Friday, 2 March 2012

Willesden Green Consultation: a shambolic sham?

We are gathering feedback from the individual consultation sessions that were held this week on the Willesden Green Regeneration. Individuals and small groups met with Brent Regeneration, Galliford Try, the project architect and Remarkable Public Relations.

It became clear that the Consultation Team acknowledged that the communications.consultation strategy thus far has been poor. However, they appeared confident about their ability to bring residents on side in a scheme which they felt was strong because of the zero cost to the council and the fact that, in their eyes, there was no alternative.

They said that the demolition of the Old Library was required in order to build the 90 plus flats behind the new building. They justified the lack of play space in the development by their expectation that as they would be one or two bedroomed flats there would be few children and thus no impact on local schools. There is of course no justification for such an assumption and many local families live in extremely over-crowded conditions.  None of the team lived in Willesden which is a real weakness in terms of local sensitivities.

Brent Regeneration appeared to give some ground on possibly bookshop space, according to some who attended, but this could not automatically be allocated the the Willesden Bookshop. It would have to be offered on the open market.

When the Team said that this was the beginning of the 'real consultation' a KWG supporter retorted that this was like discussing what kind of lock to put on a stable door long after the horse has bolted. When they were asked if the two day consultation had thrown up a single person who actually supported the plans, the ensuing silence said it all.

Consultees were assured that the trees would stay and there would be an application to move the bus stop. The Team were more confident that residents that the Planning Committees decision would be impartial and independent. One resident felt that the project architect was less than proud of the plans for the development and he suggested this was due to the constraints imposed on the developer.

Residents felt that often the Team were unable or unwilling to answer detailed questions on the scheme, including how the building would be managed and maintained on completion. Despite the loss of the car park, which will be built on, they confirmed that there will be NO public parking for the Cultural Centre - just 2  'mother and baby spaces' and 6 for the disabled. There would be no extra Pay and Display in the surrounding streets.

They were challenged that their plans amounted to a net loss to the neighbourhood of a landmark building and valued bookshop and a net gain of offices for Brent Council.

Asked about the status of this part of the consultation Remarkable PR replied that it would feed into the Community Involvement section of the planning application.

Following the controversies over Equality Impact Assessments in the legal proceedings and the need under the Equalities Act to ensure that no section of the community was discriminated against, it was surprising that the Teams recording of the age, ethnicity etc of consultees was haphazard with some residents reporting that there was little consistency in documenting demographic details. Some were asked to fill in a form and others were not.

One resident concluded, "Overall, I think the experience confirmed my suspicion that the consultation is a sham and I let them know that."

1 comment:

  1. Do we have any idea what kind of parking arrangements will be made for the 90 flats?


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