Friday 31 July 2020

Cautious limited re-opening of four Brent libraries. Face covering and Test & Trace details required

From Brent Council

At the beginning of July, Brent Council began a phased reopening of library, arts and heritage services to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for staff, residents and visitors returning to their local libraries.

Wembley Library and The Library at Willesden Green were the first to reopen. Ealing Road Library and Kilburn Library will reopen on Monday 3 August. The opening hours will be 10.30am - 2.30pm.
We are currently working hard to make Kingsbury Library and Harlesden Library Plus Covid-secure, and expect both to reopen during August.

Brent Council request contact details for all library visitors to support the NHS' Test and Trace' programme. Adult visitors must also wear a face covering. This is mandatory unless you are in an exempt group and you may be asked to leave if you refuse to fill to complete the Test and Trace or wear a face covering.

Customers will be able to borrow and return books and DVDs and reserve computers, however there will a limit on the number of people able to enter the libraries at any one time.

A number of services including Wi-Fi, newspapers and journals, and study facilities will not be available for now, but this will be reviewed regularly. The Willesden Gallery and Brent Museum and Archives will also remain closed for the time being.

Residents are encouraged to continue using the e-Library to access thousands of e-books, e-magazines, newspapers and other digital resources from the comfort of their own home, by visiting

Brent Museum and Archives also has exhibitions, school resources and access to the museum, archive and photography library online for everyone to enjoy.

To support library users during this time, all items currently out on loan have been automatically renewed until Tuesday 1 September and the Brent libraries phone 020 8937 3400 and email service will be available Monday to Friday from 10am-5pm if customers need any help with their account details or accessing the e-library.

Brent’s Home Library Service will be restarting, delivering books and magazines to vulnerable residents, using our strong team of local volunteers. If you are unable to leave your home and would like to know more about this service please contact the library service.

Brent Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health, Culture and Leisure, Councillor Hirani said:

The reopening of Wembley Library, The Library at Willesden Green, Ealing Road Library and Kilburn Library is a really positive step, however we still need to be cautious as COVID-19 has not gone away.
That’s why these four libraries will be open on a very limited basis at first with safety measures in place, so we can make sure we’re taking every step to protect staff and visitors.

Residents can access the e-library at the click of a button so I’d urge people to continue using this if they can. If you do choose to visit the library, please make sure you maintain social distancing at all times and follow the instructions of the library staff.

As part of the phased reopening of the libraries service, these libraries will be the first to open with plans to open the rest when it’s safe to do so.

Thursday 30 July 2020

Judgment in Brent Council v Bridge Park case not expected until September. HPCC blow when constitution not found

After hearing closing submissions from the Counsels for Brent Council and Leonard Johnson the Judge, Michael Green QC,  said he was unlikely to deliver his Judgment before September.  He said that he would decide on a legal basis if the defendants had a beneficial interest in the Bridge Park site but said that in itself that would not resolve the issues between the parties.  He said that the parties needed to talk together: 'Everyone needs to move on.'

The issue of whether HPCC had a constitution in its early days remained unresolved today when Mr Cottle admitted to the Judge that a search yesterday had failed to come up with a copy. They had found a copy of a draft working ducment for the Bus Garage Steering Group, a later organisation that included HPCC members.

The constitution was vital to establishing the status of HPCC and thus its claim for an interest in the land which is the nub of the case.

The Judge told Mr Cottle that if there was a document he needed to know. He said, 'Perhaps the other side would have wanted to ask  Mr Johnson and Mr Anderson questions about it.' The Judge said the document needed to be located and handed over to the Court. It was amazing that the council had not insisted on a constitution befor handing money over to HPCC.

The two sides in the dispute had sent the Judge  more than 100 pages of written closing submissions which enabled proceedings to take less time than expected.  It did mean for those observing the case remotely exchanges were harder to follow today with frequent references to the submissions, ancillary documents and legal precedents.

Mr Cottle asked to submit amendments to the Bridge Park case one of which related to Mr Leonard Johnson's status.  Cottle said this would be signed tomorrow and the Judge asked that it be signed and a photograph of it sent to him.

The submissions related to the issues that have already been reported on here and included the conflict between the parties on the status of HPCC and its charitable purpose and aims; whether HPCC could be said to have an interest  in the land and the status of 'an aspiration' to buy the lease; who actually owned the project, the implications of the Covenant required by the GLC and its implications for future use of the land and whether it was indented for charitable purposes,; the role of Brent Council in the early stages of the project and the implications of the different funding streams in terms of ownership and any subsequent breaches of conditions; whether there was a conditional trust at the commencement of the project and many more complex issues accompaned by references to rulings in previous cases and legislation one side or the other thought was relevant.

Brent Council was anxious to prevent any future action by the defendant in terms of a restriction on the land arising from the claim and said that their development project was 'respectful of the Bridge Park legacy.'

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Stonebridge 1981: 'Don't burn it down - let's build!' The Brent Council v Leonard Johnson hearing

The young campaigners at the disused Stonebridge bus garage
Paul Anderson, who worked with Leonard Johnson from the beginning of the project in 1981, was cross-examine don his witness statement by Ms Holland, Brent Council's Counsel.

He said he had attended a youth club on Stonebridge which put on lots of activities against the background of agitation and riots elsewhere in the country.

Anderson said that HPCC did have a written constitution, he had seen it and many activities were borne out of that constitution. 'We were young 20-22, and talented and worked with the CDA (Co-operative Development Agency). We couldn't have been part of Itec if we didn’t have a constitution.'

He could not give the exact date of the constitution but said it was produced around 1981-8.

Holland asked if it could have been the Steering Group constitution he was remembering. Anderson said, no, HPCC still had their own constitution. They had a General Meeting to elect people and had to put something together to say how they would operate. The constitution developed, 'We were active in stopping people destroying our community. We did it our way. Alice Holt (CDA) would have known what HPCC stood for, we were part of the Steering Group. We had so many activities that we had to have rules and regulations - we did it our way. We knew we had to have some sort of governance to the best of our understanding. As we developed, we got all sorts of professionals coming in to help is.'

He added, 'I'm passionate about this. It's an asset and they're trying to take it away.'

The Judge asked if there was any document that covered aims and objectives, financial controls, voting etc.

Paul Anderson said they did. They had to have a quorum and voted for chair, treasurer.  The contributed what they could. HPCC was on a learning curve - he was there.

Anderson was asked if he had the constitution with him. He said he hadn't brought it. He would have to look in the attic but they'd had a constitution to this this day.  He promised to try and get it for the court.

When he appeared to go off the point Ms Holland said sharply, 'Answer my questions. This isn't a street protest.'

Anderson said, 'I am a member of Bridge Park. I believe we own Bridge Park, we put a lot into it. Bridge Park belongs to the community.' He denied that there was any monetary in the case for him personally. He said he did not see himself reaping any financial benefit from the asset as it was for the community.

He continued, 'We had a vision to become self-sufficient. That's what we told the community: "Don't burn it down - let's build!" We campaigned to get the old bus garage, ran classes. When we got it, the message went out that this belongs to the community - not just to HPCC. We made the building what it is.'

Ms Holland asked about the vision, generation of revenue and aim for self-sufficiency within 5 years. She asked if Anderson was part of a project aiming to purchase the site.

Mr Anderson said the vision was making what the community wanted happen. A place for education, performance, training -'It was ours. People were inspired and helped to build the project.'

Holland said, 'You didn’t think you were owners. You could have sold it.'

Anderson said it hadn't crossed their minds that they could sell it.

Holland challenged, 'It didn't cross your minds because you didn't own it.'

Anderson: 'Nobody thought we'd sell it. It was the community's.'

The Judge intervened asking, 'You didn’t think the property was yours?'

Mr Anderson responded that they expected at one point they would get it. 'The message was that it was ours. We own it but we weren't going to sell it.'

Holland put it to him that they knew they didn't own the land but sometime in the future it could happen.

Anderson said he accepted that.

Holland continued, 'The anticipation was for the Community Co-operative, not HPCC.' Anderson replied that HPCC represented the community. Whatever mechanism allowed that to happen.'

Challenged by Counsel that only two mentions of his name could be found in documents and that he wasn’t involved in setting up Bridge Park, Anderson said there were many facets in the project and different roles. He was involved in the Itec and put his heart and soul into it: 'To see that taken away. Turned my back and it was gone. It was awful.'

He said he was not directly involved in meeting with the council [setting up Bridge Park] but involved in working with the DTI and council for the IT project.  He was not involved in setting up the HPCC but was a living witness of the campaign and getting the community behind the project. 'It was beautiful.'

Mr Cottle asked Anderson about a document written by representatives of the HPCC in July-October 1981 entitled, 'Realities of Life in Stonebridge' and another with the same title dated December 1981. Anderson said the two were slightly different.  The Stonebridge Bus Garage Steering Group document was more about what would be put in there, the other was a contextual report.

The next witness was former Labour councillor Bertha Joseph, who switched to the Conservatives in 2007.

Ms Joseph said that at a Labour Group meeting held when Merle Amory (now Abbott) was leader in 1986/87, Amory informed those present that HPCC was planning to buy the bus garage. Joseph had joined the council in 1986.

Holland pointed out that the garage had been bought by the council 4 years before - that didn’t make sense.  Joseph said she remembered Amory saying it at the time.

Holland suggested it was the Steering Group that could buy, not HPCC. Joseph said it was the HPCC that was around at the time. She had known about their work before becoming a councillor and the awful lot of work they did for young people at Bridge Park.  She was a 24-year-old councillor and had never heard that it belonged to the council. It was a community project. When the community heard that HPCC was buying the garage they were excited. The council didn’t have a connection with young people. She saw Leonard as the leader - the President.  The police had no control. There was no riot because of the project.

She added that taking it away now would be devastating for the community.

The next witness was Richard Gutch who had worked for the council but for a few years after he left continued to offer pro bono advice to the project when they requested it., and again more recently. He had met with the new project manager at the time and as an outside helped them assess contractors,

Gutch has asked to amend his witness statement because following Carolyn Downs' cross-examination he now knew the proposed development involved more than a swimming pool. He had thought it was a private development contrary to community use.

Ms Holland asked about the transfer of land to Brent Council from London Transport: 'Are you clear that Brent accepted the land?'

Gutch agreed but said HPCC were working very well as partners and when resources allowed would be legal owners. He understood that there was an expectation that they may be able to get a lease with an option to buy but that would be dependent on the project's sustainability. Brent were the legal owners.

Mr Gutch said that Johnson recognised that initially with help from funders Johnson recognised that that the land would be in the name of Brent. Gutch's advice was that it was great to have a vision but to take one step at a time.

Holland quoted a 1982 document with a factual statement that the council was purchasing the bus garage for this project. Gutch said, 'Yes but would be run and eventually purchased by HPCC.'

Ms Holland followed up stating it was always ultimately the council's property.  Gutch agreed and said as the council was making a contribution, they set out safeguards on how a potentially risk situation went.  Safeguarding ownership rested with Brent as was true of all Urban Projects.

Turning to the issue of Mr Watkins of Watts County Holland said that the significance of his meeting with him was about ownership.  Gutch said that Watkins had a number of facilities in Watts. He told HPCC that ownership enables you to do more things. It inspired Johnson and others to that aim.

Holland questioned Gutch again about ownership and the Urban Programme funds. Summing up she said that the asset was ultimately the council’s at the end of the day. Gutch agreed. She quoted GLC conditions, 'acquired for and controlled and run by the community.' Gutch agreed.

Gutch told Mr Cottle that he stood by his statement that it was 'not for the benefit of Brent [Council] in its own right.' The point was that it was being run by HPCC as a community-controlled project which had impressed funders who would not normally be politically sympathetic.

Both Counsels are preparing written submissions today and the hearing will continue tomorrow, (Thursday)

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Leonard Johnson at Bridge Park hearing: 'This was going to be a legacy for our community - for the future' Blames Council's 'skulduggery' for project's downfall

Annoyingly, and not good in terms of seeing and hearing justice being done, on-line observers could not hear the first 15 minutes of today's cross examination of Leonard Johnson, the defendant by Brent Council's Counsel.

Ms Holland QC for Brent Council suggested the fact that the council had to give the Bus Depot Steering Group a licence to enter the site showed that permission had to come from them because they had no rights to the property.

Mr Johnson replied the project could not have continued without such a licence because they were part of the tendering.

Holland returned to the now familiar refrain that HPCC was managing and running the project. There was no community ownership by HPCC or any other entity.

Johnson retorted that it was theirs because it was they who went for the depot. If they'd got professionals involved, they could have done it for themselves. 'It was our project but the council dropped on us. It was for the community.'

He said, 'The council should be the defendant, not us. The council gave us licence and lease but I don't agree they were the owner. The council was a big enough organisation to help us but we could have got developers to do it, just like the council is doing now.'

Answering a further question Johnson said, 'All along I had confidence in the council to do what we wanted. We were naive - we were youngsters.'

Turning to the lease on the depot, Holland said there was no documentation about signing the lease on condition of it including a right to buy the freehold.  Mr Johnson said he did not sign the lease because they didn't get the freehold.  His experience was that you couldn't trust the council when it came to leases.

The Judge asked if there was any correspondence regarding the lease. Johnson replied that he went to the EC (European Community) to get the full amount. He didn't want the MEP to represent HPCC.

Holland reiterated that it was Brent Council's case that there was no understanding, no representations, no agreement that there was a lease giving an option to buy.  She went on to ask Johnson what entity had interest in the property.

He replied that it was the organisation they were going to setup to take over the running of the project. not the Steering Group, that would transfer to a new organisation. This would be for the whole community - not just parts of it. It was never set up. This was council 'skulduggery'. 'They have a poisonous tongue that goes back into their belly.'

He concluded, 'We fully accepted that it would go to the community. It was our building - our project. The Black African Caribbean contribution has been not just for a few years but for hundreds of years - it was our money as well.'

Referring to Charles Wood, former Brent CEO, Mr Johnson said that he had no credibility, 'He never expected us to succeed.'

Questioned further he said that the council had helped, the leader of the council was excited about their visions. It was a partnership: 'where is that partnership now? '"This is what we are going to do to you and your community."'

Johnson said that they believed this project was going to be a legacy for 'our community - for the future.'

When Ms Holland said the assets were down to the nature of the vision - 'not because you felt you had an option for the freehold?' Johnson said he did not agree, 'All the assets, licence, leases, freehold - everything we did was about owning the project - not a nice place for the council to claim the credit for.'

Holland repeated there was no documentation regarding ownership and no record of any representations. Johnson replied, 'I have said before, it was our initiative, we were doing it for ourselves.  We were going on our own and the council got involved. They let the building deteriorate. They wanted to make us obsolete. They are stealing from us if I can it that strongly.'

Holland suggested that they were benefiting from being able to take the profit from Bridge Park. Johnson retorted that they were paying back bank loans at a high rate of interest. Loans that were unnecessary because the council could have gone out with them to get a loan.  When Holland pointed out they had income from Bridge Park before then Johnson said they had ploughed it back into the project.  'We were helping people set up businesses. The income helped us retain what we were trying to achieve.'

The Judge asked if the loan was repaid and Holland replied that the council had paid it, including interest.

Johnson said at the time of the Midland Bank loan things were haywire at the project. Money was being taken away. He said the council were the author of their own misfortune. They were looking down the road at a £50m project sold for £12m to a developer. The loan was nothing in comparison to the contract the council was now engaged in.

Ms Holland about the document written by Charles Wood that summarised the complex reasons why the project failed. Johnson said that Wood was 'being economical with the truth'. He organised the downfall of the project with the councillor on the board (mentioned yesterday).  Lettings to various groups stopped. 'When the councillor came on the board, that's when our downfall began.'

Johnson said that reports about him and the project were what orchestrated the failure. Allegations that millions had been stolen from the project. 'Mr Wood, no one from the council, refuted the allegations. It was in the Daily Mail, the local paper..'

The Judge intervened to say that Mr Cottle, the defendant's Counsel, had not wanted him to see the press cuttings as he didn’t think they were relevant. Turning to Mr Johnson he said, 'I understand you don’t accept the council's account of the end of the project. We are just going to have to disagree on that. The fact is that it did fail in the 90s.'

Ms Holland turned to the subject of charities.  She said HPCC was not a charity but had an aspiration that the future organisation would have charitable status. That is the only reference to charity in the case.

Johnson said that HPCC had charitable aims, they were doing charitable work as volunteers. They were never a private organisation working for profit.

Holland pressed, 'There was no question or discussion that the property was being held by a charitable trust at the outset.'  Johnson replied that they had been volunteers from day1, donations and all been voluntary. Holland quoted Charles Wood's evidence that he didn’t recall any discussion of charitable status or that it was held on trust.  All witnesses at the time said the same thing. HPCC was not a charity. Johnson replied that they and to be a charity to get the money - 'we were a voluntary organisation.'

Ms Holland said that the application for restriction on the sale was made in 2018 but Johnson had not done anything or layed claim regarding the property. Johnson said, 'We wasn't consulted. They just told people what they wanted to do.'

The next interchange was about Johnson's status as a trustee with the existence of a constitution for HPCC being doubted by the Brent Council Counsel and affirmed by Johnson. Holland referred to the original report that said the HPCC council was 10 people, elected by 60 young black adults, - it had no written constitution. Mr Johnson said that they were developing a constitution at the time. They wanted to be unincorporated - not part of something bigger.  Holland responded that they didn’t want to be like other organisations.

Johnson then claimed that there was a constitution and Holland asked why it hadn’t been revealed in the papers. The Judge intervened to say it might be in the second tranche and they needed to get to the bottom of the issue of whether there was a constitution.

Holland then asked for evidence that Johnson was a trustee.  Johnson said he had always been a trustee but didn't know if it had been written down. There was a document appointing him Chair of HPCC.  The Judge asked if there were minutes of HPCC meetings. Holland said there was one document that was not described as minutes but may serve as one.

Attention turned to Leonard Johnsons' Defence Statement and Holland pointed out it said, 'Mr Johnsons should not be a party in these proceedings. She said, 'Why shouldn't you?'

Johnson said, 'I’ve never seen the document. I can see my name there; I can see I signed. Maybe, there is a gentleman called Mr Mastin, the thing is...'

The Judge asked if he disagreed with the content of the document.  Johnson said that he had gone through days of reading documents. He wasn't well. Holland challenged asking, 'Are you saying you don't read them? You don't really care what they say?'

Johnson: 'I do read them and I do care.'

Holland said, ‘The document says that as HPCC is unincorporated you are not a trustee. Are you disagreeing with that statement?'

Johnson asked for time to read the document again. He thought he had read it before he came to court.  After reading he said, 'I'm trying to think why I signed this.'

Holland quoted, 'HPCC is and always was unincorporated' and 'was not a trustee.' The Judge interjected to say that it could be a legal statement.

Asked by Holland about the statement that he should not be a party to the case, Johnson said he didn't know how he had missed the 'not'. He said he had been working and had asked for more time to get witnesses and Brent Council refused.

Holland then asked him about the statement that he'd resigned from Bridge Park, saying that it must have come from him. Johnson replied, 'I don't know what I have done here.'

Johnson was then asked about the transfer of HPCC to Stonebridge Community Trust (HPPC) Limited.  The transfer had taken place before any claims to the property.  Johnson couldn't remember if the committee had put it together without any legal advice.

Referring to the dates on the document Holland said two predated 8th May 2019 when there was a claim that SCT (HPCC) had an interest.

John said that was the vehicle they were using now.  It is still one and the same organisation.  The Trust is the organisation HPCC were transferring everything to.

Re-examining Mr Cottle checked which document Johnson was refusing to sign and he said the lease document which didn’t include an option to buy. Cottle asked who Ted Watkin was. Johnson said that was an American entrepreneur from Watts County.  He told HPCC what he was doing at a meeting at Hill Top. He gave a presentation about independence and self-sufficiency in front the of the Chief Executive and councillors. They had performances and put on a show.  Johnson said, 'The idea of having assets came from us, He agreed. Richard Gotch shared a document on how we could own our own assets.' The report by Tom Bryson refers to an understanding that lease should have an option to acquire the freehold. 'The meeting with Ted Watkins allowed us to look at ownership, He made several trips to advise us.'

Cottle referred to the GLC document that spoke of a 'unique idea'. Johnson said he had met Ken Livingstone and his deputy and told them about their aims. Mike Bichard was there. They all agreed and Ken Livingstone backed the whole programme.

Cottle asked about Wimpey surfacing the Bridge Park car park and whether there had been more private funders. Johnson said there were a number but remember them off the top of his head.  They contributed to construction work.

The next section was distorted by unmuted phones and phone conversations taking place and I can’t report on it with accuracy.

Johnson said he was a trustee and chair of HPCC.  The reason he was sitting here now was because he had been called back by the community and the leader of the Conservative Party in Brent. 'They said, "They're going to sell Bridge Park," I said, "They're not!" '

The Judge asked what HPCC had been doing since the 1990s. Mr Johnson said they had run training programmes, events, work with churches, activities. A number of things had been going on.

The Judge asked if since that time he had heard about Brent’s plans. Did he have a continuing interest?

Johnson said there was a continuing interest. Funds were cut, the bar was closed, because it had become a free for all, undesirable people began to infiltrate. People who there by then couldn’t control it. That culture took over. He had thought that the council going back would flush them out but they also threw out the new group that wanted to work with them.

The Judge asked if at any time he had said to the council that they still had an interest in the property.

Johnson replied that HPCC members still used the building. They still had an office there and put on activities.

The Judge asked it if was only when council released the [redevelopment] plans that Johnson was re-energised. Johnson said it was when the council began to run it down. People were saying the council was trying to sell it. They were taking leases away from people and issuing CPOs 'I came back and said it's not fair.'

The Judge then asked Johnson what he wanted out of it. Johnson replied, 'I want a partnership. I want the council to reform the partnership.  We get the freehold and we work with developers.'

The Judge asked, 'You want to reinstate what was there in the 80s?' Johnson replied, 'I think there's a dynamic group of people who could work together with the developers.'

The Judge remarked, 'This case is going to need more work between the parties - encourage them to get together.'

Johnson told Mr Cottle, who had resumed re-examining, that they had continued to meet in the building. 'I told the council you can't stop us having a meeting there.  I made it clear it wasn't their building.'

The Judge told Mr Cottle it would be helpful if Mr Johnson could find the constitution.

There was a break at this point. I will write about the evidence of Paul Anderson, Bertha Joseph and Richard Gotch tomorrow.

There is no hearing tomorrow.  The court resumes on Thursday.

Brent relents! – Planning consultee comments to be published in future

Guest blog by Philip Grant.  He deserves congratulations for winning a victory for openness and transparency.

This subject may appear to be of limited interest, but if you are ever affected by a planning application, or if you ever have to deal with Brent Council over any issue where you feel they are not acting reasonably, I would invite you to read on.

Just before the first “virtual” Planning Committee meeting on 6 May, Sudbury Town Residents Association sought to have the station car park application adjourned from the agenda, on grounds including that Statutory Consultee comments were not available to view on Brent’s website. STRA’s request was ignored, although Planning Officers persuaded the committee to adjourn it, after they had voted to reject the Officers’ recommendation.

Consultee comments on planning applications can be useful to help both potential objectors and applicants understand the points at issue on the proposals, particularly on a large application. There might be over 100 documents to look at, a daunting prospect for any resident who finds out about an application that might affect where they live. Why shouldn’t they be able to see what TfL, Thames Water or any of the Council Officers dealing with matters such as air quality, transport or noise think about the merits or defects of the proposed development?

I had raised a similar point on the 1 Morland Gardens application. The first comment I submitted, on 1 March, said: ‘Under the "tab" View Consultees Comments, there are notes of many people who have been invited to comment, but none of their comments are actually available to view. All comments made by any of these consultees should be included here, just as comments for or against the application by members of the public are shown, in the interests of openness and transparency.’

This is what you get if you want to "View Consultees Comments" for application 20/0345!
When there were still no consultee comments shown for application 20/0345 later in the month, I raised the point again in an email with Regeneration Admin. Services, who look after the planning website. The initial reply I received was: ‘we do not publish [these] comments on our public access system, unless specifically requested to do so, as some commentators complain when we publish their comments.’

I questioned this response, as comments from members of the public are all published (without their name, but with their address shown). My reasoning was: ‘When those comments are made by Brent Council officers, about planning applications which themselves are open for public consultation, it surely goes against the Council's own policies on openness and transparency not to make their comments publicly available?’ I asked for the matter to be passed up to the unit’s manager for a reply, and was told that it had been, but no reply came.

As heritage would be a key issue in the 1 Morland Gardens case (with the Council seeking to demolish this locally listed Victorian villa in Stonebridge), I did manage to obtain a copy of the consultee comments from Brent’s Principle Heritage Conservation Officer in April (under FoI!). Martin also obtained a copy, and published his comments as a blog. Among other things, they said that the building ‘should be considered an important local heritage asset of high significance’, and that ‘additional information needs to be obtained before a proper assessment of the proposals can be determined.’

1 Morland Gardens (with No.2 beyond) - 'an important local heritage asset'.

When those consultee comments, or any others, had not been put on Brent planning’s website in May, I took up the matter again with the Case Officer. He said: ‘we only publish comments made online on our website, but of course will consider all comments received – both from internal and external consultees - when evaluating a scheme.’ I responded that: ‘In the interests of openness and transparency, all consultee comments, whether from the public, council officers or other consultees should be publicly available on the website, as all are relevant to anyone considering the application(s).’ I asked for this to be referred to a higher level.

Experience has taught me that you can’t rely on the summaries of consultee comments that Brent’s planners include in their Officer Reports to Planning Committee. I was an objector in another heritage planning case a year ago (the Bobby Moore Bridge tile murals). A key consultee comment was summarised in a single sentence: 'The Council’s Principal Heritage Officer notes that, given that the tiles are not a designated heritage asset, the proposals are a reasonable compromise.' 

I had obtained a copy of the comments (again, under FoI!) and the Report failed to mention the Heritage Officer’s comment that: ‘These colourful tiled murals … have artistic, historic and cultural merit.’ That would have helped the objectors’ case, but also would have undermined the planning officer’s recommendation to approve the application!

 'These colourful tiled murals have artistic, historic and cultural merit.' (Photo courtesy of Quintain)

The Case Officer did refer my detailed explanation, of why all consultee comments on planning applications should be made publicly available, to Brent’s Development Management Manager (“DMM”). When chasing up for a reply, in mid-May, I mentioned that STRA had also raised the absence of consultee comments with the Council (they never received a reply). 

The DMM’s response was: ‘We are not legally required to publish comments on our web site, but we do publish comments that are made using our online portal as these are automatically redacted. We don’t publish other comments due to the time taken to redact the comments (and associated cost).’ He did say, however, that redacted copies of consultee comments would be made available, on request to the Case Officer.

I made clear in my reply that this was now a complaint, as the Council should be making consultee comments publicly available, because of clear statements in Brent’s Constitution about openness and transparency, as part of supporting the active involvement of citizens in the decision-making process. The way to solve my complaint was simple – consultees should be asked to submit their comments using the online planning portal, just as ordinary members of the public have to do, and their names would be automatically redacted!

My helpful suggestion met with a short (and rather sharp) response from the DMM in June:
‘I note that you believe that our current processes are not in line with statutory and constitutional obligations.  I don’t share your view.  Our practices are in line with relevant obligations.’ He did, however, say: ‘we will evaluate your suggestions.’

I felt this attempted “brush off” was unacceptable, so referred the matter to Brent’s Chief Executive as a Stage 2 complaint, saying: ‘Unless Brent Council can show, clearly, why it has no obligation to make consultee comments on planning applications publicly available, just as it makes other comments on those applications publicly available, it should acknowledge that its current practice is not acceptable, and change that practice forthwith.’

The initial acknowledgement was not encouraging, as I was told that the Head of Planning would be dealing with my “Stage 1” complaint. My response, to the Chief Executive, was polite but firm: ‘[The Head of Planning] may well need to ensure that the Planning Service's practice over "consultee comments" is changed, as a result of my Stage 2 complaint, but I look forward to hearing that the complaint itself will be properly dealt with by an independent officer, as set out in the Council's complaints procedure.’

On 27 July, nearly five months after first raising the matter of consultee comments with Brent’s planners, I finally received a satisfactory answer, by way of a letter drafted by a senior Complaints Investigator and signed by Carolyn Downs, Brent’s Chief Executive (see copy below). While it does not admit that the existing practice of not publishing consultee comments goes against the promises in Brent’s Constitution (‘The legal advice was that the constitution does not specifically require internal consultee comments to be published as a matter of course.’), that practice will now be changed.

The letter says: ‘Your complaint has however helpfully contributed to a discussion which had already commenced within the Planning Service about whether statutory and internal consultee comments should be published on the planning application database, regardless of the absence of a legal or constitutional requirement to do so. The Planning Service has now reached the conclusion that it would be beneficial to publish statutory and internal consultee comments in future.’ Whether or not ‘the discussion within the Planning Service’ only commenced when faced with my Stage 2 complaint is just speculation. The result is that ‘the new approach’ to consultee comments should be fully implemented within the next 3 months.

More "View Consultees Comments" entries from the 20/0345 application details on the Planning website.

That won’t help for the application I raised the matter over, which will probably go to Planning Committee in two weeks time. I am still waiting for some further consultee comments I requested on this, especially those of the Principal Heritage Officer in response to the June 2020 Heritage Impact Assessment, and my own objection comments on that.

I hope that others will take heart that, through polite but persistent pressure, it is sometimes possible to make Brent Council take action over a reasonable request – but they make you work hard for it! I also hope that more people will be encouraged to respond to planning applications that may affect their lives, make use of the extra information that will become available through consultee comments, and put in their own comments (either objecting or in support) where they have a view which they feel strongly about.

Philip Grant.

Monday 27 July 2020

Leonard Johnson's marathon appearance at Bridge Park hearing and more to come tomorrow

The day started with a brief conversation about  Counsel and some court room staff appeared now wearing facebooks.  Apparently guidance was issued last on Friday.  The Judge decided he was sufficiently social distanced not to have to wear one!  The combination of an echo on the sound and the masks made it very hard to hear properly but that was eventually remedied.

Mr Cottle for the defendants said that he was 'parking' the possible amendment to change the pleading.  The change appears to be switching from a claim that HPCC and successor organisations owned the property, to one that they were granted a lease that stipulated an option to eventually buy the freehold, with the expectation that they would do so. The legal point being argued  is whether that is sufficient for them to be deemed to have an interest in the land.

After Mr Cottle detailed issues around the plea the Judge said, 'We now know what the point is, whether it's a good one or not...'

The first and only witness today was Leonard Johnson recognised as the young man in 1981 who spearheaded the campaign for the Harlesden/Stonebridge community to have a physical base of its own at the Stonebridge Bus Depot site from which  they would run a community organisation providing a range of activities for the black community of the area.  His close cross-examination, with three breaks, lasted all day and will resume tomorrow.

Ms Holland, Counsel for Brent went straight into the issue of ownership of the site producing a 1985 document  about the Steering Group, which Johnson has signed, that she claimed showed the council owned all the site.  She said that if HPCC had an interest in the property it would have stated so in the document.

Mr Johnson said that this was the only way, the council had told them (in 1982) that HPCC couldn't sign because they were not incorporated. Holland said the council had by then owned it for 3 years. By signing it Johnson had acknowledged that the council had ownership.

Johnson said that perhaps they had been naive at the time. 'If we knew we would have no rights we wouldn't have signed.  The council was a legal entitiy and we were not.  The council had come on board saying, we wil work with you and get the garage.'

Ms Holland asked if Johnson had been a director of the Steering Group all the way through. He responded that he had resigned in 1991 and 1992 and for the last time in 1994.  He had done this at a public meeting of about 400 people when he felt his character was being assassinated. The Kilburn Times has asked, 'Was he pushed or did he jump?'  He had resigned for the good of the community so the project could continue.

Mr Johnson said that a councillor has been elected to the Steering Group board and was one of those who attacked him, 'He was a racist and slandered me.'  After that he had not been involved with the steering group but the HPCC still had a majority on the board. He was involved in other HPCC projects in the community.

There was then a discussion about whether the board had professional legal advice and whether the adviser was experienced in property law.  Johnson said, 'Brent had top lawyers, we couldn't afford that.'

HPCC  had legal advice over management  training, business units and contracts.

Ms Holland then put it to Johnson that if HPCC had a legal interest in the property the adviser would have raised it. He replied that it wa raised many times. 'The lease and the freehold had been spoken about and we wrote into the lease that we had an option to purchase - first priority as we had got the majority of the funds.'  Holland said if there was some entitlement to the building, the legal adviser would have raised it and it would be documented.

Mr Johnson claimed it was documented. The old campaign had been about getting the building. 'I was happy getting the money for the building, the staff and getting it up and running.  Brent had to take control as we were unincorporated but we always believed we owned the building.'

Ms Holland said 'You have changed your case very recently and very substantially, It is an extensive change in the last few days.  The claim throughout was that you [HPCC?] were the sole beneficiary but you now claim that HPCC would have the lease and one day have an option to buy the freehold.'

Mr Johnson said, 'All I am saying is that the council were going to get the project for us and after a while they wanted their money back. Bridge Park is unique - it is not just a leisure centre.'

Holland then referred to Mr Johnson's Witness Statement  which she said made no reference to an option to buy. It argued that the defendants owned the entire beneficial interest in the property. 'You made a statement that what you said was true. The claim was that you were the owner of the freehold. You never claimed in the statement that you had an option to buy the freehold. This was nine months after you claimed to register the restriction. Did you care if it was true?'

Johnson: 'It's true.'

Ms Holland referred to a 1988 Brent Council Policy and Resources report that stated the project had dropped the request to purchase the freehold 'for the time being.'  Johnson said he didn't remember it.

Holland said there had been no reference to any request on option to buy until 1986 and then dropped in 1988. It was then not raised again until June 2020. She told Johnson that the reference in his evidence was not until June 2020.  It had never been raised until then and so the claim had no credibility.

Mr Johnson said 'for the time being' may have been due to legal work that needed to be done of Brent Council finances,

Challenged that if there had been an option it would have been raised frequently. Johnson said it had been raised frequently.  'We went along with it because at the time the council was working with us. All along we felt we owned the property.  I know in my heart we weren't working for the council - we were working for the community.'

Ms Holland returned to the issue that June 2020 was the first time the claim had been made.  Johnson said, '2020 was when we had to build our case.' Holland pressed the point that he hadn't  been involved in Bridge Park since 1992 - the council had started consultation about it in 2013.  'You had never put in a claim  in all those years.'

Johnson answered tht he had only been engaged with the HPCC. He was called back when the council wanted to sell the land. 'The leader of the Conservative Party said, "You need to get back" '
There had been a meeting about the future of Bridge Park called by Cllr Butt (Leader of Brent Council,  attended by Dawn Butler MP (Brent Central), and he had refused what they offered.

There was further discussion about Johnson's involvement later when and Johnson said he was unwell and in hospital so he couldn't ger involved, the extent of his knowledge was via one or two individuals. He was called back when Bridge Park was threated.

Holland challenged that he was underplaying his involvement and had more knowledge that he was saying. Johnson denied that this was the case.

Speaking about the intial campaign Leonard Johnson said, 'We saw ourselves as the oweners.  As young boys we had to have ownership but it was in trust until we got older and more mature.  Brent were taking care of our part in the project and waiting for us to mature.  We employed professional staff but everyone trained up an apprentice to take over.'

Ms Holland said that all documentation since the time of acquisition indicated that all parties were proceeding on the understanding that the council acquired the property.  Johnson replied, 'We were unincorporated, people off the street, we couldn't buy it. The council had to do it for us. It was only after we stopped the riots that the council said, "How can we support you?" and we said they could help us get the bus garage.'

When Holland said that ownership was always going to be with the council, Johnson replied that if that had been the case 'we would have had nothing to do with it.'

Referring to the document about the project which had a preface signed by Johnson, Holland said it stated that Brent Council would buy the property and HPCC would manage it: management is different from ownership.  Mr Johnson said in the long-term the project would be self-financing and they were committed to buying the freehold. In the short-term it need an injection of hard cash. 'We were always commited to enggaing with the council. They were our main partners.'

Holland reiterated, 'It is clear ownership and acquisition was with the council and the project was managed by HPCC.'

Johnson  said he totally disagreed. Responding to the Judge he said the document had been drafted by Brent Council. Holland pointed out the document made it clear  it had been drafted with the assistance of the HPCC. There had been a distinction from the start between ownership and management. In the short-term with HPCC and then with the community co-operative.

Johnson retorted, 'No way we were prepared to just manage for Brent Council, 'manage' doesn't mean we didn't see ourselves as owning it.

In a long section dealing with the sale by LT of the bus garage and whether it had been at a discounted rate, Johnson said, 'The council couldn't have bought it for themselves. The council had no use for it. We had the vision.'  Holland quoted evidence that there had been 16 other conditional offers for the bus garage - it hadn't been taken off the market as Johnson claimed.

At this point Johnson made a mention of the Covenant on the sale which protected BPCC's interests in the community development and was inserted at the instigation of the GLC. (1)

There had been problem regarding planning permisison for other applications but LT constitutionally had to realise the market value and that, according to Holland, was what happened.

After the lunch break Ms Holland asked Mr Johnson complex questions about the latest judgment in the case, repossession and circumstances around the lease, leading him to exclaim, 'To be honest I haven't a clue what you're talking about!'

Johnson said they were all volunteers, working for the community 'out of the heart, not for income: that's our culture.'  Going back to 1981 he said the vision was self-sufficiency, 'developing our own economy, our own sustainability. We made clear we wanted nothing to do with the council but the council came to us, they literally had to beg us. How did you stop the riots?  They were mesmerised. We didn't want the council to control us. We wanted them to recognise that we had talent.  They got involved with us - not us with them. We were going for bus garage purchase before they even knew. we were going for it. We wrote up plans via community involvement we met with Harlesden Forum, Stonebridge Forum, Chalkhill.  I said [to the council], ' Let's try and do something with us. Be fair to us. Not bully us. The council has no claim whatsoever in terms of Bridge Park.'

Challenged that it had been Brent Council land from the start Mr Johnson said. 'No. The Urban Programme, GLC, only came on board because of HPCC.  Brent knew it was the only way to get the money.' He said he had got people on board, talked to Chair of Wimpey and got the car park surfaced free: 'Wasn't that money?'

The  Judge suggsted a 10 minute break. Johnson apologised for his passion.

On resumption Ms Holland said that there was absolutely no refernce in any of the documents to the council gifting the land to the HPCC.   In response Mr Johnson claimed that the document said they could eventually purchase the freehold. 'I don't believe at any time Brent owned the land. They bought it, yes, if you are saying that because their names are on it.'

He cited Lord Young's support for the project and HPCC's invitation to Prince Charles to open the building and his putting him on th Prince's Trust.

Holland put it to Johnson that he had said the only reason HPCC was not on the documentation was because they were unincorporated but all documents showed it was Brent property and it was they who received the  grant funding. Johnson responded that if it hadn't been for the HPCC Brent wouldn't have got the funding.  'It is absolutely clear in all the documents. We are named in the acquisition of the bus garage. Named on all the documents.  We made a presentation to the council: "You are the problem. Let us have have an economical foundation for our community. Others have something. We are at the bottom of the pit."  They unanimously agreed. We wanted an asset, a stake, to run businesses.'

The Judge asked, 'Isn't running a business an asset?'

Leonard Johnson replied, 'We were the only ones who didn't have an asset. We told people we are the owners.'

Ms Holland said that if the intention was for HPCC to be the owners they would be named in the documents.  Johnson replied that this was because Brent council was 'indulging in skulduggery and put a racist on the board.'  In answer to a further question he  said that the council knew what they were up to: 'get HPCC to get the asset. Then when they've got it, get rid of it for themselves.'

Holland pointed out that it was for the community, not for HPCC,

Mr Johnson replied that HPCC represented the community. They were the only organisation that linked with everyone. The only organisation that could get 1,000 people into Brent Town Hall to hear his report.

Holland pursued the point saying, 'You were a significant person - you were not the community.  The council does have a role in community - you do not.'

Johnson said that the recent meeting about Bridge Park achieved 1,200 people at three week's notice.

The next exchange covered previous ground over sources of funding and whether it went to the council or HPCC. Holland suggested that HPCC was only named on the Urban Aid documentation because the council had to refer to social needs to get the grant. Mr Johnson said,' I want to work with the council but I don't need them to take our assets away.  Brent locked themselves into a corner with GMH. Why didn't they come to use for help?  We want to work with them.'

Ms Holland suggested that community entity some time acquring the property was just a hope.

Johnson, 'No, it was a belief. We thought the council would make sure we got it.'

Holland, 'An aspiration, not an entitlement.'

Johnson, 'Our community don't see that - the opposite.'

Holland then quoted Leonard Johnson's Witness Statement in which he used 'aspiration' to hold the property. This had also been the word used by council witnesses.

Johnson responded that the CEO at the time had said there was no objection in principle to them acquiring the freehold. They couldn't at the time until the whole organisation had been trained up to be professional.   He said they wanted to be in a position to pay the council back.

Johnson said that they had an accountant for the details of the grants, 'I opened the door to the funders.'

Holland pointed out that there had been no promise or assurances over HPCC acquisition. Just because it was mentioned  it didn't mean they would definitely get the freehold.

Johnson said that there had been assurances at a council meeting. The witnesses were being economical with the truth.  These people were there.  We looked at ourselves in terms of Watt County, we had a man come over from there. If they were telling the truth, they would say they agreed that HPCC would get the freehold.'

Ms Holland argued that if HPCC had an interest in the property they would not have needed a license to occupy. Johnson resplied that this was just a management procedure to make sure they were covered by insurance.

He added, 'The community are saying the council sold Bridge Park to an off-shore company and they are absolutely livid about it.'

(1) Brent Council applied to the GLC successor body, Bromley Council, for removal of the Covenant and this was granted.

Make sure you have a say on OPDC plans for canalside Harlesden

Press Release from West London Business 

The Old Oak and Park Royal DevelopmentCorporation (OPDC), working in partnership with the London Borough of Brent and the Canal & River Trust, is planning exciting improvements to the Grand Union Canal between Acton Lane and Steele Road. 

The plans are being created in close collaboration with local residents and will include outdoor ‘pop-up’ recreational, work and leisure facilities, as well as new public space to bring life to the canal and support for a wide range of business and community activities. 
Ideas for future use include a workshop for boaters, a canoe club base, a community hub and outdoor café or market space.

OPDC has appointed specialist community and commercial space operator, 3Space, architects, We Made That, to work with local people to scope and design the project. 
The project is part of a £1.2m community investment, funded by the Mayor’s Good Growth Fund to bring forward a range of improvements to public spaces on the canal. 

OPDC’s Chief Executive, David Lunts said:
 “Covid-19 has shown us that public outdoor space in London is more precious than ever and our plans will enable people from Harlesden and beyond to enjoy the benefits of the canal. This project will provide a greener, safer community space for residents and visitors, and also support local businesses” 

“The idea for regenerating Harlesden Canalside came from the local community and we are now reaching out to local groups, residents, businesses and boaters to decide exactly how this space should take shape.”

Cllr Shama Tatler, Brent Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Property and Planning said:
 “This is an area of Brent which is not only rich in history but also one brimming with potential for the future, so these plans are exciting and something really positive to look forward to. They could help to breathe new life into the area, create new space for community activities, new business opportunities and create local jobs.

“As with all regeneration in Brent, we’re committed that it only happens with the input of local people and we look forward to hearing the views of local residents, businesses and community groups as these plans are taken forward.”
Canal & River Trust’s Director, London & South East, Ros Daniels, said:
“As people are looking more and more to green space to support their wellbeing, the value of London’s canals as places to relax and enjoy, and also as vibrant destinations, is to be celebrated. We know that people who spend time by the canal are healthier and happier and we are excited to see how this canal-side space will develop and come to life through the ideas of people who visit, live or work in Harlesden and Park Royal.”

Due to Covid-19, OPDC has paused face-to-face engagement events and will be consulting on this project remotely until it’s safe to do otherwise. More information about our remote engagement will be available soon and representatives from 3Space will be reaching out to community groups in due course to begin consultation. In the meantime, if you are a resident or represent a local business or community organisation and would like to be involved , please contact OPDC by emailing

Bridge Park Hearing Resumes Today

The hearing of the Brent Council v Leonard Johnson  Bridge Park case resumes at 10.30am this morning. The case is timetabled to last until Friday and will begin with witnesses for the defendants.

In the background there will also be the possible request by the defendant's QC, Mr Cottle, to amend the basis of the case and the judge's and Brent Council's QC's reaction to that request, as well as the need to clear up confusion over the various entities referred to in the case.

On Friday Judge Green warned Cottle that if he applied for amendments he might refuse them if he felt they were wholly misconceived.

It is not yet clear, to me at any rate, why there may have been a change in the defendant's instructions to their solicitor.

Saturday 25 July 2020

Greens Support Dawn Butler Solidarity Demonstration

Brent Trades Council, Brent Central Labour Party and Stand Up To Racism organised  a demonstration in solidarity with Dawn Butler MP (Brent Central)  after she and her staff received racist threats and windows were broken in her Walm Lane office  contributing to her decision to close it down.  She has also been attacked relentlessly on social media.

Brent Green Party, Green Party Trade Union Group and Green Left supported the demonstration and I spoke on their behalf about the importance of challenging racism and sexism and the need for democratically elected representatives to work unhindered for their constituents. It is about democracy.

I went on to warn about the need for opposition to fascism as well as racism in a new era of 'strong men' in Europe, South America  and the USA as we face possibly the worst ever econonic recession.

We have our political differences with Dawn but it is essential that  unite across parties to challenge these threats,

The Preston Story - Part 1

The first part of a new local history series, by Chris Coates of Preston Community Library.      

Preston is often seen as one of the quieter parts of Wembley – just a 20th century development of suburban housing. This series of articles will look at some of the people, events and social changes that shaped its long history, and produced a 21st century Preston with as diverse a community as any other area of Brent.

1. Preston Road and its station, part of the 20th century suburb. (Photo by Derrick J. Knight, from an internet blog)
Preston Ward’s political boundaries are a triangle formed by the apex of the Metropolitan and Bakerloo Underground lines, with Wembley Park Drive as the southern border. But Preston as a community stretches north to meet Kingsbury and Kenton and this reflects its origins as a rural area in the parish of Harrow, centred on the cluster of farms and buildings at the junction of what are now Preston Hill, Preston Road and Woodcock Hill, west of the Lidding or Wealdstone Brook. This first article looks at the early period up to 1800.

2.  John Rocque's 1744 map of London and its Environs includes Preston, and the road to it, on its northern edge!

The first definite record of Preston is in 1220, the name coming from the Old English preast and tun, meaning the farm belonging to the priest.  Preston was a township in 1231 but by the mid-15th century had only 2 farms, and a few cottages. It was linked to an even smaller settlement, Uxendon, on the east bank of the Wealdstone Brook, which was first recorded in 1257 as Woxindon, probably meaning "Wixan's Hill". The Wixan were a 7th century Saxon tribe from Lincolnshire, who came to settle in what became Middlesex.

Uxendon manor house was located near what is now the junction of Uxendon Hill and Wykeham Hill. During the 14-15th centuries, the estate was extended to include Preston Farm [also known as Preston Dicket] on the west bank of Wealdstone Brook and another settlement called Pargraves at what is now the junction of Elmstead Ave with Forty Lane – then called Flax Lane. 

Most local landowners accumulated property through inheritance and family connections, but Harrow from early times had also attracted London merchants and courtiers. In 1376, the Uxendon manor passed to Sir Nicholas Brembre, a powerful City of London and national figure, who owned considerable estates elsewhere. He was twice Lord Mayor of London, a customs officer for the Port of London under Geoffrey Chaucer, and a strong supporter of Richard II, knighted for accompanying him to face the rebels at Smithfield during the Peasants Revolt in 1381.

3. King Richard II speaking with the peasants at Smithfield in 1381. (Image from the internet – thanks, BBC Bitesize!)

Nicholas Brembre was Richard’s chief ally in London, but his ties to the ill-fated King ultimately resulted in his downfall. Accused by Richard’s opponents of corruption, tyranny and finally treason, he was executed in 1388 (either by hanging or beheading, it depends on which account you read!). Brembre’s confiscated properties in Uxendon and elsewhere were given to his brother-in-law, Thomas Goodlake, whence they passed by marriage in 1516 to the Bellamy family.

The Bellamy family had remained staunchly Roman Catholic after the Reformation and sheltered Catholic priests on the run. The manor house held a secret chamber under the stairs with an underground escape route to a barn nearby. A priest who died at Uxendon was buried under a pseudonym at Harrow Church. Anthony Babington, identified by security services as a principal conspirator in a plot to assassinate Elizabeth I, was arrested there in 1586 and the Bellamy family were arrested for treason. Catherine Bellamy, the mistress of Uxendon, and two of her sons died in the Tower, and a third son was executed.

A fourth son, Richard, moved to Uxendon to take over the estate, but the family continued to be investigated and in 1592, while imprisoned, his daughter betrayed the presence of a Jesuit priest, Robert Southwell, in the manor. He was arrested and executed.

4. Robert Southwell, Jesuit priest and poet. (Image from the internet)

The family continued to be prosecuted and imprisoned over the next 10 years until Richard Bellamy relented and conformed. The estate, now over-mortgaged to pay recurrent fines, was sold to another local family with Catholic sympathies, the Pages, who had become leading landowners in the Wembley area. Two priests from the wider Page family in Middlesex were also executed.  When a special tax was raised in 1642 to ‘meet the distress of the Army and people in the Northern parts’, Catholics and aliens were required to pay double – but none were found in Harrow. 

From the late 14th century, the northern farm on Preston Hill [then known as Clay Lane] belonged to the Lyon family and one of the most notable residents from the early period was John Lyon, 1514-1592, the founder of Harrow School. He was a man of considerable wealth, owning land in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Marylebone and Essex. He was active in local affairs and had good political connections – despite managing to stay on good terms with his troubled neighbours, the Bellamys.

5. Rev. Elsley (a local historian whose research aided our knowledge of John Lyon) at Lyon Farm house in 1936.
(From the Wembley History Society Collection - Brent Archives online image 8972)

John Lyon was also a philanthropist and was already paying for the education of 30 poor local boys when in 1572, possibly through his friendship with Elizabeth I’s Attorney-General, he obtained a Royal Charter for the foundation of a free grammar school. He wrote precise detailed instructions about how the School should be administered, even down to what games the boys could play! – and no girls were to be admitted.

Lyon ruled that the poorest applicants should be preferred for entry to the school – but as parents had to provide books, writing materials and candles, as well as ensuring children were well-dressed – most of the rural poor of Wembley and Harrow must have been ruled out! However, the schoolmaster could accept enough fee-paying boys from outside the area to provide his own wages. In time, those students became the majority, changing the nature of the School and thwarting Lyon’s original intentions 

6. A memorial to John Lyon, and a brass commemorating John and Joan Lyon, in St Mary’s Church, Harrow.
(Both images from the internet)

Lyon left his house and lands as an endowment for the foundation and upkeep of the School, plus scholarships for 4 boys to go on to university - though the provisions of the will did not become operative until after death of his wife Joan in 1608. Work on the original School house [which can still be seen on Harrow on the Hill] started then and was completed 1615. Lyon left other charitable bequests for the local poor and for the upkeep of local roads, notably the Harrow and Edgware Roads, and for roads from Preston, to the Harrow Road at Wembley and through Kingsbury to the Edgware Road. The John Lyon’s Charity still makes grants to benefit young people in NW London, but the separate Roads Trust ended in 1991.

After Lyon’s death, the School rented his farmhouse - described in 1547 as a beautiful building - to a succession of farmers [including the Bellamy and Page families], but by the early 18th century the farmhouse and lands were said to be in poor condition and the farmhouse was rebuilt in red brick. In the mid-19th century, it was occupied by the wonderfully named Thomas Sneezum.  The mid-20th century saw the farmhouse gifted by the Perrin farming family to Wembley Borough Council, who demolished it in 1960 and John Perrin Place – a council housing estate – was built on the site.

7. A view of John Perrin Place, c.1966. (Brent Archives online image 10283)

John Lyon’s support in maintaining key routes for the transport of people and goods was crucial at this time when the hamlets in Preston were linked together by rough tracks, whose upkeep was always a bone of contention. Local roads were also constantly shifting course. The enclosure of common land, usually to change its use from arable to meadow for livestock, resulted in many changes - as when Richard Page obstructed the old road and altered the route of Clay Lane (now Preston Hill) through Preston East Field - clearly seen in this map.

8. Preston as it appears on a map from 1819. (Based on the Greenwood map)

During the Civil War, Middlesex generally supported the Parliament and Sir Gilbert Gerard of Harrow on the Hill raised a regiment. However, a Richard Page of Uxendon fought in the Royalist Army at the battle of Newbury 1644, was knighted and then followed the King to Oxford. On 27 April 1646, Charles fled Oxford in disguise and a plaque in Harrow commemorates where he stopped to water his horses – although this seems an unlikely route! 

9. The plaque at the site of King Charles's Well, Grove Hill, Harrow-on-the-Hill. (Image from the internet)

After Charles’s execution, Richard fled to the Court of the future Charles II in The Hague. In the 1660 general election, John Page of Uxendon stood against Gerard who was now campaigning for the return of the monarchy. Following the Restoration, later that year, Uxendon Manor remained in the Page family until 1829. In 1661, Parliament introduced a new tax, assessing wealth by the number of fireplaces in a person’s home. Kenton, Preston and Uxendon were assessed together with only 22 homes liable for Hearth Tax – of these, Mr Page had the largest number – 10 hearths.

Preston grew slowly, in the mid-17th century, there were 5 buildings, including a new farmhouse, Hillside Farm. 100 years later, there were 9 buildings, including Preston’s first pub! - the Horseshoe Inn, licensed from 1751. Around the same time, a second Uxendon manor farm was built and Forty Farm was expanded at Forty Green. However, the coming of the railways in the 19th century would change everything – and we will look at that next week.

Please feel free to add your memories, questions or comments in the box below.

Chris Coates.