Monday 30 June 2014

Fairview Homes appeal to demolish the Queensbury Pub to be heard

It looks like the Planning Inspectorate may have to open an office in Brent! Fairview Homes have lodged an appeal against Brent Council planning committee's refusal of their plans for the Queensbury pub site at 110 Walm Lane. Fairview want to demolish the Asset of Community Value and replace it with a block of flats.

The hearing is expected to last three days. The Planning Inspector's letter can be found HERE

The Planning Inspector calls on Brent Civic Centre on July 22nd

The closure of half of Brent's libraries continue to reverberate throughout the borough. After the controversial Kensal Rise planning committee deferral and the revised Cricklewood plans, we have a Planning Inspectorate hearing at the Civic Centre on July 22nd into the Barham Park complex of buildings which includes the closed down Barham library.

 On their website Friends of Barham Library write:

A Planning Inspector will hold “informal sessions” to consider Brent Council's Appeal against Refusal of their planning application on Tuesday 22 July at the Civic Centre Empire Way starting at 10a.m.

Brent Council submitted a planning application to change the use of the closed Library space and other parts of the building away from general ‘community uses’. they did so to enable ACAVA to convert most of the building to 29 artist studios for rent.

Friends of Barham Library and others opposed this. The Planning application was REFUSED by the Planning Committee by 6 votes to 1 in November 2013.

Despite this clear decision the Labour Councillors running Brent decided to use taxpayers money to Appeal against the decision of the Council’s own Planning Committee. The Appeal will be decided by an independent Planning Inspector and this is why they are holding these informal session.

Friends of Barham Library will make representations to the Planning Inspector and continue to oppose the Appeal as the consequence is the effective taking away of the buildings in Barham Park away from local people.

The actions of Brent Council are a direct contradiction with the agreement of 22 October 1936 when Titus Barham gifted his home to the people of Wembley when he expressed his wish as follows:
“The settlor is desirous that (his home and gardens) shall be preserved for and dedicated to the recreation of the public”
In our view Brent Council should honour this wish.

Revised plans for Cricklewood Library

Hot on the heels of the Kensal Rise plamming application, revised architect plans for Cricklewood Library have been drawn up (above). The plans show that the community space has been increased slightly bu 30m2 to 180m2. The  library internal space of the current building was almost 300m2 on the ground floor with additional upstairs storage.

The revision includes outside space to the front and rear of the new development and includes a possible 'picture window' facing on to the landscape space.

One apartment has been deleted leaving one at the rear of the ground floor, two  each on the 1st and 2nd floors and one apartment only on the 3rd floor.

The Friends of Cricklewood Library Committee will be meeting soon and the plans are likely to be lodged with Brent planning today.
In October 2013 developer Andrew Gillick withdrew plans at the last minute LINK after campaigners said the community space was too small.

Police investigations are continuing into fraudulent emails supporting Gillick's previous planning application for Kensal Rise Library.


Guest blog by Contact the Elderly

Contact the Elderly LINK has declared a state-of-emergency as the number of socially isolated older people in Brent reaches breaking point.

Spurred by concern over the speed at which the government is tackling the problem of a million neglected older people in the UK who are off the radar, and the rate at which these numbers are growing, the charity is taking the issue into its own hands as it heads into its 50th year.

Supported by a network of volunteers across England, Scotland and Wales, Contact the Elderly offers a vital lifeline of friendship to those aged 75 and over, who live alone. The charity’s monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties in Brent enable older people to receive much-needed human contact.

Now the charity is calling for more volunteers to get involved to host a tea party in their home once a year or to drive older guests to and from the parties once a month.

A new study conducted by independent research agency Qa Research reveals that almost one in five (19%) of the older people Contact the Elderly supports joined the charity because they rarely saw another person.

With almost 50 years’ experience, Contact the Elderly knows that the solution to loneliness can be as simple as a regular face-to-face chat over a cup of tea. Some 78 per cent of the older people surveyed feel less lonely as a result of the monthly tea parties. A total of 96% said the tea parties give them something to look forward to.

Local group coordinator Elaine Smith from Wembley says, “We offer a vital lifeline of friendship to some of the loneliest people in Brent. By its nature, social isolation often means that the loneliest people are the hardest to reach. By spreading the word we can encourage more local people to give up just two hours a month as a driver, or a few hours a year as a host.”

