Friday 25 September 2009


Brent Cyclists have come out in strong opposition to the traffic plans for Barnet Council's proposed Brent Cross Cricklewood development.

They say, "We object that the plans for cyclists along the A5, south and northbound, would create new and significant hazards on a route which is already difficult to negotiate.

Southbound it would be impossible to travel across the North Circular without a massive detour and negotiation of ramps. The only direct alternative for cyclists will be to use the flyover. Few cyclists will want to risk that; to get on and off the flyover you have to ride across two lanes of fast traffic on slip roads at each end. This will significantly increase the chances of casualties, and possibly deaths, among cyclists. The A5 is an ancient route that the public has been able to traverse in a straight line for close on 2000 years. These plans will remove this right from cyclists and pedestrians. They also contradict the Mayor's plans for 'cycle superhighways', which are supposed to be 'safe, direct, continuous, visible, comfortable and informative'. "


Coalition protesters outside Hendon Town Hall

Darren Johnson, Green Party chair of the London Assembly, has joined the Coalition for a Sustainable Brent Cross:

"I strongly support the call of the Coalition for a Sustainable Brent Cross for the rejection of the £5bn Brent Cross/Cricklewood development application to Barnet Council. The proposed development would have a major impact on traffic and pollution across the whole of North West London, particularly the neighbouring boroughs of Brent and Camden. Barnet Council is not qualified to take decisions that impact significantly beyond the borough's boundaries and the London Mayor must make it his business to intervene."

Navin Shah, Labour Assembly member for Brent and Harrow added his voice to the swelling opposition:

“Barnet Council’s deferral follows months of delays and dithering that doesn’t bode well for the application. The Brent Cross application has already been delayed for the past year, and the problems that have dogged it appear to continue to do so.”

“The large number of objections is illustrative of serious problems with this huge application. Thousands of northwest London residents and objections from neighbouring Brent and Camden Councils show this application is seriously flawed in terms of major issues including affordable housing, traffic generation and its complete disregard for sustainability.”

“Given the sheer size of the application, it is vital Barnet gets this redevelopment right. The delays show they know the objections are serious and well merited. I urge the Council to do all it can to avoid all too obvious, and costly mistakes by demanding more from this flawed and unambitious planning application that will currently do more damage than good."

Wednesday 23 September 2009


The chair of Barnet's planning and environment committee has announced that she will move deferral of the controversial Brent Cross-Cricklewood planning application at today's meeting. She said. "We have had several detailed representations in the last few days and it is important that the council gives these the fullest consideration. I want everyone to appreciate that representations will be dealt with professionally, transparently and in full.”

This is the fourth time that consideration of the application has been delayed. The Brent Cross Coalition, who are campaigning for the application to be refused said, "The fact that the planning meeting been has deferred at the last minute, and delayed countless times previously, shows that Barnet are wrong to think they are able to give the degree of scrutiny at ordinary planning committee that this 5-billion-pound regional development deserves. Barnet are right to fully consider the large number of detailed objections they have now received. But inconsistencies in the committee report and myths banded about by the developers, mean that Barnet alone can't decide on this scheme. It should be called in to a public inquiry as soon as possible."

Before the deferral announcement the Coalition had drawn attention to the fact that the developers had said 9,000 extra cars per day would be generated bu the development,despite Barnet and Transport for London's estimate of 29,000.

The Coalition said, “It is outrageous that developers have managed to ‘lose’ 20,000 of the 29,000 extra cars a day from Barnet’s own predictions. We challenge the developers how they think the 1,500 new homes at West Hendon can account for 20,000 of the extra 29,000 cars generated. What we need is a full public inquiry to thoroughly scrutinize the plans, not the quick rubber stamp of Barnet’s ordinary planning committee.

“We need proper regeneration of the Brent Cross area, giving the local community real power in its design and phasing, not the PR myths that are more fiction than fact. A growing number of groups across London won’t be fooled by the developers’ spin and ‘green-wash’ painted on these 1980s car-based plans, when they should be environmentally designed for the 21st Century.”

Despite the deferral the Coalition will still be holding a protest outside Hendon Town Hall at 6pm tonight.

Thursday 17 September 2009


As the Wembley Park playing fields disappear beneath the ARK Academy building works there have been a number of developments on the academies front. The government has announced that private sponsors will no longer have to cough up £2m towards the cost of new academies and it turns out not many did so anyway. The government apparently believe this will squash claims that academies are a form of privatisation rather than create claims that our schools will now be given away to private companies. Giving away schools will no doubt mean that all sorts of strange private sponsors will emerge but the government promises a stringent procedure to vet them - let's wait and see.

