Friday 30 November 2018

Bridge Park: 'We own it - we must take it back!'

An angry, passionate account of the history of Bridge Park by one of its founders Leonard Johnson. He rallies the Black community to get behind the campaign for Bridge Park and calls on them to ignore rumours that attempt to undermine his reputation.

New secondary school for Willesden

Chancel House
Gail Tolley, Director of Children and Young People's Service in Brent, confirmed yesterday that a new 6 forms of entry secondary school will be built on the site of Chancel House, Neasden Lane. It will be a free school with Wembley High Technology College, an academy, as its sponsor.

Originally it was intended to refurbish the redundant DWP building, Chancel House (above) to accommodate the school but the Education Funding Agency (EFA) decided demolition and new build was preferable.

A new secondary school south of the North Circular Road has long been a demand from  residents in Willesden, Harlesden and Church End following the closure of Sladebrook High School. Neasden High School,also closed, was just on the other side of the North Circular, on that section of Neasden Lane.  Parents made the case for a school which will be at the heart of the local community. Brent Council decided not to go ahead with a possible secondary school on the Bridge Park-Unisys site as part of the regeneration. The school has the project name of North Brent School LINK but this will obviously be revised.

Interestingly Gail Tolley said that the site had been considered by the EFA for the ill-fated (and expensive to the public) Gladstone Free School. LINK

Neasden Lane suffers from poor air quality some quite heavy truck truck movements. LINK

As the primary 'bulge' moves through into secondary schools more places will be needed and the local authority is working with  academies regarding expansion. As academies they are independent of the local authority and cannot be forced to expand.

There is of course some uncertainty over the future of Brent's European families regarding Brexit and this will need to be taken into account in school places planning.

The EFA has also approved a Free Special School to be set up by the Brent Special Academy Trust on a site in the Avenue and has again opted for demolition of the existing building and building of a new school.  At present many children are transported outside the borough due to the lack of special provision in Brent.

Responding to the plateau in reception primary school applications and vacancies in some school the Ark Somerville Primary, which will be built on the car park of York House, has been reduced to 2 forms of entry. LINK

Free furniture offer from FA Community

From the Football Association (Community)

We have a large number of furniture items that we no longer need and are therefore in the process of donating them away. We have made contact with a few charities but it would be great if we could find a local home for most of it.

List of items

·         Purple chairs, Circa x 600-650
·         Artificial wall x 2 
·         Coffee tables x 10
·         Plastic stools x 30
·         White Atrium chairs x 15
·         Pouffes x 25
·         Bar sofas x 10 
·         Bar glass tables x 6
·         Round tables x 8
·         Red and white sofa x 8
·         Brown stools x 40
·         Blue chairs x 2
·         Red chairs x 20
·         Little black stools x 40
·         Tours stools x 10
·         White poser tables x 20
·         3 seater sofas x 2
·         Box sofas x 2
·         Light boxes for Wembley suite x 8
·         Big red sofas x 2
·         Lollipop signs x 7
·         Lamp x 1

With the exception of a small number items, most pieces are in good used condition.

Please note that if you are interested in taking some of this furniture, you would need to make plans to have it collected by the end of next week. You can do this by simply emailing Subject line **free furniture**                                                                                                        

The FA GroupPostal address: Wembley Stadium, PO Box 1966, London, SW1P 9EQ

Some issues for the St Raphael's consultation meeting on December 8th

Brent Council will be consulting with residents on the St Raphael's Estate next Friday on their plans to redevelop the estate. St Raphael's will be the first estate where residents will be balloted on the changes.

Concerns have been expressed on social media over possibilities of gentrification and social cleansing with private housing being built on the estate to help pay for the redevelopment. There are also worries over the potential for the loss of green space, not just in the area surrounding the estate which stretches to the River Brent, but within the estate itself.  People are aware of what happened in West Hendon with private developments next to the Welsh Harp reservoir and social housing close to the poor air quality main road. St Raphael's borders on the heavily polluted North Circular.

Another issue is the need to ensure the future of the premises of various community groups, nurseries, children's centre and the Sufra Foodbank and Edible Garden if new blocks are to be built requiring additional land.

St Raphael's Estate is on a flood plain for the River Brent. There are artificial hillocks between the river and the estate which protects it to some extent but locals speak of underground springs in the area. They suggest that this could limit any high rise developments. There was flooding in the area in the 1970s.

