Sunday, 23 January 2022

Brent Council to invest £3.24m to slash carbon emissions from some of its public sector buildings

 Brent Council Press Release

Sports centres and libraries in Kilburn, Willesden and Harlesden are among the buildings benefiting from a £3.24 million investment to slash carbon emissions from public sector buildings in Brent.

Improvements kick off in Northwick Park, where an energy saving Ground Source Heat Pump is being installed in the Pavilion. You would need to plant a whopping 1,571 trees every year to match the carbon savings.

The pump works by transferring the heat that is already in the ground outside into a building or home, to heat radiators, give underfloor heating or to heatwater.

Councillor Krupa Sheth, Cabinet Member for Environment said: 

Homes and buildings have a huge carbon footprint, yet it can be challenging and expensive to tackle this within existing and older public sector buildings. We’re thrilled that we’re able to use innovative technology and ideas to improve energy efficiency and help us in our journey to zero carbon emissions by 2030.

In Brent, the funding will be used across council buildings including:

Brent Civic Centre
Barham Park Complex
Granville Centre
Gordon Brown Outdoor Centre
Northwick Park Pavilion
Preston Park Sports Pavilion
Harlesden Library
Kilburn Library
New Millenium Day Centre
Ealing Road Library
The Library at Willesden Green
The Ade Adepitan Short Break Centre
Tudor Gardens 27-31
John Billam Resource Centre
Willow Children's Centre

The government-led, Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) is offering funding worth over £1bn in the first phase, giving the public sector a helping hand to increase energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation within council-owned community buildings, sports centres, libraries and other public, non-domestic buildings.

Additional information

The work at Northwick Park Pavilion will also include cavity wall insulation and LED lighting, and along with other improvements this will lead to a 26% reduction in overall energy use.  This translates to the savings of:

  • 747,445kWh/yr energy savings

  • £44,104 £/yr total cost savings

  • 134.3 CO2 te/yr carbon savings which is the equivalent of 1,571 trees planted/yr

The PSDS is being delivered by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and in partnership with Salix. Brent Council has appointed Ameresco Ltd. to carry out the works.

Saturday, 22 January 2022

"How 'Urgent' is 'Urgent' when there's a major fire risk fault?" No repair of fire door at William Dunbar House yet


 Picture taken yesterday

It will be 2 weeks on Monday from when Pensioner John Healy wrote a letter to Wembley Matters desperately seeking help in getting Brent Council to deal with faulty fire doors at his South Kilburn block, William Dunbar House. LINK

Shortly after publication I was able to update the article with news that a councillor was taking up the case.

In a further article on January 18th we revealed that another door, on the 5th floor was also faulty and this time Brent Council replied on Twitter:

 Escalation as a matter of 'Urgency' was welcome but another week has gone by and the 3rd floor door has still not been fixed. (Photo above).  John Healy discovered that some flats in the same block did not have self-closing doors.

John said:

Could you question the Council as to what they mean by 'urgent'.  The council told me they carried out an inspection on the doors after your first story in WM without the pictures, which is 2 weeks ago.  Tthought the Council said 'this issue is urgent" but I have to spend another weekend at least, worrying about a possible Fire in my block.
Could you also ask them about all these flats that do not have self closing fire doors?  I assume they belong to leaseholders.

Friday, 21 January 2022

Planning Inspector 'unable to recommend Kilburn Square's allocation as a tall building zone'


Kilburn High Road is top right


 The campaign against tall buildings in Kilburn Square by local activists LINK seems to have borne fruit.

The Planning Inspector's Report on the Brent Local Plan states:

The Council also put forward a new tall building zone to be allocated at Kilburn Square which would include the existing tower and land adjacent around Kilburn Square. We have noted the Council’s evidence in relation to this new zone, primarily focusing on the height of the existing tower on the estate well as the sites PTAL rating at 6a. We have also considered the detailed representations made during the main modification’s consultation in relation to this new tall buildings zone, particularly regarding the proposed size of the zone and its location adjacent to the Brondesbury Road Conservation Area. We are mindful of the fact that in light of the London Plan policy, the Council are no longer afforded the degree of flexibility previously envisaged in terms of the application of Policy BD2. Nevertheless, the creation of a new tall buildings zone at Kilburn Square would be contrary to the evidence base presented to this local plan examination, namely the Tall Buildings Strategy. It is not a location identified or considered as part of this evidence and accordingly we are unable to recommend its allocation as a tall buildings zone.


Brent Council, the developer’s friend – the proof in black and white

Guest Post by Philip Grant (in a personal capacity):-


Extract from the “Soft Market Testing” report to Cabinet, August 2021.


It looks bad. It looks wrong. That’s why I will persist in shining a light on the Brent Cabinet decision to allow a developer to profit from the sale of 152 new Council homes, to be built on the former Copland School site at Cecil Avenue in Wembley, until either the Council provides a satisfactory explanation of why that is the right thing to do, or agrees it is wrong and that all 250 homes in that development should be for Brent people in housing need.


In an article last month, I shared the information I’d received from a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request about Brent’s “soft market testing” exercise, in April 2021, which was supposedly to find out whether developers would be interested in being part of the Council’s Wembley Housing Zone scheme. But some of the information I’d asked for was withheld by Brent’s Head of Regeneration, who claimed that it was excluded from disclosure because:


·      It contained information obtained from and related to the financial and business affairs of 5 private developers (Confidentiality - Section 41 of FOIA);

·      It would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of any person, including the public authority holding it (Commercially Sensitive – S.43(2) FOIA); and,

·      That in applying the public interest test required by S.43(2), ‘it is considered that the balance of maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.


On 12 December 2021, I sent an Internal Review request, setting out (with detailed reasons) why information prepared for Cabinet by Council Officers as a result of the exercise was not exempt information under FOIA, and why it was in the public interest that it should be disclosed. I agreed that if a report included confidential information received from developers, that could be redacted (blacked out) in the copy of the report sent to me.


I received the Council’s response on 15 January from Alice Lester, Operational Director (Regeneration, Growth and Employment). On a careful reading of her letter, I can’t see that she actually admitted any error in the initial refusal of my request. But her letter concluded: ‘However, I agree that a redacted copy of the report could be provided and this is attached.’ It is always worth sticking up for what you believe, if you think the Council has got it wrong!


In the interests of fairness to all five developers, and to show that I am keeping what they told Brent Council confidential, here is the second page of the report I was sent:-


Second extract from the “Soft Market Testing” report to Cabinet, August 2021.


I was expecting those sections of the report to be blacked out, but I was surprised to see that part of the last sentence of the “Market Commentary”, written by Officers, was also redacted:


The opening section of the report to Cabinet in August 2021.
[Don’t worry! The pipelines developers were talking about are forward plans to ensure they get as much work lined-up for future years as possible.]


The first version of the document sent to me was followed by an urgent request not to open it, as ‘it appears that the attachment wasn’t properly redacted.’ I didn’t open it, but waited for the corrected version (above). As that concealed words I believed should probably be disclosed, I did then look at the original, and although those words had also been blacked out, they weren’t securely redacted.  


I wrote to Ms Lester on Monday 17th, to explain why I should be able to make the last seven words public, and on 19 January I received another ‘revised redacted document’.  The explanation was: ‘After further consultation with legal colleagues, the words to which you refer have been unredacted.’ After two challenges, I had finally been given information that I was entitled to request in the first place.


I can see why Brent’s senior Regeneration Officers might have wanted to keep these seven words about the developers from the public: ‘… and all stated interest in this opportunity.’ 


Of course all the developers were interested! The market opportunity they were offered was so “soft” that I don’t think any contractor / property developer would be likely to turn it down. Which begs the question, was that the answer that Regeneration Officers (and the Lead Member?) wanted from the “market testing”, so that they could put the idea of involving a developer as the ‘preferred delivery option’ for this scheme?


Normally a developer would have to find a site to build homes on, buy it (very expensive in London), get an architect’s team to design the proposed scheme for them, go through the planning process, then build the homes before it could get any return on its development, for which it would have borrowed £millions, over several years, in order to finance.


