Thursday 29 August 2019

Queensbury Public Inquiry Day 2: 'If the conservation area can't protect residents from a cheap and nasty block, then what is it for?'

The 'one man' Save the Queensbury Campaign
Cllr Lia Colacicco, a Mapesbury resident for 27 years, Mapesbury councillor since  2014 and now Deputy Mayor, opened today's proceedings with her statement of opposition to the proposed Queensbury development.  The Mapesbury Estate was a unique neighbourly  estate, particularly for London. She described the Mapesbury Residents' Association with its multiple activities and its key Planning Sub-Committee trusted by their peers to preserve and enhance the conservation area.

Living in a conservation area brought its own rules and responsibilities and a design guide that residents had to follow making maintenance more expensive than elsewhere. Since the proposal resident have threatened non-compliance with the guide asking, 'If they allow that big block why can't I do just as I wish.'

Cllr Colacicco asked, 'If designation as a conservation area cannot protect residents from a cheap and nasty block, then what is it for?'

The Appellant's  QC often with a lofty disdain tried to undermine Ian Elliott  of the Save the Queensbury Campaign asking him if he was a professional planner, lawyer or architect and later if he was qualified in Environmental Health.  Clearly frustrated the QC asked Ian what his role was in the Campaign. Ian thought for a minute and then said with a grin, 'ring leader I suppose' and went on to vehemently deny the suggestion that he was  a politician.

The QC asked about Save the Queensbury's constitution, officers etc as if it was an organisation such as the National Trust. Elliott deadpanned saying that not many oub campaigns had such a structure.  The QC clearly implying that Save The Queensbury was a one-man operation then went through a rigmarole about  the number of Queensury Campaign's Twitter followers, whether Twitter followers were tracked to see where they live (he suggested they might just be people defending a real ale pub they felt was under threat, rather than local residents) and then attacked the Save the Queensbury website as misleading.  It was clear that the Campaign had the appellants rattled with the QC resenting the intrusion of a mere local resident into the professional club. Ian later proved his mettle in his presentation and cross-examination of the scheme's architect.

The architect claimed that there were 'not many' similarities between the 2015 Fairview proposal and the current application. The architect said that he had a different approach and 'contextualised' the scheme to reflect the local area. Brent Council had not been interested in a vernacular design. Regarding the roof he claimed that 'if you stand opposite a building with a set back roof you can hardly see it.' He had tried to 'do something different' with the roof but with a similar tone and colour but  different texture to slate roods on Walm Lane buildings, It could be changed to grey slate under Conditions.

There was considerable debate over whether the proposed building would 'urbanise' suburban Mapesbury amidst fear that one 'urban' building  over the railway line would set a precedent for others to be built in the area.

It took about 5 minutes for the Appellant's QC to read out the qualifications of their next expert witness, Mr Stewart, who said the Queensbury was a pleasant building that benefited more from its site than any particular architectural merit. He suggested it did not have a strong relationship with the conservation area while the proposed building had been designed with the conservation area in mind. He commented that the buildings in the conservation had a greater variety than usually found in such areas. Under cross examination by Brent Council's QC he said that the proposed building was at the 'possible end' of potential harm rather than 'substantial.'  Brent's QC highlighted the fact that Stewart disagreed with aspects of both the previous Inspector's report and the Heritage Impact Assessment.

The Public Inquiry will convene earlier tomorrow, at 9.30am, and will hear a contribution from Cllr Tom Miller followed by a technical discussion on 'Conditions' what will be required of the developer if the Appeal is successful.

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