Countering the spin of the developer’s publicity machine

Now that the public exhibition of Fairview’s latest plans to demolish The Queensbury is over they have begun invite local councillors in to meet them in order to convince them that the community is supportive of their plans and that Busy Rascals will be accommodated in the new development. Both claims are untrue so we wrote to every councillor in Brent to tell them so.

Dear Cllr

You will recall that initial plans to demolish The Queensbury pub in Mapesbury conservation area) were withdrawn earlier this year following a vigorous campaign to retain the building. In their application, Fairview Homes claimed the community supported these plans, which included a 10 storey tower block and no community provision to replace the loss of The Queensbury. Clearly the community did not support these plans, given the almost unprecedented size and weight of the formal objections to Brent Council.

Fairview Homes also objected to the Asset of Community Value nomination via two lengthy letters from their legal representatives. In those letters they claim that Busy Rascals activities are not permitted in the pub, which is untrue. They also questioned the viability of The Queensbury which, again, is untrue. The local NW2 Residents Association submitted the nomination and will do so again shortly.

We want you to be fully informed of developments because you may have been contacted recently by Lexington Communications, who are keen to sell Fairview plans to Councillors before submitting a revised planning application.

The revisions proposed include a token cafe on the ground floor and Lexington are attempting to convince the Busy Rascals community group to support this. We want you to know that they do not support this. In fact Busy Rascals were signatures on the ACV nomination to the council to protect the existing building.

If you are invited to meet Lexington / Fairview to discuss their revised plans, why not ask:

How many people who attended the Fairview Homes exhibition over the summer on the revised plans actually supported demolition of The Queensbury?
We monitored these sessions – they were attended by 155 people and 96% were against their plans.

Is the community space and cafe an adequate replacement for The Queensbury?
Answer, no. It is smaller, both inside and outside and is a cafe (which Willesden is saturated with) and not a gastropub (which Willesden has just one – The Queensbury).

Fairview seem keen to involve Busy Rascals in developing this space. Can they guarantee Busy Rascals exclusive use?
Answer, no. Fairview have indicated that the space will be a commercial proposition. Planners cannot impose anything other onto Fairview Homes via the planning process.

How can Fairview justify demolishing a landmark building, in a conversation area?
Answer, Fairview claim Brent Officers have given the green light for this. We believe it is Councillors who sanction permission, not officers.

Why not have a quality gastropub on the ground floor, not a cafe?
Answer, Fairview will tell you that developers do not like pubs on the ground floor because of noise nuisance. This is untrue. In fact the new-build development next to The Queensbury is within 2 metres of the pub.  The real answer is because flats immediately above will not sell for quite as much as those higher up. So this is simply a chase for maximum profit.

How have Fairview worked with the community on their latest plans?
Answer, they held two shambolic sessions earlier in the summer and were dismissive of any suggestion that the building can be retained in an alternative development. There has been no engagement with the Save The Queensbury group and in spite of attempts to undermine Busy Rascals via the asset of community value process they are desperate to claim they are supportive of their alternative plans. They are not.

Please do get in touch if and when you meet Fairview Homes / Lexington Communications.

Kind regards

the Save The Queensbury Group

 

 

Disappointing news: ACV application rejected by Brent Council

The Save The Queensbury group is very disappointed that the pub has not been added to Brent Council’s list of Assets of Community Value. Our nomination (via the NW2 Residents Association) was refused following a 15 page letter from the Fairview Homes law firm to Brent Council and we are now considering whether to try for a third time.

We are disappointed that Brent Council did not recognise and agree that the site of the pub has been an important resource in our community since 1925. The regulations on ACVs ask whether a property has community use currently or at any time in the recent past. We were confident that because the building has been a social club between 1925-2012 and a pub since 2000 it would reasonably meet that criteria. After all many pubs already listed elsewhere are actually closed, often by developers who want to build flats. This is precisely why these regulations were introduced.

We are also disappointed that Brent Council did not agree that the Busy Rascals activities for toddlers and the National Childbirth Trust meetings for parents both reflect the pub’s place in the community. Fairview argued that this is not a normal use of a pub, claiming it actually contravened the pub’s lease and sought to discount it for ACV purposes. Brent council seem to agree. Let’s remember that Fairview have strenuously and persistently sought to undermine Busy Rascals and the pub, at every turn.

Aside from current use, there is also a test as to the future use of a building over the next five years. We argued that the pub has a lease until 2017 so it’s a no-brainer? We also stated that there is no permission for anything other than community / social club / pub use. Plus there are no current plans before the council to change this. But, again, Brent listened to Fairview Homes who said that they have no intention of opening the building for community use and every intention of demolishing it. As far as we can tell there is nothing in regulations about a landowner’s intention and desire, otherwise surely no building would be listed if an owner could simply say they wanted to demolish it?

We put a lot into our nominations. We took advice  and we looked at other successful nominations of pubs and other buildings. What we got in return was a convoluted process which heavily favoured Fairview Homes (they had two weeks to respond to our nomination and we were afforded two days). We are a small, voluntary group without the expertise and resource of a multinational law firm. Yet we did address Fairview’s points and were confident that our nomination met the criteria and Brent had a duty to list it.

So what next?

This is a small chapter in a battle to save both The Queensbury pub and the activities of Busy Rascals by preserving a landmark building in a conservation area. But we have little expertise, limited resource, not much local Councillor support and a developer with a lot of money at stake and a huge legal resource to lobby and bully the council.

It really is an uphill struggle, so we’re taking stock and considering our next moves, but we’re certainly not giving up in our fight to save The Queensbury.