Wednesday 23 September 2020

Battle for the bats (and our heritage) at Brent Scrutiny

The call-in of the Stonebridge Annexe contract resulted in officers agreeing to take forward the three actions recommended by the 5 councillors who signed the call-in.  These were that the implementation of the refurbishment contract be deferred until:

1.It is certain that the proposals for 1 Morland Gardens comprised in the 1 Morland Gardens Application have received all necessary consents, including GLA consent; and

2.The legislatively required minimum of three bat emergence/re-entry surveys between May and September in one year have been undertaken, consequent assessments undertaken, the results considered and appropriate response actioned; and

3.The potential requirement of bat surveys for the Stonebridge Annexe considered and (if necessary) dealt with as above

 Much discussion revolved around the lack of legally compliant bats surveys.  Two were added to the agenda but did not cover the period required by law and so there will be delays until compliant surveys are conduction at 1 Morland Gardens.  The Committee has asked that the legal advice given to the Council be published.

Cllr Perrin suggested that the Council were in grave danger of breaking the law on protected species, a criminal offence and Cllr Lloyd pointed out that obtaining a licence regarding development where there were bat roosts was a two stage process with the initial 3 stage process having to be completed before a licence application could be made.

There was concern that the initial Cabinet decision on 1 Morland Gardens had been made without councillors given sight of a report  on protected species. 

Councillors also considered that changes in the Council's constitution should be considered regarding delegated decision making by officers. It had been established that the officer who had made the recommendation that a contract for the Stonebridge Annexe be awarded was also the delegated officer who made the decision to award the contract. Alan Lunt, Strategic Director of Regeneration, said that he had been on leave but would have made the same decision himself. This did not satisfy Cllr Perrin who said it was important that there should be separation of powers in this regard.

 Lunt emphasisied that no contract had been awarded and that this would wait until all the planning processes for 1 Morland Gardens had been completed.

 A lone voice in the wilderness was Cllr Shafique Choudhary who in the wake of Covid19 held no brief for the protection of bats. 

The complaint made by local historian Philip Grant about the planning process for 1 Morland Gardens has still to be resolved.

I recommend you read the tweets by @MaryDuffinator for a blow by blow account of the meeting.

1 comment:

Philip Grant said...

I was one of the participants in the Zoom meeting, and as well as Councillor Perrin not being able to believe what he was hearing from a Council Officer over bats, I was bemused by what the Scrutiny Committee members were being told about the Key Decision the call-in was about.

Council Officers appeared to be saying that the Key Decision was only about giving authority to Brent Property & Assets to award the contract, and that it would not actually have been awarded until the 1 Morland Gardens planning application had passed all its hurdles and the final consent had been given. (The current status of application 20/0345 on Brent's planning website is still 'awaiting decision'.)

Yet the Report from Property & Assets, seeking that authority, clearly indicated that the contract would be awarded five days after the Key Decision had been made, with the contractor expected to start work on 14 September.

There also appeared to be a suggestion from the Chief Executive that the Scrutiny Committee meeting was unnecessary, as Officers had agreed all the recommendations set out by the five councillors who submitted the call-in request.

I was glad to hear the Chair of the meeting, in response to a committee member picking up on the CE's point, and complaining that the meeting was a waste of everyone's time, say that it was important for the public to see that a call-in was dealt with properly, and not through any deal "behind closed doors".