Monday, 26 June 2017

Has Gladstone Parade had its chips?

Not if local residents have their way. Six hundred and sixtyone  people have signed a petition opposing the loss of the fish and chip shop on Gladstone Parade, Edgware Road, which they fear would go if the site is redeveloped and other ojections have been lodged including over-development of the site; loss of light, amenity and health; low level of affordable housing proposed, parking and the recurring theme in Brent of lack of consultation.

The planning application is due to be discussed at Wednesday’s Planning Committee and in a controversial move Cllr Muhammed Butt is due to visit Gladstone Parade this evening at 6pm. The move is controversial because the Planning Committee is independent of the Council by statute and political interference in its deliberations is illegal.  Butt was able to make representations in the Wembley Stadium application on the basis that he was representing residents in his Tokyngton ward - this is not the case with this application.

Responding to concerns over the potential loss of the pub and fish and chip shop Brent planners state:
The pub will be reprovided as well as two units that could potentially house a shop due to their use class and a unit will be provided that could provide a replacement fish and chip shop. 

Given that there are likely to be issues of affordability regarding the new units this leaves little certainty and representations against the application will be made on Wednesday.

Cllr Liz Dixon, responding to a resident’s objections wrote:

Thank you for taking the time to draft and send this comprehensive overview of your objections to the proposed redevelopment plan of Gladstone Parade.

I can reassure you that we have been following this development closely. We are acutely aware that many in the local community are extremely distressed as they anticipate the consequences of the new development. From my point of view I can see that the development in Barnet looms over the area and this must heighten the concern. That said there are some benefits to be had for the community with the new development apart from new housing ; there is space for the chip shop and the shop and the pub. 

Even limited social housing in non high rise is attractive in a borough which desperately need more social housing. As a local councillor most of my case work is focused on those who are homeless or overcrowded and we often have to send residents out of London.

We have visited the shops and visited the planning offices in the council to raise all the objections and to learn more about the project. They have modified the plans and there are facilities to accommodate the new shops which will be housed in any new development. However that may not be enough.

We are due to visit the shops with the Leader of the Council before the matter goes to planning to ensure we are all aware of the ongoing concerns of local residents like yourself.
Again thank you very much for taking the time to highlight local concerns
and issues.

The matter is before planning this week where the concerns will be heard and considered. I have been at planning meetings before and can vouch for the rigour of the offices in ensuring that they do take into consideration all the concerns. This is where the local community does have an opportunity to make their concerns heard. I agree with you that in light of the horrific tragedy at the Grenfell towers all councils must ensure they are really listening to their residents who have knowledge and well placed concerns such as those expressed in your email.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Neasden Festival Saturday July 1st 11am-4pm Neasden Lane/Cairnfield Avenue

The Neasden Festival will be arriving once again on the 1st July 2017 from 11am to 4pm on the corner of Neasden Lane and Cairnfield Avenue! From dance to history, from sport to faith, Neasden Festival aims to celebrate the creativity and diversity of the community. The festival is an opportunity for community groups across the Neasden area to share and show what they do.
There is no charge for community groups to have a stall at the festival, if you are interested in getting involved simply contact us by emailing or call 020 8452 7000.

Another high-rise development proposed for First Way, Wembley

Hot on the heels of plans to build a hotel on the site of Latif House in First Way, Wembley LINK comes a presentation to build flats on the site of Access Self Storage on the same road.

Brent Planning Committee on June 28th will see a presentation from developers aiming to build flats, stotage space and office space  on the site.

There is little information at this stage but the Committee item gives this outline. No decision will be made at the meeting but committee members will be able to ask questions.
Proposed demolition of existing building and erection of a mixed use scheme of approximately 448 residential units (build to rent), 6,000 sqm storage space and 1,000 sqm office space. The scheme currently has a breakdown of 21studio, 187 -bed 2 person, 41 x 2 -bed 3-person, 151 x 2-bed 4 person and 48 x 3-bed 5 person homes. Heights vary from 8 –22 storeys across five main blocks/buildings above a three storey podium.
I make that a maximum height of 25 storeys taking into account the three storey podium. The hotel proposed for Latif House was 'just' 16 storeys.

