Monday 14 March 2016

Why Scrutiny needed a Task Force on the South Kilburn Regeneration

The following letter was sent to members of Brent Scrutiny Committee and Cllr Conneely by Pete Firmin on January 28th.  None of the Committee have acknowledged receipt.  It was a follow up to the December Scrutiny Committee discussion of the South Kilburn Regeneration which is on the agenda of the Cabinet tonight:
Firstly, thank you for allowing me to express our concerns with regard to the regeneration of South Kilburn at the Scrutiny Committee meeting of 2nd December, we often feel that residents of South Kilburn are not listened to. Thank you too for asking searching questions of the lead member and officer presenting the report.

There are a few issues which arose in your discussion which I would like to clarify or correct, and which may help you decide how to proceed:

* Councillor McLennan insisted that she had responded to the concerns raised by our TRA in its motion of July 2014 (which I attach again for your interest). Unfortunately this is not the case. The walkabout which Councillor McLennan referred to was about day-to-day issues rather than the more general issues we raised in the resolution. You do not have to take my word for this, if Councillor McLennan is correct that she has responded to those concerns, I’m sure she will gladly provided you with a copy of correspondence from her on the matter. This is not of minor importance; it goes to the heart of how our concerns have been ignored.

* Richard Barrett referred to the proposal to site the HS2 vent shaft at Canterbury Works as a success. He did not even acknowledge the concerns of residents about another heavy construction project being sited next to a junior school and in the middle of a residential area. Local residents and parents of children at the school feel much betrayed by Brent in pushing for the vent shaft to be sited there. There has been no serious attempt to engage with them over the issue, even though our objections are known. It is very hard to find a local resident not appalled by this, as evidenced by the fact that several petitions of hundreds of signatures are now with parliament spelling out those concerns. Even if you believe that LBB has been right to argue for the vent shaft to be sited at Canterbury Works, I would hope that you realise that the way it has gone about it can only serve to alienate residents.

* Richard Barrett said that Coventry Close is not within the area of the regeneration. This after having said that regeneration reaches as far as Kilburn High Road. Part of the Catalyst site is on Coventry Close, and one of their site entrances which caused many problems, is on Coventry Close. Yet no-one seems to believe they have any responsibility for a road which is badly in need of work.

* Asked about additional capacity at the proposed health Centre, we are told that, at least in the immediate term, this will merely bring 3 existing GP practices under the same roof. Yet, although Cllr McLennan and Mr Barrett could not provide figures, the population of South Kilburn is increasing considerably with regeneration (possibly doubling). While it was said that the new centre will `have scope’ for additional GPs, there appeared to be no real push for that, leaving it up to whether NHS England decide to act. Yet I can say from personal experience that existing practices are already having difficulty coping.

* When asked about a pharmacy for the health centre, Richard Barrett mentioned the one at Queens Park station and said the next was Boots on the Kilburn High Road. I had to point out that there is a pharmacy at Kilburn Park tube station, in fact the only one actually in South Kilburn. Mr Barrett said one of the two he mentioned should be approached to run the pharmacy in the new health centre, yet the one at Kilburn park should possibly be given first refusal, since it is likely to lose all its trade when the new centre is built, being currently opposite Kilburn Park Medical Centre,  the largest of those due to go into the Peel precinct centre.

* Again on infrastructure, it was clear from Mr Barrett’s response that the suggested amalgamation of Carlton Vale Infant  and Kilburn Park Junior schools is going nowhere, but no plan B is forthcoming to cope with the increased population.

* Councillor McLennan claimed we were in the masterplan but chose not to be. In actual fact, though we had objections to the masterplan, we were eventually excluded through lack of finance, not primarily because of our objections (we also objected to the destruction of some other entirely sound low rise blocks, to no avail). The implication here is that the problems we have suffered with regeneration are self-inflicted. But surely, even if it were the case that we were left out of regeneration because of our protests, that would not excuse the treatment we have had at the hands of Wilmott Dixon/catalyst.

* Richard Barrett said that he had had regular meetings with the developers at Kilburn Park and raised problems of their behaviour towards us with them. All we can say is that if that is the case Wilmott Dixon/Catalyst have ignored such admonishments. The catalogue of problems which I distributed to you at the scrutiny committee meeting (and attached again here) is only a summary, but should give you a strong indication of those problems. They are continuing right up until the end of the development (now more than a year overrun). A recent Freedom of Information request got the response that, actually, Mr Barrett has passed on very few of our complaints to other relevant parts of the Council. Problems are now continuing way beyond the “completion” of construction in the Kilburn Park. Wilmott Dixon/Catalyst have made various commitments about things they will do at completion, none of which has yet been done. As an example, I cite the fact that on many occasions they promised our windows would be cleaned on completion of the site. We are still waiting.

* On the regeneration more generally, Richard Barrett said that part of the success story of regeneration is that property values in the area have increased. What an amazing statement! We would see that as more of a problem than a “success”. Unfortunately, SK regeneration has not provided any additional social housing in the area to what existed, only unaffordable properties.

* Again on the issue of involvement/engagement, Mr Barrett said that he regularly attends meetings of the Tenant s Steering Group. Those not in the know will not realise that this is a body only for those being moved with regeneration, not for all SK tenants. Rather, when 2 members of our TRA went to a meeting of the TSG they were told they were not supposed to be there but could stay as long as they did not say anything. Similarly, South Kilburn Trust is repeatedly said to work across all the SK area. It does not. The only issue on which we have managed to get SK Trust to work with us is on the hoped-for access to St Mary’s school MUGA (an issue which has now dragged on for 10 years or more). When, for instance, the SK Trust expressed its view on the siting of the HS2 vent shaft in South Kilburn, they made no attempt at all to find out the views of those living close to the proposed site.

There is much more I could say, but will stop there. We would hope that these comments, together with your views expressed at the scrutiny committee meeting, would encourage you to urgently establish a task force to look closer at the regeneration of South Kilburn and the problems it has thrown up. As an organisation of residents, we would be more than happy to assist with, even serve on, such a task force.

Pete Firmin

Chair, on behalf of Alpha, Gorefield and Canterbury Tenants and Residents Association.

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