Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Tile murals – Wembley Park’s heritage in the balance

Guest post by Philip Grant

If you have been following the story of the Bobby Moore Bridge planning applications LINK , you may have seen this comment which I added last week:

There has been an interesting, and potentially useful (to objectors), development over the advertising consent application.

I said in my blog above that the only person who had been consulted about the application was a Council Officer in the Transportation Unit. That was true at the time, but because of the nature of the objections raised, the Councils Principal Heritage Conservation Officer has also been consulted.

His comments are not available to view on the Planning website, but I have obtained a copy of them. He has said that he is pleased that the twin towers mural and plaque are being recognised as part of Brent's Heritage'.
He has set out several items which Quintain need to submit before their application can be properly considered, including that there should be a heritage/significance statement about the tiles.

I have come across such heritage/significance statements before, particularly over the developers (and Brents) attempts to demolish the original Victorian library building at Willesden Green in 2012, as part of the redevelopment of the former Library Centre.

I fully expect the heritage expert, who Quintain will hire to produce this statement for them, to play down the significance (or importance) of the tile murals.’

From 2013 until 2018, both Quintain and Brent Council appeared to be playing a game of “Don’t mention the Murals!”  The public call to both of them by Wembley History Society in April 2018 LINK , to put the tile murals back on permanent public display, put an end to that game. 

Now Brent’s planners have finally realised that the murals are a heritage issue, which has to be considered in making decisions on planning applications affecting them. How they will deal with that issue remains to be seen, but they are holding he future of Wembley Park’s heritage in the balance.

Quintain’s planning agent has submitted a “Statement of Significance” on the tile murals, which was published on the planning web pages for applications 19/1387 and 19/1474 on 5 June. I submitted an “Alternative Heritage / Significance Statement” on 9 June, which will probably not be published by Brent. Copies of both should be available to view below.

Although the Quintain “Statement” runs to three pages, its assessment of the “significance” of the murals is so short that I can quote it in full here:

‘Bobby Moore Bridge is neither a statutorily nor locally listed structure, nor is the tiled mural and it is not located within a Conservation Area.  The tiled mural is a bespoke piece of public art installed as part of the highway works to pedestrianise Olympic Way, to enliven what would have been blank structural wall and whilst also referencing the history of Olympic Way, Wembley Stadium and Wembley Arena.’

Such heritage statements are supposed to include photographs of the “asset” being considered, and its site context. The “Statement” by Quintain’s agent says that ‘a photographic record of the mural was undertaken on 18 March 2019’, but does not include any of those photographs. I suspect that they may be “dangling a carrot”, hoping to tempt Brent into approving their applications, but with a condition that they make the photographs publicly available.

My “Alternative Statement” includes all of the photographs I have of the murals. Even if you think it is too long to be bothered reading, please have a look at the photos and accompanying descriptions at 3.11, 3.13 and 4.4 to 4.15. These will give you an insight into the tile murals, and the Wembley Park history that they portray.

The agent’s “Statement”, of course, puts a positive “spin” on Quintain’s plans – instead of none of the tile mural scenes being visible (because they have been covered up with adverts since 2013), the current proposals will put one scene back on view! Or in their words:
‘Through this sensitive design approach, the tiled mural is not only exhibited but its role as part of the history, character and appearance of Olympic Way is recognised for future generations.’
My response to that is:
‘Viewing this as a way to mitigate the substantial harm caused by covering up the rest of this heritage asset, it is like taking away the only copy of a valuable book, and giving back just a single chapter, which only discloses a small part of Wembley Park’s rich history.’  
The people of Brent own that “book”, and I hope that Brent’s planners will ensure that it is returned to us. They have been given good reasons why they should refuse Quintain’s two Bobby Moore Bridge applications.
Please read the two documents below, if the Bobby Moore Bridge tile murals are of interest to you. 

The documents may also be of interest if you are involved in opposing another planning matter yourself, to get an insight into the ways that developers’ agents present (or misrepresent?) the facts, and ways that this can be challenged.

Philip Grant

Click bottom right corner to enlarge


1 comment:

Philip Grant said...


Apart from the actual planning, advertising consent and heritage issues around the two Bobby Moore Bridge applications, I have been trying for the past month to ensure that both 19/1387 and 19/1474 are considered and decided together, and that if planning officers do recommend them for approval, they will be referred to Planning Committee to consider and decide.

I thought that this had been achieved, when the paper petition objecting to the applications (with 283 signatures) was submitted on 2 June, as the Planning Committee terms of reference say this will happen when 'a petition containing at least 51 signatures [has] been received.'

However, as recently as 10 June, Brent's Interim Head of Planning wrote to me saying:
'I’m afraid I’m not minded to refer these cases to planning committee.'

I replied, quoting "chapter and verse" from the terms of reference (part of Brent Council's Constitution), and at lunchtime I received this further message from him:
'Good afternoon Mr Grant I have followed up on this with Executive and Member Services and confirm that we will be referring both matters to Planning Committee. I expect that to be the 16th July meeting but we will contact you with details of the relevant committee meeting in due course.'

I have replied, saying:
'Thank you for your email, and confirmation that applications 19/1387 and 19/1474 will be referred to Planning Committee, probably at their meeting on 16th July.

Your reply appears to assume that both applications WILL be recommended for approval. As the Case Officers, and Heritage Conservation Officer, have been given very strong planning reasons why the applications should be rejected, we will have to wait and see whether that is the case.

I will note my diary to keep 16th July free, in case I do need to attend the Planning Committee meeting.'