Sunday 29 April 2018

Olympic Way – Brent Council and Quintain asked to end cover-up

Guest post by Philip Grant in a personal capacity. Wembley Matters wrote about the murals in January 2018 when Brent Council signed a 4 year contract with Wembley City Estate Management  to continue to erect advertising over the murals LINK. As Green Party candidate for Tokyngton ward I have no hesitation in supporting the restoration of the tiles for public view and hope candidates from other parties will also support. When taking primary pupils on a Discover the River Brent walk, starting at Wembley Park and following the Wealdstone Brook to its confluence with the Brent, I used to begin with a tour of the murals - part of our local history.
I am not writing about THAT sort of cover-up (this time), but a request made by Wembley History Society that Brent and Quintain should stop covering over the tile murals, which decorate the walls of the Bobby Moore Bridge subway at Wembley Park, with advertisements.

The subway was part of Brent’s improvements, to pedestrianize Olympic Way ahead of the Euro 1996 football tournament. Its £6m cost was split between the Council, the Department of Transport, Wembley Stadium Ltd and the Football Trust. Brent’s Environmental Services Committee named it “The Bobby Moore Bridge”, after England’s 1966 World Cup-winning football captain, who had recently died of cancer. It was opened by his widow, Stephanie Moore, in September 1993, and the plaque she unveiled is set into the mural commemorating the 1966 final.

The tile murals which decorate the walls of the subway, and the fact that they have been covered up with advertisements (mainly for Quintain’s commercial activities, such as the London Designer Outlet or Tipi rental apartments – see below) for the past few years, were part of my “The Olympic Way Story” local history talk in March. After that meeting, several members asked whether there was anything Wembley History Society could do to restore these murals to public view. As the Society’s A.G.M. was to be held in April, it was decided to put a motion on the subject for discussion at that meeting.

At its A.G.M. on 20 April, Wembley History Society unanimously passed the following motion:
‘Wembley History Society calls upon Brent Council and Quintain to return the tile murals, on the walls of the Bobby Moore Bridge subway, to permanent public view, as part of the current public realm enhancements for Olympic Way. 

The Society’s members feel strongly that these murals, depicting scenes from famous sports and entertainment events at Wembley Stadium and Arena, are an important part of the heritage of Wembley Park, and add to its sense of place. 

The tile murals should be uncovered, and displayed again for both residents and visitors to see and enjoy, not hidden behind advertisements as they have been in recent years.’
After the meeting, letters in support of this motion were sent by the Society to Carolyn Downs at Brent Council (see copy attached) and to James Saunders, Quintain’s Chief Operating Officer. The letter to Brent made the point that ‘these murals are part of “Brent’s own rich history”, and should play their part in welcoming visitors to Wembley Park as part of the London Borough of Culture 2020 celebrations, while the letter to Quintain also said:
‘Quintain has promoted its developments as “drawing on the rich heritage” of Wembley Park, and our Society has been pleased to work with your company on local history matters, such as putting one of the lion heads from the Palace of Industry building on permanent public display in 2014, to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the British Empire Exhibition. Reinstating the murals to public view, as part of the public realm enhancements currently underway, would be an excellent way to showcase the sporting and entertainment heritage of this area.’
Here are a few more visual examples, showing how some of the scenes displayed by the tile murals celebrate events which have taken place at Wembley’s “Venue of Legends”:

Wembley History Society is a non-political charity, set up in 1952 at the invitation of the Mayor of Wembley, to study and promote public interest in the history of Wembley, and to encourage others to preserve all things of historic interest for the benefit of the people of Wembley. The motion the Society has passed is not party political, and I hope that candidates from all parties in the local elections can support it, and that all Brent councillors elected on 3 May will see that it is put into effect.

The “Brent & Kilburn Times” has already covered this story online LINK  Although, as far as I know, the Society has only received an acknowledgement of its letter to the Chief Executive, their report says:
‘A Brent Council spokesman said: “The council currently has an agreement in place with Quintain which allows advertising on Bobby Moore Bridge and this income helps to protect vital public services. We will discuss options to make the murals available for visitors to enjoy with the Wembley History Society and other interested parties.”
When Brent made its agreement with Quintain to allow this advertising, how much money it receives from them, and which ‘vital public services’ this income protects are questions that someone may care to ask. The key question, as far as I and my fellow W.H.S. members are concerned, is why should this major piece of public artwork, paid for, at least in part, by Brent’s Council Tax-payers, and celebrating scenes from the history of sporting and entertainment events at Wembley, be covered up at all? 

Our answer is that it is part of Brent’s heritage, and should not be used as an advertising hoarding, by Quintain or anyone else. The tile murals should be restored to public view, permanently, for the enjoyment of local residents and visitors to Wembley Park. 

After all, when Brent committed up to £17.8m of CIL money towards the Olympic Way public realm enhancements last year, it promised not more advertising but:

‘… a world class public realm for enjoyment by Brent residents’;
‘… a high quality processional route for the millions of visitors to Wembley’ that would,
‘… at other times be a place to visit in its own right, hosting cultural events’; and that
‘… improved public realm has a key role in place-making’.

Philip Grant (writing as an individual).



Philip Grant said...

I had missed Martin's January 2018 blog about the 4-year contract to allow one of Quintain's companies to use the walls of the Bobby Moore Bridge for advertising.

Having checked the minutes for the Cabinet meeting on 15 January 2018 on the Council website, I see that the Lead Member who presented this proposal and sought Cabinet's approval for it was Cllr. Muhammed Butt.

The Officer's Report refers to 'the walls of the Bobby Moore Bridge', but makes no mention of the tile murals (which had already been 'dressed' and covered up with advertisements for more than four years). This section of the Officer's Report seems to say it all:

7.0 Consultation with Ward Members and Stakeholders
7.1 None.

Anonymous said...

Butt it is in Tokyngton Ward so no surprise it's covered up

Scott said...

I'd like to see them restore some actual parkland to 'Wembley Park'.
Quintain's 'development' is a mess.

Philip Grant said...

I have done a bit more research on the Brent Council website about the advertising which has covered the walls of the Bobby Moore Bridge since 2013. The situation gets more curious, the more that you look at it!

1. I cannot find any trace of the Cabinet or Executive (up to June 2014) approving the previous advertising deal, which is supposed to have expired in August 2017.

2. There was a planning application, number 13/2987, which is said to have sought permission for some advertising on the walls of the Bobby Moore Bridge. The date given for receipt of this application is 25 February 2014.

3. However, according to the Council's website, the date on which permission was granted was not until 25 August 2017 - the same month that the previous advertising contract is said to have ceased (so was permission given retrospectively?). The photo in my "guest blog" above, showing the Tipi advertising covering the murals, was taken in September 2017, when the supposed contract with the Council which allowed Quintain to advertise on the walls had expired.

4. There are supposed to be two documents relating to this planning application available on Brent's online planning database, a "Final delegated report" and a "Final decision notice", both dated 25 August 2017. I tried to view these documents, but when I "clicked" on the icon to do so both come up with the message 'this document is unavailable for viewing at this time'.

Philip Grant said...

Further to point 4. of my comment above, the two online documents are now available.

The "Final Delegated Report" on planning application 13/2987 does not carry a date, but as the "site history" section refers to another application which was approved on 27 July 2017, it cannot have been written before then.

The "Final decision notice" was signed by Alice Lester, Head of Planning, Transport and Licencing, on 25 August 2017, even though the date of the application is given as 30 September 2013, with a revision in February 2014.

Even though the application had not been decided, let alone approved, Quintain clearly went ahead with their advertising in and around the Bobby Moore Bridge, without hinderance from Brent Council.

One of the advertising signs applied for included a map, and the report says of this proposal: 'The map included on the way-finding sign would be illuminated at a static 250cd/sqm and the background of both advertisements on the facades of the bridge would have artificial grass backgrounds.' I have a photograph of that way-finding sign, with its artificial grass background, taken in April 2014, so it was definitely "in place" by then.

The "Final delegated report" makes no mention of the tile murals on the walls of the Bobby Moore Bridge. This is perhaps not surprising, as by the time the report was written they had been covered up by (unapproved!) advertisements for almost four years!

The report, in respect of the proposal for '4x vinyl advertisements attached to the east and west tiled walls of the underpass beneath Bobby Moore Bridge and adjoining Olympic Way', only says:
'Because of this enclosed location they would have little impact on the character of the wider area and by utilising the walls of the underpass would likely benefit the character of the area. The signage would have no impact on amenity.'

Whoever wrote that nonsense was clearly unaware of the tile murals, and the amenity and heritage benefits which they gave to that part of Wembley Park BEFORE they were covered up.

The final irony is that one of the conditions set out in Brent's decision notice of 25 August 2017 is that 'any advertisement displayed' must 'not impair the visual amenity of the site.'

The tile murals celebrating past sporting and entertainment events at Wembley provide far more visual amenity than any advertisement!