With climate change underway the flood risk is clearly something to be considered. This is the longer term risk from the Environment Agency:

Brent Clinical Commissioning Group to move to Brent Civic Centre

Wembley Centre for Health and Care
Brent Clinical Commissioning Group (Brent CCG)  at its meeting on December 5th is likely to go ahead with a proposal to move from Wembley Centre for Health and Care in Chaplin Road, to Brent Civic Centre.

Brent Council already lets out two floors in the Civic Centre to external organisations and is due to cut their staff further in the next budget.

The report going before the CCG states:
The CCG has expressed an interest to be co-located with Brent Council in its Civic Centre (subject to affordability and commercial terms). Equally Brent Council is extremely keen and supportive of this move and fully recognises the opportunities for greater collaboration that co-locating would bring.

The current HQ premises are spread across the Wembley Centre for Health and Care site with staff working in silos largely within cellular offices. This is not an efficient use of space nor does it foster cohesive working arrangements.

Releasing space at the Wembley Centre for Health and Care, under the NHS Property Services vacant space policy, potentially creates an opportunity to reduce CCG running costs. Strategically this also supports the future aspirations for the site to become an out of hospital hub, appropriately sized and fit for purpose.

There are 76 staff working at Brent CCG, the accommodation on offer at Brent Civic Centre is 48 dedicated desks together with shared offices and breakout areas. This move would require the CCG to adopt the NWL Agile Working Policy which recommends a staff to desk ratio of between 6:10 and 7:10. The proposal complies with the policy with a ratio of 6.3:10. The CCG is required to reduce its office accommodation and desk allocation across its estate; as such this proposal is in line with the overall strategic direction being adopted across NWL.

Current estimated project costs are £85,500 to be covered from existing revenue funding.

There is an annual saving to Brent CCG of £446,000 generated by moving to Brent Civic Centre.


Brent schoolchildren walkout in protest against education cuts (30 years ago)

The walk-out of schoolchildren in Australia, protesting against government inaction on climate change (video below), reminded me of various school children's protests in this country over the years. Back in 1911 there were school children's strikes at a time of widepsread militancy and their demands included ending corporal punishment LINK.

The walkout above, in 1988, was by Neasden High School pupils who marched to protest at Brent Town Hall. Neasden High School was in Quainton Street and according to local historians was partly created to absorb Asian refugees families. The school was closed and demolished in 1989.  More recently there were walk-outs by secondary school students over the Iraq war.

30 years after this protest the NEU is balloting for possible strike action over the government's failure to fully fund the recent pay increase and teachers, parents, headteachers and schoolchildren are protesting over the cuts in education funding. Some of the children in the news report may well now have their own children who are affected by the current round of cuts.

Thursday 29 November 2018

'Brent is stealing our Bridge Park is part of our Black Heritage'

A legal battle is on between Brent Council and the Afro-Caribbean community of Stonebridge, Harlesden and Monks Park over the future of Bridge Park.  The centre is part of a Council redevelopment project that includes the long-empty Unisys building.  It is much more than a legal battle - it is a battle for the beating heart of the local community.

Wembley Matters has covered the dodgy nature of some of Brent Council's partners in their development scheme and this was reinforced by trenchant criticism of the Council by the late Dan Filson. LINK  LINK

Young visionaries in what was then a bus depot

Bridge Park was set up by young black people in the 80s at a time of the uprisings. It is part of black heritage in the borough that came from the grassroots, just as the Stonebridge Adventure Playground, closed by the council, also had its roots in the community and amongst the young.

A community group, Bridge Park Community Council, set up to save the centre from the council plans have put forward their own alternative which is rooted in the community and continues the original ethos of Bridge Park when the Harlesden People's Community Council organised to purchase the old bus depot:

BPCC successfully appealed to the Land Registry over the sale of the land and it was blocked  but now the council is fighting back through legal action.

A fundraising campaign is now underway to take the council on: LINK
and there is a petition of to stop the sale and return control and development of the Bridge Park site to the community HERE

BPCC's short-term plan is:

(a) To show the “London Borough of Brent” that we have an interest in the land, and to therefore suspend the sale of the Land and property referred to as “Bridge Park Community Leisure Centre”.
(b) To secure the Community interest in the Land and property by means of legal, public and political action.
(c) To develop a self-sustaining Centre of Excellence providing educational, Technology, social, well-being and commercial facilities.
(d) To encourage Brent Council and all parties to engage with BPCC in peaceful timely negotiation (ADR), Mediation or Arbitration as opposed to costly litigation with a view of coming to an agreement in relation to the Community’s control and interest in the said Land and Property.


                   WE NEED YOU...!!!!



Bridge Park Community Council as successor to HPCC established Bridge Park Complex Steering Group, to protect the interest, control and development of the Bridge Park Land and Properties for the community. 

In the 1980s, HPCC, founded by a group of young 16-20 year olds, who followed their vision and desire to serve the community, and to ensure that the young men and women growing up in Stonebridge, N.W London had facilities and opportunities to empower them to succeed.  They bought the land supported by sourced grant funding of £1.8m. 

They raised a further £3m+ along backing to design and build the current Bridge Park Complex seen today. The original vision was for the creation of educational, commercial business units, sports and multi-purpose facilities.  The land is estimated to be worth over £50 million on the open market.

In order for HPCC to obtain the funds, Brent Council acted as custodians ONLY: with no right to sell, transfer or dispose of the land, acquired by the community for the community. The Bridge Park site had a protective covenant on the land.  Brent Council officers removed the covenant prior to February 2014.  The community were not informed. [Wembley Matters here is the LINK to the report to the Brent Executive in June 2013 which states: The Bridge Park site had a covenant on it that sports and community uses should be protected and around half of any value of any development would have to paid to the LB Bromley (as successor body to the GLC). However officers have successfully re moved this covenant.]

Experienced Lawyers, (DWFM Beckman, London) have been engaged, and advice has been taken from a Senior Counsel, specialising in this area of Law and Chancery.

*Brent Council entered into the Conditional Land Sale Agreement with General Mediterranean Holding (GMH) as guarantor, for the sale of the Bridge Park Complex in June 2017.  A strict condition of the sale is that the land must be free of all interests. Brent Council plan to allow development worth over £800 million on the land, but aim to sell off the Land and 42x Business Units, 2x restaurants, Bar, 2x Gyms, full size In-door Basketball and Badmintons Courts, plus Multi-faith centre and Nursery buildings all this for less than £13 million Brent  will not fully disclose the lower price. THIS DID NOT GO TO TENDER !!!

HPCC in association with successor's BPCC Steering Group and S.C. Trust (HPCC) Ltd the land.

An application to the Land Registry to restrict Brent Council, to stop the Sale of Bridge Park was made in August 2017, through our lawyers.

Brent Council have been given an extension of 30 days to file their documents to challenge this restriction.


Our community needs a lot more than a Gym & Swimming Pool.

We will build an iconic Centre of Excellence  for The Community by The Community. Addressing our Educational, Social and Commercial needs. And most of all it will be self funded and sustained.

A land mark building upon which we can take pride in.

Come and get involved - Sign the petition against Brent Council's plans

WE NEED  our community building to be kept in the hands of the COMMUNITY in PERPETUITY!!

Help us to raise the much needed funds for the legal challenge to halt the sale of Bridge Park.


Details of BPCC's vision can be seen on their website HERE  

The officers' report to the Brent Executive in June 2013 stated:

Our officers have carried out a new Equality Analysis. There are a number of important conclusions. The first is that Bridge Park has been important in serving an important part of Brent’s Afro-Caribbean community. Removing the sports centre would strongly negatively impact on this group. The area has one of the strongest increase in under 5’s in the whole of Brent. Over 88,000 of the 447,000 people within a three mile catchment of the centre are under 16 years of age (20% compared with a borough average of 16%). The starter business units that would not be replaced do have a high proportion of people from Afro-caribbean background.

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Brent Council silent on impact of possible Spurs extension on Wembley Stadium pedway removal programme

Wembley Matters has approached Brent Council for a comment on how the possible extension of Tottenham Hotspur's use of Wembley Stadium up to May 2019 would affect the timetble for removal of the stadium pedway and its replacement by steps. The request was made more than a week ago and despite reminders no answer has been received.

The  works already had a tight schedule and would not take place on event days, so an increase in the number of event days will obviously make an impact.

The Minutes of the Planning Commitee meeting of September, where the steps application was unanimously approved states:
Members heard that the steps were intended to be in place for 2020 when Brent would become the Borough of Culture and Wembley National Stadium would host European Nations League finals.
Wembley is scheduled to host seven Euro 2020 games including the final LINK

The works schedule is formidable:
The delivery of the project can be split into three main construction phases:

       Phase 1 – Site Preparation and Substructure Works; 

       Phase 2 – Pedway Demolition and Construction of Steps; 

       Phase 3 – Landscaping and Fit Out. 

.        6.62  Phase 1 - The initial work activity will focus on clearing the site below and around the Pedway of those utilities and other items that will obstruct the Pedway demolition and subsequent staircase construction. As areas become clear, works to the foundations and substructure of the steps will commence.

       6.63  The foundations to the steps will be constructed in and around the existing Pedway structure in advance of its demolition. Therefore, there will be a need to utilise small/specialist plant, such as restricted access piling rigs that will be able to access the low headroom areas beneath the existing Pedway to construct the piles.

       6.64  Phase 2 - This phase will commence within an agreed window of time to minimise the impact to WNSL. The first stage of demolition will focus on removing the Pedway structure from the area of the new staircase construction. Once this is removed, the demolition will focus on removing the remainder of the Pedway (as it runs across Engineers Way towards Olympic Way and Wembley Park station north of the Stadium). A road closure of Engineers Way will be required whilst the Pedway is removed across the carriageway area (details as to the number and timeframes required for the road closures are not yet available but will be agreed, at the proper time, with the Council).

       6.65  The construction of the staircase is anticipated to be a combination of pre-cast and cast in- situ concrete. It is anticipated that the bridge podium section that will connect to the Stadium will be cast in-situ and the staircase will be formed from precast structural elements. The staircase is of a modular construction and will follow a step by step process that will be prescribed by the designer and supplier. Throughout this phase of heavy lifting it may be necessary to have lane closure on Engineers Way to facilitate easy delivery and unloading of the precast elements. Pedestrian management will be a key feature of this phase to maintain safety exclusion zones around the works.

       6.66  Phase 3 - The fit out of the staircase undercroft will commence as soon as all overhead working is complete and it is safe to do so. The final landscaping will be constructed during the WNSL events season. Ahead of this phase there will be agreed processes and access routes to limit the level of non-working and disrupted time (as has been managed through the delivery of the Olympic Way Zone A works).

       6.67  The construction of the landscaping and public realm works will be undertaken in two sections that will run concurrently: Olympic Way (from the boundary of the Zone A works) to Engineers Way and the Olympic Steps area comprising land south of Engineers Way to the Stadium.


Brent Council to implemement contingency plan for Allied Healthcare adult social care clients today

More than a week ago I reported on the collapse of Allied Healthcare, providers of adult social care in Brent and across the country. LINK

I contacted Brent Council Press Office to ask what contingency plans had been put in place for Brent recipients of their care. I had no response, despite several phone calls and email reminders, the latest yesterday.

However, yesterday evening at Brent Council, Cllr Farah, lead member for adult social care,  announced that Allied was responsible for 94 residents and, with the situation regarding the company still unclear, Brent Council would today be implementing their contigency plan - although he gave no details of what that plan was.  Presumably the clients will be transferred to other providers but it would be important to know what steps are being taken to ensure continuity of care, including if possible retention of carers with whom people would have built a trusting relationship.

Marr to Chakrabarti after on-air outburst: It was only robust questioning

The exchange between Andrew Marr and Shami Chakrabarti hit the headlines a few weeks ago on account of Marr's sudden and aggressive 'Don't patronise me' comment as he waved his notes towards her. I was moved to put an official complaint into the BBC and have now had a response. The BBC reveal that after the interview, and presumably after the social media reaction, Marr contacted Chakrabarti to say it was only 'robust' questioning.

My complaint summary: unprofessional behaviour amounting to bullying
Full Complaint: The moment when Andrew Marr interviewing Shami Chakrabarti exclaimed 'Don't patronise me' and left her visibly shaken. In my view losing his temper in this way and adopting an intimidating tone amounted to bullying and sexism; revealing bias against intelligent, young women who stand up for themselves. Such behaviour was not evident in his interviews on the same programme with male politicians.
BBC Response

Andrew used his interview with Shami Chakrabarti, Shadow Attorney General, to explore Labour’s position on the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement negotiated by the Prime Minister. The Labour leadership have said they don’t support this deal. Andrew sought to clarify what areas of this deal Labour had issue with, what they would seek from an alternative agreement and the logistics of how they would achieve this.  
When interviewing any politician from any party, Andrew’s intention is to scrutinise their position on any given issue. Andrew didn’t intend anything other than to robustly question Baroness Chakrabarti on the proposed Brexit deal. He contacted her to make this clear afterwards.