Friday, 10 August 2018

Northwick Park regeneration - key public questions for Monday's Brent Cabinet

I am pleased to see that Gaynor Lyoyd is pressing home her demand for more information on the One Public Estate Plan for Northwick Park.  A year ago I called for more public information LINK

Gaynor's questions following up her earlier post on Wembley Matters LINK

The combination of a Cabinet meeting on August 13th, a meeting held in peak holiday season and one at a time (4pm) inconvenient for people who work, would normally mean a lack of scrutiny so all credit to Gaynor Lloyd for her detailed questions. It should mean that the meeting lasts longer than its normal 45 minutes.

These are the questions:
Item 8  “Approval to enter into grant agreements for 2 Housing Infrastructure bids relating to ...Northwick Park Regeneration “ in Cabinet meeting Agenda 13 August 2018.
1  Northwick Park is a much loved local facility - a park, playing fields and sports pitches, a golf course and a Grade 1 Nature conservation site an area much used by locals for open air leisure over many years. As Brent’s policies CP17 & 18 make clear, Brent is deficient in all types of open space and - at any rate in a Sports England survey in 2005-6 - had one of the lowest levels of sports participation in England. Unsurprisingly, policy CP17 para 5.15 states that the council will protect  all open space from inappropriate development.
No plan is attached to the Report showing the extent of the (proposed) area for “Northwick Park Regeneration”. So it is not possible to see if this is restricted to the Northwick park Hospital Site allocation15.
There is  local concern about the possibility of our Park and its margins being designated a “regeneration zone”, allowing for higher density/high rise blocks - even though no-one can recall this potential allocation as having been mentioned in any general Local Plan consultation meetings.  

Question 1: could a plan of the boundaries of the Northwick Park Regeneration area the subject of the grant application be published? 
2  According to details on the HM Government website, to qualify for a grant being considered under this Housing Infrastructure  Marginal Viability Fund, evidence has to be given of: 
a) “demonstrable market failure “ (given as per the Technical guidance in; and
b) “local support “  ( as per examples in the same paper -“extensive local consultation” );  and 
c) “alignment with the Local Plan” (ditto) ; and
d) “ imminent” provision of homes 

I have been trying through a FOI /EIA request to get details of the evidence or details of how the first three of these were demonstrated with the grant application. The Cabinet may like to note that the Information Commissioner is now dealing with my request  for that evidence or those details, after the Council failed to comply with a direction of the Commissioner to give me a response. 
So far, only a Sudbury Court Residents Association AGM in April 2017 - at which the presence of officers was requested by the Association - is cited but the Council officers appear to have made no notes of that presentation, and is apparently asking if the Association made any. 
Question 2: if these criteria are required to be satisfied for a grant application under the MVF - is the Cabinet satisfied that there is evidence/ details of the demonstration of demonstrable market failure, local support, alignment with the Local Plan and imminent provision of homes, and if so, could that evidence please be published generally and supplied to me and save the Information Commissioner’s Office time and effort?
3  The grant  application seems to be on the basis that the site is landlocked, although neither the University of Westminster nor the Hospital site is landlocked. The £9.9million grant is for infrastructure, including an access road.
By the same troubled FOIA/EIA request process, I have tried to ascertain where this access road might be. As above, my request is now with the Information Commissioner, having patiently waited since December 2017.

Question 3: please publish a simple indication of the rough alternative routes for the access road to the Northwick Park Regeneration area proposed as options in the viability studies (as these must be known for the MVF grant application) including confirming  if a route/routes  across any part of the Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) at Northwick Park is/are  under consideration.
4  Since naturally not all Cabinet members may be familiar with the precious asset to Brent that Northwick Park is - or its protective planning designations -  although I am sure they will have been properly briefed before this meeting , I am keen to know that they are aware, and that any public who may attend is aware of the position under planning.

Question 4:   does  item 8 take account of the extent of MOL and Open Space at Northwick Park, and of the other open space planning protection designations (including especially the SINC Grade 1 designation of Northwick Park and the Ducker Pool B103) - and the legal effect of  all those designations? Could the  officer please bring a copy of the Brent GIS plan showing this  with the full MOL/Open Space designations for the site (as I only have a screen shot of the same which is small scale)?

You may also be interested in the Ducker Pool SINC review of 2014 LINK


Philip Grant said...

Good luck at the meeting, Gaynor.

This is the sort of questioning that Cabinet members should be asking their Officers, then making the answers public, and getting the views of local residents BEFORE any decisions are made.

I look forward to reading a report on what happens (and to seeing it fully and accurately reported in the minutes of the Cabinet meeting - some hope?).

Paul Lorber said...

Are we living in a Stalinist state? Why does it require all those Freedom of Information requests to get simple answers to simple wuestions? I fail to understand why Labour Councillors - especially their Deputy Leader who represents Northwick Park Ward, cannot tell the truth and confirm if the Labour controlled Brent Council intend to build any housing on any part of the pjaying fields. Then they also confirm how they plan to ensure that the local road system - including access to the Hospital, will be improved to cope with the thousands of extra residents that will move into the area as a result of the large scale house building on the Hospital and University site.

