Friday, 18 October 2013

Invitation to Make Willesden Green launch on Wednesday 23rd October

Alex Colas
Alex Colas who was an active member of the Keep Willesden Green campaign has announced that he is going to stand in the 2014 local council elections as an independent candidate. His announcement is posted below for your information. Publication does not imply endorsement by  the cross-party/non-party Keep Willesden Green campaign.

Make Willesden Green is an independent, grassroots campaign for next year’s Brent Council elections. It is independent because it is not affiliated to any political party, and it is grassroots because its support stems from local residents who have been active in various local campaigns to save our schools, our libraries, our A&E departments and our community pub.

 The ‘Make’ in Willesden Green is all about emphasising the participation of ordinary residents in the public life of our neighbourhood. There is plenty of community activity in Willesden Green – some of it political; other less so. But it tends to be ignored by Brent Council and by our elected officers.

Make Willesden Green was set up over the summer by residents who feel unrepresented by local Councillors and mainstream parties, and who want to redress this imbalance. Our  aim is to make connections between local campaigns like Save the Queensbury, Save Gladstone Park School or Keep Willesden Green, and give them an electoral voice at the Council elections next year. This electoral platform emerges directly from the energies and ideas expressed around these campaigns, but it does not claim their exclusive representation. Instead, Make Willesden Green seeks to continue highlighting the democratic deficit in our Borough by  putting issues of  democracy, equality, sustainability, the defence of public realm and public services at the centre of the electoral campaign.

If you agree with most or even all of these aims, I would very much welcome your participation at the launch of Make Willesden Green on Wednesday 23 October 2013 from 6-7pm at the Queensbury Deli, 68 Walm Lane, NW2 4RA (the tube station end of the High Road). You will hear brief statements from local campaigners explaining why they think we need Make Willesden Green, and you will also get a chance to tell me, the candidate, what you feel our campaigning priorities should be.

We need to Make Willesden Green together.  It will only work if it is powered through the participation of local residents in whatever form you can offer: by publicly endorsing the platform, by helping to canvass neighbours, by offering to research policy ideas, by contributing funds, or simply by spreading the word.

I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday 23rd.

Friday, 5 July 2013

No poor people is selling point for new Willesden Green development

When we were campaigning against the Willesden Green library redevelopment we high-lighted that no affordable homes were to be built on the site once owned by Brent Council (ie our land). Brent Council argued that  Galliford Try/Linden Homes had to be sure of a profit in order to be able to build the Culltural Centre for zero cost to the Council so no affordable homes were included.

Now like a slap in the face for those on the Council's housing list, the estate agent advertising in Singapore has made the lack of affordable homes/key worker homes a selling point! Presumably this ensures prospective buyers have the right sort of neighbours.



Willesden Green is one of North London’s liveliest and most cosmopolitan areas, whose excellent Zone 2 Jubilee Line connections really set it apart.

The Library takes a prominent position on Willesden High Road, and sets new standards in contemporary accommodation for the area. This exciting scheme comprises four buildings, offering ninety-five highly specified 1 and 2 bedroom apartments, many with balconies or terraces. The development is gated and has underground parking for residents: always a bonus in London.

• Prominent position on Brondesbury Road and Willesden High Road
• Next door to the forthcoming Cultural Centre
• Within 3-minutes ride to Zone 2 London tube station or 5-minute walk
• Within walking distance to Queens Park
• Willesden High Street is thronged with shops, supermarkets (Sainsbury’s Supermarket is a few minutes’ walk from The Library), cafes and restaurants and is a few minutes’ walk from Brondesbury Park
• Excellent transport links – Zone 2 Jubilee Line with direct connections to key interchanges including Baker Street, Waterloo, London Bridge and Canary Wharf
• No key worker/affordable housing (my emphasis)
• High quality fixtures, fittings and finishes
• Fully fitted kitchen by Symphony with integrated appliances and granite worktops
• Estimated Selling Price: From £350k (SGD 6xxk)

Milne Place (Block A)
1 Bedroom: 545 sqft – 626 sqft
2 Bedroom: 759 sqft – 1005 sqft

Lewis Court (Block B)
1 Bedroom: 546 sqft – 554 sqft
2 Bedroom: 614 sqft – 862 sqft

Developer: Linden Homes and Green Urban
Address: 95 Willesden High Road, London, NW10 (Zone 2 on Jubilee Line)
Tenure: 999-years
Estd Completion: Summer / Winter 2014; 4Q 2014
Site Area: 83,958.50 sqft


Monday, 18 March 2013

Town Square registration rejected but some crumbs of comfort

The public inquiry report into the registration of the space outside Willesden Green Library took much longer than anticipated to be completed and it is far fuller than most. However the conclusion is that registration is not recommended despite the huge efforts of Martin Redston to convince the planning inspector that residents had a case:

Martin told his supporters:
By now you will have heard that the Inspector rejected my application for registration. His report of 211 pages is exceptionally long and detailed. Having read it carefully I would confirm that I think that he has been fair and reasonable in his treatment of all sides in the matter . ...He cannot recommend registration but he is sympathetic to our community in seeking to protect the open space. seems to me that there is a small crumb of comfort in that  if you read Mr Brown's various comments throughout his summary, conclusions and recommendations he considers that the square could be registered on the basis of a more defined local neighbourhood, and if free festivals (clarified by him to be a suitable pastime) in particular had been organised on a continuing basis for the entire 20 year period. He also implies that the council might like to consider the fact that they have actually increased the profile of the square in the last few years, it seems a shame to lose it now.
A report on the outcome can be read HERE on the Kilburn Times website

Monday, 25 February 2013

Is the WGLC planning decision final?

