Monday 31 December 2018

You have until Thursday January 3rd 5pm to influence Brent's Local Plan

The consultation  on Brent's new Local Plan ends at 5pm on Thursday January 3rd so there isn't long to get your response in. Full details can be found HERE.

I will be putting aside a certain cynicism about the Local Plan, based on how often planners ignnore the principles set out in the current one,  and hope that many other residents will do the same. The Plan will establish the context of planning decisions and thus the nature of our area for years to come - at the very least we should establish a strong demand for the retention and enhancement of green spaces.

The borough has been split into 7 'Places' and an initial weakness appears to be that Wembley is split rather confusingly between Central Place (Wembley Park) and South West Place (Wembley Central). One would think that the relationship between the two parts of Wembley was crucial in terms of roads, bus and railway transport as well as offices and retail ands thus shold be treated as one place.

Respondents can choose between responding to the details for a particular place (Central Place questionnaire is below as an example) or the overall plan.

This is the East Place questionnaire covering Dollis Hill (including Staples Corner), Neasden and Welsh Harp:


The Spring 2018 consultation indicated a split between the general public,  and developers and what were referred to as 'professionals'.  This was particularly evident over high rise flats and the amount of really affordable housing in new developments:

Question 15: Solutions to meeting growth challenges, e.g. tall buildings, lower rise buildings but compromise on standards, or rely on character to inform height/density.
.        2.32  Tall buildings – answers focussed on the need to meet targets with potential to contribute to townscape, those not in favour identified them as eyesores, changing character and perceptions of safety and unlikely to provide affordable housing with criticism of Wembley Park design quality.

.        2.33  Lower buildings/ compromise standards – there was little support for compromising standards which was considered likely to adversely impact on quality of life/ mental health.

.        2.34  Take account of existing character – this was supported the most but most people interpreted this as meaning no tall buildings.

How this is addressed in the Preferred Options Local Plan

2.35    The Plan principally take account of existing character, but recognises that in accordance with London Plan that a positive strategy and sites will have to be identified for taller buildings. The Local Plan focuses on providing ‘clusters’ of tall and increased height, whilst removing opportunity for isolated tall buildings. Lower scale, but taller buildings than exist are identified for intensification corridors and town centres.

Question 16: Where do you consider are the most appropriate or inappropriate areas for tall buildings and why?

2.36    The responses to this part were limited, consistent with the general antipathy towards these types of buildings.

How this is addressed in the Preferred Options Local Plan

2.37    The approach taken forward is to cluster tall buildings in highest Public Transport Accessibility Level (PTAL) areas and those areas where the Tall Buildings Strategy points to such opportunities as part of a positive plan-led strategy.

Question 19: Should higher density housing in suburban areas with greater public transport accessibility be through: conversion/ extensions to existing buildings; infill in spaces between buildings; comprehensive redevelopment of sites, or other?

2.42 Limited number of responses – positive about reuse of buildings and comprehensive redevelopment, but negative about infill.

Question 23: Appropriate affordable housing target.

2.50    From the general public there was more support for the 50% target, although many questioned the affordability of affordable homes provided. The professionals considered 50% too high and pointed to the 35% target set by the Mayor as a recognition of this, as long as viability could still be assessed where lower proposed.

How this is addressed in the Preferred Options Local Plan

2.51    The Plan is consistent with the Mayor’s approach of a strategic 50% target but with a viability threshold of 35% approach. Tenures will be focussed on rented products that even at their maximum are accessible to those on benefits.

Question 24: Greater flexibility in relation to on-site affordable housing provision?

2.52    The general public were against this flexibility as it was likely to polarise communities, developers sought greater flexibility.
Question 25: Affordable Housing Tenure Split?
2.54    The majority of respondents considered that there needed to be a mix, with products genuinely affordable and also those that catered for those working/ wanting to buy. Developers wanted flexibility/ pragmatism on a site by site basis.

How this is addressed in the Preferred Options Local Plan

2.55    Taking account of the needs and viability assessment work a preferred local mix that maximises London affordable/social rent/affordable rented products is prioritised (70%) as a proportion of the affordable housing but also seek a minimum 30% intermediate (shared ownership/ London Living Rent).
Here is the link to the various 'Place' proposals and questionnaires: (see map above to locate your 'Place')
Full details and on-line survey HERE
Alternatively, comments can be submitted by email to or by post to Paul Lewin, Team Leader Planning Policy, Brent Council, Engineers’ Way, Wembley, HA9 0FJ, setting out clearly the page number, paragraph, policy, figure or image the comment relates to.

A Passage to Britain - Barham Community Library January 8th

Saturday 29 December 2018

Where to recycle your Xmas tree in Brent - available from Monday

Looking to recycle your Christmas tree? Check out our drop off points which will be available from Monday, 31 December 2018 - Sunday 13 January 2019. Download the leaflet (.pdf, 1.18MB).
  • Roe Green Park (Entrance off Kingsbury High Road)
  • Woodcock Park (Entrance off Shaftesbury Avenue)
  • Silver Jubilee Park (Bottom of Townsend lane)
  • Barnhill Open Space (Top of Barnhill)
  • Welsh Harp open space (Carpark)
  • Gladstone Park – Kendal Road Entrance
  • Preston Park Recreation ground (Car Park College Road)
  • King Edward VII Park( Car park St Johns Road)
  • Northwick Park (by the Car Park)
  • Barham Park – by main car park/Library
  • One Tree Hill (Bridgewater Road)
  • Chalkhill Rec Ground/New Linear Park (Chalkhill Road)
  • King Edward VII Park Willesden (Doyle Gardens next to City Academy)
  • Stonebridge Recreation ground (Car Park at Albert Terrace)
  • Roundwood Park (Main Entrance Harlesden Road)
  • Villiers Road Pocket Park (Entrance to Villiers Road)
  • Furness Road Pocket Park (Entrance off Furness Road)
  • Brondesbury Pocket Park
  • Queens Park 
  • Woodhouse New Park (Entrance off Albert Road)
  • Plus Abbey Road Reuse and Recycling Centre.

Thursday 27 December 2018

Henry Cooper of Wembley - new article available online

Guest post from Local Historian Philip Grant
A few weeks ago, Wembley Matters broke the news that a new Blue Plaque (the first in Wembley for 40 years) had been put up in Ealing Road, remembering former resident, professional boxer and greengrocer, Henry Cooper LINK .

Now an illustrated article, “Henry Cooper of Wembley”, is available online, for anyone who wants to find out more about the life of the man, his links with Wembley and the reason that the commemorative Blue Plaque above his former shop at 4 Ealing Road is a deserved memorial to him. You can find it on the local history articles page of the Brent Archives website LINK .

Thursday 20 December 2018

Queensbury developer called out on dodgy Christmas tactics - don't let this slip under your radar

Re-posted from Save The Queensbury website. LINK We are used to consultations taking place at inappropriate times so that they slip under the public's radar. Is this another example?
This week has seen a cynical (desperate) attempt by Redbourne to swamp the local council and residents with three plans, at what is the busiest week of the year. 
Two planning applications have been thrown in this week, with variations on the same theme:– 48 flats with insufficient Affordable housing. This is AS WELL AS the scheme currently being appealed. The new plans are Scheme A and Scheme B. See below Let’s call the scheme being appealed Scheme C. 
A,B and C downplay the existing building, all have a replacement pub doomed before it even opens because of its substandard design. The developer is trying to portray  that there are few options for The Queensbury other than demolition. 
We disagree. There is a plan D, which would make less profit but retain the existing building. This developer is clearly not interested in Plan D. 
PEOPLE OF WILLESDEN STAY FOCUSSED: What is important is to comment on Plan C – the Refused scheme which is being appealed. The government’s planning inspector needs your comments by 3rd January.  
There are sound planning reasons to object to all of these plans as being detrimental to Willesden and Mapesbury: 
  • The replacement building does not preserve or enhance the conservation area – especially looking from inside the conservation area 
  • The existing building makes a positive contribution to the historic interest of the area, which will be lost 
  • The existing building also makes a positive contribution to the setting of the listed station, which according to the previous Appeal inspector, would be desirable to preserve
  • The mass of the base block (to the rear) is too bulky for the setting
  • The design of the proposal is detrimental to the conservation area
  • The proposal contains a pub but the design is poor – there is no soundproofing built into the design which means complaints from those above, and the pub becoming unviable. Those in the business refer to this as a “Trojan Horse” 
  • There is insufficient affordable housing proposed 
  • There are no safeguards for Busy Rascal, i.e. no legal agreements for them to continue whilst building works are underway. Nothing in the plans about how they would operate in the new premises. Both were promised by the previous developer as planning conditions. 
ONLY AFTER you have commented to the inspector, turn your attention to the new scheme via Brent’s website: 
Planning apps 18/4675 
And 18/4701 

Only comment once, but mention the other when you do. Neither of these will be considered before the Appeal. If the Appeal is kicked out (again) then so will these two.
Merry Christmas to you all. Let’s hope it’s a good one, without scheme A,B,C.

Tuesday 18 December 2018

NEU plea to Brent's Labour leader: 'Please, please Muhammed, can you respond to us' on academisation

Cllr Butt maintaining silence
The President of Brent National Education Union and The Village School NEU representatives have written to the borough's Labour councillors and their leader, Cllr Muhammed Butt, asking for a response to their communications about the academisation of The Village School, in Kingsbury and alleged financial irregularities.

Brent North MP and Labour Shadow Minister, has written to government ministers about the NEU's concerns over the financial background to The Village's academisation move. The NEU had sent Butt and his fellow councillors the Brent NEU resolution on the issue, the resolution from The Village School NEU and the Brent Constituency Labour Party  motion of support and requested a meeting.

Butt has not responded.

The NEU write:
We attach for your information the letter from Barry Gardiner, MP for Brent North. We commend his continued commitment for The Village school and his support and actions to keep the school within the local authority.  Barry wrote to the Government Minister, despite the fact that he is obviously really busy in Parliament particularly with his role as Shadow Minister, and has written on more than one occasion to the Chair of Governors and the Headteacher of The Village over this time when the staff and community are campaigning to stop the academisation of the school. As you can see he references being contacted by Hank (President of Brent NEU).

We are therefore very disappointed that, despite reminders including copying you all in, both our letter and resolution from Brent NEU, the resolution from the Village NEU members and a request to meet, and the resolution passed at the Brent Central LP meeting, all asking for Cllr Muhammed Butt to act with regards to The Village or even just to respond to our communications, we have heard nothing.  Anything you can do to make this happen would be much appreciated.

Please, please Muhammed can you respond to us?
The Kilburn Times reports this week LINK that  the Executive headteacher of The Village has given a provisional date for academisation as February 2019 but quotes her as saying this is subject  to confirmation next term. According to the NEU academisation was delayed by an Education Funding Agency investigation into the accounts of Woodfield School which was to partner The Village in a multi-academy trust. LINK

Despite recent changes in Labour Party policy pledging to oppose any further academisation Cllr Butt appears to continue to support academy schools. He pushed for the academisation of Copland High School and sat on the successor Ark Elvin governing body. He has supported the extension  of Ark's empire in Brent through the new Ark Somerville Primary School which will be built in the car park of York House, near Wembley Stadium, next to a poor air quality main road. He removed a Labour councillor who had opposed planning permission for the school from the council's Planning Committee. LINK

Despite this and the Brent Central CLP's support for the staff's fight against academisation, Cllr Butt has remained unmoved and has supported the Labour Chief Whip, chair of governors at the school, who was a major force behind the acadmeisation bid.

Cllr Jumbo Chan, (Labour) himself a teacher in a neighbouring borough, in contrast has been vociferous in his support for the NEU and Labour Party position on academisation. In February, before the local elections,  many of his Labour councillor colleagues signed a letter oppoasing academisation and this was followed by another joint letter by the newly elected Labour councillors to the Kilburn Times in June. LINK

Barry Gardiner's letter to  Lord Agnew, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System: (Click on bottom right corner to enlarge):

Sunday 16 December 2018

Will Brent Council follow Lambeth in fossil fuel divestment?

Cross-party and non-party campaigners for disinvestment
The Fossil Free Brent campaign will hopefully get a boost from the decision of Lambeth Council to end its pension fund investments in fossil fuel companies. Disinvestment makes sense not just in terms of fighting climate change but also in moving out of shares that will inevitably decline long-term as the climate crisis intensifies and there is a move to alternative energy production.

Brent Labour included disinvestment in its election manifesto and the council is believed to be looking at ways to implement the policy. Implementation is quite complex as investments need to be identified, often inside larger management funds, and Brent's has substantial funds invested via  the London-wide Collective Investment Vehicle, where control involves many boroughs.  Brent Council will need to join other boroughs, such as Lambeth,  in changing CIV investment policy.


In Lambeth Labour’s 2018 manifesto we pledged to work towards divesting from fossil fuels, and invest our pension fund in a socially and financially responsible way. This was particularly thanks the tireless campaigning of my fellow Labour councillors and lobbying from local groups such as the Advocacy Academy.

Today, just a few months after we made that manifesto promise, we have clearly set out how we will implement it.

Firstly, pensions committee has unanimously agreed to sell over £200m of global equities investments and reinvest the money in a low carbon alternative. Several suitable alternatives have been identified – council officers have been asked to research them in more detail and a final decision as to where the money will be reinvested will be made at the next pensions committee meeting.

Secondly, pensions committee has unanimously agreed in principle to sell down its remaining global equities investments and reinvest the proceeds as soon as a suitable alternative becomes available within the London Pension Collective Investment Vehicle framework (the collective pensions body for London councils). Several suitable alternatives have been identified, and we will lobby the London CIV to include them or similar funds within its framework.

Finally, pensions committee has unanimously agreed in principle to sell down its remaining equity investments (these are in emerging markets), and reinvest the proceeds as soon as a suitable alternative becomes available within the London CIV framework. A suitable alternative has been identified, and we will lobby the London CIV to include it or a similar fund within its framework.

We believe this is the first time any UK local government pension fund has set out a clear roadmap, within its existing actuarial framework, that will allow it to fully divest all its shares and reinvest in low carbon alternatives. Crucially we are able to do this while fully protecting Lambeth council pensioners, current and future.

Lambeth is leading the way on the divestment agenda, with a clear plan to achieve our manifesto promise. Many pension funds now have policy in favour of divesting from carbon intensive fossil fuel shares, but we believe we are the first to set out exactly how we will do this. We will now focus on lobbying the London CIV to include at the earliest opportunity the funds that will allow us to complete our divestment process.

When it comes to action on climate change Lambeth walks the walk, we don’t just talk the talk. This is what happens when Labour is delivering in power rather than shouting on the sidelines like our opponents. I’m grateful to my fellow committee members and councillors who have lobbied on this issue for helping to make this a reality.

Councillor Iain Simpson, Chair of Lambeth Pensions Committee
-->The Divest Brent campaign has a Facebook site HERE and urge the public to support their petition HERE.

This is the text of the petition to Brent Council:
Brent Council should divest its pension fund from fossil fuel companies to protect the people of Brent. So we ask Brent Council to make a public divestment statement committing the Brent Pension Fund to:
1.  Immediately freeze any new investment in the top 200 publicly-traded fossil fuel companies with largest known carbon reserves (oil, coal and gas)
2.  Divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds in the top 200 list and shift these funds to lower risk, ethical investments before the May 2022 Council elections
3.  Advocate to other pension funds, including the London Pension Fund Authority and Local Government Pension Scheme members to do the same
4.  To do the above in a timely manner - by setting up a working group to report back on a strategy to bring about divestment within three months from the submission of this petition

Why is this important?

We believe divestment from fossil fuels to be not only ethically and environmentally correct, but also financially prudent.
Climate change is the greatest challenge humanity has encountered. The 20 hottest years on record have all occurred since 1981 and 2016 was the hottest ever . Higher average temperatures are directly linked to extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, floods and storms.
Scientists have unanimously concluded that these changes are a consequence of human activity, arising from the burning of fossil fuels. Moreover, this activity has resulted in unprecedented levels of air pollution, now regarded as a major world killer.
In a speech at Lloyd’s of London in September 2015, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England said that by the time ‘climate change becomes a defining issue for financial stability, it may already be too late’. Carney warned investors that policies to address climate change ‘would render the vast majority of reserves ‘stranded’ – oil, gas and coal that will be literally unburnable’ .
In order to continue developing fossil fuel reserves – particularly in the difficult areas where the remaining reserves are located (including the Arctic, the mouth of the Amazon and tar sands in sensitive areas) the developing companies need investment – divestment is a way of cutting off the funds needed to carry out these damaging activities. It also sends a powerful signal to the companies and others that it is time to move away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy.

Thursday 13 December 2018

School students threaten walk-out over academy trust valuing 'profts - not student success'

The recent documentary 'School' spotlighted the role of a multi-academy trust and particularly its CEO in the implementation of cuts.

In a ground -breaking initiative students at Thomas Bennett Community College in Crawley are threatening a walk-out or a strike over cuts.

They are asking for support for an on line petition HERE :

Thomas Bennett Community College is a school with working class pupils attending. Over the years Thomas Bennett has struggled with funding, only to which this struggle became increasingly more difficult when the academy, TKAT, took over our school. Profit not students success is what this academies aim is and large group of students including me are ready to do whatever needs to happen for something to change! Whether that's a whole year walkout or a strike with the whole school.

TKAT is a privatized corporation with enough money to fund schools. Cuts are made so managers and CEO's are given profit. We threaten that if change isn't made students will take reasonable action. A walk out is something TKAT does not want to face especially with media coverage and limited time for year elevens, a whole year will not just get bad qualifications with missed time but will also reflect on the education that is being provided for students by this school run by the academy

Personal story
We are Students that are currently attending Thomas Bennett. We are undertaking our GCSE's and are month's away from exams. With limited welfare support throughout the school, such as a medical room assistant or a pastoral support assistant for each year we are struggling tremendously with the way the school is run due to low funding. Last year I emailed the CEO, someone who was going to get a large pay rise for the cuts at Thomas Bennett, of TKAT explaining my points to how it is affecting me and our school. The reply I got was a meeting with the local TKAT representative. We were told that it wasn't in their hands and overall told to stop talking about it. Teachers at our school care a lot for students but are unable to fulfill their wishes due to low funding by the multi academy trust, TKAT. I hope you can see how much this is affecting the school and help us stop this happening even more!

Thank you