Monday 30 November 2009

Welsh Harp Development: Developments

Cemetery Plan 1950 (from National Archive)
The Greenhouse site appears to have been ear-marked for a sports ground

Events are moving fast in the camapign against housing development close to the Welsh Harp Space. Tara Brady of the Wembley Observer reports that Cllr Paul Lorber has written to Brois Johnson,London Mayor,asking him to reject the proposals. Lorber said, “Proposals of this nature are just not appropriate in my view for Metropolitan Open Space. Given the level of concern being raised by local people I had no option but to write to Boris and ask him to reject the proposals.”

The Open Space Society has also lodged its objections.Its general secretary Kate Ashbrook said ‘It is outrageous that this wonderful green lung should be desecrated with over 160 houses. This open space is of vital importance, for residents and visitors from further afield. They treasure the Welsh Harp reservoir and its surroundings, for quiet recreation and bird watching. This greenspace is invaluable and irreplaceable.

‘Furthermore, the Capital Ring long-distance path goes along the edge of the reservoir, and would be severely and adversely affected by the development, as would other public paths in the vicinity.

‘We have urged both councils (Brent and Barnet) to reject these damaging applications.’

Meanwhile my query about any covenants etc on the land, elicited a reply from Richard Barrett , Head of Property and Asset Management at Brent Council,  that  referred me to Legal Services for a detailed reponse but went on:

"However I can confirm that I am aware of the recent planning application and that any proposals to develop the land would also require Council approval as freehold owner. The long lease granted to Mr. Scott’s company has a restriction on use which would require the Council’s permission to amend or alter. Until the application is considered and determined by the relevant planning authority any such approach for a change of use would not be entertained."

HA1 Harrow Unity Interviews - Defend the Harrow Mosque on December 13th

The Stop the Islamisation of Europe and EDL are demonstrating against the Harrow Mosque again on December 13th. Unite against Fascism are holding a counter-demonstration:

A message from Brent and Harrow UAF:

The Swiss referendum decision not to allow the building of any more minarets will feed the Islamophobia motivating the right wing demonstration against Harrow Central Mosque on Sunday December 13th. This makes it all the more important that we have a large, peaceful, united demonstration with a strong representation of trades unionists and Harrow's diverse community, young and old. An organisation called British Muslims for Secular Democracy will also be holding a counter-demonstration to the one called by Stop the Islamisation of Europe. We welcome their participation and will be happy to have them speaking at the rally.


Friday 27 November 2009


In addition to the Green Party Parliamentary Candidates 'condemnation of the BNP Wembley video (see GREENS CONDEMN BNP VIDEO) other statements have now been made on the issue.


All political parties on the council condemn this video.  Brent is one of the most multicultural places in Europe - almost every nation around the world will have a friend or family living within our borders. We are all very proud of the rich mix ofcommunities we have within our borough.


I found this the single most revolting and disturbing thing in my life as a constituency MP. I am proud to represent the most multucultural brough in this country,and indeed, in Europe.

I issue this challenge to the BNP: come back to Brent and dare to stand against me in the next general election.Dare to put what you said on film to the wholeof the British public. Dare to put it to the people of Brent. Those people are British.They are proud to be British and proud to be part of this society.


As one of only two black female MPs I am appalled by the BNP's lame attempt to challenge Brent's diversity which we love, cherish and are extremely proud of.

It is a known fact Nick Griffin has stated that Brent is exactly what he does not want Britain to look like. I received an e-mail froman outraged 12 year-old who happened to be a Hindu ands was extremely upset and annoyed by the way Muslims were portrayed in this clip. Let that be a lesson to the BNP -if you offend one of us you offend us all.


It is despicable for the BNP to try and use the symbolism of Wembley stadium to promote their racist bile. It is also profoundly stupid. Brent has always been a melting pot for people from all over the world, and people get on pretty well thank you.

That BNP group should clear off, and go back to where they came from.



The peopleof Wembley have formed a united fron this week against a film made by the British National Party,

In a shocking clip entitled The True Face of Immigration, an unnamed member of the South Wales BNP criticises our borough's diverse population and uses it as an example, in his eyes, of how the government's immigration policies have failed.

We are appalled by the video and find it deeply upsetting the way Brent has been portrayed.

One of Brent's main assets is its diversity and it is something to be proud of. Almost every nation around the world will have a friend or family living in our borough and that is what makes Brent so special.

Barry Gardiner's Video Riposte to BNP

Barry Gardiner has uploaded a YouTube video in response to the BNP's Wembley video.
See it HERE

Thursday 26 November 2009


The peaceful churchyard at the 900 year old Old St Andrew's Church is only a few minutes away from the proposed housing development at the Welsh Harp.

There is a connection because it emerged this week that the site of the Birchen Grove allotments, the Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre and the Greenhouse were areas set aside for a Kingsbury Lawn Cemetery last century. It was initially expected that the cemetery would be used for burials during the Second World War. However there were still arguments about it after the War and although a chapel was built (now an eco-energy centre near the Education Centre) alongside a shelter (still there on the Greenhouse access road) no cemetery was ever constructed.

In a paper delivered to the Nine Colloquiumon on Cemeteries at York University in 2008, entitled 'The Cemetery That Never Was', Brian Parsons said that the grounds had never been de-consecrated despite intentions to do so.

This clearly raises issues about building houses on the site. Additionally the issue of  chancel taxes, imposed by the Diocese of London arises. This is a tax raised by the Diocese for church repairs. Householders in the area close to Old St Andrew's are advised to take out a special insurance in case such a tax is levied. The land in question appears to come under the Archdeaconries of both Northolt and Hampstead.

I am advised that if the land is still consecrated this means that it is subject to 'faculty juridisction'. Any development or proposal that affects land or buildings that are under the faculty jurisdiction requires grant of faculty by the Chancellor of the Diocese following advice from the Diocesan Advisory Committee and the relevant Archdeacon. This would be in addition to any statutory planning approvals by the local authority or the Secretary of State.

This is a picture of the site in the 1930s,with  the 'new' St Andrew's in the background, which shows the extent of the area. A map in the document also indicates the land may have covered both the Brent and Barnet development sites.

The public have rallied to the cause of the Welsh Harp Open Space in Brent and Barnet.

In Brent there have been 100 responses to the consultation on Malcolm Scott's application to build 71 dwellings on the Greenhouse Garden Centre site. Only one of those supports the application and 90 are opposed. Two petitions opposing the development have also been lodged.

In Barnet there have been 84 responses,with only one in support of the application for the redevelopment  of Woodfield Nursery as 90 dwellings, This site is also owned by the developer Malcolm  Scott.  81 residents are against the application and there are 2 comments and one petition.

Wednesday 25 November 2009


Local Green paliamentary candidates have written to the local press to condemn the BNP's racist video about Wembley:

We write to express our disgust at the latest tactics of the BNP, to target the diverse community of Wembley in a campaign video aimed at fomenting racism and fuelling discontent. The BNP is using football as an emblem for racism when the Football Association and the football supporters' organisations are amongst the most stalwart opponents of racism in British society.

The video sought to depict the local multi-ethnic population as alien and foreign and their presence in Wembley as somehow sinister. Instead we say that the people shown represent the lively and diverse population of modern Wembley who live, work, learn, shop, eat, relax and debate together. They include bus drivers, builders, nurses, doctors, chefs, councillors, teachers, shopkeepers, school governors and others; all from many different backgrounds, who contribute to our community and participate in efforts to improve it.

The school children shown do argue vociferously about differences, but not about race or religion as the BNP might hope, but like children around the country do, usually about their allegiance to Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United or Liverpool; or about who should win the X Factor! Anyone who knows our community will realise that the BNP's efforts to divide us will not succeed and will be treated with the contempt they deserve.

As Green Party general election candidates covering Wembley and the wider environs, we will take every opportunity to confront and expose racial hatred and bigotry in politics and society.

