Day 4 at the Public Inquiry

Alexander_cuts_the_Gordian_Knot

Day 4 was the last day and brought Busy Rascals to the Inquiry.

A local legend in her community, Sharmine gave a history of how and why she sought to bring classes and courses to Willesden, a place void of spaces compared to Kensals, Queens Park and places nearby. Firstly at the Queensbury Deli (remember that) then latterly at The Queensbury Pub, Sharmine soon established what is clearly an asset to Willesden and its surrounds.

Busy Rascals told of a few meetings with the developer, but no clear plans in writing. Fairview at least had formal paperwork at the last Inquiry, commitments to pay for an interim space and clearer ideas how the space would work.

Then a significant breakthrough, the developer has offered to pay for an interim space (loaded with reasonable, best endevours etc). No idea where that might be, but this commitment is a huge step forward if the appeal is successful.

What followed was two hours of whether Brent is set to meet its obligations on house building. Playgrounds, two schools and a community centre are slated for blocks of residential in the near future. No wonder our infrastructure is stretched.

And finally, once the Inspector returned from a visit to look at 110 Walm Lane, closing statements firstly from us, then Brent, then Redbourne’s QC.

We and Brent put a clear case: a six storey plus box, bulldozing conservation and local heritage, or not?

Safe to say Redbourne’s QC was predictably vexed at our very existence, using phrases of Vigorously Resisted; Vocal and Influential; Lobby hard against change; Paranoia; Distrust. He provided a biased critique of our website and presented the one image of Fairview’s scheme as unbalanced (against the 28 of the appalling appeal schemes which he seemingly did not find whilst boosting our traffic count on the site).

We are not phased. It is disappointing that a QC turns on the community in this way but we are factually correct in claiming that Brent has a dire record of protecting its pubs, losing 40% of them since The Queensbury opened. Many schemes promise a pub and they just do not materialise.

If this was not true we would have been called out on this by the QC days ago.

But it is true, hence our scrutiny and hence the pathetic and desperate comments that we somehow do not reflect community feeling. Willesden deserves better than this.

The final words went to Redbourne’s QC, asking the Inspector to cut the Gordian knot and allow this appeal. This is often used as a metaphor for an intractable problem (untying an impossibly-tangled knot) solved easily by finding an approach to the problem that renders the perceived constraints of the problem moot (“cutting the Gordian knot”). Unfortunately (for Redbourne) the knot is the hideous design which isn’t too Gordian and pretty easily solved – build around The Queensbury, don’t demolish it.

Now we await the Inspector’s report and decision. He is an immensely experienced and fair Inspector so whatever the outcome, we are confident that we have put our best foot forward to save The Queensbury in the short and long term.

 

Day 3 – transparency, ballads and Trojan horses

This campaign is a genuine one. We promote our aims and publicise our views so the community can be kept up to date on the future of an important local building. People look to this website and Twitter for information so we have no problem that our site stats have seen a spike in the last few days, as the Appellant’s team ferret around looking for information with which to beat us with.

That genuine aim to do the best for the pub continued into Day 3 of the Public Inquiry, which opened with Cllr Tom Miller providing a pragmatic and balanced view of The Queensbury. It’s a treasured pub, people talk to him about it when he canvasses locally, overwhelmingly opposing the plans proposed, both last time and this. Then he opened the door to suggest planning is an iterative process.

Cllr Miller entered the dance with the Redbourne QC of which do you prefer, scheme A, B or the Appeal? It’s a beautiful ballad where we talk about the finer points of fenestration, alchemy of aspects and glory of gables. All of which is lovely but the core role of these proceedings is to assess the plan in front of us, not a hybrid combination of the three. This isn’t a beauty pageant or multiple choice; all three have been Refused and all three, separately, will be subject to scrutiny of Appeal.

STQ cross examined Redbourne’s final witness because he claimed there was social value in the plans. When pressed he couldn’t quantify this and tbh could not give evidence that anybody locally likes the plan. Oh and there is a kitchen, it’s just no labelled as one.

Then a “what if” session when we played a game of Spot The Trojan Horse

A developer will commit to a pub but the longer term aim is conversion to commercial or retail which is less hassle and generates more revenue for the apartments.

Imagine noise complaints to the Council from residents in the new flats, thereby limiting music and sound in the pub, or restrictions to the outside space in the summer evenings to avoid upsetting the folk upstairs. All leading to a non viable business. Then, a conversion to flats, retail or offices follows.

We were not being awkward today but in the game of Spot The Trojan it became apparent that the outside space of the pub would close at 9pm during the week. The proposed opening time is 11.30am, rendering Busy Rascals redundant. That beautiful and massive outside space at the front that Redbourne have been waxing lyrical about all week? That’ll have to make space for eight bicycle racks. Who could use the community space, when, how and what happens while building work takes place….. all kicked into the long grass with promises of future agreements. We asked several times, what the role of the public is in ensuring those agreements come to fruition and were left a little empty. Just like the Trojan Horse once it’s entered Troy.

Had we not been there today the future of The Queensbury as a viable pub would be in serious doubt. Shorter hours, smaller drinks terrace, open house on complaints from the neighbours…. we don’t intend to be deliberately awkward and none trustworthy but you can see out point, can’t you?

Day 2 of #QueensburyPI

Scheme C

Big day today. Well over an hour of cross examination from Redbourne’s QC, trying to undermine the campaign, downplay the loss of the building and big up the proposed replacement.

The QC provided a helpful critique of this website, suggesting we’ve been using Fairview’s tower image as the basis to get people to object to Redbourne’s. It was politely pointed out that he was looking at the Background section and it is, err, background and at the end of a long history of 110 Walm Lane on that page. Also asked how we know followers on Twitter are actually local, implying all and sundry could be following us. We agreed, then gave a tutorial of what Twitter is and how we know local people care.

All this was intended to undermine what has been, so far, a well orchestrated and vocal campaign to retain the building by a group of people without the formality of meetings and constitutions. Our collective expertise has got us this far and the QC seemed vexed that we dare to tread into the realm of professionals and experts.

STQ bit back, asking where the guarantees are that a pub will actually open at the end of all this. Silence. STQ noted Brent’s dire record of pub closures (40% since 2001). Silence. Polical chaos and economic collapse. Silence. STQ asked if the contract between the pub operator and Redbourne carried a guarantee that it would actually open. Silence. The point finally landed that we have words on paper and no matter what the good intention, the signs are not good.

Later we cross examined Redbourne’s architect. Why weren’t Busy Rascals and STQ invited to the exhibition of the plans? Why weren’t parents at Busy Rascals engaged with? Bizarre response – not everybody likes to go to a pub. (Note, Busy Rascals runs from the pub). They claim the community space is great, but haven’t actually asked people who might be using it. Some light at the end of the tunnel; they’ve worked on a pub conversion before so we’re keen to hear how that might work.

Day 3 promises more technical stuff, but important if the Appeal is successful….

Day one of #QueensburyPI

The Appeal on the demolition of The Queensbury began at Brent Civic Centre with opening statements from the developer’s QC, Brent’s QC and little ole us.

Mapesbury Residents Association came next and the Appellant’s QC tried to suggest that they had no mandate to object to the plans. The speakers, with 100 years experience of living in Mapesbury between them and serving MAPRA, put him in his place.

We opened up to outline why we are trying to save a pub that seemingly is safe (with a replacement promised), fearing that too little attention has been given to future pub protection. Our main goal is of course to save the existing building.

Brent’s independent design expert was hauled over coals. The QC suggested the building is four storeys; you cannot see the roof; there is s four storey block further down the road so what’s the problem? Look at Wesley Court and Erin Court etc etc.

When is a gable not a gable? What is a soft landing to a conservation area?

Brent’s Planning Area Manager and their expert both suffered from what the QC inferred a lack of time to prepare, given plans to defend the decision only started once the flawed plans of June were considered. Chickens coming home to roost.

Tomorrow is our turn to be cross examined. As ever we’ll look to save the building, thereby saving The Queensbury. We have strong worries that a pub in a new development will soon become unviable.

Public Inquiry

If you like The Queensbury, or dislike what is proposed in its place (or both) then you should try and get to the Public Inquiry from Wednesday at Brent Civic Centre.

Planning isn’t a contest of public opinion but public interest goes a long way so please pop along at 10am on Weds, Thurs or Fri this week. A show of strength reinforces our voice at the Inquiry, which is semi-legal and courtroom at times.

Brent Council are our friends and they will be cross-examined on their decision to refuse permission for Redbourne to demolish the pub. Brent have “witnesses” and once they’re done, it’s Brent (and our) turn to cross examine Redbourne.

Save The Queensbury have a formal role at the Inquiry as a Rule 6 Party, which is daunting.

So support from you, the public and pub lovers, would be great especially on Friday when we are cross examined on why we have worries over a replacement pub (and community space) and why we think the building should be saved.

 

Inquiry starts 28th August

 

The Queensbury pub bw

Brent and the developer’s agent have been beavering away to prepare for the forthcoming Appeal which starts on Wednesday 28th. Formal letters have been sent to all those who commented on any of the three Redbourne schemes (because they are so similar) even though the Appeal considers just one of these.

As things stand we still do not have a definitive timetable for the Inquiry.

