Tuesday 29 December 2009

Now Barnet Council Reject Welsh Harp Development

Barnet Council have refused planning permission for housing development on the Woodfield Nursery site in Cool Oak Lane, near the Welsh Harp, submitted by the same developer who wanted to develop the Greenhouse site in Brent.

The application was turned down on the following grounds:

1. Inappropriate development on Metropolitan Open Land with no special circumstances cited for development.
2. Loss of existing employment on the site.
3. Non-compliant flood risk assessment.
4.Insufficient information on the impact of the proposed development on biodiversity and nature conservation.
5. Insufficient information on whether the develoment ould provide future occupierswith adequate levels of amenity, particularly with regard to the proximity of the Hendon Rifle Club.
6. Insuffient infromation of the development's impact on the amenity value of trees, including those protected by Tree Preservation Orders.
7. No energy strategy or assesment of the energy demands and carbon dioxide emissions of the development submitted with the application.
8. No formal undertaking in the application to enter into a travel and traffic management plan.

The decision is very welcome and means that both local councils involved have now rejected the developer's plans. However he can still appeal the decision to the Secretary of State who could over-turn the decision. There is no news yet on whether the developer is minded to appeal.

Monday 28 December 2009


Central Square has been refurbished, new shops are opening, luxury flats are being marketed but amidst the private affluence of Wembley Central regeneration the station festers in public squalor. Just compare the architects' vision with the actual appearance of the station.  Rumour has it that money has run out and there is certainly no sign of work underway.  This seems to be the fate of much regeneration: money is poured into the profit yielding part of the development and the public service infrastructure part is deprioritised and neglected.  Hailed as a modern gateway to a new Wembley at the planning stage by Brent Council we are left with a ramshackle building which fails to come up to the standard of many an allotment shed.  What is Brent Council doing to get the work completed?


If the station building raises issues about  private-public partnerships in regeneration, the strange case of the Wembley Central 'ghost trains' exposes the absurdities of railway privatisation.

For some time Brent Council has been trying to persuade London Midland and Southern Trains to have more of their trains stopping at Wembley Central.  They think that doing this would give regeneration a fillip by making access to Wembley easier by public transport.  At present London Midland stop trains on their Euston-Milton Keynes-Northampton route on special occasions at the Stadium or Arena - the aim is to have a regular service.  This would also benefit residents who have friends and relations in places like Hemel Hempstead, Leighton Buzzard and Milton Keynes which since the 1950s have rehoused much London 'overspill' from North West London.

Southern have timetabled trains for Wembley Central but there is a catch. Travelling from Milton Keynes towards Harrow and Wealdstone, Shepherds Bush, Clapham Junction, Selhurst and East Croydon, although station destination boards list Wembley Central neither the carriage matrix route indicators  nor the automatic recorded announcements announce that the south bound service is going to stop at Wembley once passengers are on board. Just after Harrow the guard occasionally cuts  in to say the service is going to stop at Wembley, often quickly followed by the recorded voice soothingly announcing that 'The next station stop is Shepherds Bush'. All likely to cause anxiety to Wembley bound passengers who think they may be carried straight through to the Bush!

Mystified? Well so was I so I asked the staff about it.  Apparently Virgin Trains have put conditions on the route which means that apart from a couple of trains, officially south-bound trains should only pick up passengers at Wembley (not let them alight) and north-bound trains should only let them off (not let them board)!  So officially you can't do a return trip from Wembley to Milton Keynes, but you can to Shepherds Bush, Clapham Junction, Selhurst or East Croydon. I was given the impression that Virgin would be happier if no one knew about the trains at all.  The staff, sensibly, think the whole situation is barmy so stop and let passengers on and off as they would at any other station.  However, as Michael Caine might say, 'Not many people know that'.  One official said, 'Well the regulars get to know about it', and another assured me that the situation was due to change in 2012.

Meanwhile the platforms serving these trains are approached through heavy metal gates opening directly on to Wembley Square. Station staff wait at the gates in the wind, rain and snow to check tickets and lock the gates between trains.  The platforms themselves are cold, empty and windswept and I live in fear of being a bit tardy getting off the train  and finding the gates locked against me, abandoned all night with only the famous Wembley Central rats for company.  I did hear about one guard who didn't hop back on the train quickly enough after unoffically letting passengers off, who was left behind on the platform.

If any readers want to risk it, then on a weekday southbound trains are at 4 or 5 minutes past the hour between 9am and 9pm and north bound 7 or 8 minutes past the hour between 9am and 9pm. It could be a magnificent service: only 15 minutes to Shepherds Bush and 27 minutes to Clapham Junction; 5 minutes to Harrrow and Wealdstone and 12 minutes to Watford Junction. The full timetable which includes earlier trains and Saturday trains is available HERE (Book 5).

Meanwhile could Brent Council, the Transportation Unit, and the GLA sort this one out?  I can see no reason why the Big Bad Virgin Wolf should be depriving Brent residents of this useful and potentially very convenient public transport link.

URGENT: Help the Gaza Convoy On Its Way

The Egyptian authorities are blocking the Viva Palestina aid convoy at Aquaba by imposing impossible conditions ahead of it going through the Rafah crossing into Gaza. Viva Palestina is a registered charity which is delivering medical aid, food and educational materials following the devastation in Gaza carried out a year ago by the Isralei military. Israel continues to thwart attempts at reconstruction and recovery.

The Brent branch of Palestine Solidarity raised more than £500 from local people to help fund the convoy.  Martin Francis, Chair of the Brent PSC has written to the Egyptian Embassy asking that the convoy be enabled to go on its way.  His plea has been copied to Barry Gardiner MP for Brent North.

Readers may add their voices to this request by writing to the Egyptian Embassy at eg.emb_london@mfa.gov.eg and copying to their local Member of Parliament http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Post-Copenhagen Winter Blues

Let's face it: the failure of climate talks in Copenhagen is a massive blow with incredibly serious consequences for all of us.  We will need to rethink our strategies as a result of this systemic political failure.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Brent Planning Committee Rejects Welsh Harp Development Application

The developer's application to build on the Greenhouse Garden Centre site at the Welsh Harp was unanimously rejected by Brent Council's Planning Committee tonight in line with the planning department's recommendation to refuse permission. Brent Area Planning Officer, Steve Weeks, said that he expected Barnet planning department would take a similar line in their report to the Barnet planning committee in January and hoped the two councils would work together on the issue. He said Boris Johnson and the GLA planning department shared Brent's opposition to the proposal and their commitment to protection of metropolitan open space. Ann John, leader of the Labour group on Brent Council, warned that the developer would be back with other proposals and that people should remain vigilant.

Tuesday 15 December 2009


The Brent branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign were organisers of a demonstration by the PSC and other Palestine solidarity organisations outside the Hendon Hall Hotel in North London on Sunday. The protest was against the Jewish National Fund's decision to ask Tzipi Livni to address their Conference at the hotel. Livni is the former Foreign Minister of Israel who justified the bombing of civilians during the Gaza offensive of December 2008 and January 2009 which resulted in the deaths of 1400 Palestinians, many of them children, and injured 5,000.

The venue had been kept a secret by the organisers to prevent demonstrators disrupting the event but protestors had discovered where the meeting was to be held by last Friday. A quick mobilisation by telephone, text and internet followed.

About 100 demonstrators braved a cold Sunday morning to make their views known. In the event it turned out that Livni had cancelled her trip for fear of being arrested for war crimes. See the Guardian

The Hendon Hall Hotel had been kept in the dark about who the special guest was and the manager has reportedly since apologised for having hosted the conference and told the JNF that they are banned from using the hotel again. She sincerely regrets any upset caused and said that she was unaware of the political situation in Gaza and Tzipi Livni's role. She has apparently offered a free B&B as a prize in a raffle run by any charity supporting Palestinians.

Full report on the demonstration and pictures HERE

Sunday 13 December 2009


Stephen Gash of Stop the Islamisation of Europe (SIOE)  promised 1,500 people at his anti-Islam demonstration outside the Harrow Mosque.

In fact only 15 turned up, even though numbers were augmented by English Defence League supporters, and the rather sad little group, one wearing a blond wig and another a santa hat, were corralled into a cold car park and protected by police. A couple of them made speeches to the windswept car park observed by press photographers who out-numbered them 3 to 1 - all against the background of chants from several hundred anti-Fascist demonstrators, who sometimes broke into open gales of laughter at the sheer absurdity of the lonely little band in the car park. Stephen Gash the 'leader' even managed to be late and nearly miss the event!  There is more than a touch of Captain Mainwaring about the man - without the lovability.

Given these numbers it is surely time for the local press to stop building up the group and cease publicising their baseless claims and their incitant comments.

Hundreds of anti-Fascist demonstrators made it clear that the Fascists were not welcome in Harrow and the diversity of the demonstrators once again showed that the local community were united in defence of the Harrow mosque.