Martin Francis, Green parliamentary candidate for Brent North

Shahrar Ali, Green parliamentary candidate for Brent Central
Bea Campbell, Green parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn
Sarah Kersey, Green parliamentary candidate for Harrow East
Rowan Langley, Green parliamentary candidate for Harrow West

Monday 23 November 2009


Following the FA action on their Wembley video, BNP supporters have loaded an official Brent Council video on to their website.  The video shows children dancing at the Big Lunch event at Wembley and the author says,'This looks like any place in the world but England to me' and disparaging comments about the children are added by his supporters.

The website calls for a boycott of Trinity South newspapers because the Harrow Observer website carried a statement by Barry Gardiner, MP for North Brent, condemning the BNP Wembley video. See his statement HERE

The website calls Gardiner a 'vile creature'and mounts a vitriolic personal attack on him.

I have informed Brent Council about the BNP's use of an official Brent Council video and they are seeking ways of having it removed from the site and discussing what other action they could take.

Saturday 21 November 2009


Although the FA have taken quick action on the BNP video targeting Wembley, the video is still on You Tube and attracting plenty of hits.

The BNP presenter from South Wales suggests that 'iconic' Wembley has been taken over by foreigners and that this is the fault of Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat policies.   The video centres on the High Road and Ealing Road, and there is a lot of footage around the Wembley Central Mosque and tracking of the diverse shops of the area.

Ironically, if you took away the poisonous commentary the footage could be seen as an example of a vibrant, diverse, multi-racial area where people are getting on with their lives in relative harmony.

However the BNP's aims are clear: to wind people up ahead of major football events and they are playing to the audience of supporters who took part in the English Defence League, British Defence League and football supporters (the 'Casuals') marches which caused mayhem in Luton, as well as those who threaten the Harrow Mosque again on December 13th. Targeting of right-wing football 'supporters' is dangerous when these same supporters will be making their way along streets shown in the video when they travel to Wembley Stadium for matches. The Council and police will need to have contigency plans ready for any sporadic violence and targeting of individuals that may result.

I call on political and religious leaders, community organisations and residents in Brent to condemn the BNP tactics and make a united stand in defence of  our successful diverse, multi-racial and harmonious community. A community of which we are proud and pleased to call our own.

Friday 20 November 2009


Despite massive local opposition, Barnet Council last night approved the 'pie in the sky' planning application for a massive Brent Cross Shopping Centre expansion. Details remained vague,many questions remained unanswered and the possible toxic implications of the Brent  Cross incinerator hung over the meeting like a black cloud, but the smooth talking and jaw-droppingly patronising Mr Joseph won the day for the developers. A cross-party coalition of councillors (although of course they are non-party on planning matters) passed the application 8-1,with 1 abstention, apparently on the reckless basis of 'we've been waiting for a long time to do something about this, this is all we've got, so we better do it whatever our reservations may be'.

The decision has been condemned by Sarah Teather MP, Navin Shah AM, Darren Johnson AM and Jean Lambert MEP,  (details on Brent Cross Coalition Blog), who are united in calling for a public inquiry.

You can add your own voice to the Public Inquiry call - details HERE

Thursday 19 November 2009


Although petitioning is going very well, it is important to get as many objections to the proposed Welsh Harp housing development in as possible, both to show the strength of local feeling to councillors on the planning committee, and as back-up in the event of any appeal by the developer. The current deadline for submissions on the proposed housing development on the Greenhouse Garden Centre is Friday November 20th.

You can see plans and respond directly on the planning website HERE
or e-mail:
or telephone her on 020 8937 5337
The case number is 09/3220
The developer is: Mr Malcolm Scott, Garden & Plant Centre Developments Ltd, Greenhouse Garden Centre, Grove House, 1 Loves Grove, Worcester, WR1 3BU

Wednesday 18 November 2009


The RSPB have submitted an objection to the application for outline planning permission for 71 dwellings on the Greenhouse Garden Centre at the Welsh Harp.

The RSPB call for an Environmental Impact Study (EIA) by virtue of the fact that the development is to be carried out in a sensitive area as defined by the Town and Country Planning Regulations 1999.

They consider that the applicant's document, 'Assessment of Implications on Welsh Harp/Brent Reservoir SSSI and SMINC' has failed to consider the potential impacts on  interest features of the SSSI. They say the document presents no evidence quantifying existing levels of recreational pressure or whether there is capacity at the site for additional recreational activity. They say the document gives no detail on the type, scale and timing of mitigation and that therefore the efficacy of mitigation cannot be assessed.

The RSPB conclude they would like to see all their concerns addressed through an EIA and 'pending the outcome of further assessment work and the review of potential mitigation, the RSPB objects to this planning application'.

The full  RSPB response is available HERE

Monday 16 November 2009


Another milestone in the Coalition's  fight against the monstrous and unsustainable Brent Cross development approaches on Wednesday.

We need you, your friends, neighbours and colleagues to be outside the Hendon Town Hall at 5.30pm on November 18th with your banners, voices, but most of all your determination.

We demand nothing less than a full Public Inquiry so that these ill-thought out and shoddy plans can be thoroughly scrutinised and the concerns of residents, environmental groups and Camden and Brent councils can be properly addressed - not fobbed off by public relations flannel.

Together we can win.We are not going to let Barnet Council blight our lives and those of future generations!


The developer who wishes to build houses on the Greenhouse Garden Centre site  in Brent, next to the Welsh Harp Open Space, also wants to build 90 dwellings on the nearby Woodfield Nursery site, Cool Oak Lane, NW9 7NB which he also owns. These are defined as 'large scale dwellings'.

Although the developer has said he wants to build only on one of the sites, redeveloping a garden centre on the other, there is the possibility that both could be built on.The total number of housing units on both sites would be 161.   The Welsh Harp Joint Consultative Committee, which has councillors sitting on it from both Brent and Barnet, last week decided to oppose both developments.

The Barnet planning application can be found HERE the earliest decision date is November 30th but the target date for decision is January 28th 2010.  You can comment on the application on the above link. So far 10 objections have been received.

Follow THIS LINK for a map of  the area showing the Woodfield site (Red Circle). The glass roofs, plant area and car park of the Greenhouse site can clearly be seen to the left of the Woodfield site. The impact of the development of both sites on the Welsh Harp Open Space and the 'buffer zones' around it would be immense.

Friday 13 November 2009


Housing on the Hendon side of the Welsh Harp - not wanted in Brent

Following on the opposition of Brent Green Party, Welsh Harp Labour Action Team and the Welsh Harp Joint Consultative Committee to the proposed development of the Greenhouse Garden Centre for housing, Sarah Teather MP,  the Brent Council Liberal Democrat, Conservative and Democratic Conservative groups have all declared their opposition to the scheme.

Sarah Teather has circulated a newsletter in the ward opposing the development and echoing many of the comments made in this blog. The Welsh Harp ward is in the new Brent Central constituency that she will be contesting at the General Election.

The newsletter also contains a petition against the proposed scheme. This adds another petition to those already being circulated by residents and the Labour Party.  The Liberal Democrat group on the council have joined Sarah Teather in opposing the application.

Bob Blackwell, Leader of the Conservative Group told Wembley Matters: "The Conservative Group are totally opposed to any form of housing development on the two sites, both in Brent and in Barnet. The Conservative Group has always supported retaining this open space and campaigned against proposals to develop this area some 10 years ago."  Robert Dunwell, leader of the Democratic Conservative group said that in his considered professional opinion the application should be opposed in principle.

This will all help the campaign against the development ahead of the Planning Committee hearing which is likely to be held on December 16th.  However it is important to remember that as the Committee is a statutory one it is not whipped in the same way as other Council committees. It makes an independent decision, taking into account officers' reports and representations by all parties concerned. Residents should continue to make representations via the Brent Planning Website here.

Wednesday 11 November 2009


The Welsh Harp JCC took the significant step of expressing its opposition to the Greenhouse application to build housing on its site at its meeting tonight. The development has been opposed by local councillors, residents and other organisations.

The application now goes to the Brent Planning Committee and representations can be made up to November 20th.  It is likely to be heard on December 16th.


I wrote the following letter to Brent councillors who sit on the Welsh Harp Joint Consultative Committee  ahead of the meeting on November 11th. I wrote in my capacity as the organiser of  Brent School Without Walls which runs environmental education sessions for primary school pupils in Fryent Country Park. I also forwarded the letter to Natural England and the London Wildlife Trust who sit on the JCC.

Dear Brent Councillors,

I am writing to you ahead of this evening's JCC meeting to request that you do all you can to persuade the JCC to adopt a position of opposition to the proposed development of housing on the Greenhouse site. I know that the JCC does not make the final decision but I believe a strong stand on the issue, conveyed to the Planning Committee before their December 16th meeting, could be very influential.

Since the proposal was announced there has been a strong groundswell of local opinion against the plans. Two petitions opposing the development are currently circulating in the area and the 'Comments Book' at the exhibition at the Greenhouse itself contains many heart-felt, passionate pleas for the Welsh Harp to be defended. As local councillors I hope you will rise to that challenge.

As you know the proposed site is adjacent to the SSSI and MSINC and close to the Environmental Education Centre. The environmental report for the developer argues that a buffer zone of trees will be enough to mitigate the impact on the open space. I would strongly claim that this is not the case. The SSSI and MSINC need a much larger buffer zone to protect them. At present the limited opening hours of the garden centre and its large outside selling area, replete with plants, trees and shrubs, provide a buffer. This transition zone between housing and the open space will disappear and noise, traffic and light pollution; and loss of habitat, will have a direct impact on the wild life of the area. In addition the extension of Birchen Grove, across the open space, to provide access to the new estate will be a further loss of green field space. All these developments could have a detrimental impact on the diversity of the grounds of the Environmental Education Centre. Once housing has been developed on the Greenhouse site there will be inevitable pressure on the area between the development and Runbury Circle. This contains the Birchen Grove allotments, where I am an allotment holder, and the Environmental Centre whose work I strongly support.

Brent already has less green space than many other London boroughs and we must defend every inch of it. My mother played around the Welsh Harp as a child in the 1930s, and my brothers and sisters and I did the same in the 1950s when we visited our grandmother in Church Drive. I believe my life long interest in the environment stemmed from that experience and a similar one on Barn Hill. These are two gems of semi-wild areas that we have left in Brent and it is vital that we protect them and they are available to the next generation. London Heritage last year lamented the fact that Brent, unlike other London boroughs, had no official 'heritage champion' and suggested this explained the deterioration in Brent's conservation areas. In the absence of such a champion, councillors and residents should join together to be community heritage champions for the borough.

Martin Francis


The Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre is adjacent to the proposed housing development on the Greenhouse Garden Centre site.

The Centre is used by children from the boroughs of Brent and Barnet and wider afield and is an excellent and valued local resource,

Click HERE to see a video about the Centre's work.

Tuesday 10 November 2009


Concern over the possibility of housing development on the Greenhouse Centre site at the Welsh Harp has increased in both Brent and Barnet since the Wembley Observer followed up the story first carried on this blog.

The development will be discussed by the  Welsh Harp Joint Consultative Committee at 7.30pm on Thursday 11th November in the Council Chamber at Brent Town Hall, Wembley. The JCC consists of councillors from Barnet and Brent, users of the Welsh Harp reservoir and open space, Natural England, London Wildlife Trust, Old St Andrews Residents' Associaiton, Woolmead Residents' Association and West Hendon Community Forum. 

The decision on planning applications will be made by the Planning Committees in each borough but the viewof the JCC will be important.  The public have a right to attend these meetings and it is important to hear what our representatives are saying about this threat to our dimishing local natural environment.

The JCC Agenda says that the consultation on the plans ends on November 11th. We have rung Brent Council to query this and have been told by the Planning Department that the Brent consultation actually ends on November 20th and the most likely date for Brent's Planning Committee to consider it is likely to be December 16th.

Meanwhile at least two petitions are circulating opposing the development of the site as housing and there is a possibility of a public meeting on the matter.

The JCC Agenda can be found here