Thursday, 6 May 2021

ALERT - threat to Barham Park's green spaces. Make your views known.


The two modest 70s houses at present

The word 'green' has been one of the most often used words in the GLA election across the parties but when push comes to shove will politicians really stand up for our green spaces that have proved so invaluable in the covid period.

An upcoming planning application to replace two modest houses on the edge of Barham Park with a much larger block of 9 flats will be a test case and one which may have wider repercussions for other buildings in Brent parks.

Barham Park was gifted to the people of Brent by Titus Barham for their 'enjoyment' and held in trust by the Barham Park charity,  However it is managed by Brent Council who often seem to have their own unique interpretation of words, especially when it comes to planning, so they may well think Brent people will 'enjoy' a block being plonked in their park.

This is the latest in a series of applications most of which have been refused and locals are gearing themselves up to resist the erosion of their much-loved and appreciated green space.

They are supported by a Brent Council member for Barnhill who I suspect from the thoroughness of the comment is Cllr Gaynor Lloyd:

I am writing to object most strongly to the above planning application.  

Appropriateness to the public open space/Barham Park and extent of land comprised in the planning application

As set out in the Design and Access statement, the existing houses were built originally to house park wardens; such accommodation clearly has a functional link to the park, as related to its maintenance. 

I fully appreciate that the issue of the restrictive covenants on the land are irrelevant to planning; nonetheless, I would point out that the two separate transfers of numbers 776 and 778 dated 12 August 2011 to George Irvin/George Christopher Irvin (predecessor of the applicant) imposed  very strict limitations on the use of the site. 

These were obviously imposed in accordance with the instructions of the Trustees of the Barham Park Trust (i.e., the Council acting as trustee) and limiting use on the  two separate parts of the site (776 & 778) in each case to 1 single private dwelling houses and garage (as to the garages, site photographs show that these were evidently demolished by the applicant). The Transfer Deeds contain further strict limitations on items and vehicles which may be placed/parked/kept  on the site of the two dwelling houses ? covenants which can be seen from the photographs included in the applications as having been breached. 

These restrictions are entirely on all fours with the designation of the Park, its status as public open space, its local historical importance, and continuing links via its design and history with the owner who gave it for the recreation of the local populace

I will be writing separately to the Trustees, in case this application should have escaped their notice. The restrictions on use imposed by the two transfers will clearly have affected the value received by the trust on sale in 2011, when this part of its permanent endowment was sold ? and the financial asset that is the benefit of that covenant is clearly something to which the Barham Park Trustees must pay full regard in their role as trustees. However, that valuation and asset issue is clearly of subsidiary importance in planning terms to keeping the Park's nature and integral local importance intact, which ought to be important for planning policy.

Notwithstanding the restrictions placed on the freehold titles of 776 & 778 Harrow Road, of which the owner (and its predecessor) would presumably be well aware, I note that this appears to be the ninth in a succession of planning applications for this site. 

However, on this occasion, I should be glad if a detailed examination of the plans could be undertaken to see whether the application site in fact goes outside the boundaries of the two freehold titles belonging to the applicant. (See below for my comment on the "over sail" of the main entrance).

Of course, I fully appreciate that there is nothing to stop anyone from putting in a planning application for land which is not owned by the applicant. However, in this case, the surrounding land to the north is either owned by Network Rail, or is part of the ownership of the Barham Park Trustees (London Borough of Brent of such Trustees); in the latter case, it is part of public open space, and subject to the provisions of the Bar Park Trust.

I mention this because it would appear from examination of the plans that areas of car parking and an area (inconsistently marked on various of the plans to the application) surrounding the Cedar of Lebanon go outside the ownership of the applicant. For example, please see Design and Access Statement, page 26 (page 6 of PDF), where the "site boundary" is clearly set the other (Northern) side of the Cedar of Lebanon.

Even aside from that, a close examination of the various plans and comparison with the Land Registry filed plan is somewhat confusing. The moving of the access road (the northern boundary of which forms the site boundary for 778 Harrow Road) as part of the plans, with a new access road under an "oversail" as shown on the proposed plans is difficult to follow. However, taking a measurement from the hedge boundary to the south west of the site towards the railway line, it appears a frontage of some 16 m would extend to the edge of the current access road, which is the land registry site boundary for 778 Harrow Road. The new plans seem to indicate a site frontage of some 20 m. I attach two screenshots from Google Earth, on which appropriate markings have been made.

It is quite hard to tell where that boundary then  falls on the various plans but the Design & Access Statement on page 30 (page 10 of PDF) refers to the replacement of the current access road with a planting bed. The picture on the same page shows posts which I believe were installed by the Council in order to prevent parking by the applicant/users of the site; the land is owned by the Council (Trust). As above, the access road forms the outer limit of the land in the ownership of the applicant.

This is also relevant, as the design includes an area of over-sail for the entrance which intrudes into land which does not appear to be in the ownership of the applicant; this is clearly of some importance, as it appears to indicate that the actual building goes outside the land ownership of the applicant. A similar comment applies to the installation of services (Section 14) which again appeared to be outside the boundaries of the site.

Tree works and Local Green Space and Sudbury Town Neighbourhood Plan

The Cedar of Lebanon is a tree within Barham Park, and again the ownership of the Council (trust); that the suggestion that "4 lower branches" should be removed to facilitate this development is completely unacceptable (Tree Report). 
There has been a recent tree survey of the trees in Barham Park (by Council officers following a survey for public liability purposes),  which has resulted in some trees in the vicinity of the application site being removed, and leaving a gap in the boundary trees for Barham Park at its western frontage. To suggest that any works be undertaken to this major tree on the boundary of the Park is quite unacceptable.

This building will block the view of the Cedar of Lebanon from the south of the Park, and create a huge artificial interruption to the views of this important area of local green space flowing naturally, as it always has, with uninterrupted aspect towards the railway line. This is a piece of public open space

Further, whilst  the Design and Access Statement refers to the proposed development blocking views of the railway line, a further objection that I wish to make is that the railway line in fact forms part of the heritage setting of the Park.

The heritage of the legacy of Titus Barham, and his father Sir George Barham before him was based on the dairy industry, and the foundation of Express Dairy; the great innovation was the use of the railway lines to bring chilled milk in from the countryside to London. The railway line on the embankment form part of the framing of Barham Park, and are not an intrusion at all. Unlike this building.

The Sudbury Town Neighbourhood Plan refers to Barham Park as an important area of local green space and specifically states "any proposals for the re- or redevelopment of Park buildings for residential use (Use Class C 3) will not be supported)." (Page 39) Policy BP1 Barham Park . Local Green Space policy: "Green infrastructure contributes to the quality and distinctiveness of the local environment. It creates opportunities for walking and physical activity and generally adding to quality of life. Green infrastructure is diverse in character and can include formal parks and gardens, informal grassed areas, linear paths, towpaths, sports pitches and various other kinds of landscaped area.

For many local communities, securing high quality green infrastructure in and around their neighbourhood is important. Neighbourhood plans can include policies for green spaces and can be used to designate 'Local Green Spaces' to protect them for current and future generations." In context of Green Belt/Metropolitan Open Land, a  legal case has referred to "death by 1000 cuts"; of course, this is "only" public open space, but the principle is the same. This large intrusive building will slice a corner away from the park, blocking the use of the tree line at the northern end, breaking the tree margin along the western boundary and completely changing the character and extending the Sudbury "town centre" beyond the railway line and into the park ? moving the built environment into an important and historic piece of local green space, interfering with the aesthetics and original design of the piece of parkland which we are lucky to have still surviving. 

It seems somewhat ironic that the design and access statement goes to some trouble to emphasise the historic association of the Irvin funfair with the Park, when, if this application goes ahead, undermining of the historic integrity of the Park will take place as a result of this massive development. (In fact, however, I am not too sure where the author of the Design and Access Statement gets the suggestion that it was a "condition applied" by Titus Barham that a fair should take place annually in the Park; it is certainly not in the terms of the trust deed but, for the interest of our local historians, if that is a fact, then it would be useful to see the evidence. References to fairs to support the then  local Wembley Hospital are quite different, and relate to fundraising for another local asset close to the heart of Titus and Florence Barham.)
Flooding risk and recent works funded by the Barham Trust and managed by the Council

I note the Flooding Risk Assessment, and the indication of both the surface water sewers, and the foul water sewers shown on page 36. Looking at the flood risk map, there are areas of high flood risk shown on parts of the park. It may be a statement of the obvious but it is of quite some importance to local users of the Park that is much of the parkland as possible is available for use ? and when it is flooded, obviously, it is not available for recreation. Section 16 of the Flood Risk Assessment refers to surrounding areas of the park getting "saturated", and there is a clear indication that the works which have been carried out by Thames Water have not been successful in resolving the problem. Indeed these works (already long-standing) continue to this day and further extend along the boundary with the railway line, already causing significant disruption. 

The result of the investigation which was to have been undertaken with Trust funds of £5000 as to the flooding of the main field where the fair takes place each year are unknown to residents. However, it is notable that various surface water sewers cross that field, which may have required building over in view of the weight of vehicles and structures which sit on them at fair time, and this also should be looked at if there is a "system problem" for surface water disposal  in the Park.

For approximately a year, there have been works in the Park in this area in connection with drainage problems; an application was made by the Barham Park Trust to the Charity Commission for permission to spend up to £90,000 of (precious and non-renewable) restricted trust funds on drainage works in the Park. It goes without saying that this development ? if it goes ahead ? would substantially increase the area of hard surface; whilst it may be of comfort to the applicant/developer that the floor level of the development will be raised to avoid flooding risk for the building, as referred to in section 16 it is not of much comfort in the Park, if it exacerbates the risk of flooding in the main field abutting. I would certainly not want to see either the damage to surrounding park, or the possible consequential expenditure again from Trust funds in connection with these drainage works, if this development goes ahead. 

The foul water sewers shown on the plan run straight underneath the two existing houses. As above, there is a network of surface water sewers across the open field and to the north of the site, which will be well used (see high flood risk); no mention of the detail of the extensive works taken in the last year appears in the Flood Risk Assessment; enquiry should be made of Chris Whyte who brought details of the proposed works (and the estimate) to the meeting of the Barham Trust committee, and details of which were submitted to the Charity Commission for approval to the expenditure from the reserved funds, so that the Commission will wish to know that this substantial expenditure will not have been wasted/prejudiced.

Damage is already caused to field as a result of the fair held on the site. The photograph in the Design and Access Statement shows the vehicle access to the park in a poor and muddy and rutted state, indicative of what happens when the field becomes wet.

Ecological assessment

There have been a series of ecological assessments in connection with the various planning applications; the one attached to this application is very disappointing, and previous surveys have contained much more detail. Once again, it is notable that reference is made to daytime inspection in respect of bats. In 2014, we submitted some detailed comments to the then head of planning Stephen Weeks about a previous bat survey. These are reattached, because they make points of relevance and deal with comments made in this brief survey, such as dismissing evidence of droppings as being made by mice, and referring to the presence of cobwebs as indicating that bats also would not be present ? which is simply not correct!

I have recently commented about the Council's dealing with bat surveys in the case of Altamira, Moreland Gardens, and the consideration of bat protection issues. I am no expert ; however, once again this survey was carried out during the day in February. There is the identification of the possibility of bat roosts but, of course, at this time of the year, let alone during the daytime, no one is going to find any evidence of bat emergence. However, the survey does refer to the foraging corridor along the railway line. Indeed, it is specifically refers to the importance of intrusion of lights along that "corridor" at the Northern edge of the park. It does not seem that the ecological consultant is aware of the nature of the construction of this four-storey building, which will be so close, for example, to the Cedar of Lebanon that its branches are proposed to be cut. For example, in the Consultant's own report (paragraph, he refers to "corridors for bat flight must be retained where present"; he also states in paragraph "no trees will be damaged". He evidently is unaware of the full scope of the application. The oversail will penetrate the Cedar of Lebanon canopy; branches will be cute. Pictures of the northern elevation of the 4 storey building with large balconies and a roof terrace make it quite clear that lights will shine over the foraging corridor in the evening. How can it be thought that there will not be interference with bats?

Most importantly, there must be proper dusk and dawn emergence surveys undertaken during the period April to September to ascertain the true position, and ensure that the presence of bats in the existing buildings is checked. The Council must not countenance the potential to disturb bats  in a manner prohibited by legislation, and potentially involving the developer in criminal liability. The houses are buildings of a type, and era and within  a wooded environment along a railway verge corridor with a strong potential for bat roosts and bat foraging corridors. I can supply (from our experience with Morelands) more specific general guidance in  circumstances where a high probability of bat roosts, foraging , presence etc is identified, which I hope will be of help - but I am sure after that experience the Council contains more expertise on this topic. It is perhaps unfortunate, however, that, in none of the records for the previous planning applications is there any evidence of bat surveys (dawn/dusk emergence in the period when bats are active, rather than, for example, in the dormant period - Bat Surveys for Professional Ecologists: Good Practice Guidelines (Collins, 2016)), so there seem to be no efforts by the applicant to establish whether there is any bat presence in those two properties.

Bats are a European protected species. The Council has a statutory duty to have regard to the requirements of the EC  Habitats Directive in carrying out its functions ? the deterioration or destruction of breeding sites or resting places is prohibited. 
Field surveys in form of at least three dusk emergence and dawn re-entry surveys be undertaken during the bat emergence/re-entry survey season in 2021 to determine the presence/absence of roosting bats within the structures. 

Possible works affecting these spaces would very likely have negative impacts on potential bat roosts. These impacts could be killing or injuring of bats, physical disturbance (bats will abandon their young if disturbed) and lighting disturbance (bats may be prevented from re-entering their roosts by construction lighting).Demolition has the potential to kill bats and destroy bat roosts if present .

The surrounding habitats offer a range of green and blue corridors for roosting bats and the northern boundaries of the site have been assessed as being potentially important areas for commuting bats. Inappropriate construction lighting in these areas could therefore have a negative effect on bats, potentially preventing them from accessing on-site roosts.

"Communal use" and "Surveillance"

I note that all the flats are intended for rental; there is no indication whatsoever of contribution to Borough's desperate need for affordable social housing ? but yet another "contribution" to the private rental sector of the housing provision within the Borough. These flats, whilst including family units, will clearly be very desirable, benefiting from uninterrupted views over Barham Park, thus attracting a high level of rental. 

The Design and Access Statement reference  to "communal use" and inference of some sort of social value seem singularly inappropriate.

Further, it is hardly the function of the development to "police" the park; Section 5.3 of the Design and Access statement contains the following somewhat alarming statement: " The second objective suggests a development with a more Formal gardens and features of former Barham mansion at the heart of the park Former nursery glass house now part of the Jubilee Garden War memorial public character where the architecture is one of communal use rather than individual ownership, and where the residents benefit from the use of the park but also offer a degree of surveillance that might enhance the standard of behaviour in the park." Surveillance?? Enhance the standard of behaviour - this smacks of vigilante-ism. This is a park for the use of the public.

The 1937 Barham bequest was that the land, i.e. park and its buildings,  be left for the enjoyment of local people. The park keepers cottages were sold by the trust but with tight restrictions, and planning considerations will keep the uses appropriate the park. 

Brent Council as trustees must keep their corporate and statutory duties (including as the provision of housing under the planning policies), and should be objecting to this application.  Especially since they will realise it involves a breach of restrictive covenants imposed by the Council as trustee to preserve the small scale development in that corner of the Park.  Not only that but it would involve an unjust enrichment of a landowner at the expense of the Trust's permanent endowment were such covenants to be breached, the transfer value having reflected the tight land use.

It is not acceptable in any event that this piece of public open space should be developed anymore.  Improved, perhaps, but not demolished and rebuilt.

This new major access for vehicles will affect pedestrian access to the park from this corner and make this area of public open space for the limited benefit of the residents of this block, so that the park will become in the nature of a private facility and advantage simply benefiting these residents, and irrevocably change the nature of this important piece of local historical public space.

Balconies and roof terrace and intrusion into enjoyment of the Park
As above, the park is the enjoyment of local people; it is not for their activities to be observed from the "large balconies" at every level of the building, and the roof terrace. Park users are entitled to enjoy the park without being "surveilled". The lights from the building will inevitably affect ? once again ? wildlife in the park, along the darkened areas along the railway embankment.

Highway safety

The current bell mouth access from under the bridge is likely to give rise to issues of Highway concern; I note from the drawings that there is an intention to extend the bell mouth but with no detail and ? as above ? this land is not owned by the applicants, and the land itself is subject to the trust which, if it is going to dispose, will need the consent of the Charity Commission. The land is part of the Trust's permanent endowment, and sales have to be in pursuance of objects of the charity. It is hard to imagine how this particular use can fit within such criteria.

Looking at concerns of Highway safety:

a)            considerable increase in vehicular access to the site including collection of waste by using 1,100 litre bins requiring HGV access to the site, and reversing in or out of the site across a bus lane and heavily used A road.
b)            driveway crossing the vehicle access to the park, and depending on a right of way over a limited area (shown hatched yellow on the land registry plan attached) which will simply be insufficient for the development and the HGV access; again increase in this easement will require consent of the trustees and consent of the Charity Commissioners for the increase in width, as there is no legal easement available to the applicant.
c)            proximity to a very busy bus stop and the access point crossing a bus lane.
d)            No U Turn designation at this location which is generally ignored 
e)            potential danger and traffic delay from right turns into the site which will become much more of a problem with this large residential use . Vehicles exiting the site towards Harrow would cause disruption to traffic flow; this is a major bus route, and initial bus stop for the number 18 service to central London.
f)             there are insufficient parking spaces for the number of bedrooms but, in any event, this is contrary to the Council's policy on parking provision in developments.
g)            there have already been historic problems with the residents of the site blocking access to the park access road. Large number of bollards had to be installed which only went part way to resolving the problem. 
h)            it appears to be no delivery area so that there is a risk of delivery and service vehicles parking on the main road; there is a bus lane immediately outside service would be completely unacceptable. 


This point has been made in previous applications; there are many regular park users, including the walking group sponsored by the Council. There is a local residents association, and neighbourhood Forum (Sudbury town Residents Association). Yet, once again only the residents of Williams Way - i.e. the recently built flats opposite ? have been consulted. Most of those residents have not lived there long enough to appreciate the history of the park or to care about it as passionately as longer standing residents ? or indeed know some of the historical issues such as flooding problems.

I have spoken to the various neighbours, and residents of the surrounding area, and none of them were aware of the proposals put forward. It was only sheer good luck that the site notice (close to the development site) was noticed at all. There should have been much wider consultation, and it would be interesting to know what criteria were applied to decide on the range of properties consulted .

Philip Grant has pressed Brent Council to publish the comments by 'consultees' on the Council's planning portal but under 'View Consultee comments' this is what we see.  Hardly a demonstration of a commitment to fully informing the public and ensure transparency:

To make your views known go to LINK 


Anonymous said...

I've looked at the plans, and one of the benefits of the proposed big block of flats it suggests is that people will know its address from a distance, because of the large sign over the entrance door saying IRVIN HOUSE.

Seems like the funfair family want to turn this end of our Barham Park into their Irvin Park!!!

Anonymous said...

Anonymus 6 May 2021 at 19:57

I love your comment, it sums it up very well except for the missing £ signs, thank you.

Philip Grant said...

I have "made my views known" on this planning application, submitting a detailed objection comment, particularly on the heritage aspects of the proposals.

The proposed development of a four-storey block of flats is actually within Barham Park, not just 'adjacent to the park', as claimed in parts of the application documents.

I have made the case that Barham Park merits being treated as a "heritage asset" in its own right for planning purposes. The history of the Sudbury Park estate, and its residents for a century before Titus Barham donated his home and grounds to the people of Wembley in his will in 1937, is closely linked to the history of Wembley.

I have also pointed out that, because of the number of objections now received, if Brent's Planning Officers were (wrongly!) to recommend this application for approval, it would have to go to Brent's Planning Committee for a decision, and not be decided (behind closed doors) at "Area Team Manager" level.

Hopefully, this application will not make it as far as Planning Committee, as the Planning Officers'response to it should be the same as when they refused the previous application for this site in July 2019:
‘The proposed development would incorporate an inappropriate height and associated bulk and massing that would appear prominent and have a negative impact on the open nature of the park setting.’

Philip Grant said...

There has been a fantastic response from the local community, making their views known with objections to this planning application. Thank you, everyone!

Anonymous said...

Can you post me a link to planning so I can put forth my objection as this is not acceptable for local area.

Martin Francis said...

The application was withdrawn after public pressure. I will post details of new application when made: