Saturday, 26 November 2022

Dawn Butler: 'We need to keep Harlesden whole' opposes new Boundary Commission proposals as undermining Harlesden's representation as a community


 The boundary that splits Harlesden (Source)

 Dawn Butler MP (Brent Central) has reacted to the latest proposals from the Boundary Commission for new Wembley, Willesden and Queens Park & Little Venice constituencies, with an email to constituents opposing the changes wil will split Harlesden between two constituencies.

I have received, from the Boundary Commission, their latest proposals to change the borders of the constituency boundaries in Brent, and indeed across the entire country.

The Boundary Commission has now publicly released its plans and has outlined that it wants to cut Harlesden down the middle. This means that the Church End half of Harlesden would be in one constituency, and the High Street would be in another. It just makes no sense.

I am opposing these plans and I have called on the Boundary Commission to think again about splitting one of Brent’s most vibrant communities into two. Do the people in Harlesden identify as living in two distinct areas? No. Harlesden is one community and it should remain as such. That has been the case for about as far back as historical records can go.

But I am not just opposing these changes because of history but because representation matters. When I stand up in Parliament and speak, I am speaking up for all of Harlesden. So, when I call on the Government to end the scourge of betting shops, or demand extra police on our streets, I am making representations on behalf of the entire Harlesden community, that will benefit the entire Harlesden community. Harlesden deserves to be represented within Parliament in a comprehensive, not patchwork manner.

We need to keep Harlesden whole.

If you agree with me, then make sure you have your say by completing a simple online form on the Boundary Commission website at https://www.bcereviews.org.uk/. The deadline for submission is 5th December.


 

Wembley Park for sale! (in 1829)

 Guest post by local historian Philip Grant

 

Wembley Park for sale! (in 1829)

 

One of the joys of sharing stories you know about local history is when that leads to you finding out things you didn’t know! A series of articles I wrote for “Wembley Matters” during lockdown about the history of Fryent Country Park “uncovered” a Cold War bunker at Gotfords Hill, and an article on the Welsh Harp Reservoir led to the identification of a Victorian steeplechase course at Bush Farm


In October, Martin drew my attention to a new comment on The Wembley Park Story, Part 2, written in 2020. A man who was cataloguing a collection, which included the sale particulars for an auction of the Wembley Park estate in 1829, asked whether I would be interested in seeing the document? I contacted him to say “Yes please”! Now I can share with you some of the amazing details of what Wembley Park was like nearly 200 years ago, thanks to the “Particulars” prepared by Mr Christie (James Christie the Younger, who in 1803 had inherited the auction business set up by his father in 1766).

 

The first part of the detailed Particulars of the Wembley Park estate. (All extracts courtesy of the RICS)

 

The Lodge at the entrance to the Park is still there, at the corner of Wembley Park Drive, but is “at risk” and awaiting restoration after a fire in 2013. The original drive curved round to the right, before arriving at the Mansion ‘almost re-built within the last fifteen years by the late proprietor, who then expended about £14,000 upon the same.’ John Gray, a wealthy brandy merchant and Freeman of the City of London, who bought the estate in 1804, had spent the equivalent of £1.3m on his new home between 1811 and 1814.

 

1814 was the year that Jane Austen’s “Mansfield Park” was published, and if you’ve watched film or TV versions of her novels, you’ve probably seen some stylish Regency mansions in those productions. The interior of the mansion in the auction would have been similar. You enter the front door, under a Doric portico, into a ‘Hall paved with Portland-stone, with small diamonds of black marble.’ It probably looked something like this:

 

The entrance hall of a Georgian or Regency mansion. (Image from the internet)

 

After describing several rooms off of the hall, ‘a Gentleman’s Study or Library’, a billiard room and ‘a Dressing-Room, and a Water-Closet’ (“all mod cons”, even 200 years ago!), the Particulars move on to describe ‘the Principal Range of Apartments’:

 


Although the photograph below was taken around 50 years after the auction, the Wembley Park mansion does not appear to have changed much during that time. Nearest the camera on the ground floor is the single-storey Saloon, linked to the bow-fronted Drawing Room, and beyond that the Dining Room, also with a bow window. Above on the first floor are ‘two elegant bow-windowed bed-chambers’. All of ‘this elegant range of apartments looks towards the open scenery of the Park.’

 

The Wembley Park mansion, c.1880. (Brent Archives – Wembley History Society Collection)

 

The rooms on the ground and first floors were tall and elegant. On the second floor the ‘Housemaid’s Closets, and one large and one smaller Servants’ bedroom’ had much less headroom. But a mansion this large needed far more servants than that. The rest were housed, along with their places of work, in ‘the Attached Offices’ (while we’re all familiar with what an office is, one old definition of the plural, offices, is ‘the kitchens and outhouses of a mansion.’)

 


 

We saw that the Dining Room had a separate entrance door, via a lobby, from the Kitchen in an adjoining building, with ‘steam-pipes ,,, laid from the kitchen to the back of the sideboard’, where the food would be kept warm for serving members of the household and their guests. As well as food there was plenty of drink, kept in an ‘outer and inner Wine-Cellar, with Catacombs’, and ‘an outer and three inner Beer-Cellars’, the beer from their own ‘Brew-house’

 

Christmas dinner in a wealthy Regency home. (Image from the internet)

 

You can read what else the “Offices” include, in the court yard, stable yard and farm yard, which would help to make the estate and its staff largely self-contained community, as long as its owner had sufficient wealth. The farm produced a variety of meat and milk, while vegetables and fruit came from the walled garden, which included ‘a Grapery, Pinery [hothouse for growing pineapples] Green-House, and a Peachery.’ There was also ‘a Large Basin of Water’.

 


We might call that “basin of water” an artificial pond, which had pipes from it to “the Offices”, for the servants and all their uses. “Squire” John Gray and his family in the mansion were ‘supplied with the finest Spring Water, from a Well, dug at great expense’! And the “basin of water” also had another use. During the winter, whenever it froze over, estate workers would break up the ice and carry it into the nearby woodland, to be stored in ‘a well-constructed large Ice-House’.

 

The ice house at Harewood House, Yorkshire. (Image from the internet)

 

Any self-respecting wealthy landowner in the 18th or 19th century would have had an ice house on their estate. It was a building, usually with a brick-lined pit inside, dug into the ground, into which ice was placed during winter. The ice was covered with straw, which kept it frozen for use in the kitchens, to keep food fresh or in making ice cream, in the summer. Wembley Park’s ice house had a thick thatched roof, to help with insulation.

 

The Particulars go on to describe “The Park”, ‘a fine Demesne of two hundred and seventy-two acres of productive Grass Land’. The stream running through it was described as the River Brent, but was actually the Wealdstone Brook. There were 182 acres on the ‘hither side of the Brent’ and 44 acres called ‘Well Springs, beyond the Brent’. [If you’ve ever wondered how Chalkhill’s Wellsprings Crescent got its name, that’s probably the answer.] There were also 25 acres of timber plantations, an 8-acre horse paddock, two small meadows and an ‘Ozier Ground’. The osier beds, beside the brook, were for growing willow stems, for basket weaving.

 

Extract from the 1834 Shuttleworth plan of Wembley Park estate, with coloured details added.
(From a copy of the plan at Brent Archives)

 

Mr Christie’s Particulars did not include a map, but another attempt to sell Wembley Park, by Mr Shuttleworth in 1834, did include a plan of the estate. On the map above, the roads on the left are now Forty Avenue and Wembley Hill Road (you can just see the cross roads where they meet at East Lane). Near the bottom of the map, the Lodge and ice house are marked. Does the brick-lined pit still exist, perhaps under a garden in Park Chase?

 

As well as the features within “The Park”, there were 47 acres of fields on the other side of the [Wembley Hill] road, including ‘Public-House Field’, presumably behind the “Green Man”. There were also ‘three Brick-Built Cottages, and two weather-boarded and tiled ditto, in the occupation of sundry Tenants’. Those cottages may still exist, in High Street and by the steep path from there to the “Green Man”.

 


Last, but not least, was the ‘compact Brick-Built Dwelling’ described above. This was “Wembley Cottage” (some cottage!), which was also known locally as the Dower House, because John Gray’s widow (nearly 30 years his junior) lived there until her death in 1854. It actually survived until about the time of the First World War, renamed “Hillcrest”, at the corner of Wembley Hill Road and Manor Drive. And Manor Drive got its name because the road had been built by developers over the site of the Wembley Park mansion, which was demolished in 1908.

 

Details of Mr Christie’s auction, from the cover of the Particulars document.

 

I’ve mentioned that there was another auction in 1834, five years after Mr Christie’s sale. On both occasions the estate failed to sell, and the Gray family continued to live at Wembley Park until after the death of John Gray’s son, the Rev. John Edward Gray, in 1887. The most likely reason for the auctions not being successful is that John Gray’s Executors had set the reserve price too high. 

 

Extract from page 3 of the Particulars, with hand-written figures in the margin.

 

What was that reserve price? We don’t know, as some of the Christie’s archive records were lost in 1941, when their offices were hit by an incendiary bomb. But there is a clue to the bidding on the copy of the Particulars now in the collection at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. From hand-written figures in the margin, it appears that the document’s original owner was at the auction, and noted down the bidding. It opened at £20,000, then went up in stages to £27,000, then more slowly to a final figure of £27,600. That figure in 1829 would be equivalent to around £3.5 million today!

 

The Wembley Park estate was not sold until 1889, for £32,929 18s 7d (equivalent to around £5m today). But thanks to whoever saved the document in 1829, and the man who donated it to the Auctioneers’ Institute in 1903, we have a detailed picture of what it was like 200 years ago. Because (to borrow from an old advert) Mr Christie made exceedingly good Particulars.

 

I’ve prepared a full facsimile copy of the Wembley Park auction Particulars, with an introductory note, which should be available in the “Archive copies” section of the Wembley local history page on the Brent Archives website in the near future.

 

Philip Grant.

Brent Council refuses Freedom of Information request on the controversial move of Islamia Primary School from Queens Park to Preston ward

 

At the recent public meeting about the move of Islamia Primary School to Preston ward, Brent Council officers promised to be open and transparent about the move.

However, a Freedom of Information request, by a concerned Islamia parent, has been refused on the grounds that to comply would constitute an unreasonable amount of work.

This is unfortunate on such a controversial issue as it will suggest to some of those involved that the council, or other parties, have something to hide.

In this case the public interest demands a full answer from Brent Council.

The correspondence LINK

Dear Brent Borough Council,

Following the eviction of Islamia Primary school by the Yusuf Islam Foundation and the proposal by Brent Council to move the school to the Roe Green Strathcona site , l am writing to make a FOI request.

Copies of all emails exchanged relating to the matter: 


-Between Brent Council, Council members and the The Yusuf Islam Foundation.
-Emails between Brent Council officers and members regarding proposal.
-Emails between Brent Council officers and members and the Islamia Governing Board, and minutes of any meetings held between these parties. 


I would like these to go back to when the move was first suggested.

Yours faithfully,
J. Guled

 

Dear J. Guled

RE: Brent Council's proposal to move Islamia Primary school to Roe Green  Strathcona

Thank you for your FOI (Freedom of Information) received on  28/10/2022. Unfortunately, we are unable to deal with your enquiry for the  following reason:

Regulation 12(4)(b) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 makes provision  for public authorities to refuse requests for information where the  request for information is manifestly unreasonable. In line with the  Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees)  Regulations 2004 this represents the estimated cost of one person spending  18 hours in determining whether the Council holds the information, locating, retrieving and extracting the information. We estimate that it  will take us in excess of 18 hours to locate all the emails requested,  review all the emails and determine whether or not the information can be  provided, giving due consideration to the data protection act and
excluding confidential information. Therefore, your request is refused.  

Further information about the Councils procedures can be found on the  Council's website: [3]https://www.brent.gov.uk/your-council/  
 

Alternatively, you may contact me using the contact details provided in
this correspondence.

Yours sincerely  

Shirley Parks

Director of Safeguarding, Partnerships and Strategy 

 

Dear Brent Borough Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Brent Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'Brent Council's proposal to move Islamia Primary school to Roe Green Strathcona'.

You have calculated that gathering this information will exceed the cost limit, but I believe that this is an overestimation of the resource required.


I also believe that it is not unreasonable to request clarifications on how a Local Authority has come to the conclusion that a school it maintains should move over 6 miles away from its current location making it nearly impossible for current children to continue attending. This decision contravenes in many ways the Equality Act and it clearly poses safeguarding risks for primary age children. The consultation process is still ongoing therefore it is vital that this information is disclosed. It is in the public interest to share these emails and foster a transparent approach in decision making processes that will affect so many lives.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/brent_councils_proposal_to_move#incoming-2157180

 

Yours faithfully,

J. Guled

 

 

Friday, 25 November 2022

Brent Renters Union Day of Action: Willesden Green Station December 3rd Noon

The Brent Branch of the London Renters Union is taking part in the London Renters Union Day of Action on Saturday December 3rd. Assemble outside Willesden Green tube station at noon

They said:

Millions face rent increases  of £5,000 plus per annum. Agents and landlords get richer and millions of tenants get poorer.

JOIN US! All welcome!

Twitter

Constituent writes to Barry Gardiner expressing concern over BJP-RSS

This letter was written in a personal capacity by Dhruv Haria and shared with readers as his views.

Dear Barry Gardiner,


As your constituent I am writing to express my concerns about the violence that erupted between Hindu and Muslim communities in Leicester and Birmingham a few weeks ago and how it will affect communities of South Asian origin in Brent.


Your response to the reports on social media on September 24th about potential demonstrations outside Hindu temples was frankly irresponsible. There was no investigation on your part to determine whether there was in fact a real threat. An investigation by the authorities would have likely revealed that the post about protests outside Shree Sanatan Hindu Mandir was shared by an instagram account called “apnamuslims”. The name “apnamuslims” is incorrect usage of language and grammar in Urdu and calls into question its validity.


By commenting before an investigation you, therefore, helped to cause hysteria around communal violence within South Asian communities; bolstering false claims being made by Hindutva propagandists about violence being directed at Hindus by Muslims.


In Leicester, the police sent out messages to correct the record that claims of attacks on temples and Hindu women were false. This was not replicated in Brent by yourself or the police. These actions or inactions strengthened islamophobia amongst non-Muslims in our communities - leaving many Muslims to feel threatened and fearful of reprisal attacks by Hindutva mobs as witnessed in Leicester.


In view of this, I’m calling on you to commit to ending your relationship with the BJP-RSS nexus and the Indian state. In doing so you should publicly acknowledge how your actions have not only aided in fostering divisions within our communities but have also empowered a fascist movement with global reach.


Here I will list your actions and support given to Hindutva organisations and figures to jog your memory:


  • In 2001 you visited Gujarat & presented Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat, with a cheque for £1m collected in the UK by Sewa International for earthquake relief. It was later revealed that some of this money found its way to the killers in the Gujarat 2002 genocide. Over 2000 people were killed in what can only be described as carefully orchestrated attacks on Muslims by Hindutva mobs. In fact Babu Bajrangi, convicted of mass murder in the Gujarat genocide on 2002, acknowledged on camera during a media sting operation that the pogrom would not have been possible without the support of Narendra Modi.


  • In 2008, you published on your own website, a testimonial by Narendra Modi that read “Gujarat has no greater friend in Britain than Barry Gardiner”.


  • In 2009, at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, you proclaimed: “Gujarat can lead the world”.


  • In 2013, you invited Narendra Modi to the UK, but were forced to back down after protests in the UK.


  • In 2016, you attended an event marking 50 years of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS UK). RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat was also in attendance and addressed the event.


  • In 2019, when the BJP government with Modi at its helm, won a second term after a first term which witnessed lynchings & rapes of Muslims, Christians & Dalits on an unprecedented scale, you congratulated Modi about India's 'diversity'.


  • In January 2020 you, alongside Conservative MP Bob Blackman, were awarded the Padma Shri. India's 4th highest civilian award.


As my MP, I hope you will commit to ending your relationship with the BJP-RSS nexus in order to fulfill your commitments as an MP to all your constituents of South Asian origin regardless of caste, class, religion or gender.


Yours Sincerely,


Dhruv Haria

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Brent Educators Rally for a Pay Rise outside Brent Civic Centre

 

 

A strike ballot is in progress for educators in schools and the Rally was designed to draw attention to the case for a fully funded pay increase.  This means that the Government would give schools extra funding to meet the cost of the increase. Without that extra funding cash-strapped schools, if not already in deficit due to increased energy costs and inflation, could go into deficit. 

As the major portion of school budgets goes on staffing costs, in order to tackle a deficit schools are likely to try and reduce those staffing costs. Redundancies would hit support staff including teaching assistants and Special Needs support staff who have played an increasingly important role in improving achievement in our schools over the past few decades.

The National Education Union urged members to  support strike action in the current ballot:

Over the past decade, teacher pay has suffered a 20% decline in real-terms and support staff pay by 27%. Educators are leaving the profession in their droves. 
 
The NEU has provided strong evidence that a fully funded, above-inflation pay increase is needed but this Government has not listened. 
 
Vote now in our formal ballot. It's time for Government to #PayUp as #EducatorsDeserveBetter

Monday, 21 November 2022

Conservative Motion on Flooding in Brent

 Conservative motion currently being heard

Measures to tackle Flooding in Brent


In the past few years, flooding in Brent and other areas is getting more frequent and severe. Whilst this is partly due to climate change and global warming, it also reflects the massive level of regeneration, development and building on green and brown fields sites which is detrimental to the drainage of rainwater and it is felt future planning policy must reflect.


We are losing more green and open spaces which used to soak up the rain water.

 

The Council’s policy of tarmacking footpaths also does not allow water to permeate in the ground. Just a little rain and we observe streams of water flowing on the roads and pavements.


We notice that flood water collects in low lying areas and does not recede for a few days after it rains which means that in the current situation more frequent and severe flooding will take place.


We appreciate that Brent alone cannot stop global warming and climate change and recognise that the borough has a Flood Risk management Strategy in place, however we can take further steps to mitigate the consequences and protect our residents’ lives and property.


As a result this Council calls on Cabinet to:


1) Reverse the policy of tarmacking the footways and replace with paving slabs and bricks which allows more water to soak in the ground, especially in known flood risk areas;


2) Reverse the policy of large scale developments which are reducing the green
open spaces and making Brent a concrete jungle;


3) Implement a regular gully cleaning and leaf collection program, especially in the flood prone areas;


4) Implement a regular program of inspecting all drains and gullies in areas
identified as flood risk and repair as necessary and the Council’s responsibility,
including Brent’s brooks and rivers;


5) Introduce a policy that makes it’s illegal to concrete over the whole of a rear
garden as this also impedes the draining of rainwater. We suggest a maximum
of 20% of the rear garden can be paved or concreted over.

If Brent is serious about global warming and climate change and wants to protect its citizens now and for future, it's the least it can do.


Councillor Suresh Kansagra
Kenton Ward

 

SHARED OWNERSHIP – Let’s have a debate!

Guest post by Philip Grant in a personal capacity

 

 

By the time you read this, item 13 on Monday evening’s Full Council meeting will probably have happened. Martin has already shared a copy of the motion on “Building the Homes our Community Needs”, put forward by Lib Dem councillor Anton Georgiou, which deals with affordable housing, and whether Brent Council should make some of its New Council Homes shared ownership properties, rather than for letting at genuinely affordable rents. 

 

It is certainly ‘an issue of relevance to Brent’, but the chances are that it won’t get a proper debate on the actual issues the motion raises. Although this is a meeting of all the councillors, who are supposed to represent the views of the residents in their Wards, across the borough, what will be played out is a game of party politics.

 


A small extract from the Labour Group amendment to Cllr. Georgiou’s motion.

 

When the agenda for the meeting was updated on Monday, it included an amendment to the motion by the Labour Group. The word ‘amendment’ is perhaps an understatement (see extract where red = Labour). Although I suspect that few Labour Group members were consulted over it (perhaps just the Leader and a couple of Cabinet members?), it is likely they will be “whipped” to support the many amendments, then to vote for the amended motion.

 

The amendments have been proposed to change the motion completely, so that it promotes the policies which the Cabinet adopted on 14 November. I set out many of these in a guest blog on 11 November, “Brent’s New Affordable Council Homes promises shredded!”, and Martin’s blog on 14 November, and comments on it, give a flavour of what happened when the Cabinet approved the recommendations of the “Update on the supply of New Affordable Homes” report, without any noticeable discussion of it.

 


 

One of the key issues in all this is whether Brent Council should “convert” some of the affordable housing it plans to build from the “genuinely affordable” London Affordable Rent to shared ownership homes. That is something which does need a proper debate, which it won’t get at a Brent Council meeting, so I’m offering this opportunity for you to have your say. Here are the two versions of the shared ownership issue, from the motion and the proposed amendment to it. 

 

Proposal 1:

 

This Council believes: Shared Ownership schemes are not a ‘genuinely affordable’ housing model and are not something that should be promoted by Brent.

 

This Council resolves to: Ensure all new developments taking place on existing estates within our borough must be seeking to provide more Social Housing and not Shared Ownership or Market Sale units.

 

Proposal 2:

 

This Council believes: Shared Ownership schemes are not a top priority for Brent Council, but do form a valuable part of an overall housing mix, as they allow some people to get onto the housing ladder when they otherwise would not be able to afford a full deposit.

 

This Council resolves to: Continue to work with the GLA and DLUHC to secure the funding needed to ensure all new developments must seek to provide as much social housing as is financially viable.

 

If you have a view on whether Brent should provide some shared ownership homes, rather than those homes being for affordable rent to Council tenants, please share it in the comments below. Even if you are a member of a political party, please just give your personal views. 

 

You can just “vote”, for Proposal 1 or Proposal 2, if you wish. You don’t have to give your reasons, although it would help to properly understand how Brent residents feel about this subject if you do.

 

You can comment as “Anonymous”, although if you do, it would help if you can give some indication of what angle your view is coming from. But please comment honestly, so that we can have a proper debate on ‘an issue of relevance to Brent.’ Thank you.

 

The Labour Group amendment was submitted by Cllr Shama Tatler, Kingsbury ward.

 

The full Labour Amendment in red and black is HERE


Philip Grant.