Brent and the Appellant are working on a Statement of Common Ground which, once finished, is a useful document which does what it says in the title – they agree some basics (such as the plot is one that can be developed) which leaves the Inquiry considering the detail (mainly around conservation and the replacement design). They have also worked on a set of Conditions, which will have to be met should the Appeal be successful.

The Conditions are disappointing and fall considerably short on community space / access and pub protection in particular. They are nothing as detailed as the Fairview appeal which secured community access and interim space. Still no news of a kitchen for the pub either.

The Appellant has also submitted some revised drawings which is a little odd because surely the Appeal considers those submitted and refused already? Keep an eye on the Brent planning portal or the Inspectorate’s site for more information.

Contact the Inspectorate direct if you want to speak at the Inquiry. Or just pop along and listen in if you’ve time to spare?

Public Inquiry – paperwork now in!

All of our paperwork has joined that of the Appellant and Brent Council ahead of the five day Public Inquiry which starts at the end of this month.

Save The Queensbury are a Rule 6 Party which means we get a seat at the table to argue our case for saving the pub – and also tell the Inspector why we fear for its long-term future if planning permission is granted.

If you want to see what the discussion is about head to Brent’s website and look at the summary documents.

As Seen On TV3!!

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First came The One Show Special in 2016 on why pubs are closing at a rate of 3 a day. We took part along with other pub campaigners in similar situations to us.

Then we featured on Countdown last year as Helen Fospero talked about The Queensbury campaign in dictionary corner.

Tomorrow we are on Sunday Morning Live to take part in a conversation about why pubs are important in our communities and the vital role they play.

Tune in to BBC1 at 10am, set your alarms and look out for the dozen diehards who’ll set their alarms to Save The Queensbury! Or catch it on the iplayer you lazy bunch.

 

 

Once it is gone, it is gone for good

The QueensburyThe end of another tumultuous week which saw the developer sitting alongside The Queensbury pub operator, both supporting demolition of 110 Walm Lane.

It’s a strange campaign that saves a pub that doesn’t want to save itself!

The Queensbury management have been great for our community and great to us and we totally understand their position. Business is business and they have a business relationship with the freeholder at 110 Walm Lane. They are confident that the new space can work.

But Save The Queensbury is just as much about preserving the building (in a conservation area) as it is than saving the pub. Once that building is gone, it is gone for good.

As for the pub…. we are less confident. We asked on Twitter a few weeks ago for examples in Brent where pubs have closed and reopened as promised in a residential development. We could not find one example. Across London, we struggled.

The developer, pub operator and Brent planners were all asked this week – can you guarantee a pub in the new development? The answer from each….. a flat No.

 

 

Another marathon meeting at Brent Civic centre and another victory for Save The Queensbury

Councillors voted unanimously to kick out Scheme A and by five votes to two to refuse permission on Scheme B, but not before one Councillor reported an inappropriate approach by somebody acting for the developer. Gloves came off.
We spoke, Mapesbury residents spoke, so did ward Councillors then the developer’s agent (note – not the developer or architect), the pub operator spoke and for half an hour officers at Brent council put up a pitiful and withering defence of their plan to demolish the pub.
Queensbury rules went out of the window. Often misleading and befuddling the committee, suddenly we were no longer up against a developer but officer(s) desperate to get a decision through. Councillors were excellent in their questioning – how is a metal roof in character with Mapesbury when there are no other metal roofs? What is the public benefit of the scheme? Where is the pub kitchen in the plans (answer, there is no pub kitchen in the plans). Can you guarantee a pub in the new scheme (long pause, “No”).
And then to a vote: five opted to save the pub and two voted to demolish.
Material planning reasons for refusal were: insufficient architectural merit; out of character with the Mapesbury Conservation Area in terms of excessive height, design and massing; and lack of a legal agreement to control resulting harm.
Once the cheers had subsided the frustration kicked in.
How did these plans even come for a decision? Why was there no mention of Save The Queensbury in the 75 pages of reports? Why did officers quote half sentences of the previous appeal decision and leave out the other half that favoured conservation?
A complaint was lodged with Brent Council before we even left the building, followed by collaring the Leader of the Council at the tube station.
Well done to the community for turning out in great numbers in spite of the rain. Thank you to the ward Councillors who spoke and others who sent deputations and comments to the meeting. Well done to the residents associations in Mapesbury, Willesden Green, Fordwych, NW2 and also the Willesden and Cricklewood town teams for their ongoing support. Well done to Busy Rascals for pointing out just how uncertain the community activity is and how little they’ve been informed by the developer.
What next?
Round seven in August.
No respite: an Appeal on the plans that Brent kicked out in May this year.
A five day public inquiry which starts on Wednesday 28th August.