Guest blog by Philip Grant
At Wednesday's (November 13th) Brent Planning Committee meeting the Planning Officer's recommendation to grant permission for a change of use of the former Barham Park Library building from D1 (Community Use) to B1 (Business Use) was rejected by the committee, by 6 votes to 1 vote, with 3 abstentions.
The committee were not satisfied that there were grounds for over-riding Brent's Core Policy CP23, which states that 'existing community and cultural facilities that support community participation and development will be protected, or their loss mitigated where necessary.' The Planning Officer's recommendation had been based on a Community Facilities Assessment produced by an unidentified Council Officer, which claimed that there was no need or demand for the former library space as community facilities. This was based on the existing room at the Barham Park buildings which is available for short-term hire only being occupied for 11% of the time it was available (although this was at a time when before it was refurbished, and was not being actively "marketed" by Parks Service), and there being other community facilities in the area which could be hired anyway, such as church halls and school buildings.
It was plainly obvious to committee members from evidence given to them by objectors, including Alton Bell of the Sudbury youth charity Pivot Point Foundation and Cllr. Paul Lorber on behalf of the Friends of Barham Park Library, that there was a need and demand for community facilities in the area which required full-time use (not a couple of hours a week) of at least parts of the building. To give all of the space to the arts charity ACAVA to let out as artists studios would deprive local people of those existing community facilities.
Among the points which I had made to the committee was that they clearly should follow CP23, and protect the former library are for community used, and that they had to be seen to apply planning policies consistently, under the terms of their Planning Code of Practice. They had recently refused applications by a private developer involving the former Kensal Rise and Cricklewood libraries, using the protection of community facilities under CP23 as a major reason. Here, the Planning Officer was asking them not to apply CP23, on an application made by Brent Council. Any inconsistency would strengthen the grounds for appeal against their earlier decisions. (As a point of interest, the only person outside of Brent Council who supported the planning application was a Mr A. Gillick - I wonder why?)