Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Bobby Moore Bridge “footballers” mural – Why won’t Brent concede?

In this guest post, written in a personal capacity, Philip Grant returns to the the contentious planning issues surrounding the placement of advertising over the Bobby Moore murals at the Olympic Way underpass. It may be long but makes for rewarding reading as it reveals meticulous research and the polite but unapologetic logic of Philip Grant's position.

 

On 1 March, Martin posted a “guest blog” from me which included an update on the dispute over whether Quintain has the right to cover the “footballers” mural, in the Council-owned subway near Wembley Park station, with adverts on “event days”, including the Euros football matches this summer. It included the text of a message I’d sent to Carolyn Downs, Brent’s Chief Executive, on 25 February, showing how the dispute could be resolved immediately. Six weeks later, it has still not been resolved. Why?

 

The footballers tile mural, with the lights of “light boxes” just visible at either side of it.

 

Quintain had agreed in 2019 that this mural would be put back on permanent public display, even though the other mural scenes on the walls of the subway would be covered over with “light boxes” on which advertising material could be displayed. But the secret deal by Brent Council officers, extending Quintain’s Bobby Moore Bridge advertising lease until August 2024, included a clause which said that they were entitled to cover this tile mural with adverts on a number of stadium “event days”.

 

 

An officer had replied on 25 February, on Ms Downs behalf, to say she would ‘ensure you are provided with a response as soon as possible.’ When I’d heard nothing more two weeks later, I decided that a letter to our local newspaper might encourage the Council to “do the right thing”, and the “Brent & Kilburn Times” kindly published it (the headline was not mine).

 


 

The following day (Friday 12 March), the Council officer emailed to say that I would receive a response ‘early next week’. More than a week later, this is what I received:

 

 

'I apologise again for the delay.  We are in the process of obtaining external advice in respect of the issues you have raised.  We will be able to send you a substantive response once we have received that.'

 

Why were Brent Council paying an outside lawyer for more advice, when I had already given them a clear explanation of the answer to this point, with full supporting evidence, for free?

 

 

When I received the “substantive response”, as part of an email from Carolyn Downs on 30 March, the Council did at last agree that the 2019 advertising consent ‘does not extend over the Footballers’ Mural.’ Hooray! They’d finally accepted the facts I set out to them more than a year earlier.

 

 

But there was a sting in the tail. There had been an original advertisement consent application, made in 2013, but not dealt with by Brent’s Planning Department until August 2017. Ms Downs said: ‘I am therefore advised that advertisement consent 13/2987 remains in place for the display of vinyl adverts attached to the tiles surface of the Footballers’ Mural provided they are attached to the tiles.’

 

It did not take me long to dispose of that point, and I replied later the same day: ‘I have to tell you that whoever is giving you advice on this planning matter has got it wrong, again.’ I explained in detail why that was the case, and summarised the position as follows:

 

 

Application 19/1474 was made, dealt with and approved on the basis that the advertisement consent 13/2987 was replaced, as far as the Bobby Moore Bridge parapets and subway walls were concerned. The consent until 24 August 2022 under 13/2987 only applies to covering the tile murals on the flanking walls outside the subway.

 

There was ample supporting evidence for my statement, including this section from the agent’s letter of 18 April 2019, submitting the advertisement consent application (19/1474):

 

 

I thought that should be enough to settle the matter, but no. On 9 April, I received an email from Brent’s Legal Director, Debra Norman. It claimed that the consent under application 13/2987 still allowed Quintain to cover the “footballers” mural with vinyl advertising sheets:

 

 

Officers have considered the elevation drawings referred to in the Consent and are satisfied that they show the east and west walls of the underpass and adjoining Olympic Way which are tiled. In consequence, the Council does not agree with your contention that the consent only applies to the tile murals outside the subway.’ … and further:

 

‘… there is nothing in the later consent (19/1474) which prevents continued reliance on the Consent to the extent that the two consents are compatible.’

 

 

Well, actually, there IS something in consent 19/1474 which means that consent 13/2987 no longer applies to the “footballers” mural. I agree that both consents applied to that tile mural, but the later consent specifically replaced the original consent, for the whole of the Bobby Moore Bridge and its subway! Again, I replied on the same day to explain the correct position.

 

I will ask Martin to attach the documents showing the two exchanges of views (30 March and 9 April), so that anyone who is interested can read them, and draw their own conclusions on their respective merits.

 

 

But why are Brent Council, and its top officials, so desperate to claim that Quintain can put adverts over the “footballers” tile mural?

 

 

Are they afraid to tell Quintain the truth? Well, they shouldn’t be, because under the conditions of the advertising lease (as extended) it is Quintain’s responsibility to obtain any consents they need in order to display advertisements on the Bobby Moore Bridge, and Quintain have failed to do that for the “footballers” mural.

 

 

Are they embarrassed because Brent’s own property lawyers failed in their “due diligence” over clause 10.3 of the extended lease, which claimed to entitle Quintain to cover that tile mural with adverts on “event days”? That was an error on Brent’s part, particularly as they had allowed Quintain’s property lawyers, Squire Patton Boggs (UK) LLP, to draw up the “Deed of Variation”.

 

 

Is Brent’s top lawyer determined not to concede a legal argument to an ordinary member of the public? Anyone can get things wrong (I do myself, occasionally), but when you are left “clutching at straws”, perhaps it is best not to embarrass yourself further! [If it is any comfort, although I do not have any formal legal qualifications, I have the experience of a working life dealing with complex legal points, and preparing cases for tribunal and court hearings.]

 

 

Or is it that Brent does not want to give up the chance of potentially earning “a few dollars more”, from the share of profits it might receive from Quintain, if it can sell the “footballers” tile mural advertising space for big events at the stadium?

 

 

Who knows why (and I don’t suppose they will ever tell me)? I hope that Brent Council will now concede this point, agree that Quintain does not have advertisement consent for covering the “footballers” mural, and that it will not waste further time, effort and money (your and my Council Tax money!) in pursuing an argument it knows it has lost.

 


Philip Grant

 

 THE EMAILS - FIRST EXCHANGE  (Click Bottom right for full page view)

 

 

 THE EMAILS - SECOND  EXCHANGE (Click Bottom right for full page view)

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, 12 April 2021

The ecological damage caused by TfL's obliteration of green corridors - a presentation by Emma Wallace

 

 

This presentation was made at a recent meeting of concerned residents who have witnessed the removal of much of the vegetation on railway embankments. TfL's contractors have removed shrubs and scrub as well as mature trees, even when they appeared not to impinge on railway tracks and were healthy. In the process, they have removed habitats of birds, mammals including badger setts and bat roosts. No proper ecological damage assessments appear to have been made. The presentation was compiled by Emma Wallace, Green Party GLA candidate for Brent and Harrow who set up the Facebook Group publicising the issue. 

The Facebook Group has more than 100 members who share information about the damage being done in their area and are planning future action. LINK

A petition on the issue was recently presented to Mayor Sadiq Khan by Green Assembly Member Caroline Russell:

We call on TFL and the Mayor of London to commit to the following:
1. Immediately stop the excessive removal of vegetation from trackside TFL embankments.
2. Ensure that TFL carries out biodiversity surveys before trackside work begins and that these are made easily accessible to the public.
3. Ensure that local residents are informed in good time before trackside work begins and given time to feedback questions and concerns to TFL.
4. Ensure that TFL contractors are trained in effective vegetation management and biodiversity preservation.

Sunday, 11 April 2021

Chalkhill Community Growers ready for Spring planting and sowing thanks to Metropolitan Housing and Pinnacle

Gardeners at the Chalkhill Community Allotments beside the Metropolitan Line on Chalkhill Estate are delighted at works being undertaken by Metropolitian Housing Thames Valler who manage the estate and their maintenance team Pinnacle.

The allotments have been in existence for a number of years but were limited to some extent by the fact that the growing beds were made out of builders' bags that dried out quickly, limited the numbers of worms in the soil,  and collapsed without support.

Using rescued  decking Pinnacle have been constructing raised beds to replace the bags and compost has been provided.  At the same time the maintenace team have removed rubbish, cut the grass and cut back brambles and other vegetation.

The Chalkhill Community Growers* that now include the Lounge Cafe,  Daniel's Den and Chalkhill Primary School are very pleased with the results.

 

Before - the sack beds with one wooden experimental raised bed

 

Raised beds under construction (Photo: Amanda Rose)

 

After - this bed has wheelchair access


* Declaration of interest: I am chair of Chalkhill Comunity Growers Group

Friday, 9 April 2021

Brent Council urges residents to make Covid testing part of their weekly routine - information here

 FROM BRENT COUNCIL

Brent residents are being encouraged to get tested twice a week as part of their regular routine as the national lockdown in England loosens further.

 

From today (April 9) everyone in England, including those without symptoms, is eligible to take a free rapid COVID test twice a week to do their bit to ensure they are not spreading COVID. 1 in 3 people with COVID show no symptoms at all so could be spreading it without knowing if they don’t test regularly.

 

Alongside the rollout of the vaccine, getting tested regularly is vital to help control the spread of the virus – including variants – as more shops and services start to open up again.

 

Dr Melanie Smith, Brent’s Director of Public Health, says:

 

Testing is the only sure way to know whether you are carrying the virus as around a third of people with COVID don’t show any signs at all so could be spreading this deadly virus to loved ones and around the community without knowing. Rapid testing does exactly what it says on the tin – providing a result in less than 40 minutes. This means positive cases can be detected quickly and infected people can slow the spread by immediately self-isolating.

 

From Friday, residents will be able to access rapid lateral flow tests (LFDs) for themselves and their families to use twice a week. Rapid testing had been limited to those most at risk and people needing to leave home for work. Now rapid testing will be offered to everyone – not just frontline NHS workers, care home staff and residents, and schoolchildren and their families.

 

Since rapid testing was introduced over 120,000 positive cases have been identified. These would not have been discovered without the widespread use of LFDs. By extending their use still further, even more cases will be detected and we can break the chains of transmission and save lives.

 

Updates will also be made to the NHS COVID-19 app in England to coincide with the offer of rapid testing for everyone. Since its launch in September, over 22 million people have downloaded the app. 

 

Over 100,000 businesses in England have registered their interest to provide rapid tests to their employees, and the offer of free testing is being expanded to companies with over ten workers where on-site testing is impossible. 

 

The expanded testing offer for people without symptoms will be delivered by:

 

·       A home ordering service, which allows people to order lateral flow tests online to be delivered to their home

·       Workplace testing programmes, on-site or at home

·       Community testing, offered by all local authorities – there are five locations in Brent

·       Collection at a local PCR test site during specific test collection time windows

·       Testing on-site at schools and colleges.

 

A new ‘Pharmacy Collect’ service is also launching which will provide an additional route to regular testing. People aged over 18 without symptoms will be able to visit a participating local pharmacy and collect a box of seven rapid tests to use twice a week at home.

 

The best route for testing can be found at NHS.UK/get-tested. If testing at home, individuals will need to register their results online, or by calling 119. After any positive LFT test, they will also need to self-isolate and order a confirmatory PCR test. 

 

 

For more information about testing go to: www.brent.gov.uk/testing

 

Symptom-free tests are available at the following locations seven days a week from 9am-6pm:

  • Brent Civic Centre - Engineers Way, Wembley Park, Wembley, HA9 0FJ
  • Ealing Road Library - Coronet Parade, Ealing Road, Wembley, HA0 4BA
  • Harlesden Library - Craven Park Road, Harlesden, NW10 8SE
  • Kingsbury Library - 522-524 Kingsbury Road, Kingsbury, NW9 9HE
  • The Library at Willesden Green - 95 High Rd, Willesden, London, NW10 2SF


NHS Covid-19 app updates

 

To coincide with the offer of free rapid testing for everyone, there will be updates to the NHS Covid-19 app in England from 8 April:

 

·       Everyone in a group must check in – In line with new regulations, when a group enters a hospitality venue, every individual must check either by scanning the official NHS QR code poster with the NHS COVID-19 app, or by providing their contact details. Previously, only the lead member of the group needed to provide contact details to check in.

·       Venue history sharing – if an app user tests positive, they will be asked to share their venue history in a privacy-protecting way via the app. This will allow venue alerts to be generated more quickly, and improve the ability to identify where outbreaks are occurring and take steps to prevent the virus spreading.

·       Additional venue alerts – if a person has been at a venue on the same day as several other people who have since tested positive for Covid-19, they may receive an alert, advising them to book a test immediately, whether they are showing symptoms or not. This is to support finding asymptomatic cases who may have caught the virus but are not displaying symptoms.

·       New QR code posters – There will be new posters displaying QR codes for hospitality venues in England. Work has taken place with the industry to make the posters clearer and easier to use. All venues in England in scope of the regulations are legally required to display an official NHS QR code poster. 

 

Please support campaigners' vision for the Welsh Harp

 

A group of campaigners for the Welsh Harp (Brent Reservoir)  have published a 15 point vision for its future. There has been a problem with littering around the Welsh Harp for a long time   but the recent lowering of the waterline, so that dam repairs could take place,  have revealed what was in the water itself. A truly shocking revelation.

