Friday, 27 July 2018

Butt's crocodile tears on South Kilburn

The Brent and Kilburn Times has a story about the recent public meeting on South Kilburn and the impact of regeneration and HS2. LINK  One resident has said disruption was so bad that he wanted to move away. The Kilburn Times reports:

Cllr Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, felt he “had to step in” on hearing residents wanted to move away.

He said: “I’m edging on the side of residents. 

“There’s a lot of regeneration taking place for the next 15 years or more and we must do all we can to safeguard the residents. “If he’s talking about moving out the area, we need to have a serious conversation.”

However, he was later challenged on why he petitioned HS2 to move the vent shaft from its original spot in a Queen’s Park car park in Salusbury Road

Cllr Butt has absoutely no excuse for not being aware of the issues as this blog has brought it to attention several times in posts from Pete Firmin, a resident and tenants represenative and a member of Kilburn Labour Party.  This is one blog that Pete wrote on May 26th 2015  LINK about the HS2 shaft that Brent Council asked HS2 to put next to Canterbury Works and a primary school on the estate, rather than the  council owened site next to Queens Park station which at the time was away from any residences. Brent Council has now given planning permission for flats on that site. Pete Firmin's post received 53 comments which are worth reading.

Guest blog by Pete Firmin, South Kilburn resident
On Friday 22nd May, pupils, parents teachers and local residents held a protest at the gates of St. Mary’s Catholic Primary School in South Kilburn against the proposal from Brent Council that the ventilation shaft’ for HS2 be sited right next to the school and close to flats.

Apparently such ventilation shafts are necessary at certain distances along the line in order to get rid of the air pushed in front of the speeding trains, otherwise they would slow the trains down. Such vent shafts are not a small thing, being usually about 25 m by 25 m and 2 storeys high – the size of a small block of flats. Such an enterprise is calculated to take up to 6 years building work, involving movement of over a hundred lorries a day to and from the affected area at peak times, with the association noise, disruption and dust...

HS2’s current proposal is that this be sited close to Queen’s Park station, but Brent Council is pressing that it be on the Canterbury Works site next to St Mary’s school instead. Some studies suggest a ventilation shaft is not essential at either site.

Brent Council’s proposal ignores the pleas from local residents and school staff and users and is putting its regeneration scheme above any concern for the health and wellbeing of students and residents. They have the support of Queens Park residents in this, who feel the vent shaft would be a “blight” on their community, despite the disruption and siting being much further from their homes and schools than is proposed for South Kilburn. As so often, South Kilburn is seen as the dumping ground for things that Brent and its middle classes regard as undesirable’.

The issue of Brent and HS2 has a background. The local Tenants and Residents Association has been asking Brent Council about HS2 and how it will affect us for years, ever since we discovered it is due to run underneath (or very close to) our flats. Unfortunately, unlike Camden, Brent Council didn’t seem to be looking at this at all, its only comments being that HS2 offered great business opportunities’ for Old Oak Common. Even when we got letters from HS2 saying they may want to Compulsorily Purchase our properties we got no support from Brent. We’ve all had at least 2 such letters now, and, despite our urging, Brent Council appears to have done nothing to get proper answers from HS2 on this. Some people have been told verbally that this is just something that HS2 has to do and they will not be wanting to CPO our properties, but we have never had such a commitment from HS2 in writing.

Then, despite us asking for years that Brent take up our concerns and nothing happening, we discovered from a third party that a report on HS2 was due to go to Brent Council  in March last year. This was the first we knew about proposals about the siting of the vent shaft, when the report argued for its siting in South Kilburn rather than next to Queens Park station. We asked that we be allowed to address the Council when it discussed the report, but this was refused. Instead we were given a commitment that our concerns would be taken on board. Given our concerns included opposition to the Council’s push for the vent shaft site to be adjacent to the school and our flats, this was clearly not the case.

Then this year we saw by chance an email from a Council officer to one of our Councillors which said “HS2,  we continue to lobby for this to be relocated from the Council owned site at Salusbury Road car park to the rear of Canterbury Works. Various professional studies have been commissioned which support this Full Council approved stance and have been recently submitted to HS2 for their consideration.”

Around the same time the headteacher of St Marys school came away from a meeting with HS2 and Council officers convinced the vent shaft was going to be put next to the school. Soon after leaflets were put through our doors campaigning against the vent shaft being sited there. This came from people associated with the school, and since then they have had a meeting for all parents, produced petitions and initiated the protest outside the school. 

Local residents support the opposition from school users to the siting of the shaft here, but there is an added complication. The leaflets put through every door and the drive behind the school campaign come from a PR company employed by the property developers building luxury flats (no social housing) at Canterbury House (also next to the school and a block of flats) and property developers hoping to build a ten-storey block of flats on the Canterbury Works site (currently a vehicle repair site, and the site where Brent wants the vent shaft site to be). 

Many of us are opposed to both the siting of the vent shaft next to the school and our flats and ANY further development of the site. We think that having been living on the middle of a regeneration building site for the last 3 years (with the myriad of complaints that has involved, about which Brent has done nothing), we should have respite from any further development and the disruption, noise and dirt involved. Added to which, the Canterbury House development is luxury flats only (advertised as in Queens Park, even though in the middle of South Kilburn), and development on the Canterbury Works would probably be similar, or at the very least the low proportion of social housing we are now seeing in SK regeneration’), this would only add to what we have called the social cleansing’ taking place with regeneration. SK is also already one of the most densely populated parts of Brent. 

