Tuesday 30 December 2014

London Welsh School seeking new home in King Edward VII Park, Wembley

The Bowling Green Pavilion, King Edward VII Park
The London Welsh School, currently housed in a building close to Stonebridge Primary School, is looking for new premises due to the proposed expansion of that school.

Stonebridge Adventure Playground, as readers know, is fighting its proposed closure as a result of the Stonebridge School expansion as well as Council proposals to end its funding.

The Welsh School (Ysgol Gymraeg Llundain), a registered charity, is a bilingual primary school of currently around 30 pupils. Wembley Matters visited the school when it was first threatened in 2013.

 It had its second application  to become a free school turned down by the DfE earlier this year. LINK

Ariel view of Pavilion
After an exhaustive search the Welsh School governors and parents see the only option as building in the currently disused Bowling Green in King Edward VII Park, in Park Lane Wembley.

The plans are for a new building between the pavilion and the bordering back gardens in Princes Court. Some of the residents have objected on grounds of noise, additional traffic and loss of parkland. The Pavilion would also form part of the school with a possible dual use for the Freinds of King Edward VII Park.

The new building planned would be single storey and the Welsh School, following objections, has moved the building 4 metres away from the garden boundary which will be planted with dense shrubbery and trees. They have also agreed to retain a large Norway Maple and other specimens on the site but the revised planting shows the removal of  3 Irish Yew trees and 1 Monterey cypress. They are identified as category B trees which I believe are trees identified as of moderate quality or value capable of making a significant contribution to an area for 20 years or more.

Proposed land swap
The proposed land swap to make up for the loss of public park space is perhaps the most
controversial part of the proposal. The proposed land is next to Collins Lodge, which is currently temporarily occupied to safeguard the building. Some park users claim that the land, currently registered as residential, is already part of the park, at least visually, as it is a lawned area surrounded by low railings. The removal of the railings would be all that was required to make it formally part of the park.

Abandoned area next to Collins Lodge

Arguing that this is not a sufficient land swap to make up for the loss, attention has shifted to land on the other side of Collins Lodge which was previously used for storage and maintenance but now, as can be seen from the photograph, in a very sorry state.

It is an eye sore that would improve the park considerably if it was reclaimed as parkland.

Others have suggested that this could be a better site for the proposed school building.

Another issue that the Planning Committee would need to consider is vehicle access to the proposed new building. There have been problems in the past, including collapsed drains,  with access to Park Lane Primary School, which is closer to Park Lane itself but where vehicles have to access the school through the path into the park.The park gates are locked at night.

The path to the Bowling Green
Access to the proposed Welsh School would be through the same gate but would carry on through the park on what is little more than a footpath.

Large delivery vehicles, waste collection vehicles and emergency vehicles would all have to access the school along the path which is used by pedestrians  including children and their families enjoying the park.

Clearly there is a safety issue here and the path itself may need to be reinforced and perhaps widened affecting the amenity value of the park.

The full details of the planning application can be found HERE

Wembley Central Councillor Sam Stopp has asked for the views of Wembley residents on this proposal. Contact details:
Bus. mobile:  07721 233 038
Bus. email:  cllr.sam.stopp@brent.gov.uk

The Planning Committee will visit the site about 9.35am on Saturday January 10th and the application will be decided by the Committee on Tuesday January 13th, 7pm, Brent Civic Centre.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Season's Greetings to Wembley Matters' readers and contributors

Jean Bonnin www.banana-meinhoff.com
Wembley Matters is taking a seasonal break now.

Can I take this opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed to this blog as Guest Bloggers, commenters and readers as well as those who have supplied information by email, phone and post.

I hope that in 2015 we can get ride of the Coalition and start reclaiming our public services and dedicate them to the common good.

It is imperative that we lift up our eyes and recognise that we must redouble our efforts to persuade the international community and its politicians to tackle the climate crisis.

How will Brent community library campaigns fare in 2015?

As the year draws near its end let's see what the state of play is with the various library campaigns in the borough. These were set up after Brent Council closed 6 of its 12 libraries.

Two libraries,  Neasden and Tokyngton, are now gone for good, but the four others are being supported by community campaigns. This is the current state of play (information from the campaigns' blogs, Facebook pages etc).

