Thursday 28 February 2019

Extinction Rebellion, Willesden Green Library, Saturday March 2nd - Climate Change: Heading for Extinction (and what to do about it)

The planet is in ecological crisis: we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event this planet has experienced. Scientists believe we may have entered a period of abrupt climate breakdown. This is an emergency.

In this public talk, climate speakers from Extinction Rebellion will share the latest climate science on where our planet is heading, discuss some of the current psychology around climate change, and offer solutions through the study of social movements.

Everyone is welcome and there will be time to ask questions and discuss afterwards. Entry is free.

NEU's 'deep disappointment' at role of Brent Labour leader and Chief Whip in The Village School academisation following news it will become part of a Multi-Academy Trust tomorrow

 The Brent branch of the National Education yesterday passed the reolution below on the 'very sad news' the The Village School in Kingsbury will become part of the Woodfield Multi-Academy Trust tomorrow. The NEU has fought hard and long against the proposals with widespread support from trade unions, political parties, parents,  community groups and Brent NorthMP Barry Gardiner.

The move means that apart from Phoenix School Arch on St Rapahel's Estate that special education in Brent has been privatised. A sad day indeed.
Brent NEU congratulates the members at The Village for their brilliant and hard fought campaign against becoming part of a Multi-Academy Trust with Woodfield academy. We also thank Barry Gardiner, Brent North MP, the local Constituency Labour Parties, and the community for their support.

We are however deeply disappointed that Cllr Sandra Kabir, Chair of Governors of The Village and Chief Whip of the Labour Group supported the academisation and Cllr Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Council did not use his position and offices to strongly oppose this privatisation of our outstanding Local Authority school.

Wednesday 27 February 2019

4 of the 10 worst London sites for breaches of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) Air Quality Objectives are in Brent

From Friends of the Earth

In answer to Jaine's question (comments below) about air quality on Wembley High Road there is no monitoring station there. This is the map from Brent Council website. Monitoring stations marked in blue:

Tuesday 26 February 2019

UPDATE: Bridge Park campaigners: 'We're not giving up!' crowd into the High Court for Brent Council vs The Community hearing


Crowds waiting to go into the High Court hearing this morning - they quickly filled up the Court



The Bridge Park Campaign will be attending the High Court tomorrow to contest Brent Council's attempt to strike out the case. The Council are trying to defeat the community's claim on the land allegedly using £500,000 of the funds meant to be spent for the community's benefit. 

 The Campaign said:
Brent Council do not want the evidence we have uncovered to be made public. So they are trying to Strike Out our case before it can be heard by full Trial.

It is a small Courtroom so numbers inside are limited. Attendees may have to safely wait outside the Court for updates:

Morning Session1 - 10.30hrs (2hrs)
Session 2 - 13.00hrs(2hrs)

Monday 25 February 2019

Brent Council passes cuts budget with no opposition

Brent Council tonight passed the cuts listed in the post below with all Labour councillors in the Conference Hall when the vote was taken voting for the budget and the three opposition councillors abstaining. Cllrs Abdirazak Abdi and Jumbo Chan attended the Council meeting but were out of the room when the vote was taken.

It was noteworthy that for the first time the Tory Group (Trio) did not put forward an alternative  budget, surely the least that can be expected from a principled opposition. This enabled deputy leader Cllr Margaret McLennan, voice dripping with honeyed sarcasm, to thank them for supporting a Labour budget by not putting forward an alternative. The hapless trio made things even worse for themselves when Cllr Kansagra appeared to fall asleep during his own speech that for about the 5th year running blamed Gordon Brown for the world financial crisis.  Clearly nothing to do with the Tory government. Cllr Colwill followed by saying that there was 'loadamoney' hidden in many years' worth of unpaid debts to the council and accused Labout of not scrutinising council finances properly - he is vice chair of the scrutiny committee! Cllr Maurice lulled Labour into silence with a long soliloquy on diesel cars. A Labour councillor suggested that the leader of the opposition should lose his special allowance as he was not doing the job.

Oh for a proper opposition! Come back John Warren..! (Or John Duffy).

There was a refreshing willingness among most Labour councillors to call a spade a spade and not shrink from calling cuts, cuts, rather than 'savings', 'transformation', 'efficiencies' or even the dread new variant 'Hub' - although there were several hubs in the budget proposals.

Cllr Butt had not quite mastered this new language insisting in his final speech that the budget would do harm to Brent people but also that the vulnerable would be protected. The council is of course consulting on making those entitled to Council Tax Support pay more from 2020.

