Wednesday 11 May 2016

Controversial development around Wembley Stadium approved by Brent Planning Committee despite FA opposition

Julie Harrington speaks for the FA against Quintain's planning application

A depleted Brent planning Committee approved all 5 planning applications related to the Quintain (Texan company Lone Star) owned lands around  Wembley Stadium tonight. They include high rise housing, more hotels and more student accommodation.

The Committee was depleted because two councillors said they had been unable to read the huge number of documents (on paper and on-line) associated with each application after having read all the paper's for Monday's meeting earlier this week. Legal advice was that they should not attend.  Cllr Sarah Marquis, chair, was therefore absent and so was Cllr Patel.  Cllr Colacicco left before the final item leaving just 5 councillors making the decisions.

There was a battle on the main application between Quintain and the Football Association each drawing on their consultants' reports.  At one stage there were 4 people from Quintain occupying the speaker seats for deputations.

Julie Harrington made an impassioned speech on behalf of the Football Association. She stressed that they were a non-profit making organisation - everything got ploughed back into football. Unspoken was the fact that Quintain are very much a profit making organisation. Harrington stressed the threat of the development to the safety of fans and the FA's duty to preserve the status of the National Stadium.

Quintain relied on their experts to rebut the claims and emphasised how much their developments were benefiting Wembley.

Brent Planning Officers were challenged as to why a record of a meeting between the FA and Chris Whyte of Brent Council on community safety had not been submitted to the Committee and over officers' claim that TfL supported the application when in fact TfL had said there was much to be concerned about.

Generally the officers spoke in support of Quintain and minimised any issues.

When Cllr Stopp in his presentation remarked that he sometimes wondered why there was no Brent Cabinet member for Quintain it drew an angry response from Cllr Shafique Choudhary who accused him of bringing the upcoming Brent Labour Group AGM into the matter.

The Legal Officer (the same one who advised against Sarah Marquis' deferral motion on Monday, said it was unfortunate that Cllr Stopp had brought politics into the arena which the Planning Committee was strictly non-political (tell that to Cllr Butt who persuaded committee members, behind the chair's back, to hold two meetings this week before the AGM. Legal also intevened when Stopp said some councillors were not present because of the volume of documents that had to be read. She said 'I hope the public feel comfortable that members of the Committee present have read all the documentation.' There were cries of 'No!' from the public gallery.

To be fair there was some probing questioning from councillors, although some of it revealed they hadn't read all the papers. Issues around crowd management, safety of routes out of the stadium, penning in of fans, access to offices and homes on event days, the amount of affordable housing and the 7 year limit on some were all discussed.

I felt that the answers were not very convincing and wanted to urge the councillors to dig deeper. Instead they tended to pause and then say 'Thank you' very politely. The Planning Officer rushed through his answers at high speed which tended to leave councillors looking a bit bewildered, pausing and then another murmered 'Thank you'.

An attempt by Cllr Maurice (Conservative)  to defer the final application ignoted by Cllr Agha who was chaiting and not put to the vote.  In the event Maurice voted against each application and Lia Colacicco (Labour) abstained on each except the last where she was absent.

That left Cllrs Agha, Choudhart, Ezeajughi and Mahmood (all Labour) voting through the applications.

Although an attempt may be made to bring the two sides togather Brent Planning Officers said that could not be a condition of granting the application.

There is a possibility that the FA will appeal.


Anonymous said...

You've got to be joking. What a bunch of absolute clowns!

Anonymous said...

The councillors involved apparently did not read all the papers involved. Unlike jury members, they were not barred from turning on the news during the deliberation process.

So I wonder whether they would have noted the findings of the Hillsborough Inquiry and considered what its findings might imply regarding their public duties where public safety might be involved?

Alan Wheatley

Philip Grant said...

The decisions at Wednesday evening's Planning Committee meeting, following on from other recent controversial (split decision) planning approvals, will bring Brent Council into even further disrepute. They may also land the Council (and we as Council Taxpayers) in expensive appeals or other legal action.

It was plain to many, including the Chair of the Planning Committee, that having two meetings with many complex applications to consider in the space of 48 hours was unreasonable. Why senior officers at the Council (including the Chief Legal Officer), and, it has been suggested, the Leader of the Council, thought that this was acceptable defies common sense.

Brent may be left to regret their insistence on going ahead with these planning decisions for years to come.