Brent Council Leader Muhammed Butt made an unconvincing effort not to notice the large attendance at the Barham Park Trustees Meeeting this morning - there were more present than shown in this photograph and extra chairs had to be wheeled into the room.
Residents were there to protect their park and said afterwards they had not been impressed by the proceedings.
The meeting began with an announcement that the agenda item on the accounts was to be deferred to the next meeting. The whole meeting should have been deferred as Trustee activities and their plans hang on the financial viability of the Trust. That proposition was rejected and the meeting continued.
Users of the community facilities were only allowed to report on their activities and forbidden by Cllr Butt (Chair of the Trustees) to comment on the proposals that were on the Agenda. Cllr Lorber appealed to legal officers to comment on this ruling as no such restriction had been communicated but no response was forthcoming. An ill-tempered Butt interrupted Francis Henry when he quietly and politely tried to raise concerns.
Butt interrupted several times when Francis Henry wanted to talk about the items on the agenda that would impact on tenants and threaten the future of the Barham Library and its community activites:
Butt: I am going to stop you again. You are here, right, as I said the offer was made to the people within that building to come here and talk about the work that they have done in the previous year leading up to today.
I am not talking about the meeting. I am not talking about the agenda. I am not talking about the report. I am talking about the work you have done in the building as part of your trustee role.
This is what Francis would have said if he was not interrupted. They are questions he and other tenants of the community buildings would like answered:
Barham Park Trust Meeting, 5th September 2023
Presentation by Friends of Barham Library
My name is Francis Henry, a resident of Wembley with a business in the area for over 30 years. I was the Chair of the Brent Sustainability Forum; I am currently the Chair of the Wembley Traders Association.
Today I am speaking as a Trustee of Friends of Barham Library who have been running a popular Community Library and Activity Centre in Barham Park since 2016 where hundreds of local people take part in a wide range of recreational activities.
In relation to Item 7, I wish to make the following points and raise some questions.
In my professional view as an local estate agent, no business person would contemplate making a decision involving around £4 million of public money on the inadequate information before Trustees today.
Can you please answer questions that any responsible Trustee would ask:
- What alternative premises are being offered to all existing tenants?
- Why were the tenants not consulted or involved?
- Will the existing tenants be guaranteed same size space on affordable rents once completed?
- Why do the officer recommended plans in the Silver Option not show a Community Library when the Library is shown in the Gold Option?
- What is the earliest possible date you can obtain vacant possession of all the Units?
- Is the £3.2 million cost estimate based on current year prices and what is the cost estimate in the earliest year the work can start.
- Why has the bronze option not been presented to the Trustees?
- The Report claims gross income of £300,000 to £400,000 from the completed development. What is the net income after interest and costs of managing the new facility.
- Have the Brent Planners confirmed that shops, restaurants, hotels and offices comply with Planning Policies for green spaces and the Sudbury Neighbourhood Plan?
- What sources of funding have been identified or been pursued to meet the expected costs?
- You have spent £25,000 on Architects fees, unspecified costs on the windows survey. How much more in consultancy fees will be incurred before you know if this project is financially viable?
In my opinion no responsible Trustee would consider committing any more Charity or Public money to this idea before these questions are answered or recommendation 2.5 on the covenant is pursued.
Thank you for your time.
The Trustees decided to go ahead with further work on the development proposals that officers described as 'hypothetical' - having spent £25K on a hypothetical report they now committed to spending more with an initial investigation into funding streams that would enable developments to take place. Only after that will tenants of the community buildings be consulted on proposals which does suggest they will be involved in shaping the proposals.
The plans to remove the covenant restricting development of the plot containg two small houses will also go ahead enabling fun fair owner George Irvin to build four 3 storey houses on the site are going ahead.
On Governance the Committee opted to continue the status quo, giving the Brent Cabinet sole control of the Trustees. Cllr Butt nodded along as an officer inaudibly went through the reasons why the alternatives would not be effective or efficient. A suggestion that a Friends of Barham Park should be set up was the only sop to local people and no actual representation (apart from the Buttocracy) on the Trustees was rejected.
There was a rare moment when Cllr Krupesh Sheth, who is lead members for the environment and thus of parks, actually spoke - but only to correct the title of one of the officers.
There was no mention of any submission by Barry Gardiner MP who had previously strongly opposed the removal of the covenant and Wembley Central ward councillors, the ward now includes Barham Park, did not make any representations.