Guest post by Philip Grant in a personal capacity
On 4 September, ahead of the Barham Park Trust Committee meeting the following day, Martin published (with my permission) a copy of an Open Letter I had sent to Brent’s Chief Executive and the members of the Committee. I will ask Martin to attach the letter again, below.
Ground floor plan for the “Silver”, preferred option, redevelopment of the Barham Park buildings.
The Trust had already spent £25,000 of Brent Council money on a feasibility study, described as a Strategic Property Review. This was basically a plan to redevelop the Barham Park buildings, estimated to cost £3.2m, to generate more income for the Trust. It would do this by creating offices (in blue), shops (pink), a café (orange, where the present Barham Community Library is located) and two community spaces (light green, but which would be expected to pay commercial rents). The first floor plan showed all commercial business uses.
My Open Letter had raised two fundamental questions, which Council Officers and Trust Committee members did not appear to have asked themselves. If the answer to either of those questions was “No”, then any expenditure on this project (which the Trust still claims is ‘hypothetical’) would be a waste of money, because it could never happen.
Although Cllr. Muhammed Butt, the Chair of the Trust Committee, had acknowledged receipt of my Open Letter, I’ve received no answer to the questions, and there is no evidence that they have even been considered. With another meeting of the Barham Park Trust Committee scheduled for Tuesday 26 September, I sent this email to Kim Wright, Brent’s Chief Executive, this morning (Thursday 21 September):-
‘Barham Park Trust Committee on 26 September - Fundamental Questions to which answers are still needed
This is an open email
Dear Ms Wright,
I am addressing this email to you, as you are the Chief Executive of the London Borough of Brent, which is the Sole Trustee of the Barham Park Trust.
I'm attaching again a copy of an open letter which I sent to you, and the members of the Barham Park Trust Committee, on 4 September. I realise that time was very short to answer the two questions my letter raised, before the Trust Committee meeting on 5 September, and they were not mentioned or answered at that meeting. ( And they have not been answered since then.)
These two questions are still fundamental ones, which need to be answered, and the answers considered, before the Trust, or Brent Council, spend any more money on the Strategic Property Review.
1. Would it be lawful for the Trust to carry out the proposed redevelopment?
2. Would the proposed redevelopment comply with Brent’s Local Plan?
The 5 September meeting resolved to allow the Director for Environment and Leisure Services in consultation with the Chair of the Trust Committee to spend more money, without considering these key points. If the answer to either, or both, of these questions is "No", spending more money on this "hypothetical" project would be a reckless waste of Council and/or Barham Park Trust funds.
These two questions need urgent consideration, and I would urge you to arrange for the relevant Council Officers to consider them, honestly, and present reports, and any recommendations, on them to the Barham Park Trust Committee meeting on 26 September. 2023.
I realise that these questions are not on the agenda for the meeting, but I am sure you can arrange with the Head of Executive and Member Services (I'm afraid that I don't know who she is now) to include them under item 7, Any Other Urgent Business. The urgency is to avoid the risk of unnecessary and wasted expenditure.
I would hope that the Committee Reports on these two questions can be published, with the agenda on the Council's website, by Monday afternoon, 25 September. Thank you. Best wishes,