Sunday 31 December 2023

Drained Welsh Harp reveals its secret river - and a lot of rubbish.


After several grey days of leaden skies and rain it was great to escape to the Welsh Harp and Fryent Country Park today when there was a glimmer of something that resembled sunshine at times. Of course I got caught in a thundery shower with hail stones on the way home but that's the way the pickle squirts. 

The Harp is being drained to enable maintenance works to be carried out on the dam. The low water level has enabled volunteers  to collect litter and other materials dumped in the waters. Today a volunteer swan rescue group were checking out the swans now confined to the original river that was dammed. Its meandering course can be clearly seen.

Fish have been removed and the reservoir will be restocked once works are completed

 The danger of sinking in the treacherous mud is real - keep off.


The meander visible here

The river from Cool Oak Bridge, West Hendon

Debris under Cool Oak Bridge

Flooding at Cool Oak Lane

Philip Grant has also visited the Welsh Harp recently and has kindly given me permission to post these photographs from the Neasden side:

 The view from Neasden Recreation Ground looking towards the dam and sailing club

Mid reservoir view from the south bank to the rural looking north bank

 Looking towards the controversial West Hendon development

 The meander from the south bank

Thursday 28 December 2023

Only 3 days left to comment on new boxing club building in King Edward VII Park, Wembley


Comments on th new building (above)  to replace the pavilion in King Edward VII Park in Wembley closes on December 31st 2023 although comments received after that date may be considered providing a decision had not already been made.

The planning application comes after a previous application that had proposed refurbishment of the current building (below) . This is now considered not viable due to the poor state of the building:

It should be noted that the Site has an extant planning permission (ref. 22/2526) to refurbish and extend the current pavilion.

However, further investigation has since been undertaken which has uncovered that the building is not structurally capable of facilitating the approved development. Likewise, further feasibility work has been undertaken which established that a far better facility can be provided by instead progressing with a redevelopment option.

The proposed new building is a much bigger footprint than the current building 643square metres compared to 285 square metres and so takes up more of the park. The removal of four trees is proposed.

The application comes from  the Stonebridge Boxing Club previously housed in a building in Wembley High Road  and being redeveloped by Regal. The Club seems to have 'most favoured status' as Regal also ear-marked a 3 storey building at the controversial Wembley Point development for them. Details below:

The Club in a Facebook entry about its temporary premises  that thanks Muhammed Butt, Brent Council leader, seems to expect a move to the park - or perhaps it is going to have two locations?

The Planning and Design Statement states:

Stonebridge Boxing Club was established as a charity in July 2010 and has in excess of 650 members. It is currently located in Fairgate House on Wembley High Road, which has planning permission for redevelopment, and therefore there is a need for a new facility.


Accordingly, the proposal is to demolish the existing dilapidated building located in King Edward 7th Park and replace it with a modern, high quality boxing club, which includes gym and sporting facilities, physio, ancillary office space, toilet and change facilities, and a café.


It should be noted that the Site has an extant planning permission (ref. 22/2526) to refurbish and extend the current pavilion.


However, further investigation has since been undertaken which has uncovered that the building is not structurally capable of facilitating the approved development. Likewise, further feasibility work has been undertaken which established that a far better facility can be provided by instead progressing with a redevelopment option. This is explained in greater detail within this submission.


Through considered design development and consultation with London Borough of Brent  the proposals result in the following key public benefits, many of which are either in-line with or in excess of those resulting from the extant permission:


• Providing a new, modern boxing facility which will serve the local community;

• Demolishing an unused building and replacing it with a useable recreational facility at the heart of the community that will animate King Edward 7th park and improve safety within it;

• A replacement building of a much higher architectural quality, which enhances the setting of the locally listed park within which it is located, according with Paragraph 197 of the NPPF;

• Landscape improvements and habitat improvements;

• A car free development with cycle parking spaces provided in excess of policy requirements, supporting aspirations for providing sustainable transport solutions in the area;

• A building that provides improved energy efficiency and sustainability to the existing pavilion; and

• Both the construction and operational stages of the development will provide additional employment and investment in the local area.

The architectural quality of the new building has been questioned by local residents who have seen the illustration above and suggest it looks like a temporary metal marque. Is it appropriate for an Edwardian heritage asset:

King Edward VII Park is a locally listed park (a non-designated heritage asset). It was formerly part of Read's Farm and was purchased from Edward Spencer Churchill by Wembley UDC in 1913 and laid out as a public park in memory of the late king and also in compensation for the loss of Wembley Park as public open space. The park was opened on 4 July 1914, reputedly by Queen Alexandra. The park had a lodge, a rustic bandstand and picturesque refreshment pavilion; a children's gymnasium with swings, a giant slide and see-saws, a shallow pond and a drinking fountain. There were facilities for tennis and bowling, and the lower part was laid out for cricket and hockey, separated by a belt of elms. There were gravelled walks and seating, formal planting and numerous beds with shrubs and trees.

At present there is only one comment on the Brent Planning Portal. It refers to practical problems of having a building in the middle of the park with associated access problems that emerged when the previous application was considered LINK:

I am writing to express my objection to this proposal. Not only are we losing valuable green space, but the chosen boxing location appears inadequate and unsuitable.

1. How can people be expected to attend in a location that lacks proper lighting?
2. What measures are in place for parking management?
3. The loss of trees is concerning, especially considering the ongoing reduction of trees in the park. It seems counterintuitive to propose further tree removal.

I fail to understand the rationale behind allowing the establishment of a facility in a location unfit for use and seemingly inappropriate. The current choice appears to be a misguided decision, leading to a loss of space. Additionally, it raises questions about safety, given the inadequate lighting, and the potential risk to people-especially considering they have another location pending approval. Building a large gym in the middle of the park, which is not safe at night, puts more people at risk. Have we forgotten about the previous murder in the park.
Full details on the Brent website HERE




Friday 22 December 2023

Brent Council publishes its Air Quality Action Plan - protecting those most at risk. Brent has some of the most toxic air in the UK and pollutants can cause serious harm. It is estimated air pollution kills 149 Brent residents each year.



From Brent Council

Brent’s new plan for how to improve air quality and protect those most at risk from toxic air over the next four years was passed by Cabinet this week. 


Brent has some of the most toxic air in the UK and pollutants can cause serious harm. It is estimated air pollution kills 149 Brent residents each year. 


The Air Quality Action Plan 2023-2027 (AQAP) sets out how the council will work closely with residents to combat the main sources of pollution in Brent, by:  

Improving transport and encouraging sustainable travel

  • Making homes and buildings energy efficient 
  • Tackling pollution from construction sites
  • Reducing inequalities through raising awareness of the health impacts of pollution.


To support this plan, the council is launching its Air Quality Champions programme which aims to recruit community volunteers to raise awareness of pollution and help shape solutions. Apply to become an Air Quality Champion and help the council deliver this important work. 


Air quality has improved in Brent but pollution remains at dangerous levels in parts of the borough, particularly around the North Circular and in Harlesden. The action plan prioritises these areas to tackle pollution there first. 


Through committing to thirty-seven actions, the AQAP will aim to reduce levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Particulate Matter (PM2.5 and PM10). 


Sign up to Brent’s Environmental Network to stay up to date about Brent Council’s work to combat the climate emergency and poor air quality. 

Read the Air Quality Action Plan (2023-27).  

 Here are some key images from the Action plan (it is more than 100 pages so best viewed via the above links:

Note PM10 and PM 2.5 Measure Particulate Matter LINK  NOx measure Nitrogen oxides LINK


Image from Philip Grant's May 2022 Stopping-up Order objection, as referred to in his comment of 22 December below.

Wednesday 20 December 2023

Wembley History Society Christmas Picture Quiz 2023 - the answers!

