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Monday, 20 March 2017

The Return of Wembley Stadium's Transport Blight

The proposed increase in matches at Wembley Stadium due for consideration at Brent's Planning Committee on Thursday has rightly raised disquiet. 

The increased number of full scale events plus an unknown number of smaller events are bound to lead to more congestion in the Wembley area.  Last time I used the Jubilee line when a weekday match was on the overcrowding stretched from Westminster all the way to Wembley Park.  Dozens more events will impose significant extra burdens on residents in terms of littering, ASB and so on. 

What gets mentioned less often is the possibility of economic blight for businesses.  Constantly impassable roads will make it very hard for non-Stadium related businesses to operate near the Stadium.  There is a real risk that, rather than brave the congestion, the customers of the LDO and other outlets will simply go elsewhere.  The effect might be to create the monoculture around the old Stadium of gross overcrowding whenever a match is on, combined with dereliction outside those hours.  That would be a real step backwards.

I hope therefore, the Planning Committee defers the decision until they have had a chance to analyse the transport impacts thoroughly.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Willesden Jewish Cemetery Lottery Award

No one locally appears to have picked up the good news about Willesden Jewish Cemetery.  It has been awarded a more than £300k grant for improvements.  It is hoped that this might be augmented by further grants.  The plans sound ambitious:

"The ‘House of Life’ project will restore the eight hectare graveyard and create a new visitor centre, cafĂ©, learning centre and permanent exhibition about the cemetery’s history."

It also sounds like there could be a natural tie in with the Brent Museum to work upon some educational projects celebrating Willesden's rich Jewish history.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Willesden Library Cafe Finally Arrives

Willesden Library has finally got a cafe, or at least some one has signed a contract to rent the space.  The tenant is called Delipod, and tends to do "pop up" cafes.  I notice it is locally based, very close to the Library.  Finally seeing something open there will be a great thing to see after so many false starts.  The advantage lies not much in the rent as the sense of extra activity that would be brought to the whole centre. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Scrutiny Improvement at Brent Council

The forthcoming Full Council meeting has a short review of Scrutiny arrangements as part of its business.  I dare say this will be widely overlooked as the Budget is debated the same night.  The conclusion appears to be that the new dual committee structure will be rather more effective than the single committee structure rammed through by Cllr Butt in 2014.  However, the short review available doesn't seem able to find any examples where the Scrutiny process has actually produced better outcomes. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

ARK Academy Award

Good to see that the Ark Academy in Wembley is getting an award for acting as a sports venue for the local community.  Not enough schools act in this way, in some ways for understandable reasons.  Aside from the sheer bother of managing a sports venue for hire, there is the issue of who bears the costs.

In the case of ARK, as I recall availability to the local community was part of the planning permission back in 2009.  It is also an outcome of that process in the sense that at the time the site was merely a muddy field, with a tendency to become water logged in winter.  Building the school upgraded the facilities to the ones described by the Kilburn Times as:

"On site facilities at the academy include a high-quality 3G astroturf pitch set against the backdrop of the famous Wembley Stadium.  There is an outdoor 11a side pitch and a 5a side pitch and during the colder months, visitors can book the indoor 5a side area.  The Football Association partly funded the project to create an excellent grassroots venue for Londoners to book online."

The application, and hence the facilities available to the wider community, were bitterly opposed by the Conservative Party and the Tory Party at the time, as Martin Francis' contemporaneous account recalls.  Incidentally, Martin was highly critical of me in that for voting in favour of the planning permission.  He seems to have regarded disagreeing with him as being an inherently unprincipled thing to do, which it is not.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Brexit Comes Home

Brent Council's Equalities Committee should congratulated for its work on European Union minorities in the Borough.  In a report tonight, the Committee is trying to get to grips with the scale of the problem.  Unfortunately, this is an area where even trying to work out many people are affected by Brexit is quite hard. 

Nor do we have any real control over whether such people want to stay or leave the UK.  The present Tory government, led by a woman who has followed a pretty nasty anti immigrant policy for several years as Home Secretary, seems to want to make their life as nasty as possible

All this strikes as really a very illiberal and unpleasant approach that most people in our Borough will find deeply disturbing and conducive to poor community relations. 

At least Brent is trying to quantify the problem, which is the first step to doing something about the issues involved.