Ajmal Masroor, a spokesman for the Harrow Mosque, crossed to the corral and spoke to representatives of the SIOE and EDL and invited them into the Mosque to discuss their concerns. His invitation was turned down and Stephen Gash said he wanted to talk to the Home Office instead.  A similar invitation has earlier been issued by the group British Muslims for a Secular Democracy without success.

The SIOE has thus shown it is not really interested in dialogue or debate, but just in creating division.  In my speech to the Solidarity Vigil, as Green Party parliamentary candidate for Brent North, I pointed out that what the SIOE, EDL and BNP have in common is racism and xenophobia. Despite the SIOE's website claim that racism is 'the lowest form of stupidity' they are quite happy to get 'nod and a wink' support from the EDL. At the September 11th demonstration anti-Mosque demonstrators openly gave Nazi salutes and EDL members were present again today.

The SIOE attempt to 'soften up' an area by organising a provocative demonstration, with EDL help, and any reaction is then depicted as Muslim violence. Having caused division the BNP then move in by leafletting the area, as they did in Harrow after the September 11th demonstration, trying to build electoral support on the back of the dirty deeds of their allies. It is important that we see them as overlapping organisations with a similar agenda, and take with a pinch of salt their internicine squabbles. The SIOE may be absurd and today's demonstration comical, but the racist and Fascist nature of the groups that build on their provocations must be recognised and their activities firmly opposed.

I congratulate Brent and Harrow Unite Against Fascism for organising a highly effective, united and peaceful demonstration

Friday 11 December 2009


Tzipi Livni, ex-Israeli Foreign Minister is speaking at the Jewish National Fund meeting in Barnet on Sunday. She was a major force behind 'Operation Cast Lead' the Israeli offensive against Gaza which began on December 27th last year and killed 1400 Palestinians, many of them children, and injured 5,000.

The meeting is at the Hendon Hall Hotel, Ashley Road, NW4 1HF from 10am. The nearest tube is Hendon Central where people will be meeting at 9.30am. Take the 143 bus from Hendon Central towards Archway or 326 towards Spires Shopping Centre, alight at the Quadrant and then walk. Route Map

This is a London-wide demonstration supported by the PSC and other organisations.

Thursday 10 December 2009



Brent and Harrow Unite Against Fascism are again organising a demonstration to show Harrow's rejection of the SIOE's (Stop the Islamisation of Europe's) attack on Harrow's Muslim community and their mosque.

Assemble at 12 noon on Sunday on the broad pavement outside Harrow Civic Centre, opposite the mosque. Police have announced they will be carrying out stop and searches for weapons. The leader of the Labour group on Harrow Council and Navin Shah Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow will be joining the solidarity demonstration.


Also on Sunday there is an all-London alert for a demonstration against Tzipi Livni, former Foreign Minister of London who was a major force behind 'Operation Cast Lead' the Israeli offensive against Gaza which began on December 27th last year and killed 1400 Palestinians, many of them children, and injured 5,000.

Livni is due to speak at a meeting of the Jewish National Fund from 10.30am until 4pm on Sunday somewhere in North London. The organisers are kept the venue secret until the last minute in order to minimise demonstrations against Livni whose callous pronouncements on the Gaza conflict will be remembered for a long time.  Up to date information will be published on this website and on the Palestine Solidarity Campaign's website and PSC's Facebook Page.

A reminder of what happened almost a year ago:

Friday 4 December 2009


Brent Planning Committee will hear the application to build houses on the Greenhouse Garden Centre site at their meeting on December 16th, starting at 7pm, at Brent Town Hall. The Planning Committee will make a visit to the site at about 11.20am on Friday 11th December. Respondents to the application are invited to attend but will not be able to comment during the visit. At the end of the visit the 'applicant and a representative of the objectors may briefly draw Members attention to any aspect of the site that is relevant, if this is required'.

Respondents who wish to address the Planning Committee on December 16th must ring Mr Joe Kwateng on 020 8937 1354 (office hours) at least one clear day before the meeting. On the day they should arrive at least 15 minutes before the meeting starts.

The Chief Planner's recommendation on the application is 'Refuse Consent'.

The latest figures on public responses to the Barnet side of the Welsh Harp housing development application are 114 responses; which consist of 1 petition, 2 comments, 108 against the application and 1 for. No date has yet been fixed for the Barnet Planning Committee hearing.

Darren Johnson calls for Public Inquiry into 'fundamentally unacceptable' Brent Cross development