London Rivers Week: Balsam, Birding and Beer! Welsh Harp Tuesday

From Thames21

London Rivers Week: Balsam, Birding and Beer!

June 27 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm

In celebration of London Rivers Week join the Friends of the Welsh Harp for a session of Himalayan Balsam bashing. Finishing up at the hides for some birding and beer!

We’ll be tackling the forest of Himalayan Balsam on the Eastern Marsh of the Welsh Harp (Brent Reservoir) which is where the River Brent enters the reservoir. The area is well off the beaten track and is a hidden oasis teaming with wildlife. Because of the dense vegetation it is recommended to cover arms and legs and definitely don’t wear sandals!

Please get in touch if you’d like to come or for more info.

Under 16s must be accompanied by an adult.

Binoculars, beer and non alcoholic beverages will be provided
Meet 6pm by Cool Oak Lane Bridge, next to Woolmead Avenue.


June 27
6:00 pm - 8:30 pm


Daniella Levene


Saturday, 24 June 2017

Brent Council statement on high-rise blocks safety

Brent Council has posted the following statement on its website LINK:

High-rise safety in council blocks

Many residents living in high-rise blocks across the country will naturally be concerned so within Brent, the council and Brent Housing Partnership (BHP) have moved quickly to do extra checks and double checks of our high-rise blocks so that we are able to provide our residents with the reassurances they deserve. In Brent the facts are:
  • We have 37 high-rise blocks in Brent and all 37 are 100% fire risk assessment compliant.
  • We have never used Rydon Limited or Harley Facades Limited, the contractors who worked on Grenfell Tower, anywhere in Brent.
  • Estate inspectors and compliance experts have visited all 37 high rise blocks, including communal areas and exit routes to remove any remaining rubbish, bicycles and other hazards which could hinder access and exit in an emergency.
  • More than £10million has been spent over the past 4 years on measures to reduce the risk of fires in council run properties across the borough.
For details on all 37 high-rise blocks in Brent and the status of each of their fire risk assessments, please check the fire safety information here. [Ed: when I last accessed it this doesn't include Quintain development in Wembley or Octavia's Elizabeth House in Wembley High Road]

Council blocks with cladding

One high-rise block, Watling Gardens, has cladding. However, the cladding used is completely different to the cladding used at Grenfell Tower. We have double checked and the cladding is a non-combustible mineral wool material that would not promote the spread of flames externally and is in compliance with current British standards. However, we are not taking anything for granted and will also be commissioning our own independent checks on the cladding as well and report the results of this to residents in Watling Gardens as soon as possible.

Registered housing providers – high rise blocks

Aside from the assessments we have been carrying out across the Council’s own housing stock, we have also been in contact with all registered housing providers in Brent to ensure that the same thorough assessments are being carried out on their buildings as a matter of urgency, specifically on high-rise and cladded buildings. We have also asked them to communicate with residents to provide them with reassurance regarding their homes.

The list of registered providers in Brent is as follows: Family Mosaic, Notting Hill Housing, Hyde Housing, Genesis, Innisfree, JL Living, Catalyst, Metropolitan, Network Homes, Octavia, Origin Housing, Homegroup and L&Q Group. We will provide links to updates on this web page when they become available.

Private housing – high rise blocks

In terms of other private buildings and properties across the Borough, the main developer in Brent is Quintain who we contacted shortly after the Grenfell fire and they have confirmed that all of their new build residential blocks meet fire safety standards. We are waiting to hear back from other private developers in Brent and will provide links to updates on this page as they become available.

The council, as a planning authority, is not involved in assessing planning applications against fire safety as this is covered by other Government legislation, in this case, Building Control regulations. When a developer is building, they can choose whether to use the Council as building inspectors, or an accredited inspector. If they choose the latter, the council is not responsible for oversight of the work.

