Sunday 28 February 2021

Boxpark advertising – public safety or profit?

Guest post by Philip Grant

As I am “staying at home”, and not out and about to notice what is going on, I usually have a quick look at the “Legal and Public Notices” in the online edition of the “Brent & Kilburn Times” each week. One entry in the planning notices last week caught my eye; an application (ref. 21/0379) for ‘Removal of condition 13’ from a planning application (ref. 17/4877) which was approved in February 2018.

 

Google aerial view, showing the site location, from a planning application document.

 

The location turned out to be the Boxpark building, at the junction of Olympic Way and Fulton Road. But what was the planning condition they wanted removed?

 

‘Condition 13: Moving images shall not be displayed on the Fulton Road façade and the northern section of the Olympic Way façade of the building (within the area marked as ‘Zone A’ on drawing no. A00_MIC_01 P2007903) at times when Fulton Road is open to vehicular traffic, unless otherwise agreed in writing by the Local Planning Authority.’

 

The applicant, Open Outdoor Media Ltd, wants that condition removed, so that it can display ‘full-motion advertisements’ on the large LED screen mounted on the north-east corner of the Boxpark building all of the time. At the moment, the screen which they installed there in 2019 can only be used to display static advertisements, apart from 90 minutes before and after major Wembley Stadium events, when Fulton Road is closed to vehicular traffic. 

 

The LED advertising screen (‘I AM JD’) at the corner of the building, from an application document.

 

Why was that condition there in the first place? The answer is clear from the Report to the February 2018 Planning Committee meeting:

 

‘Highway safety: The Council’s Transportation Officers have expressed concern about the highway safety implications of displaying moving images readily visible to drivers using adjacent roads. In response to their concerns, a condition is recommended to ensure that moving images are not displayed on the Fulton Road façade and the northern section of the Olympic Way façade of the building at times when Fulton Road is open to vehicular traffic.’

 

So what is different now? Planning agents on behalf of the applicant have submitted a glossy report by the Manchester-based S-C-P Transport consultancy (‘Driven by the desire to help clients achieve their goals’). This looks at the highway safety aspects of the latest application, both at the Fulton Road crossing, and with case studies of other sites (mainly in the North and Midlands) where full-motion advertising screens have been installed near roads.

 

Their thorough review includes research, such as this:

 

‘In order to identify critical locations on the network with a poor accident record, the personal injury accident data has been obtained from the online resource CrashMap for the most recent 5-year period, ending December 2019.’

 

They found that, during that five-year period, only ‘one accident took place at the Fulton Road / Olympic Way crossing, which resulted in “serious” severity injuries.’ Their conclusion was:

 

‘Whilst all accidents are regrettable, the evidence … suggests that the area in the vicinity of the site does not have any recurring highway safety problems that could be affected by the development proposals.’

 

Their report does admit that the LED screen was only installed at the end of June 2019, and then was not displaying any moving adverts while vehicles were using Fulton Road during the six months to December 2019. However, as the serious accident on the crossing took place during the previous 4½ years, they claim it demonstrates that the LED screen advertisements ‘have not led to any material increase in accidents.’

 

The view along Fulton Road towards the Olympic way crossing, with the bright LED advertising screen (‘JD WE’RE BACK’) on the corner of the Boxpark building, from the S-C-P report.

 

The case studies (as you might expect) show that putting full-motion advertising screens near busy roads does not tend to increase the number of serious accidents or injuries. But although the amount of vehicle traffic along Fulton Road is not as great as a city centre road in Manchester, Liverpool or Nottingham, the number of pedestrians walking up and down Olympic Way, and crossing Fulton Road, is very large. It is also likely to increase even further as more and more Wembley Park developments are completed.

 

It would only take one driver of a bus or heavy lorry coming along Fulton Road, or one pedestrian walking up Olympic Way from the station, to be distracted by a moving advert on that screen at the wrong moment, for a serious accident to occur. In my opinion, even one such accident would be one too many. 

 

As advertising is involved, the screens also had to obtain advertisement consent, and the approval of that application (ref: 18/1796) contained an identical condition to “Condition 13” in the Boxpark planning approval. The agent’s covering letter with the latest application acknowledges the reasons given in the Planning Report for that:

 

‘Concerns were previously raised with regard to distraction of drivers from moving images along the Fulton Road frontage and the northern end of the Olympic Way frontage, with road safety studies undertaken by the Transport Research Laboratory highlighting the significantly greater impairment to driving performance presented by moving images, as compared to static displays.’

 

Despite this, the letter goes on:

 

‘The applicant is however of the view that the provision of full motion images on the LED screens would be entirely acceptable in terms of public safety and highway safety and that Condition 13 of 17/4877 should be removed and an amended application for advertisement consent be issued.’

 

That view is unsurprising, because the application would not have been made unless Open Outdoor Media Ltd thought there was a chance that they might get that condition removed. And if it is removed, they will, of course, be able to generate more profits by selling full motion advertisements, rather than just static ones.

 

Surely, this latest application will be rejected, on the same public safety grounds that saw the condition imposed in the first place, won’t it? Having looked at Brent’s planning website, I do have some concerns, including that the expected decision level is “Delegated Team Manager”, rather than the borough’s Planning Committee which decided the original application.

 

A greater concern is the amount of consultation on application 21/0379. The list of those consulted on the application only contains two addresses. The first is Brent Civic Centre (the Council’s Transportation Unit has been asked to comment). The second is 180 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5QZ. Puzzled? That is the registered office address of Quintain Ltd (joint owners, through BPQW Ltd, of Wembley’s Boxpark business).

 

On the original application, consultee comments on public safety matters had been submitted by the Metropolitan Police and by Brent’s Public Safety Manager. Why were they not consulted this time? And what about consulting Wembley Stadium, the residents’ associations for blocks of flats whose leaseholders use the crossing on a daily basis, or the owners of student accommodation buildings in the area? It’s almost as if Brent’s planners wish to avoid there being any objections to this application – but that can’t be right, can it?

 

In my opinion, the risk of death or serious injury at this location is too great for this application to be approved, so I have submitted an objection. If you agree with me, you can make your objection on the Council’s planning website for application 21/0379.


Philip Grant.

 

Saturday 27 February 2021

Greens put forward a radical new solution to strengthen local government via a fairer funding system

This is the first of a series of guest posts by Emma Wallance, Brent  & Harrow Green Party GLA candidate.


Harrow Council have announced that they are increasing the 2021/22 council tax by the maximum legal limit amount allowed to 4.99%.  This means that the council has increased Harrow’s council tax rates by their maximum amount year on year, for the last ten years.  In 2011/12 the average council tax rate in Harrow for band D (there are 8 bands, A-H) was £1186.55, in comparison to this year’s 2020/21 rate of £1522.72 for a band D property  LINK .  That is a £336.17 or +28.33% increase in ten years.  In comparison, neighbouring boroughs Ealing and Brent current council tax rates for 2020/21 band D properties are £1239.15 and £1312.74 respectively.  If we look London wide, Harrow residents are paying the third highest council tax out of the 32 London boroughs, with only Kingston and Richmond charging more.  In addition, Sadiq Khan has announced an increase to the Greater London Authority (GLA) council tax precept by 1.99%, or £363.66 for an average Band D property LINK .  This tax is collected by the 32 London councils on behalf of the GLA and consequently means that Harrow’s Council Tax will see a total overall increase of 5.9% next year.

 

This huge increase in council tax next year will come as a devastating blow to Harrow residents, many of whom are struggling with job losses and the increased pressures brought on by the Covid19 pandemic.  

 

Withdrawal of Central Government Funding

 

The increase in council tax must be seen in relation to the withdrawal of central government funding to local authorities that the Conservative government have presided over for the last ten years, reducing funding support in London by £4 billion   LINK  .  Evidence shows that a decade of imposed austerity from central government has resulted in core funding to local authorities being cut by 63% in real terms  LINK . Harrow Council was already one of the lowest funded councils in both London and nationally, with funding being reduced from £52.1 million to £1.6 million in the last ten years – a reduction of 97%  LINK .

 

This decimation in central government funding has left the current Labour administration in Harrow council in an untenable situation, having to bridge next year’s funding gap by almost £31 million LINK .  This has resulted in ever increasing costs being pushed on to local residents, whilst the council provide fewer and fewer services.  As Councillor Adam Swersky, responsible for finance at Harrow Council has stated, council tax has effectively become a ‘national stealth tax’ “with the Government shifting responsibility to local authorities to compensate for a lack of financial support.” LINK      


Lost Local Public Services

 

We have seen savage cuts to our public services in Harrow over the last ten years, from housing, education, public health, as well as both environmental and community services.  Street cleaning has seen repeated cutbacks, with, for example £172 000 cut from its budget in 2014, reducing the frequency of our street cleaning  LINK .  The Council’s waste collection services have also diminished over the last ten years, seeing in 2015 the introduction of the very unpopular £75 garden waste charge, a service that used to be included in our council tax.  It has since been revealed as one of the highest garden waste charges in England LINK    This lack of investment in street cleaning and waste services has continued for many years, with the now infamous 2017 footage, capturing rats swarming around bin bags in a Harrow car park LINK

 

We have also seen the closure of four of our ten public libraries in 2015 (the Bob Lawrence, Hatch End, North Harrow and Rayners Lane libraries), cutting a local service that provided a lifeline to many who are isolated or in need of library services.  In 2018, our two local Harrow MPs debated the issue in Parliament, with Harrow West’s Labour MP Gareth Thomas highlighting the unrelenting cuts and calling for the council to be “better funded”.  Mr Thomas highlighted the rise in violent crime in the borough and how youth services had been cut by more than 75% since 2010.  Conservative Bob Blackman, MP for Harrow East, responded by accusing the council of not being business friendly enough and needing to work together to apply for additional grants. LINK

 

The Impact of Demographic Changes and Covid

 

The reduction in central government funding, can also be seen in relation to a demographic change in London over the last ten years, with Harrow’s population increasing by 7.6%  LINK . The increase in residents, coupled with an aging population, has resulted in ever greater pressures being placed on our local services.  This can be seen most acutely on our social care services, where demand has increased across all age groups.  Social care is an area which must be ring fenced by 3% in the councils’ budgets every year, with the council this year applying for an additional social care grant to help with the increased pressures on brought on by COVID-19.  Indeed, the unprecedented situation caused by the pandemic has placed a huge strain on council budgets, with increased demand on an array of services LINK  .  Whilst the Tory government assured councils’ that they should do ‘whatever it takes’ to support residents through the pandemic, promising ‘Emergency Funding’ to councils, this has not been fully realised and the amounts have not been enough to cover all costs incurred.  As a result, there is now an even bigger funding shortfall than there was before the pandemic started  LINK  .

 

Harrow Council consequently is in a situation of ongoing funding reduction from central government, changes in demographics and the resultant increased pressure on services, whilst also dealing with the impacts of Covid.  This is tragically resulting in an even bigger reduction in the services provided by the council at a time when we need them more than ever.  

 

The Green Party’s Vision for the Future

 

The pandemic has revealed how years of under investment have resulted in local communities being exposed and vulnerable to the health and social realities brought on by this crisis.   Whilst we have seen incredible local voluntary initiatives over the last year, with people coming together to help and support each other, it is not a long term sustainable solution.  Local government needs to be properly financed to ensure Harrow is a healthy and safe place for residents to live and thrive in.  The Green Party have progressive plans to invest in local communities and our vital local services, believing that Council Tax needs to be radically overhauled.  We would like to see council tax and business rates replaced with a Land Value Tax (LVT) or ‘developers’ duty’, which will capture the value of the land not the property.   The current council tax band system is out of date and unfair, based on property prices from when the tax first emerged in 1991.  It favours wealthy home owners and landlords, with costs often bypassing the owners of rented properties, passing instead to tenants.   As joint leader of the Green Party, Jonathan Bartley states, “Council tax is regressive and it’s the past”  LINK    .  The LVT will be a proportionate and locally controlled property tax – “a single tax (replacing the multiple taxes that currently exist) which will capture the real value of land, and the increased value arising from improvements to it.”  LINK    

 

Green Party Sian Berry has also just pledged to set up a People’s Land Commission if she becomes London Mayor in May, helping to restore and revive local communities.  It is local communities who best understand the areas they live in, and they are the ones who should be consulted “to transform their own high streets, plan a low carbon future, and create community infrastructure and new homes.”  Read more HERE

Engineers Way closed until April 15th - no completion date yet for North End Road

 

Engineers Way (new Stadium steps just visible on the extreme right)

 

Residents in the new flats that circle Wembley Stadium have become frustrated by the length of the closure of Engineers Way on which Brent Council's Civic Centre is situated.

The closure was necessitated by the controversial removal of the Wembley Pedway and its replacement by steps.

In a series of emails addressing the issue  the Council officer concerned has set out the current situation that envisages closure until April 15th:

As with all big infrastructure projects, there may be times when work is not happening, but that doesn’t mean it’s feasible to lift any restrictions. The closure extension is required to enable Quintain to complete their work safely. 

 

They still need to install new kerb lines, complete the footway works as well as install Hostile Vehicle Mitigation measures at the foot of the new steps and on Perimeter Way East and Perimeter Way West. Brent are also implementing Hostile Vehicles Mitigation measures outside the Civic and Market Square. 

 

The closure enables us to coordinate work and implement the measures at the same time and is more efficient than implementing a number of phased closures that will inevitable extend the duration of work and disruption to the network. 

 

 

I apologise for the inconvenience but hope you can understand we are programming the work to be completed at the earliest opportunity.  

 

The current closure of Engineers Way is to be extended to facilitate the removal of the pedway. The original reopening date had been in place to account for the Carabao Cup that was due to be played on 28th February. The closure would have been reintroduced soon after this date to enable the works to continue unhindered and to also allow for Brent Highways to implement Hostile Vehicle Mitigation measures along Engineers Way in the vicinity of the Civic Centre. The closure will now remain in place until 15th April 2021.

 

Parents with children at Michaela School have been asking how long the closure of North End Road will be in place. At present staff can enter Michaela via a steep temporary staircase  from Bridge Road but pupils have to take a long detour via Olympic Way. 

 
A request for information made to Brent Council has not yet been answered but a visit there earlier this week suggested it is going to be some time. At present the new section appears to be quite steep!

 





 

 

  

 

 

Wednesday 24 February 2021

Cllr Southwood responds on Prospect House and urges residents to make contact as soon as possible

Philip Grant has now received a reply to his email of January 28th to Cllr Southwood, Brent Council' s Lead Member for Housing and Welfare Reform, that expressed concern about Brent Council's response to the situation facing residents of Prospect House, on the North Circular Road.

Philip sent a reminder on February 16th pointing out that he had not yet received a reply:

Dear Councillor Southwood,

I wrote to you, in your role of Lead Member for Housing, on 28 January, with a copy to the Stonebridge Ward councillors in whose area Prospect House is situated. I have not heard back from you, or from any of the local Labour councillors.

A further blog article has been published about Prospect House, and the poor living conditions in this substandard accommodation, which Brent helped to fund when two floors of the building were converted from offices to flats, four to five years ago:

https://wembleymatters.blogspot.com/2021/02/more-misery-for-prospect-house.html

 

I have added a comment to that blog, which I hope you will read, as it represents the sincere views of a long-time Brent resident:-

 

'To reinforce Alison's point about the 'deafening silence from Brent council and councillors':

On 28 January, I sent an email to the Cabinet Lead Member for Housing, Cllr. Southwood, with copy to the three Stonebridge Ward councillors, setting out a comment I had made on an earlier Prospect House blog article.

 

My email was headed "Tenants facing eviction from Prospect House", and I concluded by saying:


I hope you will take note of these views, and ensure that this matter is properly, and sympathetically, dealt with by Brent Council.'

 

I have not even received an acknowledgement, let alone a reply, from any of the recipients.

 

Brent Council appears to be ignoring the plight of the families they asked Shepherd's Bush H.A. to house in these substandard flats, as if it is nothing to do with them. 

 

I don't think that is an acceptable way to treat the borough's residents. Do you?' 

The longer that Brent Council tries to ignore the problems facing the Prospect House tenants, and their need for rehousing later this year, the worse it will look to the borough's residents.

 

I hope that you will take sympathetic action to resolve these issues. Thank you. Best wishes,

 

Philip Grant.

(Fryent Ward resident)

 

Dear Philip,

First, I’d like to reiterate my apologies for the delay in getting back to you. I was keen to understand the facts and to ensure that the council had taken appropriate action.

 

As you say, the families who moved into this previously empty office building were, at that time, homeless. The landlord leased the flats to SBHA to manage. The families who moved in did so under private rented sector offers, which ended their homelessness but with arrangements which were more secure than would have been the case in the private rented sector.

 

I have been assured that the conversion was done to a high standard. I’ve been extremely concerned to learn of the recent serious problems with the building. We’re working with SBHA now to understand the situation and how it will be remedied.

 

It’s clearly up to the landlord to decide what to do with his building and it seems he has decided not to renew the lease with SBHA, resulting in the families needing to find new homes. I appreciate that this is very stressful for them. I can’t comment on individual circumstances but I would urge any family who are concerned to contact us.

 

The families in Prospect House do not automatically have priority in terms of bidding for social housing but we’ll do all we can to help them find somewhere suitable. It’s no secret that Brent is a borough with relatively low wages and extremely high housing costs, which is incredibly challenging. There are 1,800 homeless households in Temporary Accommodation and a further 1031 in acute housing need.

 

Our total housing register is nearly 24,000. We’re working hard to improve supply – through our own ambitious building programme, working with landlords and through our own lettings company, I4B. But I appreciate that none of this makes it easier for families who are needing to move out of Prospect House.

 

Officers have written to everyone in Prospect House and if you’re in touch with any of the families, please do encourage them to contact us as soon as possible.

 

Best wishes,

Cllr Southwood

 

This is Cllr Southwood's email address: 

 cllr.eleanor.southwood@brent.gov.uk

 


'Heritage murals' at Bobby Moore Bridge, Olympic Way partially uncovered for just 3 weeks

 

 


Just two weeks ago Philip Grant wrote about the 'dodgy deal' behind the covering over of the famous sporting and musical tile murals at Bobby Moore Bridge at the Olympic Way pedestrian route to Wembley Stadium,

Now Brent Council has published a press release advertising that the mural will be partially uncovered for just three weeks. It is good that Brent Council is now recognising that these are 'heritage' but that makes their covering up  action even more inexplicable.

The Press Release:


More heritage murals on display at Wembley Park’s Bobby Moore Bridge during March

Extra areas of the heritage tile murals outside Wembley Park station will be revealed from the 10th to 28th March, as part of an annual display.

The colourful ceramic tiles, which show scenes from famous sports and entertainment events at Wembley Stadium and the SSE Arena, Wembley, date back to 1993 when they were originally dedicated to the legendary England football captain and 1966 World Cup Winner Bobby Moore.

Mayor of Brent, Cllr Ernest Ezeajughi, said: "I'm delighted that residents living close to Wembley Park and our amazing keyworkers who are still travelling into work will be able to enjoy these wonderful murals during the month of March. We may not be London's Borough of Culture this year, but we remain the borough of cultures, including the major events we host in Wembley. It's great to showcase that and pay tribute to some of the icons of our recent past especially as we start to look forward to the Euro football finals coming to the stadium this summer."

Please maintain social distancing and consider wearing a face mask whilst viewing the tiled murals.

The first scene outside the subway shows American Football players.  Many people think that the sport at Wembley Stadium started with the first NFL game there in 1983, with matches played annually at the new stadium since 2007. However, its history goes back a further 40 years, to the Second World War when two U.S. Forces teams played.

The middle scene shows a tackle involving two rugby league players. The Rugby League Challenge Cup Final was first played at the Stadium in 1929. It proved very popular, as a great day out for supporters. The final was played annually at Wembley (apart from during the Second World War) until the old stadium closed in 2000, and it has been a fixture at the new stadium since 2007.

The Empire Pool (now Arena) was built in 1934, as a year-round venue, for swimming in the summer and ice hockey and public skating in winter. It got its name because the first event held there was the swimming competition for the 1934 British Empire Games. From the autumn of that year, it was home to two ice hockey teams, the "Wembley Lions" (who played there until 1968 and were national champions four times) and the "Wembley Monarchs".




Tuesday 23 February 2021

Brent Council Budget approved

 As expected the Budget and Council Tax rise was approved yesterday  by Full Council.

The Conservative amendment was lost with the 3 Conservatives voting For and Labour and the Lib Dem voting Against.

Lib Dem Cllr Anton Georgiou was allowed to move his budget proposals and he was the only vote For.

The Labour Group  budget was approved with only Conservatives and the Lib Dem Against. Labour councillor Cllr Gill abstained.

Some councillors appeared to be  missing during the roll call (recorded vote).


Monday 22 February 2021

Brent NEU responds to Government's 'irresponsible' road map for full re-opening of schools

Following this afternoon's announcement of a return of all pupils and students to schools and colleges on March 8th, Jenny Cooper, joint secretary of Brent National Education Union said:

With  cases still high in Brent and sadly many deaths in our community, the Prime Minister's road map beginning with full reopening of schools on March 8th is irresponsible at best.

The Prime Minister stated that 'the threat remains substantial'.  On that basis the NEU will now be advising its members on how best to push back for a careful, sensible and phased return of pupils rather than the proposed return of 10 million at once.


Unions' response to Johnson's Schools & Colleges Reopening statement

 

Unions have responded to the Prime Minister’s statement that schools will reopen on March 8. (from Union News website LINK)

NEU general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: 

“Today’s announcement that all pupils will return to English schools on 8 March demonstrates, again, that Boris Johnson has, despite all his words of caution, failed to learn the lessons of his previous mistakes.

“Whilst cases of Covid infection are falling, along with hospitalisation rates, it remains the case, unfortunately, that cases are three times higher now than when schools re-opened last September. This fact, alone, should have induced caution rather than, in the words of Nadhim Zahawi an ‘ambitious’ school return which runs the risk of schools, once again, becoming, in the Prime Minister’s words on 4 January, ‘vector of transmission’ into the community.  This risk is greatly elevated because of the new variants of Covid which are significantly more transmissive.

“Why has the English government not taken the same route as Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland whose cautious, phased approach to school opening will enable their governments to assess the impact a return to the classroom will have on the R rate and to make necessary adjustments to their plans.

“A ‘big bang’ school reopening brings 10 million people back into crowded buildings with no social distancing and inadequate ventilation.  The wearing of face masks by pupils and staff in in secondary school lessons is a welcome measure but it is not, on its own enough.

“The government has had two months to put extra mitigations in place to stop the growth in infection in schools that was seen from September to December. Where are the ventilation units for classrooms? Where are the nightingale classrooms? Where is the PHE testing which school leaders could rely upon to give more accurate results? It is no good political parties talking about these safeguards when they know very well that they have not been put in place and will not be put in place by 8 March. Words are cheap. Actions are needed.

“The government must publish the science and the modelling which informs their unique school return plan. It should also make plans to protect vulnerable and older education staff who should be supported to work from home until their vaccinations take effect.

“While schools and colleges will, as always, go the extra mile, headteachers should have been given the flexibility offered in the other nations to plan for a phased school return.  It would have been far better to take that time to plan and implement a successful and sustainable wider opening – which today’s announcement does not, unfortunately, guarantee.”

The UCU said any wider reopening of college and university campuses from 8 March is irresponsible and risks undoing the country’s hard work to get Covid rates down.

The union called on employers to use common sense and keep teaching online wherever possible to reduce the risk of further Covid outbreaks. It said that for many courses this would mean there should mean no return to on-campus activity this academic year.

Where courses do require an element of in-person teaching, the union said employers must meet with UCU health and safety representatives to agree new risk assessments to protect staff, students and the wider community. It said assessments need to take account of a number of factors including the increased transmissibility of new variants, ventilation, PPE and how to support workers who need to shield. It also raised concerns over the potential use of unreliable lateral flow tests.

UCU said that where staff feel their health and safety is being put at risk, it will support members to fight to protect themselves, colleagues and students, including through industrial action ballots.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:

 “The Prime Minister seems to be pushing ahead with an irresponsible reopening of schools, colleges and universities at the same time. Pushing students and staff back onsite increases the risk of more Covid outbreaks and threatens to undo the country’s hard work to get infection rates down.

Lateral flow tests are completely unsuitable for testing on campuses. They are unreliable and incorrect negative results may give people a false sense of security, increasing the risk outbreaks. The government must not use them to reopen colleges and universities.

“We expect employers to keep teaching online wherever possible to prevent campuses from seeding the virus. For many courses this will mean no return to campus this academic year. UCU accepts that some university and college courses will need some in-person teaching but this needs to be very carefully managed to keep staff and students safe. Employers will need to agree new risk assessments with our health and safety representatives that take account of increased transmission rates of new variants, ventilation, PPE and how vulnerable employees will be supported to stay off campus.

“Employers must work with us to protect staff and student safety. If our members feel their health and safety is being put at risk, then we will support them to protect themselves, including through balloting for industrial action where necessary.”

Further Police Appeal for help after Preston Road murder

Ford Mondeo at the scene

 

Detectives investigating the murder of a teenage boy in Brent are appealing for assistance from the public and in particular want information about a car connected to the killing.

They are also appealing for a van driver who stopped briefly near to the scene to come forward as a potentially vital witness.

Police were called to a boy with stab injuries in Preston Road, Brent shortly after 23:30hrs on Thursday, 18 February. The victim has been identified as 16-year-old Drekwon Patterson from the Wembley area.

He was treated at the scene before being taken to hospital. Despite the efforts of emergency services, he died shortly before 09:00hrs on Friday, 19 February.

Specialist officers are supporting Drekwon’s family. A post-mortem examination will be held in due course.

Homicide detectives from Specialist Crime are investigating, led by Detectives Chief Inspector Richard Leonard.

DCI Leonard said:  

We have been working intensively since Drekwon’s killing to establish what happened on Thursday night and to find the people responsible.

Our investigation has included detailed forensic analysis and an intensive search for, and of, relevant CCTV material. These and other lines of enquiry are continuing, and I can assure Drekwon’s family and the local community of our total commitment to bringing those responsible to justice.

We have been well supported by the public in and around Preston Road and further afield, and I am appealing for their help today. I need to hear from any witnesses or anyone with information about this tragic murder – if you know anything that may be significant, please get in touch.

In particular, I need to find out more information about a car – a black Ford Mondeo, using registration number YR54 NHN – which was seen on CCTV driving away from the scene and found burnt out in Silver Jubilee Park, NW9 on Friday 19 February.

I believe this car was used in an initial attempt to injure Drekwon in a collision on Preston Road. After the Mondeo had been driven at him, Drekwon ran away and was chased by four suspects who had got out of the car, before being caught and fatally stabbed.

We have to yet to establish who was using this Mondeo in the days leading up to the murder, and I am appealing for anyone who may have seen it to get in touch. This is a fairly large vehicle and quite old, so it would have been noticed. It is possible that the car appeared suspicious and wasn’t familiar to local residents in the area where it was parked, or maybe people using the car were seen behaving suspiciously.

This car is clearly a key line of inquiry, and I am asking everyone – in particular people in north-west London – to think carefully about whether they have seen this Ford Mondeo and who may have been using it.

I also want to trace the driver of a van, which was seen on CCCTV to stop briefly near to the scene, who might have witnessed a crucial part of the incident. I am appealing for that driver to please come forward as a witness.

Officers are releasing images of the Ford Mondeo captured on CCTV near to the scene in addition to a stock image of a similar black Mondeo. They are also releasing a CCTV image of the van near to the scene.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the incident room on 020 8721 4622 or call police on 101 quoting CAD 8167/18Feb. Alternatively, information can be given anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

There has been no arrest at this stage.

Officers from the Met’s North West Command Unit continue to conduct additional patrols in the area. Local residents are urged to speak with these officers if they have any information or concerns.


Greens demand further protections for schools to avoid another lockdown


 It's an international issue - demonstration in South Africa

The Green Party is urging the government to introduce additional measures to protect schools which could save lives and avoid another lockdown in the coming months.

The Green Party Education Spokesperson Vix Lowthion said:

It is vital to stop transmission in schools by introducing effective protections to make them safer - such as masks in classrooms, adequate ventilation, a rota system and utilising outdoor and community spaces to allow social distancing as part of a phased return to school.

These protections are commonplace in European nations, and a phased return is what is happening in Scotland and Wales. This government's belief in English exceptionalism is incredibly dangerous.

If new, additional protections are not introduced then we could face exactly the same issues as we did in December, and a fourth lockdown in the coming months.

 

Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley added:

It is essential that Boris Johnson carefully follows the science as the nation comes out of our third lockdown. In the past the government has lifted restrictions too quickly, causing thousands of people to tragically lose their lives, many more than should have been the case.

The chancellor has a chance at the upcoming March budget to provide financial security for all those struggling to deal with the economic hardships the pandemic has brought. It is vital he acts with the interests of the most vulnerable at the centre of his attention.