 Guest post by local historian Philip Grant

Season’s Greetings! I hope that everyone who had a go at last weekend’s Wembley History Society Christmas Picture Quiz enjoyed the challenge. Now it’s time for the answers (attached below), to see how well (or not?) you did! 


Were there a few of the questions that you didn’t know the answers to? If that’s the case, you’ll know them now, and you have the chance over the Christmas / New Year break to discover more about Wembley’s past. I’ve included “links” (underlined) with most of the answers, which will take you to illustrated articles giving more information, if you want to take advantage of them.


If this was the first time that you’ve taken part in one of these Christmas Picture Quizzes, and you feel like having a go at some of the others over the holiday period, they are still available on the “Wembley Matters” blog (with the answers published a few days later). The “Who’s Who Quiz” (above) in 2020 was the first, then the “Winter Photos” quiz in 2021, and a more general Wembley pictures quiz in 2022.


And finally, as a “Christmas present” from the Society, I will ask Martin to attach a copy of our programme for the first half of 2024. We have a variety of meetings arranged, including one in February that follows on from a letter to “Wembley Matters” in June, which prompted many comments! Visitors are always welcome at our meetings, so if you see one (or more) of interest, please come along. 

Philip Grant
for Wembley History Society



Winter Spring 2024 Programme 




Tuesday 19 December 2023

Ofsted, Secretary of State & Reading Borough Council given until February 7th 2024 to respond to Coroner's report on Ruth Perry's death

The Berkshire Senior Coroner, Heidi Connor, published her Report to Prevent Future Deaths on headteacher Ruth Perry's death today.

She gave a narrative finding of:

Suicide contributed to by an Ofsted Inspection in November 2022.

The Chief Inspector of Ofsted, Secretary of State for Education for Education and the Chief Executive of Reading Council are given until February 7th 2024 to respond the the findings in the report.

The Report:

The report is likely to lead to increased demands from educatioalists, school trade unions and professional associations, the public and political parties for the reform, at the minimum, or abolition of Ofsted.

Commenting on the report, Jenny Cooper, Co-secretary of Brent NEU said:

 Very sadly Ruth Perry is not the first person to die with Ofsted having contributed either directly or indirectly. And she will not be the last if this damaging, authoritarian, inappropriate and unfit for purpose system of inspection is allowed to continue. The NEU has called for its abolition and stands by this call.

Monday 18 December 2023

Barry Gardiner and Dawn Butler sign EDM calling for a halt to British arms exports to Israel

 Barry Gardiner (Brent North) and Dawn Butler (Brent Central) are among 66 MPs (SNP, Labour, Green and Independent) who have signed Early Day Motion EDM 177 on Arms to Israel.

The motion reads:

That this House notes with deep concern that UK-made military equipment and technology is being used by Israel, including in its most recent bombardment of the occupied Gaza Strip which has resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries; expresses alarm at reports by the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and others of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law by Israel, including apparently unlawful attacks that may amount to war crimes; further notes that Israel uses military technology and weaponry, including surveillance technology, in the broader repression of Palestinians across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory; is therefore alarmed by the granting of and continuation of extant UK licences for export to the Israeli military of arms and arms components including for aircrafts, helicopters, drones, missiles, military technology, armoured vehicles, tanks, ammunition, and small arms; reminds the Government that under international and domestic law, the UK is required to prevent the transfer of military equipment where there is a clear or overriding risk that such exports might be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law or international human rights law, as affirmed by Articles 6 and 7 of the Arms Trade Treaty, and criteria one and two of the UK’s Strategic Export Licensing Criteria; and therefore calls for the Government to immediately halt all transfers of military equipment and technology, including components, to Israel, and to suspend the issuing of new licences.

Lyon Park support staff approve a settlement after strikes and intensive negotiations


Following talks involving the school and Brent Council and a final round of discussions with ACAS, the conciliation service,  staff at Lyon Park have accepted a settlement of the dispute.

The settlement covers the issues at dispute after the school management proposed a restructuring that cut pay, hours and jobs and worsened conditions of service.

Jenny Cooper, co-secretary of Brent National Education Union said: 

98% voted to accept the new, much improved offer, which was offered purely because of members determined strike action

A victory for the union.

Picket lines at the school were joined by Barry Gardiner, MP for Brent North, Daniel Kebede the new General Secretary of the NEU, Brent Trades Council representatives, retired teachers and many others.

Other Brent schools are faced with deficit budgets, and some have dug into reserves in order to balance their budgets. Restructures are taking place across the borough and this dispute has set a precedent for solidarity action that may be needed in other disputes,

Brent party leaders launch rare cross-party appeal on council funding

In a rare cross-party move the leaders of the three political leaders on Brent Council have written to the Chancellor outlining the desperate financial situation of the council, as  the budget crisis facing all local authorities intensifies.

Morland Gardens – Brent Council ‘unable to make any commitments'

 Guest post by Philip Grant in a personal capacity


Earlier this month I wrote “Morland Gardens – Report recommends Council does not proceed, but …”. The ‘but’ was because, although Brent cannot go ahead with its proposed redevelopment (as its planning consent has expired), it still has an outstanding “first stage” contract with Hill Group which includes the demolition of the Victorian villa “Altamira” (above).


At the end of my previous guest post I included the text of an open email I had sent to Brent’s Chief Executive, and other senior figures at the Civic Centre, seeking an assurance that this locally listed heritage asset would not be demolished, unless or until there was a legal requirement allowing for its demolition (which does not currently exist).


There was no mention of this at the Cabinet meeting on 11 December, when the Affordable Housing Supply update report (which recommended a review to come up with ‘an alternative site strategy’ for Morland Gardens) was dealt with. Last Friday afternoon I received this written response to my open email:


‘Dear Mr Grant 


RE: Morland Gardens and the Affordable Housing Supply (2023) Update Report  


Thank you for your open email dated 4th December 2023 addressed to Cllr Knight, the Council’s Chief Executive and the Council’s Corporate Director for Resident Services. Your enquiry has been forwarded to me to respond on their behalf.


The Council is unable to make any commitments or assurances either verbally or in writing on whether there will be demolition of the Altamira building or not, until such time the Council has considered its options for the site. As provided in previous correspondence, the Council will be reviewing the site options including the Altamira building, and will present these to Cabinet for consideration in due course.


Further information about the Councils procedures can be found on the Council's website:


Kind regards


Head of Capital Programmes’


My concern, and that of other “Friends of Altamira”, is that someone at the Civic Centre will instruct Hill Group to carry out the demolition of the buildings on the site, under their existing contract, while the Council is still considering ‘its options for the site’. That is a risk, which could occur either by mistake, or deliberately out of vindictiveness (against the campaign which took advantage of the Council’s mistakes, in its fight to save this important heritage building).



There should not be any reason why Brent can’t give the assurance I’d requested. A similar one was given in June 2021, when the then Strategic Director for Regeneration and Environment wrote to me (in response to me pointing out that Brent did not have the Stopping-up Order required before its proposed Morland Gardens development could take place): 


‘I confirm that the demolition of “Altamira” will not take place until all necessary legal pre-requisites are in place.’


The Strategic Director had been made aware that there would be objections to any proposed Order, and the reasons for it. Yet it was not until 28 April 2022 that valid notice of the proposed Stopping-up Order was given. That was just before Brent was finally ready to award a contract for the development. 


Given the uncertainty over whether the Council would obtain the legal right to build over the land outside 1 Morland Gardens, a group of Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors called-in his Key Decision to award the two-stage “Design and Build” contract. The minutes of the 9 June 2022 call-in meeting set out how he answered the reasons given by Cllr. Lorber and two members of the public about why the contract should not be awarded:



Mr Lunt’s argument was that “only” £1.1m was at risk (the estimated cost of stage one) if the contract was awarded, whereas the Council stood to lose £6.5m in GLA funding if the project did not go ahead. He gave the impression that the Stopping-up Order process would be over by the end of 2022. The minutes record his answer to a question from a Committee member:


‘It was confirmed that any objections to the stopping up order which were not withdrawn would be considered by the Mayor of London. Mr Lunt noted that in his experience, all stopping up orders had been confirmed.’