We have lost some our little green space through regeneration, we would like to get some back rather than further development. So, as well as opposing the siting of the vent shaft here, we would oppose planning permission for further flats on the site too. Some of us joined the protest outside the school with placards opposing both the HS2 vent shaft and the property developers.

Just to be clear, the PR company’s employee working with the school put on the “No to HS2 at Canterbury Works” Facebook page “We do not want to see a ventilation shaft at Canterbury Works, we are protecting the interests of Canterbury House and a ventilation shaft would be detrimental to this development and to its future residents who will be part of the South Kilburn community.” 

Protecting the interests of Canterbury House means the property developers, it couldn’t be more explicit. Future residents seem to take precedence over current ones too. When they started work on Canterbury House (the building has been empty for years, even though planning permission was obtained some time ago), they knew that HS2 was going through the area and people had been served with potential CPO orders. Our belief was that they were hoping for maximum compensation (unlike us!) and that was why they pressed ahead.

We are hoping we can have one united campaign involving both school and local residents against the siting of the vent shaft here. There does seem to be an attempt to keep us at arms length from the school campaign, given our critical stance.

As so often, Brent Council has spent years ignoring the concerns of local residents and is now intent on pressing HS2 to trample on the interests of both school pupils and residents.

This letter from Pete Firmin to Scrutiny Committee provides detail on residents concerns about the South Kilburn redevelopment in general as well as the shaft: LINK


Anonymous said...

So Cllr Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, felt he “had to step in” on hearing residents wanted to move away, stated “There’s a lot of regeneration taking place for the next 15 years or more and we must do all we can to safeguard the residents". Is he joking? Brent Planners issue consultation documents to local residents to establish their views on planning proposals. Residents respond with a majority opposition. Brent Planning Committee then goes on to approve the scheme. Job done, they have satisfied the requirements to consult and can tick that particular box. They then proceed to ignore residents views who then have to suffer the consequences in the future. Brent is now busily working through this tick box exercise again for a retrospective planning application to modify the original Byron Court School approval, with the addition of a Transport Consultation. This latter exercise is an attempt to overcome problems Brent Planners created by approving this expansion in the first place, in a location that can't cope with a doubling of pupils or increases in traffic it creates. Local residents views 100% against (see the comments on the portal). Guess what the outcome will be Councillor Butt? Are you going to consider the views our residents and act on their wishes? The challenge is there.

Anonymous said...

The retrospective Planning at Byron Court School is to dig up what remains of the beautiful green field (admittedly not much left after the aircraft hangar new buildings have been erected ) and replace it with a 3G surface. Residents oppose this surface on various grounds. Concerns include the effect on the environment and ecology of the area. The only natural space remaining, should approval be granted, will be a very small wild area between concrete, paving and the synthetic 3G surface. There are also health concerns. The surface will be laid on a highly polluting base, generally a rubber crumb from crushed tyres. Very environmentally friendly..not. The 3G surface will need constant maintenance to prevent bacteria growth. This would be in the form of chemical treatment which could then leach off the surface onto surrounding areas and contaminate the existing wild area and possibly neighbouring gardens. Should pupils fall when using the surface they are likely to receive unpleasant abrasions and the possible risk of infection. Ankle injuries are also reported on this surface. The 3G surface (being synthetic) can reach high temperatures in hot weather and conversely become icy in wintry weather. Residents are also concerned that the recommendation is for a minimum of 15 hours community use per week. There is already extreme traffic chaos in term time. This is likely to increase to weekday evenings, weekends and holidaytime with the addition of increased noise and the necessity for floodlights through Winter months. Byron School management have no interest in the residents or community. So step forward Councillor Butt,listen to your residents and put a stop to this Planning Application. Put your money where your mouth is. The school has been expanded, there are not enough pupils to fill the additional places, traffic plans are not being followed (which formed one of the original Planning conditions) and it is the residents taking the full brunt of these ludicrous Council Planning decisions. Stop this now.

Anonymous said...

How much better for the pupils to have a GRASS field in addition to the newly built MUGA which is part of the expansion development. Surely the best of both worlds, but clearly retaining the grass field will not be such a moneymaking venture for the school.

Trevor said...

I can't read hearts or minds but I can certainly understand why Cllr Butt's supposed ''concern for the residents of south kilburn'' who are currently feeling worried about the long term effect that the regeneration and HS2 will have on their day to day lives isn't taken seriously by the very people he claims to care about.
Talk is still cheap and action and the effect it has on those it is directed at is still the factor that determines whether trust and respect grows after the work is done.

That being said, I can draw on my own experience of listening to Brent Cllrs and watching their action and I can honestly say that the results has often been very disapointing.

So, it does not surprise me at all that faith in Cllr Butt is fading away as time passes by and local residents increasingly feel insecure, frustrated
and disillusioned.

I genuinely feel sorry for the South Kilburn residents because having spent the childhood and early teens in the South Kilburn area and to see how it looks now in spite of the years that have gone by,
I am utterly convinced that the way that Brent council treats local residents misses the mark of what they expect from the people that rule over them.
That is why complaints are never ending and trust as been replaced by Cynicism.

Anonymous said...

'Trust has been replaced by cynicism' sums it up, Trevor.

People have lost faith in their local council, and don't think that voting in local elections will make any difference. The turnout in May was only 37%, but the majority of those who bothered to vote still put a cross in the box for Labour candidates.

Labour now has 60 out of 63 seats on Brent Council, and despite our faith in Cllr Butt 'fading away', he has strengthened his grip on power and seems likely to be Leader of the Council for another four years.

And you know what they say about absolute power ....