There were some good speeches from some of the newer councillors  as well as some obsequious one from some who should know better. Cllr Nerva sent a spasm through his colleagues when he made a veiled attack on the present national leadership of the Labour Party towards the end of his budget speech. He said that the events of the last week (presumably the  formation of the Independent Group) made it clear that in order to deserve to be elected Labour had to tackle anti-semitism and misogyny in its ranks. There was a scattering of applause.

Austerity hasn't ended! These are the services Brent Council will vote to cut tonight

The Council Meeting is at 6pm tonight at Brent Civic Centre, close to Wembley Stadium. You can watch live a transmission from the Council Chamber HERE Tweet comments using hashtag #BrentLive  There is a public meeting calling for a General Election to end Tory austerity on March 14th (DETAILS)



CUT £1,524,000 IN 2019-20 & £450,000 IN 2020-21 BY REMOVING 40 POSTS IN ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES








CUT £275,000 IN 2019-20 & £225,000 IN 2020-21 BY CUTTING RESPECTIVELY 6 & 5 CUSTOMER SERVICE POSTS


Sunday 24 February 2019

Support London National Park City Crowdfunder to make London greener, healthier and wilder

From Daniel Raven-Ellison London National Park City Campaigner & Founder

After years of campaigning I’m excited for the launch of the London National Park City in July. It’s only happening thanks to the actions of thousands of people like you.

I am now writing to ask for your support again. 

The London National Park City is a positive, proactive and inclusive way to help tackle many great challenges. The climate crisis, the extinction of species, air and water pollution, children not playing or learning outdoors as much as they should do, threats to essential public space and the state of our mental health are just a few of the problems that, by taking collective actions, we can make tangible progress on.

For me, one of the most exciting things about the National Park City is a set of two simple and powerful questions - “what if?” and “why not?”  It’s these questions that have underpinned our campaign from the beginning.

Set to London being a National Park City, the “what if?” can spark imaginations. What if there was more paddle boarding on our canals? What if my street was amazingly more green? What if there was more outdoor play, learning and exploration in schools? The “why not?”, when enough people start asking it, can create a significant tipping point where the imaginary converts into an expectation that delivers change. If London is a National Park City, “why isn’t there more paddle boarding? Why isn’t my street greener? Why isn’t my school doing more outdoor learning? Why aren't we protecting public space? Why don’t we have more hedgehogs? Why don’t we have cleaner air? Why not?”.

The National Park City Foundation, the charity that we’ve set up to help make the London National Park City a success, is currently running a crowdfunding campaign. I am hoping that you will be willing and able to support it before it ends in 11 days time. Time is running out and we need to get things moving. 

While we’ve led an effective campaign to make London a National Park City, we do not have the resources to scale-up our efforts in time for the July launch without your support.

For it to be as successful as possible, we need as many people as possible to understand what the National Park City is and how they can get involved. We also need to inspire thousands of conversations across the capital that lead to millions of actions that would otherwise not have taken place. Simple things like planting, playing, walking, swimming, cycling and sharing.

That’s why we are crowdfunding to create National Park City Maker, a newspaper-sized guide to getting involved with the London National Park City. We want to get these guides into the hands of influencers. They will also be tools that anyone can use to kick-start conversations with people in their building, on their street or at work. We hope the guide will lead to National Park City inspired groups forming in schools, organisations and communities across London and beyond.

While the National Park City Foundation has been highly effective in our campaigning, we’ve always relied on campaigns like this one to fund our efforts. Even a small contribution will help us move closer to our target.

If we hit our crowdfunding target we predict we will be able to reach 1 in 25 Londoners. This could have an incredible impact. 

We have some great rewards, including murals by street artist ATM and bespoke gold leaf maps by Urban Good.

Individuals can get their name engraved on the London National Park City Founders’ Stone which will be located in a publicly accessible place in London. You can also get t-shirts, a wooden National Park City aster* for your window and we’ll thank you in the paper too. Why not get copies for everyone on your street or at your work?

Organisations are in a great position to support this campaign. Contribute to the crowdfunder and then distribute copies of National Park City Maker to your staff, service users or customers. If you do so at the right level, we will add your logo to our "thank you" page. Organisations can claim a professional workshop on how to engage audiences from theWholeStory too. 

