Friday 28 June 2019

Call for halt to regeneration of council estates in Brent until concern over sub-standard housing addressed

Chase House, South Kilburn
Concern over the quality of housing in regeneration areas, including South Kilburn (above) first raised on Wembley Matters LINK has continued with reports of sub-standard work in Argo House,

Now Hampstead and Kilburn Constituency Labour Party has called for a halt to future regeneration in South Kilburn and across the borough, pending a Brent Council consultation with affected communities. In a motion passed unanimously last night they said that the halt should last until Brent Council and affected communities are satisfied that the housing being built is of sufficient standard and that the housing associations and property developers are taking their responsibilties to the community seriously.

The motion cited sub-standard work both externally and internally and neglect and failure to act by both developers and housing associations.

Proposals for a ballot of  residents of blocks affected by the next round of regeneration  on South Kilburn are  expected to be announced soon. Meanwhile residents on St Raphaels Estate continue to be concerned over demolition and regeneration proposals there with many preferring a programme of refurbishment.

Thursday 27 June 2019

Brent's Journey to Justice - Willesden Green Library

Joyce Bacchus funeral arrangements

From Brent Council

The funeral of former councillor and Mayor of Brent, Joyce Bacchus MBE will take place this Saturday (29 June).

There will be a funeral mass at St Erconwald Catholic Church, Preston Rd at 10am. Her interment will then take place at St Mary's Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green.

This will be followed by a reception at Brent Civic Centre at 1pm.

Mayor of Brent, Cllr Ernest Ezeajughi said:
Joyce set a wonderful example not only for her successors as Mayor, but also for all of us in her dedication to public service and the many ways in which one person can make a difference.

She will be sorely missed by everyone at the council and the communities she so tirelessly represented.

Wednesday 26 June 2019

Petition launched asking Brent Council to declare a Climate Emergency

Dawn Butler MP, members of Brent Friends of the Earth and constituents at the #Time Is Now Climate Emergency lobby at the House of Commons today
 An e-petition has been launched by Brent XR  calling Brent Council to declare a Climate Emergency - a measure already taken by many local authorities.

The petition reads:
We the undersigned petition the council to declare a Climate Emergency and develop an action plan to decrease carbon emission accordingly and make Brent more resilient to climate change.

Due to human activity, the global average temperature of the planet has increased by 1 degree compared to pre-industrial levels. According to the IPCC, an increase by 2 degrees Celsius will be dangerous for mankind and 1.5 is still in reach but urgently needs drastic measures. However, we are en route to an increase of 3 to 4 degrees by the end of the century.

Cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions as carbon emission results from both production and consumption. Cities are also easier to decarbonise than rural areas.

Individuals cannot make the necessary reductions on their own. The UK parliament has declared a Climate Emergency but all governments (national, regional and local) have a duty to limit the negative impacts of Climate Breakdown. Local Governments that recognise this have an obligation to implement the necessary measures and incentives to work towards carbon neutrality by 2025.

We call on Brent Council to include the following points as part of the action plan;

- invest in the appropriate infrastructure,
- develop residential and commercial incentives,
- develop guidelines for businesses and provide resources to assess carbon footprint,
- protect and prosper natural habitat,
- report every 6 months on measures taken, accomplished progress and results.

The petition can be found HERE

I understand that a motion declaring a Climate Emergency may be debated at Brent Full Council meeting in July.

Works to demolish Wembley Stadium pedway & replace with steps will now not take place until AFTER Euro 2020

Controversial works to replace the Wembley Stadium pedway with steps will not now take place after Euro 2020 despite Brent Planning Committee being told in September 2018 that they would be completed for the Euro 2020 matches to be played at Wembley.

Members heard that the steps were intended to be in place for 2020 when Brent would become the Borough of Culture and Wembley National Stadium would host European Nations League finals.
-->The European Nation Leagues Final final will be held on July 12th 2020. One of the reasons cited for the urgency over pedway replacement was it would would provide a fitting modern gateway to European matches at the stadium as well as contribute to public realm 'improvements' to showcase the Brent Borough of Culture 2020. Now they won't be in place until after both events.

Brent Council told Wembley Matters today that works are scheduled to start in late 2020 and will be completed in Summer 2021.

The works will be complex and disruptive. Unfortunately the Site Management Plan no longer seems to be available on the Brent Council website but I published extracts on Wembley Matters HERE

Controversy was not just a matter of whether the pedway replacement was needed, and whether steps would be safe, but also the fact that Brent Council was using money paid to the Council (almost £18m) by Quintain in Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) to spend on the pedway replacement, reconnection of North End Road to Bridge Road and other Olympic Way improvements when many felt it could have been spent on infrastructure improvements elsewhere in the borough.

The commencement date for the North End Road-Bridge Road reconnection works has been postponed from the July 1st start date but is still expected to be finished by January 2020.

Tuesday 25 June 2019

HEY, BRENT! LEAVE OUR SCHOOL ALONE! - Strathcona 'family' picket Brent Civic Centre over school closure

Stratcona pupils deliver a very cxlear message to Brent Council
Staff, parents and children from Strathcona school in Brent descended on Brent Civic Centre, waving colourful homemade placards. Cllr Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Council was caught on the hop as he came into work. There was a very lively exchange. Cllr Butt will be meeting further with Unions and Staff Reps tomorrow.

Cllr Muhammed Butt addresses the picket line
Parents put their point of view to Cllr Butt

Butt at Bay VIDEO

Brent Councillor Jumbo Chan said:
 I offer my complete and utter solidarity to the striking Roe Green Strathcona staff.

The proposed closure of Strathcona and subsequent loss of jobs concurrent to the proposed opening of further free schools and academies, represents another shameful attack on public education and indeed community ownership in Brent.

The staff’s brave action is a defence of public education itself, and I implore Brent Council to defend and grow - rather than again surrender - our valuable community assets.
 Strathcona was opened by Roe Green Infant School at the request of Brent Council when the authority was unable to place all primary age pupils in local schools. The two schools are managed as one so staff on both sites are affected.
Other local schools were expanded to meet rising demand but despite demand levelling off, and reducing in some areas, Brent still plans to open an Ark primary free school in the car park at York House, on a busy road near Wembley Stadium station.  Some of the expanded schools have been unable to fill all their additional places. This produces a strain on school budgets already affected by the failure of government funding to keep up with inflation, pay increases and school pension costs.

Primary schools last suffered from falling pupil numbers in the 1970s which led to some schools closing, some merging and others being reduced in size.  Staff were often compulsorily deployed to other schools and some made redundant.

Monday 24 June 2019

Hear about the PCS union's pay campaign Wednesday 26th June - civil servants fight back on pay & restriction on TU rights

Speaker Cathy Cross – PCS officer
Brent Trades Council open meeting on
Wednesday 26th June 2019 7.30pm
PCS pay campaign-Repeal the Trade Union Act

Hard working civil servants have seen the value of their pay fall through the floor over the past decade. They need a pay rise. 
Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)  members in the civil service voted by four to one in favour of strike action and action short of strike over pay. The ballot turnout of 47.7%, was the highest ever achieved, but is still just under 3,000 votes short of reaching the required 50% threshold.
In a politically motivated attack on workers’ rights, the coalition government introduced an undemocratic restriction with the Trade Union Act 2016 requiring a 50% turnout threshold and other restrictions.
Willesden Trades and Labour Hall

375 High Road

London NW10 2JR
Willesden Trades and Labour Hall
375 High Road
London NW10 2JR
--> -->

Thursday 20 June 2019

Brent Momentum presses Council on education, regeneration, universal credit evictions and fossil fuel divestment

The latest Bulletin from Brent Momentum reveals areas of frustration with Brent Council policy implementation many of which have been covered on Wembley Matters.

Education is a major issue with the failure of the Council to oppose the academisation of The Village School and the proposals for a free school at the Roundwood Centre, are source of contention. The Bulletin does not refer to the proposals to close Strathcona School but I presume Momentum will support the threatened NEU strike action.

The failure of Brent Council Regeneration proposals to take account of community concerns in Granville/Carlton and Bridge Park is criticised as is the failure to ensure the quality of new build on the South Kilburn Estate.

Momentum strongly support the cross-party Divest Brent campaign which is urging Brent Labour to fulfil its local election pledge to divest its pension fund from fossil fuels.

Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council is often accused of making promises and then not fulfilling them, so Momentum is pressing for Butt's promise to not evict Council tenants unable to pay rent due to Universal Credit delays, to be incorporated into official  Brent Council policy.

Wednesday 19 June 2019

UPDATED WITH VIDEO: Queensbury pub WON'T be demolished but Wembley green space WILL be built on

Save the Queensbury Campaign present their case against demolition of the pub

Mapesbury Residents' Association present their case against demolition of the pub

 The developer's planning advisor and the publican present their case

It was an evening of contrasts at Brent Planning Committee today. The latest round of the Willesden Green Queensbury pub saga ended in victory for the Save The Queensbury campaign when councillors rejected the Officers' recommendation and voted down the developer's latest plan B by 5 votes to 2.

No less than four local councillors from Willesden Green and Mapesbury spoke against the developer's proposal and there was a written submission by Cllr Tom Miller who could not attend. A powerful submission by Deputy Mayor, Cllr Lia Colacicco, was read out for her by Cllr Liz Dixon, with Cllr Colacicco following proceedings via the livestreaming. She argued that there had been no proper consultation by the developer, merely an exhibition with no discussion, it was an off-the-peg design that would not win any prizes and emphasised the Planning Inspector's comment that 'less than substantial harm' occasioned by a development, does not equate to a less than sub-substantial objection.

The most telling submissions were made by Ian Elliott of the Save The Queensbury campaign and a spokesperson for the Mapesbury Residents Association who clearly had hundreds of people behind them. They had done their research and mastered their brief which was not always the case with planning officers who were left leafing through their numerous documents in some desperation.

Perhaps the most pathetic moments were when the developer's planning agent tried to claim that there WAS a kitchen in the plans and officers tried to indicate a tiny space on the projected plan, unmarked, which they said was a kitchen space; and when officers tried to justify that a black 'tin roof' on the new building would somehow both be in keeping with, and enhance, the area.

The combination of strong community campaigning winning the support of councillors led to victory.

This morning the Save the Queensbury Campaign said:
We’ve asked Brent Council leader Muhammed Butt and Chief Executive Carolyn Downs to review officer conduct running up to & including the meeting last night. Misleading content in reports, biased extracts, incorrect verbal info given to councillors brought local government & planning into disrepute.
In contrast the arguably more far-reaching plans to build on green space in central Wembley went through unanimously with no representation from residents and ward councillors. There was a passionate intervention from the public gallery after the committee had unanimously agreed the proposal with little discussion. The resident lived opposite the proposed development and felt that she had not been properly informed or consulted.

Another London Road resident lamented that her neighbours were not interested enough to get themselves organised and that the area felt neglected by ward councillors and their MP Barry Gardiner. A new development at the end of London Road would add to congestion and crowding and she declared vehemently that after what had happened she wanted to move out of Wembley.

The architect for the development admitted that few people had turned up at the London Road consultation and that this was a continuing problem with people only getting involved when it is too late.

Officers did not mention that many of the trees that will be cut down to make way for the housing development have Tree Preservation Orders on them but it appears that when the development is on Council owned land little can be done to stop the felling.  Planning officers accepted the claim that planting saplings on the estate will make up for the loss of mature trees.

The loss of green space which is both a SINC (Site of Importance for Nature Conservation) and a wildlife corridor is a worrying precedent when we have a council desperate to build much needed housing but with a blind spot regarding the environment and heritage. Officers accepted that a few bird and bat boxes was sufficient mitigation for the loss.

The Save The Queensbury Campaign have now published their own account of the meeting HERE

