Guest Post by Andrew Linnie
It has emerged that, contrary to Local Government Association advice, no minutes or notes were kept of three meetings between Brent Council Leader Muhammed Butt (Labour) and the developers of a controversial £150m tower in Alperton. Not only were there no notes kept, but the meetings took place in a short period before the project was due to be deliberated on by the planning committee, including one meeting the day before the decision was due to be made.
The LGA advises that such meetings, which can be beneficial in allowing councillors and developers to discuss pertinent matters, should take place in the formative stages of a plan. However, meeting with developers and their representatives the day before the council is due to rule on a scheme, especially one of such scale, is unprecedented and brings the entire planning process into disrepute. Councillors are expected to ensure that there is no possibility of predetermination. The final meeting took place on May 23rd of this year, the day before the committee met to decide. The two previous meetings were in the preceding weeks, on April 5th and May 10th respectively. At the latter, Butt and the council’s lead for regeneration Cllr Shama Tatler also accepted lunch as hospitality from the developer’s representatives.
The 26-storey tower is well above the 17-storey limit Cllr Butt and his colleagues promised for the area when they adopted the Alperton Masterplan in 2011. It was opposed by dozens of neighbours, and a petition I arranged, previously discussed on Wembley Matters LINK, gained over 200 signatures. The development was also criticised for failing light tests and being twice the maximum density for the area. Cllr Butt’s colleagues representing Alperton admitted in a letter that many concerns were ignored, but claimed that there was nothing they could do. A freedom of information brought the lack of record keeping to light: