Thursday 31 January 2019

'See you at the Ace!' - hear about the iconic cafe's revival February 8th Preston Community Library

Opposite the Preston Pub which is on Preston Road/Carlton Avenue East

My late brother David, more than 50 years a motorcycle fanatic, would have loved this. I still remember (with terror) riding pillion with him on the mountain roads of Northern Thailand where he lived his last years.

Brent Council: GCSE results in Brent outperform London and national averages

Brent secondary schools are all either academies, some stand alone or others part of a chain, or voluntary aided but most still work closely with Brent Council or Brent Schools Partnership. Brent Council published the following press release yesterday:
Secondary schools in Brent have outperformed London and the national average for England at GCSE according to newly published figures.
Data from the Department for Education shows that the proportion of Brent students achieving 9-4 (A*-C) in English and maths is 69.7 per cent which is above the national average (64.4 per cent) and for the first time above the London average (67.9 per cent).

In addition to this, Brent's ‘Progress 8' score, which focuses on how much progress pupils have made between their primary school and GCSE results, shows Brent students making more than half of a grade more progress in each of their eight subjects than students nationally. 
This strong performance has put Brent well above the London and national averages. For the second year running, Brent has the second highest progress score out of 151 local authorities in England. 
Cllr Amer Agha, Cabinet Member for Schools, Employment and Skills said: 
Last year schools in Brent achieved great GCSE results and it is good to see that these have been reflected in the latest performance tables.  
Our pupils and teachers work extremely hard throughout the school year and these results are testament to all their commitment and dedication.  
I'm so pleased that Brent came second in London and England for the Progress 8 scores for the second year in a row. Brent schools are committed to giving the borough's children and young people the best possible start in life and with 96% of our schools rated "good" or "outstanding" by Ofsted I believe we are all doing that. 
In other measures, a higher percentage of students were entered for the five English Baccalaureate subjects (English, mathematics, science, foreign language and history or geography) in Brent than in London as a whole and nationally. Brent's Attainment 8 score is 49.9 which is above both the London average (49.4) and the national average (46.5).

Islamia Primary School (VA) parents call on Brent Council to help them secure a permanent building

Islamia Primary School

Parents of Islamia Primary School in Brent have launched an on-line petition asking Brent Council to provide a permanent building for the school after 10 years in limbo. Parents say that the children's education suffers from an inadequate building with Key Stage 2 pupils having to cross the busy Salusbury Road four times a day to reach the annexe. They have seen other borough schools expand with new build and free schools set up and feel that their children's needs have been neglected.

The school was founded by Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens before his conversion) with his own resources and after a long struggle became voluntary aided. It is known for the good results it achieves and is substantially over-subscribed.

The petition which is accessible on the Brent Council website HERE is reprinted below.

Support Permanent Building for Islamia Primary School VA (2 form entry)

We the undersigned petition the council to 1. Stop ignoring the needs of Islamia Primary School and its pupils. 2. Treat Islamia Primary School pupils, parents and staff fairly. 3. Secure Islamia Primary School with a permanent offsite building to house all its 420 pupils.


Islamia Primary School did Brent Council a huge favour by taking on all pupils from the Avenue School in 2007 and has made huge sacrifices over the past 10 years, operating under very difficult conditions.

21% of our pupils (90 pupils) continue to make four journeys a day across two busy roads to access the annexe building.

Due to the failed new build programme, a CDT room, art room, two additional classrooms, the kitchen and canteen were all demolished with nothing put in its place except a temporary marquee.
This arrangement has been in place for 10 years and our school has remained in limbo ever since.

The Facts:
Over the past 10 years, Brent has failed to adequately house 420 pupils from Islamia Primary School, whilst opening more and more schools and expanding almost every school in the borough.

1. Brent closed The Avenue School, 5-7 The Avenue, London, NW6 7YG, and transferred the pupils to Islamia Primary School in January 2007.

2. New £8 Million build was due to be completed by 2012 but did not happen due to delays from Brent and pressure from local group ‘We Love Queen’s Park’.

3. In 2012, a new 3 form entry school was proposed by Brent as part of the South Kilburn Regeneration project for a 2018 opening. This building has since been ear marked to house existing schools Kilburn Park Junior (2 form entry) and Carlton Vale Infant (2 form entry) and Nursery for a 2019/2020 opening.

4. Brent Staff Development centre (Gwenneth Rickus Building) closed in 2013 and was given to Leopold Primary School in 2015 for their expansion plan (840 pupils).

5. In February 2013, Brent council sold the Brent Town Hall building to The French Education Property Trust who transformed it into an international French school called the Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill, which opened in September 2015.

6. New £8 Million build was revived and was due to be completed by 2016 but did not happen again due to unacceptable conditions placed on the Foundation, which included putting a cap on numbers for the Independent Girls Secondary School.

7. In 2013, Brent granted permission for a new free school (The Michaela Community School) to open at Arena House in North End Road (previously College of North West London Wembly Park Campus). It opened in September 2014 and will have 840 students by 2020.

8. In September 2014, Ark academy submitted a free school application to the Department for Education, to open a new 3 form entry primary academy in Wembley. Brent agreed for Ark to open Ark Somerville Primary Academy (2 form entry) on the car park of the York House to be opened in September 2019.

9. In September 2015, a new school (Kilburn Grange School) opened on the site of the newly refurbished state of the art College of North West London (Kilburn campus) on Priory Park Road, which was also temporarily shared with Marylebone Boys’ School (a free school from Westminster).

10. In September 2016, Brent Council granted Marylebone Boys’ School (a free school from Westminster) permission to demolish an existing nursery building to create a “purpose-built, modular” building on land at the junction between Brondesbury Park and Christchurch Avenue (480 students). The temporary building remained for two years until July 2018.

11. In July 2017, The Carlton Centre, Granville Road, Kilburn was advertised for a 5 year lease. Although Islamia Primary School made a formal bid, the property was given to the Penny Appeal charity for a non-school related community project.

12. Although Islamia Primary School has been using Winkworth Hall since 2007, it was informed by Brent in November 2018 that it could never purchase Winkworth Hall even if it was totally vacant.

13. In November 2018, Brent confirmed plans for a new 6 forms of entry secondary school to 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

Sign the petition HERE

Join conservation volunteers at Welsh Harp on February 16th

 From Friends of Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre

You are invited to join the  next Friends Monthly Conservation  event on:

Saturday 16th February, 10am – 12.30pm

Each month a great group of individuals come together to do extremely useful conservation and maintenance work around the Centre using basic gardening tools, to gain skills and meet new people.  This work supports the activities of the Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre including over 3000 school children that attend the Centre each year and improves the biodiversity of the woodland habitat.

What will be the tasks at the next event?

  • Clear blackthorn from the meadow
  • Sand the new wooden pond fence
  • Other tasks as they come up
What else do you need to know?
  • All welcome! Young people aged 17 years and under need to be accompanied by a responsible adult, each individual child under 11 years old will need an adult with them at all times as we are using sharp tools. 
  • Tasks can be adapted or alternative tasks available for all levels of involvement.
  • Tea, coffee and snacks, steel toe cap wellington boots, tools and gloves are all provided. 
  • Wear comfortable outdoor clothing suitable for gardening.
  • Please meet inside the Education Centre.
We have achieved a lot since these events have started and we will continue to address many other aspects of the WHEEC Habitat Management Plan that need attending to. If you would like a copy of the management plan or information about the group, please email me:

Hope to see as many of you as possible at the next event!

We are also looking for volunteers on Tuesdays 2.30pm – 4.30pm at the Centre as part of an existing group to do a bit of general gardening around the site. If you think you could help, click here for more information and how to apply.
Thames21 Training
There are also opportunities for training. To find out when the next training is have a look on our events calendar or to sign up to the training bulletin on our Training webpage.

Vigil tonight after 'Nazi graffiti' found in Willesden Green

Local residents are invited to take part in a vigil at the bus shelter at the junction of Peters Avenue/Donnington Road, Willesden after what is apparently Nazi graffiti was found. The vigil will take place from 7.30-8pm.

An alternative explanation is that the graffiti refers to controversy surrounding BP Oil and is calling the company 'Nazi' and 'scum'.

TfL have been contacted to clean off the graffiti.

Details on the Kilburn Times website HERE

Tuesday 29 January 2019

The Brent Council 'Cassie' safeguarding case revisited.

This story, which appears to have hit the press again, was first reported by Wembley Matters in October last year. I reprint it here as it provides a much fuller account and at the end Brent Council's response to the Review findings and recommendations,

A Safeguarding Adult Review published by Brent Council LINK raises serious issues about the service provided by the Council and bought-in providers to people with an autistic spectrum condition.
The case concerns ‘Cassie’ (not her real name) a Black woman in her mid-50s who has lived in services for people with learning disabilities and autism since she was a child. Information about Cassie was limited to her clinical classifications and records held by health and social care services, including the Independent Provider, the autism specialist residential home at which she has lived since 1990.
Cassie was found to be HIV positive in 2016 which triggered a safeguarding meeting. The Infectious Diseases Team confirmed that it was sexually transmitted at some point between 2007 and 2015 while Cassie was resident with the independent provider commissioned by Brent Council. It was confirmed that Cassie did not have the capacity to consent to having sexual relations and a police investigation was agreed. During March 2017 the Safeguarding Adults Board was informed that the police investigation had been closed. Cassie was moved to a different home that was managed by the same provider.
The report outlines the poor quality of Cassie’s provision:
It is remarkable that Cassie’s many years of residing in long stay hospitals and latterly, at the Independent Provider, reveal so little about her. Whatever the names of the hospitals she has lived in, observers and some former residents have commented on the bleak and unstimulating environments of large institutions. There were no opportunities for children with severe learning disabilities to learn functional skills, including basic communication skills, or to prepare for life beyond the institutions.
It is noteworthy that the single sign which Cassie was consistently encouraged to use was “Thank you.” 

Knowledge of Cassie is primarily based on clinical interpretation and classification and these do not help in deciphering the ways in which she engages with others or with objects. There is neither a simple nor consistent description of her. Yet support staffs’ understanding of Cassie determines how she spends her days. The challenges Cassie faces in figuring out the world are unfamiliar since so little is known of her developmental path. The records suggest only partial accounts of her behaviour or aspects of particular actions. How her interest in paper tearing is defined is critical.
During her adulthood, Cassie began to create scatterings of torn paper. The Independent Provider notes that she becomes distressed when she is required to pick up and put the pieces of paper in the bin. This prompts the question: Is this the only possible intervention? It is clear that Cassie can communicate intention. For example, she takes people to the kitchen when she is hungry and she gets her coat when she wants to go out. It is known too that she needs a lot of help in terms of her personal and intimate care. This does not preclude her having unique forms of communication, demonstrating awareness 
of others and desiring to belong and participate. For example, she enjoys her mother’s visits and she likes to sit with staff.

The records suggest that during the weeks prior to Cassie’s HIV diagnosis, her world experience appeared to be confined to her bedroom and the living room and, specifically, the sofa.
Cassie’s mother told the Review:
‘When Brent closed its day centres I was told, “We’ll make a programme for her so she can got out, meet people, walk around - we’ll put a programme together and include shopping and visiting you.” Nothing materialised...’I was told that one place Cassie could go to - the Independent Provider’s Day Centre was being “repaired.” She got a place there but it didn’t last long. I had a letter saying that Brent had cut the grant and she didn’t go back no more.  She’s bored. It was better when she went to the centre. Now they just sit in the living room with the music channel on the TV. There are only three of them and that’s what they all do.’
Naturally Cassie’s HIV diagnosis was devastating for her mother.  The HR person at the provider told her that the incident must have happened at night: ‘This is all I know. This rape, which I can’t talk about or tell anyone about, this rape happened. Cassie had no control over her body and this man takes over her body. You can’t get them to take tests because of their human rights, What chance have you got. I asked the police if they could offer a reward. They said “No” because people tend to close ranks.’
The review states that the majority of the Independent Provider’s Risk Assessment date from the months of Cassie’s diagnosis. There are many gaps in the ‘monthy reports’ and other information: ‘The notes convey only biographical fragments, The monthly reports contain a lot of repetition and evidence of “cut and paste.” This renders problematic the claim that these will be subject to “trend analysis.”
General Practitioners who cared for Cassie said they were shocked when the Infectious Diseases Team made their diagnosis because Cassie is ‘so very vulnerable.’ As a patient she is sometimes compliant but there are a lot of barriers to investigating what is wrong. Cassie’s cooperation depended on how calm her carers were and this varied.
There is much more on the medical history in the report but significantly it is reported that Cassie did not benefit from annual reviews with none undertaken during 2008, 2011, 2013 and 2014.  She has contact with the Learning Disabilities Community Health Team for psychiatric and a brief period of physiotherapy support and is reviewed in outpatients every 6 months.
The report summarises the ‘best interests of the person’ provisions in the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) 2005:
·      Equal consideration and non-discrimination
·      Considering all relevant circumstances
·      Regaining capacity
·      Permitting and encouraging participation
·      Special consideration for life sustaining treatment
·      The person’s wishes and feelings, beliefs and values
·      The views of others
The report notes, ‘There is no reference to the MCA in relation to Cassie’s care and support. Although the Independent Provider cites ‘best interest meetings’ there are no documented examples  examples of any such meetings.’
Later it states, ‘Irrespective of the seriousness of Cassie’s HIV diagnosis, no individual or agency has undertaken to determine her best interest in relation for a achieving a consensual approach to decision making concerning invasive treatment or even essential treatment.’
In a telling passage the report says:
‘The absence of a credible life story is stark, that is one which goes beyond setting out Cassie’s likes, dislikes and challenging behaviour, for example. Without the account of Cassie’s mother and her GP’s descriptions of what they have earned from supporting her, Cassie’s life-long history of being supported by services is reduced  to a disheartening short list of home based activity. Although it is known that Cassie loves to walk and her impulse to get out is undiminished, at the provider’s centre this is given expression in her fast paced restlessness. Cassie’s life story is not known. That is to say, the relevant parts of her past and present have not been recorded. The services to which Cassie is known appear not to have any processes for eliciting stories about her and her family as a means of connecting her life to her present circumstances and the people who are significant.’
The report issues a number of challenges to Brent Council:
Since Brent’s commissioning did not ensure that the Independent Provider established the necessary conditions to support Cassie, this is an opportune time for Brent to initiate a fresh approach to the support of people with autism. What ‘autism specialism’ is Brent seeking? It cannot be credible that faith is invested in a service which advertises itself as specialist. Brent has a responsibility to identify and monitor the tasks required ti address Cassie’s considerable support needs and those of others with autism and learning disabilities, What arrangements are in place in Brent to provide support to the families of people with autism at times of transition and to ensure that workforce planning, training and retraining arrangements are effective? The test of such investment will be in the improvements they bring to the lives of people with autism and learning difficulties.
Concluding the review, Dr Margaret Ryan states that Cassie has been failed by services and that by exposing her to sexual abuse by a third party without appropriate care planning and risk assessment  was professionally negligent and possibly in breach of the duty of care: ‘The evidence suggests a possible breach of the right to respect for private and family life and potentially a breach of the right to protection from inhuman and degrading treatment.’
Dr Ryan goes on to express disappointment that the Independent Provider states that the organisation is unable to comment on the assertion that Cassie was infected as a result of sexual assault as they has ‘seen no evidence of this.’  The documentation does not support the assertion that Cassie was solely supported by women staff.
At the time of the report Cassie remained with the provider, albeit in different accommodation, and her mother is unhappy with the arrangement  and wants urgency in seeking an alternative placement. Dr Ryan states that, ‘thus far, there is no evidence of attentive external scrutiny of her post-diagnosis care plan. Since the documentation shared by the provider and service reviewer is limited it is possible that these are systemic matters.’
Dr Ryan suggest that Brent Council has to undertake a great deal of work concerning the use of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards: ‘Cassie’s health is compromised and is vulnerable to deterioration. It is not clear what “practicable steps” were taken to support Cassie’s decision-making in advance of a determination of incapacity.’
The Review’s Recommendations:
1) Since there is cause for concern and uncertainty concerning the HIV status of the five residents at the care home, Brent requests the Court of Protection to give direction in this matter 

2) Cassie should be provided with additional interim support until she moves to another service. Such support should be informed by the principles an management of care as set out by NICE guidance

3) Brent’s Safeguarding Adults Board seeks reassurance that:
·      The Transforming Learning Disability Services’ initiative of the CCGs, permits and 
establishes with Brent’s Adult Social Care an ambitious path which promotes greater attention to individual support needs which credibly involves (i) self- advocates and (ii) engagement with the families of people with complex support needs, most particularly in ensuring that account is taken of people’s life stories and their future aspirations 

·      Future changes (that result in discontinuities of personnel and functions) in respect of reviewing and monitoring long-term placements must ensure that (i) people funded by public services are better off or at least not worse off, (ii) (accessed on 6 July 2017)
 NICE (2012) Autism spectrum disorder in adults: diagnosis and management (CG142reviewing is annual and (iii) goals or “ends” for people receiving services are not displaced by undue attention to “means”
·      The Transforming Learning Disability Services’ initiative adopts a proactive and 
questioning approach to the scrutiny and oversight of all placements. Critical skills should be evidenced such as: collaborating with people with autism and their families; knowledge of effective care planning; knowledge of safeguarding and, specifically, how to record safeguarding concerns; identifying potential community collaborators; and because several medical conditions are significantly more prevalent among people with autism compared with people who do not have autism,ensuring that medical appointments are prioritised 

·      The operational competences and track records of specialist providers are known to service commissioners in term of the recorded outcomes realised for individual people with autism 

·      The Learning Disabilities Community Health Team and specialist providers can provide evidence that they are (i) instrumental in working with GPs in detecting health problems which would otherwise result in unnecessary suffering; (ii) make it possible for residents to develop health routines such as accessing health screening and health promotion activities; and (iii) are persistent and creative advocates for people’s improved health and health care – paying particular attention to the challenge of “diagnostic overshadowing” 

·      The Learning Disabilities Community Health Team assumes a lead role in promoting positive practice in the use of the Mental Capacity legislation 

·      The signs being taught to people with compromised communication skills include the sign for “No!” 

4) Brent’s Safeguarding Adults Board may wish to consider advising service commissioners that questions must be asked about the mechanisms in place to ensure the safety of people with limited articulacy, in particular those who are supported by male workers.
Brent Council in a statement to Wembley Matters said:
“All of the partners on the Safeguarding Adults Board, including the Council, have expressed our deep and sincere regret to both Cassie and her family.   We can confirm that Cassie is now safe and happy and is having all her health and care needs met. 
“As soon as the Council became aware of the situation the Safeguarding Adults Team took immediate action to ensure that Cassie was safe and receiving the support she needed, and further steps were taken to ensure no other person was at risk.  The matter was reported to the police, who undertook a full investigation. 
“Following these immediate actions, the Council asked the Safeguarding Adult Board to consider commissioning an independent Safeguarding Adult Review (SAR).    A SAR is a nationally recognised process, under the Care Act 2014.   The Board and the Independent Chair agreed this met the criteria for a SAR because there had been serious harm in a complex case which involved a wide range of statutory and voluntary agencies.  The purpose of a SAR is to ensure the independent consideration of the facts, and to use these facts to identify and promote effective learning across all agencies.  It is a key part of improving services in order to prevent serious harm occurring again.  The function of SARs is not to apportion blame or make judgements about negligence.
“As a result of the SAR, the Safeguarding Adults Board has a multi-agency action plan.  This will be monitored by the Board and the Board’s Independent Chair, who will ensure that the lessons have been learnt across all the agencies involved.   
“The Council has fully supported this process.  We have already delivered a range of actions to improve the support we provide to vulnerable adults in Brent, including setting up a team that specifically focuses on reviewing the quality of care and support for individuals in residential placements, and integrating the health and social care learning disability teams into a single team providing holistic support to adults with a learning disability. 
“Cassie continues to do well in her new home and we continue to ensure that she is getting the support that she needs.”