Small community groups do not have the financial resources that larger organisations have, but they are just as important. London can only become a National Park City because of the work small community groups have done across the capital over hundreds of years. If you represent one of these groups, help us hit our target with £10 or more and we’ll send you you some copies and include your logo in the guide too.

Let’s make something extraordinary happen - please do contribute to the crowdfunding campaign today.

Saturday 23 February 2019

Cries of 'Teach the truth on climate change' ring out at the Department for Education, London

Teacher's used their half-term break yesterday to support the action of school students in the #youthstrike4climate movement and made their own demands on the Department for Education to make the ecological and climate crisis an educational priority in a protest organised hy Extinction Rebellion and others. (See previous posting).

There were speeches from NEU and UCU members, school students who have been taken part in the Friday strikes and individual teachers.

Damian Hinds, Seceretary of State, was not available to take delivery of their letter or respond to their demands, so instead teachers and students delivered a series of powerful speeches which can be heard in the video.

In a disquieting way the warm and sunny February day was itself a testimony to changes in the climate.

Thursday 21 February 2019

This Friday in London: Teachers to bring Climate Truth to the Department for Education

Greta Thunberg's speech made earlier today on Video (In English) LINK

From Extinction Rebellion

Teachers, supported by Extinction Rebellion, will be protesting at the Department for Education on Friday 22 February 2019 to demand that the climate and ecological emergency is made an educational priority. As it stands a student could easily go through state education and hear climate change mentioned in fewer than 10 lessons out of approximately 10,000. This will be a peaceful nonviolent protest that may involve non-violent direct action.

Gathering from 12, midday at Old Palace Yard, Westminster, protesters will march to the Department for Education for 1pm (20 Great Smith Street, SW1P 3BT). Facebook event is here.

Speakers at the event will include Professor David Humphreys (Open University), Dr Anne Andrews (Cambridge University) and Dr Alison Green, who recently stepped down from her Pro Vice-Chancellor role to focus on full-time climate activism and who authored a letter published last week which was signed by over 200 academics in support of the Youth 4 Climate Strike.

The Department for Education is not enacting the Paris agreement

A central plank of the protest is the fact that the Department for Education is not enacting the landmark Paris climate agreement – which the British Government signed up to – which states: “Parties shall cooperate in taking measures, as appropriate, to enhance climate change education.” (Article 12 Paris Climate Agreement) 

There is currently no requirement nor any guidance on how to teach children about the climate crisis. Academies may not cover these topics at all, as they can be more selective about what they teach. One of the very few mentions of climate change in the National Curriculum for Science refers to the “evidence, and uncertainties in evidence, for anthropogenic climate change.”

Safi Yule, a 16 year old student from North London said:
 “I was lucky my parents told me about climate change but I should have got more information from my school, which didn’t teach this at all. I wish schools would pay as much attention to issues like this, which will change my world as much as me getting my grades at exams.”

Tim Jones, a secondary school teacher and an organiser from Lewisham in London, said: “Climate and ecological breakdown will define the life of every child and student alive today. They and we are facing an unimaginable catastrophe. But when I tell my students, it’s hard for them to take me seriously when it plays almost no part in the content of their education.”

Ex-teacher and head of department, Oliver Hayes, said: “It is clear from scenes last Friday – with thousands of children taking to the streets in more than 60 towns and cities across the UK for the Youth Strike 4 Climate – that children are standing up and saying enough is enough. Worryingly, this emergency has been almost ignored in teaching, especially in state secondary schools. It is taught as a difficult, peripheral and distant issue. Students need to know not only the truth about what is happening to their planet but also what needs to be done about it.”

Letter to the Department for Education

Teachers for Climate Truth sent a letter to the Department for Education on 6th February asking for three changes to the curriculum:
  • That the ecological and climate crisis is immediately announced as an educational priority.
  • That well-founded and evidence-based training is provided for teachers to convey this message, including the scientific and economic causes of the crisis, what governments and society need to do about it, and also on how to support young people when taking on this information. This should be implemented by no later than September 2019.
  • An immediate overhaul of the current curriculum, in the light of scientific evidence and without political interference, aimed at preparing children for the realities of their future on this planet.
The Department for Education response notes that there is coverage of the science and processes involved in changing weather patterns and they mention a new Environmental Science A-level. This is not good enough: it comes nowhere near providing students with an understanding of the realities and implications of the climate and ecological crisis.

“It is incredibly important: if there are only 10 lessons on climate change, that is awful,” said Scarlett Possnett, 15, from Suffolk. “And there’s not a single lesson telling us how to address it. Our government knows the solutions and yet will not take steps to implement them.”

200 academics sign letter of support for Youth Strike 4 Climate

Last week over 200 academics signed a letter in support of the Youth 4 Climate Strike. [2] Noting some of devastating impacts of climate change, the letter states, “It is with these tragic and desperate events in mind that we offer our full support to the students – some of whom may well aspire to be the academics of the future – who bravely plan to strike on 15 February to demand that the UK government takes climate action.”

There are no better words than those of Greta Thunberg – the 16 year old Swedish climate activist who created the School Strike for Climate movement that’s rapidly expanding around the world:
 “What is the point of learning facts when the most important facts clearly mean nothing to our society?” (More here.)
Alex Forbes, nursery teacher and Extinction Rebellion supporter believes:
 “The government has failed our children, not only is there so little on the climate and ecological climate crisis, there is nothing on how to stop it, about the impacts of increasing consumerism and our throwaway society.

“Schools are increasingly pressured to prepare students for exams, with little about the challenges of the real world. Due to government policy staff and students have to focus on tests and results, there is little rounded education.” 
Dr Alison Green of Extinction Rebellion:
“Children should be taught about the connection between our way of life – including the economic and political factors – and the impact it has on the ecosystem in which we live, the consequences of this way of life for us and the planet. Climate and Ecology should be taught as a discrete subject and embedded throughout the curriculum.

“Students should be taught, with adequate support, to think critically about the very real and significant ecological and societal problems of our times, and the possible futures that might ensue. Lessons in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and the Social Sciences need to be based on up-to-date evidence from reliable sources. While the curriculum needs to reflect the concerns raised in the IPCC reports, it must acknowledge that the IPCC, as a consensual body (including both scientists and politicians), has consistently underestimated the rate at which climate change is happening.”

Text of Extinction Rebellion’s Letter to the Department for Education
“To the Ministers and Employees of the Department for Education
6th Feb 2019
“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) told us last October that we have 12 years to radically change every aspect of society if we are to avoid disaster. Highly regarded scientists, like Peter Wadhams, have highlighted the political restrictedness of the IPCC and the glaring omissions and over-simplifications of its report. We must accept the likelihood that 12 years is a vastly over- generous window of opportunity. We have killed 60% of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish since 1970. Insect populations are collapsing, coral reefs are bleached and dead, natural disasters are worsening, crops are failing, forests are being felled or burning and forced migration is beginning.
“If we keep this information out of the public domain – out of schools, for example – perhaps we might avoid some awkward conversations in the years to come. We could say we never knew. After all, who wants to tell a child that, unless we make unprecedented changes to how we live, we are heading for societal collapse, famine, war and the increasing likelihood of human extinction? Telling the truth exposes us to the responsibility of facing it ourselves. Which is exactly why we must tell our children: not simply to inform them (many are far better informed than older generations) but also so that we can be held to account for our own actions. We must follow the example of the brave young people who will, on coming Fridays, be striking from school to demand truth and action.
“When we have had the evidence for decades, why does it amount to little more than a footnote in our national curriculum – a vague and marginal concern? Geography lessons cover the basic theory but in the national curriculum for Science the evidence for anthropogenic climate change is described as ‘uncertain’. The issue could be mentioned in as few as four Science lessons in the entire course of secondary education. In academies there may be no mention at all. If not in schools, where should the public learn about where our way of life is taking us? Power knows the value of ignorance. Our Government is increasing subsidies for fossil fuels while presiding over an educational system that effectively denies the consequences of such a policy.
“Imagine if we had the courage to make our schools places where students learned how to repair the damage we have caused. If we have the courage to act now they could be the ones to revive our dying soil, regenerate biodiversity and rebuild the ecosystems that sustain us. But we must act now. We must teach students more than just how to pass tests. We must give them the opportunity to discover what is wonderful and life-giving. And we must urgently equip them with the skills, insight and courage to face what is coming. To do otherwise is an act of criminal negligence.
The evidence tells us that any imagined future for which we are currently preparing our young people is a dream that will never be realised. The lives of every one of our children will be defined by the effects of climate and ecological breakdown. We therefore make the following demands:
“1. The ecological and climate crisis is immediately announced as an educational priority.
“2. Well-founded and evidence-based training is provided for teachers to convey this message,
including the scientific and economic causes of the crisis, what governments and society need to
do about it and also on how to support young people when taking on this information. This
should be implemented by no later than September 2019.
“3. An immediate overhaul of the current curriculum, in the light of scientific evidence and without
political interference, aimed at preparing children for the realities of their future on this planet.
“Please – because we love our children so much – let’s teach them the truth.
We await your response with due impatience and loving rage:

