Sunday, 4 June 2023

Are our parks and green spaces safe with Brent Council?

A meadow in Fryent Country Park was again used as a car park for football fans on Saturday. This time for those attending the FA Cup Final on the day of a rail workers' strike.  On social media  I expressed were concern about the use of a designated nature reserve for this purpose.

The meadow was  last used as a car park on another train strike day in June last year, this time for fans going to an Ed Sheeran concert. LINK

On that occasion Brent Council told Wembley Matters:

The event field at Fryent Country Park is available for commercial hire and events are very common there. Wembley Stadium approached the council to rent it on the basis the rail strike would create additional parking and traffic pressures in the Wembley area. The council agreed to its rental on the basis this would provide sensible relief across the wider area.


As well as a rental income to the council, the parking revenue was agreed to be ring-fenced to improve future event day management arrangements in the Wembley area, for example, more council enforcement, toilets and better fencing.


This is unlikely to be a regular occurrence, but the field is available for commercial hire as has always been the case.



Concern was heightened  by the news that Brent Council planners were recommending that Brent Planning Committee approve George Irvin's planning application to build four 3 storey houses in Barham Park. Liberal Democrat councillor for Sudbury ward, Paul Lorber, has written to Brent  Parks department asking whether this will set a precedent for other sites in the borough:

The Planning Officer recommendation on the Barham Park planning application going to Committee on 12 June 2023 suggests that the Council Housing Policies over rides this and the protection of Parks and Open Spaces is now a dead duck.

It is of some surprise to find that the Park Service made no representations on the Barham planning application and is silent on the issue and the implications for other Parks and Open Spaces.

Perhaps you can explain why?

In view of this can you provide the following:

  1.  List of all of Brent’s Parks and Open Spaces which have residential buildings (I am aware of around wood Park and King Edward VII Park for example) and other buildings which on the basis of the Barham Park recommendation are now at risk.
  2. How many of the above have been looked at and assessed as suitable for future housing development.
  3. Whether in view of planning officers  recommendations the Protection of Parks and Open Spaces needs to be reviewed and strengthened.
Residents across Brent are now asking “is our Park/Open Space safe?” and they need reassurance.

I would appreciate an early reply.


PS. As you know there used to be a large House in the middle of Gladstone Park some years back. As it was used as a private residence is the site now suitable and acceptable for a residential development? Is the Council position on Barham Park (silence by the Parks Service and the Barham Park Charity managed by Council officers) a precedent of what residents can now expect in the future?


This is the relevant section of the Officers' Report. The promise of the first paragraph is dismissed in the subsequent paragraphs:


The Sudbury Town Neighbourhood Plan designated Barham Park including the land within the application site as a Local Green Space under Policy LGS1, with LGS2 relating to Barham Park. This policy highlights that the Local Green Spaces will be given long term protection and proposals for development which is not ancillary to the use of the land for recreational purposes will be resisted. The Local Green Space designation for Barham Park includes the houses and the majority of their curtilages as being within the designated space. It is set out within Neighbourhood Plan policy BP1 (Barham Park) that any proposals for the re-use or redevelopment of park buildings for residential us (Use Class C3) will not be supported.


Neighbourhood Plan Policies LGS1, LGS2 and BP1 are relevant to the proposal as the site is within the area defined as Local Green Space by the plan. However, the proposal does not result in the loss of any Local Green Space. The site contains house for which the authorised use is as dwellings within Use Class C3 and as such, the proposal is not considered to result in the redevelopment of park buildings.

The proposal is considered to accord with policies LGS1, LGS2 and BP1. Nevertheless, if one contended that Policy BP1 relates to all buildings within the area designated Local Green Space as opposed to all buildings within the park itself, it is noted that the fall-back position for the applicant would be the continued use of the houses and their curtilages for their current lawful use, for purposes withinUse Class C3. In this instance the proposed redevelopment of the site would continue to be acceptable having regard to the existing use of the site.


Saturday, 3 June 2023

UPDATE:Lorber challenges attendance restriction. Brent Council recommends approval of application to build in Barham Park and restricts attendance at the Planning Committee considering it


The proposed four 3 storey houses in Barham Park

Residents who have made comments on funfair supremo and developer, George Irvin's, controversial application to build four 3 storey houses in  Barham Park, have been surprised to receive letters apparently restricting attendance at the Planning Committee that will decide the application on June 12th.

The letter (below) cites Covid restrictions but these were not in evidence at the Council's Annual General Meeting and currently not in evidence in the public areas of the Civic Centre.

The UK Government website says, 'There are no coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions in the UK.' 

Despite widespread opposition to this proposal the Chief Planner is recommending approval.



Re: 776 & 778, Harrow Road, Wembley, HA0 2HE 


I refer to the planning application for the above site which proposes:- 


Demolition of 2 existing dwellings and construction of 4x new three storey dwellinghouses, associated cycle and refuse storage, amenity space and boundary treatment 


The application will be formally considered at the meeting of the Planning Committee on 12 June, 2023 starting at 6pm. 


As a result of the current regulations allowing the Council to hold meetings of the Planning Committee remotely coming to an end, the Council is now required to hold this as a socially distanced physical (face to face) meeting. 


This meeting of the Committee has therefore been arranged to take place in the Conference Hall, at the Civic Centre. 


As we are still operating under existing Covid restrictions, capacity within the meeting venue has been strictly limited to ensure compliance with the necessary social distancing guidelines. 


We are therefore encouraging those who wish to observe proceedings to continue doing so via the live webstream which we will continue to make available on the Council’s website 


It is possible to speak at the Committee Meeting, which (in advance of the current restrictions coming to an end) can continue to be undertaken online (including via the telephone) or now, as an alternative, in person at the meeting, subject to the restrictions set out in the Council's Standing Order. These provide for one objector and/or one supporter of the application to speak. The Chair has the discretion to increase this to two people from each side. In doing this, the Chair will give priority to occupiers nearest to the application site or representing a group of people. 


To address the committee you must notify Executive and Member Services by 5 pm on the working day before the committee meeting. Please email or telephone the Executive and Member Services Officer, Mrs Dev Bhanji, on 07786 681276 during office hours. If you would prefer to attend the physical meeting to speak in person then please could you indicate this when notifying us of your request, as attendance will need to be strictly managed on the night. This may involve you having to wait in a separate area outside of the meeting room until you are called to speak.


The Chief Planner's recommendation for this application is to Grant Consent




Following expressions of concern from local residents about the restriction on attendance at the consideration of a very controversial planning application, Sudbury Lib Dem councillor Paul Lorber has written to Brent Council:

This is a very odd letter to be sent to Councillors and residents about a Planning Meeting.

There are no COVID restrictions in place and none were applied at the recent Council AGM.

This has confused resident concerned about this controversial Planning Application and given an impression that residents are being dissuaded from attending and show the strength of local opposition.

Can you please clarify the position and if the letter and references to COVID restrictions were sent in error a new notification sent out and if appropriate the item postponed to a later date.

Paul Lorber



A defence of family connections on Brent Council?

 The question mark is deliberate as comments on the post 'Three councillors declare free Funfair tickets from proprietor and developer George Irvin' have been numerous and rather extraordinary including tributes in poetry to Cllr Akram and a Letter to the Editor about his leadership qualities. It has been hard, as with this comment received today, to decide whether they are genuine or satirical.

It is important to approach allegations and concerns about the Barham Park planning application with a fair and objective perspective. While it is essential to ensure transparency and accountability in the decision-making process, it is equally crucial to avoid making unfounded assumptions or drawing conclusions without sufficient evidence. Let's examine the claims made and provide a rebuttal accordingly:

1. Cllr Mo Butt, Leader of Brent Council, is chair of the Barham Park Trust:
While it is true that Cllr Mo Butt is the Leader of Brent Council, and that he is currently chair of the Barham Park Trust, it does not necessarily imply any impropriety or ulterior motives. Public officials often engage in various roles and responsibilities within their community.

2. Cllr Saqib Butt and Cllr Ajmal Akram are both on the planning committee:
The fact that Cllr Saqib Butt and Cllr Ajmal Akram are members of the planning committee is not in itself indicative of any wrongdoing. It is common for local councilors to serve on committees that address various aspects of community development. Their involvement should not be automatically assumed as compromising the decision-making process.

3. Cllr Mili Patel is on the Barham Park Trust, and her husband, Cllr Matt Kelcher, is Chair of the Planning Committee:
Again, it is important to emphasize that mere associations or family relationships should not automatically cast doubt on the integrity of the decision-making process. If Cllr Mili Patel and Cllr Matt Kelcher have disclosed their affiliations and followed appropriate ethical guidelines, their involvement should be evaluated based on their individual merits and adherence to their responsibilities.

4. Cllr Krupa Sheth is on the Barham Park Trust, and her uncle, Cllr Ketan Sheth, is a Wembley Central councillor:
Similar to the previous points, family connections alone do not imply any wrongdoing or conflicts of interest. As long as the involved councilors have acted in accordance with their duties, exercised transparency, and disclosed any potential conflicts, their contributions should be evaluated based on the merits of their decision-making.

5. Cllr Rajan-Seelan is on the Planning Committee:
Once again, being a member of the Planning Committee does not automatically undermine the decision-making process. It is essential to consider the individual councilor's professionalism, adherence to ethical standards, and their ability to evaluate applications impartially.

It is crucial to remember that making allegations without concrete evidence can potentially harm the reputations of individuals involved. If there are concerns about the decision-making process or potential conflicts of interest, appropriate channels for lodging complaints or seeking clarification should be pursued. Public officials should be held accountable, but this accountability should be based on facts and evidence rather than assumptions or associations alone.

Finally, the involvement of family and friends in politics can contribute to a stronger sense of community and a deeper understanding of local issues. When individuals who share personal connections work together in political endeavors, they often bring a higher level of trust, cooperation, and shared values to the decision-making process. This can foster a more collaborative and cohesive approach to addressing community needs and concerns. Additionally, having family members and close friends engaged in politics can lead to increased accessibility and representation. People who are personally connected to elected officials may feel more comfortable reaching out and expressing their opinions, knowing that their concerns will be heard and considered. Furthermore, family and friends who are involved in politics may have a deeper knowledge and understanding of the community's history, culture, and specific needs, allowing them to make more informed decisions that benefit the local population..

Thursday, 1 June 2023

Henry Cooper of Wembley – free talk on Saturday 17th June 10.30am at Brent Civic Centre

Guest post by local historian Philip Grant

Back in November 2018, I wrote a short post about a blue plaque which had been unveiled in Ealing Road, to commemorate Sir Henry Cooper. The greengrocers business that he ran there, for three years in the 1960s, was called “Henry Cooper of Wembley”, and that is the name of a free illustrated talk which I will be giving at Brent Civic Centre on the morning of Saturday 17 June. I’m writing this article, so that as many local people as possible, who might wish to come along to my talk, are aware of it.



The talk has been arranged for that weekend, and that venue, because it will be the 60th anniversary of Henry Cooper’s famous boxing match at Wembley Stadium (a final eliminator, with the winner fighting for the Heavyweight Championship of the World) against Cassius Clay, aka Muhammad Ali.



The talk is not just about boxing, but also about Henry Cooper the man, who lived in Wembley with his family for fifteen years, at the height of his career. Although it is advertised as being at the Civic Centre's Wembley Library, the talk will actually take place in Boardrooms 4&5  as students will be revising for exams in the library itself. Because of this, if you are coming to the talk, please arrive between 10.15 and 10.25am, at the library entrance in the main Civic Centre atrium, so that a member of staff can take you up to the third floor in the lift.


Although this is a free talk, you need to book online, at the Brent Culture Service Eventbrite website, to reserve your place. To see more details, and to do that, please click HERE. I look forward to sharing Henry’s story with you, in words and pictures!


Philip Grant



GULEZ - was it Mo Butt of Brent who moved Sadiq into action on the scrappage scheme? Brent Council seem to think so.

So here we have it as set out in my earlier post LINK about media management of Sadiq Khans changes in the ULEZ scrappage scheme, Brent Council issued the following press release today complete with a picture of 'The Leader' who apparently helped influence the decision, with his letter written 2 days before the announcement:

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has announced that tens of thousands more Londoners, including all those receiving child benefit and all small businesses in the capital, will be eligible for financial support to replace polluting vehicles from the end of July. 


This is part of a major extension of London’s biggest ever scrappage scheme ahead of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expanding to cover the whole of London - becoming the Greater Ultra Low Emission Zone (GULEZ) - on 29 August 2023. 


The changes include: 

  • Allowing all Londoners receiving child benefit to apply 
  • Allowing all businesses with less than 50 employees to apply 
  • Allowing charities to scrap up to three vans instead of just one


A new grace period for sole traders, microbusinesses, small businesses, and registered charities who have ordered brand-new compliant vehicles, but have been informed that delivery will be delayed past 29 August when the larger zone goes live – or if they have booked an approved retrofit appointment for a non-compliant light van or minibus before that date. 


The Mayor has also asked Transport for London (TfL) to actively monitor applications from care workers to ensure they are also benefiting from the money available.  


The ULEZ expansion aims to take old and dangerous vehicles off the road to clean London’s air and tackle the health implications that come from pollution, like lung and heart disease. 

In 2019, air pollution caused an estimated 4,000 deaths in London and data shows that residents in outer-London boroughs, like Brent, are disproportionally affected by poor air quality, especially those from BAME and low-income backgrounds. 


Earlier this year, data showed that over a quarter of deadly particles have vanished in areas that expanded the Ultra Low Emission Zone last year. Pupils, students and local residents can breathe a sigh of relief at the expansion, as the report shows that ULEZ has cut toxic particles by nearly half in Central London. 


 Muhammed Butt, the Leader of Brent Council


The Leader of Brent Council, Cllr Muhammed Butt, wrote to Sadiq Khan earlier this week asking the Mayor to give more support to families and businesses. 


He said: "I am delighted that, having listened to feedback, the Mayor has announced a major expansion to the scrappage scheme meaning tens of thousands more Londoners will benefit. 


"Toxic air is damaging our health in Brent and affecting our children too. Your council is also doing its bit to improve air quality, including putting in place 30 School Streets, planting 4,533 new trees, installing over 454 charging points for electric vehicles and increasing the share of journeys made by walking, cycling and public transport to 69% - one of the highest figures in outer London.”


“We are proud of our work, but with the ULEZ expansion from 29 August - that is set to ensure five million more Londoners can breathe cleaner air - and an even bigger scrappage scheme, I am confident we can clean up Brent - and London's - air much faster, and for good.” 


Visit the TfL website to find out more about the ULEZ, including the scrappage scheme and to check if your vehicle is compliant. 


And Brent Council tweeted the claim on their official Twitter account:



Indhu Rubasingham to step down as Artistic Director of The Kiln, Kilburn after sometimes stormy tenure in post


 Indhu Rubasingham


The Kiln Theatre annouced today that Indhu Rubasingham is to step down as artistic director. She will finish her term in early 2024 and meanwhile the role of artistic director of Kiln Theatre will be advertised, and the recruitment process will begin later this month.

Aside from her impact on the cultural offer at the theatre Rubasingham was embroiled in controversy early in her tenure in 2014 when conflict in the Middle East was intense and the theatre decided not to accept Israeli monetary support for the UK Jewish Film Festival. In the face of misleading press reports the theatre issued this statement

The Tricycle has always welcomed the Festival and wants it to go ahead. We have proudly hosted the UK Jewish Film Festival for many years. However, given the situation in Israel and Gaza, we do not believe that the festival should accept funding from any party to the current conflict.  For that reason, we asked the UK Jewish Film Festival to reconsider its sponsorship by the Israeli Embassy.  We also offered to replace that funding with money from our own resources. The Tricycle serves many communities and celebrates different cultures and through difficult, emotional times must aim for a place of political neutrality.

Nevertheless the Jewish Film Festival withdrew from what was then the Tricycle and Brent Conservatives proposed that Brent Council stopped contributing to its funding.


 May Bank Holiday Protest 2018


The renaming of the Tricycle was the next controversy on her watch when it was proposed that the name of the theatre should be changed to The Kiln as part of a relaunch. This led to demonstrations by angry theatre goers outside the premises, a Facebook group 'Our Tricycle not your Kiln'  and the launch of a petition:

The name of the theatre and cinema that the local community has loyally supported for many years has been changed, without consultation, from ‘The Tricycle’ to ‘The Kiln’. The attempt at re-branding is unnecessary, costly and squanders the established reputation of The Tricycle. The loss of loyalty may lead to the theatre closing - already many local people have declared their intention to boycott it when it reopens. In addition the name ‘The Kiln’ has unfortunate associations to a fire in the eighties, when the theatre burned to the ground. Please support us by signing the petition for the name to be changed back to The Tricycle - It only takes a moment...

Indhu Rubasingham oversaw a substantial £9m refurbishment programme at The Kiln and the statement from the theatre below sets out what they see as her achievements as artistic director:

Kiln Theatre today announces that Indhu Rubasingham will step down as Artistic Director of the company, leaving early 2024, having led the company for over a decade.

Indhu Rubasingham said today, “I never had an inkling of the journey ahead when I was first was appointed. I immediately felt the responsibility, but what emerged was both challenging and exhilarating, an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It has been an immense honour to be Artistic Director of Kiln Theatre. I have learnt and grown so much over these past 11 years. It has given me the privilege and opportunity to work with many brilliant people, who have contributed to the successes of Kiln; a theatre with a mission that is heartfelt and held by the whole team. I am deeply grateful to the Board of Trustees chaired by Sita McIntosh and former trustees and Chairs for their support and guidance and care of Kiln, and also to the many donors and Arts Council England who have allowed the Kiln to flourish and achieve all the things it has. It is a wonderful space, that welcomes us in to immerse ourselves in different worlds, narratives and experiences. I have been very lucky to be part of its story. It now feels the right moment to pass the baton and herald the next chapter of this unique theatre.”

Chair of the Board, Sita McIntosh commented, “Indhu has brought so many incredible qualities to the role of Artistic Director – a flair for programming, the innate ability to combine the commercial with artistic risk, and to bring a wealth of voices into the Kiln, never afraid to challenge, to ask questions, and to bring out the very best in those whose work she champions. However, it’s not only on the stage that her presence is felt, she’s put creative engagement at the very forefront of the company’s ethos, firmly believing theatre should be accessible to everyone through the work and through training opportunities. She’s a rare talent, and she will be much missed. Her greatest legacy is the building, which through a major capital project, she has future proofed for generations, and it’s that building that will host the next chapter for the company as we look for a new Artistic Director to build on Indhu’s evident successes.”

Rubasingham took up her role at Kiln Theatre (then Tricycle Theatre) in 2012 – having previously directed Women, Power and Politics, Stones in His Pockets, Detaining Justice, The Great Game: Afghanistan, Fabulation and Starstruck for the company – and immediately, with Board support, repositioned the company’s mission to bring unheard voices to the mainstream.

Her first production as Artistic Director was the critically acclaimed award-winning Red Velvet by Lolita Chakrabarti, starring Adrian Lester as Ira Aldridge. The production was nominated for the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre; and Chakrabarti won the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Most Promising Playwright. The production later transferred to St Ann’s Warehouse in New York and to the Garrick Theatre as part of Kenneth Branagh’s season.

New writing became a mainstay of Rubasingham’s tenure and was followed with Philip Himberg’s Paper Dolls – a new musical inspired by a true story with an international company combining languages, musical genres, cultures and gender identity. Other highlights include Moira Buffini’s Handbagged which examines the relationship between Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret Thatcher. The production opened to critical acclaim in 2013 winning the Olivier Award for Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre, before transferring to the West End and Washington, and Rubasingham revived the production last year in what was to prove timely programming. She also directed Marcus Gardley’s The House That Will Not Stand and The Wolf in Snakeskin Shoes (with long-term partners Lucian Msamati, Adjoa Andoh and Sharon D Clarke, the latter who returned for Susie McKenna’s production of Blues in the Night); and Ayad Akhtar’s The Invisible Hand, which was one of the last productions under the Tricycle Theatre name, and was later revived as part of the reopening season post the Covid-19 pandemic, garnering Olivier Award nominations for Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre for both runs.

Two key relationships under her leadership were with the writers Florian Zeller and Zadie Smith. The company presented Zeller’s triptych of plays – The Father, The Mother and The Son, with both The Father and The Son receiving West End transfers. Rubasingham began her working relationship with Smith with White Teeth, which was adapted for the stage by Stephen Sharkey and formed part of the opening season at Kiln Theatre. A book firmly rooted in the local community, Smith and Rubasingham followed this with a new collaboration on The Wife of Willesden, which enjoyed two sell-out runs at the company’s home base, before transferring to American Repertory Theatre, Harvard University and Brooklyn Academy of Music. Smith now sits on the Board of Kiln Theatre.

Other writers commissioned, produced and presented during Rubasingham’s period as Artistic Director include Anupama Chandrasekhar, Samuel Adamson, Alexi Kaye Campbell, John Hollingworth, Marina Carr, April De Angelis, Inua Ellams, Suhayla El-Bushra, Alexis Zegerman,Lynn Nottage, Zodwa Nyoni, Amy Trigg, Chinonyerem Odimba, Colman Domingo, and most recently Ryan Calais Cameron with the critically acclaimed sell-out production of Retrograde, directed by Associate Director Amit Sharma. Partnerships and co-productions included with the National Theatre on The Great Wave by Frances Turnley, which Rubasingham directed (and is now on the school syllabus), Abbey Theatre, Tamasha, tiata fahodzi, Fiery Angel, Eleanor Lloyd Productions, Bath Theatre Royal, Paines Plough, Frantic Assembly, Complicité, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Opera Up Close and Muju.

Perhaps most significantly, Rubasingham oversaw a £9m major capital refurbishment future proofing the theatre for the next generation of theatremakers. The necessary works preserved the glories of the original building whilst making it a theatre for today, fit for purpose for modern companies and audiences. The newly-renovated theatre features an upgraded auditorium with a flexible stage, better seating, improved accessibility; and a street-front café on Kilburn High Road. The theatre reopened in 2018 with a new name, Kiln Theatre.

During this period, Rubasingham and her team spearheaded an expansion of creative engagement work, putting their commitment to the local community and emerging artists at the very core of the theatre’s output. These initiatives included the growth of Minding the Gap – a drama project for young people aged 14-19 who are newly arrived in the UK, with lived experience of migration and/or who identify as refugees and asylum seekers from Kiln’s partner schools and colleges in Brent, Youth Theatre, Young Companies, and The Agency, which was part of Brent 2020, London Borough of Culture. In addition to the extensive Creative Engagement programme, Kiln Theatre also runs an artist development programme for residents of North West London, to support and inform practice, inspire and release creativity.

She led the company, with Executive Director Daisy Heath, during the Covid-19 pandemic, and utilising the support of the Job Retention Scheme and the Culture Recovery Fund kept the staff and building together, whilst repositioning themselves during lockdown as a support and hub for the local area. In recognition of this work, and their reopening season, Kiln Theatre won The Stage 2021 Award for London Theatre of the Year. Also, as part of Kiln’s post-Covid reopening, in 2021 Kiln created their new Backstage Designer Residencies scheme, mentored by Tom Piper, which seeks to have a real impact both on the relationship between creative freelancers and building-based organisations, and on the lack of accessible pathways into theatre design careers.  With this paid training opportunity, Kiln piloted Universal Basic Income-type support for early career theatre designers. Routes in, access into the industry and artistic excellence are the cornerstones of Rubasingham’s Kiln Theatre.

The last three words may raise hackles amongst the Tricycle loyalists (It's OUR Tricycle not YOUR Kiln') with one Twitter commenter musing today, 'I wonder what the next artistic director will rename The Kiln.'

Asked about Indhu's futue plans The Kiln said there was nothing to add at this stage.