Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Double Whammy Wembley Works

With road works now taking place outside Wembley Central station as well as on Wembley High Road outside the Brent House building site, residents are getting increasingly frustrated as tailbacks develop. Things were not looking great for this evening with wet roads, two sets of works and Spurs playing Brighton!

Brent Council has responded to a resident by setting out the latest position regarding the works:
The works near Wembley Central Station are been undertaken by UK Power Networks (UKPN), these works are urgent because there has been an intermittent power failure which has affected up to seventy five shops along the High Road.

Originally, the footway opposite Wembley Central Station was closed and two new temporary pedestrian crossings were placed either side of the excavation so that pedestrians could safely navigate their way around the closed footway. Unfortunately, pedestrians were not using this facility, instead, pedestrians were walking in live traffic lanes which is clearly unacceptable. The only safe option was provide a safe pedestrian walkway in the carriageway and control traffic with two way temporary signals, the carriageway at this location was not considered wide enough to accommodate two way traffic and a pedestrian walkway.

I have been to site this morning and we have instructed UKPN to back fill and open the footway and open the carriageway to normal two way traffic, this should be in place for the evening rush hour.

There is still a fault on the cable and UKPN will need to undertake more works at this location, where possible these works will be planned to occur in non-traffic sensitive times only.

I can assure you that all planned works have been postponed until after the sewer works are complete but emergency works cannot be postponed.

Anti-academisation strike to go ahead at The Village School after negotiations fail

The  £19m Village School building could be handed over to a MAT

Staff at The Village School in Kingsbury, Brent will take strike action against the proposal to turn the school into an academy, part of a Multi Academy Trust (MAT). 

The strike will be going ahead at this special school on Thursday December 14th because negotiations so far have failed to change the situation and the governors will not meet again until January. There will be a picket and rally from 7:30am to 9:30am.

An NEU spokesperson said:
In September there were 32 NEU members. Now there are 125. Staff are joining every day because they say they want to strike against the school becoming an academy with the consequences to their terms and conditions and the negative impact on the teaching and learning of the pupils.
The strike has been backed by the Green Party. Pete Murry said:
As Green Party Trade Union Liaison Officer for Brent and for the London Federation of Green Parties, I wish to send support to the teachers at The Village School in Kingsbury who have voted to take strike action against the proposal to turn the school into an academy. If this retrograde step takes place it means the loss of a substantial educational asset for the people of Brent which large amounts of council resources have been paid to develop.
I would like to second the question of NEU (National Education Union) reps who ask why Brent Council is not opposing this proposed academisation, in spite of the reported opposition of Brent Central Constituency Labour party which the council purports to represent on behalf of the communities of Brent.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Preston Road 20mph zone - a few days left to respond

Click on image to enlarge (also available on Council website
Residents and businesses living around Preston Road have until Friday December 15th to respond to a consultation on introducing a 20mph zone on Preston Road.

Consultation letters have gone out with a reply envelope but responses can also be made online HERE

The proposal (click on bottom right corner to expand):

Brent Planners' rulings in Wembley: Curiouser and Curiouser

“Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).  [Alice in Wonderland]
A modern day Alice in Wembleyland may have a similar reaction to some of the content of reports coming up before the Brent Planning Committee on Wednesday for developments around Wembley Stadium which are in Council leader Muhammed Butt's Tokyngton ward.

Despite recent publicity about planners ignoring the stipulations of Brent's own planning policies, as well as the London plan, convoluted arguments are used to justify ignoring them once again.

Brent had a 20%  cap for the proportion of student accommodation in the Wembley area in terms of the total population. It had ruled that the cap had now been reached. However two applications are on the agenda  for Parkwood House Albion Way and Unit 1-5 Cannon Trading Estate, in First Avenue for 283 and 678 beds respectively. The latter as part of a new campus for the University College of Football Business (UCFB) which includes educational facilities.

Planners use projected population growth to rule that the number of units in a 20% cap is actually higher than they had previously said:
 The research carried out by officers took into consideration the actual consents (rather than an average 12% increase as argued by the applicants) and concluded that the projected population growth of the WAAP (Wembley Area Action Plan) area would have been 27,377 if considered solely on the site allocations, however when taking into consideration the site allocations, and deliverable planning permissions granted to date (both implemented and extant) the current WAAP area population increase as of October 2017 stands at 32,842. Based on this, it is considered that when considered against the 5444 student bedrooms granted to date, this would mean that the current percentage of student accommodation against residential population stands at 16.6%, which would allow for an additional 1,123 rooms before the 20% cap is reached. 

The researched carried out by applicants and officers in relation to the Parkwood House application (17/2782) has significant bearing on this application. Given that Parkwood House (283 beds) and UCFB (678 beds) together propose an additional 961 student beds within the WAAP area, both schemes can be accommodated within the revised 20% student cap of 1,123 beds.
 The UCFB application has received 46 supporting comments and none against. Look a little further and you find that 39 of the 46 come from existing student accommodation in Victoria Halls, Felda House and Unite Students.

The Parkway development has not yet got a student accommodation provider to run the site. It consists of a part 13 and part 17 storey development.  The height restrictions of the WAAP (Wembley Area Action Plan) are casually circumvented:
  • The approach to the height, massing and material palette is supported as it will provide a high architectural quality that is appropriate for a building of this height. The site is designated within the Wembley Area Action Plan as "Inappropriate for tall buildings". However, the proposed building relates well to the other tall buildings within the immediate vicinity, forming a logical cluster of tall buildings that also achieves an appropriate relationship with the nearby lower mansion blocks to the north.
 As I have remarked before, once tall buildings are allowed, they are used as a precedent for more in the same vicinity. The Football University building is 9-11 storeys in height.

Further to the proportion of student accommodation and the height of buildings another long-running sore is Brent's attitude towards affordable housing. Too often planners do not state exactly what is meant by 'affordable' skating over the details  but the report on the Quintain application for 'Land East of Wembley Stadium' has to respond to representations from the London Mayor's Office.
Affordable housing: 23% offered as DMR (Discounted Market Rent) at up to 80% of market rate is wholly unacceptable and must be significantly increased, noting the introduction of high density residential on this Opportunity Area and Housing Zone site. The affordability of the affordable housing must also be addressed. GLA officers will robustly scrutinise the viability assessment to maximise affordable housing provision. Once secured, any on-site affordable housing must remain affordable in perpetuity, and appropriate covenants and clawbacks secured in accordance with the Mayor’s Affordable Housing and Viability SPG 
An initial offer of 23% affordable housing by the developer was reduced to 7% when Brent tried to make it truly affordable for Brent residents, but they find this proportion 'acceptable'.
In order to deliver affordable units at London Living Rent levels, more planning gain subsidy is required, and this change has a consequential negative impact on the quantum of affordable housing the scheme can provide when compared to the applicants’ original offer. The Council's consultants have advised the Council that at London Living Rent levels the maximum reasonable level of affordable housing provision that the scheme can currently viably provide is 28 units, representing 6.6% by unit (7% by habitable room). The applicants have offered 32 units, representing a minimum 7% by unit (8% by habitable room). It is accepted that the reduction in the affordable housing quantum from 23% to a minimum of 7% is a notable change, however after considering local housing needs and affordability and the wider Wembley Park affordable housing provision discussed above, officers take the view that this is outweighed by the important benefits associated with London Living Rent, including the significant increase in affordability that this tenure provides for Brent residents.
For reference the London Living Rent is set by the London Mayor's Office based on median household income per ward. These are the Brent figures: 

Click on image to enlarge
The full details and basis for calculation can be found HERE

It should be noted that viability reviews usually reduce the amount of affordable housing rather than increase it.

This buildings will be 10-21 storeys high affecting views of the stadium so a curious feature of this application is the statement by Wembley National Stadium Limited which quotes its arrangement with Quintain as a reason for not opposing this scheme, although they appear to be really against it:
The scale, size and occupancy of the development is different to that previously approved for this plot, and the introduction of residential use has led to a significantly different form, massing and height for E05. This effects (sic) the view of the Stadium from Great Central Way, which is a key route into the Stadium for spectators, teams, officials and dignitaries. Ordinarily, this increase in scale and change in view may give cause for The FA to wish to object. Ordinarily, this increase in scale and impact may give cause for The FA to wish to object. (sic) In this instance however, we have a close working relationship and contractual arrangements in place with the applicant (which include provision of facilities, tenant management arrangements, anti-ambush protection and other measures to protect Stadium operations on both event days and non-event days). We do wish to put on record that any future developments of similar scale and size where we do not enjoy the same arrangements with the applicant will lead to an objection.
The last sentence looks like a demand that any further applications by Quintain will need similar 'arrangements' if WNSL are not to oppose them. Presumably if such arrangements are made they will be happy for the 'iconic stadium views' to disappear behind a curtain of tower blocks.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Brent playing into the perception that developers have an unfair advantage in the planning process - Cllr Warren

The 'Twin Towers' approved by Brent Council on the Chesterfield House site

John Warren, the Brent Conservative Group leader has followed up Muhammed Butt's response to questions about his meetings with developers. LINK

Dear Muhammed,
                             Thank you for your response, and I am well aware that I should contact our chief legal officer, as and, when I have sufficient evidence to put forward a credible complaint.

1. It does not reflect well on our F.O.I. reporting that we cannot get basic information right. How many other F.O.I. responses are incorrect?

2. I still believe that L.G.A. guidance has not been followed.

3. I question why lead members - as opposed to officers -  need to attend so many meetings with developers, notably Quintain, Hub Group and R55. It plays into the widespread perception that their planning applications are given a completely unfair advantage in the whole planning process.
How many times have I heard objectors to developments say that "the dice is loaded against them?" in making very real and reasonable objections. Minavil House LINK and Chesterfield House LINK are glaring examples!

4. I do make comments of objections / support on planning applications. I would argue that all of my comments are on record - I do not have unrecorded meetings and I have never lobbied a planning committee member.

John Warren

Brent Movie Fun Day for children Saturday 16th December

Venue St Raphael's Chidlren Centre, Rainborough Close, London, NW10 OTS (Near IKEA)

NEU call on Brent Labour leadership to follow Corbyn's policy on privatisation of education ahead of Village school strike

From the National Education Union in Brent
Staff at The Village School in Kingsbury, Brent have voted to take strike action against the proposal to turn the school into an academy, part of a Multi Academy Trust (MAT). Unless the proposal to become a MAT is withdrawn, NEU* staff will strike before Christmas.

John Roche, NEU ATL section Brent Secretary said:
The school passed its last Ofsted in with an ‘Outstanding’ judgement in all categories in October 2016 so clearly there is no educational reason to seek to become an academy. Furthermore, Brent Local Authority has put millions of pounds into this special school and now a state asset, our asset, is proposed to be privatised. Staff ask why is a Labour Authority not up in arms at this attempt to foist a Tory policy on one of their schools?

Lesley Gouldbourne, NEU NUT section Brent Secretary said:
The Government’s academy programme has proved a corrupt shambles that has done nothing to improve education and lacks accountability, in particular with finances. The Wakefield City Academy Trust (WCAT) has collapsed leaving 21 schools in chaos affecting 8500 children. Joining a MAT means all the school’s assets and any surpluses are handed over. A small group of unaccountable, unelected trustees control the finances. I am also finding it hard to understand why a Labour Council is not opposing the privatisation of this jewel in Brent's crown, especially at a time when it is taking other services back in-house. Cllr Butt has not replied to my email about this.

A report on BBC news in Leeds and West Yorkshire stated, “During a Wakefield Council meeting it was claimed that the Trust (WCAT) moved millions of pounds of school reserves into its centralised accounts prior to collapse. Leader Peter Box said he would be talking to the police about his concerns”

Hank Roberts, NEU ATL section London Executive said:
The NEU believes that the Labour Council leadership is not following the democratically established overwhelming majority of Brent Labour Party members that oppose the loss of more Council LA controlled schools to be handed over to be privately run by Trusts. This is clear from the resolutions passed unanimously at Brent LP meetings and the London Region of the LP. Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to the privatisation of state education has been made clear. Instead, it appears that they are doing the bidding of senior paid Council employees with an agenda.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Brent could lose Community Cardiology Service after February 2018 - the public have not been consulted

From Brent Patient Voice
We have learned that the Brent Clinical Commissioning Group  Community Cardiology Clinics at Wembley and Willesden are closing at the end of February. While we know that the CCG has been discussing the future of this service with local hospital trusts there is no information in the public domain. We have written as below to the CCG Chief Operating Officer, Sheik Auladin, to press for public consultation on this issue as required by the NHS Act
2006. A full response has been promised.

Dear Sheik,


Peter Latham has not yet received any acknowledgement or reply to his letters to you dated 29 November and 5 December 2017 about the future of the Community Cardiology.

We have seen the email letter from Brent CCG dated 30 November 2017 notifying Brent GPs that the current NHS Brent Community Cardiology Service provided by Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust (RFL) from both Willesden Centre for Health and Care and Wembley Centre for Health and Care will come to an end on 28th February 2018 with no further extension. RFL are not accepting new patients for this service after 4 December 2017.

Brent Patient Voice are very concerned at the short time now left before the end of the current RFL provider contract for the Brent Community Cardiology Service on 28 February 2018. Brent CCG do not appear to have published anything about their proposals for commissioning such NHS Brent cardiology healthcare services after the end of this contract.

Clearly a number of questions arise. They include the location or locations of replacement clinics, whether equivalent resources will be transferred to new providers, what will happen to patient records and to cases in progress. This list is not exhaustive.

We feel that we must now formally remind Brent CCG that under section 14Z2 of the NHS Act 2006 as amended it would be unlawful for Brent CCG to develop or consider changes in the commissioning arrangements where the implementatiom of the proposals would have an impact on the manner in which the services are delivered to patients or the range of services
available to them without full public involvement and consultation by the CCG.

Please now arrange for someone to respond to acknowledge receipt of this letter and to say how and when Brent CCG propose to inform us as to their proposals for NHS Brent cardiology services after the end of the current RFL contract and for involving the public under the terms of s.14Z2 before final decisions are taken.

Yours sincerely

Robin Sharp
Chair Brent Patient Voice