Thursday, 16 November 2017

25 metre tall lattice phone tower proposed for Welsh Harp

Click on image to enlarge
An application has been submitted to Brent Council for the erection of a 25 metre lattice tower phone mast at the Welsh Harp (Brent Reservoir).

The tower, which will rise above the nearby trees, will have six antenna and 2 dishes as well as associated furniture at ground level and a concrete compound at the base.

The applicants have told Brent planners that it is not possible to comply with their suggestion of a reduction to 20 metres as this wold weaken the enhanced 3G and new 4G signal carried by the equipment. They also reject landscaping at the base which planning officers had suggested to reduce the visual impact of the tower from Neasden Recreation Ground.

Comments are open until November 27th. Application Number 17/4597 LINK

Cemetery asbestos exposure being dealt with 'seriously and properly' by Brent Council

Carolyn Downs, Brent Council Chief Executive, has responded to Clrr Duffy's call for an independent investigation into the asbestos waste exposure at Paddington Cemetery. LINK

Ms Downs wrote:
The letter to you from Chris Whyte intended to make clear that we will ask internal audit to undertake an initial investigation and that dependent upon their findings we will consider whether to pass the matter to an independent investigator, the police or any other relevant body or whether there is no evidence to support a claim of wrong doing. Pre-judging the outcome of this initial investigation, or any speculation at this stage about who is to blame, is not appropriate or helpful in my view. Internal audit will be able to pull together the relevant documentation, take a view on the matter and make recommendations. If we do proceed to an external review or some other action then this work will be very helpful to the third party involved at that point.

It is unfortunate that you believe residents will take the view that our colleagues in internal audit, who bring to bear their experience and specialist skills to investigate serious internal and external allegations all the time, which in appropriate cases have resulted in many successful prosecutions, would engage themselves in a “cover up”. I disagree. I am very clear that they will investigate this matter properly and thoroughly and this is entirely the right way for the Council to proceed. Even though any proposed follow [up] action which is an executive function will need to be formally reported to Cabinet, reports from internal audit are within the remit of the Audit Advisory Committee which reports to the Council and not the Cabinet. I do hope that you will feel reassured and able to make clear to any residents that the matter is being dealt with seriously and properly by the Council.

Please also note that the attached report is in the public domain already which covers the health risks related to this serious matter. LINK

Rest assured that the council already has been and will continue to be open and transparent about this matter and is mindful of the need to ensure appropriate scrutiny and accountability.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Progress report on Wembley High Road sewer works

A Thames Water spokesperson responding to my  request regarding progress on the Wembley
High Road sewer works and their investigation into the source of the concrete blockage,  today told me:
We are now halfway through clearing the blockage, and have replaced five metres of pipe which has been damaged. We expect that the rest of the blockage will take two more weeks to clear.
We are still investigating the source of the blockage and have not identified who it might be,  and will let you know when we have any details.

Veolia workers warned of potential asbestos exposure at Paddington Cemetery. Duffy calls for independent inquiry.

In a hand-delivered letter Veolia has written to employees advising them of their possible exposure to asbestos contamination at 'the mound' at Paddington Cemetery. Burials on the mound were suspended in May this year and a survery commisioned.

The survey LINK confirmed contamination and Veolia advise employees who worked on the mound over the last year to register potential exposure with their GP. They point out that doctors will not be able to do tests at this stage as it takes many years for asbestos related symptoms to manifest themselves.

Veolia have told Brent Council that they will not be carriyng out any further burials at the mound and the only works will be 'topping out' of sunken graves as this does not require the breaking of ground. Veolia says that Brent Council has committed to having the mound capped with a special membrane installed over the current surface.

Reacting to the news Cllr John Duffy (Labour, Kilburn) has written to Carolyn Downs, Brent Council CEO to call for an independent investigation into the contamination rather than referral to the Internal Audit Team.

He says the contamination puts the former Brent Council workforce, as well as Veolia's after out-sourcing, at risk. He claims that relatives of those buried on the mound have complained that they are not being kept informed by the council.

Duffy points out that waste contianing over 0.01% asbestos should be treated in a proper facility and that any dumping in the cemetery should be tracable via a waste transport consignment note.

He estimates that treatment of the mound will run into tens of thousands and the total loss to the council including reopening existing graves to inter relatives could total one million.

He calls for ther council to be open and transparent by engaging an independent investigator rather than an internal investigation.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Alleged political interference in Brent's planning decision making process brought to attention of Monitoring Officer

 From Philip Grant (first published as a comment on Andrew Linnie's psot)

Further to Andrew Linnie's post LINK, this is the text of an email I have sent to Debra Norman, Brent's Chief Legal Officer:-

Dear Ms Norman,

I am writing to you in your role as Brent Council's Monitoring Officer, to bring to your attention allegations of interference in decision making over planning applications, which, if true, are in clear breach of Brent's Planning Code of Conduct and Members' Code of Conduct.

You will remember that, on 3 October, you replied on behalf of the Council to a Freedom of Information Act request I had made, about hospitality received on 10 May 2017 by two Cabinet members and two Senior Officers from Terrapin Communications Ltd, on behalf of some of their developer clients. I shared the information provided, and my views on it, in a blog on the "Wembley Matters" site on 5 October, which I believe I drew your attention to.

As a result of my involvement in that matter, I received private email correspondence in early October from several Brent councillors, who shared information with me "in confidence". I responded to them, saying that I felt their allegations and supporting evidence should be passed on to you, as Monitoring Offier. I do not know whether any of them have done so, as they may be concerned about the personal consequences to their political careers if they were to "blow the whistle" on the Council Leader.

I was not intending to get involved further, but information from another FoI request has been shared today on the "Wembley Matters" site, in a blog headed "No records kept of Cllr. Butt's closed-door meetings with Alperton tower developers", which I would suggest that you read at:

In view of the concerns raised in that article, I felt it only right to ensure that you were made aware of the nature of the information I was given by councillors early last month, so that you can consider what action should be taken to stop the potentially illegal manipulation of Brent's planning process, and help to restore trust in that process, which many Brent residents feel has been brought into disrepute. Even though I cannot give the names of my sources, I believe that the information they gave me was in good faith, and is probably true.

1) It is "common knowledge" among Brent councillors that there is "political interference" with the planning process at Brent Council.

2) A former planning officer and a former legal officer at Brent Council have confirmed that there was direct interference by Cllr. Butt in planning decisions made.

3) At least three current or former councillors on Brent's Planning Committee have admitted that Cllr. Butt has told them how to vote on planning applications - but none of them are willing to speak out publicly.

I will copy the text of this email as a comment on today's blog article (see link above), so that it is in the public domain that this information has been given to you. Best wishes,

Philip Grant.

Give a coat - warm a heart. Coats for the homeless Preston Library & Windermere pub

From Preston Community Library
Do you have a good condition old coat to spare? We are collecting them for #WrapUpLondon, who redistribute them in community centres for homeless people. Drop them into Preston Community Library on days we are open [coats only, please, no other clothes], or take them to our friendly local, The Windermere, any afternoon after 2pm.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

If it wasn't Henley, who is responsible for High Road main sewer blockage?

I am awaiting a response from Thames Water on whether their investigations to find the culprit responsible for the concrete blockage in Wembley High Road have made any progress. Henley, who are developing the Brent House site, last week denied responsibility. LINK

I understand that contractors have now dug down 6.5 metres with another metre to go before they hit the sewer. Work is expected to be completed within the month.

A resident reports that Brent Council can expect an increase in revenue with its Smart CCTV car catching motorists going the wrong way through Ecclestone Place's one way system.

Meanwhile a shopkeeper opposite the works told me that his takings were down 50% as a result of the road closure and works.

No records kept of Cllr Butt's closed-door meetings with Alperton tower developers

Plans for Minavil House site in Alperton
Guest Post by Andrew Linnie

It has emerged that, contrary to Local Government Association advice, no minutes or notes were kept of three meetings between Brent Council Leader Muhammed Butt (Labour) and the developers of a controversial £150m tower in Alperton. Not only were there no notes kept, but the meetings took place in a short period before the project was due to be deliberated on by the planning committee, including one meeting the day before the decision was due to be made.

The LGA advises that such meetings, which can be beneficial in allowing councillors and developers to discuss pertinent matters, should take place in the formative stages of a plan. However, meeting with developers and their representatives the day before the council is due to rule on a scheme, especially one of such scale, is unprecedented and brings the entire planning process into disrepute. Councillors are expected to ensure that there is no possibility of predetermination. The final meeting took place on May 23rd of this year, the day before the committee met to decide. The two previous meetings were in the preceding weeks, on April 5th and May 10th respectively. At the latter, Butt and the council’s lead for regeneration Cllr Shama Tatler also accepted lunch as hospitality from the developer’s representatives.

The 26-storey tower is well above the 17-storey limit Cllr Butt and his colleagues promised for the area when they adopted the Alperton Masterplan in 2011. It was opposed by dozens of neighbours, and a petition I arranged, previously discussed on Wembley Matters LINK, gained over 200 signatures. The development was also criticised for failing light tests and being twice the maximum density for the area. Cllr Butt’s colleagues representing Alperton admitted in a letter that many concerns were ignored, but claimed that there was nothing they could do. A freedom of information brought the lack of record keeping to light: