|Outside Brent Town Hall yesterday evening|
|The public gallery|
There was standing room only at Brent Town Hall last night when the Keep Willesden Green Campaign presented their petition to the Brent Council Executive.
Miki Berenji, in a speech frequently interrupted by prolonged applause, accused the Council of treating residents as if they were little children who didn't know what was good for them. After detailing the issues including poor consultation, loss of the old Victorian Library, public space and the the Willesden Bookshop she said that residents wanted a say in what was to be their Cultural Centre. Compared with the current library centre there was no gain for residents.
Miki said that campaigners knew that as far as the Council is concerned it is a matter of come along, say your piece, but our minds are already made up. Clearly the Campaign was not going to let the matter rest there.
The audience was infuriated when Cllr George Crane, lead member for Regeneration n Major Projects, said that his personal view was that the Victorian Library had no architectural merit. His concessions on the possibility of a 'bookshop space in the cafeteria' , a small increase the outdoor space, and a 'celebration of the Victorian building' within the new building were greeted with derision.
Crane said that he saw no useful purpose in stopping and reflecting (he missed out the word 'listen') and said that the planning period would give an opportunity to reflect.
Two Liberal Democrat Councillors spoke on opposite sides of the debate. Cllr Gavin Sneddon supported the petitioners and said that the current disillusion with the Council could happen under any administration. He contrasted the fait accompli regarding Willesden Green development with the grass roots, from first principles involvement of local people with the Harlesden Town Plan.
He asked Ann John, as Brent Council has instigated the project, that no pressure (which is illegal) would be put on councillors on the Planning Committee to approve the developer's planning application.
Cllr Ann Hunter said that the petitioners represented only one side of local opinion and that there were other residents who were in favour of the scheme and wanted to look forward to the future. She had been told by previous councillors for the area that the 1980s building was itself a compromise because of the strong feelings local people had over the retention of the Victorian Library.
Ann John did not take the opportunity to give the assurance requested by Cllr Sneddon.