Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Supplementary reports on Gladstone Parade and Corrib Rest for tonight's Planning Committee

Officers still recommend approval. Corrib Rest has added conditions and obligations.

1.      Site visit - Gladstone Parade

1.1       Members visited the site on Saturday 24 June and viewed the site from the north, east and south. Members raised the following queries:
How the building line would change
Whether existing occupiers have been offered new tenancies
Amenity space 1.2 The change in the building line has been addressed in paragraph 6.2 and 6.3 of the committee report. The building is currently set back from Edgware Road by 9 metres. The proposed building would be sited closer to Edgware Road and would be angled rather than straight. The building would be located 4 metres from the road on the northern side of the site and 8 metres from the road on the southern side of the site. 1.2 The applicant has been in contact with the existing tenants of Skippers Choice fish and chip shop about occupying the proposed A5 use. With regard to the other existing tenants, all of the existing leases of the current units in the shopping parade with the exception of the Estate Agents have expired. However informal negotiations regarding their leases have also been ongoing over the past few weeks. 1.3 he existing tree is of low quality with an estimated remaining life expectancy of at least 10 years. In mitigation, the proposals include replacement tree planting of five trees to the landscaped areas along Edgware Road as well as new tree planting to the communal garden to the rear of the property. Further details of this replacement planting would be secured by condition 14. 1.4 The amount of amenity space has been addressed in paragraph 4.2 of the committee report (page 72). Residents would have access to a mixture of their own private balconies and 388sqm of communal roof terraces that combine to meet Brent DMP19 amenity space requirements. 2. Further representation A local resident has provided written comments on the following issues: 2.1 Loss of retail of community value
As set out in paras 1.1 to 1.5 on pages 70-71 of the report, the existing units are afforded no policy protection with the exception of the public house. The public house and an A5 takeaway unit will be re-provided as part of the proposal. As well as this two A1/A2 units will also be provided that could accommodate a shop or hairdressers in the new development. 2.2 Harm to character
The impact of the proposal on the character of the area is covered in paragraph 6 – Impact on character and design of the committee report (page 74).
2.3       Parking and traffic
The issue of parking and traffic has been covered in paragraph 5 of the committee report. A resident has also raised concerns with potential congestion in the area. Overspill parking is addressed in para 5.1 (page 73). The volumes of vehicle trips that are likely to be generated are not significant, particularly compared with flows on the Edgware Road.
2.4       Daylight and sunlight
The issue of daylight and sunlight has been covered in paragraph 7.3 of the committee report (page 75). A resident has raised concerns about overshadowing of the school to the north of the application site. As is normal practice the school was not included in the daylight and sunlight report because it is not a residential building. However notwithstanding this due to the separation distance of the proposed building of 30m from the school building and 18m from the edge of the playground it is considered that there would be no materially harmful loss of light or overshadowing to the pupils and teachers.
2.5       Fire safety
Fire safety is not a planning consideration however in light of recent events the applicant has submitted a fire safety briefing outlining measures such as access, heat and smoke alarms, means of escape and necessary signage and lighting.
2.6       Lack of benefit for the area
The proposal would result in a net increase of 32 homes to the borough, 10 of which would be family sized units and 10 of which would be affordable housing. The proposal will also provide training and employment opportunities for Brent residents that will again be secured by a legal agreement.
Recommendation: Remains approval subject to conditions and section 106 legal agreement.

1.      Committee site visit  - Corrib Rest
Members visited the site on 24 of June 2017 and viewed the site from the surrounding area. Members also viewed the ground floor where the proposed function room would be located and the first floor where the current function rooms are located. Members queried:
how people would access the community space;
how the booking system would operate; and
what would constitute a ‘community’ activity. 1.1 People would access the function room via the ground floor main entrance of the public house located in Salusbury Road. 1.2 Bookings could be made up to six weeks before an event and would be made either over the telephone or in writing at least 10 days before the event. This would be secured as an obligation in a s106 agreement. 1.3 There is no statutory definition of ‘community’ activities however the draft s106 has provided a definition of ‘community groups’ that are defined as “groups or organisations set up for charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purposes that include a substantial amount of activity or control by members of the public in a voluntary capacity, or provide organised training in the performing arts associated with specific cultural groups”. 2. Further representations 2.1 Cllr Duffy has raised the following concerns:
Use of the term ‘minimum’ in referring to the number of hours the community would be able to use the function room
Request the hearing be deferred to permit further public debate where Planning Officers explain the reasoning behind the recommendation. This has also been raised by a local resident. 2.1.1 The use of the word ‘minimum’ refers to the fact that legally the owner will have to provide priority access for community groups for 40 hours per week from 12:00 to 22:00 hours Monday to Thursday. This would not prevent the owner from hiring out the room to individuals or community groups outside of the set 40 hours: it would be for the pub operator to determine what would best ensure the viability of their business. 2.1.2 The committee hearing is the public meeting at which a planning application is debated. The application has been widely publicised between the end of February and the report’s publication in mid June. 2.2 Cllr Denselow has queried the use of a restrictive condition on the occupation of the proposed flats unless the public house is occupied. Officers recommend a planning obligation or condition is imposed requiring approval of an effective marketing plan for the pub and that the applicant uses reasonable endeavours to ensure the pub is operational before occupation of the flat. Officers consider this to be reasonable because if the applicant was not able to find a tenant they would not be able to change the use of the public house without first obtaining planning permission due to recommended condition 7 and the ACV status of the premises. However Cllr Denselow confirmed that he would still be objecting to the proposal.
2.3       A local resident raised a query regarding the amount of notice individuals would have to give before booking the function room. Please see response in paragraph 1.2.
2.4       A resident has reiterated their concerns with the accuracy of the Daylight/Sunlight report. This was addressed in paragraph 6.3 of the committee report however the applicants’ consultant has provided a further response to the points raised. As a consequence, Officers remain satisfied that the daylight/sunlight report has been properly prepared and the impact on neighbouring amenity would be acceptable.
2.5       A resident has raised concerns with the timing of the building being listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV). The asset was listed in July 2015 and the title updated to reflect this in April 2016. This is not a material planning consideration as it does not affect the status of the ACV listing. It is understood that the delay was due to the applicant not providing a relevant information.
3.  Notifications of committee
3.1         Ward Councillors did not receive the standard notification letter detailing the committee date. All Ward Councillors are aware of the meeting and as such have not been prejudiced in any way.
4.  Corrections to the report
4.1         The consultation dates in the ‘Consultation’ section of the committee report were incorrectly listed and should have read that neighbour consultation letters were issued to 68 properties on the 21/02/2017. A site notice was displayed on 24/02/2017. Press notice advertised on 02/03/2017.
4.2         The number of objections received was incorrectly listed in the ‘Consultation’ section of the committee report as 149 and should have read 151. All objections were however taken into account during the assessment of the application.
5.  Additional conditions and obligations
5.1         Officers recommend a further planning obligation be imposed, draft text as follows: Within 3 months of material start submit to the Council for its approval a marketing plan for the public house and function room and not to occupy any part of the residential development unless the marketing plan has been approved and implemented and the public house and function room marketed in accordance with the approved plan for an agreed period of time and the applicant uses all reasonable endeavours to ensure the public house and function room is operational before occupation of any part of the residential development.
5.2         The applicant has also requested that they be permitted to place table and chairs on the Salusbury Road frontage. Officers recommend condition 5 be varied to expressly prohibit the placing of tables and chairs on Hopefield Avenue frontage and to place no tables or chairs on the Salusbury Road frontage unless in accordance with a plan covering their siting and hours of use to be approved by the local planning authority.
Recommendation: Remains approval subject to conditions and section 106 legal agreement.

What are Brent's housing providers doing post-Grenfell?

Never again
Brent Council has published details of registered housing providers in Brent for residents who wish to check up on fire safety following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The amount of information varies between the providers:

Family Mosaic
Hyde Housing
L&Q Group
Network Homes
Notting Hill Housing
Octavia Housing*
Origin Housing

*As far as we have been made aware, so far, only Octavia Housing has been told that there are concerns with one of their properties following the Government’s testing of their cladding samples. There are questions surrounding the cladding used on Octavia's Elizabeth House development in Wembley. However, following an extensive check of the building the London Fire Brigade has advised Octavia that Elizabeth House does not require evacuation nor immediate removal of cladding.

The Government has said that it will notify the relevant registered housing provider and the council of any other blocks in Brent which have concerns over cladding, once samples have been tested, and the council will publish any new information we receive widely – including on this web page LINK

Brent Council and Cara Davani – when (if ever) will we really know what happened?

Brent and Kilburn Times June 30th 2016

Guest blog by Philip Grant

Cara Davani – didn’t she leave Brent Council two years ago? And it was a year ago that the Council finally admitted that she had been given a “pay-off” (of £157,610). Surely the enquiry into this must have been sorted out by now? I’m afraid not.

When I last gave an update about “progress” on the investigation of objections to Brent’s 2015/16 accounts LINK we had been told by the Auditor that he anticipated sharing material documents with the objectors by the end of June. When the agenda for Brent’s Audit Advisory Committee meeting on 26 June appeared on the Council’s website,  KPMG’s “External Audit Progress Report” said that they expected to share the documents, and other material, ‘in July’.

As the Auditor had agreed to share those material documents (which he received from the Council in mid-December) with the objectors, and we had been expecting to get them early in 2017, I asked to speak about this item on the agenda for Monday evening’s meeting, and the committee Chair (David Ewart, an independent member) agreed in advance that I could. I hope that Martin will be able to attach the text of what I said to this blog, so that you can read it in full if you wish to. There were two points that I wished to raise with the committee, and the Chair asked me to deal with them separately. 

The first was the objectors’ disappointment with the lack of progress in KPMG’s enquiries, and our concern that the investigation process might have been changed, without explanation. We were originally told that we would have the chance to make further comments before the Auditor reached any ‘provisional findings and views’. The latest progress report spoke of sharing ‘our provisional view and material documents’ at the same time. I asked the committee to invite the Auditor to clarify the position, and to encourage him to provide a timetable for the remaining steps in his investigation, through to his final decision on the objections.

The Auditor, Andrew Sayers, did not seem to accept that there was any real change from what his predecessor had set out in November 2016. He thought that knowing what his provisional views were would help us and the Council when he shares those views and material documents with us. He still wants any further comments from us, and assured the meeting that his provisional views will be open to change in the light of any further comments and evidence he receives. On how long it was taking, his response seemed to be that he had to do his job properly [I would agree that he should, but does it really need to take so long?]. 

The Auditor seemed to suggest that the material would be shared in about six weeks (so August, rather than July?), but said the timetable after that would depend on what further comments he receives and what further investigations he may need to make, so he could give no indication of when his final decision might be published.

There were murmurings from the committee over how long his investigation was taking, and what it would cost (Mr Sayers did not know how much it had cost so far, but he would write with a figure that could be passed on to committee members). Cllr. Davidson, in particular, was concerned over the costs, and appeared to suggest that KPMG could be carrying out unnecessary work, just to increase their fees.

My second point, asked the committee to recommend that Council Officers consent to Mr Sayers sharing the legal advice with us "in strict confidence". The papers around that advice comprise very ‘material documents’, as they provide the only evidence in support of Brent’s decision to make the payment to Ms Davani.

The Chair asked Brent's Chief Legal Officer, Debra Norman, to address them. She told the committee, effectively, that "Legal Privilege" was a fundamental principle that should never be breached. She did not appear to consider whether, in the particular circumstances of this investigation, refusal by the Council to allow the objectors access to the documents, in strict confidence, might appear to be unfair.

The Chair asked Mr Sayers whether the lack of consent from the Council was "impeding" his investigation, and the Auditor said that it was not, although it might mean that he had to take legal advice himself over whether to disclose certain documents to the objectors. I am not sure whether committee members realised that this would mean additional costs to the Council for the investigation.

I was allowed a brief reply, but like Mr Sayers, I had to say that I could not disclose the full nature of the allegations in the objection, but that they did involve matters which were 'contrary to law', and that this was more than a possible query over whether a QC's advice was correct.

There was no real discussion or vote on what action the committee should take over my second point. It was almost like a shrug of the shoulders to say "well, we can't go against the advice of the Chief Legal Officer".

I was probably naïve to think that the Audit Advisory Committee might, just might, be persuaded to recommend that the legal advice, which the Council claims as justification for the £157,610 “pay-off” to Cara Davani, could be shared with the objectors. But at least I tried to move things forward towards getting this long-running matter resolved, and the minutes of last Monday evening’s meeting will hopefully record the main points of what was said.

So, Wembley Matters readers, and the rest of Brent’s citizens, will have to carry on waiting for details of why the payment was made, if that is found to be different from the Council version(s), to be officially revealed. You can be sure, however, that the five local electors who objected to Brent’s 2015/16 accounts will do their best to see that the truth comes out, eventually.

Philip Grant.

London headteachers fear for the future of high quality education in the face of budget cuts

From London Councils
London is experiencing a school funding crisis that is damaging the quality of education schools can provide, research commissioned by London Councils has revealed. Headteachers face huge challenges in coping with reducing budgets, recruiting and retaining teachers, and managing teachers’ workload so that they can deliver the best quality education for our schoolchildren.

Talking Heads, a survey of nearly 400 London head teachers and senior school leaders, lays bare the negative impact of insufficient funding on teacher and teaching assistant numbers, curriculum options, learning resources such as IT equipment and textbooks, and the upkeep of school buildings.

Another key challenge addressed by the report is recruitment and retention of high quality teachers. London headteachers are finding it increasingly hard to recruit and retain teaching staff due to the challenges of the profession as well as high living costs and house prices. Primary schools are struggling to fill classroom teacher vacancies, while secondary schools are struggling most with recruiting subject leaders.

Cllr Peter John OBE, Deputy Chair of London Councils and Executive member with responsibility for education, said:

Our research paints a bleak picture of the financial challenges threatening the future of London’s education system from the perspective of the head teachers and school leaders who have worked to transform the capital’s schools into the best in the country.

Headteachers fear that young Londoners will not be able to receive a top-quality education in the years ahead due to increased costs and inadequate funding for schools.

The UK is on course to leave the European Union in 2019 and ensuring young people have the skills to succeed and contribute to the growth of the economy has never been more important.

We’re calling on Government to recognise that schools are facing significant additional cost pressures, and to protect school funding in real terms to address these pressures. This would give head teachers the freedom to focus on helping children to realise their potential at school so they respond positively to the challenges and opportunities that spring from Brexit.

Download the report HERE

Loss of the Corrib will cause material and cultural harm to the community

The planning application for the site of the Corrib Rest, Salusbury Road, Queens Park, will be heard this evening at Brent Civic Centre.

Save The Corrib campaigners have written the following to the Planning Committee.

We are campaigning for a better solution for the Corrib Rest pub and community rooms as we do not feel that the planning officers have grasped fully the community value of the Corrib planning scheme and its value to the wider community. 

We would draw your attention to details which we consider are important and yet not considered in any detail.  we appreciate the workload of councillors is high and so have kept this simple without great detail and hope you can give this some of your attention.

The report fails to mention that The Corrib started as the Irish Culture Centre in the 1980's, and was a publicly owned building covering an area 4 times the current Corrib. In 2000 much of the Corrib was converted to social housing with the remaining portion being sold on the clear legal understanding that the public function rooms on the first floor were to be protected by the 106 agreement, ensuring that they served as a community facility.  They are, in effect a publicly owned asset, held in trust by Brent for the community.  Ashcross bought the building with the 106 conditions attached, it is these conditions, set in place to protect this asset that he now is asking Brent to ignore. Brent should resist this request and follow the example of Camden and reject the loss of community space.T

The report does not reflected the wider use of the Corrib, which extends well beyond the QPARA area. The report gives, we consider, undue due weight to the QPARA involvement to the exclusion of other parties.  The views of Kilburn, Kensal and Cricklewood residents associations are not recorded, nor are other stakeholders views included, for example, Tulip Siddiq's  letter of objection, is not mentioned. The planning history not addressed and the previous rejections are not outlined in sufficient detail.

The report does not address the local need for community space. The Corrib is the largest community centre in South Brent centre out side the Granville. There is no impact assessment on the loss of this facility and that existing resources are booked up for over 3 months. Brent will look extremely foolish if they give away their interest in this community asset at the same time as advertising in the Brent Magazine for community facilities they can fund, especially in Kilburn

The proposed 106 agreement is not compared with the existing and the report seeks to underplay the loss in space, facilities and access. The so called community room is 70% smaller than the current ones and the usage time is reduced by 50%. The new Corrib can only cater for a max of 225 persons whilst the existing Corrib can take up to 1000 persons

The main first floor function room, with its high ceilings, sky lights, spring floor, kitchen and bar is our "village hall". Its unique ambiance and airiness provide an ideal location for weddings, and musical events etc, as well as the usual leisure activities. The second function room also has a bar and kitchen. Plus the rooms can be combined to form a single room of over 350sqm. The rooms are accessed directly from the street via a magnificence stair case. The facilities also benefit from 2 sets of WC's and showers / changing room, topped of with disabled lift, access via rear.

In contrast the proposed room is 153sqm, has one shared WC opening directly onto it, the ceiling will be low, light and ventilation limited. Access is via 3 sets of doors, difficult for the elderly, impossible for those carrying drinks, also access is right through the bar area, not ideal for children or those who's religious beliefs require them to avoid alcohol. Lack of changing facilities will further reduce its amenity value. As does the lack of street access to Hopefield, as requested by 2 Hopefield residents

No weight is given to the fact that since it closed there have still been noise complaints. Noise is a management issue not a planning one. No mention is made of the fact that Brent officers did not consider the historic noise complaints sufficient to take action against the Corrib

Report conclusion says ‘would make efficient use of site and reopen the pub. The Pub was closed by developer solely to enhance planning application and was viable and in use when sold.  It was sold just to fund one partners retirement fund.

The report missed out the fact that the loss of 530 sqm of space on first floor gives a gain to developer of £5M in property value. With a further £3M from the conversion of the 3rd floor.

The report dismisses the threat to the viability to the pub of the community room, which will reduce the bar area by 50% and will put the pub at risk conflicting with Brent’s policy to protect pubs and not convert them. CAMRA define this type of application as a "Trojan Horse", where the reduction of pub size deliberately aims to render it unviable leading to its eventual conversion to residential. The report fails to mention that looking at the layout of the pub it is clear that the massive hall way to the flats separating the community room from the pub will render this room unusable in the long term, thus finally killing the Corrib.

No mention is made of the fact that Ashcross are considered by QPARA as unsuitable as guardians of any community asset, backed up by Ashcross's treatment of Kensal to Kilburn Transition Town. No mention is made of Ashcross's and Iceni's  involvement with previous "asset stripping" of pubs. 

We consider there will be immense material and cultural harm to the community from the loss of this facility . We believe the rooms should be retained as set out in the existing 106 agreement and this application rejected.  We hope, for the benefit of the communities of Kilburn, you will agree also.

Kevin Barrett and Lloyd Fothergill
for the Save the Corrib Campaign
representing the near 2000 petitioners and 148 objectors

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

It could only happen in Brent! John Duffy on the Corrib

Cllr John Duffy (Kilburn) has intervened in the controversy over the planning application for the Corrib Rest in Queen's Park which is being discussed at Brent Planning Committee tomorrow. He has written the following to members of the Planning Committee and requested that it be read out in his absence. (Note the original has been lightly edited)

Dear Cllr Agha,

Following a meeting  a number of residents raised some concerns about the report concerning the lost of a community  asset to build private housing at the Corrıb Rest.

Let me clarify somethıng whıch offıcer seem to continually mentıon and to make everything as clear as possible. I have no complaints about the initial consultation. Officers continue to answer this question that was never asked , to add unrelated information as a smoke screen. 

Our concerns are pure and sımply about the report and the recommendations within the report to cut the community/provision by over 70%. Officers are well aware that 140 residents objected to the lost of community space and a request to defer the report to the July meetıng  so a meeting could be called to discuss the recommendations. This was ın my opınıon not unreasonable, however thıs was denied by the offıcers. I asked them were there any  financial, staffing or legal reasons why the officers could not defer  the report to the July meeting. Offıcers faıled to give a reason why they are being so difficult on a issue of local democracy. The officers answer merely said officers have the legal power to ignore requests from the public. The issue I asked the commıttee, was do you believe they are acting reasonably.

The report itself is I believe being sugar-coated in favour of the developer,  officers have left out the ( no mention whatsoever ) the loss of 70% of the  community space available or the 50% cut in hours of its use. If a committee member were to read the report it would suggest the developer is offering an increase of community use not a massive cut.  Also I raised the issue of the use of the words “40HR minimum hours community use” by officers. The report is actually saying  is 40hr will be the maximum  amount of hours in the 106 agreement and any other hrs over the forty would be unenforceable. Again I am sorry to say officers deferred to legal-speak instead of answering my question saying there is no obligation on the developer to allocate more than the minimum hours. I think that’s clear and the reference to minimum is accurate and not misleading – more hours may be allocated, but are not required to be.” It is clear the developer has said NO to any additional hours.

However the most puzzling answer to my questions to officers was in answer to thıs  question 
Will you confirm that I as a elected representative in the Area and an objector was not sent notification of the meeting.

Legal offıcer’s answer  
“In relation to your email of today, I have been informed that there were indeed two people that did not receive a copy of the details for the Committee, and accordingly they will be provided with the relevant information by post today.

Frankly that answer would be better suited to a Kafka novel than a planning commıttee. I finally received notice today, Tuesday (48hrs) that they did not send me notifıcation of the meetıng 5 days before.

Would it not have been easier and save time, for the legal officer to have apologised  and told me last Thursday instead of going into legal speak. However the legal offıcer said it does not matter  that they did  not send me notifıcation as an elected councillor  and an objector , as a member of the public told me anyway. It’s for you to decided whether you think that is also reasonable.

The truth is if I had been informed at the right time, I would not have committed to a work related trip abroad and I would have been there on Wednesday nıght.

The other ıssue I have concerns about is the way officers have sought to divide opinion on the merits of the plannıng application. Whereas I believe the residents of QPRA have a rıght to have the major say in the planning application the size, structure, parking and opening hours. However the disposal of 70% of a community asset is not for only for QPRA  and QPRA alone , its for the users and residents whether it be a Salsa dance class or a food bank to have their say , these people come from the greater Kilburn  area and other parts of Brent. The entrance will be via the pub which will rule out religous groups (particularly Muslims), Mothers and Baboes groups and other children's groups. A further issues is that there is only one WC.
Finally and most importantly, I believe officers are bringing the council into disrepute, by their approach . It’s just over a year ago that the Cabinet tried to shut down the Granvılle community centre  wıthout even a cursory attempt at consultatıon. The cabinet apologised  and the lead member resigned. Sınce then the new lead member for planning and regeneration Cllr Tatler has said community use in Kilburn is a priority and wishes to see it expanded .

Cllr Tatler and the cabinet have now committed themselves to expansıon of community provision.
To confırm this Cllr Tatler  last week place a large ad in the Brent Magazine( page 45) saying one of the priority for bids for using the CIL is community activity in Kilburn and askıng for bıds to come forward. It beggars belief that officers are choosing to ignore a clear policy and are recommending a 70% cut in community space and 50% cut in hours at a time when we are askıng for more ......... If policy can be changed or ignored by officers to cut communıty services, it makes it look like the administration  are in power, but not in control wıthout a clear vision or strategy.

It could only happen ın Brent!!!!!

Thıs report is wrong and goes against council policy of expanding community provisıon in Kilburn. Therefore ı urge you to reject the plannıng applıcatıon.