The key page from Brent’s Wembley Housing Zone “information pack” for developers, April 2021.


The opportunity Brent was offering, in its “market testing exercise”, was to pay whichever developer won the “procurement and contract structure” bid outlined above for building the Council’s housing scheme. Once built, the Council would agree to sell the developer 152 homes, for a fixed price agreed in advance. That price would have been included in the developer’s ‘bid submission’ for the contract, and none of the developers bidding would have offered ‘a guaranteed monetary consideration’ that would not give them a profit!


The report which included this “Confidential Appendix” went to Brent’s Cabinet in August 2021, and you can see from the minutes how enthusiastic they were about the proposals:-


Did none of the Cabinet members stop to think, and ask: ‘why are we handing half of the homes on this Council housing development to a private developer?’ Perhaps they were taken in by the statement in the Officer’s Report: ‘Cabinet Members were consulted in July 2020 and indicated [this] preferred delivery option for the Cecil Avenue site ….’? 


As I set out in my earlier article about the “soft market testing”, that consultation appears to have been “off record” and may have involved as few as two Cabinet members (the Leader and Lead Member for Regeneration). Didn’t other Cabinet members reading that think: ‘I don’t remember being consulted’, and if they did, why didn’t they question it?


Cabinet members apparently enthused about ‘the inclusion of London Affordable Rents as part of the offer’. Most of these would actually be the 54 homes on the Ujima House site, only 8 of which would be 3-bedroom “family homes” (with a 5sqm balcony as private outdoor space!). I had emailed the Cabinet members several days before, to highlight the problems with this Wembley Housing Zone scheme, and the need for more homes to be for genuine social rents.


Perhaps the Cabinet members didn’t have time to read my email before the meeting, but apart from a couple of automatic acknowledgements, none of them responded. I had to ask a public question for the Full Council meeting in November, and a follow-up question, but I still didn’t get any proper explanation for the Cabinet’s decision from Cllr. Shama Tatler.


Cllr. Tatler claimed that making all the Wembley Housing Zone homes affordable ‘is not financially viable’. How could it NOT be financially viable? The Council already owns the site. The Council could borrow the money to build the homes at some of the lowest ever interest rates. 


In answer to my straight question: ‘why is Brent Council not proposing to build all 250 of the homes at Cecil Avenue as affordable rented Council housing?’ Cllr. Tatler’s reply was: ‘the Wembley Housing Zone programme together proposes 50% affordable housing.’ 50% affordable housing is Brent, and London’s, target for all large private housing developments, even though that is rarely, if ever, achieved in the planning process.


Cecil Avenue is a Brent Council development, on Council owned land. The Council has paid (with public money from the GLA) to design the scheme and get it through planning consent. The Council will borrow the money to build the 250 homes. Why shouldn’t all of those homes be Council homes?


I make no apology for sharing again this parody of a Brent Council publicity photograph for its New Council Homes campaign. It shows exactly what Brent’s Cabinet has agreed should happen Cecil Avenue. 


If you want to deliver 1,000 new Council homes in Brent, why “give away” 152 of the new Council homes you are building at Cecil Avenue to a private developer? One way the Council seems to have compensated for this is to agree to buy a tower block with 155 leasehold flats from the developer of the Alperton Bus Garage site, at a cost of £48m. That guaranteed sale of one third of the homes will help the developer, Telford Homes, to obtain the finance to actually build this high-rise scheme, which was strongly opposed by local residents.


Why are a small number of Cabinet Members and Senior Council Officers seemingly favouring private developers like this? Why are their fellow Cabinet members not questioning why? Why are Brent’s Scrutiny Committees not asking for explanations? Why are the rest of Brent’s elected councillors not asking the Leader or Lead Member for Regeneration “Why”?




Why is it left to an ordinary member of the public to ask WHY?

Philip Grant.






Thursday, 20 January 2022

Brent Scrutiny request key information on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods


 Cllr Roxanne Mashari's Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee did a pretty thorough job on the Healthy Neighbourhoods (Healthy Neighbourhoods and School Streets) issue considering it came up under Topical Issues at their recent meeting without a report from officers.

The Low Traffic Neighbourhoods issue which has aroused controversy was inevitably the main focus and there was close questionning of Cllr Shama Tatler with minimal contributions from Cllr Krupa Sheth. Cllr Tatler admitted to problems with implementation and blamed these on government/TfL requirements and a rushed timeline. Left to itself Brent Council would not have approached it in this way, it was claimed.

Cllr Mashari quoted the detailed critique submitted by thye Brent Cycling Campaign.

You can hear the full meeting above and make up your own minds.  The main outcome was that Scrutiny requested a full breakdown of money spent on the schemes and the amount left to spend. In addition Scrutiny wanted a full account of the lessons learnt.The aim was that the objective, supported by the majority of residents for clean air and a healtheir neighbourhood, would be fulfilled by better planning, engagement and consultation.

Queens Park Community School 3G pitch at Planning Committee on Janary 26th - chief planner recommends approval


Re: Queens Park Community School, Aylestone Avenue, London, NW6 7BQ 


I refer to the planning application for the above site which proposes:- 


Construction of an artificial turf pitch, ball stop fencing with access gates, acoustic all weather timber fence, flood lighting units 2 x double floodlights on the half way masts and single floodlights at each of the 4 corner masts (mounted onto 6 steel columns) and a dry pond detention basin and earth bund in a designated area within the school grounds 


The application will be formally considered at the meeting of the Planning Committee on 26 January, 2022 starting at 6pm. 


As a result of the current regulations allowing the Council to hold meetings of the Planning Committee remotely coming to an end, the Council is now required to hold this as a socially distanced physical (face to face) meeting. 


This meeting of the Committee has therefore been arranged to take place in the Conference Hall, at the Civic Centre. 


As we are still operating under existing Covid restrictions, capacity within the meeting venue has been strictly limited to ensure compliance with the necessary social distancing guidelines. 


We are therefore encouraging those who wish to observe proceedings to continue doing so via the live webstream which we will continue to make available on the Council’s website: 


It is possible to speak at the Committee Meeting, which (in advance of the current restrictions coming to an end) can continue to be undertaken online (including via the telephone) or now, as an alternative, in person at the meeting, subject to the restrictions set out in the Council's Standing Order. These provide for one objector and/or one supporter of the application to speak. The Chair has the discretion to increase this to two people from each side. In doing this, the Chair will give priority to occupiers nearest to the application site or representing a group of people. 


To address the committee you must notify Executive and Member Services by 5 pm on the working day before the committee meeting. Please email or telephone the Executive and Member Services Officer, Mrs Dev Bhanji, on 07786 681276 during office hours. If you would prefer to attend the physical meeting to speak in person then please could you indicate this when notifying us of your request, as attendance will need to be strictly managed on the night. This may involve you having to wait in a separate area outside of the meeting room until you are called to speak.

The Chief Planner's recommendation for this application is to Grant Consent


Tokyngton residents receive no response from their neighbours, Muhammed Butt and Dawn Butler, over littering, street drinking & women's safety in their ward


Residents of Tokyngton concerned about littering and other issues are to present a 320 petition at the next Brent Cabinet meeting on February 7th.

They have received no response to a November petition letter to Dawn Butler MP and Cllr Muhammed Butt despite them both being resident in the ward. Zack Polanski, Green Party All London Assembly Member and chair of the Assembly's Environment Committee who did respond sympathetically but has limited power on the issue as it is a borough matter.

 The residents' petition calls for more rubbish bins, improved lighting, anti-littering enforcement and loitering and public drinking restrictions.

The area affected stretches from the Kingdon Hall at Wembley Triangle,  Neeld Parade down Oakington Manor Drive, Vivian Avenue and Vivian Gardens.  The greens at the junctions of  these roads are particular hotspots.

The petitioners write:

Sadly many Tokyngton residents feel badly let down by our council representatives. We see our streets contantly strewn with empty alcohol cans, bottles and litter of every kind. Places feel unsafe especially for women and girls, with now darker nights.  In the listed areas (above) we have constant male loitering and drinking. Here we ask for more neighbourhood/community police officers and the installation of CCTV cameras.

We did not vote for unsightly blue bags stuck on trees. They blow upside down in strong wind, and are difficult and unhygenic to open. We did not vote for an unworkable no-bin policy.  Cllr Butt is placing public bins in 'flag ship areas' and ignoring us and our environment. We ask for proper public bins to be properly collected, especially on our 'hot zones'. Also better lighting in these zones.

Our area of Tokyngton is NOT cared about. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?

The petition is addressed to Dawn Butler MP, Muhammed Butt, Michael Gove (Secretary of State) and Zack Polanski.

LETTER: Richard Evans and Copland payments - the true story

 Dear Editor,


This is the true account of Richard Evans’ involvement in what was at the time the biggest misappropriation of state school funds at Copland Community school in Wembley (£2.7 million) in the UK history.


I was the whistleblower who investigated massive misappropriation of school funds from a school.  For this I was suspended, alongside two other school union reps, Shane Johnschwager, NASUWT Rep and Dave Kubenk, NUT Rep. We all faced disciplinary charges and dismissal. 


During our suspension we continued to collect evidence.  The DfE was slow to react.  However the evidence eventually was so overwhelmingly they were suspended – i.e. the Head, the deputy (Evans who was head of finance), the chair and vice chair of governors, the head’s PA and the school bursar.


We were reinstated and the disciplinary charges overturned.  A wide-ranging police investigation took place.  They were charged with conspiracy to defraud, money laundering, conspiracy to commit false accounting and fraud by abuse of position. A criminal trial took place.  


The crown prosecution service, headed by Keir Starmer, brokered a plea bargain.  If the head Sir Alan Davies (knighted for ‘services to education’ - more like self-service!) pleaded guilty to the six charges of false accounting the other charges would be dropped.  Davies received a 12-month prison sentence suspended for two years.  He was ultimately stripped of his knighthood.  


Remember, the others were not found ‘innocent’ of the charges, just as Davies was not found ‘innocent’ of the more serious charges. Charges were dropped as part of the Davies plea bargain.  I was informed that the police were gutted that the case regarding the serious charges which they had spent months meticulously collecting evidence was for, were dropped. 


I, staff, union members, ratepayers and parents at the school were furious that not only had they escaped from the most serious charges, but they had also kept their ill-gotten gains.  We petitioned/ lobbied the Council to seek to get the money back.  To their eternal credit the Council decided to take them to the financial High Court to seek to get them to have to pay the money back.  The High Court Judge found they were all complicit in the overpayments and other financial irregularities.  


Evans claim that he didn’t know he was being overpaid is risible.  Truth and justice are not cheap, but they are precious, indeed priceless.


Hank Roberts,

Previous teacher at Copland Community school, recently retired NEU Executive member


Please note the following conclusions reached by Judge Zacaroli in his judgement on 16.08.18 [Numbers refer to the paragraphs in the judgement]:


1.    Dr Evans received over £600,000 in overpayments (13)

2.   The vast majority of those payments were unlawful (125)

3.   The Judge found that Dr Evans’ evidence was ‘not credible’ (237) in regards to how those payments were made and ‘did not stand up to scrutiny’ (421)

4.   The Judge notes that many of the payments to Dr Evans were double payments (383)

5.    The Judge goes on to note ‘the payments to Mr Davies and Dr Evans represent obvious double counting’ (430) and there were ‘simply not enough hours in the week’ to have undertaken claimed additional duties (425)

6.   He also notes ‘a lack of any possible justification’ for payments (506)

7.    Crucially, Justice Zacaroli found there was knowing receipt of funds by Dr Evans paid in breach of fiduciary duty (565)

8.   Other findings by the Judge regarding payments to Dr Evans are that they were ‘unconscionable’ (592) and that Dr Evans must have been aware of the risk that payments ‘could not be justified’ (593). He goes on to say Dr Evans ‘must have appreciated that there was no proper justification’ for another payment and ‘the retention of this sum was unconscionable’ (594).

9.   Justice Zacaroli ordered that Dr Evans pay back all unlawful payments that are not outside the limitation period.