Wednesday 28 February 2018

Mili Patel accuses Cllr Warren of abusing his position, fueling fear and intimidating nursery

If the last Full Brent Council meeting was a curtain raiser was the May local elections it looks as if things are likely to get pretty nasty.

Cllr Mili Patel, lead member for children and families, is not well known for speaking at council meetings, but used the presentation of a petition about the College Green open space to launch an excoriating attack on Cllr John Warren, leader of the Conservative group.

College Green is, after all,  in Warren's ward and he had made a speech in support of residents after Jim Hogan had spoken to the petition. Cllr Warren said that residents felt they had welcomed the College Green Nursery School into the open space but it now seemed to them that the nursery was stabbing them in the back by wanting to erect a  screen around the open space. He said residents hadn't wanted to set up a petition but the nursery had refused to engage with them about the issue. The petition had been a last resort. In a conciliatory tone he asked for Mili Patel to agree to a meeting between the scouts who use the open space, the nursery and the College Green Preservation Society to resolve the issue as residents felt that this was a potential land grab. Residents didn't want a 'Berlin Wall' around the space. He asked that in her response Cllr Patel constructively engage so that residents fears could be put to rest.

Cllr Patel responded by justifying the fence on safeguarding grounds  and claiming that the council had engaged with residents but they and the Preservation Society had not attended the last meeting about the positioning of the fence. The issue was now that of the screening off of the area.

She then went on:
However the agenda for Cllr Warren was to bring it full Council rather than having a meeting outside. Brent Labour takes its responsibility for safeguarding very seriously. We know from previous comments that you see safeguarding as 'crumbs'. You are taking the opportunity to take advantage of the impending local elections, perhaps you're running scared. I ask you to stop abusing your position and fuelling the residents with fear and also the College Green Nursery with intimidation and actually working with your community and get the group together.
More calmly she agreed with Warren that they could get the group together and organise a meeting.

A somewhat stunned Cllr Warren pointed out that he had never said he regarded safeguarding as 'crumbs.'

Cllr Patel by concentrating her attack on Cllr Warren failed to address the issues that Jim Hogan of College Green Preservation Society had made in a cogent speech. He said the open space had been there for more than 100 years and enjoyed by the scouts for 50 years. In 1995 they had supported a nursery (now College Green Nursery School) moving on to the open space to preserve it. A 6ft 8inch fence had been erected around the open space by the nursery and they then fixed a screen around the perimeter of the fence - residents had got them to remove the screen.

Hogan said residents were vehemently opposed to any attempt to screen off the space and wanted the council to make an agreement that this would not be done. Hogan said that a screen would run counter to the council's own guidelines and cited:
  • reduction of the sight lines of pedestrians crossing the busy junction
  • impact of the loss of outlook by residents
  • traffic safety
  • effect on pedestrians
  • effect on the character of a protected area
  • effect on open spaces and nature conservation
The 1913 legal Covenant  made by All Souls college should be respected.  In the past there were real greens at Willesden Green, Kensal green and even Harlesden Green, that had been fenced, screened off and built on.  He went on:
Let's not let that happen at College Green.  The nursery refused to meet residents to discuss their concerns. Let College Green Nursery School show some respect for their neighbours. Let us enjoy the view of the open space which has never been part of their property. Let's get an agreement signed by Brent Council preventing the screening of the open space. It won;t cost the council a penny. We don't want to have to start another petition after waking up to find a screen has been put up around the open space.

There are very few open spaces left in Brent and they are constantly under attack. Most of our front gardens have disappeared as a result of off-street parking. Our open space contributes to the well-being of local residents.

We want to walk around College Green to enjoy looking at the sun going down behind the magnificent oak tree planted by the scouts in 1967. We want to watch the crows, foxes etc.

What is the meaning of community? We don't want College Green hidden from our view or stolen from us. We want to enjoy it. A simple agreement between the scouts, the nursery school and Brent Council.
 Let's hope that the upcoming election does not stop this issue being resolved.

1 comment:

Malcolm Boyle said...

I attended the meeting organised by Cllr Warren last Thursday 22nd March. Brian Grady of Brent Council accepted full responsibility for the error in erecting a screen, and it was made clear in the meeting that this was removed by the Council as soon as complaints were raised by the Preservation Society.

There was also a complaint from the Scouts that tools had been left out by those building the fence. This was clearly also a Council responsibility, as the workers were employed and briefed by them.

So none of this was in any way the responsibility of the nursery. Yet it was the nursery which seemed to be coming under attack in the meeting. A nursery which brings value of every kind to the neighbourhood and which - as the Head Teacher pointed out in the meeting - is the only Brent educational institution to have been rated Outstanding four times consecutively by OFSTED.

I hope both the Preservation Society and Cllr Warren will now reflect and consider that they owe the nursery an apology for not supporting them in their efforts to protect the neighbourhood's children in their charge.