Saturday, 3 December 2022

Brent Renters call for 'RENT FREEZE NOW!'

 

As part of a Day of Action called by London Renters Union, Brent Renters were outside Willesden Green Station today.

On Twitter they said:

Brent renters came together. There IS power in a union! By coming together in our communities we can win. We need a rent freeze now! We went to Foxtons and made our point then to an agents who've failed to act to deal with rat infestation Tenants! Join.


Pics from @Brentrenters

 

A new tile mural at Olympic Way, Wembley Park

Guest Post by local historian Philip Grant 

 


Back in March, I shared the news with you that tile mural scenes on the walls of Olympic Way (part of the Bobby Moore Bridge tile murals, celebrating Wembley’s sports and entertainment heritage) would be back on permanent public display by August (which they were).

 

The letter from Quintain’s Chief Executive Officer, agreeing not to seek an extension of the advertisement consent, which had seen these murals covered in vinyl advertising sheets since 2013, included a promise to replace a missing section of tiles on the wall beside the “drummer”. The drummer was the only surviving part of an original mural scene celebrating pop music concerts at Wembley Stadium, particularly the 1985 “Live Aid” concert.

 

The ”Live Aid” mural, before it was destroyed c.2006.

 

Quintain’s CEO said that they were ‘keen to reflect aspects of the original design, where possible’, and that they would ‘like to engage with you and the Wembley History Society to find the best solution for that area of the walls.’ In my March 2022 blog, I threw it open to the local community to suggest ideas for a design which would reflect the “Live Aid” or Wembley Stadium pop concerts theme.

 

The west wall area, beside the “drummer”, in need of new tiles, March 2022.

 

The “canvas” for the design was a difficult one, as TfL had taken a large section of the original mural away when they built steps down from the bus stop (now moved!) on the bridge in 2006. Instead of a rectangle, the blank space (after the poor replacement tiles had to be taken off in 2016, before they fell off) sloped down to nothing, in stages. 

 

I’m pleased to say that I did get some responses to the request for input on the replacement. One local resident suggested two possible artists, at least one of whom had designed murals for a local history community project at Cricklewood Station. A lady suggested a different piece of local cultural history for the design. And Gary, from Wembley, submitted his own draft idea, working from the photo of the original mural scene above.

 

Gary’s design idea for a replacement section of the “Live Aid” mural. (Courtesy of Gary!)

 

I passed all of the suggestions and ideas on to Wembley Park’s Cultural Director. As Quintain / Wembley Park would be commissioning and paying for the replacement mural, they had the final say, although they said they would let me see what they had in mind before going ahead with any design. In the end, they did not take up any of the offers I had put their way, and last summer I was sent a copy of a design from the artist Paul Marks, who they’d commissioned for the job. 

 

The Paul Marks design for the new tile mural beside the “drummer”.
(Courtesy of Quintain / Wembley Park)

 

I was told that I was being shown the design “in confidence”, and could not share the image until the new mural was finished. It was explained that the abstract design represents 'the sound wave (graphic equaliser) referencing the beat of the music'. My initial reaction was that this did not reflect the history of concerts at Wembley Stadium, such as “Live Aid”, and I suggested adapting Paul’s design to include some of the musicians from the original scene (Mark Knopfler and Freddie Mercury in this possible version).

 

One of the possible adapted designs I submitted.

 

The answer came back that this would not be possible, for a variety of reasons. The new mural would go ahead, as designed by Paul Marks, and by early November the wall was being prepared ready to receive the new coloured tiles.

 

Preparing the wall for the tiles. (This and top photos courtesy of Martin Francis)

 

Now the new tile mural is in place. It may no longer be a mural scene celebrating “Live Aid”, but it can be seen as the drummer sending out the beats of a rock anthem towards Wembley Stadium, where both the old and new versions of this famous venue have hosted some historic concerts. And it is certainly a much better sight than a bare concrete wall, or the “patched up” TfL version that I include a picture of in my March 2022 blog!

 

Philip Grant.

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, 2 December 2022

'Aspiration' that the 206 bus could serve Wembley on Event Days if talks with TfL succeed and funding is available

 

Wembley Park residents, and in particular those on the Kings Drive Estate (including Pilgrims Way, Summers Close and Saltcroft Close), have long been frustrated on Wembley Event Days when the route is curtailed at Tesco, Brent Park. 

Passengers, not realising there was an event, have been stranded at Brent Park, while others wait in vain at The Paddocks bus stop near Fryent Country Park for a bus that is not running. The route stops for several hours before and after the event and when there are consecutive concerts the route may be unavailable for much of the time over several days.

As the estate is on a steep hill this means that elderly or less mobile residents are cut off.

 

The Paddocks Terminus at the Salmon Street/Fryent Way roundabout

 

When plans were discussed over the rejoining of North End Road to Bridge Road  in Wembley Park, we were promised that buses could skirt around the stadium area and continue to The Paddocks terminus.

Now, as a result of a Member's Inquiry by Cllr Robert Johnson I can report that some belated progress has been made:

[Brent Council] are currently in discussions to re-locate the bus stand from First Way to Great Central Way. Subject to approval, the aspiration is to re-route the bus 206 to Great Central Way,  Fourth Way, Fulton Road, Albion Road and into North End Road. This is all dependent on TfL approval. TfL have advised they will consult on the proposed re-routing early January 2023 and post their consultation and approval, Brent Council will consult formally on the proposal, subject to funding and approval. 

 

It would then serve The Paddocks even on Event Days.

 

 


 

 


'Warm Ups' occupations to call for 'energy for all' on Saturday

 

From Fuel Poverty Action

 

This Saturday, December 3rd, Fuel Poverty Action, Don’t Pay UK and a number of climate and community groups will hold ‘Warm-Up’ demonstrations in towns and cities across the UK. The mobilisation is in support of the Warm This Winter coalition’s Day of Action on fuel poverty, which will involve alternative protests including rallies, banner drops and crafts workshops.


‘Warm-Ups’ are a direct action tactic used by Fuel Poverty Action throughout its more than 10 year history, where campaigners enter and occupy a public space to keep warm due to unaffordable bills and poor housing conditions at home. The group have joined forces with, amongst others, the Don’t Pay UK movement which sprang into life in 2022 gathering over 250,000 pledges from members of the public to strike on their energy bills from December 1st.


Sam, a spokesperson for the Don’t Pay campaign, said:

 

We aim to empower the millions who already can’t pay their energy bills by turning this mass default into mass resistance, with grassroots groups across the UK coming together to protect their communities, keep each other warm and defend the strike.


Warm-Ups are expected to take place on Saturday in Brighton, Bristol, Glasgow, Hastings, Islington, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford and Stratford. The groups believe that further action will follow in weeks to come as people struggle with high energy costs this winter.


As well as supporting the Don’t Pay strike and WTW Day of Action, the Warm-Ups form part of Fuel Poverty Action’s Energy For All campaign. The campaign calls for a universal, free amount of energy to cover people’s necessities like heating, lighting and cooking; paid for by an end to all public money subsidising fossil fuels, a more effective windfall tax on energy companies and higher tariffs on luxury household energy use.


Stuart Bretherton, Fuel Poverty Action, Energy For All Campaign Coordinator, said,

 

Energy For All would achieve what our energy system and economy should ultimately be geared towards, ensuring everyone’s basic needs are met. Ordinary people cannot keep footing the bill for crises created by the wealthy, it's time for the big polluters and profiteers to pay their share. Through this we could also incentivise much needed climate action on home insulation and a transition to renewables.

 

Further details LINK


Locally Brent Friends of the Earth will be publicising the issue:

All are welcome to join Brent Friends of the Earth and the 'United for Warm Homes, Brent' coalition to distribute leaflets and display our placards.

Come to Kilburn Square, Kilburn High Road  on Saturday from noon until 2pm. Between W.H. Smith's and Kilburn High Road.

Thursday, 1 December 2022

Advice on Cost of Living Isses - Brent Civic Centre Friday December 2nd

 


Kilburn Square – from the other end of the telescope

 

 

Guest post from Sara Hojholt in a personal capacity

 

 

It’s over two years (!) since Brent Council shocked our local community with a far too ambitious “Mini Master Plan” to build 180 new homes on the estate it owns in Kilburn Square – adding 80% to the 2019 population, on a smaller shared space.  Last September it finally listened to the near-unanimous rejection of that; and agreed to a re-think - acknowledging three major objections: the huge increase in density of residents; the loss of precious green space and mature trees; and the inclusion of a 17-storey tower.

 

But then in January it settled on a version only about 20% smaller, removing the tower but ignoring the other two objections. And despite good words about collaboration with residents, a scheme that would work for everyone, and not forcing homes on us… that’s essentially what they’ve now carried through to a Planning Application (reference 22/3669). And in the 138 documents of the dossier, they have failed to show clear evidence of substantial support from the estate residents or our neighbours in the wider community. 

 

So, here’s a message to our Council. For more information, search “Kilburn Square” on Wembley Matters, and visit our website https://save-our-square.org

 

The other end of the telescope

An Open Letter to Brent Council from a Kilburn Square Resident

 

Dear Councillor Butt and Ms Downs,

 

I live on the Kilburn Square estate, where you want to build an extra 139 homes. You sit in Civic Centre, miles away from Kilburn. All your justifications for this still oversized scheme are top-down, and viewed from an external perspective. But I’m pleading with you to look at things from the other end of the telescope. One of your Housing Officers described our estate to our MP as “brilliant”; we believe your scheme would undermine our physical and mental wellbeing, and the “sense of place” which Brent used to put at the heart of its development planning.  

 

Your arguments

 

You tell us there’s a huge waiting list, the GLA has grant funds, you’ve committed to numerical targets, you have a target proportion of larger homes and you can’t afford to buy land. We hear that; but you then use abstract or euphemistic terms like Infill, Densification and PTAL (accessibility to public transport). 

 

·      “Infill” suggests a few extra units here and there – not 60% more households than our original estate had in 2019, with a reduced communal space.

·      You tell us the GLA supports “densification”; but Kilburn Ward is already the most densely populated in Brent. As for the estate itself, the GLA has dropped its quantified measures of density of residents, as unfit for purpose; but Brent still has one – it’s called Amenity Space and our estate already fails to meet it before a single new brick is laid.

·      Your team have told us “if we had to respect that norm, we could hardly build anywhere”. Is that a justification?

·      Good public transport is of course essential if any development is to be car-free; but that doesn’t in itself justify adding more new homes than the site can reasonably absorb

You’ve already added a Block to the Southwest corner of the site. The next, little-publicised move to add more housing was a GLA grant allocation in November 2018 – for 70 new homes by demolishing one adjacent daytime use building. Then in March 2020 Cabinet approved a Network Homes agreement, with an increased target of 80-100 new homes – removing a second daytime use building. 

 

Had you stuck on that, the broad local community would have seen it as an acceptable compromise – and the new Blocks would be halfway built already. Contrary to your regular public assertions, neither we residents nor our supportive neighbours are NIMBYs.

 

Instead, your team chose to double their target. You thoughtfully offered us a second 17-storey tower - thankfully now cut to a “mere” 7-8 storeys. But you’ve persisted with three satellite Blocks (now merged to make two) on our existing communal space. 

 

·      Brent’s project website refers, to this day, to “the availability of significant parcels of land that could be suitable” for development – with no justification offered.

·      And now your Planning Application claims that the green space and trees where you want to impose a 37-unit merged Block C is “underutilised”. Outrageous!

·      We’ve told you for well over a year that this is not only a precious area for physical relaxation. It’s also our Green Lung – a crucial visual and environmental amenity for the whole community, on and off the estate.

West Kilburn is already in Brent’s worst category for green space deprivation – and your own Climate Strategy seeks to increase green space not remove it. But don’t just take it from me, read the second Comment posted on the Planning Portal, from a Barrett House resident. Here’s an extract:

 

“My flat , it's dark and I have very little sunlight come in, I have significant health conditions including my lungs being damaged thanks to black mould, covid and asthma . I also struggle with other conditions. Taking away trees [and] green space will Impact on our health and quality of life. We utilised the green space in lockdown it was our neighbourhood connubial area!! It got us through tough times. Because we are poor and not privileged does that mean we don't deserve quality of life? In the long run it will cost the council more as mental and physical health will decline. Several other neighbours object to this work but due to either lack of English or learning difficulties have been unable to make objections. Please don't take away our trees, sunlight and quality of air!!!”

 

That’s the view of your Block C from our end of the telescope. And Block E would be shoehorned in unacceptably close to two existing Blocks.

 

In the meantime, the long-planned and urgently needed refurbishment of our existing tower block is no closer to being carried out. 

 

On a broader front, you’ve not explained why you have pressed this scheme on us Kilburn Square residents rather than, for example, devoting the whole Cecil Avenue site – Council-owned and with Planning Permission in place – to Brent-owned affordable homes. That would not be financially viable?... Ah, but wait a minute: you’ve publicly acknowledged to Cabinet that the Kilburn Square Planning Application as submitted IS NOT FINANCIALLY VIABLE. How misleading is that?

 

When our local newspaper asked the Council last week LINK  to comment on the scheme’s viability, your spokesperson dodged the question; nor did they comment on the number of units to be available at social rent level (the answer is none). The report to Cabinet is unambiguous: to achieve viability, most of Block B would need to be converted, after Planning Permission is granted, to Shared Ownership; and there’s even a hint of Open Market Sale!

 

For two years, your project team’s laborious pre-engagement process has tightly controlled the agenda, and has failed to gain the trust and support of the great majority of us residents. We do trust our Independent Advisors – 60% of our households gave them their honest views last year and they reported “There is no measurable support for the scheme, nor for the process”. But for subsequent “consultation” on alternatives defined by the project team, they were sidelined.

 

So, in summary, as the Council moves further away from meeting the needs of the truly most needy on the waiting list, towards becoming just another developer, the view from our end of the telescope is looking less acceptable than ever! For more information visit https://save-our-square.org

 

Sara Hojholt, Kilburn Square Resident

 

 

Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Guest Post: Biodiversity and geological conservation not taken into consideration in Brent Council's Newland Court infill proposal

 Guest post by Marc Etukudo in a personal capacity


I just been made aware that Brent Council have failed to conduct a SPECIES SURVEY for their  proposal at Newland Court, planning application 22/3124  as numerous habitual wildlife are living in the trees in a conservation area where they intend to remove 13 trees. The numerous species of wildlife includes BATS, MAGPIES, PARAKEETS, ROBINS and even SQUIRRELS. BATS are a protected SPECIES under the wildlife and countryside ACT 1981 and regulations ACT 1994.

 

The Royal Town Planning Institute states that ‘PRE-APPLICATION INFORMATION GATHERING 5.3 Chapter 2 deals with the way that planning authorities can develop and maintain any evidence based upon which to plan for biodiversity and geological conservation. This will supplement the further information required to determine a planning application.’

 

SPECIES SURVEYS 5.10 Many individual wildlife species receive statutory protection under a range of legislative provisions and licences may be needed when they are affected by development. The development control process plays a critical part in ensuring that the statutory protection of species is applied and the Circular sets this out in detail. PPS9 also requires that other species identified as requiring conservation action as species of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity in England are protected from the adverse effects of development, where appropriate, by using planning conditions or obligations.

 

Bats are a protected species under schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and schedule 2 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994. It is illegal to kill, injure or capture a bat, or to recklessly disturb their roosts.

 

SOME OF THE 13 TREES BRENT COUNCIL WANT TO REMOVE

 

Having read through Brent Council’s planning application that they have submitted I have also found that they have answered numerous questions with misleading answers. I have highlighted them in yellow with comments of what should be the right answers in blue below. (PDF Version HERE)

 




 


 

 

 

So as you can see, Brent Council have submitted their planning application with lots of misleading answers. I have raised these same misleading answers and the fact that they are also breaching numerous of their own planning guidance rules to the Brent Council’s planning department. With this and other culminating factors, if this was a private planning application submitted, it would have been rejected, shredded and binned straight away. But it’s not, it is Brent Council’s own application so let’s see what happens.

 

Marc Etukudo

 

 

Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Brent Council should submit evidence to the Housing Ombudsman's investigation into social landlords' record keeping and data management

 I am grateful to Julia G on Twitter for this suggestion:

Following the Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee meeting on 08//11/22. Brent Council should ensure that it submits information to the Housing Ombudsman's call for evidence on record keeping.

This is the relevant information from the Housing Ombudsman. I do hope Brent Council and other social landlords contribute:

We have issued a call for evidence to support our next systemic investigation which will look at record keeping and data management. This has been a consistent theme found in our casework with 67% of investigations upheld in 2021-22 involving poor records.

Strong record keeping practices are integral to effective complaint handling and landlords’ overall service provision. The purpose of the call for evidence is to understand more about the current barriers to effective knowledge and information management.

Complaint handlers within social landlords are invited to submit evidence which will help the Ombudsman make recommendations that promote greater understanding of the importance of information and knowledge management. It will also share best practice helping landlords to develop their policies and procedures with a view to improving the experience of all residents.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said:

Our previous Spotlight reports have covered a wide range of topics but poor record keeping has been repeatedly identified as a driver of poor service. This can result in residents experiencing inadequate responses, delays and things not being put right. It is a systemic, sector-wide issue and that’s why we’re focusing on it as the subject of our next investigation and the topic of a Spotlight report in its own right.

The fact that more than two thirds of our determinations with a finding of maladministration have identified record keeping as an issue should be a cause of concern for landlords, particularly their governing bodies. There are real benefits for services by getting record keeping right and our report will support landlords in doing just that.

Residents were invited to share their experiences and give views on their landlords’ practices through discussion forums with members of our Resident Panel. Feedback from those forums together with submissions to the call for evidence and an analysis of our casework will all form part of the investigation and the final Spotlight report to be published next year.

Call for evidence page

Under the Housing Ombudsman Scheme, the Ombudsman can conduct investigations into potential systemic and thematic issues. In March 2021, we published a systemic framework setting out how we will look beyond individual disputes to identify key issues that impact on residents and landlords’ services. The framework allows us to issue a call for evidence and we have decided to use this to support a thematic investigation into knowledge and information management.