All I want for Christmas is The Queensbury

Action Stations

The latest plan to demolish The Queensbury at 110 Walm Lane was refused by Brent Council in May. The developer is now appealing to a government inspector and the deadline for comments from local residents is 3rd JANUARY 2019.

Please make your views known to the Inspector, the more the better. Head to this website:

Click on Make Representation – as a local resident you are an “Interested Person”

What should you say? Use your own words, but the things relevant to the Appeal are:

Conservation stuff

The Queensbury is a standout / gateway building at a cornerstone location, undervalued as a community asset and should be retained.

The proposed building is not a worthy replacement of the existing building, because of its poor design.

Demolition of the building and putting up 48 flats does not outweigh the harm that the proposal would cause to the character and appearance of the Mapesbury Conservation Area.

The proposal would not preserve the character and appearance of the Mapesbury Conservation Area, it is a modern-looking step backwards.

The scheme does not have enough affordable housing to justify demolition of the existing building.

The existing building should be protected on a local list, as the previous appeal suggested.

Pub stuff

There is a lot of debate about the new design of the building compared with the existing, but nothing about the design of the pub in the new building.

The replacement Queensbury will have low ceilings, limited outdoor space (overlooked by balconies of flats above) and lack character both inside and out.

There are no safeguards to protect the pub’s viability in a new scheme. For example lack of soundproofing of residential flats above the pub will lead to complaints (threatening the viability of the pub).

Access for prams and wheelchair users is restricted, because toilets are in the basement. The current building has one level access and toilets on the same floor. This is important for Busy Rascals users and the new design is a step backwards.

The previous plans insisted that the developer returns to Brent Council for specific permission to change the use from a pub to something else in the future. (Some developers promise a pub then say one isn’t viable, further down the line and once development has been approved. This will help stop that).

Busy Rascals stuff

Busy Rascals will be homeless. This impacts not just families using The Queensbury but the teachers who are paid to run classes.

At the last appeal the developer (Fairview Homes) provided a “ground floor use and operation statement” and accepted an obligation via a s106 agreement to find suitable accommodation for Busy Rascals during construction AND that development would not start until the developer had identified and made available the temporary community accommodation. This appeal should contain the same but it does not.

What Happens Next?

Please get comments in by 3rd January

Later in January a date will be set for the Appeal, likely to be a five day public inquiry and probably not before March 2019.

In the meantime, tell your friends and neighbours and encourage them to comment too.

Let’s play “Spot the Difference”

We feared the latest “exhibition” on demolition of The Queensbury would be a nightmare scenario and unfortunately our fears came true.

The exhibition presented two new “options” from GML Architects but was totally silent on their current Appeal proposal and there was no mention of retaining the existing building at 110 Walm Lane, which the previous Appeal thought desirable to retain, on conservation grounds. Any replacement to The Queensbury has to enhance conservation but boy oh boy how ugly is this?

The developer was not at the exhibition which is not only disrespectful but also plain weird. From that point onwards last night it was clear that this was a tickbox exercise with little intention of listening to residents. The PR company claim all the details are on the dedicated website but this is a dead site. It all points to a pointless exercise, falling considerably short of good practice engagement.

What did they exhibit?

Spot the difference. The first photo below is the scheme that they are appealing, to the government inspector and we face a six day public enquiry, again. This proposal was not on show last night but there was a “new” plan which looks cunningly similar.

The PR company only asked “option one or option two” with one having a roof that sloped slightly more than the other, but neither option was the plan that is subject to appeal. None of the graphics on show last night showed any image of the monstrosity of the rear of the block, focussing entirely on the front.

There were no graphics of the design they are appealing (the one below is from the previous application), which is very strange when the design is practically identical.

So what is going on here?

Architects claim that officers at Brent Council have advised them throughout on alterations that would be approved, for example having bay windows in spite of the building next door having none. They were surprised that the last plan was kicked out without even going to the planning committee.

What’s our view?

Classic developer tactics are at play.

The tactic is to swamp the planning department with three simultaneous applications – two that were on show and one being appealed – thus presenting a fait accompli or in plain English “we’ll keep going with one of these plans and there is nothing else on the table. Officers take your pick. We’ve spoked to the community and they prefer plan A over plan B.”

Any suggestion of retaining The Queensbury building, in a sympathetic scheme that enhances conservation is not possible in planning terms, so they’ll say.

Of course, we disagree. Just up the road is a scheme to retain the old police station, to develop it and build around it. That site is more constrained that 110 Walm Lane, more expensive to develop and presents significantly greater challenges. If it is possible there then it is possible here.

There is a fourth option.

The developer is appealing one decision and has placed two other plans on the table but there is a fourth option.

The prospects for the existing building are boundless – a cinema, boutique hotel, theatre, creative hub, nursery, retail….. with mews houses or apartments surrounding. It takes is a creative developer (willing to make slightly less profit) and a quality architect with experience which GML clearly are not.

It also takes officers at Brent Council to give clear, unequivocal advice to the developer that the existing building should be retained. By all means offer to work with the developer, but on a scheme predicated on that approach.

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Halloween horrors

STQ poster Nov 18It’s been quiet since May, then shock and horror for Halloween week.
In a leaflet drop over the weekend the owner / developer of 110 Walm Lane gave notice of a public consultation at St Gabriel’s Church Hall next Thursday 8th November. This is an exhibition of a “new plan” and an opportunity to “have your questions answered” yet the leaflet bizarrely fails to mention the pub nor include any further detail on what is planned. Likewise the dedicated website (www.walmlane.co.uk) provides just a date and map, so we have no clue how much of nightmare the New Plan will be.
Save The Queensbury is easily confused. At the same time the developer has applied to the government’s planning Inspectorate (cynically just days before the legal deadline) for a six day public inquiry into Brent Council’s decision to save the pub from demolition – based on the plan kicked out in May by Brent Council.
Please tell your neighbours, Councillor, friends and others about this and encourage them to pop along and give their views.

MayDay MayDay – Planning permission refused (again)

On 1st May Brent Council posted a note on their planning website saying that permission to demolish The Queensbury has been REFUSED.

We have outlined previously how Officers at Brent Council have worked closely with the developers yet consistently ignored our requests to meet to discuss how to protect the building from demolition.

Hence as things stand we do not know why the permission has been refused and whether it is on grounds of conservation, or merely because the developer has been encouraged to use a different colour of roof tile. This happened previously and fresh plans were submitted by the developer, but with slightly amended plans.

So for now, the champagne is on ice. It’s great that the pub lives to fight another day and we await the full decision and the rationale for it.

Locals maintain that the building is significant and the previous Appeal was clear. We ask once again for any developer wanting to profit on the site to build AROUND The Queensbury and NOT demolish it.

Thank you for your ongoing support and watch this space to see what happens next.

Update: the decision notice has been published HERE

Save The Queensbury Year Seven

QueensburyFairview Homes have moved on and the new freeholder of 110 Walm Lane, Redbourne (Queensbury) Ltd have submitted a plan to demolish the existing building, including The Queensbury public house. The application number is 18/0210 and the full details can be found here:

https://pa.brent.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=DCAPR_138145

In its place will be a five storey block comprising 48 “high quality” flats (14 x 1 bed, 22 x 2 bed, 11 x 3 bed, 1 x 4 bed). No more than 15 flats will be “affordable” because of the developer’s viability analysis. The affordable element is the minimum to avoid detailed scrutiny of “viability” and will be in a separate block to the marketed flats, at the rear.

There is a pub planned for the ground floor, along with a community space (essentially the function room of the pub). Both these combined are apparently a larger floor area than the current public house and there will be an element of outdoor seating.

The developer is apparently content for planning permission to be subject to a condition removing permitted development rights which would enable change the use of the public house without planning permission. This was a major victory of our ‘previous’ campaign because this has been the demise of many a pub (permission is granted to develop but a pub fails to materialise over time, with viability cited as the reason).

According to the developer, the benefits of this scheme are numerous and weighty. A “Heritage Impact Assessment” finds that the proposal would have a ‘broadly neutral’ effect on surrounding designated heritage assets. In other words, demolishing 110 Walm Lane will not adversely affect conservation in Mapesbury and Willesden Green. Many locals disagree with this and would like to keep the existing building.

How to respond?

Brent Planning Committee will decide on the plans, in due course and comments should be made via the portal listed above. The committee will not take much note of objections such as:

  • the pub won’t be the same
  • noise and disruption during building works
  • targets on affordable housing will be missed
  • there aren’t enough schools / doctors for all these people
  • we have too many flats already.

The committee will need sound planning policy reasons such as:

  • The existing building makes a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the Mapesbury conservation area and should be retained.
  • Regardless of the size and shape of the proposal, the replacement of the existing building would lose the historical presence of original built form at the gateway to the conservation area.
  • The proposal neither preserves nor enhances the area’s character or appearance.
  • The appeal of the previous planning application concluded that the existing building makes a positive contribution to the setting of the Grade II listed tube station, which would be desirable to preserve.
  • New development would erode historic character. As a result, evidence of the original development and subsequent evolution of area, in particular of its buildings used by the community, would be lost. There would be harm to the conservation area’s historic interest.
  • There are no plans to rehouse Busy Rascals while development takes place. There should be a universal undertaking that commits that development can not commence until suitable alternative temporary accommodation for Busy Rascals has been secured, at no expense to the group.

Our view

Save The Queensbury have always accepted that the site is ripe for development but maintain that the location and neighbourhood means that a financial return could be realised by retaining the historic building and reopen it to wider use.

Although smaller in height than the previous plan, the proposal is still dense (particularly at the rear) and this is another example of profit outweighing conservation and community need.

Engagement with the community has been minimal and Busy Rascals do not feature in any of the 36 associated documents. There is no impact assessment on the removal of the vital services they provide, nor alternatives whilst building progresses.

Save The Queensbury represents those who want to protect the current building as an important focal point of history in Mapesbury and also to preserve the pub and community space.

Here we go again…

Following a long period of silence and pub enjoyment we have been notified by Brent Council that the owner / developer of 110 Walm Lane is holding a public exhibition at St Gabriel’s Church Hall on Thursday and Friday next week (28th and 29th September) between 4pm and 8pm.

This is a pre-planning consultation event and whilst we have had no contact from the developer, we gather the intention is to demolish The Queensbury and build a mixed-use development, 48 flats, including a new pub with function room. Blurb from the PR company running the consultation (Quatro-PR) claims the development is sympathetic to the Mapesbury Conservation area.

As a local interest group, we have also been invited to observe a meeting at Brent Civic Centre on 9th October, where Councillors will be briefed on the plans. It has been made clear to us that we cannot participate in that meeting but can merely observe.

We await detail of the proposals – no plan has been submitted as yet – but it is a brave developer who submits a similar plan to those derided not only by local residents, but by Brent Council and the government’s planning inspectorate too.

Keep an eye on twitter and facebook for updates.

Madness of March

When it comes to saving The Queensbury, something usually happens in March. So STQ towers are a little nervous that it’s almost the last week of March and nothing much has happened, yet.

In March 2013 we had our one and only meeting with representatives of Fairview New Homes.

In March 2014 Brent’s planning committee threw out the application to demolish the pub.

In March of 2015 the government’s inspector threw out the appeal.

It’s now March 2016 and we can’t help feel uneasy that nothing of note has happened – least not that we’re aware of…

Still no news on when Brent Council will list the building locally and our efforts to uncover who took a decision to not proceed have drawn a blank. It’s a secret, apparently. Still no new planning application from the building’s owners.

Perhaps we’ll get to eat eggs stress-free this year?

 

When is a decision not a decision? Smoke and mirrors at Brent Council

Our attempt to get The Queensbury added to Brent Council’s local list of protected buildings has uncovered the murky world of Brent Council decision-making. The Councillor charged with taking the decision will no longer return our emails, we’ve had to resort to Freedom of Information legislation.

A property developer bought The Queensbury pub in Willesden Green almost four years ago and lodged a plan to build a 10 storey tower block in its place. Save The Queensbury was formed and we convinced Brent Council’s planning department to reject the plans. We then represented ourselves at a five day public inquiry when the developer appealed, unsuccessfully and the Inspector spoke highly of the merits of the existing building.

From the start we believed that the building, in a conservation area, should have been protected by being added to Brent’s “local list” of buildings. The problem is, we have been left completely confused as to who takes a decision as to what buildings are on the list and have now been stonewalled by decision-makers at Brent Council.

Back in 2012 we were told that there were no plans to review Brent’s list, which contains buildings as diverse as the State Ballroom in Kilburn to the bandstand in Queens Park.

In June 2014 a mysterious report appear on Brent’s website, rightly adding Kensal Rise library to the list but claiming that The Queensbury had been reviewed but would not be added. Naturally this was a blow so we asked for the assessment to be made public. Brent refused to publish the assessment so we complained to Brent’s Chief Executive and asked for this to be looked at by a senior officer, away from those close to the decision.