In fact, it was February 2023 before Brent supplied the GLA with all the information needed for the Mayor of London’s decision. When that decision came on 20 March, it did not confirm the Stopping-up Order. Instead, it said that the objections would need to be considered by a Public Inquiry, and Brent Council had still not arranged for that Inquiry to be held when its planning consent for the Morland Gardens development expired at the end of October!


The June 2022 call-in meeting of Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee did agree that the contract should be awarded (although Mr Lunt had failed to tell them that he could not award it, as the “Contractor Framework” under which it was offered had expired at the end of May 2022!). A contract was actually awarded a couple of months later, under a different Framework, after a rushed decision by Brent’s Cabinet.

It is that contract which still poses a risk to the survival of the 150-year old beautiful and historic landmark building at 1 Morland Gardens. The Council has only to look at its own published words to know that it should not allow the unnecessary demolition of this heritage asset: 


From Brent’s May 2019 “Historic Environment Place-making Strategy”


I believe that Brent can and should make a commitment over “Altamira”, so I sent the following open email in reply to the response I’d received on 15 December:


‘Dear Mr Martin and Ms Wright,


Thank you for your email this afternoon, in response to my open email of 4 December. I have to say that I am disappointed by it.


I realise that the Council is carrying out a review to consider its options for the site at 1 Morland Gardens, and that recommendations will then be made to Brent's Cabinet. 


The assurance I requested does not need to wait for the outcome of those considerations, as it does not seek any commitment that there are no circumstances in which Brent Council would demolish the heritage building.


The assurance I am seeking is not an unreasonable one (given the Council's heritage assets policies and the fact that the flawed original consent, allowing the demolition of Altamira, has now expired). I will set out its terms again:


that there will be no demolition of the locally listed Victorian villa at 1 Morland Gardens, unless or until there are new plans in place for the site which would require the demolition of this heritage asset, and those plans have been properly consulted on, considered and given planning consent, and there are no outstanding legal requirements which need to be met before those new proposed development plans can go ahead.


I hope that, having reconsidered my request on a fair reading of the assurance I am seeking, Ms Wright can now give that assurance on behalf of Brent Council. Thank you. Best wishes, 


Philip Grant.’

Saturday 16 December 2023

Have a go at this Wembley Christmas Picture Quiz!

 Guest post by Philip Grant

It began during lockdown in 2020, and since then Wembley History Society’s Christmas Picture Quiz has become a bit of tradition, which has been shared with “Wembley Matters” readers. If you fancy testing yourself with this year’s quiz, the “question paper” is attached below.


There are ten photographs again this year, each with two questions. All of the pictures come from the area covered by the former Borough of Wembley (which from 1934 included the previous Urban District of Kingsbury), which the Society was set up to promote the history of in 1952. That is the part of the London Borough of Brent north and west of the River Brent.


The Borough of Wembley coat of arms.


See how many questions you know the answers to. Please feel free to share the quiz with friends and family living locally, if you think they’ll enjoy it too.


The quiz is just for fun (no prizes!), and you’ll get the answers on this blog site in a few days’ time. And as before, the more questions you don’t know the answers to, the more you’ll discover then about Wembley. Good luck!


Philip Grant



Friday 15 December 2023

Brent is NOT ditching the blue bags

There was a flurry of activity and some pretty pithy comments on Next Door earlier today when a resident posted a copy of a letter that seemed to suggest that the blue bag for the collection of cardboard and paper was to be ditched by Brent Council and mixed recycling re-introduced.

Cllr Georgiou checked it out and Brent Council confirmed it just referred to one specific street because of particular practical collection difficulties.

The 3,400 blue bag petition is due to be presented at Brent Cabinet on January 16th 2024.