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Saturday, 25 June 2016

Democratic Debate and Libraries

As we all look forward to the Brexit recession, an old story has come up again _ libraries.  An anonymous commentator has suggested that the undemocratic nature of the developments in South Kilburn, which I criticised the other day, are similar to the arrangements around the Libraries Transformation Project

South Kilburn is going through what is described as a "fundamental review" without any public debate at all.  Indeed I am not sure that even councillors are involved.  

The Libraries Transformation Project went through a whole series of discussions.  these included several public meetings when I presented the proposals, a number when council officers presented to specific groups, a questionnaire that elicited more than three thousand responses, the entire gamut of official decision making meetings that lasted from November to May, and where members of the public spoke, coverage not just in the local and national media, but also in the international media and a full blown judicial review.  It therefore had more publicity and discussion than any other Brent Council decision that I know of.

By contrast, South Kilburn could be drastically reshaped without anyone taking official responsibility and without the residents or their representatives being involved.

That is quite a contrast.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Flooding in King Edward VII Park

As the UK ponders whether to inflict utter disaster on itself today, I have never seen the Willesden King Edward VII park so badly flooded.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Parking Charge Increases

Looking at Brent Council's parking plans, I see that it is still proposed to go forward with very high charges for visitors in CPZs.  I suspect that this will be enormously controversial.  I wonder whether the Councillors pushing it will actually be willing to go out to defend their policy?

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Brent Council and Civic Enterprise

One of the paper's before Brent Council's next Cabinet is on Civic Enterprise, i.e. using Council resources to make money.  It is short to read, and strikingly uninformative.  Other authorities are approaching this sort of agenda much more robustly.  Whether Brent is not giving any detail because it wants to be secretive or because it doesn't really have any worked up ideas is not clear to me. 

Monday, 20 June 2016

Underground Car Park on Deerhurst Road

Bumping into some one outside the Willesden Sainsburys on Saturday, she reminded me that there is a renewal of the proposal for housing and a new car park at the Deerhurst Road Temple.  This is a reworking of a controversial scheme that failed to get through before

I recall at that Planning meeting, one of the Committee suggested to the applicant that he could build the care home without the proposed basement car park.  He din't welcome the idea.  This is not surprising as the main purpose of the development is to provide more car parking for the Temple.  The effect of this would simply be to increase the number of cars coming into the Willesden area, and hence traffic congestion.  For this reason the proposal runs completely counter to Brent's sustainable transport policies.  For e3xample, the next Cabinet meeting, in reviewing the Borough's parking policies is being told that:

"Car usage makes a significant contribution to the borough’s carbon emissions and air pollution.  The council is seeking, through its Transport and Parking Strategies, to Encourage a greater uptake of more sustainable modes of transport for those journeys. For example, a  5% reduction in visitors travelling by car would equate to over 20,000 fewer return car journeys, and would therefore make a significant contribution to reducing both air  pollution and carbon emissions in Brent. Concerns about air quality were expressed by residents in the consultation and many understand the direct relationship with the need for behaviour change regarding car usage."

In light of that it strikes me as very strange that officers are apparently recommending approval.

As with the previous occasion, this proposal has attracted numerous objections.  I recall previously, local residents were so exercised that one even threatened judicial review if the proposal went through.

In discussing the transport implications, officers suggest that numbers will be limited by a planning condition.  I doubt very much whether such a condition could be successfully enforced.  More remarkable still is the officers' statement (under 1.1.9) that the new car park will reduce congestion.  It is widely accepted that providing more car parking spaces simply encourages car use, and therefore increases traffic congestion. 

Sunday, 19 June 2016

South Kilburn and a Lack of Democracy

I had a couple of comments on my post on the new Marks & Spencer in South Kilburn.  "Food desert" may seem a bit extreme, but the area certainly seems short of common amenities to me.  During the recent by election, I recall being asked to get some food, and I had to trek all the way from the campaign base in Peel Precinct to Kilburn High Road.  Of course, one shop isn't going to change this, but it does seem to be a sign of improvement. 

On the wider point, it does seem to me a great pity that there isn't more public input into the changes in South Kilburn.  What makes me most unhappy is that when I went out door knocking there during the by election, many people seemed to think there was nothing they could do.  Whether they wanted changes or not, they seemed to feel that things would be done to them regardless of their wishes.  This is exactly the opposite of what local democracy is supposed to be about. 

Currently, there is supposed to be a "fundamental review", but why isn't that happening in public with the participation of those who live in and represent the area?