Mapesbury Residents' Association oppose developer's plans for the Queensbury pub

Residents making representations to the Planning Committee on the first Queensbury applicationMarch 2014
There is still time to comment on the developer's two (hardly) different plans for the Queensbury post. These are the links: 18/4675 and 18/4701

There are 26 submisisons on 18/4675 and 37 on 18/4701. All object to the plans. Some comments accuse the developer of being 'underhand' or 'devious' while others give very detailed objections.

Mapesbury Residents' Association submitted the following objection:

This objection is on behalf of the Mapesbury Residents’ Association Planning and Conservation Sub-Committee. We regret that this is after the 21 days deadline but understand that Brent Planning are willing to consider comments before their report to Planning Committee is finalised.

We wish to object for the following reasons:

1. The proposed new building is too tall and too bulky and would detract from the appearance of the area and does not preserve or enhance existing conservation area. The existing building makes a positive contribution to the setting of the listed station, which according to the previous Appeal inspector, would be desirable to preserve. The Planning Authority ought to respect that view and act consistently with it. The existing building also makes a positive contribution to the historic interest of the area.

- The applications are described as 4 and in part 5 storeys; however, both schemes are 6 storeys visible height across the frontage with 5 storeys behind. This is a misrepresentation by the Developer. In addition, each floor is taller than those of no 112 next door and the roof level would therefore be 1.5 storeys higher than the 5 storeys on no 112.

- There is no attempt to harmonise the building with no 112. It does not carry across the basic simple flat front wall with rectangular balconies of 112. Instead there are prominent bays forming a modelled front, stepping in and out. This draws attention to the bulk of the new building. The proposed horizontal banding for the brickwork between the bays and balconies is whimsical and unnecessary. The proposed design is a hotchpotch of irregular shaped bays and balconies that also results in lost floor space in the bedrooms.

- The vertical line style of shading at the roof level implies a lot of metal or timber cladding. Metal cladding is for industrial sheds and timber cladding has no feel of permanence and quickly deteriorates in appearance.

- The bedrooms within each flat are too long and narrow and do not provide adequate accommodation. The bedrooms with bay windows are a poor shape with useless area.

2. There are fundamental faults with the layout of the current ground floor layout plan:

- There is no sound proofing between the community room and the pub and between the pub, community room and the flats above. Noisy exercise classes and music / dance / singing / drama etc. activities will interfere with the pub. The floor over the Function / Community room and the pub need to be sound proofed to avoid disturbance of the flats above.

- The bins are in two locations, one of which is on the front of the building and inconveniently accessible for all users.

- The main entrance to the flats is a constricted passage next to the bin store.

- The combination of bin store at the front and narrow entrance make the front aspect of the building very unattractive and out of kilter with the adjoining buildings.

3. The ground floor spaces for the public house and function / community room are not well proportioned for their intended uses:

- The area of the proposed Function / Community Room is too small. It is only 81 sq. metres (ignoring the entrance corridor). This represents only 1.6% of the total floor area. To be useful twice this would be necessary for the activities that are normally provided by a Function / Community room,

- The Function / Community room is a poor layout and badly located; tucked around the corner behind the retained shops past a narrow gap next to the shops. The entrance is in an insecure place, especially at night and is next to the bin store.

- The size of the Function / Community room is not of sufficient value in relation to the value of the planning permission being sought.

- The floor plan of the pub is too long and narrow,

- The replacement pub has neither a kitchen nor ventilation in the proposed plan which will severely limit its menu.

- The poor floor plan and absence of a kitchen must impact upon its popularity with residents. It would be a completely inadequate replacement for the existing pub and brings into question the viability of the proposal for this space as a replacement for a popular and important local amenity.

4. The ownership, maintenance and management of the Function / Community Room are not defined. The tenure should be in-perpetuity so that the benefit of the land and its associated frontage onto Walm Lane is carried forward if the associated / adjoining owners of the Pub get into financial difficulties. Points that need establishing in the contract include:

- What will be the legal status of the Function / Community room, who will own the ground on which the room sits?

- Who or what organisation will own the space, how will the public / local residents’ ownership and rights be defined?

- Who or what organisation will manage the room and its use?

- How will the structural envelope of the room be maintained?

- How will access to the toilet facilities and basement and kitchens shared with the Pub be defined, maintained and delivered in-perpetuity?

- How will access to the toilet facilities and basement and kitchens?

5. This third proposal is essentially the same as the second proposal which was refused permission last year and the fact that that application is now subject to appeal should not be considered as a relevant factor. Permission for this proposal should also be refused.

Monday 28 January 2019

UPDATED: School staff silent protest 'Our school is no place for hate' after vitriolic internet posting aimed at pupils

Staff outside Central Foundation Girls' School, Bow, London
The following was posted by Alex Kenny, a member of the NEU Executive, on Facebook today. It is a sad comment that such acts are occuring on our streets and aimed at children and young people. All the more reason for us all to be vigilant and act quickly against these acts. Congratulations to all the school staff involved.
On Friday, as about a thousand girls were leaving a local school, they were followed and filmed by someone who provided a vitriolic commentary full of racist, misogynist and Islamophobic comments - and then posted it on the internet.
Today staff at the school lined lined up along the road outside the school in a silent protest with a simple message “our schools are no place for hate” - a simple but very important show of unity and solidarity, all the more impressive for it being organised so quickly.
More actions are likely to follow to make sure racists such as this get the message that they are outnumbered and not welcome.

UPDATE: The Met Police have arrested a man in his 60s for questioning over this incident

Wars: The Effect on Soldiers - First hand accounts: Monday February 11th

Monday, February 11th 7.30 – 9.15.

Brent MENCAP, 379-381 High Rd, London NW10 2JR

Speakers: Julio Torres, Veterans for Peace (UK) [New York born Torres was a member of the U.S. Army for eleven years 2005-2016, including a year in Iraq, with the rank of Staff Sergeant]
Ben Griffin, ex-Paratrooper, SAS soldier and founder of Veterans for Peace UK, served in Northern Ireland, Macedonia, Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2005 he was released from Army service after refusing to continue serving under American command in Iraq. Ben served as national coordinator of VfP until 2018 and remains an active member.
The financial costs of US and British wars in the Middle East since the beginning of this century have been well documented.
The personal costs to the soldiers who took part and to their families, friends and neighbours are often less noticed.
This is an opportunity to hear and talk to war veterans about their experiences and how we might learn to fight for peace.
 Organised by Brent Stop the War

All welcome
Disabled access. Close to Dollis Hill tube (Jubilee line, Chaper Road access). Buses include 52, 260, 266, 302

Sunday 27 January 2019

The Metroland Dream – Your Comben & Wakeling home in Wembley

Guest post by Philip Grant

I don’t often recommend TV programmes, especially ones that I have yet to see, but if you are interested in social history and housing you might want to know about this one. “Phil Spencer’s History of Britain in 100 Homes” is an eight-part series on the More4 channel, beginning on Wednesday 30th January at 9pm. You can see a little more about it here LINK
What has this got to do with Wembley? Last September, a researcher from the TV production company wrote to “Wembley Matters”, to ask whether there were still any original “Metroland” homes locally. Martin passed the enquiry on to the blog site’s “local history correspondent”, and I was able to assist with information, and some illustrations. As a result, a Wembley house will be one of the ‘100 Homes’ featured in the series (probably in part 6).
“Metroland” was a name coined by the Metropolitan Railway Company around the time of the First World War, to promote housing development on the surplus land it had acquired to build its railway over in the late 19th century. It published a yearly booklet, setting out the attractions of healthy living in pleasant countryside, on an estate of modern homes, but close to a station where its fast electric trains could carry the man of the house to work “in Town”.

A 1922 advert for the Metropolitan’s Chalk Hill estate (Yes, our Chalkhill!)

I have not been let into the secret of which Wembley house will be featured, but Park Chase in Wembley Park has been mentioned. The Manor Estate was one of many developments by the firm of Comben & Wakeling, which set the standard for local homes in the 1920’s and 30’s. They had acquired the site of the former Wembley Park mansion from the Metropolitan Railway, and built mainly family-sized semi-detached homes there in the early 1920’s.

Manor Estate advert from the 1922 edition of “Metro-Land”

James Comben and William Wakeling had come to Wembley in 1907, when it was still a new “Urban District” with a population of less than 10,000. The first homes they built were in St. John’s Road. Before the First World War they were developing plots of land on the Stanley Park Estate, near Wembley Triangle. One of the firm’s three-bedroom terraced houses in Jesmond Avenue (with gas lighting – no electricity!) then would cost £350. Inflation during and after the war pushed up the cost of homes, but Comben & Wakeling’s houses were still affordable to ordinary people in regular employment. 
Pairs of mid-1920’s Comben & Wakeling show houses, at the corner of Park Lane and Clarendon Gdns.

In the mid-1920’s, Horace Comben and Eric Wakeling joined their fathers in the business, which was now a limited company. They were building on the former Elm Tree Farm land, north of King Edward VII Park. By 1929, their developments stretched across East Lane, between St. Augustine’s Avenue and Preston Road. An advertisement that year proudly announced: ‘Nearly 2,000 houses sold’. Their homes offered ‘… all labour-saving fitments. Electric light and gas. Tiled hall, scullery and bathroom.’ Most were in the “mock-Tudor” style, which was so fashionable at the time.
The end of that decade saw them start work on their biggest development yet, the Sudbury Court Estate. Much of this “Garden Suburb” estate, with around 1,500 homes built between 1928 and 1935, is now a Conservation Area. It contained a mix of house sizes, to meet the needs of a range buyers, from the skilled manual worker earning £4-£5 a week, to the experienced school teacher on an annual salary of around £300, or the businessman making a bit more than that!

Comben & Wakeling’s advert from the 1932 Wembley Official Guide.

By the late 1930’s, Comben & Wakeling had moved on to develop the Lindsay Park Estate in Kenton. The company built new offices nearby, at Kingsbury Circle (now the Kingsland Hotel). They had expanded into other building work as well, but could still say in 1953 that they had built 6,000 homes in Wembley. Most of those houses are still providing well-built homes for families in the borough.

An advert appearing in the 1953 book
“Wembley through the Ages”.

Wembley’s story could have been very different. When the District Council (with James Comben as a councillor) was considering what to do with the disused Wembley Park pleasure grounds, their 1920 Town Planning Scheme earmarked the land for “Garden City” housing development. Then, the government chose it as the site for the British Empire Exhibition, so instead of another Comben & Wakeling “garden suburb”, it became home to the Stadium and all of the Exhibition buildings. 80 years later, Quintain began to redevelop much of land.
The suburban housing estates built in Wembley in the inter-war years, by Comben & Wakeling and other firms, generally had 8-10 houses per acre. Nowadays, a growing population and shortage of building land in the area means that a much higher density of homes is needed. But are the new developments we are seeing, at Wembley Park and elsewhere in the borough, at too high a density?
One of the great advantages of “Metroland” was that it gave thousands of families the chance to move out of the over-crowded and polluted areas of inner London. Their children could grow up in homes with gardens, in streets lined with trees and with parks and open spaces nearby. Although Quintain’s Wembley Park has some trees, and open space areas like Elvin Gardens and the 7-acre park currently being created, is this as healthy an environment?
Junction of Carlton Avenue West and The Fairway, Sudbury Court Estate.

Brent’s core planning policies (CP17) give a commitment that: ‘The distinctive suburban character of Brent will be protected from inappropriate development.’ They also say that: ‘Development of garden space and infilling of plots with out-of-scale buildings that do not respect the settings of the existing dwellings will not be acceptable.’ However, proposals in the new Local Plan, which will cover the 2020’s and 2030’s, include changes which would allow higher density developments along main roads in some of Brent’s “Metroland” suburban areas.
It is not just the historian in me that hopes ‘The Metroland Dream’ can continue, and that families can enjoy living in Comben & Wakeling “garden suburb” homes in Wembley for many decades to come.

Philip Grant.