Tuesday 2 November 2021

The Preston Library site and 'Our exceptional and Priceless Planet'

 This Guest Post is the view of the authors and not necessarily that of Wembley Matters. Guest Post by SKPPRA (South Kenton Preston Park Residents' Association).


Yesterday the UN Secretary General of the UN António Guterres told humanity at the COP26 conference in Glasgow - ‘We face a stark choice: either we stop [the addiction] or it stops us[1].


Here in Wembley Brent Council gave an instant response to the UN that afternoon when contractors for the Council started work on the climate destroying redevelopment of the Preston Library site. In the words of Mr. Guterres - Brent Council have decided not to stop climate destruction but to stop us!


The library development is a disaster for the climate and for our local community which has fought for so long to retain a library use at the site. The local community strongly opposed the development in 90% of the responses made to Brent Council in the pre-application consultations and in the town planning process. The proposed development reduces community use at the site, overlooks and impacts on the amenity and privacy of the adjoining owners, and was found by the High Court in two separate Judicial Reviews to be contrary to the requirements of the Local Plan.


Brent Council was only able to avoid the quashing of the planning consent for a second time by invoking The Senior Courts Act – a Thatcher Government statute designed to limit individual and community involvement in local government decisions. The present Council, it appears has strong addictions not only to climate abuse but to the methods of its political opponents back as far as Mrs. Thatcher in the 1980s.


SKPPRA (South Kenton Preston Park Residents Association) and the residents living next to the Preston Library Site in Wembley have for more than three years sought to plot a better course for the community, the site and for the planet.


Brent Council proposes to demolish the existing Preston Library building and to build a new library on the same site a few metres away from the existing building. Residents know this is unsustainable and a climate destroying development. The proposal results in an avoidable emission of six hundred tonnes (600tCO2e) calculated using the ICE database at https://circularecology.com/ for the demolition and rebuild of the library building.


To mitigate these emissions ten-thousand trees (one third of the street trees in Brent) need to be planted and mature for ten years to offset the avoidable emissions in the library development.[2]   Brent to be carbon neutral by 2030?


The Community’s initiative not only saves the building and the planet, but avoids the emissions caused by the development, retains the trees destroyed by the Council, and avoids disruption to the underground river - Crouch Brook at the site.


The initiative is a response to the consequences of climate change, the recent floods in the area, and to Brent Council’s Climate Emergency Declaration (July 2019) which says that the Council will work with residents ‘every step of the way[3] to make the borough carbon neutral by 2030.



Community Proposal for Preston Library site with the retention of existing library (yellow), trees and new housing (grey). The existing library is demolished in the Brent Council Scheme to form a car park.


The UN IPCC report (9th August 2021) advised that this was the last report where there was still a chance to take emergency action to avert a climate disaster. The SKPPRA community and Brent Council know the critical ‘every step’ and ‘emergency action’ now means the immediate retention of the existing Preston Library building.


The Council Leader noting the publication of the IPCC report [4] said we can change our wasteful consumption of finite resources,  .. we can cease to be a drain on this exceptional and priceless planet…. To do nothing is to condemn ourselves and our descendants to untold misery and chaos. This is a climate emergency, we must act now’. 


For five years however Councillor Butt has refused to consider or respond to detailed objections to the development and refused to look at the alternative proposal or even take any step of the way with residents.


Referring this hypocrisy to the Mayor of London, to central Government Departments[5], to Barry Gardiner the local MP, and to Kier Starmer (Leader of Councillor Butt’s party) received no response other than the advice that avoiding the effects of climate change - was a ‘local matter.’ The UN Secretary General doesn’t agree.


Residents have invested time and resources in preparing an alternative proposal to save a valuable community resource and to prevent climate change.


In contrast - the Council has failed to apply its own policies on sustainable development, refused to explain or publish the cost of the development, and refused to consider any alternative proposals as promised in the Council’s own Climate Emergency Declaration.


Unfortunately, we live in Wembley but not on Councillor Butt’s exceptional and priceless planet.

[3] Brent Climate & Ecological Emergency Strategy 2021-2030 (April 2021) Page 2.

[5] Several referrals to Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG)


Anonymous said...

Is there any difference between the behaviour of conservative politicians at Westminster (against corruption but not for our MPs) and labour politicians here in Brent (save the planet we'll build what we like) .

The actions they expect from us do not apply to them.

Labour and conservative there's no difference. Just name the new library building for Margaret Thatcher - keep all happy - she enabled it.

Anonymous said...

It’s sad to see the Council ruining the arra for residents whilst also wilfully adding to the destruction of the eco system .
What will the Councillors and those in authority say to their great grandchildren to explain their current behaviour…Parts of Brent are beyond recognition and so ugly - apart from being environmentally unfriendly ! It’s tragic

Anonymous said...

Brent Council are providing human ‘hutches’ in the name of social housing . This is wrong and dangerous in pandemic times and the misery caused to persons living in the flats in the library development as well as to local residents will bring incalculable harm . Shame

Tree Hugger (all of them) said...

Martin don’t understand why you want to avoid association with this ‘not necessarily the view of Wembley Matters’. This is a scandal particularly when you read what the council leader says which is simple climate posturing. Explains why the Green Party gets nowhere in Brent when it fails to support residents on cases like this and I say this as a Green Party voter.