Soprano Pipistrelle (Photo: eurekalert.org.)
Writing on behalf of Newland Court, Wembley Park, residents, Marc Etukudo has submitted an email to Brent Council officers and councillors that raises serious issues of possible environmental law breaking:
I would like you to accept this email as a formal objection being submitted amongst others submitted against Brent Council’s proposal to build 7 townhouses at Newland Court garages, planning application reference 22/3124. It has been brought to my attention that out of all the ‘infill’ proposals submitted by Brent Council's agent* on behalf of the Council's New Council Homes Team not a single one has been refused planning permission and every single one has gone to a planning committee meeting and all have been approved. Can you please confirm if this is correct?
BAT ACTIVITY AND ROOSTING
I have been informed by the Bats Conservation Trust that if I think a wildlife crime has been or is being committed I should report it to the police. Once I have done that I have to ensure I get a reference number and then let them know about the incident by emailing . They will then be able to assist the police, bat workers, members of the public and professionals by giving advice and information about bats, roosts and the legislation.
So, as I feel that a crime is about to be committed at Newland Court garages by Brent Council in terms of the removal of trees where at least 2 species of bats are active and may roost, I intend to file a report at Wembley Police Station against Brent Council if the proposal is approved in its present form*. The reason being is that although the ecological report from Waterman’s survey does show two species of bats active along the line of trees, their survey is unreliable, because only one surveyor carried it out, at the wrong time and without covering the line of trees properly.
The survey was done more than two weeks after it should have been carried out to check whether there was any bat roost in the garage building they identified as a low possibility roost site. Furthermore, carrying out bat surveys when street lightning could influence an inaccurate reading as bats would only normally be seen in dark conditions as they are sensitive to bright lights. Hence the survey reported a sighting of a soprano pipistrelle that was recorded 28 minutes after sunset and 11 passings of the common pipistrelle were recorded 55 minutes after sunset proving that the whole survey wasn’t conducted properly and therefore unreliable.
The same can also be said of the survey on birds. The survey reports sightings of starlings, bullfinches, dunnocks, sparrows and song thrushes. I believe that this is an inaccurate survey recorded as it was taken from a reference grid recorded between 2002 and 2018. If a proper survey was conducted then sightings of robins, magpies, pigeons, crows and even parakeets would also have been sighted and recorded because those are the birds we see out our kitchen windows on a daily basis therefore also acknowledging that the bird survey is also flawed and inaccurate.
In the design guide document which was
approved by Planning Committee and Brent's Executive (now Cabinet) in 2013, the
boundary shown in the Design Guide, which includes the site of the Newland Court
garages within the Barn Hill Conservation Area, must be treated as the correct
boundary since 17 June 2013. Yet Brent Council’s agent has
submitted a different conservation map boundary showing Newland Court garages
outside the conservation boundary lines which is yet more evidence they continued to submit misleading information on their
planning application to fast track this proposal through at any cost.
The evidence is there in the Design Guide itself, which states:
'This Guide was produced by the London Borough of Brent and adopted by its Executive on 17 June 2013. On 16 January 2013, the Planning Committee agreed to consult publically on a draft Barn Hill Design Guide which had been prepared in discussion with the Barn Hill Residents Association. Letters were sent to all owner/occupiers in the Barn Hill Conservation Area and Ward Councillors on 28 January 2013, giving 28 days to comment on the draft Design Guide. A ‘drop-in session’ for residents was held at Brent Town Hall on 12 February 2013 to give residents an opportunity to discuss the proposals with Officers. On 17 April 2013 the Planning Committee considered the consultation responses and the resulting proposed changes and agreed that the revised Design Guide be reported to the Executive for adoption. Executive agreed to this on 17 June 2013.'
HERITAGE REPORT submitted by the Heritage Officer states that:-
Section 72(1) of the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Area) Act 1990 (as amended) requires that with respect to any buildings or other land in a conservation area, special attention shall be paid to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of that area. NPPF. Paragraph 189 recognises that heritage assets are an irreplaceable resource and seeks to conserve them in a manner appropriate to their significance.
This statement reveals reasonable doubt from the Heritage officer in regards to whether this proposal will preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the area. This is also taking into consideration that all the officers’ reports (Heritage, Transport, Tree) have been done on the assumption that Newland Court garages do not fall within the conservation boundary. This is yet another misleading application submission by Brent Council planning officers.
The Transport Officer's report also states that ‘At the current time, the application cannot therefore be supported, given the large volume of parking that would be likely to be displaced from the site onto surrounding narrow streets’. This is even probably after he had seen the parking survey which I have already previously noted as being flawed and misleading.
Even Brent council’s own Tree Officer, Julie Hughes has significant concerns relating to the impact that this development will have on protected trees. She also goes on to say that she has some significant concerns regarding the increased pressure that will be placed on the Council to permit lopping, topping or felling the trees within the rear gardens of Grendon Gardens, and the impact that this will have on both the visual amenity of the local area, and specifically the adjacent Barn Hill Conservation Area.
Below is a Topographical Survey map sheet of the coverage area from the canopies of the trees that overhang above the Newland Court garages from the gardens of the residents of Grendon Gardens. They show the extent of the tree canopies of the trees in the back gardens of Grendon Gardens much more clearly than the site plans submitted before to Brent Council. I believe this is the reason why the garages at Newland Court are within the boundary of the Barn Hill Conservation area. The diagram below shows that the canopies and roots of the trees cover most of the garages in Newland Court. It would mean that one half of all the trees would have to be chopped off if this proposal were to go ahead. If this doesn’t kill the trees, then the trees would then need constant pruning and lopping every few months as the pruned branches continue to re-grow.
With all these mitigating factors:-
- The fact that Brent is breaching a lot of their planning guidelines to fast track this proposal.
- The overlooking rule for one in which you and I measured and found Brent's measurements inaccurate.
- Misleading information on the garages being within the boundary line of Barn Hill Conservation Area
- Unclear clarification of the boundary wall between Grendon Gardens and Newland Court.
- The removal of or damaging protected healthy trees in the Barn Hill conservation area.
- Misleading information supplied by planning officers on the parking survey.
- Misleading information on the ecological report made by Watermans.
- The systemic discrimination on existing Newland Court residents.
- The reduction in residual bins for existing Newland Court residents.
- The removal of 40 car parking spaces and reducing it to 12.
- The site not being suitable for the proposed development.
- The Heritage Officer having concerns on this proposal.
- The Transport Officer having concerns on this proposal.
- Brent's Tree Officer having concerns on this proposal.
Even MP Barry Gardiner after seeing the facts and not normally one to get involved in planning issues wrote to the Chief Executive voicing his concerns on the way the planning officers were treating the existing residents of Newland Court over this proposal. With all the objections and facts that you have before you regarding this particular proposal, I’m sorry but there is no way that this planning application should be granted. That is, if every single detail in the form of objections and real facts that you and your team now have before you which should form a serious case for refusal. But if it doesn’t then there is something also very seriously wrong.
* Note an earlier version of this blog has been edited to remove inaccuracies in the original email to Brent Council for which Marc Etukudo has apologised.