Saturday 10 January 2015

Planning Portal comments in support of Welsh School planning application to be verified by officers

Cllr Sarah Marquis, Chair of Brent Planning Committee, told residents attending the site visit at King Edward VII Park this morning that she had instructed officers to investigate comments that have appeared on the council planning portal in support of the London Welsh School's application to build a school in the park.

The resident of 28 Princes Court, whose address and someone else's name, had been used to post support, when she herself was opposed, said that she was not satisfied with the officers' explanation that this was an 'adminstrative error'.

Marquis has asked officers to investigate that and also to verify the 13 other comments (excluding 23 Toley Avenue) in support of the application that suddenly appeared on the portal on January 8th.

Apart from a representative from the Welsh School the 20 or so residents (including children) who attended seem to have been opposed to the planning application.

Debangshu Dey, a local resident, has offered to collate bullet points from residents that could then be included in a presentation to the Planning Committee on Tuesday. Residents can apply to speak for up to 2 minutes and the points could be spread between several speakers.

Debangshu's email is (corrected)

It would be useful if you could say if you are willing to speak. The collated points can then be sent to all who have responded.

Cllr Sam Stopp (Wembley Central) also continues to welcome comments on the planning application  He will be speaking at the Planning Committee and will have up to 5 minutes for his presentation.

The site visit was also attended by Cllr Jean Hossain (Preston) and Preston ward residents can write to her .  Most of the park is in Preston ward, including Collins Lodge where the land swap is proposed. The Bowling Green is in Wembley Central ward.

Residents who live opposite the park on Park Lane should contact Tokyngton councillors and copy in Sam Stopp.

Here are some photographs of the Bowling Green site taken this morning.

The additional classroom proposed to be built here, 4m from the boundary with back gardens
This area behind the Bowling Green Pavilion proposed to  be resurfaced as a playground

Planning Officers confirmed that the Bowling Green itself did not form part of the planning application.  Councillors were shown the disused yard adjacent to Collins Lodge which had not been considered as a possible school site or land swap.


Anonymous said...

Well done again Martin for providing an update on the site visit today. Residents did aske the question with regards to the letters sent so close to Christmas. Has a decision already been made? It felt that a decision has already been made and we are just being pacified.

Mr Gwen was the only representative present from the Welsh School. Where were the other supporters? Is this because its a done deal??? What is there to stop to the school from trying to apply for free school status and if it was to be achieved it would set a president for other schools to be placed in a public space. Slowly eroding what green space that is left in Wembley.

I am happy to see the administrative error is being investigated further. Was it really an administrative error????? How many more are there?

Anonymous said...

So my council tax monies will be spent on a school that is Independent, charges fees a registered charity - for tax purposes as well as a registered business. Everything seems rather rushed, preventing the local community or local press to highlight and get more people involved.

The school consistently states they have no money but on further investigation when checking they have £10.000 and other monies!!!!

Anonymous said...

The 40 school places are nursery places included in this? Why is not being financed by the Welsh National Assembly ? It follows the Welsh Curriculum and is the only Welsh school outside of Wales. With all the cuts and changes that have taken place within the borough the space needs to remain within the community for local organizations that run on a shoe string as oppose to a fee paying school, who choose not to accept the full payment from parents who have made the choice to send their child to a fee paying school.

There are numerous fee paying schools within the vicinity that are based in houses, so why is this school so different that they are unable to do the same. Sure there most be Welsh organizations that could help support them with finances to secure a home. The schools just seems to be bouncing around the borough never bothering to plan in securing a permanent home, placing them selves at the mercy of the council and pulling on heart strings and using ethnicity as a bargaining tool. Brent is an ethnic diverse borough which makes it an enjoyable place to live but I doubt, I should say I know no other ethnic group would be given a building in the middle of a park as a school - there would be major opposition.

Why should they have preferable treatment over true local charity organizations who would better serve the local area.

Brent need to refuse the planning application but it seems the planning meeting is all part of the show to say the correct procedures have been followed. The school clearly was not expecting this level of opposition.

Anonymous said...

The opposition is not about the school remaining in the borough I think that needs to be made clear. A public park is not the space!!!

Anonymous said...

The term land swap is being banded about. The land is public land and is not a swap it all forms part of the park. The Welsh school clearly have no land to give the local residents in return...... its all farcical.......

Anonymous said...

Whilst residents can apply to speak, only a maximum of 2 residents are permitted to speak for a maximum of 2 minutes each. That's 4 minutes in total. Cllr Sam Stopp will also speak for 5 minutes to represent Wembley Central Ward residents. So that's 9 minutes all together.

Anonymous said...

The council state that Toley Avenue was erroneously replaced by Princes Court in support of the application. As I understand it this was from 22nd December 2014 until the beginning of the week of 5th January. Their website displayed an address on Princes Court as being in support of the application. Subsequently the Princes Court address disappeared from the website and was replaced with an address on Toley Avenue (off Preston Rd). This, the council state was an "administrative error". A Princes Court resident has requested that the council investigate the veracity (honesty/truthfulness) of the other comments on the planning portal. Alarm bells began to ring loudly when, on 8th January, 13 comments in support of the application appeared on the portal dating as far back as 5th January.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Martin for writing and posting this article so quickly following the park site visit.

Anonymous said...

Page 8 of the school's "supporting statement": "The school children would use the bowling green areas for play, sport and recreational use during school hours and the area will be publicly accessible for the local community in Brent to use for recreational purposes... The aspiration of the School, which is to be discussed with Brent, is that the currently out of bounds area becomes available as a flexible space for activities such as... and provide a secure (with a degree of enclosure) area of lawn where parents would be more comfortable for pre-school children to play. At this point it is considered preferable to be dog free and therefore gated because of health and safety issues around children's playing areas. There may also be landscaping implications, such as level changes to the bowling green, the perimeter gully and the need for Equality Act compliant access to all areas. The school is committed to work alongside Brent to exploit the recreational value of both Bowling Greens as a wider community recreational asset."
How dare the school decide how to exploit the recreational value of our King Eddie's Park (alongside Brent)? - do we residents not get any say in how our public park is "exploited" - I prefer the word used. I don't think anyone should be exploiting anything in relation to this application!!!

Anonymous said...

It is at the chairs discretion to allow more than 2 members of the public to speak in opposition to the planning application. This happens on occasion when the issue is contentious and has aroused a lot of public feeling eg Kensal Rise library/Queensbury Pub etc.

Martin Francis said...

Anne Clarke has sent this to Cllr Stopp:

I've been following with interest the developments of the Welsh School's planning application. For transparency, I am a Barnet resident and I have never visited King Edward's Park.

I am familiar with the Welsh School and have long admired their dedication to the Welsh community and their commitment to inclusivity whilst running the school on a shoe string. Their future has been uncertain for several years and I expect it will continue to be so even if they secure reasonable premises.

My concern is with the development of any public land for use as a school but particularly one not locally accountable. I am aware that the Welsh School has twice applied to become a free school and I fear that if they were to successfully reapply they may try for a larger portion of the park as they would likely expand the number of places available and have money from the EFA to do so.

Equally worrying, if Brent council were to permit the school to use the park, it would both set a precedent for Brent's 3 free schools looking for sites and even make available King Edward's Park to the DfE. Once a site is deemed to be suitable for education, the DfE can take the land for educational use. One of the more famous cases was in Islington with the Whitehall Park site.

Given the insecure nature of the Welsh School, it could be a potential disaster for King Edward's Park if they are given the go ahead and then close for financial reasons. This would open Brent up to the DfE putting a school in the park and the lack of a fair and transparent consultation that comes along with it.

I do hope Brent will carefully consider the implication of this application.

Meg Howarth said...

Another controversial planning application, more suspect on-line support...

On 18 November 2013, in the wake of some 70 out of 78 emails supporting Andrew Gillick's original planning application for Kensal Rise Library found to be fake, Christine Gilbert, Brent's chief executive, wrote: '...I can assure you that procedures have been strengthened to require those who wish to make comments on–line to register and provide us with their contact details'.

On 5 February 2014, Fiona Ledden, Brent's now-displaced head of Legal and Procurement, went further:
'The Council remains very concerned about the way that the planning portal was used [in the case of Kensal Rise Library] 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'.

So over a year after the council's 'planning portal' problems were supposed to have been rectified, doubts are once again arising about the reliability of the site.

As chair of the planning committee, Cllr Sarah Marquis stood firm against online fraud when she refused to hear Andrew Gillick's revised application for the former Kensal Rise Library building before receiving further legal advice - some 70 fake/fraudulent comments had been posted backing Mr Gillick's scheme. It's to be hoped the councillor and lawyer will do so again, this time regarding the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that “[H]aving carefully considered all the material supplied we have decided there was insufficient evidence to support a realistic prospect of conviction...The evidence did not prove this to the required standard".

Brent Council identified 5 ISP addresses as having been used to post the false comments. As 'the key to ultimately tracking back an IP address to a user is to engage with the ISP and get it (or force it via a judge) to release the data showing which client was issued with what IP address at a particular time of day', the question is: did either the council or Brent police take this crucial next step? Cllr Marquis could assist in securing a response from the council on this issue. Brent's planning department has a reputation to restore. This could be the means of its doing so.

Anonymous said...

Anne, your comments are highly and thank you for sharing. The points you have raised are all points that are causing concern. I hope the planning committee realize the serious implication for the community and the park if they were to allow this decision to go ahead.

The question is why have they not looked at the implications because if the DfE were to take control of the park where would that leave the council.

There has been to many questions left unanswered, and the fact they are attempting to push it through without proper consultation is quiet frightening.

Martin - Thanks for sharing, its important that as many locals attend this controversial planning application meeting and make the council aware this can not go on. Where will they stop?

Anonymous said...

2 residents have registered to speak at the meeting. Please come along if you are available tomorrow. 7pm. Brent Civic Centre (opposite Wembley Stadium).

Anonymous said...

Yes, thanks Anne for raising your very valid & concerning comments.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Meg for sharing this with us. Let's hope Cllr Marquis will stand firm on the need for a clear and transparent process. Although, it's quite shameful that Brent even need her too. Why can't they get their act together - a council should never be able to even instill doubt into residents as to it's legitimacy - especially in the planning process! Development of any form has repercussions for it's surroundings.
How can a major planning application for a site in public parkland be validated without a public consultation?
This is the list of addresses consulted:
11 - 18 Keswick Gardens
21 - 32 Princes Court
Park Lane Primary School

Anonymous said...

It seems so contrived. The whole ward should have been consulted. We do hope that Cllr Marquis stands firm once the implications posed are exposed!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Why have so few been consulted??? As stated this is a major application and does not only affect the addresses consulted. How could the council even consider such an idea? Who even suggested the park?

Martin Francis said...

This comment received from a reader has been edited:

Parents of the London Welsh school have links in Ealing, have they approached Ealing Council??? Have they suggested being located in any of the green public spaces there? I doubt it and am sure they would not entertain such an outrageous proposal - so why is Brent.

Supporters for the school outside of Brent is great but the greater implications of having such an institution placed in the park and the presidents it sets will not have an impact on them.

So many areas are being cut the Youth Council, and other areas that have a major impact on the youth within the borough, we need to think about them and the best use of the buildings for them.

We can't be complaining of crime levels amongst the youth when the spaces can be used to support them to provide services that will engage them.

A private school can be placed anywhere. It is not the responsibility of others but the school. The park was purchased for the community to enjoy as a green space not to be carved up.

Meg Howarth said...

With reference to Anne Clarke's mention of Islington - (Martin's comment 11 Jan 22.33) - it's worth noting that local residents in the south of the borough are alert to the possible expansion of an all-ages Church of England city academy on to nearby green space. Once gone, lost forever, as Anne's comment makes clear. Some 57 mature trees, a site of local scientific interest and a lovely neighbourhood park were lost in the building of the school - which replaced not a failing secondary but a top-ten rated primary when it was granted planning permission seven years ago. Recent drip-drip planning applications for extra classrooms and a separate 'autistic' unit have raised concerns about further possible loss of public open space - in the borough with the least green space per head of population outside the City of London.

Anonymous said...

Lets hope there is a positive outcome for the community and this planning application is not allowed to take place. And the park is allowed to remain a green space for all to enjoy.

Wembley Champions said...

yes, let's hope so.