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.


  1. I am writing to formally question the validity of claims that you have actually been to Willesden Green before. Objection or support, this is a proposal which should be discussed/ argued between the local community; residents of Willesden Green, the people that live with the consequences day in and day out.

    1. Dear Anonymous,
      Although I live in Kingsbury, I have been a regular visitor to Willesden Green Library Centre since Brent Archives moved there three and a half years ago. I got involved in the proposals to redevelop the centre in February 2011, when I was invited to attend a focus group as a "User" of the Archives and Museum.
      As all the members of that focus group, the remainder of whom were local residents, said that the 1894 library building should be retained as part of any redevelopment, I was surprised when proposals were announced in January 2012 to demolish it. As an active local historian, I fought, as an individual alongside thousands of Willesden Green residents, to get the plans changed so that the historic building, so important to the streetscape of the High Road Conservation Area, would be retained.
      I agree that the most important people, who should be involved in the discussions over the future of this site, are the local community. When Brent's Regeneration Department, and the developer they have brought in, do not engage in any meaningful discussion with the residents of Willesden Green, I see nothing wrong with supporting them in their efforts to have a say in the future of their own area.
      Does this answer your formal question over the validity of my actions?
      Philip Grant.

  2. Well answered Phil!
    Anonymous is stating the bleeding obvious - on a website set up and representing views of ....the local community. It's a shame 'Anonymous' that you don't seem to have made your views heard at the many public meetings and 'consultations' where many of us showed our pretty faces. Where you at any of these?
    Alex Colas

  3. Alex,
    Do not worry, i have made my opinion heard - that i am personally happy with the revised scheme which, importantly, incorporates the historic library building. I say this on the basis that i believe the development will help Willesden Green in the long term, with regard to regeneration and encouraging improved commercial premises and urban realm on High Road. Having said that, i respect the views of those in opposition - everyone has their own slightly different agendas when it comes to things like this.
    Philip - As a regular user of the centre and being involved in the discussions from an early stage, of course you have a legitimate say in the development; my only concern being that you appear to have taken up more of a personal campaign, rather than 'supporting the residents of Willesden Green' through a heavily vocal presence in the media and through the Council, more so than the people who live's will be affected to a much greater extent, and so it appears more so than anyone part of Keep Willesden Green! No offense intended though, i recognise my opinion may be in the minority!

    1. Dear Anonymous,
      Thank you for your comments. I am pleased to see local people getting involved in the discussion on the future of Willesden Green, or any local area.
      I agree that I have probably had a higher profile in the local press, mainly through sending letters, but also by supplying information which is sometimes used, sometimes not. I probably have more time to do this because I am retired. I write to the local papers because I think it is important to keep issues like this in the public eye, so that people talk about them and hopefully contact their ward councillors, and the Planning Service, to get their views across. I also enjoy writing, and putting together a reasoned argument based on factual evidence. You may not agree with what I say, and you are doing the right thing by giving your views as well.
      There are members of KWG who have questioned why I act "personally", rather than as part of their group. The answer that I have given them, and now give you, is that I think I can be more help to the campaign as an individual and an ally.
      Please carry on being involved, as I am sure you have the best interests of Willesden Green at heart - and you live there. Best wishes,
      Philip Grant.

  4. Anonymous - like Phil, I'm glad you've made your opinion heard as a local resident. Respecting and understanding opposing views is a basic act of civility - as is, incidentally, identifying oneself ....
    My main problem is not with your own views, but those of the majority of local residents - which have been dismissed pretty much at every turn.

  5. As previously, I suggest that Mr/Ms Anonymous and anybody else interested in the future of the WGLC site, attends the Public Inquiry Hearing organised by Brent Council that commences at 10am on Monday 11th February at Studio 2, First Floor WGLC. This is a legal inquiry into the fate of the Public Square at the front of the building, but Brent has expanded it into a complete consideration of the rationale for the entire flats/ WGCC scheme. It is free to attend. You can contact Brent's Solicitor at Brent Town Hall (details on notices near the Square and on P 30 of W + K Times last week)if you want to give evidence. It is free to attend and lasts for 4 days. That's democracy in action folks!

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