Sunday 30 May 2021

'Blooming marvellous' gifts for Wembley Central & Alperton residents


Sorting the plants

From WCRA 

Wembley Central and Alperton Residents’ Association’s  'Blossom' initiative began during the first Covid19 lockdown in April 2020 when they were able to gift bedding plants to isolating residents in Wembley Central and Alperton.    


More than 6,800 plants were distributed, the idea supported by local residents, the Alperton Community Group and a number of local businesses in Wembley. 


In 2021 WCARA have hugely increased their efforts, securing more donations from even more local businesses, organisations and residents, they ordered over 12,000 plants which WCARA members and volunteers sorted, packed into bags and delivered to homes in Wembley Central and Alperton.

The aim of 'Blossom' is purely to bring a smile and happiness to residents in the local area, especially as the past year been so hard for many in the Wembley Central and Alperton communities.      WCARA hope this gift of plants will bring solace and help neighbours as life gets back to normal - whether you have a tiny balcony, small garden or even a larger plot it's great to green up your environment and encourage nature, as we all know gardens have been so important for our health in recent times.

WCARA would like to thank all their supporters and sponsors who have helped to make 'Blossom' possible so far - it's great to see such support for our local community.


Saturday 29 May 2021

Covid-19: Enhanced testing in Willesden, Donnington Court

From Brent Council 


Covid-19: Enhanced testing in Willesden, Donnington Court

Public Health England has found a case of the South African Covid-19 variant in Willesden.

To see if it has spread in the community and to help contain the virus, everyone aged 16 and over who lives or works in Donnington Court NW10 3TJ is being asked to get tested, even if they are not showing symptoms.

If you live or work within the enhanced testing area, do the right thing and get tested to protect your family, friends and community. 

The more cases of the variant we find, the better chance we have at stopping the spread.

You must get tested at one of the following testing sites. The site you go to will depend on whether you have symptoms or not.

If you don’t have symptoms

If you have symptoms

Key questions on enhanced testing

Why am I being asked to get tested?

A case of the South African Covid-19 variant has been found in Willesden. We want to find out if it’s been spreading in the local area and if so, to contain it by asking all those affected and their recent contacts to self-isolate.

It’s important that you get tested, even if you feel fine, as 1 in 3 people with Covid-19 show no symptoms but could be spreading the virus with loved ones and around the community without knowing.

How does it work?

  1. If you’re aged 16 or over, book a test at the right testing site depending on whether you’ve got symptoms or not

  2. Come alone if you can, although if you’re 16 or 17 you’ll need to bring a parent or guardian with you – and don’t forget your face covering!

  3. When at the site, you’ll need to take a swab of your throat and nose – it’s quick and painless

  4. That’s it. Leave the testing site, staff will clean the booth and send your test off to the lab

  5. If your test is positive, it’ll be checked to see what strain of the virus you’ve been infected with. Don’t worry, there’s currently no evidence the South African variant will make you more unwell but you will need to self-isolate for 10 days so you don’t spread it – anyone you live with will need to self-isolate too.

  6. If you test negative, that’s great! But you must continue to follow the rules and remember, you can get free and regular rapid Covid-19 tests any time,visit our webpage to find out more.

Friday 28 May 2021

Special walk-in vaccination clinic at Kingsbury Temple tomorrow for those without NHS number or 1D -6-8pm

There will be a walk in vaccination clinic at Kingsbury Temple on Saturday 6-8pm for those with no NHS number and no easy way of getting one.  The team are particularly keen to focus on asylum seekers, refugees and homeless although quite a lot of work has been done recently to vaccinate the homeless.


It will be a safe clinic – no one will be taking details or asking for proof of ID or anything like that. They will ask for a phone number which could be for that person or a charity they go to. This is just so they can be contacted for a 2nd dose.


183 bus from Kingsbury station

EXCLUSIVE: HOPE FOR THE HARP! Brent Council 'exploring all options' to keep the Welsh Harp Centre open and consortium formulating an NCIL bid


The road to the Centre - could almost be countryside

The classrooms

Path to woodland exploration

The pond-dipping pond

Another exciting path into the woods

This pond is protected for the undistrubed breeding of frogs, toads and newts

The fairly recently built dipping pond for wheelchair users

The toilet block - a necessity!

The above photographs, taken in the absence of the chatter of excited primary school children, shows what we could lose  if the Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre were to close. It also shows the  investment Thames21 made in improvement of the facilities to cater for ALL children.

Today in a response to a request  from Wembley Matters, Brent councillors Krupa Sheth, Lead Member for Environment and Thomas Stephens, Lead Member for Schools, Employment and Skills said:

We thank Thames21 for all their work over the years, teaching children about nature and the importance of protecting our environment. We have been working with Thames21 for some time on the challenges they faced and offered assistance, but we understand the difficult decision they have taken.

It is essential that we continue to support young people, schools and families to learn more about their environment. This is especially important as we continue to work with and alongside our communities to tackle the twin climate and ecological emergencies.

To this end, we are now exploring all options to secure the future of the Environmental Education Centre at the Welsh Harp, in conversation with our local schools, community leaders and voluntary groups. 

Since Wembley Matters published the news  that Thames21 were relinquishing the lease there has been widespread support on social media for the Centre which many adults in Brent attended as children.

 I understand that Brent Parks Forum is working with a consortium of local organisations to make a Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy application to retain the Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre. Such a bid will have to demonstrate community support for the application. To express your support please email with your reasons for supporting the bid  and your name and address . I am sure they will also welcome offers of help from any experts in bid-writing or other useful skills.

Let's all pull together to save this vital resource.

Wembley Park tile murals – a good news story!

 Guest blog by Philip Grant in a personal capacity

It makes a change for me to be able to share some good news with you about the heritage tile murals at the Bobby Moore Bridge and Olympic Way. But that’s what this article is about.


The January 2020 tile mural “reveal”, with some damage arrowed. (Photo by Francis Waddington)


When three tile mural scenes, which had been covered over with Quintain’s vinyl advertising sheets since the autumn of 2013, were revealed on 18 January 2020, at the launch of Brent’s year as London Borough of Culture, damage which had occurred to the tiles could be seen. It was clear that water had seeped behind the top of the tiles in Olympic Way (just outside of the subway from Wembley Park Station), and two areas of tiles on the Ice Hockey mural had fallen off and broken.



A close-up of part of the damage to the Ice Hockey mural, February 2020.


I spoke about this to Julian Tollast, one of the Quintain representatives (who I first met at a heritage event in 2014) at the “reveal” hosted by Brent’s Mayor and Council Leader. He said he would ensure that this damage was repaired. I asked that Quintain should at least make sure that the “fillet” along the top of the tiles was made watertight, before vinyl advertising sheets were put back over the murals five weeks later.


During this time, I managed to make contact with a director of the company which had designed the murals, and supplied the tiles, in 1993. They had sold the tiles side of their business in 2000, but he was able to identify the type of tiles used, and give details of the German manufacturer which made them. I passed this information on to Quintain, who were hoping that the repair work could be arranged for the autumn of 2020, when there would be a changeover of the vinyl sheets.


Unfortunately, when the adverts came off again, for the three week “periodic display” of these mural scenes in March 2021, the Ice Hockey mural was still damaged. In fact, the damage seemed worse.


The damaged Ice Hockey tile mural, mid-March 2021. (Photo by Francis Henry)


When this photo was shared with me, I contacted Julian at Quintain again, to find out what was happening about the repair. After checking with Quintain’s Wembley Park Operations Team, he was able to tell me that the damaged tiles had been removed, and loose tiles secured. A waterproof mortar fillet had been installed along the top of the mural scenes. Matching replacement tiles had been obtained from a UK manufacturer, and these would be put in place by a specialist contractor by the end of March.


I was not able to visit Olympic Way to see the work on the tiles myself, but I was told that photos would be taken before the murals were covered over with adverts again. I looked forward to receiving these, so that I could share them with you, but there was a delay before copies were supplied to me. However, the pictures were worth waiting for!


The repaired Ice Hockey mural, end of March 2021. (Photo courtesy of Quintain / Wembley Park Ltd)



Panoramic view of the three tile mural scenes in Olympic Way, after the repair, end of March 2021.
(Photo courtesy of Quintain / Wembley Park Ltd)


I would like to publicly thank Quintain’s Wembley Park team for the repairs carried out to the Ice Hockey tile mural. They clearly realise what a valuable cultural and heritage asset these beautiful murals are for Wembley Park. It’s just a pity that they won’t put them back on permanent display, so that residents and visitors can enjoy them, rather than the bland advertising sheets which cover them most of the time!


How the tile murals in Olympic Way usually look, March 2020.


Philip Grant.

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Good news for Brent as diverse bookshop opens its door at The Grange, Neasden roundabout

 As a young primary teacher in the 1970s I used to visit the New Beacon Bookshop in Stroud Green Road to buy books for pupils that reflected my multiracial classroom as well as books for my own self-education about Black history, culture and literature.

Now 50 years later the woman credited with saving New Beacon when it fell behind the times and could no longer provide the service modern customers  required, has brought her skills and passion to Brent in the form of Book and Kulture, an on-line book shop dedicated to providing books and cultural resources reflecting our diverse society. It will now offer an in-person service at its premises in the former Brent History Museum at the The Grange on Neasden roundabout.

New  Beacon was founded by Sarah White and her husband John La Rose in 1966 and it was John's grandson Renaldo La Rose, with his wife Vanessa who took on the task of  saving New Beacon from closure .

 Vanessa La Rose said:

It is important now more than ever that we create as many opportunities for Brent residents to access diverse books and crafts. As one of the most diverse boroughs in London, it’s astounding that we will be one of only three independent bookshops in the borough. We hope that by opening our doors we will encourage people to take more of an interest in reading and look at books that feature more reflective characters.


On Tuesday 1st June Book & Kulture will extend their online offering of diverse books and crafts to those living/working locally by opening their doors to customers allowing them to browse through their diverse range of books and crafts in store. Whilst the bookshop won’t carry the extensive range offered on the website, the selection gives customers an insight into the vast array of diverse books and crafts available. 


The Grange

Located in The Grange, the former Brent Museum in the centre of Neasden roundabout, the shop will open every Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday from 11am 4pm and on every second Saturday of the month from 10.30am 6pm.

There is parking at The Grange and pedestrians can reach it by the pedestrian bridge (please don't try and cross the road on foot!)

Muhammed Butt: George Floyd -'much more to do in London'


Last year's London demonstration

Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Council,  wrote this is his London Councils role of Executive Member for Welfare, Empowerment and Inclusion:


In the midst of a global pandemic, the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers one year ago created shockwaves around the world.

This terrible crime became a catalyst that amplified and accelerated action to tackle racial inequality and injustice, which was also emerging as an aggravating factor in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Black Lives Matter movement came forward as a focal point for protest and action. We saw communities across the UK refusing to accept a world where Black people are discriminated against and killed. Whether participating in demonstrations or speaking in the media, key public figures and ordinary citizens put pressure on government, institutions and individuals to commit to change.

In London local government we are proud of our diverse communities - 40% of Londoners are from ethnic groups - and we are serious about our role in improving racial equality in the capital. We listened to the anger and grief expressed by our Black residents and we saw how this was a direct result of widespread racial inequality and injustice that affects all ethnic minorities. We knew we had to stand with our communities and act with more urgency and ambition than ever before.

One year on, we have made progress on pan-London, collaborative work, but we know that there is so much more to do.

It has been fantastic to see our pan-London Tackling Racial Equality programme, led by Kim Smith, Chief Executive of Hammersmith and Fulham, take shape. Established to ensure there is city-wide leadership and collaboration, complementing actions being taken in boroughs, it has harnessed the energy created by the events of last year to drive the race equality agenda forward in the capital.

After careful consideration, the programme agreed three key themes where we could add value to work being done by individual boroughs:

  • Growing more visible and impactful senior leadership, both within authorities, but also across partnerships and our ‘places’.
  • Doing much more as large employers to promote diversity, become more culturally aware and support staff development
  • Building/promoting and sharing best practice.

We’ve had overwhelming support, with more than 100 officers volunteering to engage with the programme and deliver action. This means we have a network of people across London boroughs and the City of London Corporation who are committed to creating a foundation for real change. With a robust governance framework and widespread buy-in, we’re aiming to ensure the programme’s work is sustainable and has a big impact.

We have also engaged with key London borough networks, including Heads of HR, recruitment firms and London Leadership Programme Alumni, and we are working on service improvements and systems leadership in areas like housing, health, crime/policing, skills and employment and climate change. There are so many opportunities within local government for more to be done.

With networks, relationships and resource in place, one of our first steps has been to commission a ground-breaking ethnicity and pay band survey of 87,000 workers across all London boroughs. We were able to identify trends across our workforce, benchmark across authorities and begin developing solutions around development opportunities, breaking ‘glass ceilings’ and improving representation across service areas.

We are also seeking to develop our thinking around ethnic groups/classifications – when we ask about ethnicity, how we ask and the options given. This might sound simple, but there is a current crucial lack of best practice. We recognise the importance of identity and the inconsistency across our engagement with local communities to capture people’s ethnic background. Everyone should have the option to select the classification most suitable for them which also helps to improve our understanding of local demographics and community needs. In London local government we are seeking to create a culture that aims to understand and tailor initiatives or solutions towards different ethnicities, cultures and communities.

Local authority leaders across London have expressed their support for raising our collective game on racial equality, signing up to a shared statement at London Councils’ Leaders Committee committing to action to create a fairer and more equal society.

As a council leader myself, I am acutely aware of the role I and fellow elected members play in showing leadership on this agenda and in supporting emerging talent from all our communities and across the political spectrum. With the next round of London borough elections just one year away, the challenge is clear to all of London’s political groups to demonstrate our commitment to this agenda.

Today our thoughts are with George Floyd’s loved ones, especially his children and grandchildren, as well as the Black community around the world. We know London’s Black community and us as their allies will be grieving too.

Our work across London local government owes a great debt to his legacy.

There is a long road ahead, but with so much injustices to right and so many opportunities to make progress, we are proud to be on this journey with our workforce and our communities.

Cllr Muhammed Butt is London Councils’ Executive member for Welfare, Empowerment and Inclusion


Brent Council leaflet on Covid19 'Areas of Concern' - information on vaccination/ surge testing and map of areas affected. Read it here.

 Note you can enlarge the document by clicking on the bottom right square.

Protest: North West London - Don't renew Centene's contract - Protest May 27th 1pm


From We Own IT

Centene’s contract to run Canberra Old Oak surgery in North West London is expiring on 25 July, 2021.

Local decision makers are meeting tomorrow, Thursday 27 May. They’ll be making a final decision about the contract at this meeting.

Please join our protest at the offices of North West London CCG:

  • Date: Thursday, 27 May
  • Time: 1 pm
  • Venue: 15 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5JD 

Sign up for the protest on Facebook if you're on Facebook.

You can bring any homemade signs you have. But if you don't have one, don't worry. We will provide you with signs at the protest.

We know that their meeting will be held online, but we need to show them that the public really cares about this.

Hundreds of people joined protests across London on the 22nd of April to make their voices heard. We know local health leaders are feeling the pressure.

If you have not yet done so, please take 2 minutes to send this email to local health decision makers.

LATEST: Bobby Moore Bridge “footballers” mural - We have a dispute. We have a way to resolve it. Let's get on and do that!


The east wall of the subway, with “footballers” mural, from Quintain’s consent application 19/1474


In a guest post last Sunday, updated with a response from Brent’s Chief Executive, Philip Grant explained how the long-running dispute, over whether this iconic heritage mural could be covered-up with adverts during the Euros football tournament, could be settled with arbitration by a small panel of Brent councillors. This afternoon, he responded to the Council Officers who had dismissed his suggestion:-


This is an open email


Dear Ms Downs (and Ms Norman),

Councillors could resolve advertisement consent dispute


When I sent an initial response to your email of 24 May on Monday afternoon, I asked for early clarification on two points from your final sentence. I had hoped that the answers might mean that these was less urgency to get this outstanding matter settled.


As I have not yet received your reply to that, I am responding now to the main points in that email, as we do need to resolve our dispute without further delay.


In your email you wrote (although I realise this may have been drafted for you):


I am afraid that even if a panel of Councillors agreed with you it would not change the legal right for vinyl advertisements to be attached to the tiles over the football mural.


That statement is grossly misleading, and if that is what Cllr. Nerva and other elected representatives have been told by Council Officers, I believe you owe them an apology.


You may believe that a ‘legal right’ exists to cover the footballers mural with adverts, but I believe at least as strongly that no such ‘legal right’ exists. That is the point at issue which needs to be properly decided in order to resolve our dispute. 


I have set out a strong case, supported by evidence from the advertisement consent application documents, to show that there has been no consent to advertise over that mural since August 2019.


I am not so arrogant as to believe that I may not be mistaken, and have said that if your case is stronger than mine, I would accept that my view is wrong. 


You, and Ms Norman, have claimed that a consent given in 2017 still exists in respect of the footballers mural, but have refused to provide the detailed reasons and evidence to support that view.


We appear to have reached an impasse. The quickest and fairest way to settle the matter would be for both sides to submit their case for arbitration by an impartial person. The dispute would be decided on the facts and evidence, with both parties agreeing to accept the decision.


Your statement quoted above claimed that a panel of Councillors would have no authority to decide this matter. I disagree. 


This dispute is very much a Brent Council matter, with Brent officers on one side and a Brent citizen on the other side.


Brent, as Local Planning Authority, has granted two advertisement consents relating to the footballers tile mural, one in 2017 (ref. 13/2987) and one in 2019 (ref. 19/1474). It is accepted that they are both legally valid consents. It is simply a question of which one actually applies to the footballers mural now.


Both for Brent’s Bobby Moore Bridge advertising lease tenant, and for Brent’s Planning Enforcement team, it is important that there is certainty over whether or not there is advertisement consent in respect of the footballers mural.


I am sure that a small panel of experienced Brent councillors would be competent to consider and decide on the issue here, and I am willing to trust their impartiality in exercising that task. I hope you would also put your trust in such a panel, and agree to accept their judgement, based on the facts and evidence put to them.


Your email suggested that a decision by such a panel would carry no legal weight, and could be ignored. While it would not be an official legal tribunal, a Brent dispute, arbitrated fairly and openly by elected Brent councillors, with the agreement of both Brent parties to that dispute, is not something which any Court of Law would readily dismiss (in the unlikely event of it ever coming before one).


Your reluctance, so far, to countenance my suggestion for arbitration, in order to settle this matter quickly and without much further cost, could be seen (and is seen by some) as an admission that Brent’s Legal team are afraid to put their view over advertisement consent to the test. 


It’s time to show the citizens of our borough that we are not afraid to “put our cards on the table”, openly and transparently, and accept the outcome.


We have a dispute. We have a way to resolve it. Let's get on and do that!


Yours sincerely,


Philip Grant.

BREAKING: Thames21 to end lease at Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre

A previous fight to save the Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre

I have just received this sad information.  There have been several battles over the years to save the Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre and its closure in the Year of COP26 and in a borough that has declared a Climate Emergency awould be a disaster.

26 May 2021

Thames21, London’s leading waterways charity, is sad to announce that it will give up its lease at the Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre in Brent when it ends in July.

Since taking on the 5.5 hectare site in Brent in 2016, the charity has delivered curriculum-linked environmental sessions for thousands of school pupils, mostly in Early Years to Key Stage 2 year groups. In a typical year, 3,500 visitors took part in learning sessions, which were either organised school sessions or similar ones for families, held in school holidays.

Thames21’s statement reads:

“With huge regret the Trustees of Thames21 have reached the conclusion that the charity can no longer afford to absorb the annual financial loss of delivering activities at the Education Centre.  Despite best endeavours, we have been unable to identify the additional funding support that is required to ensure that the Centre pays for itself. As a result, we are forced to give up our lease when it ends in July 2021.

Thames21 is extremely sad to be in this position.  The Centre is a much-loved local facility, and it has introduced many local children to their natural environment for the first time.  The benefits to health and well-being of activities in outdoor green space are well documented, and it has been such a privilege to serve the community in Brent. The Education Centre has maintained a thriving programme of activities for around three thousand children a year at the Centre.

Volunteering groups from the local community have supported the running of the Centre helping with gardening, site maintenance and supporting the education sessions. We have also managed to raise some funds to start improving and developing the Centre site, including refurbishing the popular nature pond and building a new raised pond that is accessible for wheelchair users, improving the pathways and installing a gate to the adjacent Welsh Harp Open Space.  However, the issue of annual general running costs has remained a challenge that we have not been able to address successfully, and so we have arrived at this point.

We would like to thank the volunteers, Brent Council and the many children and young people who have come to the Centre over the years that Thames21 has been running activities.”

The staff member who delivered the educational programme for Thames21 will be diverted to other projects within its educational portfolio across London.

In the 2018-19 acadenic year the Centre delivered 69 sessions to 41 different schools involving 2,790 pupils and 669 accompanying adults. 93 children and 48 adults  took part in school holiday activities.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Brent Council has been asked for a comment.


Tuesday 25 May 2021

Map of Covid surge areas in Brent


Map supplied by Brent Council

High rise blocks in Brent keep going up but so do the numbers of homeless families - zoom meeting May 27th


High-rise blocks keep going up but so do the numbers of homeless families.

About this event

  • What is happening to Brent’s housing supply?
  • Why are all the new housing developments making the housing crisis worse not better?
  • What can be done about it?
  • High-rise blocks keep going up but so do the numbers of homeless families
  • What is happening to Brent’s housing supply?
  • Why are all the new housing developments making the housing crisis worse not better?
  • What can be done about it?

Housing development in London is driven by frantic corporate and wealth investment activity.

In Brent, new high-rise blocks have been springing up but these are overwhelmingly private and often contain empty and under occupied flats.

Meanwhile, one in three Brent households live in expensive and often poor quality private rented housing, and more than 2,000 homeless families are stuck in temporary accommodation with no control over their future.

Why is it so hard for people to access Council homes which are decent, affordable and secure, a firm base to bring up families, work or study and realise aspirations in life?

Brent residents are among those who’ve been hardest hit by the pandemic. Now it’s time to put some meaning behind the phrase BUILD BACK BETTER by looking at the radical changes needed to ensure that everyone can access a decent home that they can afford.

FAIRER HOUSING – Partners for Change is working with ACTION ON EMPTY HOMES to bring about those changes. We want to see more resources for local Councils to build rented homes; we want private developers to build the right kind of homes; and we want empty homes to be put to good use.

  • Chair: Sahra Jama, Stream Skills Advancement
  • Speakers: Nimo Askar, L'Oreal Williams, Brent Residents
  • Councillor Margaret McLennan, Deputy Leader, Brent
  • Will McMahon, Director, Action of Empty Homes
  • Jacky Peacock, Advice for Renters