Wednesday, 30 June 2010
Tuesday, 29 June 2010
Monday, 28 June 2010
Sunday, 27 June 2010
Neighbourhood Working is a process designed to help councillors engage with the voters. The main purpose is the engagement and reactivity rather than the actual money. The funds are very limited (20,000 pounds per ward), and sometimes we come across problems that require no additional funding but are simply addressing the shortcomings of either the Council or other bodies.
However, some funding is available for small, one-off community projects in the Kensal Green area, so any ideas please.
Saturday, 26 June 2010
The Tory/Lib Dem administration ducked the issue by giving existing grantees a three month extension, and deferring the longer term decision to after the election. This was inconvenient for some of the organisations, which faced uncertainity over their funding. It was also bad for the organisations that will have their funding stopped, as the amount of money available to cushion them is much reduced. However, the Liberal Democrats evidently judged that it would be good for their election prospects to avoid any rows in the months up to the election.
Friday, 25 June 2010
Oriental City was a big retail centre in Queensbury. It got planning permission for a major development in 2006. The permission caused controversy as a number of the small traders in the development were moved out at no doubt considerable cost and inconvenience (although compensation was paid). In 2007, the permission was regranted for a still bigger development. Unfortunately, the developers were unable to go ahead for financial reasons. Since the permission was due to expire, they decided to ask for an extension under new powers granted to the Council last year in order to keep struggling developments alive.
This application turned up at the last Brent Planning Committee, prior to the service station site that I was there to speak on. There was a lobby from the Chinese community, including some of the former Oriental City traders, protesting that the development should be refused permission to go ahead. The reason given was that a Chinese Community Centre had been promised under the Section 106 agreement in 2007, but not constructed.
This criticism is wrongheaded in two ways. Firstly, Section 106 monies have to be linked to the development going ahead as a whole. This is because the whole justification for demanding Section 106 from a developer is that they are compensating the wider community for the extra strain being put on the wider community by a development. If there is no development, how can there be extra strain on the local infrastructure? The second, more specific reason, that the objectors were wrongheaded was that the only possibility of the old Section 106 agreement promising a Chinese Community Centre being implemented was if the old planning permission were continued. Without a development, there is no possibility of planning gain of any kind. If permission had been refused, any new application for planning permission would start from a clean slate, and a Chinese Community Centre would not necessarily be asked for.
Thursday, 24 June 2010
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
Each of the constituent Boroughs send one representative, and I am the Brent member. It has a budget of 55 million pounds and last year dealt with 697,000 tonnes of waste so it is a big responsibility.
Tuesday, 22 June 2010
It seems we are threatened by a variety of cuts to grants that are seldom heard outside local government, but which pay for things people care about. There are reductions in the performance reward grant, housing and planning grant and contaminated land grant. The cut that will hit hardest will be the elimination of subsidy for swimming for pensioners and children. As we have one of the lowest sports participation rates in London, that is particularly bad for us.
I wonder how many of the people voting for Sarah Teather at the General Election realised that they were voting for free swimming to be taken away from children and pensioners at Willesden Sports Centre?
Monday, 21 June 2010
Sunday, 20 June 2010
Saturday, 19 June 2010
Friday, 18 June 2010
Thursday, 17 June 2010
What a palaver just to get some grass returned to normal (or possibly some flowers as well as suggested in an earlier comment).
Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Brent Council's capital spend before the election on things like roads and broken pavement was kept artifically high, at just over four million pounds this year. This was made possible by raiding the financial budgets for next year and the year after, so that (on Liberal Democrat plans) the amount spent on repairing roads and pavements will fall by about 30%. However, the fall, although engineered by the Liberal Democrats, will happen only after they have been thrown out of office, so no doubt they hope to escape the blame.
Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Monday, 14 June 2010
Sunday, 13 June 2010
The idea of the Town Team is too attempt a more participatory form than urban planning has generally achieved. Traditionally, especially on Transport projects which is how this one started out, a group of Council engineers would identify an area (say an accident blackspot), draw up a detailed plan to deal with it and send out some letters about it. The public would therefore only get involved quite late in the process.
The Town Team idea is more geared to generating ideas from the public. So far, I have already seen the scope of the project change quite dramatically. It started as a "public realm" project with a focus on traffic. As a result of peoples' diffetrent inputs, it has moved to a much bigger concern with planning issues like the mix of shops or cultural initiatives like the Lexi screening in Roundwood Park.
I understand there will be a Town Team stall at the next Respect festival where people can find out more.
Saturday, 12 June 2010
After getting into office, I find we seem to have a highly ineffective billing and procurement process, seriously outdated staff structures, a rickety property portfolio and altogether an organisation whose financial management appears to have been seriously neglected in recent years. Instead of attending seriously to these problems, Paul Lorber and his colleagues seem to have been happy to just drift along.
Now we are going to have to sort it out in the midst of one of the toughest budget settlements local government has ever seen.
Friday, 11 June 2010
Cllr Jim Moher is Highways and Transportation meaning he fronts stuff like parking, road surfacing, street lighting and furniture, street cleaning, street trees and grass verges. Cllr Lincoln Beswick covers Emergency Planning under his Community Safety Brief.
I front the rest of the Environment and Culture Department's activities. The biggest single chunk is waste management, from bin collections to the waste processing (recycling, landfill etc.) at the other end. I also cover parks and Brent's sports centres; libraries (including the Grange Musuem); arts, including our programme of festivals; cemetaries and the Mortuary service; the regulatory agencies (i.e. the Planning Service, Building Control, Trading Standards, Environmental Health (including Animal Welfare and pest control), Health, Safety and Licensing), cutting the Council's carbon emissions and other sustainability targets. There are also a few other things like fulfilling our pledge to give Brent Fairtrade status, that don't fit easily into any one category.
Reading it through like that makes it all seem a little daunting.
Thursday, 10 June 2010
This is kind of thing is being dealt with under a report coming to the next Executive on public design. Making our street furniture more sustainable is admittedly only a small part of the whole.
The most controversial aspect of this report is likely to be the "shared surface" agenda. This is the idea of reducing barriers between road surfaces and pedestrian areas to blur the distinction between the two. Road safety is supposed to be maintained by drivers and pedestrians maintaining eye contact. It is controversial with disabilitiy groups, notably the RNIB, for obvious reasons.
Wednesday, 9 June 2010
Surprisingly, for a site with such a long history, a new issue has emerged in the past few days. 139 Harlesden High Street has two windows that abut the site and which would have had a severely restricted outlook. No one worried about these very much as there was an impression throughout the various applications that they were not the windows of habitable rooms. Planning policy makes a sharp distinction between "habitable rooms" like bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms, and non habitable rooms such as bathrooms, corridors and stairwells. It turns out that they are actually kitchen windows, and the only windows those rooms have. That dramatically changes the wieght they should be given in the decision, which in my view was the right one.
However, isn't it worrying that the error over whether they were habitable rooms persisted through the original application, the appeal, a subsequent outline application, and only got uncovered with the planning application refused last night?
Tuesday, 8 June 2010
Contractors have been working on the station, and this is how they have left the green space outside. Once I can establish who owns this ground (a more complex matter than you might imagine), I will try to get the contractors to pay for restoring it.
Monday, 7 June 2010
Sunday, 6 June 2010
Saturday, 5 June 2010
Friday, 4 June 2010
Thursday, 3 June 2010
Brent Council has attempted a "Don't spit paan" campaign, but I am not sure it is especially effective. As paan has been linked to mouth cancer, it may be possible to get NHS Brent to combine with the Council to do some publicity. However, I suspect that communicating with the Sri Lankan and South Indian community is most effectively reached through community networks rather than poster campaigns.
The second major issue is the problem of cleaning the stuff off. The Wembley councillors have been keen to improve the cleaning of shopfronts in Wembley, but doing so involves negotiating a minefield of different ownership with freeholders, leaseholders and tenants. Sorting out payments is therefore harder than it sounds.
It would also be interesting to find out more about better surfaces. For instance, you can get special anti-graffiti paint, and possibly it may be possible to improve the surfaces in Ealing Road and Wembley High Road to make the surfaces easier to clean.
Finally, better enforcement would obviously be a good idea. I am sure that many people in Alperton and Wembley are deeply irritated by paan spitting and would support the Police in taking tougher enforcement action against it.