core Policy CP21 as including:

‘An appropriate range and mix of self contained accommodation types and sizes, including family sized accommodation (capable of providing three or more bedrooms) on suitable sites providing ten or more homes’.  

Part 5 of the Core Strategy goes on to look at affordable housing, showing that affordable housing is much needed in the borough, and that: 

‘Brent has a particular need for larger family affordable housing, particularly for social rental, as the Brent Housing Needs Survey 2004 indicated that 43% of the affordable housing requirement is for 3-4 bedrooms.’

Brent’s Core Strategy acknowledges that targets for affordable housing come under the Mayor of London’s London Plan. It notes that: 

‘The Examination in Public of the London Plan concluded that  the expectation that all sites in London with a capacity for 10 or more homes should contribute to the overall strategic objective that 50% of London's new housing should be affordable was a robust policy assumption applicable to all boroughs.’ 

Section 3 of The London Plan (2011) deals with housing, and at para.3.9 it sets out a strategic target that 50% of new housing in developments of 10 or more homes should be affordable, and that 70% of affordable housing should be social housing.

Galliford Try’s original planning application (ref.12/1190) in May 2012 included 92 new homes, none of them affordable homes, comprising 40 x 1-bed, 48 x 2-bed and 4 x 3-bed units. This revised application is even further away from both Brent’s own housing and planning policies, and from the London Plan, because as well as again proposing no affordable housing it includes 95 new homes with none of them family sized ( 46 x 1-bed and 49 x 2-bed).

The reasons put forward as to why the planning application (ref.12/2924) should be accepted despite failing to meet planning policies on both affordable housing and providing family sized homes are claimed to be given in the Town Planning Statement submitted by URS (Galliford Try’s planning agents) in support of the application. 

At para.6.1, on affordable housing, this says: 

‘In this particular case, the objective is to deliver significant public benefits that consist principally of a new cultural centre in a building of a design that will make a substantial improvement to the local townscape and surrounding public realm, all at no cost to the taxpayer. In these circumstances it will not be possible to provide affordable housing within the scheme. A Viability Assessment, demonstrating as much will be submitted in support of the application in due course.’

On the family sized accommodation point, para.6.1 says: 

‘The proposed development seeks to provide 95 dwellings within attractive blocks comprising 1 and 2 bed apartments. As the Cultural Centre is to be funded entirely by the sale of the residential units, no 3 bed apartments are provided within the scheme due to viability issues’.

Before Brent’s Planning Committee could consider approving proposals which so clearly breach planning policies, they would need to see in full, and be satisfied by, an independent Viability Assessment which URS promised to submit. What they have actually received is a Viability Statement dated 13 November 2012 prepared by URS themselves (see “WGCC-ViabliityExecSummaryNov2012” near the bottom of the online document menu). This states that: 

‘A Financial Viability Assessment has been carried out by specialist assessors BNP Paribas Real Estate, at the request of the Greater London Authority. The financial results are confidential and, therefore, cannot be circulated publicly.’ 

URS then go on to give a brief summary of what they claim the assessment contains, saying that:
‘The report concludes that the development cannot provide both the cultural centre as well as affordable housing, as this would render the scheme unviable.’

What has been supplied is not an independent assessment, and not even a statement made by the specialist firm who are said to have made that assessment. Brent’s planners and Planning Committee should not accept the assurances of URS on this matter. In the absence of clear and convincing justification, the application fails to meet key planning policies on housing, and should be rejected.