Meeting with Fairview reps – a summary

Fairview representatives, STQ, Busy Rascals and the local NCT branch volunteers met at the Queensbury pub on 18 March 2013. Below is a brief summary. You can find the full minutes here.

1.  Background to the STQ group and our objections

Fairview’s rep came to listen, understand and identify common ground and areas where Fairview may be able to address our concerns. We explained our objection: the principle of change of use of the pub; loss of amenity; loss of community use; and conservation area concerns. We noted that almost all comments on Brent’s site are objections, from local people in NW2 and NW10.

2.  Is a pub viable at this location / are the owners looking to cash in?

  • We met Fairview now specifically due to the viability issue, because Fairview’s reps had met with CamRA, NW2RA and with MapRA and a theme is that the owners of the pub want to leave. We explained that the state of the pub company’s finances is not our business, but that the viability of a pub on this location is.
  • We asked specifically where this information came from – that the pub is not viable. Fairview said that Companies House information was used, but we challenged this: we too have Companies House information but it does not detail viability. We asked that, other than Companies House information whether Fairview had anything else leading them to assert that a pub is not viable, such as a profit and loss account? Fairview provided no further detail, but did at least offer to get back to us.

3.     Busy Rascals / NCT community use

We clarified which charities use The Queensbury and also what the NCT does. Fairview said they knew very little of this, so we explained the suitability of the venue and why just a replacement “empty space” would not be a substitute. BR offered for Fairview to come and observe a class for themselves. We talked about the lack of alternatives for parents in the area – the “nearest” provision at Willesden Library children’s centre, now closed.

4.     Lack of consultation

  • Fairview confirmed that BR/NCT were not consulted on the plans. We referred to a statement that the community is in favour of this development, in the planning application. We referenced people in the group who took part in the consultation event(s) last year who feel their views were not represented at all.
  • We talked about the 22 comments cited in Fairview’s consultation (which have not been published). Fairview suggested there are data protection reasons why those comments cannot be shared with us, but will check and report back.
  • We suggested that if there are 22 comments that are used to substantiate the demolition of the building in a conversation area, but these cannot be released, then the process is fundamentally flawed.
  • We asked whether the consultation(s) last year with MapRA asked the question about the change of use of the building and the loss of a pub? Fairview confirmed it did not. MapRA have been working with Fairview from early on but only contributed on design matters, not principle of use.

5.     Alternatives

Fairview’s rep previously emailed us about potential of an alternative pub, on site or off site. We asked about these alternatives but no further details were provided.

  • Have the plans changed? Fairview would be giving an update at a meeting with MapRA on Thursday but the changes were at the request of Brent’s Head of Planning, to incorporate non residential use on the ground floor. We were asked whether we would enter discussions over use of the ground floor in a revised scheme. We declined – is this enforceable by planners and how can a commercial operator guarantee BR use of the space created through the planning process?

6.     Next Steps

Should we meet again? We said we are open to meeting but given Fairview’s statements about community support, some are reluctant. We may decide to just respond to the absolute “knowns” via the planning application rather than “vague” proposals. We pointed out that it is not our role to reach agreement, nor for residents associations to broker solutions, but for Fairview to draw up a plan and submit this to the council. The council then consults and we will be involved in that process.

We summarised that there is nothing that we can take back to the wider group from our meeting – no revised plan, no timescales, nothing other than the existing applications which we have already responded to. GA agreed that there is not. Fairview promised to at least give some categorical answers to the questions and issues raised in the meeting.

Play fair, Fairview!

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Rumours are rife that the owners of The Queensbury are heavily in debt and wish to fold their business. Are they true? Do they matter?

Many people will have heard the rumours circulating that the Queensbury pub is unviable and the owners are desperate to leave. These rumours have been spread  by representatives of Fairview Homes since October when the original planning application was submitted. The owners have now responded and their statement can be found here.

We are pleased that the Queensbury owners have put on record their desire to continue running a business at 110 Walm Lane. In addition we would like to point out the following:

  • a debt of a holding company is not the same as a business’s profit and loss account. To pick a random figure from a set of accounts and state that it means the pub is unviable is highly disingenuous.
  • The Queensbury has proved that it is a viable pub. This has been confirmed by the owners, by discussions with CAMRA, and by the residents who pack it out night after night. With its location and its demographic, we suspect that this would be the case whoever was running the pub.
  • the financial affairs of the pub owners are not a material planning consideration when deciding whether to grant permission for “change of use” from drinking establishment to residential premises.

We are seeking a meeting with representatives of Fairview Homes at which we will ask them to refrain from spreading such rumours which, we believe, are an attempt to undermine support within the community for the campaign to save the Queensbury. In addition, at this meeting we will be requesting that Fairview produces alternative plans for the site at 110 Walm Lane which respects the community’s demand that they preserve the existing pub and build around it, rather than demolish it.

Coverage of this story can be found in the Brent & Kilburn Times. And in the Wembley & Willesden Observer.

A statement from the owners of The Queensbury

This statement has been issued by the owners of The Queensbury and also appears on the letters page of the Brent & Kilburn Times, 14 March 2013

To Who It may Concern

The management of The Queensbury, Willesden Green would like to put on record our thanks to all those who have shown support for the pub since a planning application to build a residential block was lodged late last year. We would like to particularly thank the Save The Queensbury campaign group and the Willesden community who have really rallied round us in appreciation of a great pub and restaurant. It is heartwarming to see people dedicating their time and wanting to keep such a great pub open!

But there are a few things that we would like to clear up….

  1. The pub has a lease to 2017 and we want to stick around. In fact we are interested in being part of a ‘replacement’ Queensbury if planners say the pub can be demolished and insist on having something similar in a new development.
  2. The pub is thriving. We are busy every night, it is a “viable” business and we are not about to close.
  3. “Busy Rascals” are not moving out. We love having the place full of children in the mornings and cherish our relationship with this group.
  4. We are not running the campaign to save the pub, it is the community who have come together (independent of the pub) to do this and we are very grateful for that.
  5. So, in a nutshell whilst we are in a difficult position (because our landlords want to demolish the pub) we are touched by the support shown to the pub.

It is business as usual!!

John Pryer
The Queensbury Willesden Green