Brent is not some outdated communist dictatorship (or is it?) and local people have the right to know.

Anonymous said...

Not Stalinist - Buttist!!!

Philip Grant said...

Still no minutes of the 13 August Cabinet meeting on the Council's website, but I have noticed something strange in the report of the decision on this item.

The report to the meeting recommended that the Cabinet member to whom power should be delegated for agreeing the details of agreements in respect of the Northwick Park scheme (along with the Strategic Director for Regeneration and the Chief Finance Officer) should be the Leader of the Council (Cllr. Butt), even though the Lead Member for Regeneration would have the same role over the South Kilburn scheme.

The initial decision shown on the Council's website, when it appeared a few days ago, showed that this power would be delegated to the Lead Member for Regeneration (Cllr. Tatler) for both South Kilburn and Northwick Park.

Today, what the Cabinet "resolved" appears to have been changed, and the website now says:
'iii. Cabinet delegated to the Strategic Director Regeneration and Environment in consultation with the Chief Finance Officer and the Deputy Leader (as Lead Member for Resources)authority to agree the detail of the grant agreements for the bid relating to Northwick Park.'

The power, it appears, has now been given to Cllr. McLennan (a Northwick Park councillor, as well as being Deputy Leader).

Does anyone who attended the meeting know what Cabinet ACTUALLY decided? It appears that either the Council doesn't know what was decided, or that what was "decided" has been changed after the event!

Martin Francis said...

This is what one of those at the meeting wrote to me: Shama Tatler corrected what she called a typo in para 3 of the Report , that the Lead Officer on Resources (or maybe the Lead Member on Resources) would be on the case, not the Leader!

Philip Grant said...

Thank you, Martin.

Presumably the original version of what Cabinet "Resolved", posted on the Council's website was also a "typo", when it said that the Lead Member for Regeneration had been given the role, rather than 'the Deputy Leader (as Lead Member for Resources)'!

Did anyone at the Cabinet meeting answer Gaynor's four questions? The "Kilburn Times" report only says:
'She explained that on the government's website, to qualify for grants to develop green space, evidence has to be given of "demonstrable market failure" [and] "extensive local consultation".

Her freedom of information requests to the council on these points had not been answered, which caused the leader Cllr. Muhammed Butt to shout her down when she demanded to know why, saying her "time was up".'

Paul Lorber's comment above, about whether Brent residents are now living in a dictatorship, does not seem as far fetched as such a suggestion might first appear.

Philip Grant said...

Further to my comments above, the Minutes of the 13 August Cabinet Meeting are now available on the Council's website. This is how they report the item on which Gaynor spoke:

'Councillor Muhammed Butt, Leader of the Council, welcomed Ms Elizabeth Lloyd, a Northwick Park resident, to the meeting. In accordance with Standing Order 13 Cabinet heard a public question from Ms Lloyd on the matter of the housing
infrastructure bid relating to the Northwick Park Regeneration Programme as set out in the report.

Ms Lloyd stated that Northwick Park was a much loved and well used local facility, highlighting, at the same time, that it had been recognised Brent was deficient in all types of open space and recreation grounds. She felt that the Council therefore had an obligation to protect these areas from inappropriate development, with the report not clearly demonstrating the extent of the regeneration area which would be affected by the project, or seeming to take into account any planning protection designations.

Ms Lloyd felt that there had been insufficient public consultation on the programme to date and noted that there was a growing concern amongst local residents on the likely impact of any proposed development in Northwick Park. As a result she asked for clarification on the following issues:

(a) the boundaries of the regeneration area subject to the grant application,
requesting publication of a plan;

(b) for clarification on the evidence in support of the criteria met under the terms of the grant application; and

(c) an indication of the alternative routes being considered for any access road to the regeneration area.

In response, Councillor Shama Tatler, Lead Member for Regeneration, Planning
and Highways thanked Ms Lloyd for her contribution at the meeting. She stated that the report was part of a wider project seeking to unlock more housing opportunities and improve the local infrastructure. She acknowledged the importance of protecting open spaces in Brent, as set out by the Greater London Authority and reassured Ms Lloyd that no action would be taken without appropriate public consultation.'

However, it appears that Cllr. Tatler's "reassurance" was rather hollow, as the very next action which Cabinet took was:

i. Cabinet agreed to receive grant funding and enter into grant agreements
with the Greater London Authority for two Housing Infrastructure Fund bids
relating to South Kilburn and Northwick Park regeneration Programmes.'

That means that the Cabinet committed Brent Council to a funding bid grant for a "Northwick Park regeneration programme" on which there has been NO public consultation!

The only reason I can see for why the Lead Member might believe the "reassurance" she gave is that Cabinet thinks 'appropriate public consultation' means 'no public consultation'.