Guest post by Philip Grant in personal capacity
SEE UPDATE AT FOOT OF THIS ARTICLE
As you had not seen yet another “guest blog” by me on the “footballers” tile mural since 13 April, when I set out the reasons that Quintain does not have consent to cover it with adverts and asked “Why won’t Brent concede?”, you may have hoped that this question had been settled by now. I’d hoped that as well!
The “footballers” mural in the Bobby Moore Bridge subway at Wembley Park.
Unfortunately, Brent Council Officers don’t want to “play ball”, and get this issue properly resolved. It seems they would prefer to “kick it into the long grass”, so that Quintain and its Wembley Park subsidiary can continue to claim they are “entitled” to cover over this heritage asset and public artwork with adverts for big events at Wembley Stadium, starting with the Euros football tournament next month.
It should be unthinkable for this mural, showing England footballers playing at the old “twin towers” Wembley, to be hidden away behind advertising material when fans are going to the stadium to watch their team play. The adverts would also cover-up the plaque which shows they are walking through a structure dedicated ‘in honour of a football legend’. Even if you are not a football fan, I hope you would agree it would be wrong for any adverts to be placed there unlawfully, and that is what I believe would be the case.
The plaque in the centre of the “footballers” tile mural.
After I had sent the detailed reasons why Quintain did not have advertisement consent for this mural to Brent’s Legal Director and Chief Executive on 9 April, I had expected either to receive their agreement, or their counter argument. Instead, this is the full text of the email I received on 16 April from Debra Norman:
‘A substantial amount of council resource has been devoted to considering the concerns you have raised, including taking external legal advice. I am afraid we are now at the stage where it’s not reasonable continue with correspondence about this matter upon which it is clear the council is not in a position to agree your view or take the action you wish.’
Because this matter does need to be resolved, I believe it was reasonable to continue! I wrote to Carolyn Downs, asking her to let me know the reasons why the Council did not “agree my view”, and making clear that if they had a stronger case than the one I had put forward, I would accept it.
I will not accept the outcome that Council Officers want to impose without the evidence to back it up. I know, from past experience, that the Council will never share a copy of the ‘external legal advice’ they have received. But as they told me the QC’s advice ‘aligned with’ the view they’d already taken, surely they could share that view with me?
What I asked for was: ‘the substance of the reasoning for your view that the 2017 advertisement consent still applies to the "footballers" mural, and the documentary evidence on which that reasoning is based.’ The answer I finally received from Brent’s Chief Executive, on 19 May, was:
‘I have taken further legal advice on sharing our QC advice and have been advised not to so do.’
I don’t think it is fair or open for senior Council Officers to refuse to give their reasons for the view they have taken on this important matter, and I have said so. I will ask Martin to attach the full text of the latest email exchanges, so that anyone who wishes to can read them and make their own judgement.
We are now less than three weeks away from the start of the Euros football tournament, so this dispute over advertisement consent does need to be resolved without further delay. As Council Officers are reluctant to settle the issue, I have taken the initiative and suggested that Brent Councillors could help to do that.
I decided to ask the Lead Member for Culture and Leisure if he would be willing to organise a small panel of councillors to arbitrate and decide, on the facts and evidence, whether or not Quintain has consent to put adverts over the “footballers” tile mural. Any decision would need to be binding on both myself and the Council, so I copied my email to the Chief Executive.
I approached Councillor Nerva as he had expressed an interest when I suggested, in early January, that the Cabinet should consider the option of only allowing advertising on the Bobby Moore Bridge parapets, not covering the murals on the subway walls, when the advertising lease came up for renewal in August 2021. (That was before it was disclosed that a VERY dodgy deal had been made by Council Officers in 2019, to extend the lease until August 2024!)
At the time of writing, I have not heard back from Councillor Nerva, but I will ask Martin to attach a copy of the text of my email, so that if you are interested you can see what I have suggested. You are welcome to add a comment below, if you wish to suggest any improvements to my proposals, or to share any better ideas on how this matter can be settled, quickly and fairly, and at minimal extra cost.
Hopefully, either this way or another, we should be able to resolve this dispute. If I have to admit that my view was wrong, on the basis of the facts and evidence, I can accept that.
But if I did not have confidence in the case I have already put forward, openly and transparently to Council Officers and my fellow Brent residents, I would not still be fighting to keep the “footballers” tile mural on permanent public display.
UPDATE- CAROLYN DOWNS' RESPONSE
Readers of this "guest blog" may be interested to know the latest developments, from this exchange of emails which took place this afternoon (24 May):
1. Dear Mr Grant
Cllr Nerva has asked me to respond.
Thanks for your suggestion of a way to resolve your outstanding issue.
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.
I have mentioned before that the contract for advertising is due to be re-tendered later this year and in the meantime, Quintain have said that they will not advertise over it.
2. Dear Ms Downs,
Thank you for your email, in response to my suggestion to Cllr. Nerva last Friday that a panel of councillors could settle our (not my) outstanding dispute over advertisement consent by arbitration.
It would probably save a more detailed reply from me if you would clarify two points from the final sentence of your email, please, as quickly as possible.
You have said that 'the contract for advertising is due to be re-tendered later this year.' It was my understanding that the November 2019 Deed of Variation extended Wembley Park Ltd's advertising lease until August 2024. Would you explain, please, what the re-tendering will involve, and when this will happen.
You say that 'Quintain have said that they will not advertise over it.' Does that mean that Quintain have given a guarantee that no vinyl advertising sheets will be placed over the "footballers" tile mural? If so, I would welcome a copy of the communication confirming that, please.