Philip Grant writes:

Although Brent (Regeneration Department?) were very quick to put out a triumphal press release last Friday, saying:

'the redevelopment of Willesden Green Library Centre (WGLC) took an important step forward last night (Thursday) when Brent Council's planning committee approved the plans,'

it is noticeable that (as at 4.30pm on Monday 25 February) neither the Democratic Services (Planning Committee) nor the Brent Planning Service  (ref. 12/2924) web pages have yet given details of any such decision.

The press release does go on to say:
'the proposals will now be put to the GLA and Secretary of State who need to give the go-ahead before Brent can formally give planning permission,'
but Galliford Try and Brent's Regeneration Department have another problem as well. At the Planning Committee meeting of 21 February there was a clear breach of Brent's own Planning Code of Practice (part of Brent Council's constitution), as a public register which Planning Officers have to sign if they have what could be regarded as a "prejudicial interest" was not available for inspection at the meeting.
I had specifically advised the Democratic Services Officer responsible for the meeting that I wished to inspect this register at the meeting, so that there is no excuse for it not being there (under the Code, it is meant to be there anyway). As a result, I complained to Brent's Chief Executive about this irregularity on 22 February, and it is currently being investigated by Fiona Ledden, Brent's Director of Legal Affairs. She has promised to report back later this week. As the Planning Committee were not made aware the possibility of "prejudicial Interest" in the reports and recommendations put before them at the meeting on 21 February, they may be asked to reconsider their decisions.

Friday, 22 February 2013

A campaign worth fighting

We may have lost last night but it was a campaign worth fighting and no one can doubt the passion and commitment of KWG. KWG did manage to retain some of the Victorian building but most importantly gave notice to the Council/Developers that the community won't be walked over.

I hope that the sense of community and common cause created by the campaign will continue in some form in the future.


Martin Francis

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Willesden Green planning application approved

After a 3 hour meeting Brent Planning Committee tonight approved the Galliford Try/Linden Homes (and some would add Brent Council) planning application for the building of 94 one and two bedroomed flats and a Cultural Centre on the site of Willesden Green Library and its car park. 7 members voted for the application, 2 against and 1 abstained.

Members of the public were given extra time to speak and made the objections that by now will be familiar to most readers about loss of public space, smaller overall library space (though this was disputed by the planners and architect), lack of parking space, housing density and height and the future of the Brent Archive.

Cllr Hunter and Cllr Lesley Jones spoke in favour of the redevelopment while Cllr Carol Shaw  opposed and presented a list of 9 issues that needed to be addressed.

A major new issue was the failure of the Council to produce the public register of interests and make it available for inspecting at the meeting. This should have been done under section 12 of Brent's Planning Code of Practice. Philip Grant has argued in an e-mail to Joe Kwateng that as the overall head of the Department which includes Planning and Development, Andy Donald (Director of Regenration and Major Projects), had signed the Development Agreement between Brent Council and Galliford Try. As a result, all of Brent's Planning Officers have an 'involvement' with Andy Donald and should have declared a prejudicial interest.

Chris Walker, head of Planning, said that the processes were kept separate. However the issue remains that the register should have been available for inspection and wasn't made available. This may have potential legal repercussions.

Crunch time for Willesden Green at Planning Committee tonight

Planners will decide the fate of our library and the construction of 94 flats tonight at Brent Town Hall - over 400 objections have been received and yet the council are still proposing to push it through planning.

The general public are welcome to attend so come along to the Town Hall at 6.30pm (starts 7pm sharp) Willesden Green Library Centre is the only thing on the Agenda  - so there is nothing else to sit through.