Instead we had a reply giving Brent a clean bill of health – from a manager in the same department who we wanted to be investigated as failing to consult with residents. (Bear in mind also that officers in planning have twice recommended that the pub be demolished, in spite of local opposition). Weird, eh?

Fast forward to summer 2015 and Brent consulted on a review of the local list and we, along with dozens of residents, asked for The Queensbury to be listed. Cllr Margaret McLennan, Brent Council’s lead member for housing and development, said: “This consultation is a chance for residents to have their say on the pieces of Brent’s fantastic heritage that are most important to them. I would encourage people to go online and nominate their favourite site of historical interest to be considered for inclusion on the Local List.” So we did.

We thought we were making progress when a report emerged, adding The Queensbury to the local list, later 2015. A decision was promised, in December 2015, but an email from Brent Council reveals that a decision not to proceed was apparently taken by Brent’s Cabinet.

We asked for the minutes of that decision, given that it was on a Cabinet agenda for December. No response. No agenda. No minutes. Hang on…. this is getting weirder. Where’s the transparency?

The Chair of planning then tells us that a “Policy Coordination Group” would a review the Cabinet decision but that’s left us mystified. Of all the 30+ groups and committees listed on Brent’s Democracy site, the PCG is not one. So we asked again, only to hear that the Lead Councillor (i.e. the one inviting us to participate in this democracy) will no longer comment or email us on this matter.

At the turn of 2015 we put in a Freedom of Information request to try and clear the smoke around Brent’s mysterious PCG and hopefully find out precisely who took a decision not to add The Queensbury (again) and on what basis.

In law, Brent have to respond to an FoI request, by the first week of February.

We will wait and see if we get transparency and minutes from the mystery PCG. Or at least an explanation as to why The Queensbury was not added, again. Without this, the popular and viable pub in a beautiful conservation area remains vulnerable to demolition.

Season’s greetings from Save the Queensbury

Another year draws to a close – and what a year it was.

At the start of the year we produced our case for the public inquiry, which took place in February and reported with a brilliant result in March. We won at the appeal which denied Fairview homes permission to demolish The Queensbury. Busy Rascals carries on with the children and tickets are on sale for a New Year’s bash for the grown-ups thanks to our efforts.

Since the appeal we have spent all year lobbying Brent Council to add 110 Walm Lane to its “local list” of valuable buildings but progress has been painfully slow. The “local list” was thoroughly reviewed, with officers spending months preparing the necessary paperwork but no progress has been made because senior staff at Brent Council have decided not to proceed. Nobody seems to know why. We are told there’s no conspiracy yet decisions have been taken at secret meetings (with no notes taken) and nobody can give us a timeframe. Countless emails to Councillors have been met with a stone wall response, so much that they’re no longer responding to our emails. Charming.

We have also been asking (for over three years) for a specific “pub protection” policy. We responded to a consultation back in July 2014 (yes, 2014) but whilst Brent and the Campaign for Real Ale (CamRA) agreed a policy between them, the council still has not ratified it.

Many of you emailed Brent on these two important things because they will add a layer of protection to the building. So far your voice has been completely ignored so perhaps it’s worth dropping your Councillors an email to ask when both of these will be formally adopted by the Council?

Meanwhile no news from Bah Humbug Fairview Homes. The ghost of Christmas past?

Good times for a change

Save The Queensbury began in October 2012, so long ago that some of the babies using Busy Rascals have now started school but we do have two pieces of good news this month.

Since 2012 we have been asking Brent council to protect the pub by adding it to their “local list” of buildings of interest. At last we’ve seen progress and Brent have revised their local list (for the first time this millennium) and we understand 110 Walm Lane will be included on it. Thanks to all who recently wrote to Brent council on this – your persistence has paid off.

Second, we have become a cause célèbre for pub protection locally and Brent has finally agreed a sensible policy to give its pubs special consideration when development is proposed. The policy still needs to go through various rubber stamping procedures over the coming months but the hard arguments have been won. Pub protection means that a developer has to make a case that a pub is no longer valued / used by the community, otherwise it has to be protected. (You may remember the skulduggery of 2013 when Fairview’s PR consultants tried to tell the community that the pub was loss-making and failing, to justify demolition. Brent did not have a policy to force the developer to prove this was the case).

These two things (and the ACV listing) will protect the building and the pub. We really can relax a bit now, having done all we can to stop demolition… at least until the next move by Fairview Homes who have been very quiet since losing the appeal earlier this year.

Let’s see if we get a Christmas card from them and take it from there?