Thursday 8 October 2015

Barham library campaigners win 15 year lease on Barham Lounge for community library

Barham  library campaigners cracked open a bottle of champagne this afternoon when Cllr Michael Pavey used the chair's casting vote to award a 15 year lease to the campaign for the Barham Lounge.
This will provide a permanent home to the campaign which has run two community libraries from Sudbury Town station and Wembley High Road since the original Barham Library was closed 5 years ago.

In opening remarks Cllr Pavey admitted that the process had taken far too long and had been 'shambolic'. He was scathing about an officers' report which he said had undervalued the importance of the interview process in which the two sets of bidders were questioned by a panel of three. All the panellists agreed that Barham Library Campaign had come out the strongest in the interviews but this had been down-played in the report.

He added that problems had persisted with a Supplemental Note from the Barham Park Trust Property Adviser only being made available two hours before the meeting.

Cllr Denselow sent his apologies to the meeting but asked that his thoughts be read out to the meeting. These favoured the Barham library bid.

Cllr Pavey said that despite attempts to make the issue party political each councillor present would give their independent views.  Cllrs Hirani and McLennan said that on balance they favoured the Pivot Point bid as they throught this would deliver more of what the community needed.

Cllr Eleanor Southwood, particularly on the interview evidence felt the Barham library campaign bid was stronger. Her view was supported by Cllr Pavey, particularly in terms of providng services that had suffered cuts due to local government funding reductions. Both voted in favour of the Barham library bid.

As the vote was 2-2 Cllr Pavey used the chair's casting vote in favour of the library bid.


Anonymous said...

Before Cllr Michael Pavey is scathing of staff perhaps he forgets officers should be undertaking their work under direction. If not some re-runs of Yes Minister are in order.

Anonymous said...

Well done Lib Dems.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

PART 1 of a comment by Philip Grant:-

Congratulations to Friends of Barham Library, whose determined efforts on behalf of the local community to get a library back into Barham Park have finally been rewarded.

I agree with Cllr. Pavey that the process has taken far too long, and has been ‘shambolic’. I believe that this has been because of the actions of a small group of Council Officers, known as the Barham Park Management Group, to whom day-to-day management of the Barham Park Trust’s activities was delegated, combined with the councillors on the Trust Committee not questioning their advice as critically as they should have done.

To illustrate my point, this is the text of an email which I sent on 1 January 2014 to the members of the Barham Park Trust Committee (then Cllr. Ruth Moher, Chair, Cllr. George Crane, Cllr. James Denselow, Cllr. Krupesh Hirani and Cllr. Roxanne Mashari).

‘Dear Barham Park Trustees,

I am writing further to my email of 15 November 2013 to you all, headed 'Barham Park buildings - a way forward?', and my email to Ruth Moher on 12 December, neither of which have received the courtesy of a reply.

Since writing the second of these, I have become aware of the Barham Park Trust Committee meeting on 3 December 2013. Although I accept that I should have made myself aware of any public meetings of the Trustees, I am disappointed that no one at Brent Council took the trouble to advise me of the meeting on 3 December, which I would have attended if I had known about it, particularly in view of the matters raised in my email to you of 15 November, which were directly relevant to the business of that meeting.

I am writing to ask you, as Trustees, to reconsider your decision to appeal against the Planning Committee decision of 13 November 2013. I know that you will probably say, as Ruth Moher did in her email to me of 2 October 2013 on an earlier matter: 'The trustees have already made their decision'; but I believe that you have good grounds to recall that decision, and to review it, because you were poorly advised on several matters at your meeting on 3 December 2013. In view of the content of this email, I am copying it to the Democratic Services Officer(s) who deals with your committee, and to Richard Barrett, the Officer whose advice I am questioning.

I have read Mr Barrett's report, "Barham Park Complex - Outcome of the Planning Application and Options Report", and the full minutes of the meeting on 3 December which appear on the Council's website. The report only gave the Trustees a choice of two options, but it is clear from the minutes that a third option had been put to Mr Barrett, which appeared to be leasing the complex to Pivot Point rather than ACAVA, which was not included in his report. The possible way forward which I suggested in my email to you of 15 November would have been a fourth option, which could have been achieved by allowing ACAVA to sub-let all or part of Unit 3 (the former library, with its retained D1 use) to other local community organisations, but this was not mentioned in the report at all. These third and fourth options should have been put to the Trustees, with comments on their potential risks and possible financial implications, and considered by you before reaching a decision.'

Text of email continues in Part 2 below:-

Anonymous said...