If you care what happens in Willesden do come along - this will  affect us all.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Planning Committee will only consider the planning application tomorrow - no powers on conservation consent

Philip Grant writes:
Anyone preparing for / attending the WGLC Planning Committee meeting on Thursday evening (21 February, 7pm at the Town Hall) need only concentrate on the planning application, ref. 12/2924, at item 2 on the agenda. No action needs to be taken on the conservation area consent application, ref. 12/2925, which is listed as item 3.
Chris Walker, the head of Brent's Planning Service, has now confirmed to me that a revised resolution will be put to the committee, if they decide to grant provisional consent to the planning application. This will simply refer the consent application to the Secretary of State for a decision, and will not claim in any way that Brent's Planning Committee is giving consent to that application, provisional or otherwise.
As I have written previously, and Mr Walker accepts, the only person who has authority to grant, or refuse, consent on application 12/2925 is the Secretary of State. Even to present arguments to Brent's Planning Committee against the conservation area consent application would be to suggest that they have a power in that matter which they do not actually have! If the application is referred to the Secretary of State, copies of all online or written comments on  both applications, whether for, or against, or general comments, will be forwarded to the National Planning Casework Unit, so that they can prepare a report for the SofS on which he can base his decision.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Public Inquiry Report ready in '7-10 days'

The Public Inquiry into the application for registration of the open space outside Willesden Green Library as a Town Square finished this afternoon.  Martin Redston and Philip Grant summed up with a detailed response to this morning's submission by Counsel for Galliford Try/Linden Homes and Brent Council.

Concluding Martin Redston said, "(In the 1980s) Brent Council wanted to put the Green back into Wiillesden. Brent residents embraced it."

Paul Brown QC, the inspector who held the inquiry said that he would  priortitise the report and expected his writing up to take 7-10 days and commented that he couldn't guarantee it by Friday of next week, "If it takes longer it is because I want to get it right."

The Special Planning Committee considering the Willesden Green Planning Application has been scheduled for Thursday 21st February, before the report is likely to be ready.

Brown commended the public, who had attended every day of the 4 day inquiry, for sticking it out.

In turn I would commend Martin and Philip for the enormous amount of work they have done in preparing the case and presenting it to the Inquiry. As Paul Brown said they were doing it in their own time and were up against people whose paid job it was to represent objectors.

The Planning Committee Agenda is now on the council website. I suggest that anyone who was planning to speak should resubmit their request. LINK

Willesden Green Planning Application from fiasco to farce

 I got a Brent Council e-mail alert overnight which seemed to say that the Willesden Green development had been approved by the Planning Committee last night. The links led to the pages above and below. I rang Democratic Services at 9am this morning and they said the announcement was a mistake and had been withdrawn. I was amazed when I got the message that the Planning Committee would have the audacity to consider the application after announcing the items deferral.

This is developing into a farce!

Decision details

Willesden Green Library Centre, 95 High Road, London, NW10 2SF (Ref. 12/2924)

Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No


Grant planning permission in principle but delegate final determination of the application to the Assistant Director (Planning & Development) subject to conditions and informatives and;
(a)       taking into account any further representations received on or before the 14th February 2013;
(b)       any direction by the Mayor of London to refuse the application. In accordance with Article 5 of the Town & Country Planning (Mayor of London) Order 2008 following the Council’s determination of this application, the Mayor is allowed 14 days to decide whether to allow the draft decision to proceed unchanged or direct the Council under Article 6 to refuse the application;
(c)       satisfactory prior completion of a Section 106(s) under the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 and/or other form(s) of agreement/undertaking in order to secure the S106 matters as detailed in this report.

Publication date: 13/02/2013
Date of decision: 13/02/2013
Decided at meeting: 13/02/2013 - Planning Committee
Accompanying Documents:

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Reasons for deferral or even pulling out?

Philip Grant writes:
I have just received the following email, which gives at least one "technical reason" why the two WGLC applications have been deferred from the meeting on Wednesday 13 February, although it suggests that there is still some doubt over whether the new meeting will be on Thursday 21 February.
Dear Mr Grant 
You will hopefully have been notified earlier today that both applications have been deferred for consideration tomorrow and instead will be reported to a future meeting.  The date of the meeting will be notified to all who have expressed views on the application including yourself. 
One of the consequences of deferral will be to allow amendment and updates to the reports including reference to the Secretary of State on the Conservation Consent item.  I will update you once this has been done. 
Kind regards 
Chris WalkerAssistant Director (Planning & Development)
This reply follows exchanges of emails I have had with Mr Walker since the Planning Officer's report on the Conservation Area Consent application (12/2925) appeared on the Planning Committee agenda website.
I had pointed out that the recommendation made in the report, that Planning Committee should resolve to agree the Consent application in principle was unlawful, as only the Secretary of State, not Brent's Planning Committee, has authority to give any decision on this application. This had been agreed by Mr Walker, on behalf of then Chief Executive Gareth Daniel, as far back as May 2012, and Mr Walker had confirmed in November 2012, that this still applied to the new application for consent to partial demolition of the 1894 Library building.
All that is actually needed on this application is a brief report to Planning Committee, advising them that they need to refer it to the Secretary of State, and making provision for Mr Walker to implement the SoS's decision once he has made it.
Although the meeting may only be deferred for a week, it means that the proposed redevelopment of WGLC will not have received planning permission by the first anniversary of the Development Agreement between Brent Council and Galliford Try (signed 15 February 2012). This means that either party can now cancel that agreement, as planning approval within twelve months was a "condition precedent". It does not mean that either of them will pull out, but it may be worth mentioning this to your local councillors as an option they may like to consider, to stop wasting even more money on this ill-considered project.

Willesden Green planning application deferred to February 21st

The Galliford Try planning application for the Wiillesden Green flats and library development has been deferred until February 21st for 'technical reasons'.  KWG campaigners have raised various issues about the legal status of the  application over the last week or so.

The email from Democratic Services to councillors on the Planning Committee is below:
Dear Member,

Due to technical reasons, the planning applications for Willesden Green Library (references 12/2924 and 12/2925) will be deferred from tomorrow night’s meeting.  As the applications will still need to be considered at the earliest possible time following tomorrow’s meeting, the Chair has asked me to confirm your availability on Thursday 21 February 2013 for the special meeting.

If for any reason you will not be able to attend the meeting please consider asking your alternate. I would appreciate it if you could respond to this request at the earliest opportunity preferably before 10:00am tomorrow morning.

Joe Kwateng

Democratic Services Officer

Legal & Procurement Department

( Direct Line: 020 8937 1354

Council says that Galliford Try's WGLC planning application is valid

Philip Grant writes:

I received an emailed letter on Monday evening from Brent's chief legal officer, Fiona Ledden, confirming the chief planning officer's view that Galliford Try's revised planning application (12/2924) is valid, despite its red site boundary line enclosing a larger area than that agreed by Brent's Executive  in January 2012, and which was the basis of the site to be used for the proposed redevelopment.
Her letter contains a new and interesting reason for why the site boundary was changed. She now says that: 'the Council as “Local Planning Authority” needed to re-define the site boundary due to highway considerations.' Last week Galliford Try told the local "Observer" newspaper that they had submitted new site boundary plans, at the request of council officers, because they 'will be undertaking significant landscaping improvements to the area around the cultural centre, including a section of Grange Road, to the benefit of the local community.'
Brent's spokesperson told the newspaper that 'the re-consultation was undertaken because of a technical boundary change' which did not actually affect the proposed works which would be carried out. Fiona Ledden added in her letter to me: 'You will appreciate it is not uncommon for an application of this type to have subsequent minor revisions where necessary.'
So, it was all a misunderstanding (!?). I will take this opportunity to pass on a message of reassurance that Ms Ledden gave me:
'The Council is dealing with a complex planning application. It has two distinct roles in the matter, namely as “local planning authority” and “landowner”. With reference to the former, may I take this opportunity to reassure you that as the Council’s Monitoring Officer, my role is to ensure that due process and transparency is followed by the Council throughout the planning regime having regard to planning policy government guidance and statute, namely the various provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.'
We can all go along to the Planning Committee meeting on Wednesday evening, confident that the planning application will be dealt with fairly and openly.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Willesden Town Square Inquiry opens today - public welcome

The Public Inquiry into the application to register the space outside Willesden Green Library a Town Square opens this morning at 10am on the 1st floor of the Willesden Green Library Centre.

The public are welcome to attend.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Is the proposed library building big enough?

Residents speak out on unaffordable housing and 'bogus' letters

Brent Planning Committee hear from residents on site visit

Residents gatherered at Willesden Green library this morning to show their concern to members of the Planning Committee who were paying a site visit prior to their decision on the planning application which will be made on Wednesday.

Residents were able to put a number of points and questions to planning officers and the developer. Among issues raised were:
  • The decision being made before the outcome of the Town Square Inquiry is known and before the planning consultation period ends on February 14th
  • The 'dodgy' support letters (see this week's Kilburn Times) that appear to have been solicited by the developer
  • The smaller area of the new centre compared with the old and the erroneous inclusion of access areas in the calculation of the area of the new centre
  • The loss of parking space for visitors to the new centre, especially if it is intended to hold major cultural events there
  • The loss of natural light to the terraced houses on the roads on either side of the development
  • Misleading drawings (see below) which misrepresent the scale of the development
  • The aesthetic damage to the conservation area of an out of scale development
  • Asset striping of public land by the developer with Council support
  • Despite the huge housing list in the borough none of the new housing will be affordable 
  • Council action and statements appeared to indicate pre-determination
A true representation of scale?
Delivering our messages
This area will be flats

This house and its neighbours will be over-shadowed by flats
Marking the spot in the present library where the flats will end
 It seemed towards the end of the visit that councillors had still not been given a true idea of the dimensions, particularly the height, of the new housing development and its domination of  the conservation area.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Gather at Willesden Green Library on Saturday to show your concern

Please gather at Willesden Green Library tomorrow (Saturday February 9th) to show your concern when the members of the Planning Committee pay a site visit at 9.45am ahead of the Planning Committee decision on the redevelopment.
The Council has recently changed the committee rules in a way that "applications may not be discussed at that time”. However at the end of the visit "the applicant and a representative of the objectors may briefly draw attention to any aspect of the site that is relevant”. It would be good to have a significant number of people present at that, including children, if possible.
The non-statutory public inquiry into the application to register the land at the front of the Library as public space will be at the Library on Monday 11th February at 10am.

