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Monday, 31 July 2017

Is Brent Council Getting a Good Deal from Quintain?

Right at the end of last week's Brent Council Cabinet there is a document recommending a £17.8 million spend on the public realm around Brent Civic Centre.  That is a lot of money by any standard. 

I have long been an advocate of a high quality public realm around the Civic Centre, and Wembley Library in particular, so you might think I would simply welcome this.  In fact I have already welcomed the existing surroundings.  The burden of the changes would partly fall on the Council and partly on Quintain, and it leaves me wondering whether the Council is getting the best possible deal.

I am not not reassured by the opacity of Quintain's relationship with the Council, or what often strike me as the perverse judgements of Cllr Muhammed Butt in planning matters, or the degree to which the Planning Committee is independent of the Council Leader's influence.  The days when a Council Leader was subject to an investigation for a (false) accusation that she was seeking to influence a planning decision appear to be far behind us. 

The contribution to Quintain is phrased as being in return for concessions, but it is not clear what these are or why Brent wants to change its previous policies.  In the past, there have been strong pressures for more parking spaces near the Civic Centre, with little apparent understanding that urban planners regard the provision of more spaces as just generating more car use and therefore more pressure for parking spaces.  I am really not at all clear that the current political leadership of Brent Council is sophisticated enough to negotiate with a major company such as Quintain

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