With the survey identifying key loneliness triggers as marital bereavement (22%) and lack of mobility (51%); 80 per cent of guests said they felt happier after joining one of the charity’s groups.

Contact the Elderly Founder and Chairman, Trevor Lyttleton MBE, says “Loneliness amongst older people has reached a state of emergency and must not be ignored. For almost 50 years we have been focussing on providing a cost-effective solution, yet the demand for our service has never been so high.

“We know our formula of tea and conversation works, but we simply cannot reach out to the people that desperately need our help without increased volunteers and funding.”

If you want to volunteer for Contact the Elderly or join as a guest, please Contact the Elderly’s North London Development Officer , Isabelle Wise, She can be reached on 020 8445 1333.

To support the appeal, text POWR15 and the donation amount to 70070

Sunday 29 June 2014

Will Brent's 'garden tax' lead to more Birmingham style fly-tipping?

Green waste dumped by the roadside in Birmingham

The KilburnTimes LINK is reporting that the Council's proposed charge for recycling green waste revealed on this blog last week will be an annual fee of £40.

Brent councillors and officers would be wise to look at what happened in Birmimgham in May when a £35 charge was introduced by that Labour Council.

Initially only 20,000 of the city's 400,000 households signed up to pay the charge and there were mile long queues of angry drivers at city recycling depots LINK

Green waste was fly-tipped by residents wanting to avoid the charge and it became an issue in the local elections. 

Just before the election bin men were allegedy told to clear up all the dumped green waste according to the Birmingham Mail LINK:
But now binmen have allegedly been told to clear the streets of ALL abandoned green waste this weekend, whether householders have paid for the controversial scheme or not.

Senior GMB shop steward Paul Langley, based at Perry Barr depot, told the Mail: “All the dumped garden rubbish is going to be picked up this weekend – just before the election.

“Our overtime has been cut and now our crews are being told to collect it all. It means the 40,000 people who have paid for a green waste bin and those who have simply dumped their rubbish are getting the same service.

“I have just spoken to a manager and he has confirmed it.”
The proposed charges follow the awarding of the multi-million Public Realm contract to Veolia which is due to take parks maintenance from next month in addition to recycling, residual waste collection, street sweeping and BHP grounds maintenance. Councillors claimed at the time that the new contract would save public money and there was no mention of introducing charges for basic services.

This opens the way for other charges for basic services in addition to what we pay in Council Tax.

At the same time as introducing this charge the Council is also considering landlord licensing which amongst other things is aimed at the 'anti-social' issue of untidy and poorly maintained front gardens. The £40 charge hardly seems an incentive to tackle this issue.

And of course we have the Council's anti-fly tipping campaign while this policy looks likely to increase the amount of illegal fly-tipping adding garden waste to the builders' waste currently common on our streets.

Cllr Perrin, new lead member for the environment needs to look at this again.

Thursday 26 June 2014

Complaint lodged over councillor's alleged non-disclosure of interest in planning application

Local resident Roger Brown has lodged a Corporate Complaint with Fional Ledden, Brent Council's Legal Officer regarding Cllr Ruth Moher which may be on interest to readers aware of recent local planning controversies.

The complaint reads:
I am writing to you in line with your Corporate Complaints Policy regarding complaints about councillors.

The complaint is with regard to planning case 13/2961 (Wembley High Technology College) and her involvement with this together with her lack of disclosure with regard to being both a Governor and Company Director of W.H.T.C  - particularly with regard to the planning meeting of 12th February 2014. 

Both Mrs Moher and Mr Jim Moher are Directors and Governors of WHTC and I believe as such there was a clear breach of Brent's Constitution (and a clear conflict of interests) under the Planning Code of Practice. Their involvement in this particular case and the non disclosure of both of their interests in the register of councillors interests (Brent Council's web site shows there are no such disclosures with regard to this case). Both councillors were in fact listed as first alternates (as listed in the Public Information pack for the supplementary planning committee) and Mrs Moher was allowed to speak at length at the meeting after again failing to disclose her interests. It was pointed out by someone as she spoke that she was a Governor and should not be speaking but she was allowed to continue. In contrast Councillor Singh, a local resident, declared his interests at the start and left the room, taking no part in the meeting.

I have asked Brent Council for a copy of any recording or transcript of this meeting but was told that none existed and was sent the minutes for this meeting instead, which is a poor representation of the meeting itself. I cannot understand why you decide not to record these meeting for which the decisions play a vital part in the lives of the people they blight and affect.

If this situation had take place with an application of a private individual instead of a public body I'm sure, rightly, questions would surely be asked but because it is a council project I believe that all issues with regard to this contentious application appear to be attempted to be swept under the carpet. 

I will also be raising the matter of another WHTC planning application to the council (13/1775) for the failure to disclose information paramount to the case, therefore allowing it to pass unopposed. With this I refer to the reason for the MUGA being built being that of the subsequent planning application 13/2961 as this built upon land  occupied by the current MUGA and no residents were aware of it at this stage due to the council and schools lack of residents consultation in February 2013. The council abjectly still claims that residents were consulted but cannot state to which houses they delivered the notices to, which is frankly laughable.

I would ask to to look into this as a matter of urgency and I will also raise the matter with the Local Government Ombudsman and ask the DFE to conduct a thorough review of this case.

Harrow College shows the way on inclusion and sustainability

Tony Medhurst, Principal, presents award to Priya Ramaiya

I was honoured to be invited to Harrow College Student Awards yesterday as one of the keynote speakers.  I was impressed, and moved, as the award ceremony progressed, at how clear it was that the College and its students valued the inclusion of students with special needs and disabilities.  The range of awards was extraordinary and the talents of the students shone through.

Particularly impressive was Priya Ramaiya (above) whose citation for the Courage and Commitment award speaks for itself:
Priya is one of Harrow College's most courageous, determined and committed sudents. A few years ago she was struck by lightning and had to spend a considerable amlunt of time in hopsital. Her injuries left her in a wheelchair but she has not let what happened to get in the way of her dream of studying medical science. She is an absolutely amazing young lady.
I presented the Environmental Contribution  Award to 'Harrow College Low Carbon Cafe':
During the Big Rig Challenge nine of our students took part in setting up a solar powered shower installation as part of a competition in partnership with WorldSkills and the National Skills Academy. The task included setting up a water harvesting system that could heat water in an envirobmentally friendly way. The learners showed great commitment and enthusiasm during the challenge and gained a valuable insight in to new green deal technologies.
I used the occasion in my keynote speech to urge the students to  harness their talents and determination to answer the challenge posed by climate change:

Thank you very much for inviting me here today. In 2010 I came to the college  take part in the General Election hustings. Perhaps the election result will be different in 2015!
Recently I visited  Harrow Weald campus during Sustainability Week and saw all the work that has been going on to bring home the message that everyone has a role to play in ensuring that there is a world fit for your children and your children’s children. The college is to be congratulated in making sustainability one of its strategic objectives.
A sustainable future is one where we are not living as if we have the resources of three planets rather than one, where we are not increasing emissions of greenhouse gases and thus increasing global warming, where all have enough to eat and no-one is grabbing more than their fair share - or wasting what they do have, where the air we breathe and water we rely on for life are unpolluted.
Climate change and extreme weather events are happening around us now. I see it in small ways as a gardener when strawberries start flowering in November or pear trees blossom before bees emerge from the winter and therefore are not pollinated. We have experienced extreme weather including floods.  We see it on the grand scale in the melting of the ice caps, disappearing glaciers, methane releases from tundra and rising sea levels.
Business is waking up to the threat, Recently a report was published in the US which warns business of the consequences of climate change:
The study says there’s a better-than-ever chance that as much as $23 billion worth of Florida property will be underwater by the middle of the century.

But the report projects something investors call a “tail risk” — a low-probability but extremely high-cost event that pushes losses far above $23 billion. For Florida property, the “tail risk” is that there’s a 1 in 100 chance that by the end of this century, as much as $681 billion worth of property will be submerged.

Robert Rubin, another Wall Street veteran and former Treasury secretary under President Clinton, is also involved in the Risky Business study. He says the threats are widespread across the economy.

“Agricultural yields could fall by 50 percent or more in some parts of the country,” Rubin says. “You could have temperatures that prevented people from working outdoors for some part of the year in certain parts of the country. All of this has massive effects, and all of this is a very realistic projection of what is likely to happen if we don’t act.”

“If we don’t act” – what does that mean? (The end of the world as we know it within a few generations?)
Last year I helped organise a Brent Students Conference on Climate Change and we looked at how the actions we could take to combat climate change.:
These included:
·      The small changes that we can make in our everyday lives – reducing energy and water consumption, walking or riding bikes instead of driving, supporting local businesses and shops, reducing consumption (do you really need to update your phone?), growing your own and providing habitats for plants, insects and animals.
·      Action by local councils working with schools, colleges, businesses on insulation, micro-energy production, local food growing, better public transport.
·      Looking at developing the green economy locally and nationally through training opportunities in green jobs through colleges and links with universities, green technology, green enterprise zones – the campaign A Million Climate Jobs has has lots of ideas.

However this can all seem small-time when we realize the extent of the problem.
Imagine this scene: Houses have collapsed, bridges are down, people are trapped and crying for help. We scramble in the dust and dirt rescuing those we can.  Meanwhile out to sea, unknown to us a Tsunami is gathering, a huge wave is heading our way. We are concentrating on moving the rocks and bricks, we care (quite rightly) about the desperate people we are trying to rescue. We finally look up at the roar of the sea, but it is too late. The mountainous waves engulf and destroy all in its path – rescuers and victims.
The current economic situation: unemployment, welfare cuts, student fees, housing crisis is like the earthquake. Dealing with it is important and necessary. But Climate Change is the Tsunami – it is coming at us and at an increasing pace.
We have to look up. We have to deal with it. Or it will be too late. We will be engulfed.
And the ‘we’ MUST include governments. The world HAS to work together. The threat is too big for just individual actions.
But that is where this ‘we’ must influence the ‘they’. We need to be part of a movement which will force governments to take action.  They are failing to work together effectively and time is running out. There are talks in Paris in 2015 to once again try and get the nations working together. We have to make sure that this time they produce real results.
So the final part of the action plan after individual actions, local council actions and national economic changes is international action. That is where each and every one of us has to exert pressure on politicians and governments – it is a matter of survival.
Tonight has been fantastic but I urge you to use the skills, knowledge, creativity and determination that you have shown tonight to take part in that struggle for the future of humanity.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Brent to introduce weekly recycling collections and charge for green waste collections

Brent Council's forward planning for the July 21st Cabinet includes a proposal to introduce weekly collection of dry recyclables (currently they are fortnighly and alternate with grey bin residual waste collections) and a charge for collecting green waste.

To approve changes to the recycling service to introduce weekly collections for dry recyclables and a charge for the collection of green waste, and to agree the service changes to accommodate this new approach.
The Council's new long-term contract with Veolia is due to be fully implemented by the end of the summer. Weekly collections and charges for green waste were not publicly discussed during the procurement process.

Original Public Realm Contract Officer's report HERE

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Event: The radical case for Scottish Independence

From Red Pepper

Event this Thursday, 26 June 2014  7pm-8:30 pm in Committee Room 14, House Of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.

One of the most important events for Britain will be taking place in September: the Scots will be able to vote for independence. Yet public discussion in England has been set by political parties arguing that independence is a reactionary and retrogressive step. Red Pepper and openDemocracy are bringing Scottish independence campaigners to the heart of the establishment, Westminster parliament, to hear their case and determination to vote Yes.

Book your place for a discussion with;

Cat Boyd, Radical Independence Campaign

Pete Ramand, co-author of Yes: The Radical Case for Scottish Indpendence

Robin McAlpine, Jimmy Reid Foundation David Greig, playwright

Joyce McMillan, theatre critic

Neal Ascherson, writer

This is an opportunity to understand the importance for a whole section of the Scottish people of seizing the opportunity to establish a different state. The opposition sets a negative tone: you'll lose the pound, there will be no oil, you'll be pushed out of the EU, you will be defenceless... But what we in London have not had is any flavour of the passion and determination increasingly heard in the fervour of discussion now sweeping through Scotland.

The voices in the Yes campaign are wider and larger and more dynamic than just the SNP. Writers, dramatists, poets and artists as well as many ordinary folk are talking about their relationship to Scotland as it has developed and been expressed in the last 20 years.

A Scottish independence vote also has implications for England, and they could be liberating, opening up a dynamic to weaken the most reactionary centres of power - from the dominance of London itself, to the Treasury and the City, the monarchy and the media oligarchs.

All this is why Red Pepper and openDemocracy have organised a meeting with speakers from Scotland talking about their determination to vote Yes.

Please arrive from 6:30pm for a prompt 7pm start, and allow plenty of time to get through security at the House of Commons.

***The event is free, but please do make a donation via the ticket option above if possible, however small, so that we can cover the costs of organising this meeting including train travel from Scotland and overnight accommodation for the speakers*** Book your place.

Monday 23 June 2014

Another regeneration scheme, another extension of Mayoral powers and another kick in the face for local democracy

Guest blog by Nic Lane on behalf of Brent Housing Action LINK and the Radical Housing Network LINK

Last week the members of Brent’s Citizen Panel were sent the following email:

“The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has recently outlined proposals to transform Old Oak and Park Royal into a thriving new district with up to 24,000 new homes and more than 55,000 jobs.

As part of this long term plan, the Mayor intends to create a new Mayoral Development Corporation (MDC) to unlock the enormous regeneration potential of this 950 hectares of industrial land at Old Oak Common and Park Royal in West London.

Please click here to find out more and to take part in the online consultation on Old Oak - Mayor's Development Corporation.

The consultation will run until Wednesday, 24 September 2014.”  

Residents are strongly urged to read the documentation that the link leads to; this is another classic example of BoJo's "monolith-o-maniacal" desire to stamp his personality all over London with a series of regeneration schemes and so-called iconic buildings in his run up to become PM (or possibly another Caesar given his latinate leanings).

It is only a couple of months ago that BoJo was publicly reprimanded in the London Assembly LINK for overusing his ability to veto the wishes of local government planning departments - even when these pet projects are in direct contravention of his own "London Plan" LINK Tulip Siddiq, Labour’s prospective 2015 parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, revealed at last Wednesday’s Swiss Cottage Action Group this looks very likely to happen again in the case of the development at 100 Avenue Road LINK due to the height of the proposed building.

The formation of the proposed Mayoral Development Corporation will create a nasty precedent which will give him further legal powers to ignore the wishes of any local democratic organisations, be they Councils or residents groups. This is made clear in the documentation:

“Within Old Oak and Park Royal, the Mayor intends for the new Corporation to take on powers relating to infrastructure, regeneration, land acquisitions including Compulsory Purchase Orders, adopting streets, and business and financial support. In addition, the Corporation would also take over planning powers from the London boroughs of Brent, Ealing and Hammersmith & Fulham. The Corporation would lead on preparing the local plans and determining large planning applications submitted within this area.” LINK

Even worse, this plan creates a noxious local parallel to the hugely under-reported Infrastructure Bill that is currently before Parliament. This bill - which is comparable to the Enclosure Acts in its land grabbing intent - allows for 90% of local authority "brownfield sites" to be parcelled out and sold on by the Homes and Communities Agency without reference to any other planning agency decisions or the wishes of the local residents. More information about this Bill can be found here LINK and here LINK 

It's also worth noting that the potency of the claim that the development will create "24,000 homes and 55,000 jobs" currently has all the strength of an homoeopathic remedy; there is no trace evidence of the type of homes or jobs the scheme will create. It's all a construct of BoJo's feverish imagination and desire to attract foreign investment to the Capital LINK a sales pitch for a quack panacea for London's ills. This is the description of how Old Oak will be transformed:

“... the Government has announced proposals for a new High Speed 2 (HS2) and Crossrail station at Old Oak by 2026, potentially making it one of the best connected railway stations in the UK. This could give rise to significant potential for economic development, jobs growth and new homes. The Mayor of London also sees this as an opportunity  to regenerate the wider area.

Based around the new HS2 and Crossrail station at Old Oak, the Mayor, Transport for London (TfL), plus the London Boroughs of Hammersmith & Fulham, Brent and Ealing, have been considering the potential for regenerating the area and are seeking views on a 30-year Vision for Old Oak. This could transform the area with up to 90,000 jobs and up to 19,000 new homes, schools, open spaces, shops and leisure facilities.” LINK

As this last quote shows, the advocates of this plan can't even offer up a coherent concrete argument. It's all maybes and made-up figures and Machiavellian manipulations.

Please, please, please - complete the consultation and show your opposition to the creeping centralisation of power which is placing the wishes of the financiers and developers over the needs of local residents.

School Summer Fairs bring the community together

All over the borough this month and next, local primary schools will be holding their Summer Fairs. PTAs and Friends Associations work with staff, governors and pupils to fundraise for those little extras. At the same time the events demonstrate how schools unite a diverse community in a common endeavour and showcase unity in action. It's just schools carrying on as normal but serves as a powerful riposte at attempts to divide us.

Saturday 21 June 2014

The People United Against Austerity Today in London

Thousands marched today in London against the Coalition's austerity policies and for an alternative. Romayne Phoenix of the Coalition of Resistance and the Green Party was on the platform as the MC and Caroline Lucas received  great applause for her speech.

Here are some images from the day:

Christine Blower (General Secretary NUT) and Kevin Courtney (Deputy General Secretary) review the Green Party's Reclaim Our Schools flyer, 

Friday 20 June 2014

Greens on the march against austerity tomorrow - please join us

The Green Party will join forces with Russell Brand, journalist Owen Jones and others tomorrow (June 21) in calling on the government to end its policies of austerity.

In a demonstration organised by the campaign group the People’s Assembly.  Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, will join thousands of campaigners taking to the streets of London to protest against what they see as the government’s damaging and needless austerity measures.
Caroline Lucas MP, said:
The Peoples’ Assembly shows that there are alternatives to the cruel and counterproductive austerity agenda, and that the people are prepared to fight for them.
Romayne Phoenix, the Green Party’s Welfare Spokesperson, member of Lewisham Green Party and Co-Chair of the People’s Assembly said:
It’s galling to see how the government continues to march ahead with its austerity measures, flagrantly dismissing the destructive affects they are having on our society. Inequality is on the rise.The number of food-bank meals needed to feed hungry families across the UK has doubled in the past year. Britain needs an alternative – sheer human decency demands it.
Dave Plummer, London Green Party activist, said:
It is fantastic to see the incredible range of people and campaign organisations that have turned out today to support the March Against Austerity. Whilst on the one hand it shows just how badly affected so many people have been by the cuts it also demonstrates that there is now so much agreement and collaboration in the fight for change. The Green Party is immensely proud to be one of those organisations calling for an end to austerity and for investment in an economy that puts people first.
The People’s Assembly is a coalition of campaigns, unions, writers, politicians and performers united in the goal of bringing an end to the government’s austerity programme. It was founded in February 2013 and is supported by a range of prominent political activists including Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite, the writer Owen Jones, and the comedian Francesca Martinez. The late Labour politician Tony Benn and General Secretary of the RMT Bob Crow were also amongst its founding members.

Tomorrow’s demonstration will see thousands of campaigners march from Portland Place/Oxford Street to Westminster/Parliament Square, led by speakers including Lucas, Brand, and Christine Blower of the NUT.

Details for People's Assembly March Saturday June 21st

Brent Council consults on new Local Plan and development management

Following the story below on the South Kilburn Queen's Park Place development, readers may be interested in this from Brent Council:

We are updating our planning policies to shape the future of Brent.

We are consulting on the draft Development Management Policies Document, which will guide how we determine future planning applications.

Once adopted it will form part of the Local Plan, and supersede saved UDP policies.
The policies deal with important issues such as:
  • promoting strong town centres by setting limits on the number of takeaways, betting shops, pawnbrokers and payday loan shops
  • limiting takeaways and shisha cafes near schools
  • seeking the quality, size and type of homes the borough needs
  • boosting the economy, protecting open space and community facilities.
This is an opportunity for local people and organisations to say what you think about the proposed policies.

The period for consultation runs from 20 June to 31 July 2014. During this period we are also consulting on the accompanying Sustainability Appraisal, and associated alterations to the Core Strategy and Policies Map. All documents can be downloaded below.
Copies of these documents can also be viewed in all Brent libraries during the consultation period.

Policy evidence base

How to have your say

During the consultation period you can complete our online comment form.
Alternatively you can provide detailed comments on the document itself.
You can also email or write to: Planning Policy and Projects Team, Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley, Middlesex, HA9 0FJ.
The deadline for receiving your comments is 5pm on 31 July 2014.
There are also opportunities to find out more about the policies at drop-in sessions where council officers will be on hand to answer your questions. These will take place at:
All comments received will be taken into account before the Development Management Policies Document is modified and taken forward to the next stage.

South Kilburn a yuppie dreamland 'Manhattan style'?

Queens Park Place from Londonewcastle on Vimeo.

Estate agents are well known for renaming neighbourhoods to make them more socially acceptable - Shepherd's Bush as Holland Park West springs to mind.

Now a corner of South Kilburn, the wrong 'side of the tracks' from Queen's Park is being marketed as Queen's Park Place:
Queen’s Park, an urban village in North West London, is one of the capital’s better-kept secrets. Looking at its amenities and ambiance, it’s no surprise local residents like to keep the place to themselves. Just 7 minutes to Paddington and 15 minutes to Oxford Circus by direct Underground line, the area has a bustling High Street and an historic 30-acre park named in honour of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. The vibrant community spirit is evident in the eclectic shops, park, gastropubs, restaurants and especially in the weekly farmers’ market, voted the best in the UK.

Now, the secret’s out, as a new residential development is putting Queen’s Park on the map. Just a minute’s walk from the local Underground and Overground station, Queen’s Park Place is a collection of 116 contemporary apartments and penthouses designed for metropolitan living in a Manhattan style. With private balconies or roof terraces overlooking private courtyard gardens, secure underground parking and an impressive lobby with 24-hour hotel-style Concierge services, the development sets new standards in contemporary design and quality.

Beneath the super-sell is the reality of the gradual gentrification of London. The removal of poor people as developers build for the rich, especially overseas investors,  property prices and rents rise, and housing becomes increasingly unaffordable.

Just look at the video and see if it reflects the reality of Brent.

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Barnet planning email fraud allegation withdrawn

Barnet Today LINK reported yesterday that a woman and her husband had their identities stolen in fake emails sent in support of a planning application for a development by Bespoke Solutions.

The case bears a strong resemblance to the Kensal Rise fraudulent email issue and raises a concern that this may be a more widespread tactic that anyone has realised. It certainly suggests that the police should give a higher priority to the Kensal Rise investigation.

STOP PRESS The report has now been removed so the link above will not work. North London Press said:
 The woman retracted the allegation and requested the story be removed
This is all very strange as the woman's allegation was specific and detailed saying that her address and email had been used in support of the development, as well as the work address of her husband, in submissions that they had not sent.

There's only one thing for it: call Miss Marple

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Kensal Rise Library development decision deferred pending legal advice on fraud

The planning application by Andrew Gillick  for the redevelopment of Kensal Rise Library, closed by Brent Council, was deferred tonight at a dramatic meeting of Brent Planning Committee,

Committee membership was reduced by two members when Cllr Shafique Choudhary and Cllr Dan Filson withdrew on the basis that they had expressed strong views prior to joining the Committee.
This left 5 members, including the chair Sarah Marquis, to make the decision.

It had seemed that the fraudulent email investigation had been ignored when the meeting went ahead without any statement about deferment pending the outcome of the current police investigation into fraudulent emails that had supported Mr Gillick's last application.

Karl Abeyasekera, speaking as a member of the public drew members' attention to the fraudulent email issue saying that the 'guilty party' could benefit materially from this application. He called for the Committee to defer pending the outcome of the police investigation.

Stephanie Schonfield of the Friends of Kensal Rise Library spoke in support of the application  and said they had put their trust in All Souls College and the developer and hoped they would reciprocate by supporting FKRL to manage the community space. She regretted that they were only the preferred bidder and not the named occupant.

Horatio Chance, the Committee's legal adviser  told members that the 'binding agreement' with All Souls College was excempt from the Localism Act and had no relevance to the Kensal Rise building's Asset of Community Value status.

Following other contribututions, including a question from Cllr Amer Agha about the email investigation, and the developer's agent saying the community space had to be offered to other voluntary organisations  and ot resreved for FKRL, it looked as if the Committee was about the vote when chair Sara Marquis dropped her bombshell. She made a statement from the chair. She said that despite legal advice to the contrary she could not see why an ongoing police investigation into the previous application could NOT be a material consideration.

There followed a potentially testy but lawyerly interchange with Horation Chance, the Committee's legal adviser, on whether the Committee were legally bound to make a decision on the application on purely planning grounds, ignoring the email investigation. Chance in near exasperation declared that the legal advice  was clear and had come from no less a person than Fiona Ledden.

Marquis insisted the Committee needed further legal advice on whether the fraud investigation should be taken into account and when Chance could add nothing further she said that the Committee should vote on deferment. Various officers warned that the applicant might appeal to thre Secretary of State over the delay and seek compensation.

Cllr Roxanne Mashari, a Cabinet member and former lead member for Environment, who played a large part in brokering the deal with FKRL, made a late attempt to speak. Cllr Marquis rejected the request as the section for contributions had finished and she pointed out that the councillor had had the chance to put in a request to speak with the two days notice required of councillors.

The Committee voted on whether to hear the planning application, and only Cllr Kasangara, perhaps reflecting Conservative values, said that fraud was of no account and the vote on the application should go ahead.

The Committee then voted 3 for  (Cllrs Marquis, Agha, Hylton), 1 against  (Cllr Kasangara)and 1 abstention (Cllr Lia Colacicco) on the motion to defer the decision on the application until further legal advice had been obtained. This will mean the application  returning on the next cycle to the Committee that meets on July 16th.

This was not a vote to await the outcome of the police investigation but to decide if the investigation was something that the Committee should take into account.

It was also clear from the councillors' questions, or lack of them, that they were only concerned about minor aspects of the application itself, so it looks likely to eventually go through given the number of supporting letters. Unless there are further developments...

Cllr Sarah Marquis deserves credit for showing the sort of independence and toughness that one should expect from a Chair of Planning.

Marquis is a lawyer and specialises in fraud and white collar crime.

As a newly elected councillor, chairing her first committee, she has already made her mark.

Call to help family resist eviction tomorrow morning

A call has gone out to local housing actvists to help the Caridades family who are faced with eviction. Supporters should go to 4A Harrow Road (close to junction with North Circular) HA9 6PG at 8am tomorrow.

Kazuri Properties, a social housing group, have launched a crowd funding initiative on IndieGOGo LINK to help the family.

According to Kazuri Properties this is the background:
 Kazuri Properties came across the Caridade family after one of our Directors, met the teacher of one of Ms Caridade's children at a Mindfulness event in London. She was deeply upset and moved by their plight, so we at Kazuri stepped in to help by finding sustainable housing. Our main focus is defending the disadvantaged and speaking up for women who have no voice; raising our words, when no one will listen. We now need your help to secure this family's future, they are currently being evicted under an ‘Order for Eviction’ on Wednesday 18th June at 08 00 hrs. To make matters worse, the Local Authority has refused to help and blocked two previous housing solutions. 
The Caridade family came to London in January 2014 from Portugal, where Mrs Caridade was promised a job in catering by her traffickers, who encouraged her move with her three children; 28, 19 and 15 in order to run away from domestic violence and a dangerous environment. Ms Caridade is now a desperate single mother of a 28 year old with Down's syndrome, a 15 year old who is now eight months pregnant and a 19 year old struggling in work at a supermarket trying to keep the family afloat.

Now Mrs Caridade is being asked to pay back  her family's passage   by being a prostitute. There was no job in catering, she is the victim of human trafficking and now subject to being sold as a sex object.   
The London Borough of Brent which has statutory responsibility for this vulnerable family, with many diverse needs, has done all that it can to exclude, alienate and force them to return to Portugal, by systematically neglecting their basic needs for the past five months. Brent has jeopardised their health by forcing them to live in an unhygienic environment due to   low income, ignoring the basic needs of the disabled and thus creating a hostile environment for a 15 year old pregnant child. To further make matters worse, the social worker assigned to this case has put aside all of the above, and has instead offered to pay for the family return to Portugal and falsely offering help to re-house them in Portugal.

 LB Brent should, according to their statutory duty to this family, provide a deposit and the first month's rent so this family can move safely out of the borough and start to rebuild  their lives. They are refusing to do so, for technical reasons and because they claim a License to Occupy is not a valid lawful agreement between a landlord and a tenant. 

The social worker asked why Brent should help this family. We say, because that is what you are supposed to do. She asks, “What about all the other homeless families in Brent facing homelessness?” We say, we can only change our corner of the world and Caridade has become part of that.
The housing officer tasked with disposing of this family does not consider Mrs Caridade's employment bona fide, although she has a cleaning contract with the southeast's largest lettings agency. He is deliberately misstating the DWP's own policy on employment and self-employment. This is an abhorrent misuse of power and lack of knowledge of the law, where an official can adapt and pervert the law in order to avoid supporting families in need.

 Your support will mean Mrs Caridade can start to build a brighter future, one she can control and in which she can build some security. Safe and secure housing is a huge advantage for women who have suffered trauma and violence. She's not asking for a handout, your support will help her to build her own cleaning company and stick it to The Man.