The planning meeting to decide on the development is still on for Feb 13th. (
7pm at Brent Town Hall, items 6 & 7 on the agenda). Rather oddly as the enquiry mentioned above won’t have finished till the day after, and also the ' consultation' period won't be over till 14th February!!! (Happy Valentines Day from Brent Council)


Validity of Galliford Try planning application site still an open issue

Wiembley and Willesden Observer February 7th 2013

Philip Grant writes: 
Despite Galliford Try saying that 'this claim is completely misleading', and a Brent Council spokesperson saying 'we regard the application as valid', the issue highlighted in yesterday's "Wembley & Willesden Observer" (above) has not gone away.
When Brent Planning Service sent a response (see: "Formal challenge issued on validity of Willesden Green planning application", 23 January, below) earlier this week, they would not even acknowledge that the application which they validated on 2 November 2012 was, in fact, invalid. Although they said that the revised plans which Galliford Try submitted to "correct" the application were now valid, they did not answer the point which was raised, that the site plan includes a larger area than that actually agreed by Brent's Executive and included in the Development Agreement.
Dissatisfied with that reply, I referred the matter to Brent's Acting Chief Executive, Christine Gilbert, on Wednesday, as the matter is too important to allow it to be swept under the carpet. As far as I am aware, Brent's Executive has not agreed that the site boundary can be extended. If any Council Officer has agreed it, or has allowed it to be done without raising any objection, what authority do they have for this? It will be interesting to see whether the Executive is asked to approve the larger site, by way of an emergency item at the end of next Monday's already busy agenda, "just to be on the safe side".
The extra 1180 square metres added to the Willesden Green Library Centre development site is not a "land grab", in as far as the land will remain in Brent's ownership, but the fact that Galliford Try are now showing a larger site than that agreed by Brent's Executive is there for all to see, in black and red. There needs to be transparency about what is going on here, and whether or not it has been validly authorised. If it has not, then proper procedures need to be followed.
Plan A, Site Plan,Brent Executive Jan 2012        Plan B, Revised Site Plan, Galliford Try Dec 2012

Butt: developers will deliver a better and brighter Brent

Cllr Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, was questioned last night at the Town Hall meeting about the Willesden Green development. He was asked about the Council's close relationship with developers and the statement that there was a 'presumption in favour of development.'  Furthermore, wasn't Brent Council the co-developer with Galliford Try at Willesden Green?

He replied:

It's the developers who will help us deliver our vision for Brent:  a better and brighter Brent.

Fiona Ledden, director of Procurement and Legal, said that she was confident that Brent has a robust Planning Committee.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Still time to object to the Willesden Walrus

There will be a visit to the Willesden Green Library by the Planning Committee on 9th February at 9.45am.. There is still time to send in objections to both Planning Applications 12/2924 and 12/2925 in response to the Planning officer's report. See KWG blog spot below

Link for objection and then click on the "comment on this application" link to leave comment.

Planning Committee site visit to WGLC on February 9th

Please note that there will be a Planning Committee site visit on Saturday 9th February at 9.45am to Willesden Green Library Centre, Public Square and Car Park. Apparently the Council has just changed the committee rules in a way that "applications may not be discussed at that time". However at the end of the visit " the applicant and a representative of the objectors may briefly draw attention to any aspect of the site that is relevant...

Friday, 1 February 2013

Brent Council goes ahead with tabling Willesden Green planning application before submission deadline and Public Inquiry ends

Brent Planning Committee is to consider the planning application for the Willesden Green Cultural Centre on February 13th despite the Public Inquiry for the Willesden Town Centre continuing until February 14th.  This is also the final date for submissions on the planning application.

The Council get over this little problem by recommending that the Committee (which is supposed to be independent of the Council) grant consent in principle and delegate the final decision to the Deputy Director of Planning and Development who will make the decision:
(a) taking into account any further representations received on or before the 14th February 2013;
(b) any direction by the Mayor of London to refuse the application. In accordance with Article 5 of the Town & Country Planning (Mayor of London) Order 2008 following the Council’s determination of this application, the Mayor is allowed 14 days to decide whether to allow the draft decision to proceed unchanged or direct the Council under Article 6 to refuse the application;
(c) Satisfactory prior completion of a Section 106(s) under the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 and/or other form(s) of agreement/undertaking in order to secure the S106 matters as detailed in this report
and for the conservation area consent:
 (b) any direction by the National Planning Casework Unit, the Secretary of State having considered the matter, to refuse the application

The Officer's reports are available below:

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Galliford Try the soft soap on land grab

Thanks to James Thurber
 In response to our 'land grab' story below Linden Homes released the following statement:

+++STOP PRESS: Galliford Try Statement in response to recent land acquisition claim

 ‘This claim is completely misleading - Galliford Try is not receiving or acquiring any further land from Brent Council.

