|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 huge advertisement?
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 like:-
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?
* See the Open House website LINK for details of all the interesting Brent buildings and architecture available to visit this week-end.
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.”