PART 2 of comment from Philip Grant:-

'As it was, you resolved to accept the second of only two options in Mr Barrett's report. Paragraph 3.12 (incorrectly typed as 2.12) of the report said of this option: 'there does remain a significant risk that the appeal will be refused and therefore those parts of the complex will remain empty for a longer period of time whilst a new procurement exercise is subsequently undertaken.' As you will see below, that "risk" is very significant, and yet the minutes of the meeting record that Mr Barrett, in what appears to be an attempt to persuade you to adopt his preferred option, played down the risk:

'In response to queries regarding the risks of pursuing option two, Richard Barrett informed the trust that there was a risk of refusal in light of the Planning Committee choosing to refuse the application under Planning Policy 23 although noted that, following informal advice from an external independent Planning Consultant, that the risks were perceived as being lower than indicated in the report.'

Unless something more about the "informal advice" received was said at the meeting, but not recorded, this could just be a comment made about there being a better chance of an appeal succeeding if a Planning Committee has not followed the advice of its Planning Officer, without the independent consultant being aware of the particular facts of this case. As I advised you in my email of 15 November:

'Although the Planning Officer had recommended that permission for this change of use should be granted, the evidence before the committee showed that his view was untenable, and that Brent's core policy CP23 must be applied to protect the existing "community use" of this facility.'

The Planning Officer's recommendation was based on an acceptance of the Community Facilities Assessment at face value, and the evidence, as I had pointed out in my email to the Trustees of 1 November 2013, headed "Barham Park buildings - Community Facilities Assessment", showed that this document could not be relied on because:

'it makes its case by ignoring a key fact that we all know exists, the perceived need by the local community for a local (if volunteer run) library at this site and the demand for the former library building, or at least part of it, to be made available as a continuing community facility for this purpose.'

The Planning Committee, by six votes to one, made the correct decision, based on the evidence before them and Brent's adopted Planning Policies, and following its Planning Code of Practice in applying those policies consistently. Any Planning Consultant looking at all the facts independently would probably advise you that the Trust has a less than 50% chance of success with any appeal against the decision (my personal assessment would be a less than 20% chance). You, as the responsible Trustees, are wasting both time and the Trust's money in pursuing an appeal against the Planning Committee decision, and I would urge you to think again, even at this late stage.'

I'm afraid that this will have to be continued as PART 3:-

Anonymous said...

PART 3 of Philip Grant's comment. Email of 1 January 2014 continues:-

‘You may ask why you should accept my advice, rather than that of Mr Barrett? I can show you why by giving an example. George Crane can tell you, better than I can, how closely Richard Barrett was involved in the disastrous effort by Regeneration (with its development partner, Galliford Try) to force through plans to demolish the 1894 library building as part of the redevelopment of Willesden Green Library Centre. I, and others, had made them fully aware by March 2012 why they would not receive conservation area consent for such plans (which clearly breached both Brent's own and national planning policies), but they still went ahead with a planning application on that basis two months later. That application was withdrawn in July 2012, when it became clear that not even Brent's own Planning Officers could support it, and the project was delayed for nearly 9 months while they came up with, and obtained permission for, a design which retained the locally listed Victorian library as part of the new Centre.

On this occasion, although you may think I am on "the other side", I am trying to help you get out of the mess the Trust has got itself into. Please at least consider what I have said.’ [End of email]

I have to admit that the Trust’s appeal against the Planning Committee’s decision did eventually succeed, despite my predictions, because the Planning Inspector was taken in by the Regeneration Officers arguments, whereas the Planning Committee had not been. But that was settled more than one year ago, and it has taken more time and costs to get to a basis which could, with good sense, have been achieved by 2013 at the latest.

I hope that Cllr. Pavey's actions, as Chair of the Barham Park Trust Committee, are a sign that Brent's Councillors have learned some lessons from the past, and will not just follow advice from Senior Officers who at times seem to have no interest in the local community they are meant to be serving.

Philip Grant.

Nan. said...

Recipe for Disaster


Take a bunch of lackadaisical councillors

Add a substantial amount of senior officers who should not be locally sourced

Beat thoroughly until lackadaisical councillors have been completely indoctrinated into the mix. Any odd councillors that are not incorporated should be picked out and marginalised at this stage otherwise the finished Disaster runs the risk of looking..... er...... disastrous.

This recipe works equally effectively as an accompaniment or main.

Anonymous said...

Fair play to Paul Lorber - he didn't really involve himself in the debate about this and made a point of not politicising it.

Mo Butt, on the other hand, was up to his old tricks - meddling in the process and pressuring officers and other councillors not to grant permission.

The stench of corruption is becoming unbearable.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous at 09:41:

Do you have evidence to support the statement in your second paragraph? If so, please send it c/o Martin (contact details in the right-hand column). Thank you.

Philip Grant.