We were asked by officers, just before Christmas, to resubmit drawings for the planning application. Those revised drawings show an amended red line around the development site which reflects the fact that Galliford Try will be undertaking significant landscaping improvements to the area around the Cultural Centre, including a section of Grange Road, to the benefit of the local community. Consultees have been informed of this change in line with statutory planning procedure.’
 Kate Spence has issued the following rejoinder:
The original area of the WGCC site allocated for WGCC works and attendant housing scheme was clearly defined by an edged and cross-hatched area on Plan A and presented to an Exec committee in Jan 2012.
The brief from Brent Council to the tendering developers and the agreement signed with Galliford Try required the provision of an improved public realm WITHIN the constraints of this hatched area. The brief required parking spaces for 8 cars, 2 library vans and cycle parking. It also required good out door amenity for children and teens. There was never an agreement that the boundaries of the site could be expanded in order to provide these essential requirements.
Currently the play provision for younger children on the site is 50 sq m of safe, fenced play ground. The land at the end of Grange Road is a safe, calm pedestrianised highway giving the benefit of uncluttered and neutral space facilitating cohesion to the High Road.  This is now to be cluttered by cycle parking and pavement play interventions which should have been accommodated within the agreed site leaving a calm area at the High Road end of Grange Road. 
We would welcome an improved public realm. There is nothing that the adjacencies of a cycle route, pavement play interventions and reduced pedestrian highway offer as an improvement to the stretch of land at the end of Grange Road. 
If there had been a smaller area of land made available for housing, then there would have been sufficient space to include these essential requirements within the agreed red boundary.  There should also be provision for 8 parking spaces on the site. 
The brief was written to protect public interest. Surely, Brent Council cannot approve a scheme that so clearly deviates from the agreed contract and their own brief.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Formal challenge issued on validity of Willesden Green planning application

 This is the text of an email sent by Philip Grant to Chris Walker, Brent's Assistant Director Planning and Development, on 23 January 2013:-

REF. 12/2924

Further to my email yesterday, forwarding a copy of an email I had sent to Andy Bates,  I am writing to formally question the validity of planning application 12/2924 (made in the name of Galliford Try Plc) for the proposed redevelopment of Willesden Green Library Centre.

This application was received by Brent Planning Service on 2 November 2012, and validated on the same day, even though it took until 15 November to load all of the supporting documents onto your website. At some later stage, however, one of your Planning Officers either realised, or had brought to their attention by a comment made in respect of the application, that this application, as it stood, was not a valid one.

Having reviewed the Department of Communities and Local Government document "Guidance on Information Requirements and Validation" via the Planning Portal website, I can see why this application, as submitted, was not valid.
  • Paragraph 40 makes clear that among 'the information required to make a valid planning application' is the 'mandatory national information requirements specified in the GDPO.'
  • Para. 44 says: 'The GDPO requires applicants to submit “a plan which identifies the land to which the application relates”. This is interpreted as a location plan and a site plan.'
  • Para. 46 states: 'The application site should be edged clearly with a red line. It should include all land necessary to carry out the proposed development – for example, land required for access to the site from a public highway, visibility splays, landscaping, car parking and open areas around buildings.'
The site plan originally submitted failed to include all of the land necessary to carry out the proposed development, because it did not, among other things, include land in Grange Road on which development forming an integral part of the application proposals would be carried out.

Having discovered that an application which had been treated as valid was in fact invalid, it appears that the applicant was invited by one of your Planning Officers to "correct" the site plan. As Andy Bates explained to me in his email of 21 January:

'I am happy to confirm that ... the revised plans amended the red line to include all the land that forms the application site. Previously, the northern end of Grange Road was shown as being the subject of future highway works that formed part of the development site, but not within the red line. Planning Officers requested that this site plan be corrected and it was on this basis that the new batch of plans was submitted.'
As a result, revised plans were submitted, including site plans with a new red line site boundary, just before Christmas 2012, with the revised site plans uploaded onto your website on 24 December 2012.  This revised application must therefore be treated as replacing the invalid application of 2 November 2012.

The question now shifts to whether this revised application is valid. On the technical grounds that the revised site plan now 'includes all land necessary to carry out the proposed development', it would appear to be valid, but my email yesterday to Andy Bates highlighted a further point. For ease of reference, I will repeat the main points of my argument on this aspect of the "site plan".

The site plan showing the site available to the proposed development partner for the Willesden Green Library Centre redevelopment was shown as plan A at Appendix 1 of the report by Andrew Donald, Director of Regeneration and Major Projects, to Brent's Executive on 16 January 2012. In that report, Mr Donald made specific reference to the red line site boundary, as follows:

4.18 Following the Executive approval of February 2011 the Council also reviewed the red line site boundary of the site. In order to maximise viability it was decided to incorporate Chambers Lane - the land marked crossed hatched black on plan C at Appendix 1 - within the WGLC site, as shown edged black in the plan A at Appendix 1. In February 2011 the Executive had previously authorised the Assistant Director of Regeneration & Major Projects (Property & Assets) to dispose of the land at Chambers Lane Willesden Green shown crossed edged black on plan C at Appendix 1 with vacant possession by way of auction.