The campaign is optimistic that it will have a space in the new development but has a wary eye on events at Kensal Rise:
 On 12th November Brent Planning Committee approved the application to demolish the building that has served as Cricklewood Library since the 1920s, and build a new mixed use development. The new four storey development will have a community space on the ground floor, sharing the building with six flats.
Friends of Cricklewood Library have been named as tenants of the community space, pending legal agreements, and we intend to run a library service, making the most of using the space by making sure it is adaptable and can be rented out to community groups for activities. We’ve got exciting plans/ideas, and a strong team – and there is a lot of talent and energy in the community to draw on.
A big thank you to everyone who has supported the campaign to keep our local library. There is a lot of work to do – but what wonderful chance to run a library/community centre and keep it right here. Please let us know if you would like to be involved – get in touch by email

Regular readers will know about recent events which saw the building go up for auction and then fail to reach its reserve price. The update on the campaign blog states:
We understand that you may be confused and concerned by the latest turn of events – the auction of the library.

The library building may or may not have a new owner.

The focus of the Friends of Kensal Rise Library has always been, and will continue to be, to work for the establishment of a library in the Kensal Rise Library building. We remain focused on this intention and our resolve is strengthened by the on-going support of the Kensal Rise/Kensal Green community - we are gratified by the trust the community places in us and are heartened by the many messages of support we continue to receive.

We received a letter on the 16th December from All Souls College, who, by the terms of their sale to Andrew Gillick, retain control of the D1 community space, whoever is the owner of the building.

Any subsequent owner of the freehold of the library inherits this obligation regarding the D1 space.

The campaign hopes to be able to run a community library from the old building when it is no longer needed as a temporary annex to Preston Park Primary School.  They hope this will be in Spring 2015 when building work at the school is completed.  During the May local elections Cllr Roxanne Mashari pledged the building at a peppercorn rent to any 'local community group who can provide a sustainable community library.':
We will not open to competitive tender in order to give preference to local groups if they can demonstrate health and safety sustainability etc. and we will offer help and assistance through Brent CVS the voluntary sector and continued support and networking through the Brent libraries forum which has proved successful for the likes of the Friends of Kensal Rise.
The campaign is now asking for more volunteers, donations from local business etc LINK
It has already been using the building out of school hours as a community hub.

The Card Room, Barham Park

 This campaign has run temporary libraries in Wembley High Road and at Sudbury Town station. but wants to move back into Barham Park Card Room (above) that has remained empty for some time,
The Council in October 2013 had plans to turn it into a cafe on a similar basis to the one in Roundwood Park but nothing has happened since and the building, donated to the public by Titus Barham remains unused and subject to deterioration.

Friends of Barham Library have said that  they are willing to offer refreshments to the public using the park if they run a community library from the building.

Cllr Michael Pavey has now become Chair of the Barham Trust and there has been a further delay as they review the governance of the Trust.  In response to a letter from Francis Henry, Property Manager for Friends of Barham Library, he said: 
I reiterate what I have said previously: I have absolute biases (I suspect this should be 'no biases' MF) on this issue. I have not been involved in any of these campaigns. My sole interest is to try and use my role to ensure that future generations can enjoy a beautiful Barham Park.
Henry had written:
I think the time has now come for you and the other Trustees to stop deferring and make a decision on this issue.
As an Administration you have now announced plans to Cuts Services. The proposals to close Youth & Community and Sports Centres while massively cutting the budget for youth services confirms the need for the voluntary sector to pick up the pieces.
Friends of Barham Library and other Volunteer Library Groups in Brent have picked up the pieces and provided makeshift services, replacing services  lost after you and your colleagues closed 6 libraries. You will recall the arguments against closures including the loss of study spaces for young people, the loss of a local safe 'community facilities' where people could go and the fact that over half the active users of the closed libraries were young people under 19.
Friends of Barham Library can make effective use of the Card Room and other parts of the Barham Buildings still available for access and not let to ACAVA. We can provide a Volunteer Library, a meeting place, venue available for giving advice, study space etc etc we can even arrange to provide refreshments (not a full blown commercial Cafe which has no chance of success). In simple terms we can provide some of the activities lost as a result of a successive and ever worsening cuts in local community facilities and services.
We have a clear record of delivery, ability to source premises, materials, books and cash.
Our shop in Wembley High Road was let to us on a two week notice - we have been there since July 2012. Sudbury Town Underground Station is let to us on similar terms but we have been there and run our activities since September 2013.
To be able to run effective activities over extended hours and to be able to raise more cash from various charitable sources we need more permanent premises and a longer security of tenure. We also need to be in Barham Park.
I and our many supporters find it very odd that the Trustees of the Barham Park Charity were prepared to bring in an organisation such as ACAVA from a long way away, who provide a service which no one asked for, while denying a group of local people, providing activities that local people actually want, a right of access to a building which was gifted to local people for their use.
I am at a loss to understand what your role is. Is it to facilitate and support local people to run activities for the benefit of their local community or is your job to block them. At present all you actions suggest that it is the latter.
I am not one for platitudes and meaningless words. I prefer direct language and straight dealing. So no more dithering on your part (or unnecessary obstruction from your officers). It is time for decisive action on your part.
There is time for you to make a decisive statement before 31 December and a clear indication that you support what we wish to achieve. If you at long last say YES before the end of this year we will ensure that the building is ready to serve local people by 31 March 2015.
If however you have no intention to allow Friends of Barham Library back into the building then please have the decency to say so now. We will all then know where we stand.
It is a measure of the importance of libraries to local people that these campaigns have kept going through difficult times and branched out  imaginatively into other activities in support of their cause. Debate continues about the role of volunteers and the need for a well funded professional library service but there can be no doubt about the commitment and staying power of these campaigners.

The Seighart Independent Library Report for England noted LINK 

There are examples of volunteer only libraries being set up across the country though there is a tendency for these to be established in reasonably affluent areas and there are still  questions over their long term viability. The more disadvantaged localities often have the greater need for such a service but they don’t tend to have the resources, experience or confidence to take over the running of their library.
As they enter 2015 with varying degrees of confidence I wish all the campaigns success in 2015.

Have your say on pharmaceutical service provision in Brent

Brent Council is consulting on local pharmaceutical services and whether they meet the needs of local people. This is what they say:
If you use local pharmaceutical services, we want your views on the services provided so we can make sure that you can access pharmaceutical services easily and that you are happy with the service you receive.

The consultation will take place from 5 December 2014 until 3 February 2015.
Pharmaceutical services include services provided from:
  • local pharmacies
  • dispensaries at doctors' surgeries
  • specialist appliance contractors.
Local pharmacies also provide healthcare help and advice and are often the first point of contact when people are concerned about their health.
The Consultation Document and draft Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment can be found HERE The document is well worth reading for itself as it gives a comprehensive overview of health issues in the borough as well as data on access to pharmacies.

The survey form can be found HERE

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Information not so free at Brent Council when it comes to respecting the Constitution

Philip Grant has written to Fiona Ledden, Director of Legal and Procurement at Brent Council, regarding her refusal of a resident's  Freedom of Information request  about the meeting Grant had with Muhammed Butt on 'Respecting Brent's Constitution'.

Philip Grant wrote:
Dear Ms Ledden,

I have just come across the attached document, a letter from you on behalf of Brent Council on 18 September 2014 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by a Mr Benazi, on the "What do they know" website.

The request concerns a copy of the notes of a meeting, which I prepared after I had met with Cllr. Muhammed Butt at the Civic Centre on 26 June 2014, notes which I wished to put in the public domain, but which I did not feel able to do for reasons explained in a "guest blog" which was posted on the "Wembley Matters" site in July 2014 LINK

I am writing to point out that the explanation you gave for not providing a copy of the notes to Mr Benazi was incorrect, for the following reasons:

The "information" (the notes) was held by Brent Council, in that Thomas Cattermole (Head of Executive and Member Services), who had been present at and taken part in the meeting, held a copy of them.

My meeting was not with Councillor Butt 'as a Councillor', but with him as Leader of Brent Council, to discuss matters involving the Council, its workings and the actions of Council Officers, and not any personal matter as a "constituent" (which I would have raised with one of my ward Councillors for Fryent Ward, if that had been the case).

The meeting took place at Councillor Butt's invitation, and not at my request.It was to discuss matters which I had raised in a letter to him (jointly with Cllrs Kansagra and Lorber) following a "Soapbox" I gave at a Brent Connects meeting in February 2014 on "Respecting Brent's Constitution", and which he had not yet dealt with. [You may remember that I sent you a copy of the letter, and of the text of my "Soapbox" on 13 February 2014, with an email headed 'Working together on Respecting Brent's Constitution', after you had confused that letter with another matter (a complaint I had made to Christine Gilbert about the actions of three senior Council Officers) in dealing with a request made to you by the then Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group.]

