Tuesday, 29 December 2009
The application was turned down on the following grounds:
1. Inappropriate development on Metropolitan Open Land with no special circumstances cited for development.
2. Loss of existing employment on the site.
3. Non-compliant flood risk assessment.
4.Insufficient information on the impact of the proposed development on biodiversity and nature conservation.
5. Insufficient information on whether the develoment ould provide future occupierswith adequate levels of amenity, particularly with regard to the proximity of the Hendon Rifle Club.
6. Insuffient infromation of the development's impact on the amenity value of trees, including those protected by Tree Preservation Orders.
7. No energy strategy or assesment of the energy demands and carbon dioxide emissions of the development submitted with the application.
8. No formal undertaking in the application to enter into a travel and traffic management plan.
The decision is very welcome and means that both local councils involved have now rejected the developer's plans. However he can still appeal the decision to the Secretary of State who could over-turn the decision. There is no news yet on whether the developer is minded to appeal.
Monday, 28 December 2009
Central Square has been refurbished, new shops are opening, luxury flats are being marketed but amidst the private affluence of Wembley Central regeneration the station festers in public squalor. Just compare the architects' vision with the actual appearance of the station. Rumour has it that money has run out and there is certainly no sign of work underway. This seems to be the fate of much regeneration: money is poured into the profit yielding part of the development and the public service infrastructure part is deprioritised and neglected. Hailed as a modern gateway to a new Wembley at the planning stage by Brent Council we are left with a ramshackle building which fails to come up to the standard of many an allotment shed. What is Brent Council doing to get the work completed?
Readers may add their voices to this request by writing to the Egyptian Embassy at email@example.com and copying to their local Member of Parliament http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/
Wednesday, 23 December 2009
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
About 100 demonstrators braved a cold Sunday morning to make their views known. In the event it turned out that Livni had cancelled her trip for fear of being arrested for war crimes. See the Guardian
The Hendon Hall Hotel had been kept in the dark about who the special guest was and the manager has reportedly since apologised for having hosted the conference and told the JNF that they are banned from using the hotel again. She sincerely regrets any upset caused and said that she was unaware of the political situation in Gaza and Tzipi Livni's role. She has apparently offered a free B&B as a prize in a raffle run by any charity supporting Palestinians.
Full report on the demonstration and pictures HERE
Sunday, 13 December 2009
In fact only 15 turned up, even though numbers were augmented by English Defence League supporters, and the rather sad little group, one wearing a blond wig and another a santa hat, were corralled into a cold car park and protected by police. A couple of them made speeches to the windswept car park observed by press photographers who out-numbered them 3 to 1 - all against the background of chants from several hundred anti-Fascist demonstrators, who sometimes broke into open gales of laughter at the sheer absurdity of the lonely little band in the car park. Stephen Gash the 'leader' even managed to be late and nearly miss the event! There is more than a touch of Captain Mainwaring about the man - without the lovability.
Given these numbers it is surely time for the local press to stop building up the group and cease publicising their baseless claims and their incitant comments.
Hundreds of anti-Fascist demonstrators made it clear that the Fascists were not welcome in Harrow and the diversity of the demonstrators once again showed that the local community were united in defence of the Harrow mosque.
British Muslims for a Secular Democracy without success.
The SIOE has thus shown it is not really interested in dialogue or debate, but just in creating division. In my speech to the Solidarity Vigil, as Green Party parliamentary candidate for Brent North, I pointed out that what the SIOE, EDL and BNP have in common is racism and xenophobia. Despite the SIOE's website claim that racism is 'the lowest form of stupidity' they are quite happy to get 'nod and a wink' support from the EDL. At the September 11th demonstration anti-Mosque demonstrators openly gave Nazi salutes and EDL members were present again today.
The SIOE attempt to 'soften up' an area by organising a provocative demonstration, with EDL help, and any reaction is then depicted as Muslim violence. Having caused division the BNP then move in by leafletting the area, as they did in Harrow after the September 11th demonstration, trying to build electoral support on the back of the dirty deeds of their allies. It is important that we see them as overlapping organisations with a similar agenda, and take with a pinch of salt their internicine squabbles. The SIOE may be absurd and today's demonstration comical, but the racist and Fascist nature of the groups that build on their provocations must be recognised and their activities firmly opposed.
I congratulate Brent and Harrow Unite Against Fascism for organising a highly effective, united and peaceful demonstration
Friday, 11 December 2009
Thursday, 10 December 2009
Brent and Harrow Unite Against Fascism are again organising a demonstration to show Harrow's rejection of the SIOE's (Stop the Islamisation of Europe's) attack on Harrow's Muslim community and their mosque.
Assemble at 12 noon on Sunday on the broad pavement outside Harrow Civic Centre, opposite the mosque. Police have announced they will be carrying out stop and searches for weapons. The leader of the Labour group on Harrow Council and Navin Shah Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow will be joining the solidarity demonstration.
Also on Sunday there is an all-London alert for a demonstration against Tzipi Livni, former Foreign Minister of London who was a major force behind 'Operation Cast Lead' the Israeli offensive against Gaza which began on December 27th last year and killed 1400 Palestinians, many of them children, and injured 5,000.
Livni is due to speak at a meeting of the Jewish National Fund from 10.30am until 4pm on Sunday somewhere in North London. The organisers are kept the venue secret until the last minute in order to minimise demonstrations against Livni whose callous pronouncements on the Gaza conflict will be remembered for a long time. Up to date information will be published on this website and on the Palestine Solidarity Campaign's website and PSC's Facebook Page.
A reminder of what happened almost a year ago:
Friday, 4 December 2009
Respondents who wish to address the Planning Committee on December 16th must ring Mr Joe Kwateng on 020 8937 1354 (office hours) at least one clear day before the meeting. On the day they should arrive at least 15 minutes before the meeting starts.
The Chief Planner's recommendation on the application is 'Refuse Consent'.
The latest figures on public responses to the Barnet side of the Welsh Harp housing development application are 114 responses; which consist of 1 petition, 2 comments, 108 against the application and 1 for. No date has yet been fixed for the Barnet Planning Committee hearing.
Monday, 30 November 2009
‘Furthermore, the Capital Ring long-distance path goes along the edge of the reservoir, and would be severely and adversely affected by the development, as would other public paths in the vicinity.
‘We have urged both councils (Brent and Barnet) to reject these damaging applications.’
Meanwhile my query about any covenants etc on the land, elicited a reply from Richard Barrett , Head of Property and Asset Management at Brent Council, that referred me to Legal Services for a detailed reponse but went on:
"However I can confirm that I am aware of the recent planning application and that any proposals to develop the land would also require Council approval as freehold owner. The long lease granted to Mr. Scott’s company has a restriction on use which would require the Council’s permission to amend or alter. Until the application is considered and determined by the relevant planning authority any such approach for a change of use would not be entertained."
The Stop the Islamisation of Europe and EDL are demonstrating against the Harrow Mosque again on December 13th. Unite against Fascism are holding a counter-demonstration:
A message from Brent and Harrow UAF:
The Swiss referendum decision not to allow the building of any more minarets will feed the Islamophobia motivating the right wing demonstration against Harrow Central Mosque on Sunday December 13th. This makes it all the more important that we have a large, peaceful, united demonstration with a strong representation of trades unionists and Harrow's diverse community, young and old. An organisation called British Muslims for Secular Democracy will also be holding a counter-demonstration to the one called by Stop the Islamisation of Europe. We welcome their participation and will be happy to have them speaking at the rally.
Friday, 27 November 2009
BRENT COUNCIL CROSS-PARTY STATEMENT
All political parties on the council condemn this video. Brent is one of the most multicultural places in Europe - almost every nation around the world will have a friend or family living within our borders. We are all very proud of the rich mix ofcommunities we have within our borough.
BARRY GARDINER. LABOUR MP FOR BRENT NORTH
I found this the single most revolting and disturbing thing in my life as a constituency MP. I am proud to represent the most multucultural brough in this country,and indeed, in Europe.
I issue this challenge to the BNP: come back to Brent and dare to stand against me in the next general election.Dare to put what you said on film to the wholeof the British public. Dare to put it to the people of Brent. Those people are British.They are proud to be British and proud to be part of this society.
DAWN BUTLER, LABOUR MP FOR BRENT SOUTH
As one of only two black female MPs I am appalled by the BNP's lame attempt to challenge Brent's diversity which we love, cherish and are extremely proud of.
It is a known fact Nick Griffin has stated that Brent is exactly what he does not want Britain to look like. I received an e-mail froman outraged 12 year-old who happened to be a Hindu ands was extremely upset and annoyed by the way Muslims were portrayed in this clip. Let that be a lesson to the BNP -if you offend one of us you offend us all.
SARAH TEATHER, LIBERAL DEMOCRAT MP FOR BRENT EAST
It is despicable for the BNP to try and use the symbolism of Wembley stadium to promote their racist bile. It is also profoundly stupid. Brent has always been a melting pot for people from all over the world, and people get on pretty well thank you.
That BNP group should clear off, and go back to where they came from.
THIS FILM IS AN INSULT TO OUR BOROUGH
The peopleof Wembley have formed a united fron this week against a film made by the British National Party,
In a shocking clip entitled The True Face of Immigration, an unnamed member of the South Wales BNP criticises our borough's diverse population and uses it as an example, in his eyes, of how the government's immigration policies have failed.
We are appalled by the video and find it deeply upsetting the way Brent has been portrayed.
One of Brent's main assets is its diversity and it is something to be proud of. Almost every nation around the world will have a friend or family living in our borough and that is what makes Brent so special.
Thursday, 26 November 2009
There is a connection because it emerged this week that the site of the Birchen Grove allotments, the Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre and the Greenhouse were areas set aside for a Kingsbury Lawn Cemetery last century. It was initially expected that the cemetery would be used for burials during the Second World War. However there were still arguments about it after the War and although a chapel was built (now an eco-energy centre near the Education Centre) alongside a shelter (still there on the Greenhouse access road) no cemetery was ever constructed.
In a paper delivered to the Nine Colloquiumon on Cemeteries at York University in 2008, entitled 'The Cemetery That Never Was', Brian Parsons said that the grounds had never been de-consecrated despite intentions to do so.
This clearly raises issues about building houses on the site. Additionally the issue of chancel taxes, imposed by the Diocese of London arises. This is a tax raised by the Diocese for church repairs. Householders in the area close to Old St Andrew's are advised to take out a special insurance in case such a tax is levied. The land in question appears to come under the Archdeaconries of both Northolt and Hampstead.
I am advised that if the land is still consecrated this means that it is subject to 'faculty juridisction'. Any development or proposal that affects land or buildings that are under the faculty jurisdiction requires grant of faculty by the Chancellor of the Diocese following advice from the Diocesan Advisory Committee and the relevant Archdeacon. This would be in addition to any statutory planning approvals by the local authority or the Secretary of State.
This is a picture of the site in the 1930s,with the 'new' St Andrew's in the background, which shows the extent of the area. A map in the document also indicates the land may have covered both the Brent and Barnet development sites.
In Brent there have been 100 responses to the consultation on Malcolm Scott's application to build 71 dwellings on the Greenhouse Garden Centre site. Only one of those supports the application and 90 are opposed. Two petitions opposing the development have also been lodged.
In Barnet there have been 84 responses,with only one in support of the application for the redevelopment of Woodfield Nursery as 90 dwellings, This site is also owned by the developer Malcolm Scott. 81 residents are against the application and there are 2 comments and one petition.
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
We write to express our disgust at the latest tactics of the BNP, to target the diverse community of Wembley in a campaign video aimed at fomenting racism and fuelling discontent. The BNP is using football as an emblem for racism when the Football Association and the football supporters' organisations are amongst the most stalwart opponents of racism in British society.
The video sought to depict the local multi-ethnic population as alien and foreign and their presence in Wembley as somehow sinister. Instead we say that the people shown represent the lively and diverse population of modern Wembley who live, work, learn, shop, eat, relax and debate together. They include bus drivers, builders, nurses, doctors, chefs, councillors, teachers, shopkeepers, school governors and others; all from many different backgrounds, who contribute to our community and participate in efforts to improve it.
The school children shown do argue vociferously about differences, but not about race or religion as the BNP might hope, but like children around the country do, usually about their allegiance to Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United or Liverpool; or about who should win the X Factor! Anyone who knows our community will realise that the BNP's efforts to divide us will not succeed and will be treated with the contempt they deserve.
As Green Party general election candidates covering Wembley and the wider environs, we will take every opportunity to confront and expose racial hatred and bigotry in politics and society.
Martin Francis, Green parliamentary candidate for Brent North
Shahrar Ali, Green parliamentary candidate for Brent Central
Bea Campbell, Green parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn
Sarah Kersey, Green parliamentary candidate for Harrow East
Rowan Langley, Green parliamentary candidate for Harrow West
Monday, 23 November 2009
The website calls for a boycott of Trinity South newspapers because the Harrow Observer website carried a statement by Barry Gardiner, MP for North Brent, condemning the BNP Wembley video. See his statement HERE
The website calls Gardiner a 'vile creature'and mounts a vitriolic personal attack on him.
I have informed Brent Council about the BNP's use of an official Brent Council video and they are seeking ways of having it removed from the site and discussing what other action they could take.
Saturday, 21 November 2009
The BNP presenter from South Wales suggests that 'iconic' Wembley has been taken over by foreigners and that this is the fault of Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat policies. The video centres on the High Road and Ealing Road, and there is a lot of footage around the Wembley Central Mosque and tracking of the diverse shops of the area.
Ironically, if you took away the poisonous commentary the footage could be seen as an example of a vibrant, diverse, multi-racial area where people are getting on with their lives in relative harmony.
However the BNP's aims are clear: to wind people up ahead of major football events and they are playing to the audience of supporters who took part in the English Defence League, British Defence League and football supporters (the 'Casuals') marches which caused mayhem in Luton, as well as those who threaten the Harrow Mosque again on December 13th. Targeting of right-wing football 'supporters' is dangerous when these same supporters will be making their way along streets shown in the video when they travel to Wembley Stadium for matches. The Council and police will need to have contigency plans ready for any sporadic violence and targeting of individuals that may result.
I call on political and religious leaders, community organisations and residents in Brent to condemn the BNP tactics and make a united stand in defence of our successful diverse, multi-racial and harmonious community. A community of which we are proud and pleased to call our own.
Friday, 20 November 2009
Despite massive local opposition, Barnet Council last night approved the 'pie in the sky' planning application for a massive Brent Cross Shopping Centre expansion. Details remained vague,many questions remained unanswered and the possible toxic implications of the Brent Cross incinerator hung over the meeting like a black cloud, but the smooth talking and jaw-droppingly patronising Mr Joseph won the day for the developers. A cross-party coalition of councillors (although of course they are non-party on planning matters) passed the application 8-1,with 1 abstention, apparently on the reckless basis of 'we've been waiting for a long time to do something about this, this is all we've got, so we better do it whatever our reservations may be'.
The decision has been condemned by Sarah Teather MP, Navin Shah AM, Darren Johnson AM and Jean Lambert MEP, (details on Brent Cross Coalition Blog), who are united in calling for a public inquiry.
You can add your own voice to the Public Inquiry call - details HERE
Thursday, 19 November 2009
or telephone her on 020 8937 5337
The case number is 09/3220
The developer is: Mr Malcolm Scott, Garden & Plant Centre Developments Ltd, Greenhouse Garden Centre, Grove House, 1 Loves Grove, Worcester, WR1 3BU
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
They consider that the applicant's document, 'Assessment of Implications on Welsh Harp/Brent Reservoir SSSI and SMINC' has failed to consider the potential impacts on interest features of the SSSI. They say the document presents no evidence quantifying existing levels of recreational pressure or whether there is capacity at the site for additional recreational activity. They say the document gives no detail on the type, scale and timing of mitigation and that therefore the efficacy of mitigation cannot be assessed.
The RSPB conclude they would like to see all their concerns addressed through an EIA and 'pending the outcome of further assessment work and the review of potential mitigation, the RSPB objects to this planning application'.
The full RSPB response is available HERE
Monday, 16 November 2009
We need you, your friends, neighbours and colleagues to be outside the Hendon Town Hall at 5.30pm on November 18th with your banners, voices, but most of all your determination.
We demand nothing less than a full Public Inquiry so that these ill-thought out and shoddy plans can be thoroughly scrutinised and the concerns of residents, environmental groups and Camden and Brent councils can be properly addressed - not fobbed off by public relations flannel.
Together we can win.We are not going to let Barnet Council blight our lives and those of future generations!
The developer who wishes to build houses on the Greenhouse Garden Centre site in Brent, next to the Welsh Harp Open Space, also wants to build 90 dwellings on the nearby Woodfield Nursery site, Cool Oak Lane, NW9 7NB which he also owns. These are defined as 'large scale dwellings'.
Although the developer has said he wants to build only on one of the sites, redeveloping a garden centre on the other, there is the possibility that both could be built on.The total number of housing units on both sites would be 161. The Welsh Harp Joint Consultative Committee, which has councillors sitting on it from both Brent and Barnet, last week decided to oppose both developments.
The Barnet planning application can be found HERE the earliest decision date is November 30th but the target date for decision is January 28th 2010. You can comment on the application on the above link. So far 10 objections have been received.
Follow THIS LINK for a map of the area showing the Woodfield site (Red Circle). The glass roofs, plant area and car park of the Greenhouse site can clearly be seen to the left of the Woodfield site. The impact of the development of both sites on the Welsh Harp Open Space and the 'buffer zones' around it would be immense.
Friday, 13 November 2009
Sarah Teather has circulated a newsletter in the ward opposing the development and echoing many of the comments made in this blog. The Welsh Harp ward is in the new Brent Central constituency that she will be contesting at the General Election.
The newsletter also contains a petition against the proposed scheme. This adds another petition to those already being circulated by residents and the Labour Party. The Liberal Democrat group on the council have joined Sarah Teather in opposing the application.
Bob Blackwell, Leader of the Conservative Group told Wembley Matters: "The Conservative Group are totally opposed to any form of housing development on the two sites, both in Brent and in Barnet. The Conservative Group has always supported retaining this open space and campaigned against proposals to develop this area some 10 years ago." Robert Dunwell, leader of the Democratic Conservative group said that in his considered professional opinion the application should be opposed in principle.
This will all help the campaign against the development ahead of the Planning Committee hearing which is likely to be held on December 16th. However it is important to remember that as the Committee is a statutory one it is not whipped in the same way as other Council committees. It makes an independent decision, taking into account officers' reports and representations by all parties concerned. Residents should continue to make representations via the Brent Planning Website here.
Wednesday, 11 November 2009
The application now goes to the Brent Planning Committee and representations can be made up to November 20th. It is likely to be heard on December 16th.
Dear Brent Councillors,
I am writing to you ahead of this evening's JCC meeting to request that you do all you can to persuade the JCC to adopt a position of opposition to the proposed development of housing on the Greenhouse site. I know that the JCC does not make the final decision but I believe a strong stand on the issue, conveyed to the Planning Committee before their December 16th meeting, could be very influential.
Since the proposal was announced there has been a strong groundswell of local opinion against the plans. Two petitions opposing the development are currently circulating in the area and the 'Comments Book' at the exhibition at the Greenhouse itself contains many heart-felt, passionate pleas for the Welsh Harp to be defended. As local councillors I hope you will rise to that challenge.
As you know the proposed site is adjacent to the SSSI and MSINC and close to the Environmental Education Centre. The environmental report for the developer argues that a buffer zone of trees will be enough to mitigate the impact on the open space. I would strongly claim that this is not the case. The SSSI and MSINC need a much larger buffer zone to protect them. At present the limited opening hours of the garden centre and its large outside selling area, replete with plants, trees and shrubs, provide a buffer. This transition zone between housing and the open space will disappear and noise, traffic and light pollution; and loss of habitat, will have a direct impact on the wild life of the area. In addition the extension of Birchen Grove, across the open space, to provide access to the new estate will be a further loss of green field space. All these developments could have a detrimental impact on the diversity of the grounds of the Environmental Education Centre. Once housing has been developed on the Greenhouse site there will be inevitable pressure on the area between the development and Runbury Circle. This contains the Birchen Grove allotments, where I am an allotment holder, and the Environmental Centre whose work I strongly support.
Brent already has less green space than many other London boroughs and we must defend every inch of it. My mother played around the Welsh Harp as a child in the 1930s, and my brothers and sisters and I did the same in the 1950s when we visited our grandmother in Church Drive. I believe my life long interest in the environment stemmed from that experience and a similar one on Barn Hill. These are two gems of semi-wild areas that we have left in Brent and it is vital that we protect them and they are available to the next generation. London Heritage last year lamented the fact that Brent, unlike other London boroughs, had no official 'heritage champion' and suggested this explained the deterioration in Brent's conservation areas. In the absence of such a champion, councillors and residents should join together to be community heritage champions for the borough.
The Centre is used by children from the boroughs of Brent and Barnet and wider afield and is an excellent and valued local resource,
Click HERE to see a video about the Centre's work.
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
Concern over the possibility of housing development on the Greenhouse Centre site at the Welsh Harp has increased in both Brent and Barnet since the Wembley Observer followed up the story first carried on this blog.
The development will be discussed by the Welsh Harp Joint Consultative Committee at 7.30pm on Thursday 11th November in the Council Chamber at Brent Town Hall, Wembley. The JCC consists of councillors from Barnet and Brent, users of the Welsh Harp reservoir and open space, Natural England, London Wildlife Trust, Old St Andrews Residents' Associaiton, Woolmead Residents' Association and West Hendon Community Forum.
The decision on planning applications will be made by the Planning Committees in each borough but the viewof the JCC will be important. The public have a right to attend these meetings and it is important to hear what our representatives are saying about this threat to our dimishing local natural environment.
The JCC Agenda says that the consultation on the plans ends on November 11th. We have rung Brent Council to query this and have been told by the Planning Department that the Brent consultation actually ends on November 20th and the most likely date for Brent's Planning Committee to consider it is likely to be December 16th.
Meanwhile at least two petitions are circulating opposing the development of the site as housing and there is a possibility of a public meeting on the matter.
The JCC Agenda can be found here
Saturday, 31 October 2009
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
In announcing her support, the London Green MEP said, “This scheme clearly has regional repercussions in terms of its scale, because of questions of compliance with the London Plan, issues regarding traffic pollution and transport infrastructure. There are also unanswered questions about the planned waste disposal process and its impact on health. I fully support the Coalition’s call for a full Public Inquiry so that an informed and robust debate can take place into such a major and controversial development.”
While support for the Coalition continued to build Barnet Council was forced to contemplate the possible collapse of the whole project. A report prepared for their cabinet admitted that there would be no return for developers in the delayed first phase of the development and that the first rent revenues for the Council would not be realised until 2018. They drastically slashed the number of guaranteed housing units to 795 units against the overall total for the project publicised by the developers of 7,500 units. It is clear that after the first phase nothing is certain and there is still a risk of developers pulling out.Much more information is available on the Coalition's blog HERE.
No wonder the Barnet cabinet discussed face saving strategies in the event of the whole project collapsing.
Monday, 26 October 2009
What is important is that an area of peace, beauty and natural diversity will be threatened by the impact of housing, a new road, increased lighting and noise, and the loss of habitats.
The application has been made by the Greenhouse Garden Centre and is for 71 dwellings and hard-standing and access road on the Greenhouse site and the adjacent disused Woodfield Garden Centre site. The latter site had been ear-marked for possible Greenhouse expansion.
A display about the proposed development is tucked away unadvertised at the back of the Greenhouse, rather than at the front, but nontheless has attracted many entries in the Comments Book - most of them extremely critical. Among them are heartfelt appeals to save this unique corner of Brent and vows to fight the development as fiercely as previous attempts to build on the land and close down the Education Centre have been fought.
The development will be close to the Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre and its extensive grounds, and the Birchen Grove allotments. In the manner of these things if the planning application is granted it may not be long before both these sites are under threat as the 'gaps' between blocks of housing are filled in. As the sites are owned by Brent Council, I have a hunch that it may not be long before they will want to cash in on these assets.
This will of course give them an interest in supporting the application.
See the plans and comment on them HERE
Planning Application No. 09/3220 Planning Officer: firstname.lastname@example.org 0208937 5337
To be decided no earlier than 12th November 2009
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
The terrier-like Coalition continued to bite at the Council's heels by rejecting this proposal as giving two helpings of inadequate consultation rather than one. Instead they demanded a full public inquiry where all interested parties could listen to lay and expert evidence, cross examine witnesses, and ensure that any decision is informed and robust, made in the full knowledge of all the facts. Such a huge, costly and long-term development, affecting much of North West London, cannot be left to a few local councillors only a few months away from their possible demise at the May 2010 local elections.
The delay means that the ever expanding coalition of environmental groups, political parties and residents' associations will have more time to win broad-based support for a full-fledged Public Inquiry.
More on the Brent Cross Coalition Blog
Sunday, 18 October 2009
Spare The Child
The 2009 Trade Union Congress in Liverpool approved a motion entitled ‘Democratic Deficit’ from the top civil servants’ union the First Division Association (FDA). Their job is to process the decisions of Parliament, making legislation workable for us citizens. But they are fed up with trying to implement unworkable, fanciful, highly ideological but mostly illogical laws.
Thus their first demand was that politicians of all democratic parties should “ensure that government policy decisions are supported by objective analysis and consultation.” What an illuminating indictment of the UK constitution this is, to suggest for those with ears to listen that our laws arise otherwise.
Such elemental roots of governmental purpose and methodology have clearly withered in the mother of all parliaments. There is seemingly little grasp of reality or engagement with relevant stakeholders by lawmakers.
Of no sphere is this more true than education, and no greater proof of the FDA’s pertinence is needed than last week’s Ministerial responses to the Cambridge Primary Review.
There simply has not been a more exhaustive analysis of primary schools in England and Wales since the Plowden Report of 1967. It has been edited by Robin Alexander, a former assistant to Chris Woodhead at OFSTED, now Professor at Cambridge University’s School of Education, and chaired by Dame Gillian Pugh. The book’s title is, “Children: Their World, Their Education”.
The Cambridge Primary Review in numbers
20 on its advisory group
28 research surveys
250 focus groups
1,052 written submissions
3 years to complete
608 pages in final report
75 recommendations for change
Yet because it does not fully endorse current practices or suggest changes that suit current prejudices it has been either disregarded or trashed by politicians. They know best.
Labour Minister Vernon Coaker complained that it is already out-dated and that their own review by Sir Jim Rose is superior. He disparaged the review’s findings as “a backward step”. Tories have rejected the calls for a postponement of formalized learning by a year and a changed curriculum.
In contrast National Union of Teachers leader Christine Blower spoke for thousands of school workers, parents and kids when she said that; "It is absolutely extraordinary that the Government has decided to ignore the Cambridge Review recommendations. Any government worth its salt, particularly in front of an impending General Election, would have embraced this immensely rich report as a source of policy ideas.”
The government commissioned its own primary review under Sir Jim Rose, to head off the impact of the likely Cambridge recommendations. Central to Rose’s brief was an instruction not to research the SATs. Yet it is impossible to find one educational professional who believes that SATs are either fit for purpose or beneficial. Some parents may support them because they think that without SATs they would not know how their child is progressing. But no teacher opposes assessment per se. It is both an intuitive and formal component of learning.
The Cambridge Review rightly distinguishes between assessment for accountability, and assessment for learning.
What anti-SATs campaigners have railed against since 1992 has been their non-educational purpose. Author Alan Gibbons wrote in the Times Education Supplement of August 8 2008: “ At best, they have proved largely irrelevant to the task of raising standards in literacy. At worst, they have been an expensive distraction. Endless stale rehearsals for snap shot tests will not improve the situation. We urgently need to change course and concentrate on reading and writing for pleasure. In education engagement is everything. Nothing disengages children more effectively than the current SATs regime.”
Instead the core purpose of SATs has been to provide the crudest of currencies by which a school can be measured in a competitive marketplace. They are narcissistic proof to jobsworth politicians that they are ensuring value for money when committing funds to these particular public services.
SATs are the central cog in the neoliberalisation of schooling. SATs produce the League Tables, which create the demand for places, which puts bums on seats, which determines school budgets, which determine school human and other resources which produce…well, what is produced?
Sir Robin Alexander’s team has now conclusively catalogued the government’s Emperor’s New Clothes deceit that thousands of school-workers, parents and children have known only too well for 17 years.
SATs produce stressed-out kids and staff, with minimal value as a guide to past or future learning. SATs-related work has overtaken the curriculum time previously available for more creative work, languages and sport. The concept and practices of play have been more or less eradicated.
The classical Marxist concept of alienation has not been explicitly cited by the Cambridge Review, but it has recorded all the symptoms of it. Like cars or chocolate bars coming off a conveyor-belt, children have been commodified, reduced to a relation between things not people, reified not even by name but as National Curriculum Level this or that. The teacher-learner relationship has been prostituted.
One consequence for those staff who have not fled this lunacy, bullying has become the default educational management mode because, as the FDA insist, consent is hard to win when the statutory obligations fit so poorly with reality. Madness is a sane response, the inarticulate speech of so many broken hearts.
One of Lady Bridget Plowden’s recommendations forty-two years ago was to outlaw corporal punishment of kids by teachers. We now need to outlaw the mental torture of teachers and students by government.
In particular we need to reverse the push to start formalised learning earlier and earlier in the face of overwhelming evidence from the rest of Europe to the contrary. Finland is the world’s most eminent national educational system. Kids there have a kindergarten education until their seventh year. Yet even normally sharp journalists like The Observer’s Barbara Ellen have completely misunderstood the report’s recommendation to delay formal schooling by a year, believing that it is a middle-class yearning for mothers to stay home with their growing kids. It isn’t. It is a plea for a more humane and socialised sense of child development within a school context.
This is especially crucial for the most needy of families. Alexander puts great emphasis on Labour’s failure, despite all sorts of rhetoric and spin, to relieve the plight of the poor. The last thing that malnourished, hopeless infants need is an OFSTED-policed Early Years skills test.
An additional contradiction of government clap-trap concerns the space given by Alexander’s report to children’s views. They are shown as articulate and aspirational in a full and well-rounded sense, whereas the institutionalised notion of ‘Student Voice’ promulgated by Ministers is a consumerist, restricted version that abhors criticism and celebrates conformism. Thus students are often encouraged to evaluate the success or failure of teachers, but not of testing, funding or curricula.
Another aspect of children’s testimony in the report concerns a sense of worry about the planet’s future. The ecological catastrophe looming before us if ignored by world governments, should have already taught us that there is a fundamental urban estrangement from nature that distorts the general quality of human life. The Woodcraft Folk have known this for eighty years.
The ‘Sense of Wonder’ that US scientist Rachael Carson wrote about in 1964, and what contemporary educationalist Richard Louw systemises as a ‘nature-deficit disorder’ in his book ‘The Last Child In The Woods’, are implicit in the Cambridge Review even though its recommendations about greater access to outdoor space are modest.
What is being done to teachers and schools is also happening to social workers and other childcare professionals. Reactionary witch-hunts in the wake of Baby P - type cases obscure the penny-pinching carelessness of government-imposed systems. Its anti-scientific methods only value research which confirm Ministers’ a priori beliefs, and exclude practitioners from their design because of what is derogatively called “producer interest”.
So let’s re-build the battered confidence of everyone connected to child development. Let’s thank both the FDA and the Cambridge Review for trying to put the brakes on the runaway train of government, crushing the life out of its most innocent citizens. The fact that both voices emanate from deep inside the establishment makes their whistle-blowing that much more shrill.
Friday, 16 October 2009
The automatic repetition of their cherished shibboleths by government ministers and its knee-kerk rejection of the Review cannot match the 28 research surveys, 1,052 written submissions, 250 focus groups, 14 authors and 66 research consultants who contributed to the report.
The Green Party adds its voice to those of the many professional associations who have already endorsed the main thrust of the Review. Let’s reclaim our schools and learning for the sake of the next generation of children.
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
A report published in Child Abuse and Neglect of 24 children between three months and 17 years old detained in Yarl's Wood Immigration Centre shows that 73% had developed clinically significant emotional and behavioural problems since being detained. None had previously had any such problems. According to the Guardian's review of the findings:
- Eight children had lost weight since being detained,including a two-year old and a nine-year old who had both lost 10% of their body weight.
- Three children had regressed and refused to feed themselves or would take only milk.
- Most complained of recent health problems including abdominal pain, headache, coughing and vomiting. Two required hospital care.
- Ten out of 11 children seen by a psychologist had begun to experience sleep problems including nightmares and difficulty falling or remaining asleep
- Four children had bed-wetting, although they had previously been dry for a number of years and two started daytime soiling and wetting, indicators of severe stress.
- Four children had regressed language skills, including one child who had become selectively mute.
- All nine parents interviewed reported severe psychological distress, and six out of nine had contemplated suicide. Two were on suicide watch.
In rather deadpan fashion the report concludes that its findings support Australian research which suggested that 'detention is not in the best interests of the child'.
Most importantly the parents and children did not have access to the full range of assessment, support and treatment that they required and which they would have had access to if the children were attending a school.
Brent has one of the highest populations of refugees and asylum seekers and as a Brent teacher I gained valuable knowledge in educating and caring for children who had often gone through the most horrendous experiences. Providing a safe and supportive place for them to talk and work through their experience, as well as access to other agencies, enabled them to benefit from school and because they were the most fluent English speakers in the family, they often acted as interpreters in the family's dealings with the authorities.
I believe that one of the reasons that detention is favoured by this Government, and previous ones, is that schools as institutions have become highly effective at mounting campaigns against the deportation of pupils as well as supporting their needs. Schools are legally required to support racial equality and often have policies committed to social justice. Refugee and asylum seeker's children establish friendships in the school and their families begin to make links with the local community. These friendships and connections challenge negative stereotypes as refugees and asylum seekers become real people, with names, characters, emotions and histories and earn the respect of the host community.
An exemplary approach to providing support for refugee children is provided in Brent by Salusbury World, a charity operating from Salusbury Primary School in Queen's Park. A BBC report on one family's experience can be seen here: Child Abuse by UK Border Agency
Paul Connett, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Chemistry at St Lawrence University New York State, gave an enlightening and condemning talk, after being briefed on the proposed waste plans, including a site visit of the area by members of the Coalition for a Sustainable Brent Cross Cricklewood (BXC) Plan. He ripped apart the “green wash” claims made by the developers that the plans are harmless and “not incineration” and called the plant a “gasifying incinerator”.
He stated that no gasification plant anywhere in the world has been used to successfully dispose of commercial waste by burning, that the technology is unproven other than for burning wood, that burning waste is not the answer to achieve “zero waste” and that the emission of ultra fine nano particulates by these plants isn't regulated.
Professor Paul Connett said, “These modern new-style incinerators put out more nano-particles than the old ones. The particles are so small that rather than lodging in the lungs they enter the bloodstream. You would have to be STUPID to put one of these things near a community – schools and homes are being put at risk from non-regulated and potentially lethal emissions. We need to protect our citizens from this stupidity. The United States hasn’t allowed any new incinerators since 1995, so why have Barnet? Developers should come clean and give us the information. Barnet need to move from PR to solid answers.”
He added, “After 25 years you would be no closer to sustainability compared to zero waste. An incinerator is one big black box. Aiming for zero waste is hundreds of little green boxes.”
Lia Colacicco, Co-ordinator of the BXC Coalition said, “The Professor’s views have confirmed our worst fears that plans are totally wrong for this area. Not only is it not safe, it’s incredibly stupid. It’s madness to burn waste, crazy to put this so close to a local school, and dishonest to claim it is harmless and not incineration. This is not the right way to deal with our waste, and only confirms that plans for Brent Cross are not in the public interest. If the developers don't believe it is an incinerator, then give us the plans and show us the facts.”
“We are also concerned that Barnet Councillors have been hoodwinked by developers’ PR to believe the plant is safe, when neurotoxins will be emitted. We do not believe that Barnet Councillors and those making the decisions have fully researched the facts or have even visited the site. If they had done so they would be fully aware of the implications of this toxic monster of a scheme.”
Local Councillor Alec Castle said, “Professor Connett’s enlightening talk makes it even more clear that the Brent Cross development would have a catastrophic impact on the environment and the health of local residents if approved in its current form.”
The proposed site for the incinerator is just 200 yards from Our Lady of Grace Infants School in Dollis Hill, Brent. Brent Friends of the Earth had previously condemned the plans over toxic dioxin emissions that developers admitted would be released from the plant, about monitoring of emissions and lack of detail in the plans.
The coalition now consists of twelve residents groups in Barnet, Camden and Brent, three political parties, two MPs, two London Assembly Members, three Friends of the Earth groups, London-wide and local transport campaigners, a cycling campaign, a large local employer and individual local residents. It aims to demand and achieve a public inquiry to prevent BXC being built according to current plans.
Brent Green Party is a member of the Coalition.
Friday, 25 September 2009
They say, "We object that the plans for cyclists along the A5, south and northbound, would create new and significant hazards on a route which is already difficult to negotiate.
Southbound it would be impossible to travel across the North Circular without a massive detour and negotiation of ramps. The only direct alternative for cyclists will be to use the flyover. Few cyclists will want to risk that; to get on and off the flyover you have to ride across two lanes of fast traffic on slip roads at each end. This will significantly increase the chances of casualties, and possibly deaths, among cyclists. The A5 is an ancient route that the public has been able to traverse in a straight line for close on 2000 years. These plans will remove this right from cyclists and pedestrians. They also contradict the Mayor's plans for 'cycle superhighways', which are supposed to be 'safe, direct, continuous, visible, comfortable and informative'. "
"I strongly support the call of the Coalition for a Sustainable Brent Cross for the rejection of the £5bn Brent Cross/Cricklewood development application to Barnet Council. The proposed development would have a major impact on traffic and pollution across the whole of North West London, particularly the neighbouring boroughs of Brent and Camden. Barnet Council is not qualified to take decisions that impact significantly beyond the borough's boundaries and the London Mayor must make it his business to intervene."
Navin Shah, Labour Assembly member for Brent and Harrow added his voice to the swelling opposition:
“Barnet Council’s deferral follows months of delays and dithering that doesn’t bode well for the application. The Brent Cross application has already been delayed for the past year, and the problems that have dogged it appear to continue to do so.”
“The large number of objections is illustrative of serious problems with this huge application. Thousands of northwest London residents and objections from neighbouring Brent and Camden Councils show this application is seriously flawed in terms of major issues including affordable housing, traffic generation and its complete disregard for sustainability.”
“Given the sheer size of the application, it is vital Barnet gets this redevelopment right. The delays show they know the objections are serious and well merited. I urge the Council to do all it can to avoid all too obvious, and costly mistakes by demanding more from this flawed and unambitious planning application that will currently do more damage than good."
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
“We need proper regeneration of the Brent Cross area, giving the local community real power in its design and phasing, not the PR myths that are more fiction than fact. A growing number of groups across London won’t be fooled by the developers’ spin and ‘green-wash’ painted on these 1980s car-based plans, when they should be environmentally designed for the 21st Century.”