Dumpers get best service?

For the first time I have to dispose of a bulky item too big to transport to the Park Royal Recycling Centre.  Being a responsible resident, I arranged for it to be picked up and paid the £25 charge.  I now discover it will be TWELVE DAYS before it is collected!  Now if I had dumped it on the pavement, it would probably be cleared within a day or two.  So dumpers appear to get a better service than responsible residents!


Plan for Learie Constantine Open Space approved

As a local councillor I have had a lot to do over the years with listening to residents' views and promoting the necessary improvements to the open space in Villiers Road. Thanks to the Labour Government's "Playbuilder" scheme, Brent has been given generous funds to improve this and other open spaces for children's play.  The Parks Service used "Groundworks" to do the independent consultation. It is good to see that work has started on the site. There are some conditions intended to address local residents' concerns. The site will not be used between dusk and 8 am and gates will be closed between these times so neighbours won’t be disturbed in the evenings.  The condition to restrict lighting is also to avoid disturbing neighbours. There is finally a limit to the height of fencing to 2.4m in height from pavement level to ensure the site has a good visual appearance.


Willesden Safer Neighbourhoods Police Panel

Attended the Willesden Green police panel this week. We are fortunate to have such a good safer neighbourhoods team who are making good progress in the targets panel members set them. Targets set have been addressing anti-social behaviour around the Library Centre, speeding vehicles and graffiti. Problems around the library have virtually stopped - helped in part by making the outside walls less attractive to sit upon!  Earlier this year around 50 street drinking incidents, there are now virtually none.  We changed this target to reducing burglaries – especially important in the Christmas period. There have been several speed testing operations around schools and some drivers found to be without insurance or using mobiles. There has certainly been a reduction in graffiti ‘tags’ around Willesden. Recording and tracking ‘tags’ is an essential element of the improvements, as is the successful court action against perpetrators.


Alcohol sales licence reviews

If you have problems with a licensed premise nearby, whether a bar, club or retail shop, you can contact Health, Safety and Licensing to investigate the complaint and to take action where possible. Breaching any of the long list of conditions Brent puts on successful licence applications can trigger a review. Problems could include noisy premises or patrons and under age sales. While residents are understandably concerned about young people drinking to excess, “binge” drinking is less prevalent in Brent - at 10% - than in London overall where the average percentage is 15.4%.
In some instances it may be better to ask for a license review if there is sufficient evidence. Grounds for a review must be connected to one of the four objectives: prevention of crime and disorder, prevention of public nuisance, protection of children from harm and public safety. You should have details of dates and times and the nature of your complaint. It also helps if there is supporting evidence such as flyers for events, other advertisements, photographs or corroborative statements from other witnesses. Licence reviews are put before the Council’s Licensing Committee and you or your representative (can be a councillor) should attend a hearing. I have been involved in presenting evidence for one review and am gathering evidence for another. They can make a difference!


Dumpers' Charter still in force!

The truth will out! The Liberal Democrat /Tory coalition running Brent Council have admitted that their introduction of a £25 charge for collecting bulky waste led to a fall in special collections. There was a decline in July 2007 (67% from June to July) and the Lead Member admitted this was down to the introduction of the charge for special collections. We see the result every day - on our streets!

Listening to traders

The Council has been consulting on improvements to the Library Centre junction. Changes to benefit pedestrians have been proposed, such as widening, repaving and "de-cluttering" footways and extending traffic islands. Also proposed are new loading bays for the shops. At last night's Willesden Partnership meeting, the proposals were discussed with traders who had concerns about the scheme. Flooding has been a real problem as local shops have been flooded. There was relief that the scheme would cure this problem permanently. It was really good to have shop keepers present to raise their concerns and to witness their concerns being listened to and their ideas being included in design changes. There was concern that work would start before the Christmas period. Am delighted to report start date is now deferred to early January so as not to interfere with the seasonal trading the shops were depending upon.


Learie Constantine Open Space

Have been waiting for news of this refurbishment after several years calling for this site to have some attention! A planning application has been submitted for the redevelopment of the Learie Constantine Open Space in Villiers Road. Funding is available thanks to a generous grant from the Labour Government's Playbuilder" scheme. In summary, the proposal is described as the creation of a public park with installation of children's play equipment, sand pit, seating, associated landscaping and installation of mesh fence, brick wall and wooden board fence to perimeter of site to ensure neighbours' privacy is protected. Having looked at the plans, the proposals are really exciting and will make a major contribution to improving the environment in the area. Now the primary school I am involved with is to contribute ideas for a mural on the hoarding while the work goes on behind. They will work with a professional artist linked to Groundworks, the organisation that managed the local consultation. Full details are now available on



Willesden Green Post Office

“Campaigning” is an overworked word in the Liberal Democrats’ vocabulary. A Thesaurus definition of a campaign is given as “vote-seeking activities”. True, even if it leads to no discernable action or result.  The franchising of the Willesden Green Post Office in 2006 is an example. A flurry of banners and photo opportunities followed PO Ltd’s intention to franchise the Crown PO to a limited company. Such “campaigns” tend not to last long.

My approach has been different and has continued to recent months. It may not achieve much change but monitoring has been persistent. I wrote to both PO Ltd and PostWatch in 2006. My first objection was that the franchise company was not listed at Companies House at the time of the consultation letter (10th April), although in this, the company was described as “newly registered”.  In fact, it was not registered until 19th April. This was misleading and cast some doubt on PO Ltd statement that there were “rigorous procedures” in the selection of franchise partners.

In my second objection letter, I asked whether the potential for renting empty rooms above the Post Office had been considered to reduce the subsidy and provide income to maintain the current service in PO Ltd hands. This information was described as “commercially sensitive” for both parties, but reading between the lines of the fuzzy reply, was more of a incentive to the potential franchisees than to the Post Office in maintaining a public service.
In recent months the franchisee submitted a planning application (since refused) to develop flats in the upper floors of the building. There were more questions for PO Ltd which retains the freehold ownership of the building according to Land Registry records. I therefore asked whether PO Ltd was aware of the application, would PO Ltd benefit from revenues from the flats or will the franchisee be the sole beneficiary, and if so, would some of the revenue go towards improving services, such as reducing the regular long queues?
Yes, they knew of the application, but no, cannot answer the others as information exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. A situation to watch for a while longer I believe.
Is the policy of other parties so different?  It is Lib Dem policy to privatise post offices by selling off 50% and using the proceeds to subsidise the existing network. What is missing is any idea about what to do when the proceeds run out and you are left with a unprofitable retail network. The Conservatives also planned to privatise the Post Office in 1994.


Future of Willesden Police Station

The proposed closure of the station is reported to be temporarily "on hold", but the Safer Neighbourhood Team will remain at their new base in Walm Lane.  The argument for closure has always been that the building is not fit for the purpose of modern policing and it is suspected that this will remain the strongest argument against it staying open rather than any political party led "campaign" that purports to  have "saved" the station from closure.

A new and more pressing argument may be generated by the statement from Deputy Commissioner, Tim Goodwin, that the Police need to save £48m from next year's budget.  He said the force was facing "considerable pressure" which could see "unfit" police stations and custody suites replaced with front counters.  If there's a stark choice, I would rather see officer numbers maintained rather than unfit buildings and suspect this would be a view shared by a number of Willesden residents.  


Willesden Green "Neighbourhood Working"

Each ward in Brent has a "Neighbourhood Working" project. Councillors, officers and resident representatives meet for regular walkabouts or discussions to identify issues which could be helped by the small funds for each ward.

In Willesden it was agreed to use funds last year to put up "Neighbourhood Watch" signs to help encourage other roads to join in. Also purchased were graffiti removal kits which the local police distributed to shop keepers and a percentage of time for mobile CCTV cameras. There was concern about some anti-social behaviour involving young people in the Library area and wanted some positive ways to avoid it. Youth Service officers discussed alternative activities with young people and the fund supported music production workshops as part of the Youth Services' "Summer University Programme". Noticed the sofa seating in the Library vestibule? They are from Neighbourhood Working funds as well and are well used.

We can only spend the funds on actions and functions that are not the council's responsibility to deal with. We shall soon meet to consider the projects for this year and would welcome more ideas from residents.

Redundant crossovers

Some residents may know of sites with "redundant" crossovers - places where cars used to cross and park but no longer needed if the site has been redeveloped. These can be returned to pavement and some more parking space created. This is particularly helpful in a controlled area where parking is tight. A redundant crossover found in Beaconsfield Road is one example. The pavement was restored and additional parking bay space provided. Let me know if there are similar redundant crossovers in your road or area.


Loss of family housing?

Large parts of Willesden Green consist of Victorian and Edwardian terrace houses. I am concerned that so many family size houses have been converted to flats or bedsits over the past ten years or so and reducing the stock of larger properties the borough so badly needs. Like other London boroughs, Brent has a very long list of families applying for affordable housing. Many are currently in overcrowded conditions and wait a long time for a suitable property to become available.

In some Willesden roads, nearly half of the houses appear to have been converted already and have changed the community of residents. I suspect that some developers focus on roads with houses of very similar dimensions and style so they can use the same plans for different planning applications.

It is therefore good to know that the planning service can sometimes refuse an application (using policy H17) that would result in the loss of “a small purpose-built family dwelling” failing to “aid in the retention of mixed and balanced communities through a variety of housing sizes.” I would welcome this policy guidance being used more regularly in Willesden.


Satellite dishes - No longer needed?

A resident has pointed out that there are satellite dishes all over Willesden and they do spoil the look of houses. Before 2004 planning permission was required generally, but national guidance changed the policy, so that permission only needed in conservation areas and for listed buildings. Suspect assumption was that the technology was changing and dishes would eventually be obsolete. Problem may be that they are not removed even when no use any more. The Borough is developing new policies and guidelines in the Local Development Framework that all authorities expected to produce. I am contacting the planning service to find discover current thinking on dishes and whether related policies or guidance are being developed.


Building on Willesden Reservoir?

Thames Water is considering putting in a planning application for 49 dwellings on the “brown field” part of the Reservoir.  Thames Water has delivered leaflets to households most likely to be affected by the development – Harlesden and Kings Roads.  I have met with residents to explain the planning process and how they might put their comments and objections when there is a formal planning application. 


Sainsbury's car park

Delighted to report that the Brent Highways Committee have agreed to officers' recommendations to remove parking bays in Richmond Avenue, the entry to the supermarket from the High Road. I see this as a sensible decision at last, having urged both the Council and Sainsbury’s to retain the current entry and exit to the store rather than proposing unsuccessful planning applications for entry via Ellis Close and a complicated revision of the car park itself. It was also agreed to create a new bay in Ellis Close and to step up enforcement. This should ensure a safer entry and exit for customers and the increased enforcement should deal more effectively with the suspected misuse of disabled blue badges in the area. Less good news was the removal of recycling facilities at Sainsbury's a few months ago. There are too few recycling sites in the ward - especially for cardboard.


Willesden fly-tips

Sadly, Willesden tops the list for fly tipping in the borough, with 89 incidents in April, 76 in May and 67 in June. While incidents are decreasing, we must do our bit to stop people dumping to avoid the collection charge brought in by the current Lib Dem/ Conservative council administration. Under the Waste “Duty of Care” regulations, householders are responsible for making sure that their waste is disposed of legally or they could face a fine. They need to check if someone knocking on their door offering to remove bulky items are authorised waste collectors and not “cowboys” who will dump the rubbish anywhere. New rules also make it easier for councils to take action against anyone caught illegally transporting waste or caught fly-tipping.  If you see a dumping incident it can be reported to 8937 5050 or let me know.  Pass the soap ....


A brief history of Willesden Green

The name comes from the Anglo-Saxon 'Wellesdune', meaning 'the hill of the spring'. The Doomsday book of 1086 records it as 'Wellesdone'. By the 14th century there were houses and farms. By the middle of the 18th century the village had grown and had its own pub, The Spotted Dog, described in 1792 as 'a well accustomed Publick House'. In the 19th century it was famous for its pleasure gardens and in the 1920s boasted a dance hall.
In the early 18th century Willesden was notorious for 'baby farming', when unwanted infants from London were sent to be nursed. Before the coming of the railway, Willesden was essentially an agricultural area, supplying hay, milk and horses to London.
In the 19th century there were some large mansions and professional people living alongside farmers. Poorer cottages were built too, including on Pound Lane (named after a brick animal pound demolished in 1895). The Metropolitan Railway opened Willesden Green Station in 1879. At one time in the 1890s four houses were being built in the area every day. From 1870s, the Furness Brick Works (Chambers Lane) was supplying bricks and tiles and employed many residents. The Anglo-Catholic St Andrew's Church provided a church school and some social facilities, including a men's club, a parish library and a soup kitchen. By the start of the 20th century farms disappeared and were replaced by villas and cottages. By 1910 most of the original Green had disappeared.

Shops grew along the High Road. Many inhabitants worked in building and transport. The original Willesden Library was built in 1894.
During WW1 many Willesden residents were out of work. Willesden suffered severe bomb damage during WW2, because of the concentration of industry and railway lines. In October 1940 more bombs fell on Willesden than on East Ham. Willesden's war effort is marked by a memorial in Willesden New Cemetery. Willesden purchased a bomber and a Spitfire named Borough of Willesden and flown by a Polish squadron. At this time many Irish people came to live in Willesden Green. They worked in factories supplying the armed forces.

From “Brent Heritage” http://www.brent-heritage.co.uk/index.htm