The council regularly reviews its fire risk assessments, servicing and maintenance programmes in all accommodation blocks and will continue to do so to ensure our residents are always kept safe. Once the findings from the Government’s emergency review into fire safety in tower blocks are known we will of-course review and, if needed, amend our fire management processes and strategy as a matter of urgency.

Duffy calls for special Full Brent Council meeting on post-Grenfell action

Cllr John Duffy has written to all Brent councillors seeking support for his call for a special Council meeting to review the situation in Brent following the Grenfell tragedy:
We are all aware of the fall out of the disaster of Grenfell Tower and the knock-on affect in Camden. Swiss Cottage is  not far from Kilburn and the issue is tangible on Kilburn High Road and is concerning residents.

I have spoken to officers who seem to be doing a reasonable job, however Brent have some decision we need to make particularly in South Kilburn and Stonebridge. 

I was shocked  when I saw the state of the internal repairs in the blocks in Camden, no fire protection on gas pipes and lack of maintenance on fire doors. Camden have questions to ask themselves who was doing the installation and who was signing it off.

Camden problems of poor maintenance maybe be reflected in our own maintenance programme. Therefore we need to take action, we also have to look at our regeneration programme and our housing stock to see if we can retro-fit sprinkler systems. I have heard on Sky News that Brent may be affected, but I have not heard anything from officers to confirm this.

We as a council need to meet to discuss options, like do we wish to ensure all new blocks in the regeneration areas are fitted with sprinklers, do we retro fit older blocks, the logistics of doing so, the cost  and the timetable. We also need to discuss our emergency planning operation to ensure we are able to decant residents ( we recently used in the evacuation plan around Brondesbury Park) and  do we have short and medium term accommodation available.

I am writing to the Mayor, Leader and CEO asking them to call an urgent meeting meeting for Monday 3rd July , this will allow officers to prepare an options report  to update councillors and allow councillors to ask  relevent questions and to look at options.

I am aware we are having a calendered meeting on the 11th of July, but I believe we need a dedicated meeting , without the usual political divisions. Janice Long sent us something recently about Social Housing in the aftermath, which highlight a lot of the problems we are about to face.

Octavia clarify safety situation regarding Elizabeth House in Wembley

Octavia Housing has clarified the situation regarding the safety of Elizabeth House in Wembley High Road.

The 120 foot high block of 115 apartments over 12 floors was built by Willmott Dixon who are responsible for many new builds in Brent.

The London Fire Brigade has told Octavia that they see no immediate or urgent concern over Elizabeth House.  Octavia, who met with residents yesterday, state there is no immediate need for removal of the building's cladding or evacuation of residents.  If it is decided to remove the cladding this may take a matter of months.  They will be keeping in close touch with residents and will keep them advised of any change in the situation.

A statement issued yesterday by Noel Brosnan, Octavia's Asset Management Director:
We were assured, and have since been reassured, that Elizabeth House meets all of the building regulations in place at the time. It has a variety of safety features including sprinklers in all flats and at the point of handover from the contractors, we also had a fire strategy drawn up, which the London Fire Brigade (LFB) had input into and final sign-off on.

Since hearing the news that some of the cladding used at Elizabeth House did not meet the highest standards set by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), we have followed all the procedures set out by the Department of Communities and Local Government. Our staff have been on site throughout the day and we have arranged 24//7 patrols to reassure residents. 

We have had an independent fire assessor visit the site and confirm that no immediate action is required. The London Fire Brigade have also visited the site and have confirmed that they have a good impression of the building and stated it was very well managed and so he can see no need to immediate or urgent concern. Residents should be reassured that we are doing, and will continue to do everything necessary to ensure their safety.

To date, we have been given no advice from external authorities, nor have our own inspections highlighted any urgent or high priority issues that require immediate action. We will continue to keep in contact with the relevant authorities and our residents and will take action necessary to ensure safety. 

To reiterate, we are surprised and dismayed and will be looking into this situation further over the coming days. Our number one priority remains the safety of our residents who we are sending regular updates to. We had a meeting with residents on site this evening.
Meanwhile Brent Council leader Muhummed Butt was reported by Sky News LINK with a not very illuminating statement:
Brent Council leader Muhammed Butt told Sky News the high-rise block in his area that failed the Government's fire safety test has been checked by the fire service and evacuation was not deemed necessary.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Lucas: May government has no majority and no mandate

Statement from Caroline Lucas, MP

Today’s Queen Speech comes at a time when Britain desperately needs a change of direction – yet all it contained was empty words from a hollowed out Government.

The criminal loss of life at Grenfell Tower and the latest terror attack at Finsbury Park have shown once again the importance of strong communities, the urgent need to invest in public services and the extent to which Britain values courage and compassion. 

Instead we have a morally and politically bankrupt Government - with no majority and no mandate.

The Tories and their DUP partners in crime have no meaningful plans to tackle climate change. They have refused to give our hard pressed NHS workers the pay rise they deserve. They have dodged the opportunity to protect EU nationals’ rights. And they have systematically failed in their duty to keep us safe in our homes and on the streets.

This is an administration utterly out of touch, a government running on empty, and a PM without a shred of authority.

As a Green MP, I’ll continue holding them to account and standing up for what matters – starting with a proposal for a major Environmental Protection Bill and a cross party amendment to the Queen’s Speech that unilaterally confirms that EU nationals living in the UK retain their rights to remain.

Quintain issues fire safety assurance for its highrise Wembley development

Quintain have issued the following statement in response to  enquiries about the safety of its high rise development in Wembley Park:
We take our health & safety obligations at Wembley Park extremely seriously and were deeply saddened to witness the terrible events at Grenfell Tower. We are building a large scale mixed use development and with that comes a responsibility to ensure the safety of all the workers, visitors and residents at Wembley Park.

All of our residential buildings are new build. None of our residential buildings are refurbishments and each building has a fire safety strategy that has been developed in conjunction with a leading fire specialist, Jeremy Gardner Associates, who we have worked with for over 10 years.

All of our buildings are fully compliant with building regulations and their designs were approved by both the London Borough of Brent Building Control and The London Fire Brigade.

We have used high quality building materials throughout our development at Wembley Park and as the owners of the 85 acre estate we have professional onsite management, including regular building inspections, fire risk assessment by independent professional fire risk assessors and tenant liaison.

Rydon Construction is on London Mayor's London Development Panel

Indro Sen addressing the recent UCU Congress

Open letter to the Mayor of London, in response to his open letter to the Prime Minister dated 18 June 2017 by Indro Sen, a friend and a caseworker of one of the  Grenfell Tower victims

Mayor of London
Mr. Sadiq Khan
City Hall
The Queen's Walk
London SE1 2AA
 20 June 2017
Dear Mr. Khan,

It is commendable that you have written your open letter highlighting, quite rightly, in my view, some of the concerns faced by poorer and powerless sections of our community of all colour, creed and political persuasion, who live in tower blocks up and down the country, whose voices of concern with regards to health and safety have not been heard by landlords for a long time.

My name is Indro Sen.  I taught in a college, the College of North West London in Brent for the last 11 years, and have been informed that one of our staff member who used to live in Grenfell Tower was released from hospital following the fire at her residence. She is currently staying in a hotel and awaits being rehoused permanently at a place of her choice. I hope those in power will carry out the promises given to her and other inhabitants of Grenfell Tower as well as those living in similar accommodation elsewhere. 

The reason for writing to you is because of what I have recently learnt about your plans to deliver affordable housing to Londoners in line with your election promise, which, in my view does not sit comfortably with the following passage in your open letter to the Prime Minister.  I quote the relevant section below.

You say under the sub heading:
Tower block safety

“Residents I spoke to are worried about the risk of this tragic incident happening elsewhere – particularly in tower blocks that have had similar cladding installed as part of renovations.