4.19 In June 2011, having defined the site and the Council's requirements for the cultural centre, a tender process was followed in accordance with the HCA DPP Framework procurement procedures, a framework which the HCA has set up already under the EU procurement rules.
This extract confirms that the "defined" site marked by the red line (as edged and cross hatched in black on Plan A) was the redevelopment site on offer to the developer. Brent Executive's decision on this point (from item 5, Willesden Green Redevelopment Project, of the minutes of their meeting on 16 January 2012) is recorded as:

'that the Director of Regeneration and Major Projects in consultation with Director of Legal & Procurement be authorised to award and enter into a Development Agreement with Galliford Try Plc in respect of the Willesden Green Library Centre site as shown crossed hatched black in the plan A at Appendix 1; such agreement to provide for the acquisition of the land as shown edged blue and green in the plan B at Appendix 1 and the development of a new cultural centre within the land as shown edged orange in the plan B at Appendix 1.'
You will note that the Executive only authorised an agreement with Galliford Try Plc 'in respect of the Willesden Green Library Centre site as shown cross hatched black in the plan A at Appendix 1'. The original site plan submitted for this application on 2 November 2012 did show a red line boundary which matched that approved by Brent's Executive.

I am not aware of any further authority given by Brent's Executive to allow the red boundary line to be altered in order to enlarge the site. What appears to have happened is that Galliford Try Plc and Brent's Regeneration Department have failed to fit all of the "Council Works" required by their Development Agreement onto the 2170 square metres of the 7795 sqm Willesden Green Library Centre site which was allocated as the land for those works. In order to "deliver" those works, they have moved some of the proposed facilities onto public highway land at the north end of Grange Road, outside of the site boundary.

Although the "correction" to the red site boundary line contained in the revised plans brings all of the proposed development within the red line on the site plan, that site plan does not show the site boundary as put forward by the Director of Regeneration and Major Projects, agreed by Brent's Executive, and set out in the Development Agreement. I would submit that the revised application of around 24 December 2012, which replaced the invalid application of 2 November 2012, is itself invalid, because it purports to show a site boundary which is not the actual site boundary.

I will forward a copy of this email to Joe Kwateng, at Democratic Services, so that he can consider whether this is a valid application which should go forward to Planning Committee. I will also ask him to consider whether, if it is valid, it can go before that Committee on Wednesday 13 February, as Public Notice of the revised application will not be published in the local press until tomorrow, 24 January 2013, so that the extended Public Consultation Period will not end until 14 February 2013.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Town Square is heart of Willesden Wassail

Willesden High Road shops were blessed and sang to by more than 100 residents as part of an ancient ritual, which returned to Willesden Green this weekend.

The Willesden Wassail saw residents joined by a team of spoken word artists as they marched down High Road to honour their local food providers on Sunday.

Wassailing is a tradition dating back to pre-Christian times in which a group of people sang a traditional winter song to their weather-beaten apple trees in order to encourage a good harvest for the year ahead.

The modern event, which takes place every year, sees residents do the same but for their local high street food providers.

Rachel Rose-Reid, who organised the event, expressed the importance of keeping to the tradition.
She said::
Small acts of kindness and appreciation can make a lot of difference, there’s always a good reaction from shopkeepers and we always stop at a new shops as well. 
I’ve learned so much from shopping there, these are the people who create a local community so it’s important to recognise them.
The festival then moves onto the town square outside Willesden Library where residents decorate the trees that line the area.

The square is currently subject of a bid by campaign group Keep Willesden Green who want it to be given Town Square public status.
Ms Rose-Reid added:
The square is at the heart of our area and in big cities there are fewer and fewer community spaces.It’s at the heart of the Wassail and it’s incredible to have a space where we can do this sort of thing.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Brent Council gives more Willesden land away to developers

Martin Redston writes:

Brent Council have made a last minute decision to give away yet further Conservation Area High Road space to facilitate private housing development and assist Galliford Try in maximising profit. 

We should object to the inadequate children's play area, cycle parking/ cycle route, outreach/ library lorry parking (and reversing) and parent and child parking bay, all of which are to be squeezed in together in the Grange Road strip. This is not a well considered plan. There will also be a considerable impact on privacy of residents in Grange Road, houses 1-15.

The area agreed by Brent Council in Jan 2012, as developable land, has been the subject of recent campaigns as residents believe, amongst other concerns, that the Town Square Conservation area in front of the 1980's library should not be used at all to facilitate private housing development. Yet again, this is a cynical 'land grab' by the developer in collusion with Brent Council who have fiddled development guidelines in order to generate funds.

 The Planning Application shows development in the area at the High Road end of Grange Road but these proposals were outside the agreed boundary of the Application. The brief was for the scheme to include good play space and cycle parking within the hatched area defined in Jan '12. Instead of requesting that the plans are revised by Galliford Try, the Council has simply revised the boundary and given away the last scrap of Town Square to the private property developer. 

Friday, 18 January 2013

Willesden Green planning application delayed further - more time for your comments

The details for application 12/2924 on the Brent Planning website have been amended today, and now state:
This application was advertised on 24/01/2013 for the following reason:
Departure & affecting conservation area.
This case will be decided no earlier than 14/02/2013
It appears that, despite issuing a consultation letter on 27 December 2012 advising of the "Revised Proposal" it had received with a changed site boundary line, the Planning Service did not place a newspaper advertisement or on-site notices about it. This will now be advertised next week, with the consequence that the revised public consultation period will end on Thursday 14 February. This is the day after the Planning Committee meeting on 13 February, so that the planning application cannot now be considered until March 2013 at the earliest, and residents are free to carry on submitting comments.

There has been a further development on the Brent Planning website, with a whole batch of new "Revised Documents", mainly plans including detailed landscape plans for the Grange Road part of the enlarged site, attached to the planning application 12/2924 page. The conservation area consent application is also affected, with public consultation period also now extended until 14 February. Although no new application documents have been added to the 12/2925 page on the website yet, there is a copy of a new site notice

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Mystery of Brent Council support for WGLC planning application solved!

Philip Grant writes:-
Around Christmas time, a mysterious item was added to the comments section for the Willesden Green Library Centre application (ref. 12/2924) on the Brent Planning website:
    > 05/12/2012 - Brent Council , Town Hall , Forty Lane , Wembly , HA9 9HD . Support.
As Brent is, in reality, a joint applicant with Galliford Try Plc in this application, and also the Local Planning Authority, which needs to be seen to consider all planning applications fairly on proper planning grounds, this was a little worrying. I wrote straight away to the Planning Officer, Andy Bates, with the request

‘Please let me know, and make this information publicly available, who on behalf of Brent Council, and in what capacity, has submitted the Council's support for this application.’

I eventually received the following reply from Andy Bates on 16 January:

‘In terms of the point about the specific letter of support to which you refer, I have been able to ascertain what has happened. The correspondence has come from Ward Councillor Lesley Jones and her address has been entered as the Town Hall. It is this information that has been entered onto our database and which appears in the public view that interested parties can see. I am currently asking my colleagues in Technical Support to have a look at the way that the information is displayed in this particular case and I apologise it has taken as long as it has to clarify this particular point.’
So, the mystery has been solved, and it was all a mix-up by someone within the Planning and Development Department who did not know the difference between Brent Council and an individual Councillor. On the same day, the Brent Council entry above was deleted from the “View Comments” section of the Planning website, and replaced with:
Consultee comments:
> Cllr Lesley Jones , Member for Willesden Green Ward , Members Room , Brent Town Hall.

As a local Councillor, Lesley Jones counts as a “Statutory Consultee”, but her actual comments were not posted on the Planning website as they were sent by email. Luckily, when I called in at the Brent House One Stop Shop to look at some other planning documents on this application, a copy of her email was in the box. Brent's adopted Statement of Community Involvement says that representations received on planning matters will be published and made available, both online and at key locations, so that they can be read and considered by those who have also submitted comments and all other interested parties. I took a copy of the email, and this is available below, for any interested party to read and consider.

I wrote to Lesley Jones and suggested that she might want to publish hew views on her Council 'blog' ,as she had not yet shared them with her constituents, before they are made public elsewhere, 

I have received a reply from Cllr. Lesley Jones stating that  she has now put her planning application submission on her blog. She says:
'Could have put it on before but I get behind with updating my blog. Prefer to spend most time on case work for residents and following through with planning and conversion breaches in the ward.  Believe me, I do a lot!'

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Press letter on Willesden Town Square battle

Willesden and Wembley Observer 10.1.13

Zadie Smith attacks loss of Willesden Green public square as 'cultural vandalism'

The Evening Standard reports today that local author Zadie Smith has stepped ino the debate about the Willesden Town Square application:
A council that closed half its libraries wants to demolish another to make way for new homes, then rebuild it on a cherished public square.

Brent residents are fighting plans to build 100 flats on part of the Willesden Green Library Centre site and erect a “cultural centre” on land in front.

Author Zadie Smith, who grew up in the borough, attacked the scheme as “cultural vandalism” and said the square is one of the few public places where locals can meet for free.

In the New York Review of Books, she wrote about visiting the square when it hosted a French market, saying people were “simply standing around in the sunshine, like some kind of community”.

Protesters claim the plan will result in the loss of a community “breathing space” where local events are held. They have applied for the land to be recognised as a town square. A public inquiry will be held next month.
Martin Redston, leading the campaign, said: “The public square is essential as one of the last pieces of open space in Willesden Green. It is sunny, but sheltered by a lovely old plane tree and looks out on to the 1894 heritage of the old library. It is a place where shoppers and workers can rest, pause and reflect. It is a safe place where parents can let their kids play without straying into main roads.”
Brent, which closed six of its 12 libraries despite residents’ protests, plans to give part of the existing library site to developers in return for them funding the new building, and said it was an “innovative opportunity” to get a new facility without direct investment.