|Brent Civic Centre from Olympic Way (from the 2018 Open House website)|
This weekend (22 and 23 September) it’s the annual London
“Open House” *. One of the buildings
you can visit and tour as part of this event is Brent Civic Centre, but if you
rely on the outside view of the building shown on their website, you may be in
for a disappointment.
The reality of the view, as shown by this photograph taken
by a local resident earlier this week, and shared with me (thank you), is
rather different. Parts of Brent’s highly praised Civic HQ may not be the most
picturesque architecturally, but do they really need to be covered up with a
The advertisement, for Quintain’s Tipi Rental flats, makes
a striking addition to the area, but is this what public buildings are meant to
be for? For some reason, it makes me think of the Soviet Union during the
Stalin era. Is that an appropriate image for our Civic Centre to project?
You may, like me, wonder how this use of a prominent
Wembley Park landmark was allowed to happen. The answer lies in application no.
17/4177, which was dealt with by
Brent’s Planning Officers, not its Planning Committee, in October 2017. This
was an application for advertising consent, for the ‘installation of a non-iIlluminated
advertisement banner to the side elevation of the Brent Civic Centre.’
The application drawings showed that the proposed banner
would be 30.25 metres high and 9.45 metres wide. They also included an
elevation drawing, showing what the proposed banner advertisement would look
I have researched the law on advertising consent recently,
in connection with the adverts which have covered the tile murals in the Bobby
Moore Bridge subway, at the Wembley Park Station end of Olympic Way, since
2013. The law is set out in the Town and Country Planning (Control of
Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007. Regulation 3 says that:
‘A local planning authority shall exercise its
powers under these Regulations in the interests of amenity …’ and that,
‘… factors relevant to amenity include the general
characteristics of the locality, including the presence of any feature of
historic, architectural, cultural or similar interest.’
By inviting visitors to the Civic Centre for Open House
week-end, Brent Council would appear to claim that the building is a feature
of, at least, architectural interest, but this does not seem to have carried
much weight when it exercised its powers ‘in the interests of amenity’.
That does not come as a surprise to me, however, as when
it considered a similar application LINK , it failed to take into
account the historic and cultural interest of the tile murals, a major piece of
public art welcoming visitors to Wembley Park, which it allowed to be covered
with adverts! I may write more on that subject, another time.
The decision letter of 20 October 2017 on application
17/4177, was addressed to a Mr Welbourne of Leeds (who I presume was acting as
agent for Quintain) and signed by Brent’s Head of Planning. It granted consent
for an advertising banner on the side of the Civic Centre for a period of 5
years. The reasons for giving consent were:
‘The proposed development is in general accordance
with policies contained in the:
Brent’s Development Management Policies (and)
Council’s Supplementary Planning Guidance 8.’
I have not checked through all of those planning policies,
so can’t say whether or not I agree!
You may think that at least Brent Council is getting some
income from allowing this advert to be displayed on the side of the Civic
Centre. But perhaps not. I have heard (unofficially) that the part of the
building with the advert attached actually belongs to Quintain, as part of the
deal with Brent for building the Civic Centre. Can anyone confirm whether that
is true or not? Is it our Civic Centre,
or just a Quintain billboard?
the Open House website LINK for details of all
the interesting Brent buildings and architecture available to visit this
Asked for a comment on Philip's article a spokepserson for Brent Council said:
“With Government funding to Brent being cut in half, we’re having to find new ways to generate income to help meet that shortfall, which can then be spent on protecting services that matter most to residents, so this isn’t just an adverting sign, it’s a sign of the times.
“To get the most out of the space on the side of the building, we are partnering up with Wembley Park who, as well as having excellent contacts with Wembley event organisers, also offered the council the most amount of money in a competitive tendering process to use the space, under an agreement which will also ensure that adverts displayed there are in line with Brent values.”