People are terrified that the same thing could happen to them. I raised this with Ministers on Wednesday and Thursday, and they agreed to lead coordinated efforts to ensure that all other tower blocks across the country are indeed safe.

This issue is not limited to the type of cladding fitted; the material it is attached to and how this has been achieved are also critical factors.”

What I have recently learnt is that you have set up a team of builders/constructors known as LDP (London Development Panel) LINK, which includes amongst its member Rydon Construction Limited, one of the contractors that have featured in newspaper reports as responsible for providing cladding around Grenfell Tower.

I believe it is a matter of public interest that your office discloses the process/due diligence carried out by your office in selecting this panel of constructors so that Londoners who might benefit from affordable housing will know that these constructors have been selected properly having carried out checks.

I note that you have urged the Prime Minister that the public enquiry produces an interim report. May I invite you to submit your selection procedure for this panel together with the names of 25 LDP members (or any additional members since their selection) to the panel of enquiry and further invite you to declare a moratorium on any building works or plans carried out by any of the LDP panel members until the interim public enquiry report makes clear findings of fact so that the public are assured that none of your panel members are in any way responsible for or contributed to the Grenfell tragedy. 

In addition you should investigate whether any of these LDP members have cut corners with regards to other high-rise buildings, or buildings used by Londoners as you have quite correctly, asked the Prime Minister to investigate the contractors and/or builders responsible for high rise buildings including Grenfell Tower on behalf of the residents.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you need any clarification with the subject matter of this letter.

Indro Sen

The LDP Panel from GLA website LINK

Monday, 19 June 2017

'Delay South Kilburn Masterplan until community has reviewed it,' request Granville and Carlton users

Leslie Barson and Deirdre Woods, representing the users of South Kilburn's Granville and Carlton Centres are unable to attend tonight's Cabinet meeting which will consider the Masterplan Supplementary Planning Document. They have submitted the following comments for consideration by the Cabinet and a request that the Cabinet delay acceptance of the plan to enable the community to review what should be their plan.

The South Kilburn Masterplan Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) is over 180 pages long over 3 sections. The people from South Kilburn were given 6 weeks to comment on this document which lays out the plans for their homes, parks, health, education, small businesses, and community services in the area for the next 10 -15 years. Each site is given 2 A4 pages in the document. The first half of the page gives the details about where the property is with the second half of the same page incorporating a short paragraph about each of these three issues: ‘Description’, ‘Justification’ and ‘Design Principles’. The second page gives a vague shadow drawing of a huge block or blocks in the place of the current buildings. 

1.   Firstly this is not an adequate amount of time or information for the community to read, understand , digest  and examine the implications of such a massive plan. This can be seen by the small number of community responses to the SPD. Surely changes of this magnitude cannot be accepted on the basis of numbers of responses  in double figures when there are over 8000 people living in the area?

2.   Secondly, all the buildings in the chapter called ‘Site Specific Principles’  are to be replaced with new buildings.  Much of the plans arguments for this demolition are simplistic and debatable such as there is a lack of clarity about what is the front or the back of the property” (Crane and Zangwill) or the property “is currently in a prominent gateway position and the current development does not capitalise on this” (William Dunbar and William Saville Houses). This needs to be properly examined, each building on its own merit, before lives are disrupted for years and changed forever.

3.   Thirdly, you are deciding on Monday 19 June 2017 that this SPD replaces the one was developed over some years WITH the South Kilburn Community and then voted on. How can a plan created by the Council and its consultants replace a plan voted on by residents? The 2005 SPD may need updating with changes to law occurring since the first was voted on but the scale and magnitude of the changes make this SPD beyond all recognition of the SK residents plan
Therefore I ask the Cabinet to please delay the acceptance of this plan and help support the community  to review THEIR 2005 Masterplan in a long term in-depth manner as befits a document of this size and importance and with such huge ramification for the residents of South Kilburn.

Leslie Barson and Deirdre Woods representing the Users of Granville and Carlton