Sunday 31 July 2022

Positive inclusive pre-match atmosphere for Women's Euro Final in Wembley this afternoon - video


 I popped down to Olympic Way (Wembley Way) this afternoon to soak up the atmosphere and was impressed by the good-natured and diverse crowd.  It appeared that the recommendations of the Casey Review LINK, made after the disorder at the men's 2020 Euro Final, had been successfully implemented with the alcohol ban in particular making an impact.


Tinder box danger exposed by vegetation fire on Barn Hill. Fire chief backs ban on disposable barbecues.


Tree damage by fire

 The proximity of the fire to garden fence

Charred tree trunks

Timely action by the Fire Brigade prevented a vegetation fire on Barn Hill from spreading to the garden fence of a nearby property. The fire was during the recent hot period a day before the 'Extreme Heat' warning days.

The family at the property were out at the time but fortunately  the alarm was raised by neighbours preventing any serious damage.

Wembley Matters asked the Brent Fire Brigade for any information they have on the cause of the fire. It has been suggested that wood had been dumped on the site in addition to fallen trees.

The London Fire Brigade responded:


Our fire investigators wouldn’t be sent to a small fire like this so we don’t have any details on the cause.


Firefighters were called to bushes and trees alight on Barn Hill in Wembley on 18 July.


The Brigade was called at 1954 and the fire was under control by 2018. One fire engine from Willesden Fire Station attended the scene.


The fire highlights the potential for serious outbreaks on Barn Hill and Fryent Country Park given the extremely dry vegetation.  Warnings have been issued on social media about the danger of dumped fuel from disposable barbecues igniting grass.  



The London Fire Commisioner has highlighted the need for the banning of  disposable barbecues and issued this statement:

London’s Fire Commissioner is calling for a total ban on disposable barbecues following one of the busiest weeks in our history.

The call comes ahead of a possible second summer heatwave and an unprecedented number of large grassland fires London’s firefighters worked in tough conditions to tackle last week. New statistics show that week commencing Monday, 18 July the Brigade received 8,302 calls and attended 3,231 incidents. In addition:

  • Firefighters attended more than 1,000 fires.
  • The number of 999 calls received was more than double taken for the same period last year.
  • Thirty-four grass fires required an attendance of four fire engine and above.

Significant fire risk

Disposable barbecues pose a significant fire risk if they are not put out properly, causing grass fires in open spaces and scorching the grassed areas. The dry spell has left grassland like a tinderbox and increases the chances of a fire caused by a disposable barbecue

We are also reiterating that people should not barbecue on balconies and during this exceptional dry spell Londoners should not have any barbecues or open fires in parks and public spaces.

London’s Fire Commissioner Andy Roe has already written to local authorities asking for a temporary ban on the use of barbecues in all public parks and open spaces. We're very grateful to councils which put bans in public places but now feels disposable barbecues need to be taken off the shelves needed to help prevent widespread blazes like last Tuesday.

Retailers, including Waitrose and Aldi, have announced they will no longer stock disposable barbecues because of the detrimental impact they have on the environment and wildlife.

Back ban petition 

Disposable barbecues also pose a health risk and heat can be retained for many hours after a barbeque has been put out. The Brigade is backing a petition set up by Toby Tyler whose son Will was severely burned by a disposable barbecue. The petition can be found here

Commissioner Roe said: “Despite our grass fire warnings, we’ve still seen some people behaving carelessly and recklessly. On Saturday (23rd July) firefighters prevented a serious blaze at Wanstead Flats caused using a disposable barbecue. We need urgent action now to see a national ban on the sale of disposable barbecues. They can be bought for as little as five pounds and can cause untold damage, especially when the grass is as dry as it has been over the last few weeks.

“Last week is another example of how we are increasingly being challenged by new extremes of weather as our climate changes and we’re developing long-term strategies to deal with more incidents like this in the future.”

Grass fire prevention tips: 

  • Don’t drop cigarettes or anything that is burning on dry ground. 
  • Don’t drop cigarettes out of car windows - they may land on dry grass by the roadside.  
  • Don’t have barbecues in parks and public spaces.
  • Do not barbecue on balconies, the wind may carry smouldering ash towards nearby grassland.  
  • Be aware that children, animals, balls or anything else may knock over barbecues, increasing the risk of grass fires, especially when in a busy parks or public spaces. 


Friday 29 July 2022

Women's Euro Final - road closues & transport arrangements in Wembley


It appears that the possible road closures to enable finalist fan processions (See LINK) are not now taking place.

Wednesday 27 July 2022

Get Ready for the Women’s Euros Football Final!


Welcome to Wembley” road sign on Fryent Way, near Kingsbury Circle.


Guest post by Philip Grant


In a post about the Brent Culture Service programme of events for the UEFA Women’s Euros football tournament last month, I wrote this about the England team: ‘Can the “Lionesses” go one better than the England Men’s “Three Lions” team at Wembley last year? We will see!’


Well, after their excellent performances so far, especially their 4-0 win against Sweden in the semi-final on Tuesday evening, England’s “Lionesses” will be playing in the Final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, so we will see. 


The England Women’s football squad after their semi-final win in Sheffield. (Image from the internet)


There are still some local events in conjunction with the Women’s Euros that you can enjoy, so here are some details:-


“Stadium for the Future: If I can't dance I don't want to be part of your revolution” will still take place on Friday 29 July, but some details have been changed since those I used in my June article. This music and dance party for women will now be at the Jason Roberts Foundation, in the Pavilion at Stonebridge Recreation Ground, Hillside, NW10 8LW, from 6pm to 9pm. The event is free, but booking is essential, so for more details and tickets please “click” on this Eventbrite link.


“Bend it Like Beckham, Be A Lioness!!”, an event for families with children, will be holding its final session on the wide section of pavement near Nando’s on Saturday afternoon, 30 July from 1pm to 5pm. The fun activities will include the chance to take a penalty kick in a football shoot-out with a controlled AI simulator, watch exclusive female football freestylers and take selfies with a lioness mascot!


“One two, one two” at Wembley Park Boulevard.


“One two, one two” is a Brent Museum and Archives outdoor heritage installation, where you can sit and hear inspirational stories from some of Brent’s women footballers of the past and present. This has been running throughout the Euros tournament at The Events Pad on Wembley Park Boulevard, near the western end of the stadium. There is also an outdoor exhibition showcasing the history of women’s football at White Horse Square, near Wembley Stadium Station. Both of these will continue until 30 July.


Also happening on Saturday 30 July, at Olympic Way from 12noon until 5pm is “The Supercompensation Cycle”. This is a holographic movement installation by visual artist Emma Smith, and will be accompanied by dancers who’ll invite the public to take part in a flash mob, doing the movements used by footballers as they warm-up for a match.


On Sunday 31 July, the day of the match itself, the tournament organisers are hoping that there will be a fan march from Fryent Way to Wembley Stadium. As Martin has revealed, Brent Council have arranged for a rolling road closure to facilitate this, and they hope it will be ‘a fun and colourful pageant ahead of an important sporting event.’ At present, its unsure whether this event will actually happen, as the main countries who have a tradition of fan marches to their football games, The Netherlands and Sweden, have both been knocked out of the Euros.


Swedish football fans marching to one of their women’s group games in Leigh. (Image from the internet)


Whether or not England fans march to the stadium (in friendly company with their French or German rivals) on Sunday, the tournament has been a great success. It has shown the high standard at which women now play football, and the enjoyment that playing “the beautiful game” at any level can provide. There should be no doubt now that girls of school age should be given the chance to play football if they want to.


Girls are already playing football in Brent. They are enjoying it, and with good coaching they are playing it well. With the UEFA Women’s Euros Final in Wembley, I hope that some of our local girl players will have the chance to accompany the “Lionesses” onto the pitch on Sunday as team mascots. What an inspiration that would be for them, just as watching the way the England women have played in this tournament has inspired so many!


The cup-winning Brent under-11 girl’s team, May 2022. (Photo by Chris Ampofo)


And finally, the Brent Museum and Archives “Women of the Match” exhibition, featuring photographs of Brent’s women of football by Roy Mehta, along with vintage photographs and football memorabilia, will continue to be on display at Brent Civic Centre until 6 November.


Whether you are lucky enough to be watching it at Wembley Stadium, or on television like me and millions of others, enjoy the UEFA Women’s Euros Final on Sunday.


Philip Grant.

Tuesday 26 July 2022

Watling Gardens – what happened next?

 Guest post by Philip Grant in a personal capacity

Last month, Martin wrote that there was more to the Watling Gardens new homes than the Council was letting on, in its press statement claiming that it was providing 125 new homes for local families. This followed on from a guest post I had written about the rushed and incorrect report on Watling Gardens which was going to the Cabinet Meeting on 20 June.


Brent wanted to reduce the number of London Affordable Rent homes at the last minute, and replace 24 of those with Shared Ownership instead. In order to go ahead with awarding a construction contract on that basis, they needed to change the “Affordable Housing” condition in the planning consent they’d received for the project in April this year.


Opening section of application letter from Jones Lang LaSalle on 14 July 2022.


Variations to planning consents are covered by two sections of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990. Section 73 is for “material” amendments, while Section 96A covers “non-material” amendments. An application on behalf of Brent Council (as developer) was submitted to Brent Council (as Local Planning Authority) on 14 July, on the basis that what was being sought was a non-material amendment.


Unlike Section 73, applications under Section 96A do not have to be put out for consultation, and are usually dealt with by Planning Officers under “delegated authority” within 28 days. However, they do appear on the Council’s planning website, so I read the supporting documents for the new application, 22/2519


Planning agents are paid good money to present their client’s case in the best light, but I felt that the “spin” in JLL’s letter might be considered misleading on a couple of points. One of these was the claim that ‘there will be no change to the amount of affordable housing being provided’. I have been keen for some time to remind Council Officers and Cabinet members (and now agents acting on their behalf) of the truth about different types of “affordable housing”.


The rest of this “guest post” is the “neutral” comment on application 22/2519 which I submitted online on 25 July (although I have added some relevant illustrations to break up the text):-


‘This application seeks to amend condition 3 of Brent Council’s application 21/2473 (“the main application”), which was approved as recently as three months ago.


1) In the Affordable Housing Statement, prepared by Jones Lang LaSalle (“JLL”) and submitted as part of the supporting documents for the main application, this was the paragraph on viability:


A paragraph from the Affordable Housing Statement on application 21/2473.



A separate Viability Assessment Report has been prepared by Savills under separate cover and demonstrates that Brent Council are providing in excess of the maximum viable amount of affordable housing. Notwithstanding this, Brent Council are fully committed to delivering these much-needed new affordable homes.’


In this application, 22/2519, JLL’s covering letter says:


‘Brent Council seeks to alter the wording of Condition 3 of planning permission ref:21/2473 to vary the tenure mix of the affordable homes at the Watling Gardens Estate in order to improve the overall financial viability of the scheme.’


The earlier statement acknowledged that the amount of affordable housing proposed in the main application was more than would be financially viable, but said that, despite this, Brent Council were fully committed to delivering the affordable homes set out in that application.


Now, the applicant is seeking to go back on that commitment. 


But JLL, on behalf of Brent Council, have not submitted any updated viability data to justify the proposed amendment. Shouldn’t such additional information be a requirement?


An elevation drawing showing two views of Block B at Watling Gardens, from application 21/2473.


2) At the end of the section of JLL’s covering letter which sets out their proposed new wording for Condition 3, the agent states:


‘The proposed amendment does not materially impact permission 21/2473 and will enable a financially viable scheme to be delivered.’


I believe that there WOULD be a material impact in substituting 24 shared ownership homes instead of what were to be 24 homes for London Affordable Rent. 


Extract from JLL’s covering letter of 14 July, with details of the proposed shared ownership flats.


Although shared ownership is technically an affordable housing tenure, it is not an affordable home for the vast majority of Brent residents in housing need. 


The 2020 Brent Poverty Commission Report found that the only really affordable Council housing in the borough was homes at Social Rent level. London Affordable Rent levels were just about affordable for some families, if they could top up their incomes with Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. 


Shared ownership homes SHOULD NOT be treated as “affordable homes” for the purpose of affordable housing in Brent. 


To take away 24 London Affordable Rent homes from the mix in Condition 3 would effectively reduce the number of General Needs Housing homes available to residents on the housing waiting list, or in temporary accommodation, by more than 35% (from 67 down to 43).’

Philip Grant.


Lessons for Brent? Yes to Fair Redevelopment welcomes Southwark Council’s U-Turn on rooftop development



With the current controversy over Brent Council's infill proposals for our council estates I thought residents and readers would be interested in this Southwark campaign by Yes to Fair Development.  Building extra storeys on existing blocks has featured as a possibility in this borough as well.


Yes to Fair Development Press Release 


The group has pledged to continue the fight to stop unfair infill proposals which threaten to make residents’ lives a misery for years to come, removing tenant halls, play space and green space from estates, replacing it with housing. 



After the worst heatwave on record, with temperatures above 40 Degrees, residents point out the vital role played by green space and trees in keeping their homes cool. A BBC heat map shows that the hottest areas in Southwark are Peckham, North Southwark and Bermondsey, whereas leafy Dulwich stays cooler than average.



Yes to Fair Redevelopment says the Council should take over empty homes and repair existing council homes rather than demolish them. The group is dismayed by the Council’s stance which seems to link major works and repairs to infill development, making residents believe they can’t have one without the other. Now that the rooftop development is cancelled, the repairs must still go ahead.



Some damaging schemes remain, including the demolition of people's homes and the removal of green space and trees at the Dodson and Amigo Estate and the destruction of a play area at the Elim Estate. Residents are fighting these proposals and they deserve everyone's support. Some schemes, such as the Vauban and Brenchley Gardens have been indefinitely suspended, showing that if you fight, you can win.


Tanya Murat from Yes to Fair Redevelopment said:

We are in favour of council housing, and we’ve been fighting to defend it from Southwark’s demolitions and sell-offs for the past 20 years. The infill policy is a sign of the failure of Southwark’s housing policy, not a sign of success. We all need to get behind the campaigns to put residents at the heart of housing policy, where democracy matters and that includes our right to have a say over what happens on our estates, our green spaces and our community facilities.



A Nunhead Estate campaigner said:

 Residents have fought hard to raise awareness of the safety and wellbeing impact of rooftop builds and are hugely relieved the council has made the right decision. It has been exhausting to live with this hanging over our heads. A weight has been lifted.



George Anthony, Southampton Way Estate said:
Southampton Way Estate was targeted as part of the rooftop development scheme, something that was completely designed and funded before residents were made aware of such plans or even considered. It felt like this was a project that would happen no matter what the residents opinions were! We fought hard and even made contact with the media. The whole idea was ludicrous from the beginning! As a community we came together to express this by means of visible banners that went up around our estate. They may have infill plans ahead for Southampton Way, like when they proposed to build on our green. This is just frightening and although this battle may be won the war is still on and I for one will not be giving up the fight!


URGENT: Express your support for the ULEZ expansion this week


The Furness Primary school clean air art project is one of 4 school projects led by Mums for Lungs and Linett Kamala in Brent as a result of the first round of participatory budgeting, #YouDecide.

Guest post by Amandine Alexandre, in a personal capacity 


Last month, I visited Mitchell Brook Primary school in Stonebridge to give a talk about air pollution to the 600-odd pupils as part of a Mums for Lungs’ project.  

When I asked the children whether they knew anyone who suffered from asthma, I was faced with a sea of raised hands. Dozens of pupils wanted to tell me about themselves, their brother or their little cousin and how their health condition impacted their life.


Air pollution makes children sick


I shouldn’t have been surprised. In London, 1 in 10 children suffer from asthma. Besides, Mitchell Brook is located just a stone's throw away from IKEA on the North Circular road, one of the most polluted spots in the UK. 


Still, data do not tell the whole story. Even clean air campaigners like myself need to be reminded from time to time about the faces behind the statistics and the incredible suffering, worry and grief caused by toxic levels of air pollution. This is a health emergency. 


Asthma in children can be mild but it can also be incapacitating and even lethal. In 2013, Londoner Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah died as a result of one too many very severe asthma attacks. She was only 9 year old and, like the pupils from Mitchell Brook Primary School, she lived near a very busy road - the South Circular. In December 2020, a second inquest on the death of Ella concluded that air pollution had played a role in her death. 


8 to 12 children die of asthma in London every year 


Sadly, the passing away of Ella is not an event as rare as we may want to think. According to her mum, Rosamund Kissi-Debrah,  a World Health Organization advocate for health and air quality, every year in London 8 to 12 children die as a result of asthma every year. Let’s not forget that asthma can also be fatal in adults.


This week, and for a few days only, we have an opportunity to take an important step towards protecting the most vulnerable among us in Brent. We can express our support for the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to almost the whole of London by August 29th 2023. 


Since October last year, the South of the borough has been covered by the ULEZ. It means that, in this part of Brent and the whole expanded area across London, drivers of the most polluting diesel and petrol vehicles are charged £12.50 to drive within the zone. 


The impact of this first ULEZ expansion has been positive. The level of nitrogen dioxide in the expanded area has dropped by 20%, according to a report published last week by the Mayor of London. It’s very good news as nitrogen dioxide is responsible for stunting children’s lungs, among other things. 


An opportunity to address an injustice 


Now is our chance to make sure that all children in Brent - whether they live in the South or the North of the borough or go to school near the North circular - benefit from the same protection from the most polluting vehicles. 


82% of vehicles driving outside the existing ULEZ zone are already compliant with the ULEZ standards but we need the number of cleaner vehicles to increase as soon as possible.

For the sake of clarity, the ULEZ expansion won’t be enough to get us the clean air that we all deserve. However, it’s a step in the right direction and an opportunity that, as Brent residents, we must grab with both hands. 


Please support the ULEZ expansion by using this really easy tool created by the environmental charity We are possible. 


To find out more about the impact of air pollution on children and how we can reduce it, you can visit Mums for Lungs here.



Monday 25 July 2022

Time to renew efforts to safeguard the future of the Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre


 The children in the 2013 Brent Council video above are teenagers now. Teenagers facing the prospect of a future wrecked by the impact of accelerating climate change. 

Since 2013 the environment has become a major political issue and Brent Council itself has declared a climate emergency. However just two years after the video was made, Harry Mackie retired and Brent decided it could no longer fund the Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre. 

After campaigns, including on this blog, the charity Thames21 took it over and continued courses and tried to find other sources of revenue. However, despite full bookings the charity eventually decided it was not financially viable to continue and signalled their desire to end the arrangement.

Since then the Centre has limped on with Thames21 providing a skeleton service, while Brent Council sought a solution.  I was a little worried about the Centre's future when I saw surveyors on the site recently. The structural condition of the classrooms has deteriorated since 2013.

Unfortunately a report going to Wednesday's Welsh Harp Consultative Committee devotes only a few sentences to the Centre and appears to be a repeat of the previous report with no indication of real progress LINK :

Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre:

Discussions have continued between Brent Council and external partner organisations who have or may have an interest in creating a viable environmental education centre. Thames 21 have agreed to provide some services for another year while discussions continue for a longer-term solution for the future of the Centre

I hope that some of our newly elected councillors who have a good record on the environment will try and put some pressure on the council to renew its efforts.

The video speaks for itself and I can assure readers that the new generation is equally involved and excited by visits to the Centre.  I hear their excited chatter as they walk past my allotment on Birchen Grove and I sometimes stop to talk to groups of pupils as their teachers marshall them at the end of the sessions.

Let's secure its future once and for all.

Sunday 24 July 2022

LETTER: Loss of Neasden Lane North green space flies in the face of Brent Council's climate emergency commitment


The site adjacent to Neasden Lane (North)

The proposed development - Neasden Lane is not of course devoid of traffic


View from above

Dear Editor


On Monday at the Brent General Purposes Committee LINK I objected to and voted against a "Stopping Up" order for a piece of green land which has been a grass verge area near the Neasden Roundabout on the busy section of main road next to  2 Aylesbury Street and 7 West Way near the Quinton Street housing area which leads to Blackbird Hill.


While local residents were consulted about the planning application they were NOT consulted about the loss of green space. A planning permission for a block of nine flats on this piece of land had already been approved earlier as part of the Labour run Brent Council's drive for infill developments. I was concerned both about the air pollution impact of the residents that will move into this block right on top of this busy and congested section of the road and the environmental impact generally of losing these types of pieces of land as Labour councillors push for the building of more blocks on every available piece of land.


I was the only person raising concerns and the only councillor to vote against the loss of this small green space. All the Labour councillors present, the same councillors who declared a Climate Emergency in Brent recently, and who posture and pay lip services to environmental issues all voted in favour of this piece of green land to be sacrificed to more concrete. The green land will get a block of flats, service roads and car parking with just a tiny amenity space left. As so often happens the warning signs are ignored and the same Labour councillors making these decisions will shed crocodile tears when it will be too late.


Cllr Paul Lorber


Editor's note:

More on the proposal and local opposition from Wembley Matters September 2021