For these reasons, I can see no justification for dismissing Mr Benazi's request, as the information would have been within that which should be supplied by Brent Council under the Freedom of Information Act. I hope that the Council will now, belatedly, comply with that FoI request. Best wishes,

'No prosecution' decision in Kensal Rise Library email fraud investigation provokes anger

--> Brent Council has been informed that the Crown Prosecution Service is to take no action regarding the fraudulent emails sent in support of Andrew Gillick's original planning application for Kensal Rise Library.
Arnold Meagher, Brent Council's Principal Lawyer, Housing and Litigation Team wrote:
I write to advise that the Council has been informed of the outcome of the investigation regarding Mr Gillick and the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service.

The Crown Prosecution Service has decided that there is insufficient evidence to support any prosecution against Mr Gillick and therefore, no further action will be taken against him.

The Council has been advised by the Metropolitan Police that the partnership Brent Borough Chief Inspector, Andy Jones, is aware of this decision. The Metropolitan Police has requested that any queries regarding the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service go through Andy Jones.
70 or so fraudulent emails had been sent including one using the name and address of local business woman Kirsty Slattery.

Reacting to the news this afternoon she said:
I think the whole process has been purposely drawn out and detrimental to the people and businesses it affected. 

So somehow no one is responsible for these acts of fraud (?) according to the CPS and at no point has anyone even received an apology from Brent Council. 

The fraud affected my business as it misrepresented my standing in the community. This should never have been allowed to happen, someone ought to have been held accountable for these deceitful actions and the very least I would expect is a sincere apology. 
Kensal Rise Councillor Dan Filson was even more scathing: 

This news seems released by the CPS deliberately at a time when attention is elsewhere. Shame on the CPS.
I am appalled that an attempt - by whoever, though the email thread heading may offer a clue - to pervert the planning process had not resulted in a prosecution. 

It would be useful to know if the reason for this decision is insufficient evidence linking the alleged perpetrator to the offence(s) or an unclear charge upon which a prosecution could be hung? 

A dangerous precedent has been set, that a fraudulent attempt to mislead a planning authority as to the level of support for a planning application from the community and as to who in that community is supporting it by way of impersonation. We don't now know whether this stunt has been pulled in respect of other applications in this or other boroughs.

Questions should be asked in the House of Commons

The issue of the fraudulent emails has been a long and complicated affair. In September 2013 The Save Kensal Rise Library Campaign wrote on their website:
We are expecting the council to pursue the origins of the fraudulent submissions of support for the planning submission as reported in The Kilburn Times and The Evening Standard last week.
We have been promised an investigation and report as soon as possible.

Help us to keep up the pressure on the council to find out where this dodgy support comes from by writing to the Leader of the Council and your local councillors asking them to make sure the council makes every effort to find out who is guilty of this fraudulent support. We can’t allow local democracy to be undermined  by such abuse of the consultative processes of the council.
The police later appeared to have dropped the investigation but after the demolition of the pop up library in February 2014 both the Council and Muhammed Butt made statements to the Willesden and Wembley Observer:
A spokesman for Brent Council said:

The council undertook its own detailed enquiries before referring the matter to the police and provided the police with a summary of the outcome as part of the agreed referral process through the National Fraud Reporting Centre. The council remains very concerned about the way that the planning portal was used on this occasion and has subsequently made changes to forestall future problems arising. The council wants to continue to maintain the highest level of integrity with its planning process, since the authority continues to have statutory responsibilities to consider planning applications that are submitted. 

Labour leader of the council Muhammed Butt said:

It is bitterly disappointing that the police have chosen to ignore the evidence found in the council’s own inquiries and drop their investigation. When the future of the building affects hundreds of Brent residents and the entire Kensal Rise community, any issue of alleged fraud must surely be a priority in order to maintain the trust of local people. 

Whilst I know that this Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government has cut the police force by a fifth in the last three years, I am troubled that this investigation has not been carried out as a matter of urgency. Brent Council will be writing to demand that the police review their original decision and launch an appropriate investigation.
The investigation was reinstated with various sections of the police  responsible at any one time and recently there has been a long silence on the matter despite frequent requests for information.
I agree that the final outcome is far from satisfactory.

North West London Healthcare Commission – Call for Evidence

From Michael Mansfield QC 
In 2012 the government consulted on proposals to make significant changes to the healthcare economy of North-West London, set out under the heading “Shaping a Healthier Future”. This involved the downgrading of several hospitals across North- West London to “local” hospitals without A&E provision, closure of acute provision and reduction or downgrading of specific services. It also promised commitments to investment in capacity of out-of-hospital and community services in order to offset reductions in acute provision.
Two years into implementation of “Shaping a Healthier Future”, Brent, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham and Hounslow Councils are keen to review its implementation; in particular, the impact of reductions to acute provision on the North West London population, the extent of progress with investment in capacity and capability of community and out-of-hospital services to meet local needs, and the extent to which demand for acute services has changed as a result of those investments.
The North West London Healthcare Commission was launched on 1 December 2014 by the four councils to review the impact of the changes to the North West London health economy, arising from the implementation of “Shaping a Healthier Future”, and to assess the likely impact of planned future changes. I have been appointed to chair the Commission and my fellow Commissioners are Dr John Lister and Dr Stephen Hirst.
In order to assist us in the task of reviewing the implemented and planned changes, I invite you to submit written evidence that may assist the Commission in its consideration of the impact of these changes on patient care in the area. Any such written evidence should be submitted by Monday 2 February 2015 to Peter Smith, Clerk to the Commission, at Hammersmith & Fulham Council. Submissions should be addressed to him at Room 39, Hammersmith Town Hall, London W6 9JU or sent by email to peter.smith@lbhf.gov.uk. Later submissions will be forwarded to the Commission but may not be given the same attention as those received by the deadline.
I look forward to reading any submission you may wish to make. Yours faithfully
Michael Mansfield QC
, Chair, North West London Healthcare Commission

Boris must act as water and utility companies squeeze Londoner's pockets

Guest Blog from Navin Shah (Labour), London Assembly member for Brent and Harrow
After months of campaigning, the water regulator Ofwat has announced it will order Thames Water to slash Londoners’ bills by 5% over the next 5 years.

For the many Londoners struggling to cope with years of stagnating wages and rising living costs that announcement will be a great relief. Water isn’t one of those bills you can avoid, nor do we have a choice about our supplier. For too long water companies have had customers over a barrel – there was nowhere to turn when prices rose.

The 5% reduction will, on average, mean a £17 cut to bills in Brent and Harrow. Whilst that’s encouraging, water companies are still allowed to increase their overall prices with inflation. That will mean people could quite quickly end up paying more. 

The Mayor of London has taken his eye off the ball in not taking on the utility companies that are squeezing Londoners’ pockets, we on the Assembly will continue to be vigilant to ensure Londoners get their very best value from their water and energy bills.

Thames Water was one of the only water companies in the country to propose price rises, in part it said to fund the new Thames Tideway Tunnel. Whilst the so called super-sewer is important, Ofwat rightly recognised that the project cannot be funded by squeezing yet more out of Londoners' pockets – something I totally endorse.

Sunday 21 December 2014

School place vacancies and waiting lists in Brent

School Census Day in October gives a snapshot of the current position regarding school places in Brent. The actual figures change constantly as places are taken up. Brent Council adopted a School Places Strategy recently that includes the aim of having spare capacity in each school to aid parent choice.

This has an impact on schools faced with competition from a populat neighbour.  Pupil 'churn' occurs when a child leaves a school to take up a place at their preferred school where had been on the waiting list. These children are often replaced by children new to the country, sometimes without previous schooling, who present a challenge to teachers.  Such children usually do extremely well in the long-term, aided by the expertise Brent teachers have developed in this area, but as one would expect there is a short-term impact on SAT results. Continuous 'churn' can have a destabilising effect.

Ark Academy Primary had 208 children on its Reception waiting list on Census Day. I predicted that all-though schools would have an impact on neighbouring primary schools when Ark was set up - parents are effectively choosing their child's secondary school when their children are four years old. It is of course easier for large families if all their children are in one school.

However Ark's waiting list is sharply reduced to 21 in Year 1 and 10 in Year 2 when children settle into their schools.

Recently expanded Harlesden Primary and Strathcona - Roe Green, had vacancies in their Reception classes on Census Day as did Carlton Vale Infants and Furness Primary.  Byron Court, which is currently consulting on expansion to five forms of entry had 7 reception vacancies but a waiting list of 18.

Across the borough and age groups there were 153 pupils not in school with the highest number in Alperton ward (33) and Wembley Central (21) with Year 6 children the largest group in each.

The secondary data shows a sharp divide between schools

The waiting lists appear high but these are children in school who would prefer another - not children out of school. In fact the ward data shows no Year 7 child out of school and  only 2 year 8s.

Three secondary free schools were due to open in Brent in September but only Michaela managed to do so. The DfE estates department failed to find Gladstone and Gateway sites but the data shows that they were not necessary in terms of pupils numbers although they may be in terms of parental choice, however there is no clear data on that.

Gladstone School accounts to the end of December 2013 showed an income of £190,056, expenditure of £77,218 and a carry forward of £112,838 - for a school with no pupils or premises.

The full details are in the Excel spreadsheet below:

Saturday 20 December 2014

A chance for rank and file Brent Labour Party members to make a stand on cuts

Rank and file Labour Party members in Brent will have a chance to challenge the cuts being imposed by their Cabinet and Councillor colleagues at an 'All Member' Forum meeting on January 10th.

The call to members includes the information that the proposed cuts package exceeds the required amount by £6m which presumably gives some limited room for manoeuvre and minor concessions. Among the cuts under consideration are the ending of the Youth Service, closure of the Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre and closure of 10 out of 17 Children's Centres, cutting back on many of the Council's green initiatives and the redundancy of 40% of central employees.

I hope that Labour Party members who have not bought into the austerity agenda and dented shield argument will mount a challenge.

The meeting will run from 9.45am to 1pm at Neasden Methodist Church.

The email  from Rob Grover, Secretary of Brent Local Campaign Forum, tells members that the proposals include some 'really controversial ideas':
Detailed proposals to make £54million worth of savings over the next two years were unveiled by Brent Council on December 5. 

The draft list contains options that total £60million through a combination of efficiency savings, new opportunities to create income and service changes.

Massive cuts in central government funding to local authorities have left Brent Council with the huge task of finding nearly £54million worth of savings by 2017. These savings are in addition to the £89million already delivered since 2010.

More details, and a link to the full report, can be found on the Brent web site at:
Lead Members will be attending the meeting on the 10th to answer questions on the possible cuts and to hear the views of members. 
The proposals include some really controversial ideas.  Please study them in advance of the meeting.

Winter Solstice Sustenance for the Soul in Fryent Country Park

Light at the end of the tunnel?
After a week of Christmas meals, concerts, Nativities (yes, both schools where I am a governor had one despite the usual media stories) and exceptional traffic on Wembley Matters caused by the Kensal Rise Library controversy, I felt the need for quiet contemplation this morning and enjoyed a walk from Wembley to Kingsbury via the meadows and woods of Fryent Country Park.

It was food for the soul in winter sunshine on the eve of the Winter Solstice. The subtle winter colours and beautiful tree shapes revealed by the loss of leaves often stopped me in my tracks and the wide blue skies lifted my spirits.

Click below to see more images.

Thursday 18 December 2014

Greens welcome European Parliament vote on recognition of Palestinian statehood

The European Parliament yesterday adopted a resolution with a large majority ( 498 in favour, 88 against, 111 abstentions) calling for the Palestinian state to finally be recognised.

 Immediately in response to the vote, Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London said:

The European Parliament has today joined the growing international momentum for the recognition of the Palestinian state. The Greens/EFA group has long supported a two state solution and views the recognition of Palestine as an important step towards a peaceful solution of the Middle East conflict, which puts pressure on both sides to this end.

For too long, Palestine has received mixed messages from Europe so I also welcome that MEPs supported a Green proposal to set up a 'parliamentarians for peace' initiative with deputies from Europe, Israel and Palestine.’

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Kensal Rise Library fails to meet reserve price at auction

Kensal Rise Library put up for sale by owner Andrew Gillick, failed to meet the reserve price of £1.25m at auction today.

Two bidders stuck at £1.2m and when the reserve price was not reached were invited to meet up with Gillick's representative by Allsops the auctioneer.

Allsops were aware of controversies surrounding the sale and background documentation available for inspection, which was said to be about three inches thick, included the fact that 'caretakers' were on site.

Among those who attended the auction were Meg Howarth, Margaret Bailey of Friends of Kensal Rise Library and  Nathalie Raffray, a reporter from the Kilburn Times.

The auction was livestreamed to the public.

There is an update on the Save Kensal Rise Library website HERE

Late addition. Here is Brent Legal's view of the auction as sent to Friends of Kensal Rise in December 15th:


Tuesday 16 December 2014

UPDATE: The Lodge, Roe Green Park, to be converted into a cafe

The Lodge on December 20th

Brent Council has granted planning permission for the conversion of The Lodge, on Kingsbory Road, fronting Roe Green Park, to be converted into a cafe.  It would include at outside seating area and toilets that would be accessible to park users as well as customers. This would operate on the same basis as the facility in Roundwood Park.

The cafe seatingwould be in an extension that will be built to blend in with the existing building.

The current state of the building (above) xhows what a challenge refurbishment present. 

Full planning details can be found HERE and the historical background to the The Lodge, which served Kingsbury Manor, can be found HERE

Monday 15 December 2014

Greens, SNP & Plaid Cymru unite against pro-austerity consensus

In a significant break from the pro-austerity consensus of the three main parties, the Green Party of England and Wales, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru came together today to declare their opposition to austerity.

Leader of the Green Party in England and Wales Natalie Bennett, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood today stated that all three parties will unite whenever possible to battle the Westminster parties’ obsession with austerity. 

During a meeting at Westminster the three party leaders said that with no end yet in sight to the failed austerity agenda of the Westminster parties, the General Election next May is an opportunity to change UK politics for the better. 

Natalie Bennett said: 
I am delighted to have the chance to catch up with two other female leaders of anti-austerity parties in the UK. Together, we represent, with the Scottish Green Party, a new way of doing politics, a move away from the business-as-usual model of the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems that no longer represents public opinion. 

We are the voice of real change - a voice that must be represented in the leader debates next year. 

The ‘Green surge’ that has seen membership in England and Wales more than double, and Scottish

Green Party membership nearly quadruple in 2014 is a sign of the shifting political landscape. 

Collectively the Green parties will be standing in more than 75% of seats in the UK, reflecting the advance of our political philosophy that rejects austerity and believes that everyone should have access to the resources for a decent quality of life, with certainty, without fear, while we all live collectively within the limits of our one planet. 

And in thinking about future financial stability, we have to focus on the reason for our current difficulties, the near-collapse of our fraud-ridden, reckless, over-large financial sector. 

Green MP Caroline Lucas is an outstanding MP as shown by the numerous awards she has received including the prestigious MP of the year for her work with disadvantaged communities. Electing more Greens next year will help to bring about a peaceful revolution in British politics, towards a government that works for the common good, not just for the few.
First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said: 
There is no end in sight to the Westminster cuts that are already hitting Scotland hard - the Autumn Statement earlier this month set out another £15bn of cuts that are coming our way. Not only will these cuts continue to hit hard-working families, women and the vulnerable hardest – they will also put growth and competitiveness at risk. 

But despite the deeply damaging impacts of failed austerity, the Tories and Labour have made crystal clear their determination to carry on regardless. 

And after four years propping up the Tories, the Lib Dems have no credibility. It is time for a new approach to UK politics - and for our parties to use our influence to bring about progressive change at Westminster. 

Following the referendum in Scotland, the political landscape has changed utterly. The SNP is now the third biggest political party in the UK in terms of membership. 

Last month we sent this message to the BBC, ITV, Sky and Channel 4 - to exclude the SNP, the Greens and Plaid Cymru from general election TV debates would be to wilfully ignore this new political landscape. Put simply, it is just not on. 

Electing a strong group of SNP MPs will ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard at Westminster. Along with Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, we will work to do everything possible to tackle inequality and bring about sustainable economic growth.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said: 
Plaid Cymru and the SNP provide an alternative to Westminster’s promise of austerity and cuts to public services. As the only parties, together with the Greens, to reject the cuts consensus, it is unjustifiable and undemocratic to exclude our three parties from proposed leaders’ debates during the forthcoming UK elections. I reiterate my calls for Plaid Cymru’s inclusion in those debates in order to ensure the people can exercise their right to question and scrutinise all major parties. 

The people of Wales face a real choice at the election. All three Westminster parties are committed to slash and burn economics. That means cuts for the sake of cuts rather than balancing the books by investment and spreading opportunities. It is likely that there will be another hung parliament after the election. In that scenario, Plaid Cymru could hold the balance of power alongside our colleagues in the SNP. Should that happen, Plaid Cymru will seek a rebalancing of power and wealth in the UK: transferring powers away from London to Wales so more of our fate is in our own hands; spreading investment away from the booming City of London to areas in most need of investment. 

If the people of Wales return a strong contingent of Plaid Cymru MPs in May, then Wales will be best placed to secure an outcome to improve the prospects of our people and communities.

Disputing the facts in the Kensal Rise Library case

There have now been 175 comments on the recent blog on the twists and turns of the Kensal Rise Library saga.  It has become increasingly hard to follow the discussion so I asked Meg Howarth to write a Guest Blog on the disputed facts of the matter and what she thinks are the repercussion stemming from this.  I will be happy to publish a similar Guest blog, preferably from a named person, who wishes to counter some of the factual evidence or interpretation.

As once again comments got heated I plead with people making comments to keep personal issues out of it and stick to the evidence and principles involved.

Thanks you

Martin Francis


Former Kensal Rise Library (KRL) is listed for auction in two days' time - Wednesday, 17 December. This blog is an attempt to respond to questions, misunderstandings and concerns which are again being raised about the Option Agreement (OA) document to purchase KRL:

- the OA allegedly came in to force on 26 November 2012 between KRL's then-owner, ASC, and property developer, Andrew Gilick; no-one other than the seller (ASC), the buyer (Andrew Gillick) and their lawyers has ever seen the original document. An OA is not a sale contract - it does what it says on the tin: it's an 'option' to buy;

- a contract for the sale of KRL was made only when Andrew Gillick exercised the option to buy contained in the OA; this appears to have been in January 2013, and was conditional on 'vacant possession' of KRL;

- vacant possession was secured by the seller, ASC, only this year, on 31 January 2014, with the demolition of the pop-up library early on the morning of 31 January; 

- the sale of KRL was completed on or immediately after that date;

- any statement that KRL was sold to Andrew Gillick before KRL was listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) on 11 December 2012 is untrue; 

- under ACV regulations, an OA carries the same weight as a sale, ie if an OA is made before a listing, then ACV regulations do not apply. This means that a listed 'asset' is exempt from the moratorium restrictions on its sale. 

Unresolved concerns about the Option Agreement (OA) are its date and whether it was signed off. The Information Commissioner ordered the release of the OA on 4 March 2014 after a successful appeal against then-owner All Souls College (ASC) refusal to publish the document. This was to be redacted for date, names and price only. I was sent a hard-copy redacted copy of the OA on 31 March 2014. There are two problems:

- there are no redactions for the date or the signing off of the document. Any redacted copy of the original OA  should, in my opinion and that of others, have shown clearly where those redactions have been made, just as  redactions for names and price are clear elsewhere in the document. This LINK  is to a scan of the document I was sent It has been posted on  previous WM blogs;

- if the OA was never signed off, then it has no legal status

A request for a meeting with Brent's CE Christine Gilbert has been made to try to resolve these matters. With KRL slated for auction in two days time, it's important that these doubts about the legality of the original sale be resolved. Only a viewing of the original Option Agreement can do this.


There is no doubt in my mind that the OA was drawn up to bypass the application of the ACV moratorium regulations on ASC's sale of the library. Ironically - or not, depending on legal opinion - paras 6.1/6.2 of the OA state:

6.1 The Seller may not create any encumbrance over the Property at any time during the Option Period without the consent of the Buyer. 
6.2 An encumbrance includes, without limitation, any easement, restrictive covenant, lease or other right of occupation, use or enjoyment of the whole or part of the Property but for the avoidance of doubt any listing of the premises as an asset of community value under the Localism Act 2011 is excluded. 
LATE ADDITION - Letter from Farrers re signing of Option Agreement

Late addition. Brent Council Legal view on auction as sent to Friends of Kensal Rise Library on December 15th: