Wednesday 30 August 2023

URGENT REMINDER: Save Our Ticket Offices March Thursday 5pm onwards


From the RMT

RMT members, supporters and campaign groups will march on Parliament and Downing Street on Thursday to save our ticket offices.

They will be joined by passenger groups and disability rights campaigners ahead of the consultation on the future of ticket, offices, closing on September 1.
There have been up to half a million responses with the overwhelming majority showing support for RMT‘s campaign.
Train operating companies alongside the government are seeking to close up to 1000 ticket, offices and slash 2300 jobs from stations around the country.
The demonstration and rally by the union and campaigners will mark the next phase of the campaign. We shall see, increase lobbying of MPs and possibly further industrial action.
RMT general secretary, Mick Lynch said: 
“We are sending a clear message to the government and profiteering rail operators that our ticket offices must not be closed.
“The campaign to save our ticket offices has amassed widespread public support and forced an extension of the consultation.
“However, our campaign will continue beyond the consultation deadline.
“We need to pressure politicians in every constituency and to highlight the critical role that ticket offices and station staff play in supporting passengers of every type to reach their destinations.
“Closing ticket offices will lead to the widespread de-staffing of stations and make the railways inaccessible to thousands of disabled, vulnerable and elderly passengers.
“We will not quietly sit back and allow this to happen.
“Our members will continue their industrial campaign to save their jobs and to protect railway passengers.”

LETTER: Labour's Barham Park Betrayal


View through the community library window

Dear Editor

Thank you for exposing the latest attack on Barham Park by the people who run Brent Council.

It is more than 10 years since  Labour Councillors closed the Council run Library in Barham Park.

They will not find it so easy to close Barham Community Library that local volunteers have worked for over 10 years to create and develop as an active hub for our local Community.


The attack is not just on the Community Library as the Barham Veterans Club and the Gurkhas are under threat too - as are all the other local Community Groups which use our space at affordable rates:

The Dementia Support Group attended by 40 people every week
Muslim Prayer Group attend by over 60 every week
Tamil School Classes
Our Knitting & Crochet Sewcial Group
Our Yoga, Pilates and Exercise Dance Groups
Our Book Club
Our Art Club
Our Rhyme & Story telling under 5s group
Our Chess Club
And all the people who love to borrow books from us that others have donated

PLUS all the other local organisations & groups, such as Brent Friends of the Earth, Wembley Central & Alperton Residents Association, Carribean Muslim Group and many others who use our space for their social meetings and activities.

The Labour Cabinet Plan being presented at the Barham Park Trust Meeting on 5 September proposes replacing all the Community facilities with:

1. A Hotel or Rbnb accommodation for visitors  to Wembley Stadium - despite the fact that there are hotel rooms above the Pub opposite Barham, Park already
2. A Restaurant - despite the fact that the Pub opposite already has a Restaurant and there are many food places in Sudbury Town 5 minutes walk away.
3. Supermarket & Shops - despite a Tesco Express & 2 other supermarkets and many other shops in Sudbury Town already.
4. A Cafe taking up the whole of our Library space - despite attempts to open a Cafe in nearby station failed twice in the last 5 years.
5. Offices 

None of these proposals meet the Barham Park Charity objects of providing recreation and enjoyment for local people as the local benefactor Titus Barham intended.

If the Council Leadership gets away with building their Hotel & Supermarket in Barham Park then it will open the door to building on other Brent Parks too - as the local environment and recreation is sacrificed for money making ventures irrespective of how much damage they cause.

Over 1000 local people signed the Petition to Protect Barham Park from over development recently. The message from local people to the out of touch Leadership of Brent Council is loud and clear. HANDS OFF OUR PARKS & OUR COMMUNITY FACILITIES 

Come and support us by attending the Barham Park Trust Meeting at the Brent Civic Centre. Engineers Way Wembley on Tuesday 5 September at 10a.m. (bus No.92 stop outside and other buses nearby) and help us send a message to the Leadership of Brent Council that our Parks are for public enjoyment and our recreations and NOT for Rbnb or a "Boutique" Hotels, or Shops and Supermarkets that local people have not asked for and do not need.

Thank You for your support.

With best wishes

Paul Lorber
Volunteer & Trustee of Friends of Barham Library


Tuesday 29 August 2023

Brent Council seek to commercialise historic old buildings in Barham Park at expense of community groups


The Harrow Road frontage

The community library space

The attractive cluster of buildings - including artists' studios

The Veterans' Club

Nepalese Community Centre

The Children's Centre

When the planning application for the building of four 3 storey houses in Barham Park was approved there were warnings about setting a precedent that could be a threat to other parks and gave rise to a 1,000 plus petition calling on Brent Council to protect our parks. The news that the Barham Park Trustees were seeking to revise the covenant preventing building on the park reinforced fears and these seem to be borne out by a new threat.

Brent Council (not the  Cabinet members under the leadership of Muhammed Butt but who call tell the difference?)  have commissioned a feasibility study to refurbish the site to allow commercial development in order to maximise income by charging market rents. 

In the process it would  the whole feel and purpose of the buildings which once housed the Brent Council Parks Department and a Brent Council public library, closed by a previous Labour administration. The volunteer community library set up by a 'Save Our Libraries' campaign group, and offering many more community activities than just a library, would not be able to afford a commercial rent and its future would be threatened if the plans went ahead. A similar fate would await the other community groups that use the various buildings.

The brief is set out below with a key factor highlighted.

The key items considered within this report are:

  •   Location of additional parking (including EV charging)

  •   Partial demolition & rebuild of certain elements of the building (eg. the flat-roofed areas towards the rear) have insufficient potential to add value to the project as a whole and has been excluded from the project scope.

  •   No full demolition & rebuild - design to relate to & incorporate existing building.

  •   Not to consider existing tenancies and to consider the building as vacant.

  •   Tracking and tracing of all underground drainage / pipe routes.

  •   Topography survey and levelling to ensure sufficient drainage.

  •   Structural constraints of the Barham Park Trust building

  •   EPC C to be targeted.

  •   Trees located within a conservation area that are not protected require written notice to the local planning authority.

When I visited this morning it was clear that few of the user groups had any knowledge of the plans that will be discussed by the Barham Park Trustees Committee at its meeting on Tuesday September 5th at 10am in Brent Civic Centre  The public can attend in person or on zoom LINK and everyone who cares about the future of Brent parks is urged to attend.
The Feasibility Study suggests that the construction costs would be £3,161,537.50 but many key items are left out and it is likely to be more that £4m.
The suggested occupants of the site, rather bizarrely, include an Air B&B, when many councils are discouraging them as they take away permanent local housing provision. Four retail outlets including a supermarket are  proposed when this section of the Harrow Road has little footfall other than park users, and a restaurant (there is a large restaurant opposite that has recently been converted from a pub.  
The only non-commercial uses mentioned are a community hub with local information and a library. Whether the latter would be at an affordable rent and affordable service charges will be vital for the continuation of the Barham Park Community Library.  Considerable financial investment and volunteer hours have been invested in the current library as can be seen in the photograph above, taken just after a morning yoga session, one of many activities that take place there.
Like many Brent Council properties the buildings have been allowed to run down and fall into disrepair, although users have done their best to rectify the defects spending their own funds. This run down strategy can sometimes be used to justify demolition and rebuild as happened with the previous Willesden Green library, and on a smaller but widespread scale with garages on council estates.
There are buildings in many Brent parks with development planned in King Edward VII   Wembley pavilion and the Bowls Court in Roundwood Park being offered to potential users. Watch this space!

Boarded up windows

To enable the users I met today and other members of the public to see the full study I have embedded it  below.


Saturday 26 August 2023

Trustees set to rubber stamp process to remove covenant restriction on building in Barham Park

The proposed George Irvin development of four 3 storey houses in Barham Park that would require the removal of the covenant

Trustees Meeting Agenda September 5th 2023

Reader will be familiar with the controversy over the proposal by funfair owner and property developer George Irvin to replace two  modest two storey park workers' houses  in Barham park with 4 three storey houses. At Planning Committee the elephant in the room was the restrictive covenant on developing the site, dismissed by officers as not a planning consideration. Planning permission was granted despite massive resident opposition.

Readers will also remember that the Trustees of Barham Park consist of Brent Council Cabinet members, chaired by Brent Council Leader, Muhammed Butt. Readers will also recall disquiet over Irvin giving free tickets away to councillors and concern over alleged social connections between Irvin and councillors, including Muhammed Butt.

Now the elephant in the room is due to make an appearance at the Barham Park Trustees meeting at the Civic Centre on Tuesday September 5th. 

The proposal by the existing owner, contrary to the terms of the restrictive covenants, is to seek consent from the Trust Committee to amend the restrictive covenants to enable him to demolish the existing buildings and erect 4 houses on the combined plot, whereas currently the restrictive covenants allow for only 2 dwellings on the combined plot.

However, the public and backbench councillors will not be allowed to know the size and value of the elephant/covenant as the result of an Independent Valuation has been 'restricted':

"Appendix 3 is not for publication as it contains the following category of exempt information as specified in Paragraph 3, Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, namely: “Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information."

There is a clue to how it could be worked out in the papers for the meeting:

The varying of the restrictive covenants is a matter for the Trust Committee and Charity Commission. As beneficiary of the restrictive covenants, the Trust Committee can negotiate a monetary consideration for varying the restrictive covenants. Simply put, the monetary consideration is usually determined by what the market value of the 2 additional completed properties might be and deduct from that the estimated development costs to arrive at a gross development value. This gross development value is then typically split 50/50 between the Covenantor and Covenantee by negotiation and is the formula used in the valuation for varying the restrictive covenant.

Developer, George Irvin,  will of course be a beneficiary as well but the report attempts to sweeten the pill by suggesting that the proceeds from varying the  covenant will be used to the benefit of the park, which as Trustees would have to do anyway, although they only refer to 'potential':

Officers will explore the potential to reinvest the proceeds from varying the restrictive covenants in respect of 776-778 Harrow Road back into the Estate as part of developing a multi-faceted investment strategy for the refurbishment project. Accordingly, the proceeds would count as permanent endowment funds (capital funds which are held in trust for the benefit of the charity over the long term and are subject to restrictions as regards how they may be used).

Those proposals on  refurbishment are a separate part of the agenda for the meeting and will be covered in a separate blog post.

So is there any mention of the 1,000 signatures plus petition calling for the covenants to be upheld? No - neither in the report or as as a Petition Presentaton Agenda item. A new elephant in the room!?

A key question is whether the Agenda or accompanying reports leave open the possibility of the Trustees deciding not to vary the covenants at all and thus fulfill their role in protecting the Tutus Barham legacy. The answer is already implied - they will protect the legacy by using the covenant variation monies to improve the park not by refusing to negotiate  a variation.

So what do officers' recommend to the Barham Park Trust Committee?



That the Barham Park Trust Committee RESOLVES


Agree for the Director for Environmental and Leisure Services in consultation with the Chair of the Trust Committee to negotiate in principle the variation of the restrictive covenant in respect of 776 and 778 Harrow Road for the best terms that can reasonably be obtained, subject to final approval by the Trust Committee, and any approval required by the Charity Commission under the Charities Act 2022 and 201l.


So the Committee is asked to agree to hand over negotiation to Muhammed Butt and the Director and, subject to Charity Commission approval,  will then rubber stamp it. All done by a small group of cabinet members, albeit wearing trustee hats - with, as I said at the beginning no resident or backbencher input.