The underlying assumption that private organisations, by their very nature, will be better at running schools has been challenged by the fate of Sheffield Park Academy. This Academy, run by United Learning Trust, took over from Walthe School which in 2004 was making 'satisfactory progress'according to Ofsted. Walthe was rebuilt at a cost of£8m in 1998 but in 2006 was replaced by the Academy which moved into new buildings costing £90m last year. The latest Ofsted inspection report on the Academy rates it as 'inadequate' in all categories and criticises its leadership and management -precisely the area which is supposed to give private sponsorship the edge. ULT is the largest academy sponsor with 17 schools.

To add to the confusion, arch-Tory Westminster City council has commissioned a report by Professor David Eastwood which recommends that local councils should have the power to take over failing academies. The commission warned that academies were refusing to cooperate with boroughs on developing coherent local plans for schools. The Evening Standard said that councillors feel 'politically vulnerable' because voters see them as responsible for education, despite them having no control over academies.'

The sooner the academies are brought back under the democratically accountable control of local authorities the better. Perhaps this could become an issue in the May 2010 local election so that the new school being built in Wembley Park belongs to us, the taxpayers and community charge payers, rather than a hedge fund millionaire.

Wednesday 16 September 2009


A coalition of local groups spanning Brent, Barnet and Camden has formed to oppose current plans for the Brent Cross Cricklewood (BXC) development, and to win a public inquiry, in advance of Barnet Council’s forthcoming determination of the planning application at a planning committee meeting on Wednesday 23rd September.

The coalition consists of ten residents groups, three political parties, two MPs, one London Assembly Member, three Friends of the Earth groups, two cycling campaigns, London-wide and local transport campaigners, a large local employer and local residents. It aims to demand and achieve a public inquiry to prevent BXC being built according to current plans.

Lia Colacicco, Brent resident and Coalition Co-ordinator says, “This scheme is unsustainable in many ways, despite the green-wash painted by developers. Our coalition objects to many aspects of the plan: transport provisions, increases in pollution, environmental degradation and lack of social sustainability. The Mayor’s Rules are clear that major developments should be zero carbon emission but the developers say it is not commercially viable”

“In view of the huge negative environmental impact this regional scale development will have on a wide area of North West London, all our diverse groups have come together to oppose it. We welcome regeneration of the area, but not this ill-conceived pre-climate change plan that has incensed a great number of local people across three boroughs.”

Alison Hopkins, Brent Resident on the border with Barnet adds, “This is an attempt to build Manhattan in a suburban setting, destroying much green space and our quality of life in the process. Frankly, the whole scheme is overbearing, and smacks of over ambition, especially in the current fragile economic climate.”

“This scheme contains outline planning permission for the next couple of decades, for the developers to do what they want. Only an unprecedented Act of Parliament could undo the tremendous power they will gain, if this outline scheme is approved.

“Furthermore, the developers have slipped FULL planning permission into what Barnet has always called an outline application. So they can immediately make huge changes, convenient for them, even though they have no commitment to see them through in the years ahead.”

The report to the Planning Committee from Barnet Council’s planning officers is not due to be made public until Tuesday 15 September, giving only a week for residents and groups to make sense of it. It will be determined by Barnet alongside minor matters at an ordinary monthly Planning Committee meeting.

Over 3,000 petitions calling for the development to be called into Public Inquiry were handed in to John Denham, Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities in June.

Monday 14 September 2009


Because I was involved in the organising of the Unite Against Fascism defence of Harrow Mosque, people have asked me about my position, as a Green Party member, on the issue of combating the far-right.

When I was a member, in the 1970s and 80s, of ALTARF (All London Teachers Against Racism and Fascism) we made a distinction between the hard-core racists and fascists, with clear ideological commitment to those ideas, and those who got involved with them because of feelings of powerlessness, poverty or oppression. Along with others in the movement we saw our role as separating the latter from the former through a process of education and engagement.

Currently there are all sorts of reasons for disaffection that are being exploited by the far-right: the economic recession with loss of jobs and homes,the lack of social housing, bankers' bonuses being subsidised by taxpayers' money and politicians apparently feathering their own nests. These domestic issues are accompanied by the rhetoric surrounding the 'war on terror' which too often slides into apparent condemnation of all Muslims and the increasing unpopularity of the war in Afghanistan and confusion about 'why are we there.' The international issues fuel the racists' Islamaphobia and alienate many of the Muslim population and lead some to extremist acts.

Tackling inequality, both economic and social, therefore, must be a major priority. The Green Party has a strong social justice approach with policies aimed at reforming the financial system, saving money by scrapping Trident and ID cards, creating more Green jobs through public investment, establishing a Living Wage (above the level of the Minimum Wage), and supporting co-operative and mutual businesses. Greens would bring empty private homes back into use as well as provide more affordable housing. We would invest in sustainable housing by fitting free insulation in all homes that need it and invest in our children's health by providing nutritious free midday meals for all pupils.

Internationally Greens opposed the Iraq War and at the recent conference called for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Our MEPs have fought tirelessly for Europe to put pressure on Israel to stop the oppression of Palestinians in the occupied territories and the building of Israeli settlements.

I cannot pretend that these policies would solve all the problems but I do think they are a pre-condition of combating the extreme right. It is no use government ministers calling up memories of Cable Street while they preside over policies that have increased inequality and cause divisions.

So, you may be asking, what about the hard-right ideologues that you wrote about earlier? If they are never going to change and their aim is violence against particular sections of the population, then we have to oppose them by the kind of mass united community mobilisation we saw in Harrow.

Sunday 13 September 2009


The media, by concentrating on a few skirmishes in a generally peaceful demonstration, takes away from the power of a diverse community with many differences standing together against a common threat.

This video of photographs taken on Friday shows what 95% of the vigil was really like!

Friday 11 September 2009


It wasn't a riot, as the Guardian website claimed, but a good humoured, lively and sometimes excitable demonstration of community solidarity against right-wing extremists which succeeded in keeping them off Harrow streets and well away from the Harrow Mosque.

The few stray rightists who did turn up were chased away by local youngsters who soon returned to the main demonstration. There were reports that Stop the Islamisation of Europe (SIOE) cancelled their demonstration when the police informed them of the scale of the counter-demonstration.

Today's events showed what can be done when a whole diverse community unites against those who seek to divide it. Given the SIOE's (and their supporters in the English Defence League and British Defence League) extreme provocation in organising the anti-Islam protest on the anniversary of 9/11, during Ramadan and after Friday Prayers, the solidarity vigil was remarkably restrained.




Ken Livingstone, chair of Unite Against Fascism and former mayor of London, spoke out yesterday against the anti-Muslim rally called by far right organisations outside Harrow Central Mosque this Friday. Livingstone said:

"If anyone were to call a demonstration outside a synagogue or church, this would rightly provoke a national outcry. There should be exactly the same response from the government, politicians, all religious faiths and the media to the call for a demonstration outside a mosque. The only possible meaning of this event is a protest against Muslims and Islam – a religion followed by more than a billion people in the world."

People should wake up to the fact the protests outside mosques are taking us back to the fascism of the 1930s when fascist thugs marched against Jews and their places of worship. This demonstration should be condemned and banned on the grounds of blatant religious discrimination and a threat to public order."

Thursday 10 September 2009


"Islamophobia - bigotry against Muslims - is as unacceptable as any other form of racism. Its aim is to divide us by making scapegoats of one community, just as the Nazis did with the Jews in the 1930s.

Today they threaten the mosque, tomorrow it could be a synagogue, temple or church. Today they threaten Muslims, tomorrow it could be Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, blacks, gays, travellers or Eastern Europeans.

There is no place for Nazis, racists or the BNP in Harrow's multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious community."

This is part of a joint letter signed by local Labour MPs Gareth Thomas, Tony McNulty, Barry Gardiner and Dawn Butler opposing tomorrow's right-wing demonstration at Harrow Mosque. The letter has also been signed by Navin Shah, London Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow and local trade unionists, community associations and activists.

The demonstration has been called by Stop the Islamisation of Europe (SIOE) but has been hijacked by the English Defence League and British Defence League and other far-right groups and individuals who have been publicising it on their websites and Facebook. It has been deliberately scheduled to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11to label all Muslims terrorists and to coincide with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to give maximum offence. SIOE claim not to be racist (they just hate Islam!) but an image on their website depicting an evil face superimposed on a mosque looks like something from the Nazi era, and the comments made by supporters reveal their true nature.

A counter-vigil,organised by Brent and Harrow Unite Against Fascism,will be held on the pavement outside Harrow Civic Centre, Station Road, opposite the new mosque building which is still under construction. The vigil begins at 1.30pm with a rally at 6pm.

This is the biggest threat by racists and Fascists to West or North West London since the National Front marched in Southall 30 years ago. They must be opposed once again.

Sunday 6 September 2009


A 'Coalition for a Sustainable BXC Plan' has been formed to oppose the Brent Cross-Cricklewood regeneration project following a meeting at Brent Town Hall last week. Those attending included four local councillors, Brent Friends of the Earth, local Residents' Associations, Brent Cyclists and myself from the Brent Green Party.

The coalition is united around the aim of opposing the current plans for the development by campaigning against the planning application which is likely to go to Barnet Planning Committee on Wednesday September 23rd, and campaigning for the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to call in the plans and set up a public inquiry.

Although participants in the Coalition may have differences in terms of the detail of their objections they are agreed that the present plans would cause environmental damage and be to the detriment of the local community.

A petition to the Secretary of State organised by Brent Friends of the Earth can be found here.