Staff to strike over Strathcona school closure

From Brent National Education Union
Brent Council Cabinet voted on Monday to move to a Formal Consultation regarding the proposed closure of the Roe Green Strathcona site school. This was despite overwhelming opposition from staff, parents and the community to this during the informal consultation where a massive 463 written responses were received with only 3 in favour and 460 against (99.4%). A petition with 396 signatures opposing the closure was also delivered to the Council but was ignored too.
The Council also received an unprecedented letter from Brent North MP Barry Gardiner where he stated that there were so many flaws in the informal consultation that...
 If council officers had been actively trying to prepare a case for the closure of the school, these are precisely the measures they might have taken.
Brent National Education Union has highlighted the risks to staff jobs if Strathcona is closed – and they have conducted a ballot of their members for action which was overwhelmingly supported.  They are seeking an urgent meeting with Gail Tolley, Strategic Education Director, to try to resolve these concerns. Failing this NEU members will be on strike on 25th June.
Lesley Gouldbourne, Brent NEU Secretary, said :
It is extraordinary and shameful that Brent is refusing to listen to parents, governors and staff at Strathcona - a school in the top 3% of the country. At the same time as it is preparing to close Strathcona because it says there are not enough pupils, it has given planning permission for ARK Sommerville - a primary Free School in Wembley- to open! You do wonder what is really behind this proposal.
Brent Councillor Jumbo Chan said:
 It is disappointing Brent Council is proposing to close a local school, thus ignoring both staff and parents. The fact that there may also be a new academy being opened compounds this disappointment. Brent Council should reconsider its decision, and seek a new alternative.

Monday 17 June 2019

Pride of Brent Youth Awards nomination deadline extended to June 23rd

From Brent Council

The deadline for nominations for the Pride of Brent Youth Awards has been extended to Sunday 23 June 2019.

Nominate a young person today for the Pride of Brent Youth Awards!!! Use the link below to download a nomination form.

Pride of Brent Youth Awards 2019

Nominations are now open for the 2019 Pride of Brent Youth Awards. The Pride of Brent Youth Awards aim to celebrate the achievements of our young people across Brent. We want to recognise young people who try hard to make a difference in their community and those who often put others before themselves. We would like you to nominate those young people who make Brent a better place to live and work in 2019.

You know who they are: they’re the young people who have excelled often overcoming their own personal difficulties to do so. They are the young people who lead by example and who make time to help others in their community.

These young people come from all walks of life, from different backgrounds, ages and cultures. The positive impact they make can be seen throughout life in Brent.

Nominate a young person today and help us celebrate the young people who really do put the Pride in Brent.

Nominations must be received at the Civic Centre either in electronic or hard copy by Sunday 23 June 2019.

There will be a Pride of Brent Youth Awards ceremony taking place on Saturday 20 July 2019 here in Brent Civic Centre.

Access the nomination forms and guidance using the link below or go to the front page of the Brent Council website.

If you have any questions, please email us -

Saturday 15 June 2019

Planning Committee to decide whether to build on designated open space in Wembley Central

At the end of the long London Road, off Wembley High Road, there is a little known open space adjacent to the playing fields behind Ark Elvin Academy and Elsley Primary School. The open space is designated as such in Brent's Core Strategy Policy CP18 but planning officers argue in their report going to Planning Committee on Wednesday 19th June that it should be built on, partly because part of it has been covered in tarmac:
Officers do not consider that the site has the character or usability of conventional open space despite its designation as such. Officers therefore consider that the space could appropriately be developed for residential uses without materially detracting from the value of the playing fields open space designation.
The site is close to a Grade 1 Site In Nature Conservation (SINC) which is close to the brook to the south and is also designated as a woldlife corridor.

When I visited the site much of it was fenced off but these photographs show the nature of the site.

It is planned to remove 29 of the 43 trees on the site, including all those that have a tree preservation order.  I am not sure if it is proposed to fell the very handsome mature oak on the site that can be seen in the satellite view. Officers argue that there will be a net gain as 85 new trees will be planted as pat of the development.

Overall they argue that the loss of the open space is outweighed by the gain in terms of housing. The plan for the site can be seen below. Click bottom right corner for full page view.

As well as new housing there will be a replacement community centre slightly smaller than the present one but no new youth centre:

NAIL (New Accommodation for Independent Living) Residential Units (25 total)
     17x studio flats 8 x 1 bedroom flats
Residential Units providing temporary accommodation (53 total)
32x 1 bedroom flats (which are adaptable to a 2 bedroom layout)
21x 2 bedroom flats (which are adaptable to a 3 bedroom layout)

General Purpose Residential Units for Affordable Rent (92 total)

10x 1 bedroom flats
61x 2 bedroom flats
13x 3 bedroom flats
8x 3 bedroom houses
Community Centre (293sqm indoor space + 168sqm outdoor space)

There have been four letters of objection to the development and a 57 signature petition of objection from nearby households. Elsley Primart School supported the development on the basis of local housing need.