 

Only one metre below the surface. Debris and contaminated alluvium build-up on the protected East Marsh, revealed during lowering of water levels, January 2021
© Ben Watt

 

The vision for the 170 acres of the area and its Site of Special Scientic Interest would require the Canal and River Trust (owners of the reservoir and shoreline), Brent and Barnet Councils (owners of the open areas), Environment Agency (overseers of the two inflowing rivers and the reservoir's flood control function, and Natural England (who advise on environmental issues and adjudicate on SSSI status), to work together. 

 

That is a tall order but if anyone can achieve that it will be this band of determined, hands on campaigners.

 

Please get behind them by reading the full vision, written by Ben Watt, and making your voice heard. LINK


We wish them well and ultimate success so that a healthy and thriving natural resource will be available for future generations to treasure.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Action meeting: TFL/Network Rail's destruction of habitat 7.30pm tonight

 

We are holding an open meeting for people to share their experiences of TFL and Network Rail's destruction of habitat in their local area.

 

We will then discuss ideas for action to change their behaviours and policies. 

 

REGISTRATION 

The Green's Emma Wallace tops GLA Hustings straw poll after Brent Friends of the Earth hustings


 

Emma Wallace of Harrow Green Party, and out GLA constituency candidate for Brent and Harrow, convinced many environmentalists yesterday evening at the hustings organised by Brent Friends of the Earth.

Labour's Krupesh Hirani slumped to 26% after the hustings compared with 54% before he had spoken.  Emma Wallace gained 11% to take the lead and  Liberal Democrat Anton Georgiou quadrapled his vote from a meagre 4% to 17%.

The Conservative  candidate was invited but did not attend.



Brent commits to work with Brent Friends of the Earth/Divest Brent towards divesting its Pension Fund from fossil fuels

 

 

From Divest Brent/Brent Friends of the Earth

For over 3 years campaign group Divest Brent have been working to persuade the Council to divest its Pension Fund from fossil fuels. On April 6 Councillor Matt Kelcher presented the 1,400-signature petition (including 1,200 Brent residents) to the Cabinet on behalf of Divest Brent.  

 

Coming as it did immediately before the Cabinet discussed its 10-year climate strategy Councillor Kelcher’s hard-hitting presentation carried added weight. Following campaigning by Divest Brent the draft strategy, which was agreed at the meeting, included a section on the Pension Fund’s investments.

 

Responding to the presentation, Council Leader Muhammad Butt, Deputy Leader Margaret McLennan and Environment lead, Krupa Sheth all spoke positively and in particular Councillor McLennan looked forward to working with Divest Brent and Brent Friends of the Earth to take the agenda forward.

 

In 2019 the Council declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency and specifically agreed to redirect investments to renewable, sustainable and low carbon funds. Indeed some investments have been made in this area but the majority of the Pension Fund is still invested in funds which include fossil fuels.

 

Simon Erskine, Co-ordinator of Divest Brent, said “We welcome any moves by the Pension Fund to invest sustainably and to help with the transition to renewable energy – but the fact is that whatever green investments the Fund may have, while it continues to invest in fossil fuels it is part of the problem. We therefore look forward to working with the Council to develop a road-map for divestment in the short term.”

 

The presentation of the petition comes hot on the heels of a report entitled “Divesting to protect our pensions and the planet” which gave a comprehensive breakdown of the extent that UK Councils were invested in fossil fuels. 3% of Brent’s Pension Fund is thought to be invested in fossil fuels - £26 million. Compared to the £40 million invested in 2017 this looks like an improvement – until it is realised that much of the reduction is due to a fall in value of fossil fuel investments.

 

The Council has admitted that, while much of the Stock Market has suffered from Covid 19, they have lost £8 million by failing to divest from fossil fuels before the pandemic. They are not alone in this – with UK Councils having lost £2 billion altogether over the last 4 years – but £8 million is still a serious loss compared to the Pension Fund total of £800 million.

 

With the outlook for fossil fuels never worse as the electric vehicle revolution starts to kick in and governments look to move away from gas as a means of heating our homes, Pension Fund committee members could find themselves in breach of their duties to protect the value of the Fund if they do not start to move seriously towards divestment. Said Mr Erskine, “We look forward to Brent joining Lambeth, Southwark and Islington Councils (to name just a few) in committing to divest its pension fund from fossil fuels.”