There is one other area that may be considered by supporters of the covenant and critics of the process regarding whether the owner/developer is a 'connected person' and thus a conflict of interest arises. This is the relevant section of the report:

5.7 Use of s117, pre-supposes that the owner of the cottages is not a “connected person” within the meaning of section 118. Connected persons2 includes:


“Who at the time of the disposition in question, or at the time of any contract for the disposition in question are, for example—

(a) a charity trustee or trustee for the charity…

(c) a child, parent, grandchild, grandparent, brother or sister of any such trustee or donor,

(d) an officer, agent or employee of the charity…

(f) a person carrying on business in partnership with any person falling within any of paragraphs (a) to (e)”


5.8 In accordance with s120, any disposal of Trust land over seven years to a third party is also subject to similar requirement imposed by s119 above.


Furthermore, the disposal of charity land, or letting for more than two years to a third party or connected person requires consultation in the form of being notified in the local press and onsite and providing for at least one calendar month, from the date of the notice, for members of the public to make representations.


5.9 Accordingly, if the owner of the cottages is a connected person, or a conflict of interest is deemed to exist in the decision making process re the disposal (for example, amongst other things because payment of a capital sum to the Council (as trustee) for releasing the covenant would reduce the contribution required to be made in practice by the Council (as local authority) to subsidise the running of the charity), the Trustees should request the Charity Commission consider the Qualified Surveyor’s Report (referred to under the 2022 Act as the Designated Advisor’s Report (DARs) (valuation) and release or varying the restrictive covenant pursuant to their s105 Charity Act powers, to authorise dealings with the charity property.


On the same Agenda there is an item on governance which proposes the first update since 2013. The item makes clear that Brent Council is the corporate Trustee of Barham Park but must ensure that the management of the Charity and its interests is separate from its responsibility as the Council and its interests Decisions have to be made solely on the basis of the former. What is in the interests of the  Charity may not be in the electoral interests of the Council. See 10a Appendix A for the changes.


Review of Barham Park Trust Governance Document pdf icon PDF 137 KB

This report sets out for review proposed updates to the Barham Park Trust Governance and Guidance Document. Primarily designed to reflect changes following organisational restructures in the council and updated guidance issued by the Charity Commission.

Additional documents:



Friday 25 August 2023

BREAKING: St Mungo's workers win 10.74% pay increase


Unite the Union in a press release today hailed a victory in the long running St Mungo's strike. The strikers won support locally for the workers at their Willesden facility, close to the bus station. LINK


Unite secures inflation beating pay deal to end long running strike at St Mungo’s 


Hundreds of workers employed by homelessness charity St Mungo’s have ended their long running strike victorious after accepting an inflation beating pay increase.


After three months of strike action and tireless campaigning the workers have agreed to a pay increase which works out at 10.74 per cent based on a median wage or £3,125 in cash terms. Plus, the total financial gain includes a one-off payment of £700 for most workers.


The cash-based deal also means the lower paid workers will get a bigger share of the pot and Unite’s campaign of industrial action has made certain that executive directors at the Charity agree to a pay freeze for 2023/24.


Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham said:  


This was a hard-fought battle resulting in victory for St. Mungo’s workers who are dedicated to helping the homeless.


The workers took action because they were under huge financial and mental pressure and they weren’t being listened to by management.


Unite will continue to defend workers when employers refuse to do so, in the fight for better jobs, pay and conditions for our members.


St Mungo’s workers’ pay is normally pegged to local authority pay rates under the NJC agreement but the strike action has, for the first time, delivered a pay increase above the NJC rate.


Unite national lead officer, Onay Kasab said: 


The reps and activists have delivered a fantastic result plus hundreds of new Unite members. The pay deal isn’t just inflation beating it goes above and beyond previous pay deals at St Mungo’s which always matched local authority agreements.


The workers are to be congratulated for their resilience and determination.

Wednesday 23 August 2023

In search of grass and green space in Wembley Park

Descending from Barn Hill to Wembley Park

There was a tweet from Brent Council recently boasting of their new green planning guidance - unfortunately it showed what was clearly plastic grass.

Today's sunshine was a good opportunity to have a walk around Quintainland to see how things are going. The trees along Olympic Way are thriving and there are lots of container shrubs. Children were enjoying themselves splashing in the fountains outside the Wembley Arena but still a lot of hot concrete.

Children and families were clearly out and about enjoying the sunshine so I was interested in how they were enjoying the green 'amenity spaces' provided by the developers. I could not find one child playing on the plastic grass - the spaces were deserted.

The spaces are private - for people in the blocks only. Perhaps there are no children because the blocks do not contain families?


It resembles all those bicycle parking places provided in new developments that never have a single bicycle in them.

I thought it would be worth checking out Union Park on Engineers Way (Buses 92, 206, and  440 stop next to the park). I started from the stadium and walked down towards Engineer's Way and at first saw  - a deserted  tennis court and a deserted plastic grass playground (some real plants and trees though). 


But hey! I could hear people and children giggling.

The paddling pool looked fun and there were some plants but no grass.

Heading north towards Engineer's Way there was a water feature and plenty of natural grass (although there are some drain covers disguised with plastic grass). There's a lot of water works here as this is a SuDs (Sustainable Drainage System) that provide an alternative to the direct channelling of surface water through networks of pipes and sewers to nearby watercourses. (see last image)

Clearly good for the environment and the prevention of  flooding but whether it is enough to mitigate all the non-permeable concrete will only be tested by time as extreme weather contnues to develop.


Some thought has gone into planting here and it looks promising for biodiversity. There is even a bug hotel:

There were still only few people here and the nearby cafe reported no increase in customers in the fine weather. Felt a little strange - only a couple of people sunbathing on the grass.

On the west side of the park things were more lively at a small children's playspace. Unfortunately the nearest toilets are at Brent Civic Centre.



The water cascades  into drainage on Engineer's Way - the hoardings are in fron of the site for the second half of the park - currently called North Park which will have a small lake.

This is how the two parks will combine, with Engineer's Way running between them. The North Park will be surrounded by tall towers which will reduce sunlight but you would not think that from the artist's impression below with its shimmering misty tower blocks. The park is on the site of the former Yellow Car Park.


 Bottom right North End Road and Bridge Road Junction


Shimmering towers and sunlit grass

I hoped to see some progress had been made on the North Park but was disappointed to see that the site appeared to be mainly used for storage with no work going on to prepare the ground for the park. Quite a contrast from the above image!

Given that the aim was for Wembley Stadium to be a mainly public transport destination I was surpised to see this boast:


Recent controversy over densification of the tall buildings reducing light are brought home in streets such as Rutherwood Way. The developer's artist's impression shows it as tree-lined!

If the weather is fine and the kids are bored in the last week or so of the summer holiday it might be worth taking them down to Wembley Park. Union Park is only a short walk from Wembley Park Station. Head down Olympic Way and turn left at Engineer's Way.



The Union Park SuDs system:


The road at the bottom is Engineer's Way

Underdevelopment of Wembley Steps undercroft for community benefit



Undercroft Activities from the developer's Design and Access Statement September 4th 2018


Every now and again I decide to check up on whether some of the promises included in planning applications and planning officer reports (designed to persuade the Planning Committee of the benefits of the development) actually come about.

These have included artist's impressions of the attractive banks of the Wealdstone Brook flowing through s development where you can imagine dipping your toes into the cool water- that turns out to be steep banked concrete conduits full of rubbish and polluted water. Even that is 'Private'.

The steps that replaced the Stadium  Pedway were a highly controversial project and one of the benefits claimed was the use of the 'undercroft' beneath for various activities that would increase income for Brent Council.

This was meant to soften resentment at the £18m of Community Infrastructure Levy that Brent Council handed over for the steps replacement and other 'improvements'. 

Officers Final Report  4th September 2018


The 33.5m wide pedestrian link area beneath the landing of the steps (‘The Undercroft’) has been identified as an area that could provide for community activities and ‘pop ups’. It is considered acceptable as it maintains permeability across the front of the stadium for pedestrians on Stadium Event Days.


This covered area is also proposed to be used as an occasional event space and for use as play space and/or a market area. Incorporated into the steps at concourse level would be roof lights to provide lighting for the undercroft in addition to the LED downlights proposed


Nearly five years on here is the undercroft today: