Saturday 18 March 2017

Incompetence dogs Brent Council's management of Tottenham Hotspur's planning application

Confusion or incompetence has continued to dog the Spur's Wembley Stadium planning application which is due to be heard on Thursday.  Readers will already know that the Council's planning portal for this application has been down several times leaving residents unable to submit their applications, when it was working many 'Object' comments were classified as 'Neutral' by the software and had to be corrected, many residents claimed not to have received letters from the Council about the application.

 On Friday I received a letter from Regeneration and Growth posted on 16th March which told me that planning documents for the application should be available on the Council website by February 7th.  Later that day I received an emailed letter from Regeneration and Growth which included details about Thursday's meeting:
The application will be formally considered at the meeting of the Planning Committee on 23 March, 2017. The meeting will be held at Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley, HA9 0FJ starting at 7.00pm. You are welcome to attend the meeting and listen to the proceedings. It is possible to speak to the Committee subject to the restrictions set out in the Council's Standing Order. These provide for one objector and/or one supporter of the application to speak. The Chair has the discretion to increase this to two people from each side. In doing this, the Chair will give priority to occupiers nearest to the application site or representing a group of people. To address the committee you must speak to Democratic Services at least one clear day before the meeting and arrive at the Brent Civic Centre at least 15 minutes before the meeting starts. Please telephone the Democratic Services Officer, Mr Joe Kwateng, on 020 8937 1354 during office hours. 
On the Council website Planning Committee agenda Mr Kwateng is given as the contact but no email or telephone number is given. LINK

The only problem with all this is that Mr Kwateng is on leave until Wednesday, the day before the meeting. Will a 9am phone call on Wednesday qualify as one clear day?  Additionally the Council website advertises the Planning Committee as starting at 6.30pm not 7pm. There is a pre-meeting for councillors at 6pm. When I emailed the officer named as the author of the letter about this discrepancy on Friday I got this response:
Thank you for pointing this out to me. I need to first identify what the correct time of the meeting is, and we will then send out clarification to all those who have been invited.
I have heard nothing further...

Remember, this is an application involving a Premier League football team and the country's National Stadium which will have a profound impact on the quality of life of local residents. Doesn't look good does it?

It now seems likely that, as with other Wembley planning applications that the Chair, Cllr Sarah Marquis, will step down on grounds of having an interest (Marquis represents residents in Barnhill ward which is close to the stadium) and her place will be taken by Cllr Agha (Welsh Harp ward).

An issue that emerged at today's residents' meeting with Barry Gardiner (MP for Brent North) is the claim that agreeing to remove the cap on attendance at stadium matches will be to the advantage of Brent Council and council tax payers because Tottenham will then be liable to pay for the additional policing and litter clearing involved. If the cap remains those costs for the 22 extra events will remain with the Council.  This is not a material planning consideration so will not come up on Thursday but clearly more detail on this would be of great interest to residents when they weigh up the pros and cons.

I have heard that Cllr Butt, Leader of Brent Council, and councillor for Tokyngton ward in which the stadium sits, wanted events to be capped at 61,000, the capacity of Tottenham's new stadium at White Hart Lane, but this was turned down by Tottenham:
The Council initially suggested that the maximum capacity of the proposed additional event is reduced to 61,000 (the capacity of the new stadium at White Hart Lane). However, the applicant was not willing to propose reduction as this would result in a part-full stadium with only parts of the upper tier being occupied by fans, which they did not consider would achieve an appropriate atmophere(sic). Instead, following discussions with Council Officers, the total number of additional high capacity (up to 90,000 people) events has been reduced from 31 to 22 in order to reduce the number of instances where additional impact will occur.
I understand that the deadline for Tottenham to sign up for the stadium deal is at the end of March so things are looking very tight, especially as the many omissions and claimed lack of due diligence in the officers' report as well as the problems referred to above, could give grounds for the Committee to defer the application.

It is clear that mitigation of the impact on residents will feature on Thursday and there are likely to be demands for strict conditions to be attached to any planning consent regarding crowd control, traffic regulation, public transport over-crowding (including actual trains rather than just station access and egress), effective policing - including enforcement of the drinking ban, provision of temporary public toilets, and clean up of local streets after events (not just those nearest the stadium).

It is interesting to note that the Metropolitan Police made no comment on the planning application but the British Transport Police raised concerns based on the increased number of supporters compared to Tottenham's existing ground. They cited the number of away fans and the potential extra policing requirement was estimated at £58.3k.


Philip Grant said...

I am sure that there are many local residents who would like to address Planning Committee about this application on Thursday evening, but will they be able to?

Under normal rules (which the Chair of the meeting could agree to vary, in exceptional circumstances) only two or three residents would be allowed to speak, and then only for a couple of minutes each. They would have to be precise, concise and co-ordinated in the planning points they wish to raise.

Then there is the need to notify the Council in advance if you do wish to speak. Martin has quoted above from the Planning Officer's letter:
'To address the committee you must speak to Democratic Services at least one clear day before the meeting and arrive at the Brent Civic Centre at least 15 minutes before the meeting starts. Please telephone the Democratic Services Officer, Mr Joe Kwateng, on 020 8937 1354 during office hours.'

From correspondence which Martin and I had with Brent's then Legal Director several years ago, 'one clear day before the meeting' would mean BY 5pm ON TUESDAY 21st MARCH. (For a 'clear day', Brent does not count the day of the meeting itself - even though it is in the evening - so the 'clear day' is Wednesday 22nd, and the contact must be made during working hours on the day before that).

As it appears that the officer you need to speak to is away from the Civic Centre until Wednesday 22nd, it will be difficult to speak to him by Tuesday 21st! However, you could try 'phoning 020 8937 1354 during office hours, and asking a colleague of his in the Democratic Services section (whose name, and the day and time of the 'phone call, you should make a note of) to pass an urgent message to the person dealing with the Planning Committee meeting, giving your name and the planning application you wish to speak on at the meeting on Thursday.

Good luck!


Anonymous said...

'Incompetence dogs'.
Weren't they the ones Davani used to breed before she went into the 'high-end' b'n'b business?

Mike Hine

Wembley Champions said...

Wembley Champions reserved a place to speak at committee last week Philip. Thank you for explaining the process to everyone.

Sandro said...

QUOTE..."It is interesting to note that the Metropolitan Police made no comment on the planning application" .....I was talking to a local resident about this a few weeks ago & I was saying how disgusted I was that the Met Police have said nothing regarding this application. We all know & they fully know that they don't enforce the drinking ban & they don't have the man power to properly Police major events at Wembley so surely it would of been in their interests to oppose this application yet they remain quiet. I am frankly appalled at their attitude & their obvious "don't give a hoot" attitude to all this!