Saturday, 26 July 2014

A Spectre is Haunting Willesden - More Zombie Planning

You may have noticed some big signs springing up which ask "What will Brent look like in the future?" Other than the slightly spooky figures on the poster which might lead you to answer "free-from ghosts, hopefully", there are some important responses needed to this question.
The council is consulting on its new Development Management Plan (DMP) which will guide its planning decisions in the future. This is the first time in over 10 years that the plan is being revised so whatever is decided now is likely to shape Brent planning for some considerable time.

The plan contains a number proposals relating to housing provision and the makeup of our high streets. Of particular interest to us as Willesden Green residents is the section on protection of community facilities. Many of us who have been involved in the Save The Queensbury group have been lobbying for over 18 months for the council to adopt a specific pub protection policy so it is a hugely disappointing blow to see that the council has failed to include this within the draft DMP. Yet again, there has been lip-service which is not backed up by proper action on policies. There is one passing mention of pubs as a part of social infrastructure that should be protected, but given that many other local authorities are recognising the role that pubs play in communities and have adopted very detailed pub protection policies, it seems like a huge missed opportunity that Brent hasn't done the same.

The draft DMP can be be found here and you are encouraged to respond either by completing the online comment form or by emailing before 5pm on 31st July.

Points you might like to raise are:
  • The purpose of a policy is to give proper consideration where (for example) a developer claims a pub is not viable or not needed. A pub protection policy would have established the value of The Queensbury and its building early on on the planning process, saving the planning department a lot of work and residents of Willesden Green a lot of distress.
  • Tagging "public houses" on the end of a list of buildings deemed to be community infrastructure  is an ineffective and insufficient substitute for a dedicated pub protection policy. Brent should follow the example of local authorities in Lewisham, Kensington & Chelsea and Cambridge, among others, in adopting a detailed pub protection policy. As part of the policy, these local authorities maintain either a formal register or an informal list of all the pubs within their area.
  • Under the new draft DMP, it is highly likely that planning officers would have reached the same conclusion as they did in March 2014, recommending  demolition of The Queensbury.
  • The consultation reads that "in keeping with the NPPF, public houses are classed as social infrastructure and proposals which would result in their loss will be subject to this policy and town centre policy DMP 3 ‘Neighbourhood Centres and Isolated Shop Units" However the latter policy makes absolutely no reference to pubs. Hence this will be easily evaded at planning decision and appeal stage.
  • The draft DMP does not propose any additional protection for buildings which are listed as Assets of Community Value under the Localism Act. ACV-listed buildings should be protected from applications for Change of Use. The process for an ACV listing already requires a very high bar so the fact of it being worth preservation should not be in question. Although ACV regulations are not primarily planning regulations, it should be noted that 2.20 of the DCLG guidance on ACVs states:  "However the fact that the site is listed may affect planning decisions - it is open to the Local Planning Authority to decide whether listing as an asset of community value is a material consideration if an application for change of use is submitted, considering all the circumstances of the case."  This means that ACV listing can be used as a material planning consideration if desired – it is up to Brent to be bold enough to say that they will give these assets real protection and make the ACV status recognised and valued within the DMP.
  • A Pub Protection Policy is not specifically for heritage or rural pubs – CAMRA's model policy covers both rural and urban pubs. Brent has a number of significant historic pubs, some of which are locally listed by Brent for heritage reasons. It has been requested several times that The Queensbury be assessed to be placed on the local list of heritage buildings yet to date this has not happened.
  • More weight should be given to the preservation of the characteristics of conservation areas within the DMP. The current policy states that a building in a conservation area cannot be demolished unless it is thought to be actively detracting from the the look of the conservation area. Nobody could argue this is of the current Queensbury building, yet Brent planning officers chose to ignore it when they recommended demolition. The policy should therefore be given more emphasis in order that it is not easily over-ridden.
Aside from the important Queensbury issue the draft DMP is also an opportunity to input on the number of payday lenders/chicken shops/shisha bars on high streets, the height of new developments and the amount of affordable housing that's available. It is an important document, so do be sure to have your say.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Fascists not welcome in Cricklewood

Make Willesden Green is participating in the North West London United campaign against a planned fascist march through Cricklewood this coming Saturday (19th July). Along with many other local groups and trade unions we have signed the statement below, and we hope that as many local residents as possible will join the protest at 12 noon on Cricklewood Broadway to say that racist hate is not welcome in our neighbourhood.

Fascists not welcome in Cricklewood

The South East Alliance (SEA), a group of racist, Islamophobic thugs is threatening to return to Cricklewood on Saturday July 19th. This group, made up of remnants of the Essex branch of the EDL, includes known fascists and has links to Ulster loyalists. They say they are demonstrating against the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood, but since that organisation moved to Austria in April before the SEA came to Cricklewood on 14th June, they clearly intend simply to bring their message of hatred to disrupt Cricklewood’s vibrant multicultural community.

In Cricklewood, as in the whole of North West London, we are proud of our diversity. Here people live and work together, children study, play and grow up together in mutual respect, regardless of faith or skin colour, language or place of birth. We will not tolerate attempts to divide us or stir up hatred. We stood united on June 14th to show the SEA that there is no place here for their racism and Islamophobia. We ask you to join us on 19th July to do the same again. 
This statement has been signed by:

Rev Jane Morris Vicar St Gabriels Walm Lane NW2

Rt Rev Pete Broadbent Bishop of Willesden and Deputy Bishop of London

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein Senior Rabbi Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue

North West Islamic Cultural Centre

The following Brent Councillors:

Cllr Muhammed Butt (Tokyngton) Cllr Rita Conneely (Kilburn), Cllr James Denselow (Queens Park), Cllr Liz Dixon (Dollis Hill), Cllr Harbi Farah (Welsh Harp), Cllr Sabina Khan (Stonebridge), Cllr Arshad Mahmood (Dollis Hill), Cllr Margaret McLennan (Northwick Park), Cllr Tom Miller (Willesden Green), Cllr Neil Nerva (Queens Park), Cllr Michael Pavey (Barnhill) Cllr Ahmad Shazad (Mapesbury), Cllr Sam Stopp (Wembley Central),

Cllr Lorna Russell Fortune Green, Camden Council

Cllr Abigail Wood Haverstock, Camden Council

Andrew Dismore London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden

Tulip Siddiq Labour PPC for Hampstead & Kilburn

Pete Firmin President, Brent Trades Union Council

Roger Cox Secretary, Brent Trades Union Council

Eddie Dempsey Branch Secretary Paddington no1 branch RMT

Bill McKinstry RMT Paddington No 1

Leon Brumant Vice chair RMT Bakerloo line branch

Mary Addosides National Union of Teachers Brent

Helen Davies Chair Barnet Unison

Steve Forrest GMB London Central President

Robin Sivapalan Unite Community

Sarah Cox Brent & Harrow Unite Against Fascism

Martin Francis Brent Green Party

P. Murry Secretary Green Party Trade Union Group

Scott Bartle Brent Green Party

Shahrar Ali Chair Brent Green Party

Graham Durham Brent & Harrow Labour Representation Cttee

Alex Colas Make Willesden Green

Sujata Aurora Make Willesden Green

Michael Calderbank Brent Fightback / Red Pepper Magazine

John Tymon Football Against Apartheid

Stephane Goldstein Chair, Kilburn Brent Labour Party

David Kaye Secretary, Kilburn Brent Labour Party

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Clean Willesden Green

Back in May, Make Willesden Green supporters helped our Willesden neighbour, Deborah Mahs, organise a clean-up morning drawing attention to the sad state of the service road behind Walm Lane. It seems her campaign is already yielding results and, spurred on by this success and support, Deborah has organised a wider clean-up with the Willesden Green Town Team on Saturday 26th July. Below is Deborah's message - we hope many of us can come out an help, even if it's briefly, for what promises to be a great community event.

Guest Blog by Deborah Mahs
Hello Willesden Green!! Come on down to Walm Lane, by Willesden Green underground on Saturday 26th July around 3pm and I will very likely be giving you a scrubbing brush and asking you to join in the fun and cleaning along with other passionate residents of Willesden Green, signifying our desire to improve, uplift and beautify the environs of Willesden Green, the home we live in. For a couple of hours clean teams and anyone passing who will willingly join in will be giving Walm Lane an unusual cleanup. Veolia, Brent's Waste and Recycling Management provider will be deep cleaning the pavements in the week before the event and on Saturday 26th they will be attending as well to lend their support to the community with volunteers and equipment. The Willesden Green Fire Brigade will also be on hand with one of their Fire Engines lending their support by providing the water and joining in the clean up. And this is just the beginning!! Too often in the past I have looked the other way when I see dilapidation, untidiness, dirt or things I don't like happening in my streets - but now I really am inspired to make a positive impact and I am calling on the community to join me. The clean up is to encourage awareness and involvement at any level, even if its just to look on and smile in support. I see Willesden Green as a gem hidden under a layer of dust and disconnection and I want to reach out to my neighbours because I know that over time with caring and actions, however small, we can improve our streets, buildings and local area and make Willesden Green a desirable place to live and visit and a joy for us all to be proud of. I am so looking forward to the friends we can all make and fun we can have and seeing Willesden Green begin to look fine, clean and vibrant. Please do join us for the cleaning, to look on and cheer and for the party afterwards at The Nest Cafe (5pm) by Willesden Green Underground station.