Tuesday 13 March 2018

Possible fraud over Queens Parade consultation responses checked out by Brent Council

Mapping consultation respondents
Guest blog by Scott Bartle, Secretary of Brent Green Party

As detailed in Wembley Matters last week  LINK the proposal to demolish Queens Parade is due for a decision to be heard on Wednesday March 14th. The developers seek to replace the 12 units that have been used as business incubators with a staggered 8 story building comprising of 117 student accommodation units and just 5 commercial units. The Queens Parade (with the support of Mean While CIC) has offering opportunities to more than 25 start-up businesses, 6 charities and voluntary organisations creating job opportunities and apprenticeships for 67 people and enabling 47 people to test their products and ideas from a visible space. It has hosted 242 public events, including hosting Green Party meetings. 

Residents in Electric house are understandably concerned about the environmental impact a development of this size will have upon natural light to their properties. One resident reports a projected drop in light from 12.17 to 0.91 citing a Right to Light protected under common law, adverse possession and the Prescription Act 1832. Although The Right to Light has an arbitrary 20 year time limit placed on its acquirement and Electric House is a new build, this does not meant that those elected to represent residents and make planning decisions should not respect it anyway. What might also be of concern to residents is the loss of so many commercial units on our high street, by more than half and the opportunities for small business that would have been presented. Particularly given Brent has a third of people living in poverty, almost a third of people earning less than the London living wage and above average rates of unemployment (link). 

The officers’ report recommended approval based upon ’50 letters in support of the development’, which is a rarity for a development to muster. In fact, the ‘letters of support’ on the online system consists of the same copy/pasted statement attributed to neighbours within Yates Court, 228 Willesden Lane, NW2 5SJ and another copy/pasted statement attributed to multiple house numbers within Walm lane, each ending with a statement beginning ‘as a local businessman in Willesden Lane’. The odds are of course pretty slim that each person who has registered support from addresses in Walm lane is actually a ‘local businessman’. 

I requested Amar Dave (Head of Brent Regeneration) to investigate as I’m aware there are many people who have been convicted of various fraud offences for writing fictitious letters to a council in support of planning applications. Amar stated that they take allegations of fraud seriously so asked Alice Lester (Head of Planning) to investigate. Amar reported that Alice created a map of where the letters originated (see image above) and checked the names of some of the supporters from residential properties and they were listed as the addresses given. They said it's not possible to discount a ‘campaign’, but one consisting of ‘local businessman’ in support of less commercial space and student accommodation seems a bit strange to me. 

Thoughts from readers?

 Officers' Report
Application on Planning Portal

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