Friday 21 September 2018

UPDATED: Brent Civic Centre, or Quintain billboard?

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.”


Rosel said...

Indeed. I'm glad I'm not the only one who is annoyed about the permanent covering of the murals. It's denying us our public art.

Philip Grant said...

Dear Rosel,

Thank you for your comment. You are certainly not the only one who thinks that the tile murals in the Bobby Moore Bridge subway should not be covered up with adverts!

If you "click" on the LINK (after the words 'similar application', about two thirds of the way through the article above), it will take you to an article I wrote last April about the attempt by Wembley History Society to get the murals uncovered again.

There was a meeting recently at the Civic Centre between representatives of the Society and senior Officers from the Council and Quintain. I am told that some progress was made, at least over a temporary uncovering of at least some of the murals.

Watch out for details of a Wembley History Society meeting on 19 October, to which visitors will be invited, when Quintain have agreed to give a presentation, and listen to what local people think about their proposals.

[Anyone who would like me to send them details of this Wembley History Society meeting can email me at: }

Anonymous said...

Lovely view of the stadium in the top picture!!!

Anonymous said...

The application for the advert consent on the civic center had nothing to do with Quintain. They are just using the space at the present time. Previously it has been used by MTV and next month it may be the FA, Apple, the Labour party or any other entity who wishes to advertise in this location.

As for Bobby Moore bridge, the murals are less than 25 years old... May be nostalgic but certainly not historic.

Martin Francis said...

Yes it's very imaginative.

Philip Grant said...

Dear Anonymous (21 Sept. at 17:44),

From the "Update" Brent Council response, it appears that "Wembley Park" (that is Quintain, or one of their subsidiary companies) are responsible for the advertising on the side of the Civic Centre, paying a share of the profits they make to the Council.

The tile murals have been there for 25 years (covered up with adverts for the past five years). I am not claiming that they are an ancient monument, but they were put there as a major piece of public art, portraying the history of sporting and entertainment events at the Stadium and Arena since the 1920's.

You may regard them as merely nostalgic, but I hope you can agree that they do have historic and cultural interest, which should, at least, have been taken into account when deciding whether they could be hidden behind adverts.

The purpose of the murals, as well as decorating an otherwise drab subway, was to create a welcoming atmosphere for visitors, capturing the story of Wembley as a world famous "venue of legends".

If you were visiting Wembley Park today, for a big event at the stadium, would you rather see the tile murals, or huge adverts for JD Sports?

Anonymous said...

I know for a fact that the money Brent are being paid for this on the civic is being used to fill shortfalls in government money going forward. Hopefully we do more to make money like this to allow us to provide services