Sunday 31 January 2021

Barnet Library Service premiere new video on the Golden Age of the Welsh Harp


Barnet Council today premiered a video about the history of the Welsh Harp made be their Local Studies Department:

The Golden Age of the Welsh Harp – continues the series of descriptions of the 1st edition 25 inch to mile ordnance surveys from the London Borough of Barnet’s library service local history collection by examining sheet 11/10. At first it looks as if there is very little on the map, but film explores the rich history of the Brent Reservoir (universally known as the Welsh Harp), during it’s golden age in the mid 19th century from the building of the lake, to the building of the railways and the coming of the suburbs. Stories include, monks, floods, drownings, pumps and propellers. Most interesting of all is the story of William Perkins Warner, and his endeavour to create London’s foremost holiday and visitor attraction.

Saturday 30 January 2021

Brent Council and Shepherds Bush Housing Group shamed by neglect of Prospect House residents who are face eviction - action needed now!


Prospect House

The front entrance

Guest post by Selina, a resident of Prospect House about the issue that has galvanised social media in the past few days. See Kilburn Times coverage HERE.  The families are faced with eviction with no apparent help from Brent Council or Shepherds Bush Housing Group. See former councillor Alison Hopkins' post on the scandolous background to this issue HERE.


Selina writes:

The squalor office conversion flat BrenCouncil  dumped 17 families into meant, from the day myself and my son moved, in it has been one nightmare after another living here. 

The area is infested with rats, half the time and even up until now we have no hot water or heating.  We are constantly having to chase up Shepherd’s Bush Housing Group who are working for the private landlord of the property. 

Sometimes we have no running water from any of the taps for more than one day at a time. We shouldn’t have to face this in the U.K.

The property is located on the busy North Circular Road we are constantly faced with noise pollution and air pollution. 

The entrance gate is constantly broken so anyone from the streets walks into our car park and sometimes are flats' communal area. The other day a tenant was faced with a group of youths loitering around our flat communal stairway.  We should be able to feel safe. 

We are all being faced with eviction and  quite frankly I am happy to say good riddance to this building but my main concern and stress is where are all 17 families being rehoused?  Brent Council seems to be offering tenants little help and no options. Private letting landlords do not want DSS tenants or ask for high income guarantors which tenants cannot provide. so what are we left with little option and no response from Brent . 

Our eviction notice is up on May 23rd 2021 where are all 17 families going by that date, which will be fast approaching?

Some of the story on Twitter:



Barnet Council turn down another planning application for Woodfield Nursery at the Welsh Harp


The site (outlined in red) in context

The plans

Street elevation

The latest planning application for the redevelopment of the Woodfield Nursery site in Cool Oak Lane, near the Welsh Harp, fronted by Taylor Wimpey has been turned down by Barnet Council.  LINK There have been other applications for this site which at present is occupied by greenhouses and polytunnels in poor condition and some brickbuilt offices, alongside a landscaping business.  It is close to the Brent border and not far from the huge controversial private development, formerly West Hendon social housing,  on the other bank across Cool Oak Bridge.

Some years ago there were applications by the owner of this site and the then Greenhouse Garden Centre in Birchen Grove for housing estates at both locations.  Brent Council turned down the application. LINK  It is now Birchen Grove Garden Centre under new management - I do not have details of the freehold ownership.

Barnet Council found that the proposed development would have a detrimental impact on Metropolitan Open Land and rejected the developer's claim that the greenhouses and polytunnels were permanent structures allowing development. The planners ruled that it did not meet the exemptions test for such developments.

In addition officers said that the proposal did not secure the affordable housing, delivery of employment skills and enterprise, or carbon off-setting required. It was a long way from public transport which would increase car ownership.

There were 139 comments on the Barnet planning portal of which 137 were against, one in support and one a general comment. Preservation of the Metropolitan Open Land and the Site of Special Scientific Interest, the importance of a 'green lung' in an over-crowded city, and defence of nature were all prominent. Among the objectors were Hendon Rifle Club, Silver Jubilee Residents Association, the RSPB and Brent Parks Forum. Brent Council also made a submission but it was not available on the portal.

It is unlikely that this is the end of the story!

Site for a future Wembley Park Primary School needs action NOW!

 A guest Post by Philip Grant

I was delighted to see, earlier this month, that the York House car park site could be used for a new youth centre, rather than a primary school. When I read the report to Brent’s Cabinet meeting, alarm bells started ringing. The Department for Education may have cancelled the ill-conceived Ark Somerville Primary Free School project, but the Wembley Park redevelopment area will still need a new primary school, by 2028 on the latest projections. Where would that be built?


NOT the Wembley Park Primary School, but hopefully something like it! (Image from the internet)


It has been known since the early 2000s that the large number of homes Quintain planned to build at Wembley Park meant that a new primary school would be required to serve the area. Brent agreed that the early stages of the development, around the Arena, should be mainly smaller homes, with the majority of the family-sized accommodation provided to the east of Olympic Way in the later phases.



Brent’s land use policy for the North East Lands. (Wembley Masterplan, 2009)


When the Council adopted its Wembley Masterplan in 2009, the “North East Lands” area (ringed in red on the map above) was identified as a primary school location (or one of them, if two smaller primary schools were to be built to meet growing demand for places during the course of the next 20 years, to 2030). This would put the school close to the main residential area, and next to a new park which was to be provided as part of the development.


That choice of location was carried forward into the Wembley Area Action Plan (“WAAP” – yes, that again!), adopted by the Council in 2015, which is still the current planning policy document for this area. The WAAP’s policy on school places emphasised the importance of securing sites for new schools, where large developments meant an increase in population. It also said that primary schools ‘need to be located directly within the area of population growth’, and that ‘nursery facilities … could be combined with other new … primary school facilities.’ 


The WAAP policy WEM 29, on Community Facilities, stated that ‘the council will … secure at least four forms of entry at primary level, to be secured on development sites within the Wembley area’. It also noted the ‘provision of one site in site proposal W 18.’ This site proposal covered the 4.9 hectare Wembley Retail Park, also known as the North East Lands, and said that ‘a new primary school will be provided’ on that site.


All very good - so what changed? At the end of 2015, Quintain submitted a huge “hybrid” planning application. It included detailed plans for a multi-storey car and coach park to the east of Wembley Stadium, and outline proposals for most of the rest of the land at Wembley Park which it had still to develop. Application 15/5550 has been called the Wembley Park Masterplan, but it was Quintain’s masterplan, not Brent’s.


The application (over 300 documents and plans) was one of a number considered at a Planning Committee meeting on 11 May 2016, just two days after the previous meeting. Most of the objections and discussions were about the car and coach park. The meeting went on for over four hours, and two of the committee members had gone home before it was approved by 4 votes to 1, with one abstention! 


Among the outline proposals approved (with little or no discussion) was that the primary school site should be moved to the York House car park. Two sentences from the report by Planning Officers to the committee sum up how this was allowed to happen, despite it going against Brent’s adopted policy for the school’s location:


This plot has been identified by the applicant as an appropriate location for a 3 form of entry primary school and nursery.’


‘The proposal delivers the same strategic objective (the provision of nursery and primary school places) and is considered to be acceptable in principle.’


A cynic might suggest that the applicant, Quintain, had identified the York House car park site for commercial reasons, not valid planning reasons, so that it could build tall blocks of flats on the North East plot(s) which would otherwise be used for a primary school site.


But it was only an outline planning consent for the York House site, wasn’t it? When the detailed planning application for the school went before the Committee on 6 June 2018, members were given strict instructions by a Planning Officer. They were not allowed to consider whether the new school to serve the Wembley Park redevelopment should be sited elsewhere, the Officer Report saying:


‘the parameters material submitted with the application [15/5550] specifically identified the subject site (known as Development Zone YH1) for a 3FE Primary School and associated Nursery.’   and:


‘This reserved matters application is considered to be in material compliance with the parameters and principles established under the outline consent.’


Only one committee member voted against the application (here’s a reminder, if you don’t remember what happened to him!). Air pollution had been raised as a major problem with this site for a primary school, with dangerously high NO2 levels along Wembley Hill Road admitted in the application’s Air Quality Assessment. No account was taken of the effect on young children who would be walking to the school. In respect of the school building itself, Officers said that mitigation measures would be included in the conditions for the planning consent. These were having no opening windows on that side of the school below a height of 4.5 metres, and that the air intakes for artificial air circulation must be situated above that height.


Following that decision, the York House car park site was bought from Quintain by the DfE’s Education Funding Agency, for provision of the Ark primary school. Because of the number of increased primary places provided by Brent at other existing schools, and a slight (temporary?) fall in demand for places, the DfE have now dropped the York House school project. Which brings me back to my opening question – where will the Wembley Park primary school that Brent will need, within the next 5 to 10 years, be built?


After the 2016 “Wembley Park Masterplan” decision, Brent’s planning policy, in its emerging Local Plan, has depended on the York House school site. The North East Lands are currently the subject of Quintain’s detailed planning application, 20/2844, which would see tall blocks of flats built around three sides of the northern section of the new park.


Something had to be done, so I have started the ball rolling! I researched the labyrinth of planning application details and planning policy documents involved, and have submitted detailed objection comments on application 20/2844. These set out why the application, which is listed as a variation of conditions under the 15/5550 application, can and should be amended to provide a reserved site for a 3-form entry primary school, and nursery (and should be refused if it does not make that change). I am hoping that Martin can add a copy of my comments document at the end of this article, so that anyone who is interested can read them.


As well as sending my document to Brent’s Planning Officers, I have also sent it with covering emails to the Lead Members and Strategic Directors for Regeneration and for Schools, and to the councillors for Tokyngton Ward, to ensure that Brent is fully aware of its risk of having no site for the new primary school it has a duty to provide by 2028. And as this is a matter which would best be settled by agreement between Brent Council and Quintain, I have also sent a copy to the developer’s Head of Masterplanning and Design, and Head of Planning.


I have done what I can, but this is a matter of concern which present and potential future residents of Brent, and Wembley Park in particular, and those with an interest in education in the borough, need to be aware of. Action needs to be taken on this issue now, but I am just one “voice” (or laptop keyboard, during lockdown). If you agree with me, please make your views known by objecting to planning application 20/2844, or contacting an appropriate councillor or Council Officer. Thank you.

Philip Grant.


Philip's comments - click bottow right corner for full page version



Thursday 28 January 2021

Monday February 1st: Second Brent Webinar for those hesitant about vaccination

Brent Council are running another webinar about the COVID vaccine this coming Monday (1st February) at the same time (between 6pm and 7.30pm).


Go to: to register for the webinar, which is titled ‘Are you hesitant to take the COVID vaccine?’


The webinar will aim to build trust amongst those in the community who are showing signs of hesitancy when it comes to having the vaccine. This will be achieved by outlining the facts, addressing all the pertinent issues and explaining the science.


The webinar will include presentations to help explain how the virus affects people’s immune system, the science behind the vaccine, and the issues of trust and doubt that local people might have in relation to the vaccine.



Brent Pension Fund loses £8m from failure to divest from fossil fuels - but others fare worse and the Council is making progress


Simon Erskine campaigning outside City Hall

Divest Brent, the campaign calling on the Council to sell their holdings in fossil fuel companies like Shell, BP and ExxonMobil, received a boost after submitting a Freedom of Information request to the Council. In responding to this request the Council admitted that over the last year the Pension Fund was worth £8 million less as a result of not having divested the Fund from fossil fuel investments before the Covid pandemic. The Council is actually doing significantly better than many authorities – over the last 4 years local authority pension funds have lost £2 billion of value in fossil fuel stocks. 


Up until now the leading argument against divestment had been the consistently high returns from these investments. Divest Brent Co-ordinator, Simon Erskine, said that historically it was true that fossil fuel companies had been a key part of any pension fund – and indeed any investment portfolio – due to the high level of returns:


The world has moved on and now not only do many people think that it is inappropriate to lend support, through investment, to fossil fuel companies but the entire economic situation has changed, with plunging share values. If we are to meet the net zero by 2050 target (i.e. reduce carbon emissions by 2050 so that they are no more than the amount absorbed by planting trees and other means) we have to make dramatic reductions in the amount of fossil fuels that we burn – and ultimately stop burning them altogether. 


If governments fail in their duty to bring about those cuts through legislation then fossil fuel companies are also facing a world where electric vehicles are rapidly catching up with, and set to overtake, petrol and diesel vehicles; and where renewable and nuclear energy are rapidly taking over from fossil fuels as the main generators of electricity.


In the meantime Divest Brent has been increasing its support base through its petition, which now boasts nearly 1,400 signatories – including well over 1,100 Brent residents. 


Simon Erskine praised the action taken by the Council to date:


Not only has the Council changed its investment policy by recognising the risks of fossil fuel investments but it has also made a specifically low carbon investment as part of its Stock Market holdings – as well as making investments in renewable energy as part of its loan-stock holdings. We warmly welcome these developments – but the low carbon investment represents only 3% of the Pension Fund’s total investments. 


The Council has suggested that more money could be invested in the low carbon fund but there is no commitment to do so, despite it having committed to divest as part of its resolution last year to declare a climate and ecological emergency. It is not only Divest Brent that is looking for the Council to divest – more than half of the Councillors want the same thing.


Divest Brent is working with sympathetic councillors and is hopeful that, with the Council currently consulting on its ambitious Climate Emergency Strategy, divestment will be seen as a key part of that strategy.


Brent Council gives residents 2 weeks to comment on the impact of anticipated developments in their local area


Extracts from the survey


 Brent Council has written to Brent residents' associations notifying them of a 2 week survey being carried out 'around' the relaunch of the Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy (NCIL) expected to be in late February.

They want to gather information from the survey and the application process focus groups that were held following th Black Community Action Plan and the NCIL report agreed at Cabinet on September 20th.

There are details (sparse) of the expected housing developments in each area (see  the survey LINKS as illustrated above in  2.)

They say:

We would like grass roots comments on the impacts of anticipated developments in each neighbourhood and only require the relevant neighbourhood completed. We have included a  brief summary of anticipated development in each area as the brief indicates at the beginning. We would be grateful if you could complete yourselves and also pass on to any interested parties.


We are also emailing the neighbourhood and town centre managers, Brent Connects members and  ward Cllrs. 


Ideally, we would like you to do online by clicking on this link 


NCIL Impact of Development Survey


If this is not possible, please complete the relevant neighbourhood on the attached form and email back to  by Sunday 7thFebruary 2021 to


Please feel free to circulate to your members.


This is very short-notice for a very short consultation period but I am sure that many residents who are not members of a residents' association would count themselves as  'interested parties' and I urge you to take part.

Wednesday 27 January 2021

Brent Council respond to Welsh Harp litter issues after ITN report on the beauty spot's sad state



ITV London News yesterday reported on the 'plague of litter' at the Welsh Harp Reservoir after local residents had despaired at the huge amount of litter and dumping revealed when the reservoir depth was lowered by one metre for maintenance.

 After the link to the report was widely distributed on social media many residents expressed shock at the state of the local beauty spot and Site of Special Scientific Interest and the threat the littering posed to animals and birds and their habitats.

Cllr Anton Georgiou wrote expressing his concern to Brent Council and received the following response.


We have been discussing the images that we have seen at Welsh Harp with Councillor Krupa Sheth as Lead Member.


As you may be aware, the Canal and Rivers Trust (CRT) have purposely reduced the water level by one metre for maintenance purposes. Inevitably (and sadly) this has revealed a significant amount of detritus at watermark level that has built up over many years and demonstrates how some people act so irresponsibly in relation to such a significant asset within an urban area.


The Council has well defined responsibilities for the greenspace in Welsh Harp and we take those responsibilities seriously. We will add more bins, improve signage, ensure Veolia prioritise litter removal so our area is kept better and commit to supporting any longer term proposals for the whole site. Our remit does not stretch to the reservoir itself which is a CRT responsibility and one that the Environment Agency would also have some responsibility for as a water course.


Officers are therefore discussing with CRT and the EA their proposals to clean up the reservoir. We understand there are immediate plans to clear the more accessible rubbish from traps at either end of the reservoir, and that local volunteers assisted with a clean-up last weekend. Removing the more problematic detritus in the silted areas will be a longer term consideration given the likely cost and the operational difficulties.


You are correct that this goes beyond what volunteers could and should undertake. The silt is very dangerous and the clean-up will need to be undertaken professionally.


When CRT / EA have responded as to how they intend to approach this problem, I will liaise with Councillor Sheth and contact you again in order to update you.




Tuesday 26 January 2021

Last night's Brent Council Webinar on Covid19 vaccination


Brent organisations supporting Windrush scandal victims urged to apply for funds - Zoom meeting Thursday January 28th 10am


From Brent Council

About this Event

About the Windrush Community Fund

The Windrush Community Fund (WCF) is a £500,000 fund for charitable, voluntary and community sector and grassroots organisations across the UK that work with communities from the Windrush generation.

Interested organisations can bid for an award from £2,500 up to £25,000, with projects that are designed to ensure that all people affected by Windrush are aware of the support available and are not missing out on the compensation schemes or latest information.

For more information on the fund itself, please visit the Windrush Community Fund page or read our News piece on the Voice4Change England Website.

Key Event Details

Date: Thursday 28th January

Time: 10am-Midday

Place: Zoom (Online event)*

The purpose of the event is to give organisations who are interested in applying for an award from the Windrush Community Fund more information on the fund. We will also have plenty of time and space for questions. We will focus on providing:

• Information on the purpose of the Windrush Community Fund

• An overview of the eligibility criteria for the fund

• A summary of the application process for the fund

• Ideas / key components that are likely to make a strong application

• Information about the monitoring and evaluation requirements if awarded a grant from the fund.

• A chance to speak with Grants Officers from V4CE and ask any questions that you may have.

The event will also provide background information and context to the development of the fund, with representation from the Home Office and Windrush Cross-Governmental Working Group.

*The link will be sent out to all participants who have signed up at 11am on the morning of the event. 

The closing date for phase 1 applications is 12 February 2021. Phase 2 will open for applications on 1 April 2021 and will close on 30 June 2021. Applications are welcomed from organisations representing all communities and nationalities, as well as organisations who have links with communities overseas. More information can be found at

NEU launch 'Help A Child to Learn' campaign alongside the Daily Mirror with an initial £1million donation

Help a Child to Learn campaign

The National Education Union (NEU) is today launching a campaign to Help a Child to Learn at home during the pandemic. 

With our partners, the Daily Mirror and Viking, we are pledging a million pounds to help schools provide the pens, pencils, and paper some children need to help them learn at home and are encouraging others to donate.

Click here to donate to our Help a Child to Learn appeal.

Throughout the pandemic, the NEU has fought to ensure the safety of our members. We have also launched an online resource hub to help members teach remotely. And later this week, we will be publishing our education recovery plan to outline what we need to reopen our schools safely and well.

However, in a survey last week, you told us the lack of resources means a great many children are struggling to learn at home – not just in terms of access to laptops or broadband, but also pens, pencils, paper, and art materials.

We want to do all we can to support these children so that they can learn from home.

So, the NEU is pledging £1 million to be distributed to selected schools to help buy the stationery needed for pupils to work at home.

Contributions will range between £500 and £1,500 depending on school size.

The Daily Mirror will help publicise our campaign and raise awareness of the needs of children and families by talking to our members about the challenges they face every day.

We know that far more than £1 million pounds is needed so we are also asking members to sign this petition calling on Government to provide the funding our children need. Click here to sign the petition.