|Pedestrian routes at Forty Lane/King's Drive/Asda junction|
Planners admitted that the nearby road junction at Bridge Road/Forty Avenue/Forty Lane/Barn Hill was operating at full capacity but claimed that 100 yards down the road the Forty Lane/King's Drive/Asda junction (above) had spare capacity.
Cllr Shafique Choudhary (Labour -Barnhill) drew attention to the health hazards posed by petrol fueling stations to nearby residents and foodstuffs at the store, less thyan 100 metres from the proposed fueling station..He particularly focused on the carcinogenic properties of benzine. Steve Weeks of Brebt Planning said these dangers were known about but that the problem was being addressed nationally through redesign of petrol. Cllr Ann John remarked that many petrol stations had food stores and nearby flats without any problems.
Cllr Michael Pavey, the Labour winner of the recent Barnhill by-election, lambasted the planning officers'; report for being base don old data, lacking specific figures and being based on trip figures submitted by Asda and accepted by officers without an independent check. He said that the business model submitted by Asda which claimed that it would not be in 'aggressive' competition with other petrol providers lacked credibility - in fact Asda prides itself on low prices and will draw in additional customers. A check revealed that current Asda prices at their petrol stations were 3-5p cheaper that other local facilities and he could not see Asda charging higher prices in Wembley than it did elsewhere. The 2009 traffic figures did not take into account school expansions in the area. He concluded that the application should be rejected on the grounds that the officers' report was unsubstantial, unanalysed and untrustworthy.
Rachel McConnell for the planning department said that the trips data was based on national data as well as Asda's own experience of their other petrol stations. The peak flow was 2,300-2,400 cars and there would be only 43 extra trips caused by the petrol station, and this did not take into account trips that would be made to the store anyway.
Earlier I had made a presentation on behalf of the Chalkhill Primary School Governing body. I noted that we had not been formally consulted about the plans despite the school being close to the proposed site - we had only heard about the application through our community contacts.
As a governing body we are responsible for the safety of pupils both in school and on their way to school. In line with Brent Council policy, for environmental and health reasons, we encourage children to walk to school. However, in the case of this development there appeared to be a conflict with our duty of care to keep children safe and implementation of the walking to school policy. If the petrol station were to be built increased traffic (at the 7 crossing points marked in blue - two not pedestrian controlled) would put children walking to school in more danger. There were already problems with people avoiding the multiple blue crossing points by walking straight across Forty Lane from the Town Hall bus stop (red line on map) to the chestnut tree lined avenue leading to Chalkhill Estate and the school. There had been traffic accidents at the junction and injuries to pedestrians at the unofficial crossing.
I further contended that the planners' report did not take into account the increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic which would result from the expansion of schools places in the area. Ark Academy (secondary) is due to add a further 540 secondary school places over the next 3 years, Ark Academy Primary 180, Preston Manor Primary 180 and if plans to be discussed by the Executive on August 20th go ahead a further 210 or 420 at Chalkhill Primary. This amounts to more than 1,000 extra journeys when planners admit that the morning peak is already higher than in 2009. Overall the report focused on vehicles and not on pedestrians.
In addition when Brent Town Hall is sold off next year, depending on its new use which could be retail or hotel, further journeys may be generated. Surely planners should take into account future pressures as well as the current situation?
The lone voice that spoke in favour of the proposal was that of former Independent Conservative Group councillor Robert Dunwell. Speaking on behalf of Ban Hill Residents Association (2004) he supported the application 'in principle' as being a good amenity for the store and for the surrounding community. He suggested that there could be a delay while the problem of capacity at the Bridge Road/Forty Avenue was dealt with. Barn Hill Residents Association (without the 2004 in brackets!) has opposed the proposal on grounds of increased traffic.
I have to record that the points I raised were not addressed by planning committee councillors or officers. I remain seriously concerned about the safety of children walking to school from King's Drive and Pilgrims Way estates (bottom right of map) as well as those using the Town Hall bus stop.