Brent meeting on March 14th will call for a General Election to end austerity

Brent Trades Council, Brent Momentum and the People's Assembly will be holding a joint meeting on Thursdy March 14th at the Learie Constantine Community Centre, Dudden Hill calling for a General Election in order to end austerity.  Speakers include Ronnie Draper from the BAFWU, Eddie Dempsey from the RMT, Kiri Tunks from the NEU, Sabby Dhalu from SUR and a speaker from the Peoples Assembly, Dr Aislinn Macklin-Doherty and our very own Cllr Jumbo Chan who will address Brent issues. Obviously each speaker will address one aspect of the fight against austerity-academisation, precarious workers, safety on the railways and the fight against the rise of racism.

The aim is to re-ignite a campaign against austerity and the cuts in Brent.

On Monday Brent Council will make yet another round of cuts transforming many services into a 'reactive model' which means for example, that you don't get litter picked up as a matter of routine but only when you contact the council about it, as well as the closure of children's centres and slashing environmental services.  With 60 out of 63 councillors Labour it will be interesting to see how many vote against the cuts budget.

The People's Assembly Conference back in December 2015 LINK passed a motion (below) calling for high profile resistance to cuts but this was not followed through when the Labour Party said that local councils must make 'legal budgets' and anti-cuts campaigns fizzled out as 'no cuts' budgets would have been declared illegal. Locally the anti-cuts campaign Brent Fightback died a slow death.

Conference calls for

People’s Assembly to launch a national campaign for councils to refuse to set cuts budgets this year and instead set ‘needs’ budgets based upon estimating what is actually needed to adequately maintain services and campaigning for the government to provide it.

Conference therefore resolves to

1.  Publicise and develop arguments around ‘needs budgets’ to aid activists
2.  Prepare model motions calling upon councils to set no cuts budgets for use by local anti-cuts groups, trade union branches etc
3.  Give a platform to, and amplify voice of councillors who vote against all cuts
4. In all council areas an electronic petition could be drawn up demanding councillors vote against all cuts, raising directly the issues that we face and the responsibility our elected representatives have to fight back.
5.  Rectify lack of material on PA website supporting local campaigners around council cuts, especially around the political arguments (i.e.  responding to ‘cuts have to be made’, ‘we have no choice’, ‘what would you cut instead’)
6.  Organise a national meeting for councillors, trade unionists and anti-austerity campaigners to explore how councils can resist.
7.  Compile and share information on examples of council ‘best practice’ in resisting austerity such as using reserves, no bedroom tax eviction policies, pledges of non-cooperation with the Trade Union Bill, Manchester Council opening up empty buildings to homeless etc.”
The meeting above will take place after Brent Council's cuts, some of which go into 2020-21 have been approved and implemented. How many of the above demands are still relevant?

Resistance has now become a matter of calling for a General Election before the fixed term date of May 2022. Unfortunately huge damage has already been done to child and adult care,  children's centres, and youth services and the poor have to pay an increasing proportion of rising council taxes. If Parliament runs its full term it will be hard to rebuild services.

Radical solutions to local government financing are required as well as ways of making local councils much more democratic with full involvement of all councillors,  proper scrutiny and links to community organisations and campaigns.

The full list of budget proposals including cuts ('savings') can be found HERE

St Raph's Redevelopment Latest - Meeting tonight at Oakington Manor Primary School

Brent Council is holding a meeting this evening (6pm February 21st) at Oakington Manor Primary School* for St Raphael's Estate residents and stakeholders based on the estate  to discuss the appointment of an Independent Advisor.

The Independent Advisor according to the Council will:
  • Set up and run a Tenants/Residents/Stakeholders Board. The Board will have a formal structure and make sure that tenants and the community are formally engaged in the process to arrive at a preferred option for the Estate and are at the forefront of decision making.
  • Provide independent advice to all those who live withing St Raphael's regardless of tenure.
  • Carry out engagement and consultation, which will include enabling all tenants, residents and stakeholders to contribute to the decision-making process related to the future proposals in accordance with best practice and to disseminate information and encourage attendance at events and activities which are taking place.
The Council has invited 5 organisations to bid:

1. Communities First Foundation
2. Newman Francis Ltd
3. PPCR Associates Limited
4. Priority Estates Project
5. Source Partnership

Residents and stakeholders will decide who will be recruited as their Independent Advisor at two meetings - tonight's and on March 5th.  Tonight's workshop will concentrate on questions to ask the organisations above, discuss what they want the the Independent Advisors to present at the next meeting, and whether they wish to attend the meeting with the Independent Advisors.

The meeting on arch 5th at 6.30pm at Oakington Manor School will enable residents and stakeholders to have the final say on who their Independent Advisor will be. They will be able to  hear presentations from the applicants, ask questions and  vote for the Advisor of their choice.

As the St Raphael's Twitter account states above there is also a meeting planned for February 27th at Brent Civic Centre 6.30pm-8.30pm. This will be a public meeting for a wider discussion about the future of the estate which includes the key issue of refurbishment or demolition and new build, with the latter financed in part by private housing.

*Oakington Manor Primary School, Oakington Manor Drive, Wembley HA9 6NF

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Public urged to support divestment of Brent's pension fund from fossil fuels - sign the petition

A meeting at City Hall on March 6th will bring together councillors and council officers from across London to consider the practicalities of divesting local authority pension funds from fossil fuels. Brent Labour Party's local election manifesto pledged to start the process and other London boroughs have made similar pledges.

Bringing together people from different boroughs is important as council have shifted pension fund investments  into a cross borough Common Investment Vehicle (CIV). Investment decisions will vary borough to borough as their pension funds will be in different positions in terms of the value of their investments versus pension commitments. Some will be looking for a high return to top up funds, with an associated risk, while others will be in a strong position and happy with lower returns on more risk-free investments.

Fossil Free Brent - non-party political campaign has been gathering signatures on a petition setting out the case for divestment and recommended actions by Brent Council:

The petition is below. You can sign it HERE
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) [0]
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 [1]. 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 [2]. Moreover, this activity has resulted in unprecedented levels of air pollution, now regarded as a major world killer [3].

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’ [4].

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.


Monday 18 February 2019

Brent Council to increase signatory threshold for planning petitions to be considered by Planning Committee

The proceedings of Brent Planning Committee have been a concern for some time with residents often feeling that their views on applications are not sufficiently taken into account.

A proposed constitutional change, ostensibly designed to reduce the burden on the Planning Committee, may have the effect of reducing the chance of a hearing for the objections of local residents on particular proposed schemes.

The present situation is that a petition will only considred by the Planning Committee if it has at least 10 signatures. Identical or proforma letters or emails are currently not treated as individual objections but as if they are signatures on a peition. 

The proposal is that the 'petition' will now only be considered by Committee members if the number is 51 rather than 10. Below that level the petition will now be considered by officers not members and only referred to the Planning Committee if the officer decided it was appropriate.  The provision for a planning application to be considred by the Committee if requested by a least 3 councillors would remain in place.

The proposal:

Planning Petitions
.        3.7  Standing Orders contained within the Council Constitution provide that for planning applications and other planning issues, there must be at least 10 signatures before a petition is considered by the Planning Committee. This requirement is repeated in the Planning Committee terms of reference. The position in respect of other petitions is that they are only referred to members if the number of signatures exceeds 51.
.        3.8  It is proposed that the position for petitions relating to planning applications be aligned with that for other petitions. The Planning Committee should deal with the largest and most strategic applications which require a greater level of public scrutiny; rather than smaller scale applications which may only raise local, rather than strategic issues. Big committee agendas increase use of both Councillor time and council resources in terms of preparation, presentations, administration and the general conduct of the Committee meeting; which as things currently stand, is not always the most effective and/or proportionate way of addressing such issues.
.        3.9  Items which are referred to the committee should warrant consideration by the committee. The threshold for planning objections triggering referral to the committee was increased from 3 to 8. Identical or proforma letters or emails are not treated as objections but as if they were signatures on a petition. Requiring only 10 signatures to a petition, which are easier to obtain than separate objections, can result in minor applications being considered by the Committee. This has related to around 3 applications over the past year and there is clearly scope for this to increase.
.        3.10  If this change is agreed, officers would consider petitions with up to and including 50 signatures and if the officer felt it was more appropriate for the Planning Committee to consider the application, the Head of Planning would still have the discretion to refer the matter to the committee. The provision for referral of applications to the committee where requested in accordance with the Constitution by at least 3 councillors will remain in place.