Tuesday 2 October 2018

UPDATED: Wembley Stadium’s vanishing arch – more evidence on Brent Council's failure to protect 'iconic' views

View from Bobby Moore Bridge May 2011

View from Bobby Moore Bridge September 2018
Last month, I reproduced a letter from Philip Grant which had been published in the “Brent & Kilburn Times” on 6 September LINK . This challenged the Council to explain why it had allowed its own planning rules to be broken, and why it had failed to protect the iconic view of Wembley Stadium, despite its promise to do so.

Philip sent a copy of the letter to Brent’s Chief Executive, Carolyn Downs. Ms Downs replied that she had forwarded it to the Council’s Head of Planning, for attention and action, and that a response would follow. Here is the text of the Council’s response:-

‘Dear Mr Grant

Case 10658297

I write in response to your e-mail to Carolyn Downs within which you seek a response to the matters that you raised within your letter to the Kilburn Time. Within this letter, you have set out that you consider that the Council has failed to protect the view of Wembley Stadium and that you consider that the Council has allowed its ‘own planning rules to be broken’. Within your e-mail, you provide a link to an article that you have published on Wembley Matters which refers to two planning applications for developments within Wembley.

Policy WEM6 of the Wembley Area Action Plan relates to views to Wembley Stadium. This sets out that ‘Regard should be had to the impact of development on the following views … of the National Stadium’ with specific viewpoints referred to within the policy and on a map. The pre-amble to the policy discusses the contribution the Stadium makes and the importance of views to it. It sets out that the Council will protect a range of views to the Stadium.

The potential impact on the views to the stadium are considered within planning applications that could affect those views. This includes the provision of information to demonstrate whether the proposal will affect a protected view to the stadium and the extent of any effect on that view.

The submissions for the two planning applications that you referred to within your internet article do set out the effect of those proposals. As you have highlighted in your e-mail to Carolyn Downs, those reports (and the discussions at the planning committee meeting itself) highlighted that those proposals will result in a small reduction in the view to the arch. This matter was considered by officers and members, and the level of harm associated with this reduction was evaluated. On balance, it was considered that the extent of the reduction was such that it did not warrant the refusal of planning permission.

It is clear from the report and the discussion and debate at the planning committee meeting that regard was had to the potential impact of proposed development on the views to the Stadium. These proposals would result in a slight reduction in the view to the stadium. However, the level of reduction was considered to be small and the level of harm associated with this reduction also small. This is not a matter of rules having been broken. Due regard was had to the policy, with a slight impact occurring should those proposals going ahead. That impact was considered and weighed against the benefits of the proposals, and on balance, planning permission was granted.

Yours faithfully

Development Management Manager’

Philip has decided not to waste his time in trying to argue his point further, but has sent me this comment:

‘This response is typical of the sort of excuse that Brent’s planners come up with. They admit that their planning policy recognises the importance of views of the Stadium, and says that it will protect them. They say that ‘this matter was considered by officers and members’, and then they say that it was only a ‘small / slight reduction’ in the view of the arch, so planning permission was granted. 

Brent must be seen as a “soft touch” by developers. They have planning policies, but it seems they are willing to allow developers to ignore them, as long as they only breach them by a small amount each time! But those breaches are cumulative, and would not happen if Brent stuck to policies the Council had adopted, after public consultation.

The Council’s response does not answer my second question, on why it has failed to protect the iconic view of Wembley Stadium, despite its promise to do so. It HAS failed to protect the view. The evidence is plain to see, from these two photos  above) taken at the same spot on the Bobby Moore Bridge, in May 2011 and September 2018.’

The "protected view" of Wembley Stadium from the White Horse Bridge, on 2 November 2018. If only it was a case of No.13 being an unlucky number for the Stadium views supposedly "protected" by Brent's Planning Policy!
The view from Barn Hill (the road not the open space)


Jaine Lunn said...

Once again is BS baffling Brains

Philip Grant said...

This is the text of an email which I sent to Carolyn Downs and Brent's Planning Complaints email address (with copy to Amar Dave and Alice Lester) earlier today:

'Dear Ms Downs (and Planning "Complaints"),

I am writing to let you know that the Council's response (below), to the points which I raised in a letter published in the "Kilburn Times" four weeks ago, is now in the public domain. I attach a copy of the blog article, containing the response and my comments on it, for your information.

I realise that planners sometimes have a difficult job, often dealing with conflicting demands. However, the Wembley Area Action Plan quite rightly states that 'views of the Stadium contribute a significant amount to the perception of Wembley as a whole'. The previous planning guidance, "Wembley - a framework for development", drew similar conclusions and set out similar promises to protect the views.

It is clear that Brent Council has failed to protect those views, especially the iconic views from Wembley Park Station and the Bobby Moore Bridge. I hope that you will ensure that the mistakes which have resulted in this failure are identified, that lessons are learned, and that action is taken to make sure Brent's adopted planning policies are not so easily sacrificed in future. Thank you. Best wishes,

Philip Grant.'

Philip Grant said...

This is the text of an email which I sent to Cllr. James Denselow and the other seven councillors on Brent's Planning Committee this afternoon:-

'Dear Chair and members of the Planning Committee,

Further to my email to you all of 8 September, I am attaching an article which gives Brent Council's response to the letter from me which was published in the "Brent & Kilburn Times" four weeks ago.

I would remind you of two clear statements from Brent's Planning Code of Practice:

'Members of the Planning Committee shall determine applications in accordance with the relevant planning national, strategic, local and neighbourhood policy framework, unless material considerations indicate [otherwise].'

'Members of the Planning Committee must take decisions in the public interest and take account only of material planning considerations.'

You can help to avoid mistakes in future, such as Brent's failure to protect the views of Wembley Stadium, by looking critically at, and questioning where necessary, planning applications which come before you where Planning Officers recommend acceptance, despite the fact that they do not fully comply with the Council's adopted planning policies. Are the reasons given for the recommendation really 'material considerations'?

I would ask my ward councillor on the committee to at least acknowledge receipt of this email, please, even if Councillor Lo does not wish to respond to the point I have raised. Thank you. Best wishes,

Philip Grant,
Fryent Ward resident.'

Anonymous said...

Good to know Brent has a Development Management Manager. Although looking around it seems Brent has managed to allow developers to build whatever they want wherever they want to!!!

Anonymous said...

More planners BS from report to next week's meeting on Byron Court School plans to replace grass sports pitch with synthetic -
'One Councillor and 29 residential occupiers have objected to this application for a variety of reasons, however officers consider that the proposal is acceptable and that none of the grounds upon which objectors resist the proposal give rise to a reasonable argument that the proposal should be resisted in planning terms.'

Jaine Lunn said...

They did the same at Ark Elvin, belies the fact we are supposed to be reducing our Carbon Footprint, so replacing real grass with plastic hardly fits in. I believe it's to do with maintenance, I mean "how expensive is it to employ someone to cut grass"?

Anonymous said...

Its not only a small amount that developers get away with. What about Alperton last year, when they got permission for a 26 story block when the maximum was supposed to be 17???

Philip Grant said...

While searching (for something else) through the 94-page Officers' Report to Planning Committee (11 May 2016) on Quintain's masterplan application 15/5550, I came across the following, which reflects the attitude of Brent's planners to protection of the stadium views:

'A letter was received from Martin Glen, Chief Executive of the FA raising issues which are summarised as
· The proposals which look to develop high rise blocks close to the stadium will severely damage the iconic view and status of the Stadium.
· Whilst regeneration is vital, it needs to be balanced with Brent’s and the FA’s duty to protect the spirit
of what is a great venue.
· Wembley is a part of a national identity and positive celebrations of this should not merely be unhindered, but enhanced.
· The aim of the FA’s objection is to retain the visual power of the stadium to help stimulate every aspect of life in Brent, retaining the emotional response Sir Norman Foster intended for the stadium.'

The planners response was:

'The need to protect key views to the Stadium are establish through Brent’s planning policies and the submission shows the level of impact of the proposed development on those and a number of non-protected views within the area. Officers consider that the proposal represents a good balance between the preservation of the key views and the need to regenerate Wembley to provide new homes and jobs.'

To summarise: Brent's adopted planning policy over protecting views of the stadium will always take second place to Quintain's regeneration plans!